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"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 must stand up for human life wherever it is threatened. That is the essence of our consistent life ethic and the starting point for genuine peacemaking."
~The Harvest of Justice Is Sown in Peace, NCCB, 1993
On the eve of these November 2012 elections, as U.S. citizens, we face crucial and urgent challenges. But as faithful Catholics, we face the future with confidence and hope, guided by a deep faith in the Gospel, a rich tradition of Catholic social teaching, and the inspiring example of ordinary women and men who generously give their lives in daily witness for justice and peace.
At the recent Pax Christi USA Momentum event in D.C., Bishop Thomas Gumbleton recalled the inspiring witness of Joshua Casteel, an interrogator for the U.S. military in Abu Ghraib who, after being confronted with the words of Jesus by his Muslim "enemy" during an interrogation, became a conscientious objector. Bishop Gumbleton asked where the Church was when that young man questioned what it means for Christians to love their enemies.
As members of Pax Christi USA, we know that the way to peace is as varied as the journeys of the people who aspire to live out their lives as witnesses to Gospel nonviolence. Some, like Joshua Casteel and Camilo Mejia, were soldiers in Iraq who became conscientious objectors to all wars. Some, like Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, have inspired generations to live nonviolently. Countless others witness to the Gospel of peace (Eph 6:15) in daily acts of loving both their neighbors and their enemies.
As we approach these November elections, we affirm once again our commitment to nonviolence, and make our own the words of our bishops: "We must stand up for human life wherever it is threatened. That is the essence of our consistent life ethic and the starting point for genuine peacemaking."
Pax Christi Metro D.C.-Baltimore's
(NOTE: This is the first of two PSA e-bulletins done by Pax Christi Metro D.C.-Baltimore's Executive Committee. The second will be sent out next week.)
PRAY: Prayer for World Peace
by Joan Chittister, OSB
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace
Great God, who has told us
"Vengeance is mine,"
Save us from ourselves,
Save us from the vengeance in our hearts
And the acid in our souls.
Save us from our desire to hurt as we have been hurt,
To punish as we have been punished,
To terrorize as we have been terrorized.
Give us the strength it takes
To listen rather than to judge,
To trust rather than to fear,
To try again and again
To make peace even when peace eludes us.
We ask, O God, for the grace
To be our best selves.
We ask for the vision
To be builders of the human community
Rather than its destroyers.
We ask for the humility as a people
To understand the fears and hopes of other peoples.
We ask for the love it takes
To bequeath to the children of the world to come
More than the failures of our own making.
We ask for the heart it takes
To care for all the peoples
Of Afghanistan and Iraq, of Palestine and Israel
[Of Syria and Iran]
As well as for ourselves.
Give us the depth of soul, O God,
To constrain our might,
To resist the temptations of power,
To refuse to attack the attackable,
That vengeance begets violence,
And to bring peace - not war - wherever we go.
For you, O God, have been merciful to us.
For you, O God, have been patient with us.
For you, O God, have been gracious to us.
And so may we be merciful
With these others whom you also love.
This we ask through Jesus,
The one without vengeance in his heart,
This we ask forever and ever.
Signs of the Times and Questions to Consider
At this moment in our history, people everywhere are witnessing destructive forms of political violence. Eleven years after the attacks of 9/11, the U.S. invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq have exacted an enormous cost in human life and suffering. The threat of a military strike against Iran has escalated, and with it the possibility of another major war in the Middle East. As Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace Ruben Garcia explained, the U.S.-led "War on Drugs" throughout Latin America has replaced the "dirty wars" of prior decades as a campaign of violence and oppression. Meanwhile, gun violence on our city streets and in our local schools continues unabated.
While the U.S. military budget has doubled in the past decade, ordinary people have lost their jobs, their homes, and their retirement savings in the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. The gap between the very rich and the rest of us is growing. The traditional American middle class is disappearing, and with it the hope for a better future.
Latino/a immigrants and their children face an uncertain future, as millions of undocumented are subject to the fear of being detained, separated from their families, and deported. African American youth are increasingly prisoners of the criminal justice system and subject to discrimination and racism in their local communities.
Environmental disasters driven by global warming increase food insecurity, fueling local and regional conflicts. Dwindling supplies of ground water and continued reliance on fossil fuels affect our everyday lives and threaten our future.
As November approaches, we need to join together to understand the historic context of these elections, read the signs of the times, and draw upon the wise teachings and best practices of our faith to undertake our responsibility to be faithful citizens and just and compassionate neighbors to all in this time of global uncertainty.
Consider the following questions regarding the candidates:
1. Understanding that few major-party candidates promise a significant reorienting and scaling back of "defense" and national security policies, which candidates are (a) less likely to make matters worse, (b) more likely to pursue diplomacy and fund development assistance, and/or (c) more likely to pursue just economic and immigration policies?
2. How do the candidates' policies address food insecurity, water scarcity, energy production, and other global environmental issues?
3. A large number of bishops and ordinary Catholics alike regard abortion as the preeminent moral issue in any election. Where do the candidates stand both on Roe v. Wade and on providing sufficient government resources for health care, housing, income and nutrition assistance, child care, job training, and employment to address the conditions that may lead women to choose abortion?
4. If there are third-party candidates (as there are in the Presidential campaign), how do their positions compare with those of the major-party candidates on these issues?
ACT: Five Actions to Take Before
& After the Election
As Catholics, we are committed to the principles of Catholic social teaching: upholding the life and dignity of the human person and working for the global common good; the call to family, community, and participation; the rights and responsibilities of the human person; an option for and with the poor and vulnerable; the dignity of work and the rights of workers; global solidarity; and care for God's creation.
In addition, as members of Pax Christi, a global Catholic movement for peace, we are committed to defending and promoting a consistent ethic of life. That means we are concerned with promoting life from its beginning to its very end, rooted in the teaching and witness of Jesus who said, "I have come to bring life, and life in abundance" (Jn 10:10). This concern for life is rooted in a commitment to nonviolence and to working for peace and justice through peaceful and just means.
In Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (2011), the U.S. bishops provide the following guidance on applying Catholic social teaching to voting:
34. Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. . . . A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter's intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate's opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.
35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate's unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.
36. When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.
Consider the following actions leading up to and following November 6:
1. Attend candidates' forums or town hall meetings and ask the candidates to define their positions on the range of life issues.
2. Write letters to the editor addressing the candidates' positions or silence on issues of life, peace, and justice.
3. Promote use of the bishops' "Forming Consciences" guide in parishes, with attention to the full range of issues of concern to Pax Christi.
4. Write letters to your current Representative and Senators concerning the "lame duck" Congressional session planned for November and December. Urge them to slash spending on war, drones, nuclear weapons, and military bases across the globe; to increase spending on jobs programs, poverty reduction, and international development assistance; and to raise taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations to reduce budget shortfalls.
5. After the election, write letters to your newly elected or re-elected Representative and Senators about the issues you care about. Even if you didn't vote for them, they are responsible for representing all the members of their district or State, and they need to hear from peace and justice advocates.