“Christian Attitudes toward War, Peace, and Revolution”

It is a lifetime process to build up peace in the world. The family is at war, the societies also. The human being is losing the common points as race and each day enhancing the range of differences. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them… God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.”[1]

The human being has forgotten these words, above all the statement “all that he had made, and it was very good”; by Creation, humankind has been made good and was given the most beautiful gift: Free Will. Freedom to “be fruitful and increase in number; [to] fill the earth and subdue it. [To] Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”[2]

The Pilgrim, referring to Pope Francis in his message “Nonviolence as a Style of Politics for Peace” (January 1st, 2017), says that “violence continues to abound in our hearts and in our world.”[3] How far are human beings from that wonderful statement found in Genesis “and it was very good”? How are human beings understanding and putting into practice the expression “fill the earth and subdue it”? How is the human being using his/her free will? Here comes the main question: is it possible in the twenty-first century to have a peaceful world or is it simply a utopia, a dream that will never come true and that human beings will be the subjects and the objects of their destruction?

The panorama is as follows “we live in a ‘broken world’ in a ‘horrifying world’ where war is fought piecemeal. Pope Francis cries out that there is ‘piecemeal violence’ of different kinds and levels: ‘war in different countries and continents; terrorism, organized crime and unforeseen acts of violence; and the devastation of the environment.’”[4]

In the author’s opinion, this worldview can change for good. God has given mankind the faculty of reasoning and the gift of freedom; has endowed it with faith, hope, and charity; has put men to take over the whole of creation; has given a law – Love’s Law – to follow as a guideline in every single action; has given men the faculty of re-think on their own acts in order to make amendments; has placed humanity within an environment that provides all the resources needed for nourishment, sheltering, reproduction and amusement. Knowing all this, once again, the author states that the “horrifying world” described by Pope Francis can become a joyful and fruitful place.

If one asks others which is the origin of violence, for sure the answer will be “hatred”. Nobody will act violently if in his heart and thoughts love abounds. The second cause may be“revenge”. A heart that loves and a mind that thinks rationally, know, and trust in justice (earthly and divine): under this principle, there is no space for revenge.

The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” (CCC) states that “By recalling the commandment, ‘You shall not kill,’ our Lord asked for peace of heart and denounced murderous anger and hatred as immoral.”[5] Moreover, “Anger is a desire for revenge. ‘To desire vengeance in order to do evil to someone who should be punished is illicit,’ but it is praiseworthy to impose restitution ‘to correct vices and maintain justice.’ If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin. The Lord says, ‘Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.’”[6]

This article in the Catechism shows an important point in today’s society: “… someone who should be punished…” Who is the one in charge of giving punishment to the one who deserves it? The correct answer is a legitimated governmental entity holding power, and therefore the duty, to render justice to the affected party. Inputting the word governmental in this context, it is necessary to come to realize that the idea of Pope Francis is the most suitable of all: “Nonviolence as a Style of Politics for Peace”. As long as the entities of justice, throughout the world, be corrupt and misdirected, there will never be justice, and the path towards peace will be tortuous and even unachievable. “Peace is ‘the tranquillity of order.’ Peace is the work of justice…”[7]

The “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church” (CSDC) writes that “peace is the fruit of justice, (cf. Is 32:17) understood in the broad sense as the respect for the equilibrium of every dimension of the human person. Peace is threatened when a man is not given all that is due to him as a human person, when his dignity is not respected, and when civil life is not directed to the common good. The defense and promotion of human rights are essential for the building up of a peaceful society and the integral development of individuals, peoples, and nations.”[8] To give each one all that is due to him is the definition of justice. If, injustice is one of the threats against peace the first step in the way heading a peaceful world ought to be purified and reorganize all juridical systems worldwide. Once again is a matter of politics.

Linked as well to the political system of the countries in the development of the nation, the welfare of the people, and the harmony within the boundaries and out towards the neighboring countries. “Respect for and development of human life requires peace. Peace is not merely the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity.”[9]

How can one understand this balance of power that the Catechism mentions, when only watching the TV news is easy to realize that the power nowadays is not balanced at all? One group, the minority, holding power almost up to the point of absolute power; the other group enduring the situation speechless or silenced by force. The power is twofold: political of course and economical. There are adversary groups, but there are also those who belong to the same group challenging each other to have more and more. Years ago adversaries could be understood as countries in war because of the “X” motive. In these times, adversaries can be, for instance, big companies trying to dominate excessively the market or those who are exploiting the natural resources irresponsibly and even shamelessly.

Once that human beings give up this savage competition, the goods of persons and free communication among men will be safeguarded, and the dignity of persons and peoples will be respected.

Gaudium et Spes” (GS) says that “In the economic and social realms, too, the dignity and complete vocation of the human person and the welfare of society as a whole is to be respected and promoted. For man is the source, the center, and the purpose of all economic and social life.”[10]

Fraternity, friendship, real community life, transparent relationships among human beings that live in a particular environment is only attainable through love. According to CSDC “Peace is also the fruit of love. ‘True and lasting peace is more a matter of love than of justice because the function of justice is merely to do away with obstacles to peace: the injury did or the damage caused. Peace itself, however, is an act and results only from love’.”[11] Therefore the first value to be considered in this “style of politics” must be Love.

The words of Saint Paul are a reminder to all human beings “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”[12] The whole creation is, at this moment, suffering and struggling to achieve means to survive in a more and more challenging historical moment. The earth and its resources are being exhausted, peoples fighting each other to possess such resources. If the style of politics is going to be love, human beings must learn how to love the earth and out of love to distribute the resources available in it.

As the earth is suffering so too the people; this suffering will finish, gradually, when human beings come to realize that a peaceful world is not a utopia but a reality that can be achieved through the effort and collaboration of all.

The way towards a peaceful world is marked in the Sermon on the Mount, the program that Jesus designed for human beings to achieve salvation while enjoying life on earth. The “hard sayings of Jesus” will be no longer hard because there will not be evildoers, nobody will strike the other’s cheek, people will be able to share and walk together, there will be no more persecutions and the word “enemy” may be erased from the dictionary.[13]

“Since Jesus, it is possible to be gathered from the diaspora, to join together and to be disciples. The Church’s way is the way of communities. Even if they are small in comparison to the rest of society they can, through their example effect more in the world than anything else can imagine.”[14]

References

Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

Gomez, Fausto OP. Mercy Love and Holiness. Manila, PHL: University of Saint Thomas Publishing House, 2017.

Lohfink, Norbert. Church dreams: The Road from Violence. North Richland Hills, TX: Bibal Press, 2000.

Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes.

108

[1] Gen 1: 27-31

[2] Gen 1: 28

[3] Fausto Gomez, OP, Mercy Love and Holiness (Manila, PHL: University of Saint Thomas Publishing House, 2017), 155.

[4] Fausto Gomez, OP, Mercy Love and Holiness (Manila, PHL: University of Saint Thomas Publishing House, 2017), 155.

[5] Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 2302.

[6] CCC 2302.

[7] CCC 2304

[8] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (CSDC) 494

[9] CCC 2304

[10] Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes (GS) 63

[11] CSDC 494

[12] Rom 8:22-23

[13] Cf. Mt 5:39-44

[14] Norbert Lohfink, “Church dreams: The Road from Violence” (North Richland Hills, TX: Bibal Press, 2000),

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Author:  Br. Reynaldo Chang, OP.

Saint Dominic Priory[ Macau] 2020-09-13