Saturday, April 26, 2003

A good post by Oswald Sobrino earlier this month, on the necessity of recognizing "authentic peace" in the current debate:
The Catechism quotes St. Augustine as writing that peace is the "tranquility of order." The Catechism, relying on Vatican II's Gaudium et Spes, desribes the requirements of that order that is peace: "Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity" (paragraph 2304). Gaudium et Spes ("GS") is even more explicit when it states that peace does not "arise out of despotic dominion . . . ." (GS, 78). No simplistic slogans or pacifism will do here. Peace must have a real content consonant with human dignity and the common good, or else it is not peace but merely the absence of war.

Augustine writes of peace as "the tranquility of order" in The City of God. There is a telling passage in that work that should be considered by those who are quick to call others "warmongers":

He, then, who prefers what is right to what is wrong, and what is well-ordered to what is perverted, sees that the peace of unjust men is not worthy to be called peace in comparison with the peace of the just.

Augustine, The City of God, Book 19, Chapter 12.

In debates, words need definitions and content before they can become meaningful slogans for activists. If we discuss the content of our words, then maybe we can fulfill the call proclaimed by Isaiah: "Come now, let us reason together . . . ." (Isaiah 1:18, RSV).

I've recommended this previously but will do so again: those who appreciate Sobrino's observation may be interested in reading George Weigel's Tranquilitas Ordinis: The Present Failure and Future Promise of American Catholic Thought on War & Peace [Oxford UP, 1987], an extended analysis of how the "American Catholics elite" -- clergy & academics -- abandoned the traditional Catholic understanding of peace as "tranquility of order" over the course of the past century, and how this Catholic heritage might be reclaimed. (Out of print but, in my opinion, well worth the effort to find a used copy).

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