Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cardinal Bertone Urges Nonviolence

An Article from the Houston Catholic Worker

Vatican Declares Catholicism a Peace Church:
Follow the Way of the Great Prophets of Peace, the way of Conscientious Objection and of Alternative Social Service, the way of Nonviolence

by Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, new Vatican Secretary of State

Excerpted from Cardinal Bertone's first address to the Vatican Diplomatic Corps, all the ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, on September 29, 2006.

Our contemporaries hope that the diplomats in their role will contribute to establishing and maintaining "an international order, the art of establishing reasonable human relations among peoples" (Paul VI, Speech to the Diplomatic Corps, January 8, 1968). They desire also that the diplomats will be peacemakers, "servants of the interests of the peoples" (cf. John Paul II, Speech to the Swiss Diplomatic Corps, June 13, 1984), men of law, of reason, of sincere dialogue, and who promote a renewed impetus of solidarity among peoples, especially in order to review the matter of the debt of the poorest countries so that there will never again be persons, above all children, who die of hunger or endemic illnesses, that never again will there be innocent victims of war or local conflicts; that never again will anyone be mistreated for their convictions or their beliefs.

A universal commitment is urged on behalf of the neediest of the world, of the poorest, of the persons who often seek in vain for that on which they and their families might live. The dignity, the freedom, and the unconditional respect of every human being in their fundamental rights, in particular their liberty of conscience and of religion, must be among the primordial concerns, given that we must be in solidarity with their situation and with the future of our brothers and sisters, not remaining indifferent in the face of the sufferings that disfigure man and which each day are before our eyes.

I know how much diplomats are particularly attentive to these delicate questions in the whole world. I think especially of the violence, in all its forms, inflicted on women, and on children, born or about to be born. The defense of life, from conception to its natural end, just as the defense of the family based in marriage, are also essential themes of social life. Paul VI also emphasized that diplomacy "confronts more directly the real and concrete problems of social life, and above all what can be defined as the most important of all, the problem of peace" (Speech to the Diplomatic Corps, January 8, 1986).

As he said, in a speech on December 6 of 1986:

"The contribution of the Holy See to the question of peace is particularly rich and comprehensive, since the key points of the Magisterium largely surpass the systematic and organic in-depth study of the theologians." There exist profound links, underlined by the Popes, between peace and the development of peoples, between peace and liberation, between peace and human rights, between peace and international solidarity.

The Popes have given new names to peace and have offered ways to arrive at true peace. Ways that do not exclude, but integrate one with another: political and diplomatic ways, that become concrete through agreements that prevent and block conflicts; juridical and institutional ways, that raise up new institutions to guarantee security and peace; a psychological and pedagogical way-I say this as a Salesian, as a son of Don Bosco-that through multiple educational centers tends to form a culture of peace; the way of the witness of the great prophets of peace; the way of conscientious objection and of alternative social service, the way of nonviolence.

The crucial fields where the intersection of the prophetic aspect and the concrete necessities of life appear most strongly-that a human ethics also must consider, particularly in the context of private and organized violence, marked also by the plurality of opinions that confront them are the following:

- Social Protection to guarantee objective order and the defense of human rights;

- Condemnation of war in the field of ethics, and its exclusion as a means to resolve eventual differences between States

- Security , which privileges nonmilitary components and reinforces instead political, economic and social structures;

- Disarmament , which must embrace all types of arms, and thus become general, including the objective of "unilateral disarmament," that covers a great ethical and positive value.

On these themes, the search of intellectuals and the reflections of organisms of the Church and Christian communities will never stop.

In every case, the documents of the Holy See, and above all the clearly evident Magisterial postwar texts, are not texts which one can read over quickly or, even worse, be allowed to be ignored. They are texts that must be read attentively and meditatively, so that the ideas can be translated into practical actions and the world can recognize the force and current importance of the Christian message in the gift of self and the courage with which Christians act on behalf of peace, today, for all people.

( Translated by the Houston Catholic Worker from the Spanish-language text provided by the Vatican ).

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXVI, No. 6, November-December 2006.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ireland, Principles, and Jobs

So, Shannon Airport in Ireland is still on my mind. I was chased out of there in the fall of 2002 with an Irish peace activist who was keeping tabs on American military planes stopping over on their way to the Middle East. Ireland's constitution declares it a neutral state, so some of the Irish understandably take offense to foreign warplanes landing in the country. I was doing research on nonviolent activism in Ireland at the time.

The fight over Shannon Airport in Ireland, like so many other defense industry fights, comes down to principles vs. jobs. On the one hand you have folks advocating for peace and neutrality, and on the other, folks reminding everyone that a fella's got to eat. And if a fella earns his daily bread by cashing in on a heavy traffic of military personnel and equipment on its way to blow away who-knows-what-sorry-bastard, well... That's the way the world is. Not pretty. But a fella's got to eat.

I caught a little fresh perspective on Shannon Airport, and on this whole sad principles/jobs divide, just last week. I was returning from a trip to Europe and one of the airports I hit on the way back was Shannon. Now, I've known for some time about US transport jets refueling there, terror suspects being sent through in "extraordinary renditions," etc. etc. Still though, it was jarring to walk into the airport lounge and be confronted with some 50 odd American Navy sailors in sand-colored cammies.

Most of them were standing around the bar, drinking pints. A few younger enlisted types were wandering around the duty free shop, which is where I was. They were coming home for Thanksgiving and picking up gifts for their mothers, little brothers, alcoholic uncles, and so on. Normal Americans, good kids, the sort of women and men I talk with every day on the GI Rights Hotline.

Now, I don't look like much, but I don't think I look like a penniless slob (OK, I actually do look like a penniless slob, but I try not to while traveling--less hassle from security). So it was interesting to see what happened as I stood there perusing the whiskey selection. As soon as a man or woman in cammies entered the whiskey aisle, a nice Irish lady would run up and ply them with free samples of expensive booze, cajoling them to take a nice bottle home to mom, or dad, or of course to alcoholic uncle Steve. Meanwhile, I was thoroughly ignored. Even when I was left alone in the whiskey aisle, staring at labels, with the free sample lady similary unoccupied a few feet away at her table.

The lesson? Free sample lady knew where the money was. It was in the pockets of the lonely American boys and girls heading to Chicago for a weekend-long reprieve from the worst experience of their lives.

This is what the jobs side of the principles vs. jobs fight looks like. An old lady pushing booze into the hands of giddy and sad American kids.

Related links:

Peace On Trial, website for the Irish Ploughshares community which smashed up a US navy jet at Shannon using hammers, prayed, were arrested, had three trials, and were unanimously acquitted.

...Into Ploughshares, a brand new blog by Ciaron O'Reilly. Ciaron was one of the aforementioned Ploughshares activists, and he's a friend of mine.