Pope Francis has called for a worldwide day of fasting and prayer for peace on Sept. 7. His global strike for peace will beat Obama’s military strike by two days at least.
The Holy Father set our day of prayer for the vigil of the date of Our Lady’s Nativity — the birthday of the Queen of Peace — and delivered an impassioned plea for peace in Syria.
“With utmost firmness, I condemn the use of chemical weapons. I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart,” he said. “There is the judgment of God, and also the judgment of history, upon our actions from which there is no escaping.”
Then he delivered a message meant for the West. In an uncharacteristic shout, he said: “War brings on war! Violence brings on violence!”
This forceful rejection of war is characteristic of the great popes we have seen recently: Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis.
For one thing, it is Catholicism 101, from the Catechism: “All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war.” But these popes have also seen in their personal lives the truth of those words: “War brings on war” and “violence brings on violence.”
- World War II ended badly for John Paul’s Poland … with decades of Soviet rule.
- In Benedict XVI’s native Germany a state-sponsored culture of death was defeated in World War I and replaced with … a new culture of death. And that culture of death was defeated in World War II and replaced with … the culture that led John Paul II to coin the phrase “culture of death” in Evangelium Vitae, a culture unmoored from its Christian roots.
- The Dirty War in Argentina, in which violence was used for political repression, damaged the reputation of the Church and left the nation one of the most secularized in Latin America.
Americans might hear the phrase “violence brings on violence” and think it is ideology. Much of the world hears it and thinks it’s a description of their personal history.
Nonetheless, violence is sometimes necessary and it is true that fighting men and women have secured the peace for us many times in our history. This is why the Church spells out principles of just war.
Secretary of State John Kerry’s case for Syria’s use of chemical weapons being a cause for military intervention fell short of those principles:
If “Bashar al-Assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity … and then the world does nothing about it, there will be no end to the test of our resolve and the dangers that will flow from those others who believe that they can do as they will.”
First, it must be noted that the Administration doesn’t really believe that, because they immediately decided, at least for now, to “do nothing about it.”
But Kerry’s logic doesn’t work to start with. He says Nation A can punish Nation B for doing evil within its borders to show Nation C that it can’t follow suit.
That’s the logic of pre-emptive war — and as Cardinal Ratzinger famously said, the “concept of a ‘preventive war’ does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”
It is also a logic that can work against us: What if Nation A is an Islamic nation, Nation B is the United States and the evil is denying a class of people the right to life, funding with taxpayer money their destruction in the womb, and exporting that destruction overseas? We can point out that there is no moral equivalence between abortion and using chemical weapons on children. But will we convince them?
“The world needs to see gestures of peace and hear words of hope and of peace,” Francis said.
If that sounds naïve, the silly expectation that gestures and words can beat weapons of mass destruction, we need to compare track records.
Blessed Pope John Paul attempted to bring peace to Soviet Poland through “gestures of peace and words of hope.” We got a free Poland exporting Catholics throughout Europe (Polish parishioners are keeping British parishes from closing, for instance), and priests throughout America.
What is warrior Obama’s track record? He struck Libya. We got Benghazi on Sept. 11.
Let’s pray with Pope Francis for more peace, and less war.