Pacifism I want to start



I want to start by saying that the Church does not teach pacifism except, perhaps in a certain very restricted sense. However, I greatly admire the ideal, and I'm led to wonder what is its status for an individual? That is, can an individual hold pacifist ideals within the larger framework of church teaching.

Now I need to explain what I mean because I've just confused the issue. The Church acknowledges that there is such a thing as a "just war" that depends upon a number of conditions. I accept that teaching as a true son of the Church. However, I ask the question, "Is it possible that some few, by an interior call of conscience can be pacifist?" In other words, even given that I acknowledge that the cause is just, and by Church teaching the war is just, is it possible that I could find it sinful to participate in it?

I think that the hierarchy of discipline is God--church teaching--conscience. That is the strictest obedience must be paid to God and to God's laws. Church teaching fleshes out God's law. That is, if we were to strictly adhere to God's law we would have little guidance in the modern era about what we should be doing. The Magisterium of the Church, among other things, continues the pronouncement of God's law and serves as a kind of Talmud or continuing commentary and elaboration of the law, not adding to the Deposit of Faith so much as explicating it for the times. (I could have this wrong, and if so gladly welcome correction.) The final level of the hierarchy is conscience, which is called to be obedient to all of the teachings of the Church, and to God, but I believe God may have formed individuals in such away that the demands of conscience increase the other sources. Thinking this, I ask, is it possible to be a pacifist in the Church?

I believe that it is. I have always admired pacifists, and still admire the ideal. To be a strong pacifist, despite protestations to the contrary, takes an enormous amount of courage and strength of will. One must oppose the predominant social forces by oneself. (This, of course, does not make it right). I admire much of Civil Disobedience as I admire the work of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Stanley Hauerwas and Richard Foster are two modern voices (one Mennonite(?) and one Quaker) that speak persuasively of the need for and injunction to not only nonviolence but nonresistance. I find that their discussions are in line with biblical teaching and persuasive.

What I believe is NOT allowable is for me to impress this doctrine of nonviolence/nonresistance on others. That is, I am called to state my conscience--"I cannot kill others, it is forbidden regardless of the cause." But I am NOT called to defy church teaching and tell others that they cannot do so in a demonstrably "just war." Does this make any sense? I can, by conscience be a pacifist, but I cannot be an evangelist of pacifism because it is a calling of conscience not a teaching of God or the Church. I can evangelize by lifestyle or by presenting my reasons for my thought, but not by rebuking others for holding that it may be just to fight certain aggressors. I cannot hold others to the standard of my conscience, just as they cannot hold me to their standard of say, vegetarianism (another notion I have entertained for moral reasons).

Anyway is this simply wishful thinking or special pleading? Does the church categorically say that if a just war is declared it is the obligation of every person to fight in that just war? Or does the doctrine of just war simply indicate that those called by profession or by vocation to fight in this war can do so without fearing pain of sin for things which, outside of these circumstances, would normally be mortal? What do you all think about it? I'd like some input on the theoretical issues, not really the question of whether pacifism is good or evil in itself--that is another discussion entirely.

Normally I don't like controversy, I don't like to stir the waters, as it were, but this is important enough that I want to be certain of my grounding, and I certainly have no wish to be violating church teaching, nor do I wish to give offense to any. Hopefully we can talk gently and logically of this matter. I am certain I can rely upon a couple of my visitors to give me good feedback either here or at their own sites. Thanks.

Bookmark and Share



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 13, 2002 8:06 AM.

THANK YOU! Yes, I'm shouting, was the previous entry in this blog.

Two Poems is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

My Blogroll