Tuesday, January 20, 2009

People's Peace Pastoral

It is with a degree of sadness that I read the February 2009 issue of First Things, knowing that there won't be any more comments from Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, who died last week. It will be entries like this one that I will miss the most.

In 1983, the Catholic bishops issued, to much media applause, a pastoral letter, "The Challenge of Peace: God's Promise and Our Response." It is now viewed as an embarrassment that almost everybody would like to forget, including most bishops. Riddled with the language of appeasement and coexistence and addressing geopolitical and military details in which the bishops had no plausible competence, the letter was a direct assault on the policies of the Reagan administration that are generally recognized as having been vindicated five years later, with the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union. Not all the bishops are embarrassed, however. Speaking at Jesuit-run Seattle University, Bishop Gabino Zavala, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles and president of the Catholic peace group Pax Christi USA, called for a celebration of the 1983 letter, asserting that the only thing that has changed is that the "war on communism" has been replaced by the "war on terror," and we have yet to learn that "violence only begets violence." The bishop is calling for a grassroots consultation that, in honor of the 1983 letter, will produce a "people's peace pastoral." I can curb my enthusiasm, but it's likely to do less damage to the Church's credibility than another peace pastoral by the pastors.

It's worth noting that Seattle University employed Ann Holmes Redding as an associate professor teaching New Testament. Miss Redding was in the news a while back for seeing no contradiction in being, at the same time, an ordained Episcopalian priest and a practicing Moslem.

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