Mark Your Calendar
Human Rights Day—A Day
to Remember Our Holy Innocents December 10,
Human Rights Day—A Day to Remember Our Holy Innocents December 10, 2013
Usually, Pax Christi Metro New York hosts a prayer service on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, December 28th, to remember victims of violence, especially children. This year, however, the Feast of the Holy Innocents falls on a Sunday, which means it is not on the liturgical calendar. Consequently, we are holding our service on Human Rights Day, December 10th. Our prayer will still be for victims of violence, especially children. It will be drawn from the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child. Please join us on Wednesday, December 10th, at 6:30 PM in St. Joseph’s Parish House, 371 Sixth Avenue, in Greenwich Village. We’ll begin with pizza, so please RSVP. We also hope to have a speaker who works with children whose lives have been affected by violence. We’d greatly appreciate a free will donation to cover cost.
Peacemaking through the Arts
Good Friday Way of the Cross
40-Day Fast for Christian Nonviolence
Fall Assembly, 2015
by Dr. James Kelly
On Saturday, November 8th, approximately 45 Pax Christi Metro New York members and friends gathered for our annual Fall Assembly at the Convent of Mary the Queen in Yonkers. The morning was an opportunity to pray together, hear about our shared efforts for peace, pick up some informative literature on Catholic perspectives on ISIS, and engage in some stimulating discussion. Of particular interest was a presentation on Pax Christi International, introducing some to its history and edifying all about its current activities across the globe.
The afternoon session featured the former editor and current Commonweal columnist Margaret O’Brien-Steinfels. The Education Committee asked Peggy (as it came to seem natural to call her) to explicate the sections (#217-#237) dealing with peace in Pope Francis’ recent exhortation EvangeliiGaudium and placed in the context of the Pope’s much cited (mis-cited, actually) interview comments about ISIL on his return flight from his visit to South Korea. Peggy’s explication of Francis’s four principles of peace was winningly honest and sparked an unusually animated discussion afterwards. She was very orderly. First the meaning of an exhortation and its significance, the peaceprinciples, then their context, and ultimately their relevance to ISIS.
Peggy explained that an “exhortation” does not define church doctrine, has less formal authority than an encyclical, and can be viewed as a papal editorial emphatically urging us to do something. EvangeliiGaudium is the pope’s response to the synod on the new evangelization (Rome, October 2012) and its distinctive exploratory tone (personal, moments of self-criticism, much citation from the Bishops themselves) contrasts with the post-Vatican II exhortations of his predecessors and, Peggy suggests, portends a recapturing and possibly precedent-setting embodiment of the Vatican II intention to more organically link papal teaching, episcopal reflection, and lay reception.
The specific peace principles as discussed in the exhortation are: Time is greater than space; Unity prevails over conflict; Realities are more important than ideas; The whole is greater than the parts. With a winning honesty, Peggy found the principles – even after reading them “many times” – elusive and not entirely clear. She added that the exhortation was not particularly well-organized and that Francis was right when he joked that maybe it was too long. She helpfully employed the just published biographyThe Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope by Austen Ivereigh to place the principles in theirhistorical context, which was the pre-Papal, deeply divisive events Bergolio faced as a Jesuit superior and then as Bishop in an Argentina torn by disagreements about Vatican II, liberation theology, the option for the poor, the dirty war and the disappearances, and the Falklands War with Britain. She pointed out that the principles first appeared in Bergolio’s sermons and were more homiletic cues than principles that he actually developed. They are perhaps deliberately elusive because at that time Francis, wanting “unity to prevail over conflict,” did not want to identify specific persons and factions. Her conclusion (which drew several comments in the afternoon discussion) of this homiletic context was that one suspects that with these principles Francis originally had in mind “the churches of Latin America….. We are,” she continued, “accustomed as Europeans and North Americans to reading and interpreting such documents from our own historical and cultural context which we have shared with recent popes. Now we can listen as a pope speaks as a Latin American to South Americans, Africans, and Asians; we have to re-tune our ears and check our preconceived ideas about politics, economics, and culture”.
For example, applying the principle “realities are more important than ideas,” Peggy wondered if the pope was calling attention to the way our ideas and ideologies that frame our worldvieware characterized by what Madeleine Albright, when she was Clinton’s Secretary of State, called our sense that the United States is the indispensable nation.
The principle that sparked the most discussion after Peggy’s presentation was time is greater than space. Here’s what she said: “The emergence of ISIL in Syria and Iraq has created a particularly complex problem that bears on this issue of time: Do we think both of the short-term and the long-term? ISIL would seem to be an issue particularly for the nations of the Middle East, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Jordan, the Gulf nations and Saudi Arabia …. Yet it is the demands of our own members of Congress that press for the U.S. to take action. And the U.S. bears some responsibility for the conditions in Iraq that have encouraged ISIL…. Should we have taken the actions we have? Should we have waited? Should we have hung back? Why didn’t we? Even now, some government leaders, General Dempsey and Secretary Haig, call for more boots on the ground….”
Peggy provided the entire quote of Francis’s response to reporters asking him on his return flight from South Korea about ISIS: “In these cases where there is unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb ‘stop’; I don’t say bomb, make war – stop him. The means by which he may be stopped should be evaluated. To stop the unjust aggressor is licit, but we nevertheless need to remember how many times, using this excuse of stopping an unjust aggressor, the powerful nations have dominated other peoples, made a real war of conquest. A single nation cannot judge how to stop this, how to stop an unjust aggressor. After the Second World War, there arose the idea of the United Nations. That is where we should discuss.”
Peggy’s concluding judgment was that, for her, the pope’s four principles, when applied to ISIS, brings us to a position of a hesitant and critical just war perspective that must be placed in a thoroughgoing international United Nations context. Peggy’s honest and straightforward discussion of the peace section of the exhortation sparked a spirited discussion that had theaudience personally replicating many of Peggy’s expressed difficulties and especially the tensions between a position of an absolute active nonviolence and a morally evolving Just War Theory, which, of course, reminds us of Francis’s third principle: Realities are more important than ideas.
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