Nuclear Disarmament, Peace

The best kept secret of the Catholic Church

by Tony Magliano

The Catholic Church has a very big secret. It is so powerful, challenging and relevant, that if every bishop, priest, religious and layperson was committed to communicating and implementing this secret, it would turn society upside-down and literally transform the world!

However, revealing its contents, and urging the full application of its message, would surely cause great controversy. The church’s leaders would come under attack from both conservatives and liberals. They would be characterized as naïve and acting outside the acceptable bounds of church leadership.

Therefore, most church leaders have opted to tread lightly, sadly guaranteeing that “Catholic social teaching” will remain our best-kept secret.

The best-kept secret is that the Catholic Church is deeply blessed with over 125 years of outstanding social justice and peace documents authored by popes, Vatican Council II, world synods of bishops and national conferences of bishops. Sadly, they attract more dust than readers.

Because Catholic social teaching’s foundational tenets of love, justice and peace boldly challenge governments, corporations and societies, as well as rich and powerful individuals to fairly share their wealth and power with the everyone – especially the poor, the vulnerable and mother earth – and because these teachings insist that war preparation and war-making must give way to peacemaking, Catholic social teaching is to put it mildly: a tough sell.

We need to put the effort into learning the wisdom of Catholic social teaching and selflessly, courageously put it into practice in our personal, political, economic and societal lives. It needs to be put above the status quo of ourselves, our nations, our corporations and our culture.

Like the Gospel, Catholic social teaching is countercultural. And, therefore, we must get out of our comfort zones and be countercultural as well!

But sadly, because Catholic social teaching is so challenging, the path of least resistance is most often used. For example, from time to time a passing reference is made to it in a homily, but such token efforts are too weak and too infrequent to make much difference for the unborn, poor and war-torn of our world. And our faith is all the weaker for it.

Catholic social teaching has at its core a set of principles designed to help guide us in applying the liberating message of the Gospel to the social, economic, and political problems facing modern humanity.

These principles are:

  • The protection of all human life and the promotion of human dignity
  • The call to participate in family and community life
  • The promotion of human rights and responsibilities
  • The preferential option for the poor and vulnerable
  • The safeguarding of workers’ dignity and rights
  • The building of global solidarity and the common good
  • The care for God’s creation
  • The universal destination of goods
  • The call to become peacemakers.

Among the most important documents of Catholic social teaching are the Second Vatican Council’s “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,” (see: https://bit.ly/WyDi4S), St. Pope John Paul II’s encyclicals “On Social Concerns” (see: https://bit.ly/1WJB2EX) and “The Gospel of Life” (see: https://bit.ly/1AHf2fZ), and Pope Francis’ encyclical “On Care for Our Common Home (see: https://bit.ly/1Gi1BTu).

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services offer an excellent video introductory overview of Catholic social teaching (see: https://www.crs.org/resource-center/CST-101).

Catholic social teaching could become a tremendously effective tool for building a just and peaceful world, if we would regularly read it, pray with it, teach it, preach it, and live it!

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

Nuclear Disarmament, Peace

NATO military alliance incompatible with Gospel nonviolence

by Tony Magliano

As foreign ministers of the 29 member nations of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), gathered in Washington, D.C. on April 3-4 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of this largest military alliance in the world, nonviolent peace activists across the U.S. and from around the world also gathered in Washington to proclaim: “No to NATO – Yes to Peace.”

For six days anti-war proponents participated in  justice and peace workshops, rallies, an anti-NATO conference, an end to war concert and a disarmament counter summit (see: https://worldbeyondwar.org/notonato/).

The kickoff event was a 20 block peace march starting at Lafayette Square (across the street from the White House). Along with members of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Washington, D.C. community, I helped carry a banner saying “No to NATO, No to Nukes” (see video: https://bit.ly/2WLIeCi).

But what’s so wrong about NATO? A lot!

According to David Swanson, director of World Beyond War – a global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace (see:       https://worldbeyondwar.org/) – NATO members place more value on Russia as an enemy. Anonymous U.S. military officials describe the current cold war as driven by massive profits from weapons sales (see: http://davidswanson.org/united-states-wants-war-with-russia/). NATO now accounts for about three-quarters of military spending and weapons dealing on the globe.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, NATO promised Russia that it would absolutely not expand eastward. Breaking its promise, NATO added the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungry, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovenia, Albania and Croatia.

While it is important to note that Russia is also immorally making massive profits from arms sales and is also very militarized, nonetheless, if we are honest, it is understandable that Russia sees NATO – now on its very border – as a dangerous threat.

And with both the U.S. and Russia having hundreds of nuclear weapons aimed at each other, and on hair-trigger/launch on warning alert, we are playing an extremely dangerous game of Russian roulette.

To counter all this madness, level-headed, kind-hearted citizens should urge government leaders to appropriate much less money for NATO related operations with the pressing goal of completely dissolving the military alliance – just as the Warsaw Pact was dissolved. And to transfer these massive military dollars toward insuring that all human beings receive their basic God-given rights of life, nutritious food, clean water, improved sanitation, comprehensive health care, quality education, decent housing and a livable wage earned in a safe working environment.

Not only would this conversion provide all people with the necessary means to live, and to live with dignity, but unlike military violence which destroys, insuring universal human rights would also foster lasting world peace.

And most importantly as Christians, we must not to be swayed by the violent ways of the world, but rather by the ways that build up the Kingdom of God – love, justice and peace.

Let’s not forget the stern warning of the nonviolent Jesus: “All who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

During his 1979 visit to the Irish people who were suffering from the violence of the “Troubles,” St. Pope John Paul II prophetically declared “that violence is evil, that violence is unacceptable as a solution to problems, that violence is unworthy of man. Violence is a lie, for it goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity. Violence destroys what it claims to defend: the dignity, the life, the freedom of human beings.”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

Peace, Peace Spirituality

Reflections on Pope Francis’s 2019 World Day of Peace message

by Tony Magliano

As the saying goes, “Politics and religion don’t mix.” Although this cliché is espoused by many, you will not hear it from Pope Francis.

On the contrary, the leader of the Catholic Church firmly teaches that our Gospel-based faith has a wealth of wisdom to offer the often corrupt world of politics. And that it is our duty to strive to infuse that wisdom into the body politic.

As exhibit “A,” consider the Holy Father’s Jan. 1 World Day of Peace message – appropriately titled “Good politics is at the service of peace.”

Peace “is like a delicate flower struggling to blossom on the stony ground of violence,” the pope writes. “Politics is an essential means of building human community and institutions, but when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole, it can become a means of oppression, marginalization and even destruction.”

This is so true. As one of many sad examples, consider how often political officials allow and even authorize the oppression of minority groups like the Rohingya in Myanmar, and now in Bangladesh (see: https://bbc.in/2KPgZ7Q, https://bit.ly/2RPcE4a).

And consider that many political leaders in governments throughout the world, including democracies, largely ignore the marginalized poor – in effect exiling them to the fringes of society, and even leaving millions of them to die every year (see: https://borgenproject.org/15-world-hunger-statistics/).

Among the “political vices” the pope cites are “xenophobia, racism, lack of concern for the natural environment, the plundering of natural resources for the sake of quick profit and contempt for those forced into exile.” All of which bring to mind recent dire environmental warnings from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (see: https://on.natgeo.com/2C4uv2j), the National Climate Assessment (see: https://bit.ly/2DFvfvO), and the often cold-hearted political response to suffering migrants (see: https://bbc.in/2yZnCMD).

Here the pontiff’s words are equally strong, “Political addresses that tend to blame every evil on migrants and to deprive the poor of hope are unacceptable. Rather, there is a need to reaffirm that peace is based on respect for each person, whatever his or her background.”

Pope Francis then challenges the immoral tragedy of war and fear. He says, “Peace can never be reduced solely to a balance between power and fear.” And adds that the proliferation of arms is “contrary to morality and the search for true peace” (see: https://bit.ly/2BqRelc).

And he condemns “forms of nationalism that call into question the fraternity of which our globalized world has such great need.”

In the world – political and otherwise – where self-centered egos often dominate, Pope Francis calls our attention to the humble corrective teaching of Jesus: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Francis then challengingly calls us to be creative peacemakers: “Today more than ever, our societies need ‘artisans of peace’ who can be messengers and authentic witnesses of God the Father, who wills the good and happiness of the human family.”

And to that Pope Francis encouragingly adds, “Everyone can contribute his or her stone to help build the common home.” With open hearts and minds to God, let each of us ask ourself: What is my stone? And how can I best use it to build our common home?

And then consider a New Year’s resolution worth keeping:  Read “Good politics is at the service of peace” and prayerfully strive to put it into practice (see: https://bit.ly/2CmIobS).

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.