Choosing Peace: The Catholic Church Returns to Gospel Nonviolence

I’m pleased to introduce you to Choosing Peace: The Catholic Church Returns to Gospel Nonviolence (edited by Marie Dennis) that includes a chapter by me on Catholic Just Peace Practice, based on the paper that I wrote for the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative gathering in Rome in 2016. Others included here are: South Africa’s bishop Kevin Dowling, Lisa Sowle Cahill, Maria Stephan, Terrence Rynne, Ken Butigan and John Dear, with the guiding voice and direction of Marie Dennis. It includes the voices of many more within the chapters, reflecting a worldwide conversation happening within the Catholic Church on the centrality of gospel nonviolence. This is the first major release of the work that the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative is stewarding and curating across the Church, especially in the majority world where Catholics are most numerous.

Action steps for Choosing Peace:

  1. Order bulk copies of Choosing Peace from Orbis, so they know this is a popular title and ask your local bookstore to carry it.
  2. Send a copy of Choosing Peace to the Catholic bishop in your area. Even if you are not Catholic, you can look up the Catholic bishop in your area and send him a letter along with the book asking for him to offer leadership in the area of gospel nonviolence. Tell him that you appreciate that he is a moral leader in your area and you respectfully ask that he give this book and its message prayerful consideration.
  3. Order Choosing Peace for your book group! There’s lots in this book that addresses current conversations in the Catholic Church related to the leadership of Pope Francis. But it’s also useful reading for groups committed to Christian nonviolence. It raises provocative questions and opens up a little know history on Christians and peace. (See Nonviolent Fight Club for more on the provocative discussion!)

It takes a movement to respond to the Holy Spirit’s charge to turn away from violence. Be part of the movement!

 

Pope Calls For Nonviolence in 2017 World Day of Peace Message

Pope calls for nonviolence in 2017 World Day of Peace message
U.S. religious leaders respond

Today in his message “Nonviolence: A style of politics for peace,” for the 50th World Day of Peace, celebrated each year on 1 January, Pope Francis urges people everywhere to practice active nonviolence and notes that the “decisive and consistent practice of nonviolence has produced impressive results.”

Pope Francis writes: “The decisive and consistent practice of nonviolence has produced impressive results. The achievements of Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in the liberation of India, and of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in combating racial discrimination will never be forgotten. Women in particular are often leaders of nonviolence, as for example, was Leymah Gbowee and the thousands of Liberian women, who organized pray-ins and nonviolent protest that resulted in high-level peace talks to end the second civil war in Liberia.

“Nor can we forget the eventful decade that ended with the fall of Communist regimes in Europe. The Christian communities made their own contribution by their insistent prayer and courageous action. Particularly influential were the ministry and teaching of Saint John Paul II. Reflecting on the events of 1989 in his 1991 Encyclical Centesimus Annus, my predecessor highlighted the fact that momentous change in the lives of people, nations and states had come about “by means of peaceful protest, using only the weapons of truth and justice”. This peaceful political transition was made possible in part “by the non-violent commitment of people who, while always refusing to yield to the force of power, succeeded time after time in finding effective ways of bearing witness to the truth”. Pope John Paul went on to say: “May people learn to fight for justice without violence, renouncing class struggle in their internal disputes and war in international ones”.

“The Church has been involved in nonviolent peacebuilding strategies in many countries, engaging even the most violent parties in efforts to build a just and lasting peace. Such efforts on behalf of the victims of injustice and violence are not the legacy of the Catholic Church alone, but are typical of many religious traditions, for which “compassion and nonviolence are essential elements pointing to the way of life”. I emphatically reaffirm that “no religion is terrorist”. Violence profanes the name of God. Let us never tire of repeating: “The name of God cannot be used to justify violence. Peace alone is holy. Peace alone is holy, not war!”

U.S. religious leaders and nonviolence scholars and strategists are beginning to respond to Pope Francis’ message:

“There is no place for violence in a heart at peace and in a world that is just. As Pope Francis said, “Everyone can be an artisan of peace. ” We all can cultivate peace by looking within, committing to a spirituality of active nonviolence, by moving beyond our comfort zones to embrace the suffering of the world, and collaborating with others for a sustained just peace.”—Sister Patty Chappell, SNDdeN, executive director of Pax Christi USA

“In this advent time of waiting for the coming of the one who is peace eternal, we are grateful for the challenge of Pope Francis to commit ourselves to peacebuilding through active Gospel nonviolence. Let us join in solidarity with all who know the injustice of violence, oppression, and poverty to build God’s beloved community.”—Ann Scholz, SSND, Associate Director for Social Mission, Leadership Conference of Women Religious

“With his breathtaking World Day of Peace Message, Pope Francis has broken new ground by calling on people everywhere to unleash the power of active nonviolence as a way of life and as an effective alternative to the scourge of violence. This first official papal document on active nonviolence offers a way forward to build a more just, peaceful and sustainable world.”—Ken Butigan, senior lecturer, DePaul University, Chicago and Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service staff
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Prayers in the Circle of Community

This has been a week of illness and loss among our community of elders:

Fr. Bill McNichols, the iconographer of Taos, had a massive heart attack on Friday, April 27. He’s on total life support in Albuquerque. Bill is the artist behind the beautiful icons that many of us have. (This news came from John Dear through Shelley and Jim Douglass.)

Walter Wink (right, with June) broadly considered one of the most important social and political theologians of the 20th century, is in hospice care and is likely to pass within the next few days. Walter’s series of books on the “powers” — Naming the Powers, Unmasking the Powers, and Engaging the Powers — unpacks the spiritual significance of political and societal institutions (the biblical “principalities and powers”) and their role in systemic injustice. (Read Sojourners 2010 interview.) (This news came from June Keener Wink through Bill Wylie Kellermann.)

Fr. Bill Shannon, founder of the International Thomas Merton Society, died on Sunday.  Bill was an adamant reformer in the tradition of Vatican II and a professor of theology to several generations of radical Catholics. You can read Bill’s obituary here. “It’s not only fair, but right, to describe him as a prophet,” said Christine Bochen, professor of religious studies at Nazareth College. “A prophet sees clearly what Scripture is calling us to. He took very, very much to heart to see beyond the concerns of institutionalism and formalism, to get at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian—and that is to embrace the Gospel and live the Gospel.” (This news came from Michael Boucher of Word and World.)

This week the Rolling Ridge Study Retreat Community in West Virginia is grieving the loss of two of its early visionaries, founders, and members: Ellen Peachey and Verle Headings.

Verle Headings (left, with Jannelle Hill and Dr. Carolyn Broome), died early Friday morning, April 27 in his home at Rolling Ridge after a three month struggle with illness. His wife Vivian was with him. Verle said more than once that he planned to “die on this mountain,” and so he has. Verle taught genetics at Howard University for many years and was a leader in the Mennonite community and friend to many at Sojourners. (This news came from Bob Sabbath and the Rolling Ridge Community.)

Ellen Shenk Peachey died on Thursday, April 26, in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Ellen is the great-aunt of Sojourners’ Larisa Friesen Hall and a friend of many at Sojourners. Ellen spent years living in Europe and Japan doing post-war relief work of reconstruction and peace building through the auspices of the Mennonite Central Committee. She lived in Washington, D.C. for 25 years as a member of Hyattsville Mennonite Church and, with her husband Paul, were the first permanent residents of the Rolling Ridge Study Retreat Center in West Virginia where they lived for 14 years. Of their years at Rolling Ridge, Ellen said, “Our 15 years of living here at Pinestone have been rewarding. Guidelines that emerged in our monthly meetings during the early decade—simplicity, use of on-site materials, low profile, solar heating, adaptability—took shape in this modest cottage.” (This news came from Larisa Friesen Hall, Bob Sabath, and the Rolling Ridge Community.)

“Pray for the dead. Fight like hell for the living.” –Mary Harris Jones

An American Via Dolorosa

During Lent I have a few music selections that I return to: Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain, Winton Marsalis’ From the Plantation to the Penitentiary, and Bach’s St. John’s Passion. Each one helps me enter the season of suffering and joy in a unique way–blending the Christendom culture of Old Europe with our own gritty history to form a Via Dolorosa that is distinctly American.

This Holy Week I am remembering Martha Hennessy (Dorothy Day’s granddaughter) who, with others, is fasting in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness sake, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).

John Dear, Catholic peace activist, wrote a touching commentary in the National Catholic Reporter this week reflecting on Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and what happens when we experience betrayal by our Church. Below is an excerpt:

Sometimes I think every follower of the nonviolent Jesus sooner or later experiences betrayal from the church. And perhaps we betray others, too. We do not suffer the great mythic betrayal that Jesus underwent, of course, but we do experience small betrayals. As we watch the breakdown of the institutional church and the expansion of our war-making empire, we might ask ourselves: When have we been betrayed? Who betrayed us and how? How did we respond to the little betrayals we experienced within the church? Have we been as nonviolent as Jesus? More, whom have we betrayed? These are important Lenten questions to ponder.

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