Proposal submitted by the Gospel Nonviolence Working Group
May believers be builders of bridges and artisans of peace.” – Pope Francis, 2018
This proposal is a call to join Pope Francis, leaders of other world religions, and the human community in becoming ‘artisans of peace.’ It challenges us to a personal and communal transformation of consciousness rooted in the emerging vision and practice of nonviolent peacemaking. This evolving vision invites us to embrace biblical justice and peacemaking as a way of life, as well as an effective method of resolving domestic, national, and international conflicts.
Most Catholics are not aware of the remarkable advances in the teaching and practice of nonviolent peacemaking. For more than sixty years this prophetic vision has been quietly, steadily gaining credibility, including a significant evolution in Church teaching. In large part this is due to the courageous witness of creative nonviolent peacemakers in the last several decades. The pursuit of Just Peace is more than a theory. It is a lived reality, particularly in those areas of the world that have struggled most with systemic injustice and violence.
This proposal calls on AUSCP members to join Pax Christi and the wider Catholic community in the practice of Gospel nonviolent peacemaking by:
- Embracing this vision and practice through study, prayer, and deeper personal conversion.
- Devoting time and effort toward a prayerful study of the relationship between biblical justice and peacemaking.
- Becoming more active in practicing, teaching, and preaching nonviolent peacemaking in our parishes and local communities.
- Collaborating with Pax Christi, Pace e Bene, JustFaith Ministries, and other members of the baptized priesthood in their grassroots efforts to study and practice this vision.
- Taking initiative to join Pax Christi personally, and to encourage our parishes to join or initiate local Pax Christi coalitions, as well as helping to provide funds for Pax Christi.
- Advocating for the vision and practice of Just Peace to replace our past reliance on the theory of Just War. Advocating for the abolishment of “just war theory” analogous to how we have seen Pope Francis’ doctrinal development on the death penalty.
1 – First Stage
- The first step involves a genuine commitment on the part of AUSCP members to re-educate themselves through prayerful study. We can begin this by reading and studying the following:
- Choosing Peace: The Catholic Church Returns to Gospel Nonviolence, Marie Dennis, Orbis Books, 2018. This is the most comprehensive, practical summary of this topic. In addition to summarizing the evolution of the Gospel Nonviolent movement, Marie also shares extensive global examples of the effectiveness of this approach in contemporary history.
PLEASE NOTE: Since the following reading list is somewhat extensive, we are in the process of preparing a helpful study guide. In the meantime, however, we take Marie Dennis’ book to be the best place to start as an introduction and guide to the documents and the practice of Gospel Nonviolence.
- Pacem in Terris, John XXIII (1963), the entire document.
- Gaudium et Spes, Vatican II (1965), especially sections on justice/peacemaking.
- Justice in the World (1971 Bishop’s Synod).
- Octogesima Adveniens (Paul VI, 1971, Call to Action, 80th anniversary of Rerum Novarum.)
- The Challenge of Peace (US Bishops’ Pastoral Letter, 1983)
- The Harvest of Justice (1993), US Bishop’s Statement, on the 10th anniversary of The Challenge of Peace.
- The “Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference: Contributing to the Catholic Understanding of and Commitment to Nonviolence” (Rome, April 2016). Especially the final document, An Appeal to the Catholic Church to Re-commit to the Centrality of Gospel Nonviolence.
- Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace, Pope Francis (2017), Message for World Day of Peace.
- Peace as a Journey of Hope: Dialogue, Reconciliation and Ecological Conversion, Pope Francis (2020), Message for World Day of Peace.
- There is an abundance of literature in interfaith sources that parallel the practice of nonviolent peacemaking. It would be to our advantage to consult them as well.
2 – Second Stage
The second step calls us to shared action, flowing from our prayerful study of the above documents. Here are some practical suggestions:
- Engage in and encourage more frequent, courageous, and prophetic preaching about Gospel Nonviolence on the part of AUSCP members.
- Encourage AUSCP members to take the vow of nonviolence (found below) and encourage those who do so to become part of a GNV spiritual fraternity as a source of mutual support and personal accountability—thus to grow in Gospel Nonviolence as a way of being, a way of dialogue, a way of relating to others and the world. For our own GNV working group, by example, to strive to be such a place of friendship, fraternity, shared non-violent spirituality, accountability, and mutual encouragement for those wanting to join it.
- Invite AUSCP members to join or start local Pax Christi chapters.
- Promote Gospel Nonviolence as a way of addressing the systemic injustice and violence inherent in racism, xenophobia, homophobia, misogynism, environmental destruction, and other forms of oppression.
- Continue promoting the cause of canonization of Ben Salmon, his life being a special incarnation of Gospel Nonviolence in our modern times.
- This year’s AUSCP Assembly is ‘Our Catholic Faith in the Political World’. To request that, if possible, ‘Artisans of Peace’ be part of next year’s agenda or even perhaps that it be chosen as the main theme for the 2022 assembly. This would provide a way for all of us to have a three day, sustained, and serious engagement with the topic.
- Invite experienced leaders like Marie Dennis, Johnny Zokovitch, Tom Gumbleton, etc., to give keynotes. Consider inviting Pax Christi, LCWR, and CMSM to co-sponsor this proposal.
3 – Third Stage
TO BE DETERMINED ONLY AFTER THE FIRST TWO STAGES ARE COMPLETED, but possible ideas might include:
AUSCP moves toward a wider circle of education, ongoing formation, and action.
- In collaboration with Pax Christi, AUSCP initiates a process of formation and advocacy with justice and peace groups, parish leaders, LCWR, CMSM, and local dioceses.
- These collaborative groups, in turn, initiate education, dialogue, and advocacy with local bishops and the USCCB.
- Explore, through education and dialogue, the possibility of the USCCB joining us to support funding for Pax Christi USA, perhaps through a special collection.
- Depending on how well the above stages unfold, the following is a suggested proposal that AUSCP might submit at some point:
BE IT RESOLVED: In light of recent Church teaching, Pope Francis’ call to abolish the death penalty, and the emerging practice of Just Peace, AUSCP advocates abolishing the Just War theory and having it replaced with the emerging vision and practice of Just Peace and the path Gospel Nonviolence.
VOW OF NONVIOLENCE
Recognizing the violence in my own heart, yet trusting in the goodness and mercy of God, I vow to practice the nonviolence of Jesus who taught us in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God…You have learned how it was said, ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say to you, ‘Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. In this way, you will be daughters and sons of your Creator in heaven.”
- by striving for peace within myself and seeking to be a peacemaker in my daily life;
- by refusing to retaliate in the face of provocation and violence; by persevering in nonviolence of tongue and heart;
- by living conscientiously and simply so that I do not deprive others of the means to live;
- by actively resisting evil and working nonviolently to abolish war and the causes of war from my own heart and from the face of the earth.
God, I trust in Your sustaining love and believe that just as You gave me the grace and desire to offer this, so You will also bestow abundant grace to fulfill it. Amen.