instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Pacifism is a harsh mistress

It seems to me that pacifism is a very demanding personal discipline, and that a committed Christian pacifist -- one who forswore all forms of violence to follow Christ -- would have to be tough as nails.

That's one reason I've never cared much for Pax Christi USA, which strikes me as a, what's the word, squishy? A squishy organization, sharing a "now, now, let's not be mean" version of pacifism, coupled for whatever reason with advocacy for "primacy of conscience, economic and social justice, and respect for creation."

I also find something unctuous in the holier-than-thou-but-we-still-love-you tone of many of their public statements, "'All Are Welcome' - A statement by Pax Christi Illinois regarding the denial of Communion" being a case in point. According to the statement,
We in Pax Christi are very passionate about Catholic Social Teaching and the call to protect and defend the dignity of life from womb to tomb. At the same time we are often disappointed by the lack of commitment to the principles of Catholic Social Teaching by many of our Catholic brothers and sisters who hold positions of responsibility in politics, business and sadly even in the Church. But it would never occur to us to seek the exclusion of any of these members of our Catholic family from the Eucharistic Table.
Which is a funny coincidence, because it would never occur to me to care whether it would ever occur to Pax Christi Illinois to do the bishops' job for them.

This paragraph also demonstrates the moral equivalence, which a subsequent paragraph spells out in more detail, that Pax Christi USA assigns to abortion and Catholic social teaching.

The subsequent paragraph begins, "As followers of the nonviolent Jesus, Pax Christi members assert that all who feel called to approach the Table of the Lord should be welcomed." This implicit call for open Communion is followed by a list of four parallel sets of people who should be welcomed:

those who reject war as a means of resolving conflictand those who feel that war is sometimes justified
those who reject the death penaltyand those who cling to the death penalty as an expression of justice
those who work to make abortion illegalas well as those who believe that criminalizing abortion is not the answer
those who believe that the needs of the poor and laborers have a priority over capitalas well as those who believe that the unfettered free market is the best way to distribute wealth and resources

Several points can be made regarding this list.

For instance, the presence of the first pair makes no real sense. It is Catholic teaching that war is sometimes justified; who would argue that people who follow Catholic teaching should be excluded from the Eucharist? If anything, it should be the pacifists who are listed second, but even that would be a strawman.

Note, too, the disingenuous expression "those who believe that criminalizing abortion is not the answer," as though this were a reasonable description of the pro-abortion Catholics under consideration. Is there be a squishier euphemism for their true position than "criminalizing abortion is not the answer"?

Note as well that, instead of a squishy euphemism, question-begging hyperbole is used to characterize free market advocates. Not only do they insist on an "unfettered" free market, but they are explicitly distinguished from people who value people more than capital. To be fair to Pax Christi Illinois, there may well be more unfettered free marketeer Catholics who value capital more than people than there are pro-abortion Catholic politicians who merely believe criminalization is not the answer, making this misrepresentation less egregious.

Note, finally, the overall composition of the list. Legalized abortion is set next to the actual Catholic teaching on war, a prudential judgment on capital punishment, and a prudential judgment on economic and business policy in a set of things regrettable to believe but certainly no cause for refusal of Communion.

I found the most astonishing sentence in the statement to be this:
In the same way, we urge our Illinois Catholic Bishops to continue to plead and pray for all of us sinners in the Catholic Body of Christ, without recourse to the violence of coercion or threats.
That is how Pax Christi Illinois characterizes what the USCCB considers "decisions [that] rest with the individual bishop in accord with the established canonical and pastoral principles": "the violence of coercion or threats."

Apparently, to Pax Christi Illinois, any act contrary to another's desire is violence and the assertion of the bishop's teaching office is coercion. No doubt accusations of "violence" come readily to Pax Christi pens, but somebody really needs to scrub their statements for unadulterated foolishness like this if they want to be considered a serious voice in society.

(Link via In Today's News.)