Part of the title (in quotes) is borrowed from an essay by Stanley Hauerwas, a moral theologian who was deeply influenced by the late Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder, both of whom taught at Notre Dame. The title is challenging, but we cannot deny that our deepest longings and aspirations move us toward this goal for peace. In fact, the abolition of war forms the opening of the United Nations Charter: “We, the people of the United Nations, [are] determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war… and to live in peace with one another as good neighbors…” The times require great moral imagination, and great moral courage.
Particularly when we look at the state of the world today, and begin to measure our humble efforts for peace against such a stark reality of war and violence, we tend to get discouraged, and may be tempted to give up hope in ever seeing the day when war is finally abolished. Yet history is full of surprises. Who could have predicted that non-violent movements for democracy would usher in the end of the Cold War, or that dialogue between arch-enemies in South Africa would lead to the end of apartheid?
Surely, others before us were discouraged and tempted to lose hope; for instance, in the long struggle to abolish slavery and torture. Why should the struggle to abolish war be any different? We know that slavery continues to exist even today, and it is a very serious problem. Torture, too, continues to be practiced, as we know very well from the pictures and stories that have been broadcast to the world from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Still, it was a very significant step to abolish the moral and legal justifications for both slavery and torture; and it would be a very significant step to do the same regarding the practice of war.
I believe there are good grounds for hope in this struggle to finally abolish war. The witness of the Mennonites and other peace churches over the past several centuries is a reason for hope. The teachings of the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council give rise to hope, particularly the eloquent and urgent pleas of the popes, from Paul VI’s impassioned plea to the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1965: “Never again war! No, never again war!” to John Paul II’s repetition of that plea in his encyclical Centesimus Annus in 1991, and later his Jubilee message on the World Day of Peace in 2000: “War is a defeat for humanity!” And finally today, Pope Francis’ words opposing war during an evening prayer service for Syria in St. Peter’s Square:
“How many conflicts, how many wars have mocked our history?” he asked the faithful. “Even today we raise our hand against our brother…We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves as if it were normal we continue to sow destruction, pain, death. Violence and war lead only to death.”
In each of these instances, we find a step in the conversion of the Catholic Church toward becoming an authentic peace church, rooted in the Gospel of peace and the passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This change of emphasis in the Catholic Church is marked by an increased use of the just war theory to restrain and oppose modern warfare, rather than to justify it, and a “seismic shift” to nonviolence as a public witness for peace, both key elements in making the case for the final abolition of war.
Difficult questions remain: What about Rwanda? What about Darfur? Hauerwas frames the question this way: “If we are to advocate abandonment of war as an instrument of national and international policy, including on occasions that are likely to be justified according to just war criteria, we need to advance a morally compelling and politically persuasive alternative to ‘military interventions for humanitarian purposes.’… These emergencies, such as the unfolding disaster in the Darfur region of Sudan or the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, press against the limits of our appeal because of the apparent need to wage war to protect human life and prevent atrocity.”
We cannot lightly dismiss this objection. In fact, some of us, committed as we are to pacifism or nonviolence, may share these concerns. So it is incumbent upon us to put forth convincing reasons, and even more, convincing alternatives to war, including “alternatives to military interventions for humanitarian purposes.”
Hauerwas’ own response to these objections is convincing, though it does not guarantee an effective alternative: “Military interventions in situations of political instability themselves take a very high toll on civilians, especially those [persons] the interventions are intended to protect… More worrying still – and contrary to the assumptions of concerned citizens worldwide – there is ample evidence that military interventions of this kind tend to intensify and prolong conflict rather than resolve it.”
We can think of the last twelve years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq to make this point. The hundreds of thousands of Afghan and Iraqi lives lost, the majority of them civilians. The thousands of American lives lost, not to mention the half million veterans of both wars who continue to suffer the effects of PTSD, and other more severe brain injuries and amputations. In these days when the budget is debated, three trillion dollars were spent on those two wars over the past decade. What is the alternative? Hauerwas proposes the following:
“To be clear, our argument is not against the idea of intervening across sovereign borders per se, but the use of military means to do so. In our view, approaches that emphasize the incremental process of resolving conflict nonviolently by containing aggression, addressing grievances (real or imagined), and building local political capacity provide a more appropriate frame of reference for the resolution of humanitarian crises. Militarism has such a grip on contemporary humanitarianism, however, that such a suggestion seems naïve at best and a recipe for disengagement at worst…
“Yet military operations in these situations are compelling only because of earlier failures: failure to give political support for implementation of peace agreements; failure to mount appropriate political, economic, or diplomatic interventions; failure to support indigenous peace activists and political reformers; and, most of all, failure to commit in advance the significant resources required to deal with the complex synergy of violence and poverty that is at the heart of most of these conflicts.”
These are words of realism, with which I think we can agree, and they point in the direction of what some have called “pre-emptive peace.” But for such alternatives to succeed, they require transformations at the local, regional and international level. In addition to local peace initiatives, there must be international structures to support those local initiatives. These are elements essential to the task of peacemaking with which Catholics agree.
To cite one example, in 1993, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of The Challenge of Peace, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a document, The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace, in which we put forward the following elements essential to peacemaking: strengthening global institutions, securing human rights, assuring sustainable and equitable development, restraining nationalism and eliminating religious violence, building cooperative security, and shaping responsible U.S. leadership in the world. The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace concludes:
“We renew our call to peacemaking in a dramatically different world. The ‘challenge of peace’ today is different, but no less urgent. Although the nuclear threat is not as imminent, international injustice, bloody regional wars, and a lethal conventional arms trade are continuing signs that the world is still marked by pervasive violence and conflict.
“At home and abroad, we see the terrible human and moral costs of violence. In regional wars, in crime and terrorism, in ecological devastation and economic injustice, in abortion and renewed dependence on capital punishment, we see the tragic consequences of a growing lack of respect for human life. We cannot really be peacemakers around the world unless we seek to protect the lives and dignity of the vulnerable in our midst. We must stand up for human life wherever it is threatened. This is the essence of our consistent life ethic and the starting point for genuine peacemaking.”
Still, the challenge remains: To make the case as churches for the abolition of war in the twenty-first century, from the perspective and witness of Pax Christi, a movement for peace and justice in the Catholic Church, we need to set our sights high. Too often we lack hope because we lack imagination; and we lack imagination because we fail to trust more in Divine Providence and the Holy Spirit who continues to speak through the prophets and through a prophetic church. The new developing field of peace-building and the new framework of just peace are truly signs of the time and expressions of the Spirit moving in history.
If we had to rely on our own efforts alone, we have every reason to be discouraged, as two world wars and dozens of regional conflicts and civil wars around the globe attest; but we are not alone. The twentieth century alone is full of social movements of religious inspiration which have changed the world nonviolently, as John Paul II attests: “It seemed that the European order resulting from the Second World War and sanctioned by the Yalta agreements could only be overturned by another war. Instead, it has been overcome by the nonviolent commitment of people who, while always refusing to yield to the force of power, succeeded time after time in finding effective ways of bearing witness to the truth.”
Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker, one of the founding members of Pax Christi USA, often oppose the works of mercy to the works of war, and display this in a powerful mural by Rita Corbin, much like the parable of the Last Judgment in Matthew 25. On the left side are the works of mercy: “Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick, shelter the homeless, visit the prisoners, bury the dead, prayer for the living and the dead.” On the rights side are the works of war: “Destroy crops and land, seize food supplies, destroy homes and villages, scatter families, contaminate water, imprison dissenters, inflict wounds and burns, kill the living.” When we think about the “real world,” we must not exclude this judgment from our vision.
Only by first deepening our faith, letting our imagination and hope be challenged by the Gospel, and allowing our lives to be filled with that same Gospel spirit that filled the “cloud of witnesses,” those saints and martyrs and prophets who have gone before. Let us not disappoint them, nor disappoint those who yearn to hear the Church speak words of peace in a prophetic fashion, those who are victims of war and those who mourn the victims, those who are sent off to war, and those who return to their families bearing the wounds of war. Above all, let us not disappoint our children, the hope of future generations.
 Stanley Hauerwas, Linda Hogan, and Enda McDonagh, “The Case for Abolition of War in the Twenty-First Century,” Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, 25, 2 (2005): 17-35.
 Paul VI, “Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations,” October 4, 1965.
 John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, 52.
 John Paul II, World Day of Peace, January 1, 2000. “In the century we are leaving behind, humanity has been sorely tried by an endless and horrifying sequence of wars, conflicts, genocides and ‘ethnic cleansings’ which have caused unspeakable suffering: millions and millions of victims, families and countries destroyed, an ocean of refugees, misery, hunger, disease, underdevelopment and the loss of immense resources. . . The twentieth century bequeaths to us above all else a warning: wars are often the cause of further wars because they fuel deep hatreds, create situations of injustice and trample upon people’s dignity and rights… War is a defeat for humanity. Only in peace and through peace can respect for human dignity and its inalienable rights be guaranteed.”
 Drew Christiansen, SJ, “After September 11: Catholic Teaching on War and Peace,” Origins, Vol. 32: No. 3 (May 30, 2002).
 Hauerwas, et.al. “The Case for Abolition of War…” 29.
 Ibid. 30. Hauerwas adds, “Observers estimate, for example, that between 6,000 and 8,000 civilians were killed during Operation Rescue Hope in Somalia [footnote: Nicholas Wheeler, Saving Strangers: Humanitarian Intervention in International Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 116] In addition, the number of refugees and internally displaced persons that arise from the escalation that inevitably results from military interventions run to tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands [footnote: United Nations High Commission for Refugees, “2003 Global Refugee Trends: Overview of Refugee Populations, New Arrivals, Durable Solutions, Asylum Seekers and Other Persons of Concern to UNHCR,” available at www.unhcr.ch/cgi-bin]… Moreover, introduction of an additional armed group (albeit with humanitarian goals) often merely adds another set of belligerents to an already overmilitarized situation [footnote: This is William Shawcross’ conclusion in Deliver Us from Evil: Warlords and Peacekeepers in a World of Endless Conflict (London: Bloomsbury, 2000). The thrust of Alex de Waal’s Who Fights? Who Cares? War and Humanitarian Action in Africa (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2000) is essentially the same].
 Ibid. 30.
 The term was used in a Pax Christi USA consultation July 31, 2003: “Pre-emptive Peace: Beyond Terrorism and Justified War.” See also Ben Schennink, “Pre-emptive War or Pre-emptive Peace? The U.S. National Security Strategy: A Challenge to the Peace Movement. Advisory report for Pax Christi Netherlands; and Bryan Massingale, S.T.D., “The Security We Seek: Whose Security? At What Cost? To Whom? A Catholic Perspective,” keynote address to the Roundtable Symposium, February 8, 2003.
 National Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace: A Reflection of the National Conference of Bishops on the Tenth Anniversary of The Challenge of Peace, November 17, 1993. In addition to the elements essential to peacemaking, a number of special problems are addressed, including nuclear disarmament and proliferation, demilitarization, economic sanctions, humanitarian intervention, and global responses to regional conflicts. A more recent statement by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Living with Faith and Hope After September 11, issued November 14, 2001, in the section “Pursuing Justice and Peace After September 11,” specifically addresses the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iraq, Sudan, the scandal of poverty, human rights, weapons of mass destruction and the arms trade, and strengthening the U.N. and other international institutions.