Wednesday, June 11, 2008


In general, I have never been one (I am talking about pacifism in general and not about any particular war which has its own merits or lack thereof). I have oft believed if we have the means to protect someone from a bully, we should use those means....yet if we have means to protect ourselves from the bully, should we? or should we turn the other cheek? (Is there evil, neutral, and the way of perfection?)

In 16th and 17th century England, there were martyrs, both lay (Thomas More, Pearl of York, etc) and clergy who did not undertake a physical battle for the Faith, but a spiritual battle. These are saints.

At the same time, especially in the northern regions of Britain, the Pilgrimage of Grace (an other risings) were born to protect the practice of the one holy Faith. These brave souls also died-but they do not wear the crown of martyrdom ....

What has me thinking on these things? Well, it is more reading of Dorothy Day.

Certainly, just war criteria is developed and comprehensive. And, the Church has called for Crusades to protect the rights of pilgrims to pray in the Holy Land. We prayed for victory at Lepanto. The Maccabees prayed for victory and won over the Assyrians.

Certainly, while war might always mean that man has failed (JPII?), it doesn't seem to me that it is always unjustified by theological or practical standards.

So what to make of pacifism? Here is Dorothy Day writing in early 1942 (courtesy of the Catholic Worker website):

We are still pacifists. Our manifesto is the Sermon on the Mount, which means that we will try to be peacemakers. Speaking for many of our conscientious objectors, we will not participate in armed warfare or in making munitions, or by buying government bonds to prosecute the war, or in urging others to these efforts.

But neither will we be carping in our criticism. We love our country and we love our President. We have been the only country in the world where men of all nations have taken refuge from oppression. We recognize that while in the order of intention we have tried to stand for peace, for love of our brother, in the order of execution we have failed as Americans in living up to our principles.

And in June 1940 before we entered the war:

Many of our readers ask, "What is the stand of the CATHOLIC WORKER in regard to the present war?" They are thinking as they ask the question, of course, of the stand we took during the Spanish civil war. We repeat, that as in the Ethiopian war, the Spanish war, the Japanese and Chinese war, the Russian-Finnish war so in the present war we stand unalterably opposed to war as a means of saving "Christianity," "civilization," "democracy." We do not believe that they can be saved by these means.

For eight years we have been opposing the use of force in the labor movement, in the class struggle, as well as in the struggles between countries.

Chesterton in writing about Pacifism (to which he stood opposed) said that there were "the peacemakers who inherited the beatitude, and the peacemongers who profaned the temple by selling doves."

....Instead of gearing ourselves in this country for a gigantic production of death-dealing bombers and men trained to kill, we should be producing food, medical supplies, ambulances, doctors and nurses for the works of mercy, to heal and rebuild a shattered world. Already there is famine in China. And we are still curtailing production in agriculture, thinking in terms of "price," instead of human needs. We do not take care of our own unemployed and hungry millions in city and country, let alone those beyond the seas. There is prejudice in our own country towards Jews, Negroes, Mexicans, Filipinos and others, a sin crying to Heaven for punishment.

"And if we are invaded" is another question asked. We say again that we are opposed to all but the use of non-violent means to resist such an invader.

So where does that leave us? I have great interest in the Catholic Worker movement (as originally outlined by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin), but while I understand what Dorothy Day says above, how could I stand by and watch (for instance) the genocide in Rwanda if I had the means to stop it-or stop even one murder?

And I don't believe that pacifists are cowards (they may be, but not in general.) It takes some great moral courage to stand against the tide. And moral courage is often harder to come by than physical courage.

I need some answers ...

Oremus pro invicem!

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