(Cross-posted at Pax Americana)
I'm sure you've all heard about the CNN Situation Room "Special Edition" during which the Democratic candidates were grilled about matters of faith; if you haven't, and have no particular desire to keep your lunch down, you can enjoy a transcript here. Among the highlights: John Edwards being asked to reveal, on national television, the biggest sin he's ever committed, and Barack Obama being asked if he thinks God is on our troops' side in Iraq.*
The conversation continued on Paula Zahn Now, where Democratic candidates and practicing Catholics Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson were asked how they reconcile their Catholic faith with their pro-choice and pro-gay rights positions (Joe Biden, also a practicing Catholic, was spared this line of interrogation.) Completely absent from this discussion of their faith was the war in Iraq, even though, as I've written before, both the current and previous Popes have made it very clear that the Iraq War is not justified according to Catholic doctrine.
I'm not writing this post to slam CNN, although heaven knows one could do that all day long. I'm writing this to emphasize the need to reclaim peace as a spiritual value. I wonder how many American Catholics are even aware of how clearly Rome is opposed to the war, seeing as Pope John Paul II's condemnation of the war went largely unreported here in the United States, as did similar remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI during his Easter address to the faithful. Certainly Dodd and Richardson seem unaware of the Church's official stance against the war - it would seem to me that being attacked for being a Catholic in favor of gay marriage would be the perfect time to point out that there's more to faith than how you feel about gays, and as it says in the good book, blessed are the peacemakers.
In fact, there seems to be a certain timidity about mentioning the war at all in the context of faith, unless of course we're asking whether or not God's going to do some smiting for us. In the Catholic church, this timidity seems to extend all the way up to Pope Benedict XVI, who saw perfectly fit to lecture pro-choice Mexican politicians during his recent visit to their country but appears to have been perfectly cordial to Bush - the architect of a war he declared immoral - during his recent visit to the Vatican. If the war was discussed, and the press reported on that discussion, I missed it. Please feel free to correct me in comments.
It's been a long time since I've been what anyone would consider a practicing Catholic, so I'm not at all sure I'm the one to be offering prescriptions for igniting a debate over the war in the Church. But I do know two things: one, unlike some other Christian denominations, the Catholic church is very heirarchal, and two, the top of that heirarchy is opposed to the war. These seem to me like ideal conditions under which to begin reconciling faith and peace, and perhaps bringing a large and vocal contingent to the cause.
*This seems like as good a time as any to post this, Mark Twain's War Prayer:
O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.