Peace and Nonviolence

Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve. It serves only to offer false hopes to those clamouring for heightened security, even though nowadays we know that weapons and violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts.

Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis, 2013 #60.

The sovereignty that makes a nation independent of other nations does not exempt it from its obligations toward God; nor can any covenant, however shrewdly arranged, guarantee peace and security, if it disregard the divine commands. These require that in their dealings with one another, nations shall observe both justice and charity. By the former, each nation is bound to respect the existence, integrity, and rights of all other nations; by the latter, it is obliged to assist other nations with those acts of beneficence and good will which can be performed without undue inconvenience to itself.

Pastoral Letter of 1919, U.S. Bishops, 1919.


 

Inasmuch as permanent peace on a sound basis is the desire of all our people, it is necessary to provide for the future by shaping the thought and guiding the purpose of our children and youth toward a complete understanding and discharge of their duties. Herein lies the importance of education and the responsibility of those to whom it is entrusted.

Pastoral Letter of 1919, U.S. Bishops, 1919.


 

For if the class struggle abstains from enmities and mutual hatred, it gradually changes into an honest discussion of differences founded on a desire for justice, and if this is not that blessed social peace which we all seek, it can and ought to be the point of departure from which to move forward to the mutual cooperation of the Industries and Professions.

Quadragesimo Anno (“After Forty Years”), Pope Pius IX, 1931 #114.


 

Indeed all the institutions for the establishment of peace and the promotion of mutual help among men, however perfect these may seem, have the principal foundation of their stability in the mutual bond of minds and hearts whereby the members are united with one another. If this bond is lacking, the best of regulations come to naught, as we have learned by too frequent experience. And so, then only will true cooperation be possible for a single common good when the constituent parts of society deeply feel themselves members of one great family and children of the same Heavenly Father.

Quadragesimo Anno (“After Forty Years”), Pope Pius IX, 1931 #1137.


 

The solidarity which binds all men together as members of a common family makes it impossible for wealthy nations to look with indifference upon the hunger, misery and poverty of other nations whose citizens are unable to enjoy even elementary human rights. The nations of the world are becoming more and more dependent on one another and it will not be possible to preserve a lasting peace so long as glaring economic and social imbalances persist.

Mater et Magistra (“Mother and Teacher”), Pope John XXIII, 1961 #157.


 

All must realize that there is no hope of putting an end to the building up of armaments, nor of reducing the present stocks, nor, still less–and this is the main point–of abolishing them altogether, unless the process is complete and thorough and unless it proceeds from inner conviction: unless, that is, everyone sincerely cooperated to banish the fear and anxious expectation of war with which men are oppressed. If this is to come about, the fundamental principle on which our present peace depends must be replaced by another, which declares that the true and solid peace of nations consists not in equality of arms but in mutual trust alone. We believe that this can be brought to pass, and we consider that, since it concerns a matter not only demanded by right reason but also eminently desirable in itself, it will prove to be the source of many benefits.

Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”), Pope John XXIII, 1963 #113.


 

It has also to be borne in mind that relations between States should be based on freedom, that is to say, that no country may unjustly oppress others or unduly meddle in their affairs. On the contrary, all should help to develop in others a sense of responsibility, a spirit of enterprise, and an earnest desire to be the first to promote their own advancement in every field.

Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”), Pope John XXIII, 1963 #120.


 

Peace is not merely the absence of war. Nor can it be reduced solely to the maintenance of a balance of power between enemies. Nor is it brought about by dictatorship. Instead, it is rightly and appropriately called “an enterprise of justice” (Is. 32:7). Peace results from that harmony built into human society by its divine founder, and actualized by men as they thirst after ever greater justice.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965 #78.


 

Peace must be born of mutual trust between nations rather than imposed on them through fear of one another’s weapons. Hence everyone must labor to put an end at last to the arms race, and to make a true beginning of disarmament.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965 #82.


 

Excessive economic, social and cultural inequalities among peoples arouse tensions and conflicts, and are a danger to peace.

Populorum Progressio (“On the Development of Peoples”), Pope Paul VI, 1967 #76.


 

To wage war on misery and to struggle against injustice is to promote, along with improved conditions, the human and spiritual progress of all men, and therefore the common good of humanity. Peace cannot be limited to a mere absence of war, the result of an ever precarious balance of forces. No, peace is something that is built up day after day, in the pursuit of an order intended by God, which implies a more perfect form of justice among men.

Populorum Progressio (“On the Development of Peoples”), Pope Paul VI, 1967 #76.


 

Peace must be built on the basis of justice in a world where the personal and social consequences of sin are evident.

The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1983 #56.


 

In the words of our Holy Father, we need a “moral about face.” The whole world must summon the moral courage and technical means to say “no” to nuclear conflict; “no” to weapons of mass destruction; “no” to an arms race which robs the poor and the vulnerable; and “no” to the moral danger of a nuclear age which places before humankind indefensible choices of constant terror or surrender. Peacemaking is not an optional commitment. It is a requirement of our faith. We are called to be peacemakers, not by some movement of the moment, but by our Lord Jesus. The content and context of our peacemaking is set, not by some political agenda or ideological program, but by the teaching of his Church.

The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1983 #333.


 

If development is the new name for peace, war and preparations for war are the major enemy of the healthy development of peoples. If we take the common good of all humanity as our norm, instead of individual greed, peace would be possible.

Solicitudo Rei Socialis (“On Social Concern,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1987 #10.


 

Condemning class struggle does not mean condemning every possible form of social conflict. Such conflicts inevitably arise and Christians must often take a position in the “struggle for social justice.” What is condemned is “total war,” which has no respect for the dignity of others (and consequently of oneself). It excludes reasonable compromise, does not pursue the common good but the good of a group, and sets out to destroy whatever stands in its way.

Centesimus Annus (“The Hundredth Year,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1991 #14.


 

The obligation to earn one’s bread presumes the right to do so. A society that denies this right cannot be justified, nor can it attain social peace.

Centesimus Annus (“The Hundredth Year,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1991 #43.


 

Clearly some believe that a full commitment to nonviolence best reflects the Gospel commitment to peace. Others argue that such an approach ignores the reality of grave evil in the world and avoids the moral responsibility to actively resist and confront injustice with military force if other means fail. Both the just-war and nonviolent traditions offer significant moral insight, but continue to face difficult tests in a world marked by so much violence and injustice.

The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1993 Section IB.


 

A world marked by true respect for the life, dignity and rights of the human person will be a world at peace. The defense of human rights must be a consistent and persistent priority for the United States and for a world seeking peace.

The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1993 Section IIB.


 

Every child murdered, every woman raped, every town “cleansed,” every hatred uttered in the name of religion is a crime against God and a scandal for religious believers. Religious violence and nationalism deny what we profess in faith: We are all created in the image of the same God and destined for the same eternal salvation.

The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1993 Section IID.


 

Our age seems to seek quick and decisive solutions to difficult problems, to turn to violence rather than to embark on the painful and complicated search for less deadly, more lasting solutions which require sacrifice, patience and time…It is time to clearly recognize that in the end violence is not a solution, but more often the problem.

The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1993 Section IIIB.


 

We are tragically turning to violence in the search for quick and easy answers to complex human problems. A society which destroys its children, abandons its old and relies on vengeance fails fundamental moral tests. Violence is not the solution; it is the most clear sign of our failures. We are losing our respect for human life.

Confronting a Culture of Violence: A Catholic Framework for Action, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1994.


 

Not all violence is deadly. It begins with anger, intolerance, impatience, unfair judgements and aggression. It is often reflected in our language, our entertainment, our driving, our competitive behavior, and the way we treat our environment. These acts and attitudes are not the same as abusive behavior or physical attacks, but they create a climate where violence prospers and peace suffers.

Confronting a Culture of Violence: A Catholic Framework for Action, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1994.


 

In many small ways, each of us can help overcome violence by dealing with it on our block; providing for the emotional, physical and spiritual needs of our children; dealing with our own abusive behavior; or, even treating fellow motorists with courtesy. Violence is overcome day by day, choice by choice, person by person. All of us must make a contribution.

Confronting a Culture of Violence: A Catholic Framework for Action, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1994.


 

[I]t is easy to see that without an objective moral grounding not even democracy is capable of ensuring a stable peace, especially since peace which is not built upon the values of the dignity of every individual and of solidarity between all people frequently proves to be illusory. Even in participatory systems of government, the regulation of interests often occurs to the advantage of the most powerful, since they are the ones most capable of maneuvering not only the levers of power but also of shaping the formation of consensus.

Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1995 #70.


 

Violence puts the brakes on authentic development and impedes the evolution of peoples towards greater socio-economic and spiritual well-being. This applies especially to terrorism motivated by fundamentalism, which generates grief, destruction and death, obstructs dialogue between nations and diverts extensive resources from their peaceful and civil uses.

Caritas in Veritate (“In Charity and Truth”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2009 #29.


 

Moreover, how many natural resources are squandered by wars! Peace in and among peoples would also provide greater protection for nature. The hoarding of resources…can generate serious conflicts among the peoples involved. Peaceful agreement about the use of resources can protect nature and…the well-being of the societies concerned.

Caritas in Veritate (“In Charity and Truth”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2009 #51.


 

Even peace can run the risk of being considered a technical product, merely the outcome of agreements between governments or of initiatives aimed at ensuring effective economic aid. It is true that peace-building requires the constant interplay of diplomatic contacts…Nevertheless, if such efforts are to have lasting effects, they must be based on values rooted in the truth of human life. That is, the voice of the peoples affected must be heard and their situation must be taken into consideration, if their expectations are to be correctly interpreted.

Caritas in Veritate (“In Charity and Truth”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2009 #72.


 

Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode.

Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis, 2013 #59.


 

Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve. It serves only to offer false hopes to those clamouring for heightened security, even though nowadays we know that weapons and violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts.

Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis, 2013 #60.


 

Our world is being torn apart by wars and violence…In various countries, conflicts and old divisions from the past are re-emerging. I especially ask Christians in communities throughout the world to offer a radiant and attractive witness of fraternal communion. Let everyone admire how you care for one another, and how you encourage and accompany one another.

Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis, 2013 #99.


 

When conflict arises, some people simply look at it and go their way as if nothing happened; they wash their hands of it and get on with their lives. Others embrace it in such a way that they become its prisoners; they lose their bearings, project onto institutions their own confusion and dissatisfaction and thus make unity impossible. But there is also a third way, and it is the best way to deal with conflict. It is the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process. “Blessed are the peacemakers!” (Mt 5:9).

Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis, 2013 #227.


 

Believers themselves must constantly feel challenged to live in a way consonant with their faith and not to contradict it by their actions. They need to be encouraged to be ever open to God’s grace and to draw constantly from their deepest convictions about love, justice and peace. If a mistaken understanding of our own principles has at times led us to justify mistreating nature, to exercise tyranny over creation, to engage in war, injustice and acts of violence, we believers should acknowledge that by so doing we were not faithful to the treasures of wisdom which we have been called to protect and preserve.

Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be”), Pope Francis, 2015 #200.


 

On the other hand, no one can cultivate a sober and satisfying life without being at peace with him or herself. An adequate understanding of spirituality consists in filling out what we mean by peace, which is much more than the absence of war. Inner peace is closely related to care for ecology and for the common good because, lived out authentically, it is reflected in a balanced lifestyle together with a capacity for wonder which takes us to a deeper understanding of life.

Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be”), Pope Francis, 2015 #225.