16 June 2017, pp. 9-14
A question for sports fans: What would you make of a coach who drills his team exclusively on last-minute desperation plays, while neglecting the basics? What would you make of players whose whole mindset was geared toward spectacular buzzer-beaters, but couldn’t play sound defense? In much the same manner, a church whose members never train themselves in nonviolent social strategies for resisting injustice or protecting the vulnerable—while their leaders spend centuries focused mainly on “exceptional” last-resort situations of the kind envisioned in just-war doctrine—is way off its game. Or in the wrong game altogether.
A year ago I participated in the Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference, an historic event organized by Pax Christi International and co-sponsored by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in Rome. At its close, the conference issued an appeal to the Catholic Church, urging that it “re-commit to the centrality of Gospel nonviolence.” The document reflected the consensus of eighty-some attendees from more than thirty countries—lay people, theologians, religious, and priests, including six bishops—that the church must abandon its reliance on “just-war” theory. By dedicating his 2017 World Day of Peace message to the theme, “Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace,” Pope Francis has signaled that church leadership is listening.
What is so wrong with the just-war theory? The answer lies in the way it overlooks and even undermines alternative approaches….