Neo-Pacifism and the Catholic Church


One of the many maladies afflicting the Church since Vatican II has been neo-pacifism.  Violence is denounced as if it is the problem rather than a manifestation of conflicts that arise from many different causes.  That is why while Jihadis compile an impressive body toll, the reaction of the leaders of the Catholic Church is to cluck non-violence at all and sundry as if that is a reaction that solves anything.  Traditionally the Church has often taken a much more robust attitude towards combating evil, not shying away from armed force when necessary.  That tradition in the Church is as dead as full pews at Mass and full confessionals prior to Mass.  Oakes Spalding at Mahound’s Paradise takes Bishop Barron to task for his embrace of non-violence in the wake of the Paris Massacres:

Now, anyone familiar with Catholic history or Biblical exegesis would realize that Barron’s description of the traditional Christian response to violence and war–while superficially plausible to those with, say, a Cliff Notes exposure to the Bible–is false. The tradition is not pacifist or even “non-violent” when it comes to resisting aggression. In a sense Barron is sketching out a new interpretation of Christian tradition (after 2,000 years)–some sort of out of context melding of the thoughts of the quasi-Baptist Martin Luther King and the quasi-Hindu Mahatma Gandhi (as Mullarkey earlier suggested). In addition casually interchanging the concepts of sin, violence and “dysfunction” (whatever that is) is dangerously misleading, even (dare I say it) heretical.

But let’s leave those precise considerations aside and instead ask these questions: are Bishop Barron’s views on Christianity and violence attractive? Are they persuasive? Do they make, say, a non-Catholic want to become a Catholic? After all, presumably we want to reverse that 6.5:1 statistic. Don’t we?

Bishop Barron wants to be liked by the secular world. Indeed, I would say that is the driving force behind his own apparent intellectual dysfunctions. And if you put it to him politely, I think he might even sort of agree. “But that’s how you evangelize,” you can imagine him saying. “Talk to them on their own terms, without finger wagging.”

Of course, many non-Catholics will applaud. Finally (so goes the response of the applauders), here’s a Catholic who admits it’s all a bit too much to fight for the Catholic faith (or even to non-physically defend it). See, in doing so, he’s admitting what we have said all along, that much of what the Catholic Church has stood for and done over the last 2,000 years has been wrong.

They will applaud. But they won’t become converts. They will patronize Bishop Barron as they would the dim Anglican vicar. But in the end they won’t take him seriously.

If this is evangelism, it’s for those who have an IQ below 80.

Christ took on violence and swallowed it up with his mercy.

If that’s the best argument for Christianity, then Christianity is obviously false. There’s at least as much violence in the world now as there was 2,000 years ago. Christ didn’t vanquish it. Unless the Bishop means, metaphorically or whatever or, you know, in some deeper sense. If that’s the case, then applause. Finally (according to the applauders) Catholicism has been denuded into just another silly and harmless religious affectation.

(Correct answer: Christ vanquished sin, or at least the eternal consequences of sin for those who honestly repent and ask Him to forgive them.)

Respond to violence with non-violence. Violence tends not to work.

Now, again, this is calculated to get applause. But it is also imbecilic. And as much as some will say they believe it, almost no one actually does. Tell it, by the way, to the Holocaust survivors who were liberated by troops and tanks, not Buddhist floral arrangements.  I suppose it might get some of the New Age crowd. Then again, why should the New Age crowd become Catholic when they’re already getting their oatmeal somewhere else?

Go here to read the rest.  Part of the eagerness of Catholic clerics to embrace pacifism over the past half century is that it has largely been cost free for them and their flocks.  They could call for non-violence, get good coverage from the liberal media, and someone else would pick up the tab.  (That is your cue boat people.)  Now we live in a world where the wars of this century will likely be fought among us, in our streets if not our homes, and Catholic clerics who embrace pacifism will have a very high price to pay, along with their flocks.  We are led by fools and worse.

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  1. It was poignant for him because he recognized the buildings?

    What an arrogant guy. He wants us to know he studied in Paris.

    In the old testament they say.. they (others) worship “no-gods”
    We have “no-leaders”


  2. I admired St. John Paul II, but not everything he said or did. He was a pacifist, which is ironic, given that Poland never failed to fight for her faith or her people.
    Much of this pacifism comes from the Latin American clergy, whose experience with war is minimal compared to the rest of the world.
    Until the insipid V2 document about Muslims the Church saw Islam as a heresy – an evil one. No V2 document can change Islam and I hold that it is a heresy.

  3. Part of the eagerness of Catholic clerics to embrace pacifism over the past half century is that it has largely been cost free for them and their flocks.  They could call for non-violence, get good coverage from the liberal media, and someone else would pick up the tab.  (That is your cue boat people.)

    Perfect summary

  4. This observer is quite pleased that our years of crusades against Islamist hordes were so passive. Then there was that “bushido” crowd in the orient that we handled by bowing peacefully, and that European peacemaking handshaking with the Nazis and fascists….

  5. If Bishop Barron wishes to pacify the situation he should advocate concealed carry laws everywhere in the world. This would surely give pause to the bad guys. But giving pause to the bad guys is not what Bishop Barron is all about telling folks they ought welcome becoming road kill for the terrorists.

  6. Assuming you listened to this full video … it is clear that the Fr. M does nothing more than provide a very intense, passionate appeal to the same plan made by B. Barron.
    Once again, TAC is so dang hell-bent on pointing on the sticks in others eyes …. it fails to see it’s own logs.

  7. Gandhi’s and MLK’s pacifisms weren’t apathy, defeat, or surrender. They were sharp, successful struggles employing nonviolent/nonweaponized means.

    In the Gospels, St. John the Baptist did not advise the soldier to desert the army when asked what the soldier needed to do to prepare the way. And, late in the Gospels, Jesus advises us to sell our mantels and buy swords.
    One thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Edmund Burke.

  8. Bishop Barron doesn’t have children and grandchildren in the line of advance of the coming Caliphate (as do I). Belgians appear to be getting the message (not their leaders yet, but that will change soon enough) and are arming-up, according to my well-placed sources. And thank God, we had a S John of Capistrano at the Siege of Belgrade (1456), and not yet another milquetoast Barron-type bishop.

    Bp. Barron and the rest, since you’ve shown you can’t lead, and that you doubtfully would follow, at least in a useful capacity, please just get out of our way.

  9. And as for this pope, we needed a P S. Pius V, and so far we have a meddling, muddling Adrian VI. Expect Rome to be sacked and burned again.

  10. It seems to me that there is something discordant in Christianity’s approach to violence. On the one hand, Christ’s statements and examples argue strongly against justifications. On the other, 2000 years of reasoning have led to a large number of plausable answers that leave us free to defend ourselves and protect others.

    The tie-breaker, if even there is a balance to the arguments, is the practical experience which makes plain that evil will not be turned aside by “mere” good. Something divine is required if Man refuses to fight, and miracles are often in short supply to our species, due to our lack of faith.

    Forgive me for saying so but I think the author gives short shrift to the noble tradition that pacifism represents. Indeed, I suggest there are few things more noble than the willing martyr.

    Our pacifist Christian brothers and sisters are often derided as living under the wings of men who are not similarly constrained by conscience. I admit to feeling that way myself. So too, there is something of the coward in many who reserve the right to defend themselves but decry society’s more general right.

    Still, do we doubt that a strict application of God’s words, during His time among us, is the more noble, right, and good choice, that the early Church was right to refuse to bear arms? I suspect not. I suspect that we recognize the practical realities and that our lack of faith necessitates our handling most adversity directly.

  11. “Still, do we doubt that a strict application of God’s words, during His time among us, is the more noble, right, and good choice, that the early Church was right to refuse to bear arms?”

    I do so doubt. It is one thing for a man to undergo death due to an unwillingness to commit violence. It is quite another for a man to stand idly by while women and kids, perhaps his wife and child, are put to the sword. I have nothing but contempt for such a man.

    In regard to the Church and military service under Rome prior to Constantine, some Christians did serve. The main reason why Christians as a rule did not serve was because service in the Legions prior to Constantine usually involved sacrificing to idols. Christians certainly flocked to join the Legions once this was no longer the case. Saint Augustine’s comments on military service are instructive:

    “4. Do not think that it is impossible for any one to please God while engaged in active military service. Among such persons was the holy David, to whom God gave so great a testimony; among them also were many righteous men of that time; among them was also that centurion who said to the Lord: “I am not worthy that You should come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed: for I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my servant, Do this, and he does it;” and concerning whom the Lord said: “Verily, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” Matthew 8:8-10 Among them was that Cornelius to whom an angel said: “Cornelius, your alms are accepted, and your prayers are heard,” Acts 10:4 when he directed him to send to the blessed Apostle Peter, and to hear from him what he ought to do, to which apostle he sent a devout soldier, requesting him to come to him. Among them were also the soldiers who, when they had come to be baptized by John,— the sacred forerunner of the Lord, and the friend of the Bridegroom, of whom the Lord says: “Among them that are born of women there has not arisen a greater than John the Baptist,” Matthew 11:11 — and had inquired of him what they should do, received the answer, “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.” Luke 3:14 Certainly he did not prohibit them to serve as soldiers when he commanded them to be content with their pay for the service.

    5. They occupy indeed a higher place before God who, abandoning all these secular employments, serve Him with the strictest chastity; but “every one,” as the apostle says, “has his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.” 1 Corinthians 7:7 Some, then, in praying for you, fight against your invisible enemies; you, in fighting for them, contend against the barbarians, their visible enemies. Would that one faith existed in all, for then there would be less weary struggling, and the devil with his angels would be more easily conquered; but since it is necessary in this life that the citizens of the kingdom of heaven should be subjected to temptations among erring and impious men, that they may be exercised, and “tried as gold in the furnace,” Wisdom 3:6 we ought not before the appointed time to desire to live with those alone who are holy and righteous, so that, by patience, we may deserve to receive this blessedness in its proper time.

    6. Think, then, of this first of all, when you are arming for the battle, that even your bodily strength is a gift of God; for, considering this, you will not employ the gift of God against God. For, when faith is pledged, it is to be kept even with the enemy against whom the war is waged, how much more with the friend for whom the battle is fought! Peace should be the object of your desire; war should be waged only as a necessity, and waged only that God may by it deliver men from the necessity and preserve them in peace. For peace is not sought in order to the kindling of war, but war is waged in order that peace may be obtained. Therefore, even in waging war, cherish the spirit of a peacemaker, that, by conquering those whom you attack, you may lead them back to the advantages of peace; for our Lord says: “Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9 If, however, peace among men be so sweet as procuring temporal safety, how much sweeter is that peace with God which procures for men the eternal felicity of the angels! Let necessity, therefore, and not your will, slay the enemy who fights against you. As violence is used towards him who rebels and resists, so mercy is due to the vanquished or the captive, especially in the case in which future troubling of the peace is not to be feared.”

  12. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and references, Mr. McClarey. One undoubtably runs the risk of being thought a fool for challenging the Church in her teachings.

    I acknowledged the well-reasoned teaching of our faith through the ages. I am no pacifist myself for I lack the faith to move mountains. I rather think though that our Lord was speaking clearly when we were told that one with a faith the size of a mustard seed could move mountains and I suspect that such a one would be impervious.

    I am not he.

    This conversation rather illustrates my point though: Christianity exists in this world and, as such, is adapted to practical considerations. I have forgotten where but Jesus, in explaining why Moses allowed for divorce, suggested that it was an accommodation, granted due to Man’s hard hearts. So too here I think.

    Peter, in his zeal, struck with a sword to save his master. He was upbraided for his efforts. Jesus affirmed that he was content to be a lamb led to slaughter, that he could call angels to his aid but chose not to.

    It seems to me that there was no cause greater, for which justice more demanded violence, than to save Jesus. Yet, Jesus Himself refused the aid that justice demanded.

    The world is imperfect and, so, Christianity accommodates that reality. Had we the faith, we would have no need to defend ourselves or protect others. Christian teaching is merely accommodating our faithless need to do so.

  13. “Yet, Jesus Himself refused the aid that justice demanded.”

    Yep, because His death was necessary for the atonement of sins. Before Pilate He noted that His kingdom was not of this Earth, but if it were His subjects would fight for Him so that He would not be handed over for crucifixion. (John 18: 36).

    Saint Remigius, the Apostle to the Franks, was instructing King Clovis of the Franks prior to his baptism about the Faith. He had just described the crucifixion. Clovis was greatly affected by this. Clutching his battle ax, he said, “If only my Franks and I could have been there! We would have avenged the wrongs done to our God!”

  14. Some good points here but the tone of the article was snotty and condescending. Cheap shots like, “whatever that is” with regard to dysfunction are just too snarky. Yet the author himself uses the term “dysfunction” later in the piece. I’ll choose different content next time.

  15. “Si vis pacem, para bellum.” USAF/SAC motto, “Peace is our profession.” One could conclude they were successful. After Nagasaki, there never was a nucular war.
    Speak softly and carry a big stick. TR built a fleet and sailed it around the World.
    “Yet, Jesus Himself refused the aid that justice demanded.” A meditation on the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery, The Crucifixion, Think of the love that filled Our Lord’s Sacred Heart during the three hours agony on the Holy Cross, and ask Him to be with you at the hour of death.
    I often meditate on the fact that Christ voluntarily consigned himself to ignominious agony and death on the Holy Cross. It is mankind’s most unjust, evil, and disobedient act in history since Creation.
    My thoughts are that if Christ had resorted to saving Himself. He, I think, would have consigned mankind to universal damnation. But, He obeyed God’s will and in HIs love for us saved us by His courage, forgiveness, mercy, and obedience. HIs sacrificial act is the greatest in the history of Creation. I believe that Christ is the bravest man that ever lived.

  16. T. Shaw, My thoughts have often run parallel.

    Did Jesus have foreknowledge? Scripture suggests to me that He did. If so, what man would choose that death? What man, knowing the specific violence and feelings that death entailed, would choose that death?

    Alike us except for sin?

    Indeed He was the most courageous man to have lived.

  17. As Donald points out, it is one thing to refrain from violence even if necessary to defend oneself. It is quite another to do so when necessary to defend the weak from predators. One cannot imagine Jesus Christ observing a violent rape and responding by holding a sign and candle.

  18. If that’s the best argument for Christianity, then Christianity is obviously false. There’s at least as much violence in the world now as there was 2,000 years ago.

    Not actually so. Could be argued, depending on how you’re measuring the amount of violence, but far from “obvious.”

    MLK and Ghandi wouldn’t have been possible pre-Christ world; their pacifism only works on Christian (maybe Jewish) groups, where the response to “I’m going to sit here and shame you” is not “Hey, you’re really easy to behead that way!”
    I figure the ‘neopacifism’ is a product of people not realizing that a lot of Christian assumptions are not baselines– the world wars kind of rubbed the noses of Europe in the fact that humans aren’t easily Christian, when (as I understand the philosophy) they’d spent the last century or three trying to find ways to ignore that their culture was rooted in Christianity.
    Yeah, natural law is natural– but that means that there are consequences to not following it, not that everyone follows it as a matter of course, and a lot of Christian morality isn’t natural law.
    Europe is decently sized, loud, and has(had) a lot of money to spend. Of course their mental quirks are going to be over-represented in the world.

  19. MLK and Ghandi wouldn’t have been possible pre-Christ world; their pacifism only works on Christian (maybe Jewish) groups, where the response to “’I’m going to sit here and shame you’ is not ‘Hey, you’re really easy to behead that way!'”

    Heh… 🙂

  20. Sorry, I guess this would be a better post under which to leave this comment. I find this quotation helpful in light of the discussion above. I also like Google.

    “I am not a pacifist. I do think that sometimes, in our finite and conflictual world, violence has to be used in defense of certain basic goods.” –Bishop Robert Barron

  21. Pelayo, Charles Martel, Queen Isabel the Catholic, Don Juan of Austria, John Sobieski and the Winged Hussars were NOT pacifists.

    Oh, yeah, they never dealt with the Second Vatican Council either.

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