Just War, Just Peace, Just Catholic: A Gathering in Rome

Bandiera_paceHere’s the news. I’m headed to Rome (Italy, not Georgia) on Saturday, for a week to participate in the first-ever Vatican conference on Nonviolence and Just Peace: Contributing to the Catholic Understanding of and Commitment to Nonviolence, co-sponsored by Pax Christi International and the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace.

I was asked to contribute a backgrounder paper titled “No Longer Legitimating War: Christians and Just Peace,” which (by the skin of my teeth and lots of help) I did.

I’ll be gathering with other Catholics, mostly from the majority world (and majority church), who live their Catholic faith and practice peace in the midst of civil war and extreme social violence.

Pope Francis has encouraged us to “put reality before ideas.” In the case of this conference, we’ll listen first to the lived experience of Catholics sorting out their salvation in midst of men with guns and then asking what scripture and church tradition has to offer to their experience. Continue reading “Just War, Just Peace, Just Catholic: A Gathering in Rome”

Pete King is on the Wrong Track

Pete King is on the wrong track. In America, we don’t segregate people by where they go to church.

Faith leaders in New York, organized by Pax Christi/Long Island, sent a public letter this week to Rep. Peter King (R-NY) asking him to call off his hearing on Capitol Hill that promote Islamophobia. (Additionally, 50 Members of Congress did the same.) More than 80 religious and peace leaders signed the statement saying:

Protecting our nation requires allegiance to the fundamental values that give life to our democracy. A commitment to pluralism and respect for diversity are strengths in the fight against terrorism. We agree that law enforcement must find practical solutions to stop terrorism, whether these threats come from religious or non-religious extremists. Muslim-Americans have consistently denounced terrorism and worked closely with law enforcement to prevent violence. Building and maintaining trust with the Muslim community is crucial to furthering this cooperation, and we fear your hearings will only sow greater distrust and division at a time when unity and moral courage are needed. …

Let us remember the lessons of history. Entire communities should never be targeted for suspicion of disloyalty. During World War II, Japanese Americans were deprived of their rights and forced into internment camps because of blanket distrust of their commitment to our country. The McCarthy hearings became a shameful national spectacle that falsely impugned the loyalty and destroyed the lives of many Americans. Catholics were once demonized as threats to democracy beholden to a foreign power. Jews and African Americans have faced centuries of suspicion and prejudice. Today, Muslim-Americans in many communities face fierce opposition when they propose to build mosques and worship peacefully. A growing number of Muslims are victims of hate crimes. This bigotry and discrimination, rooted in fear and ignorance, diminishes us all and unfairly maligns Americans who teach our children, serve our country, live peacefully and believe in the American dream.

“I am disappointed that these religious leaders and peace advocates wish to obstruct my search for the truth,” King responded. “Obviously, I am going forward with my hearings into Muslim radicalization.”

Sr. Jeanne Clark, a member of Pax Christi/Long Island, has spoken eloquently about why Catholics should be very clear in condemning religious intolerance and should instead hold up examples of interreligious partnerships.

Over 80 religious leaders, social justice advocates and people of faith on Long Island sent the congressman a letter urging him to cancel these misguided hearings. Many of us recently gathered in prayerful protest in front of his office.

Although Congressman King has insisted that his hearings will focus on Islamic extremism, his own rhetoric suggests that he will cast a cloud of suspicion over the entire Muslim community. He told a radio host that radicals lead 80 percent of mosques and once described Muslims as “an enemy living amongst us.”

Leaders across the political spectrum agree that we must work together to prevent terrorist attacks. My opposition to King’s hearings isn’t motivated by “political correctness” or a naïve belief that evil does not exist in the world.

Rather, we need a different approach because I fear these hearings will undermine practical approaches to confronting violent extremism in all its forms and threaten our most inspiring ideals as a nation. –Sr. Jeanne Clark

No person who has sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution should be allowed to targeting a single religious group. It threatens democratic values and let’s the terrorists win.

As Christians we can read King’s approach through the biblical lens of empire. King’s rhetoric and actions are part and parcel of imperial projects bent on a strategy of “divide and conquer.” As Christians we hold an alternative vision, we practice a “divine counterstrategy” that elevates rich cultural diversity as part of what strengthens the human family.

Read all of Why Catholics Must Speak Out Against Islamophobia.
Read the letter sent by religious leaders to Pete King.

Bruce Kent to Generals: ‘Don’t wait until you retire to say that wars are illegal or unwinnable.’

Tens of thousands of Brits marched in London’s Trafalgar Square last week demanding that Britain withdraw troops from Afghanistan. The “Time to Go” public demonstration was organized by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the British Muslim Initiative, and Stop the War Coalition. The keynote speaker was Catholic peace campaigner Bruce Kent, vice-chair of Pax Christi/UK.

Like the Obama administration, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said that UK combat troops will be withdrawn, but not until 2015.  Bruce Kent’s speech is below:

“It is of course an honour to be with you today to join my voice to the tens of thousands who are calling for the withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan and a negotiated end to that war which seems to be without end.

The war in Afghanistan is expensive, nonsensical and stupid. Our governments past and present do seem to be incredibly stupid when it come to matters of defence. Amazingly, we are in due course to have, at vast expense, two new aircraft carriers. One we will at once sell. Are we now the world’s aircraft carrier suppliers? The other will join the Royal Navy, but for between 5 and 10 years it will have no planes. ‘Yes Minister’ could not think up a more absurd scenario for comic TV.

I am old enough to remember the British empire. Those days are gone. We are not the world’s policeman. If we want a real war to sort out then how about the Congo where millions have died in the last ten years and a UN Peace keeping force seems to be overwhelmed by the problem.

We are meant to be defeating terrorists, but we are manufacturing them by the thousands. We began this enterprise without the authority of the UN on the coat tails of the United States. It is time to end it. If the Afghan Government – as corrupt as any today – wants outside help then it should come from a Muslim state. We in the so called ‘Christian’ West have so wrecked the Middle East for well over 100 years that there is no credit left on our card. It is time to go.

I say this in front of the families and friends of many who have been wounded or killed in this conflict. Those young lives should never have been wasted. Of course they need every help from voluntary and public donations. But the best help we can give to their comrades is to say NO.

A word to generals, admirals and the like. Don’t wait until you retire to say that wars are illegal or unwinnable. Don’t keep silent when politicians act unlawfully. Say NO at the start and do not leave it to those much, much further down the military pecking order to have the courage to refuse. Some of those are with us today. I salute them.

Congratulations on all your efforts. One day we will learn that real peace is only built on justice and the operation of law.”

Catholic Speakers: ‘In the Company of the Banned’?

BannedI got a note today from Pat Mahon over at Pax Christi South saying he’d been banned from speaking in the Diocese of Venice, Florida. He was scheduled to lead a retreat on Thomas Merton but the retreat was canceled by the chancellor. Pat speculates that this was because of his support for Catholic women’s ordination to the priesthood. Here’s an excerpt from Pat’s reflections:

I immediately began finalizing arrangements and the materials for a retreat on Merton I was giving to a parish peace and justice group on Florida’s west coast this Friday and Saturday. Then, out of the blue, I was notified Wednesday evening that the retreat was canceled because I was no longer approved to speak in the Diocese of Venice. I had been approved last March to speak on Merton in San Marco and understood that once approved, further approval was not necessary. The retreat coordinator in October was told that I was approved when he inquired to make sure. What?

I arose early after a restless night and called the contact person. The chancellor had had the person in charge of the deacons call the deacon who was coordinating the retreat to deliver the message. Speaking of dialogue, openness and transparency! The only reason I have been able to find so far is that I support the ordination of women as priests. I now join a select group of people who I been told are banned in Venice–Joan Chittister, Charlie Curran, Anthony Padovano. I also suspect that Roy Bourgeoise and John Dear are on the list.

Read Pat’s whole post here and send him a suportive note.

This tactic of “banning” speakers that someone in Catholic hierarchy doesn’t approve of is becoming more popular. In October, the diocese of Richmond refused to allow Pax Christi to meet in Holy Family Church — even though a bishop was one of the keynote speakers! Pax Christi had to hold its meeting at the local Methodist college.

It’s important to note that technically the diocese can only “ban” speakers who are holding events on diocesan-owned property. So if you hold your events elsewhere, the hierarchy can “ban” all they want but to no effect.

I find it ironic that when judges were deciding on financial settlements for priest sex abuse cases in the dioceses of Portland and Seattle, the dioceses made it clear to the judges that the churches were the property of the parishioners. This was a strategy to reduce the diocesan “assets” and therefore limit the financial exposure of the diocese. The courts saw through this and determined that the churches were part of church property. But if the diocese can make that determination once, maybe parishioners should join together into an ownership model for their parishes.

I’d love to hear other people’s experiences with diocesan approval for speakers and events.

Do You Say to a Sister “Goodbye. Be Healthy”?

paxchristilogoHere’s a shout out to Patrick Mahon for sending me his current post on Health Care and Gospel Values.

Pat blogs for Pax Christi South, a web site for two Pax Christi groups—the Berrigan Peace and Justice Community at St. William Church in Murphy, NC, and its mission, Immaculate Heart of Mary in Hayesville, NC. Pat is a leading nonviolence teacher and retreat leader. He and his wife Joan live in Georgia.

I really like his paraphrase from the epistle of James. Check it out:

The readings for this Sunday offer further thoughts for reflection. Let’s paraphrase James 2:15-16:

If a brother or sister is unable to secure affordable and adequate health care and one of you says to him/her, “Goodbye. Be healthy!” without giving him/her access to health care, what good does that do?

As Christians we always face the struggle of discerning, espousing and working for Christian values. Pope John XXIII made the Christian value explicit when it comes to health care. It is the right of every American. Period! End the debate! Now let’s find out how to make it a reality.

Read Pat Mahon’s whole post here.