Monday, August 11, 2008

Pax Christi UK: dossier

Pax Christi is an international movement made up of autonomous local groups. It was founded in 1945 as an organisation of Catholics in Europe who wanted to promote reconciliation at the end of the Second World War. The UK organisation got going in the late 1950s. In the 1960s, with the notorious Fr Bruce Kent as its chaplain, it campainged against Britain's nuclear deterrent. In 1971 it merged with another Catholic peace group, 'PAX'.

Although it is listed in the 2008 Catholic Directory, and calls itself 'Pax Christi: International Catholic Movement for Peace', it does not actaully describe itself as Catholic. Rather:

Pax Christi, Peace of Christ, is a gospel-based lay-inspired, peacemaking movement. Founded in the Catholic Church, its membership is open to individuals, groups and organisations of all faiths who are in sympathy with its aims and values. It is affiliated to Pax Christi International. (here) - or alternatively Pax Christi is an international Christian peacemaking movement, based on the gospel and inspired by faith. (here)

Pax Christi remains an active part of the anti-nuclear weapons campain (there is a link to the CND on its website), and has also become closely involved with the 'anti-war movement' created by the Iraq war.

Pax Christi's Dissent from Church Teaching

There is very little talk on Pax Christi's excruciatingly badly-designed website about the doctrine of the 'just war', except that it needs to be 'updated'; rather, the central idea of Pax Christi appears to be that all war (and capital punishment) is wrong. Again and again we find this view quoted with approval, although it is not set up as the organisation's official position. The home page includes a power-point presentation entitled 'Peace begins with disarmament'. The Greenham Common women are quoted as saying that 'There has never been a just war' (pdf); a discussion of a Northern Ireland peace campaigner (pdf) reflects that
The whole idea of war, the so-called just war theory, the notion that Christians can arm themselves and kill their enemies and still follow Christ, has come into question in Ireland and in many other parts of the world.
A 2004 Newsletter (pdf) writer tells us that
I take courage from the words of Professor Rotblat who, in 1999, spoke of the "citizens of the world" who no longer perceive war to be a valid option as a route to justice and true peace.

This is all, however, contrary to the constant teaching of the Church, which is that self defence, defence of others, and war (and capital punishment) are in certain situations not only legitimate but on occasion obligatory. There are occasions when injustice can only be effectively opposed by violence, and on those occasions we do not turn our backs on those suffering injustice. The Bible contains many passages in which God endorses war, in the Old Testament; Our Lord does not regard the military profession as intrinsically immoral (Luke 3.14); St Paul reiterates the right of the state to kill (Romans 13.4); and the Catechism of the Catholic Church reiterates the 'Just War' doctrine (2309). Opposing a particular war is naturally legitimate for a Catholic, on the basis of a moral and political judgment, but it is wrong to rule out all war: to do so would be to condemn all the Catholics who have fought in wars, some of whom have been canonised: for example, the crusader king St Louis of France, St Joan of Arc, who opposed the English occupation of France, a
nd St Ladislas of Hungary, who defended his country on the battlefield and was chosen to be commander in chief of the First Crusade.

Pax Christi as a political campaigning organisation

As a glance at its photo gallery makes clear, Pax Christi is a political campaigning organisation. It appears at rallies against nuclear weapons, the war in Iraq, and Israeli actions in Palestine. There is nothing illegitimage about political campaigning, but not only is the pacifistic tenor of the campaign is contrary to Catholic teaching, but such political questions as the legitimacy of the continuing occupation of Iraq are matters of legitimate disagreement for Catholics, and the Bishops of England and Wales have no business endorsing such an organisation by listing it in the Catholic Directory, let alone funding it through donations made on 'Peace Sunday'. These donations provided nearly £80,000 for their work in 2006 (out of a total income of £189,000) (pdf); the sum has grown considerably over recent years. (The next 'Peace Sunday' will be on January 19th 2009).

The fate of its one-time chaplain, Bruce Kent, is instructive: ordered by Cardinal Hume to keep out of politics, he left the priesthood. Politics had become more important to him than the priesthood. Lay Catholics may and indeed should take an interest in political matters, but they should not attempt to portray their political views as those of the Church, nor forget about the supernatural human vocation, and the importance of helping others to achieve it.

Pax Christi's bedfellows

Pax Christi's stance brings it into contact with some extremely un-Catholic organisations. Its links page is full of militant hard-left, anti-war and pacifist groups, most of whom are opposed to the Church's teaching on sexuality and the family.

Pax Christi is part of a network of dissident groups focused on so-called issues of 'justice and peace'. It is friendly to liberation theology, condemned in the 1980s by the Vatican, and links to Progressio. Pax Christi is well received by militant feminists, and gets good coverage in the 'Catholic Omnibus' (see our post here), the free newspaper run by the dissident feminists in charge of the National Board of Catholic Women. They are linked to by Progressio, Catholics for a Changing Church and a host of other dissenting groups.

The Damage Done by Pax Christi

Progressio and the feminists reject the Church's teaching on contraception and abortion, as set out in our dossiers on those groups (Progressio; Women Word Spirit). Pax Christi's role is a little more subtle. Throughout the Church, at parish and diocesan levels and at the Bishops' Conference, there are committees producing action plans for issues of 'Justice and Peace', in which Pax Christi plays an important part. Justice and peace are important aims for Catholics, but these groups are concerned with only a narrow set of issues, which are given a very specific political interpretation. The issues are poverty (in the UK and in the developing world), war and nuclear weapons, and perhaps green issues, and the approach to them is invariably left-leaning - generally supportive of the Labour party and government, criticising them only from the left. The practical and political impact of these committees is nugatory; their importance is as a distraction from the proclamation of the teaching of the Church on salvation, and political involvement on 'life' issues (abortion, euthanasia, stell cells etc.), and the family.

Thus the 'Justice and Peace' agenda is a continuation of the error of liberation theology, that the Church's main focus should be on the advancement of living standards rather than on the salvation of human souls. Furthermore, it is a deliberate displacement of political concern from issues on which the Church has teachings which require no controversial political judgments to apply to practical situations, namely on the life and family issues. The 'Justice and Peace' agenda gives the bishops and their lay hangers-on the feeling that they are deeply concerned and active on the important issues of the day, without straying from the comfort-zone of a Guardian-reader.

On the life and family issues, by contrast, bishops and Catholic intellectuals cannot bask in the glow of any left-leaning consensus. But there is no justice or peace while millions of babies are killed in the womb, the elderly are starved to death in hospital, and the family is undermined in every possible way by government policy.

How to Oppose Pax Christi

Just as the political judgments made by Pax Christi are not 'Catholic', so neither are the contrary political judgments. It is important not to fall into the error of opposing left-leaning politics in the Church with right-leaning politics. The problem within the Church, for Catholics as Catholics, is that Pax Christi is distorting Catholic teaching on war, and is presenting personal political views as somehow made necessary by Catholic teaching, when this is not the case.

They are doing this with money donated in good faith by Catholics who do not necessarily endorse these views: but even if they did, they should not be contributing to them at the back of church on a specially dedicated Sunday.

They are doing it in schools, with specially produced information packs, claiming to present a 'Catholic' view.

And they are doing it to the exclusion of the real political issues which Catholics as Catholics should be concerned about, the issues surrounding life and the family.

Pax Christi should be excluded from Catholic schools; parishes should refuse to give them space to spread their propaganda, and ask for money. They should be exposed as not even claiming to be a Catholic organisation.


gerald said...

The rainbow flag is used in most of Europe as a "peace" flag, with no connection whatsoever to the homosexual movement. I know good Catholics in Italy who protested their government's decision to go to war by hanging such flags (with PACE written on them) from their windows. Whatever the validity of the other criticisms, this one is unjust and should be removed from the dossier.

Webmaster said...

The identification of the rainbow flag with the homosexual movement is far too strong in the English-speaking world for this to be seen simply as a 'peace' flag in the UK. Perhaps PC are stupid, but you are suggesting they are very stupid indeed.

gerald said...

I don't know if it's necessarily a question of stupidity. I rather object to the fact that homosexual propagandists have monopolized a symbol of divine forgiveness, and I don't think we should be discouraging other uses of the rainbow by tarring them all with that brush. Better to encourage its use, and so work towards neutralizing it as a "gay symbol". I honestly doubt Pax Christi is trying to push deviant sexual practises.

Webmaster said...

On further investigation, you're right. The gay version is the other way up: red at the top, blue at the bottom.

I hadn't realised there were such variations! See Wikipedia.

Anonymous said...

I have never read so much rubbish in all my life, Pax Christi are a group which does great work seeking non-violent solutions to violence and poverty. It has many devout Catholics as members and it is very sad to see them slandered in this way by so-called fellow Catholics.

Are you people familiar with the Sermon on the Mount? The fact is that the recent Canonization Franz Jaegerstatter proves that Contentious objection to all war and killing is no longer a belief held only on the fringes if the Church.
You talk about capital punishment but you don't even have a consistant Life Ethic. The protection of life is a seamless garment. You can't protect some life and not others, there is a unity of Catholic teaching when it comes to human life. It is the principle which unites the Church’s positions on abortion, war, euthanasia, the death penalty.

You attack Pax Christi's bed fellows but what about the some of the right wing nutters attached to your group?

You call them a political campaigning organisation but that is also exactly what you are, and what is actually wrong with that?

You say that they should not be permitted into Catholic schools yet I see nothing on this blog which states that the Army should not be recruiting in Schools?

You talk abour war and violence being mentioned in the Old Testament, here is a newsflash...Jesus Christ created a new covenant, a new commandement...Love one another.

My Catholic faith is a faith of gentle personalism, compassion and forgiveness but I see none of that on this Hate site. You criticism exposes your own hypocrisy and idolatrous tendencies.

Nationalism, like imperialism and militarism, symbolize false gods to be resisted, not worshipped. The Church has a long peace tradition. In the first centuries, Catholics would have nothing to do with war and this how it will be again very soon becuase we follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. If you don't belive me read the quotes below...

The God of Peace is never glorified by human violence."
Thomas Merton

"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace."
St. Francis of Assisi

On my knees I beg you to turn away from the paths of violence and to return to the ways of peace.
Pope John Paul II

"Murder, considered a crime when people commit it singly, is transformed into a virtue when they do it en masse."
St. Cyprian (200-258)

"Put away your sword, for those who live by the sword die by the sword."
Matthew 26:52

"Christ, in disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier."

Above all, Christians are not allowed to correct with violence
St. Clement

Webmaster said...

See here for our reply.

Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen