Patrick O’Neill provided us with a wistful stroll down memory lane as he lamented the fading of the Catholic peace movement of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. You’re right, Patrick, the Catholic peace movement ain’t what it used to be. There are profound changes taking place in the movement, but I’m not sure that you or NCR fully grasps them. These changes involve both a dying and a rising.
What is dying is the white Catholic middle-class liberal construct of what constitutes “the Catholic peace movement.” This construct was, in part, created by Pax Christi USA beginning in the 1970s. White Catholic peace activists founded the Pax Christi USA of the ’70s to serve the needs of white Catholic peacemakers. In many ways, we succeeded in moving nonviolent peacemaking into the mainstream of Catholic social thought and practice. For many years, this work went well for us. But while we were busy trying to change the world, the world changed.
One of the most important of these changes is the browning of the U.S. Catholic church. As an organization that is still 90 percent white, Pax Christi folks are coming to realize that many important voices have been left out of the conversation about what it means to engage in the nonviolent struggle for peace, with justice as part of the peace movement.
Unfortunately, many of us in the white peace movement have become comfortable with speaking and acting on behalf of people of color without always being accountable to them. And we have so thoroughly colonized the language, theology, spirituality and praxis of nonviolent peacemaking in the U.S. Catholic church that most of the struggles for peace with justice in this country being led by people of color are not even considered part of the peace movement…