Peace and Justice - Fr. Benjamin J. Urmston


Non-Violence, Waging Peace

Pope Francis's World Day of Peace Message:  Quite comprehensive.  "This is also a programme and a challenge for political and religious leaders, the heads of international institutions, and business and media executives: to apply the Beatitudes in the exercise of their respective responsibilities.  It is a challenge to build up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers.  It is to show mercy by refusing to discard people, harm the environment, or seek to win at any cost.  To do so requires “the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process”.   To act in this way means to choose solidarity as a way of making history and building friendship in society.  Active nonviolence is a way of showing that unity is truly more powerful and more fruitful than conflict.  Everything in the world is inter-connected.   Certainly differences can cause frictions.  But let us face them constructively and non-violently, so that “tensions and oppositions can achieve a diversified and life-giving unity,” preserving “what is valid and useful on both sides”.   The family is also a school in non-violence.

Faith is an integral component of non-violence.  Faith leads to justice and love of our neighbor, even of our enemies.  Faith tempers our efforts even against oppressors.  Faith helps us to keep on keeping on, to persevere even when the obstacles seem enormous.  Every good action is hope in reality.  Faith helps us to hope against hope.

To one of the scribes who asked the first of all the commandments, Jesus replied, "This is the first. The Lord our God is Lord alone! Therefore you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the second, You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12.28-31). Jesus extended the love of our neighbor to love of our enemies. (Mt. 5.44). On the cross Jesus forgave those who were putting him to death. (Luke 23.34).

World culture has embraced war and violence. Violence would at first seem to be quicker than non-violence, but this is not the case. For example, after researching over 300 attempts to overthrow dictators, Erica Chenoweth, a professor of government and director of Wesleyan’s program on Terrorism and Insurgency Research concludes that non-violent resistance movements are twice as effective as violent ones; they are effective even where one might think they would be futile (against the most brutal and repressive dictators), and they have helped societies transition to democracy as well as establish periods of stable civil peace.  Her research also found that violence leads to more violence.

To glorify war is to destroy ourselves, others, and the planet on which we live. We need to try every path that will lead to greater listening to the needs of other groups. We need to always be searching for agreement.   Violence,  screaming at one another,  is game we will all lose.  the various forms of non-violence is a game we can all win.

Campaign Nonviolence is a long-term movement to build a culture of peace and nonviolence free from war, poverty, racism, the climate crisis, and the epidemic of violence and injustice. How?  By mainstreaming nonviolence, connecting the issues, and taking action together during Campaign Nonviolence Week

Loving our neighbor, even those who oppose us, is an integral part of non-violence. Jesus followed the path of active non-violence. "If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile." (Matthew 5.38-42). About to die, Jesus said to Peter in the Garden, "Put back your sword. Those who use the sword are sooner or later destroyed by it." (Matthew 26.52).

Jesus is not advocating passive cowardice, but active non-violent courage.  (see Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers, Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination, p. 175 ff) To strike on the right cheek would require the back of a superior's hand, a form of humiliation.  To turn the other cheek is saying in effect,  "Try again.  I deny you the power to humiliate me.  I am a human person like you."  For the poor to give the undergarment as well as the outer garment transcends the attempt to humiliate him.  Roman soldiers by law had to limit forced labor to a single mile.  (Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry Jesus' cross) As with turning the cheek and giving the undergarment as well, going an extra mile is taking the initiative, putting the oppressor on the defensive but in an non-violent way.  "Why would he want to go another mile? Trying to get me, a soldier, disciplined?  Will this civilian file a complaint?"

If we harbor animosity toward a person, group, nation, religion, let us breathe deeply, forgive, seek to find good in others.  Holding on to hostility causes stress and strain.  We need wise and calm responses to negative events.  A book which in a readable way can change our perspective toward those who oppose us is No More Enemies by Deb Reich.  She encourages transforming enemies into potential partners.  Trees take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen.  We can be inundated by the violence in the world and pour out love which brings us together in a better world.

Romans 12. 18  "Do all you can to live at peace with everyone. Never try to get revenge. . . If your enemy is hungry, feed him.  If he is thirsty, let him drink. . Resist evil and conquer it with good."

In his last World Day of Peace Message, Pope John Paul II said: Violence is an unacceptable evil that never solves problems. Violence is a lie, for it goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity.

Some have asserted that our human nature is predisposed to violence and war.  In the Sunday Review section of  The New York Times Sept. 29, 2013 p. 12 an evolutionary biologist David P. Barash says the idea of a violent human nature is scientifically and morally weak.  "It fosters an unjustifiably limited vision of human potential."  He tells a Cherokee legend of a girl troubled by a recurring dream in which two wolves fight viciously with one another.  The girl asks her wise grandfather the meaning of the dream.  He replies that one wolf represents the violence within us and the other wolf represents our penchant for peace.  The girl asks which one will prevail.  Her grandfather replies, "the one you encourage and feed."

Pope Benedict XVI; "The Gospel has one of the most typical, yet most difficult, teachings of Jesus: Love your enemies (Luke 6:27).

"It is taken from the Gospel of Luke, but it is also found in Matthew's Gospel (5:44), in the context of the programmatic discourse that begins with the famous Beatitudes. Jesus delivered this address in Galilee, at the beginning of his public ministry: It was something of a "manifesto" presented to everyone, which Christ asked his disciples to accept, thus proposing to them in radical terms a model for their lives.

But what is the meaning of his teaching? Why does Jesus ask us to love our very enemies, that is, ask a love that exceeds human capacities? What is certain is that Christ's proposal is realistic, because it takes into account that in the world there is too much violence, too much injustice, and that this situation cannot be overcome without positing more love, more kindness. This "more" comes from God: It is his mercy that has become flesh in Jesus and that alone can redress the balance of the world from evil to good, beginning from that small and decisive "world" which is our heart.

This page of the Gospel is rightly considered the "magna carta" of Christian nonviolence; it does not consist in surrendering to evil -- as claims a false interpretation of "turn the other cheek" (Luke 6:29) -- but in responding to evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21), and thus breaking the chain of injustice. It is thus understood that nonviolence, for Christians, is not mere tactical behavior but a person's way of being, the attitude of one who is convinced of God's love and power, who is not afraid to confront evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Loving the enemy is the nucleus of the "Christian revolution," a revolution not based on strategies of economic, political or media power. The revolution of love, a love that does not base itself definitively in human resources, but in the gift of God, that is obtained only and unreservedly in his merciful goodness. Herein lies the novelty of the Gospel, which changes the world without making noise. Herein lies the heroism of the "little ones," who believe in the love of God and spread it even at the cost of life."  February, 2007.  Love in Truth  Benedict XVI

"Charity is at the heart of the Church's social doctrine. Every responsibility and every commitment spelled out by that doctrine is derived from charity which, according to the teaching of Jesus, is the synthesis of the entire Law (cf. Mt 22:36- 40). It gives real substance to the personal relationship with God and with neighbor; it is the principle not only of micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups) but also of macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones)"  Intro 2

One of the tools by which we can love more effectively is Peace Studies at all levels of education.  for national contact with the Peace and Justice Association see

For Xavier University Peace and Justice Studies

I do not imagine a world without conflict. I do have a vision of a world without violence, at least much less violence than I now observe, war, killings in crime and domestic disputes.  Conflict can be creative; it can be a sign of God's presence calling us to resolve the conflict creatively and responsibly. In our everyday lives, we deal with conflict in various ways. We compete. We collaborate. We compromise. We avoid. We accommodate. Each of these may be appropriate at different times.

All of us need help in discerning whether we have found a proper balance in dealing with conflict. We need to listen to those close to us, our family, our community, our friends, our co-workers. We also need to listen to those far from us--the whisper of the hopeless, the plea of the forgotten, the cry of the anguished. Even our enemies and those who disagree with us may have a message worth hearing. Indeed, I feel I must listen to myself, that voice in the deepest part of me. Finally, our listening process should include being open in Faith to God and God's word for us.

The primary community to foster peace and justice is the family. More and more families are taking a pledge of nonviolence. Making peace must start within ourselves and in our families. Parts of the pledge read: To respect myself, to affirm others, to avoid uncaring criticism and physical attacks, to consider others' feelings and needs rather than insist on always having my own way. To select entertainment that supports our family's values and to avoid entertainment that makes violence seem acceptable. 

I Thessalonians 5.11  "Encourage one another and build one another up.  As indeed you are doing."

We need more reasonable laws in control of guns.  We also need to disarm our hearts, replacing deep fear and anger with more courage and love.  On a macro level, we need less putting groups and nations into boxes, replacing stereotypes with compassionate listening, searching for equitable ways of sharing our diminishing resources. I dream of a city and a world of more and more non-violence. Together and with God?s help, we can make that dream a reality.   www.the  Some have found that violence is like a disease, it spreads from one person to another.  They say violence is an epidemic, a disease.  We need to cool people down, get rid of the idea that there are bad guys who can't be helped.

From India originally, Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) was a successful lawyer in South Africa who defended Indian settlers against discrimination and persecution.  During these years Gandhi developed theories of non-violence and passive resistance, the "weapons of peace."  Eventually Gandhi returned to his native India and led his country to freedom from Great Britain.  "I have not the shadow of a doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have, if he or she would make the same effort and cultivate the same hope and faith."

In the Hindu tradition Gandhi pursued satyagraha, which means "clinging to truth."  The purpose of satyagraha was not coercion but persuasion and conversion.  It aims to win others over by the power of love, trying to arouse in others a sense of injustice. Those who pursued satyagraha wanted a new consensus between parties in conflict in which both parties could feel they were satisfied.  When deep-seated prejudices are present, an appeal to reason alone is not considered sufficient .  Reason has to be strengthened by suffering which opens the eyes of the understanding. Gandhi practiced nonviolence and was at least partially successful with all kinds of injustices. Gandhi opposed the caste system, the segregation of the untouchables, and discrimination against women.  Gandhi's most well-known use of nonviolence was his success in attaining  India's independence from the British.  Gandhi's assessment of eight common blunders that we want to avoid: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character;Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principles; and Rights without responsibilities.

Here is Gandhi's famous testimony to the primacy of Satyagraha,

The world rests upon the bedrock of satya or truth.  Asatya meaning untruth also means non-existent, and satya or truth also means that which is.  If untruth does not so much as exist, its victory is out of the question.  And truth being that which is can never be destroyed.  This is the doctrine of Satyagraha in a nutshell.
See Metta Center for non-violence http://www.

A student of Mahatma Gandhi, Rev. Martin  Luther King, Jr.  (1929-1968) is said to be the person who most put the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi into practice. In a non-violent way King challenged the evils of racism, economic exploitation, militarism, violence and materialism.  King practiced understanding and love for those who opposed his efforts.  "A basic philosophy guided the movement. . .variously referred to as nonviolent resistance, noncooperation, and passive resistance.  But in the first days of the protest none of these expressions was mentioned; the phrase most often heard was 'Christian love'.  It was the Sermon on the Mount, rather than a doctrine of passive resistance, that initially inspired the Negroes of Montgomery to dignified social action.  It was Jesus of Nazareth that stirred the Negroes to protest with the creative weapon of love.

Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness.  We must meet the
forces of hate with the power of love; we must meet physical force with soul force.  Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding. . .I carefully scrutinized Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto.   In reading Communist writings I rejected their materialistic interpretation of history. . .Communism's ethical relativism. . .Constructive ends can never give absolute moral justification to destructive means, because in the final analysis the end is pre-existent in the means. . . I oppose Communism' political totalitarianism.  In Communism the individual ends up in subjection to the state. . .An if any man's so-called rights or liberties stand in the way of that end, they are simply swept aside.  But in spite of the shortcomings of his analysis, Marx had raised some basic questions.  There was still need for a better distribution of wealth. . .

The intellectual and moral satisfaction that I failed to gain from the utilitarianism of Benthan and Mill, the revolutionary methods of Marx and Lenin, the social-contract theory of Hobbes, the back to nature optimism of Rousseau and the super-man philosophy of Nietzsche, I found in the nonviolent resistance philosophy of Gandhi.  I came to feel that his was the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom."

(After the bombing of his home and the assurance his wife and baby were all right.)  "If you have weapons, take them home; if you do not have them please do not seek to get them.  Let's not become panicky.  We cannot solve the problem through retaliatory violence.  We must meet violence with nonviolence.  Remember the words of Jesus, 'He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.'  I urged them to leave peacefully.  We must love our white brother, no matter what they do to us.  We must make them know that we love them.  Jesus still cries out in words that echo across the centuries:  Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that spitefully use you.'  This is what we must live by.  We must meet hate with love.  'Remember, if I am stopped this movement will not stop, because God is with the movement."  ( Stride Toward Freedom, autobiography of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

The non-violent message of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his Christian love of enemies is most helpful in responsible conflict resolution.

"I do not think that God approves of the death penalty for any crime, rape and murder included. Capital punishment is against the better judgment of modern criminology and above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature of God." King called for people of faith to work to end the use of the death penalty.

King also saw the importance of economic democracy.  "I was deeply concerned from my early teen days about the gulf between superfluous wealth and abject poverty. .Although modern American capitalism had greatly reduced the gap through social reforms, there was still need for a better distribution of wealth. ..there is always danger of being more concerned about making a living than making a life. We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to others." Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Stride Toward Freedom, p. 73.

"There is nothing but a lack of social vision to prevent us from paying an adequate wage to every American [worker] whether he is a hospital worker, laundry worker, maid, or day laborer." Where do we go from here? Chaos or Community? p. 218- Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

King's dream included decent wages for all, not just blacks.. Raising the minimum wage was a demand of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his I have a dream speech. When we adjust for inflation, there is evidence that the situation is worse in 2009.  Rev. King also saw how the war system is sucking the life blood out of all of us.

"On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make this journey on Life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs re-structuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries and say: 'This is not Just'. . . A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: 'This way of settling differences is not just.' Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Beyond Vietnam . Address given at Riverside Church, New York City, April 4, 1967. Also in Where do we go from here? Chaos or Community? p. 218.

"We cannot ignore the larger world house in which we are also dwellers. Equality with whites will not solve the problems of either whites or Negroes if it means equality in a world society stricken by poverty and in a universe doomed to extinction by war.p. 195 . . we suffer from a poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance. The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually.p.200 All of us are interdependent. Every nation is an heir of a vast treasury of ideas and labor to which both the living and the dead of all nations have contributed. Each of us lives eternally ?in the red.? We are everlasting debtors to known and unknown men and women.
A final problem that we must solve to survive in the world house that we have inherited is finding an alternative to war. . . Do we have the morality and courage to live together and not be afraid? President John F. Kennedy said: 'We must put an end to war or war will put an end to us.' War is obsolete. . . Every nation must develop an overriding loyalty to humankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. P. 221. This is a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all women and men.
When I speak of love, I am speaking of that force which all the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is the key that unlocks the door. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the First Epistle of St. John: 'Let us love one another: for love is of God: and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God. God is love. .If we love one another, God dwells in us, and his love is perfected in us.'
This may be our last chance to choose between chaos and community."


We have traveled light years ahead in communication, mediation, and conflict resolution.  Further research and education in non-violent ways of solving conflict can prepare society as a whole for more breakthroughs for the human family which will make war and violence obsolete. 

"The process is neither simple nor linear, but cumulative and highly networked across society"  p. 9 Unjust Deserts, How the Rich Are Taking Our Common Inheritance And Why We Should Take It Back) Dr. Gar Alperovitz applies our common growth in technical knowledge to the economy, but why can we not say the same for communication, mediation, and conflict resolution?

In 1952 Coretta Scott King was studying music in Boston when she met a young graduate student in philosophy who told her on their first date "The four things I look for in a wife are character, personality, intelligence and beauty.  You have them all."  A member of  Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Coretta Scott King promoted her husband's vision of peace and nonviolence.  She was an advocate for women's rights, the rights of workers, and the end to apartheid in South Africa.  She founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change in Atlanta, dedicated both to scholarship and to activism.  When asked if it was difficult to raise young children when her husband traveled so much, she replied,  "I didn't marry a man; I married a vision."

Dorothy Day (1897-1980) was the co-founder with Peter Maurin of the Catholic Worker Movement, a movement which combines day to day religious faith with direct action to make this a better world.  Dorothy Day was a prophetic witness, dedicated to pacifism, non-violence, racial justice, workers, and the poor.   Dorothy Day was eulogized in 1980 as the most influential person in the history of American Catholicism and a valued keeper of the American social conscience.  For more than half a century she remained in the vanguard of struggles for social justice--first as a radical journalist, and later, after her conversion to the Catholic Church, as co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and editor of its newspaper, The Catholic Worker.  

Dorothy Day was a powerful woman of immense conviction who "made herself poor for the poor, living  a life of voluntary poverty as she organized corporal acts of mercy such as Houses of Hospitality for those victimized by oppressive economic conditions.  It was her belief in God, her certainty that God's love and justice were meant for all and that they were to be worked for in this world, which touched so many.  Dorothy's earthly life has ended, but her spirit remains with us.  Dorothy Day: "As you come to know the seriousness of our situation--the war, the racism, the poverty in the world--you come to realize it is not going to be changed just by words or demonstrations.  It's a question of risking your life.  It's a question of living your life in drastically different ways."  Dorothy Day knew that war and violence was not the answer and dedicated her life to radical change in a non-violent way.  Dorothy followed "the little way" of St. Therese of Lisieux, loving those close to us in daily life, but also the big way of struggle against economic violence and war.

Dorothy's deep spirituality, her commitment to non-violence and justice is an excellent way to deal with conflict.

Cesar Chavez worked for many years through many defeats and much opposition including violent attacks on farm workers in a strictly non-violent way.  Farm workers still struggle today for justice through non-violence for just wages, healthy working conditions, and just laws.

Badshah Khan

Badshah Khan is a Muslim pioneer in the practice of non-violence who worked closely with Mahatma Gandhi.  Below is a description of a biography of his life:

Nonviolent Soldier of Islam: Badshah Khan, A Man to Match His Mountains by Eknath Easwaran

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890-1988), a Pathan (or Pushtun) of Afghanistan, a devout Muslim, raised the first nonviolent army in history to free his people from British imperial rule. He persuaded 100,000 of his countrymen to lay down the guns they had made themselves and vow to fight nonviolently. This book tells the dramatic life-story of this heroic and too-little-known Muslim leader. It gives at the same time a glimpse of the Pushtuns, their society, 100 years of their recent history, and describes the rugged terrain in which they live.

Khan's profound belief in the truth and effectiveness of nonviolence came from the depths of personal experience of his Muslim faith. His life testifies to the reality that nonviolence and Islam are perfectly compatible.

Nonviolent Soldier of Islam tells Khan's life-story through narrative, 58 photos and Khan's own words.

Khan and Mahatma Gandhi worked closely together with great mutual respect using and shaping the practical tool of nonviolence to gain independence for their people. They both believed that the uplift of their people was essential preparation for independence. Khan opened schools, brought the women out of the home into roles in society, and included a vow taken by his nonviolent soldiers to do at least two hours a day of social work. "Today's world is traveling in some strange direction. You see that the world is going toward destruction and violence. And the specialty of violence is to create hatred among people and to create fear. I am a believer in nonviolence and I say that no peace or tranquility will descend upon the people of the world until nonviolence is practiced, because nonviolence is love and it stirs courage in people. " Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan to an interviewer in 1985

A devout Muslim and devoted ally of Mahatma Gandhi, this brave freedom fighter struggled for the rights of his people for almost eighty years without ever wielding a weapon. Were his example better known, the world might come to recognize that the highest religious values of Islam are deeply compatible with a nonviolence that has the power to resolve conflicts even against heavy odds.
In The Hebron Journal Art Gish relates to the Palestinians with whom he lives, the Israeli soldiers, even the Israeli settlers. An example today of active non-violence, he refuses to accept anyone as his enemy.  

                                  Pope John Paul II's World Day of Peace Message, 2005

To attain the good of peace there must be a clear and conscious acknowledgment that violence is an unacceptable evil and that it never solves problems. "Violence is a lie, for it goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity. Violence destroys what it claims to defend: the dignity, the life, the freedom of human beings." (Pope John Paul II, Northern Ireland, 1979) What is needed is a great effort to form consciences and to educate the younger generation to goodness by upholding that integral and fraternal humanism which the Church proclaims and promotes. This is the foundation for a social, economic and political order respectful of the dignity, freedom and fundamental rights of each person.

Active Non-violence

Presently our reaction to injustice is either to strike back violently or to submit. Imagining a third alternative, active non-violence, is an historic development on a par in the evolutionary process with the breakthrough to intelligence. It changes our future in a radical way.

I use the term active non-violence advisedly because too many conceive of nonviolence as being passive. Active nonviolence requires imagination and courage.

Nonviolence means we need to learn at least the basics of communication and mediation skills. I think these need to be an integral part of peace education. 

We need to engage in redemptive listening. To really listen and hear more than the words is often painful. If we join that pain to the redemptive act of Jesus, we can be co-redeemers with Christ.  We need to listen to those close to us, our family, our community, our friends, our co-workers.  We also need to listen to those far from us--the whisper of the hopeless, the plea of the forgotten, the cry of the anguished.  Even our enemies and those who disagree with us may have a message worth hearing.  Indeed, I feel I must listen to myself, that voice in the deepest part of me.

Of course, our listening process should include being open in Faith to God and God's word for us.

Conflict is tension between incompatible wants, needs, and rights.

Conflict can be creative.  I do not imagine a world without conflict.  I do have a vision of a world without violence.  Conflict can be a sign of God's presence calling us to resolve the conflict in a creative and responsible way.  We all cherish our individual freedom.  We all find our lasting happiness in the common good.  This is an inherent tension in the family and in the community which God calls us to resolve in a responsible and creative way.

Developing a long-range vision gives us hope and perspective.  Each of the structures in my vision help to solve conflict: A culture of human rights acknowledges the basic needs of others.  Economic democracy helps us to participate in fundamental decisions.  Democratic World Authority outlaws war, torture, nations acting as bullies toward other nations and often toward its own citizens.

Engaging in Ignatius spirituality is a form of non-violence. Helpful in responsible conflict resolution, the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola stresses spiritual freedom and spiritual discernment (See sub-section on Ignatian Spirituality).    

Spiritual freedom, the inner security of being loved by God gives us strength to be generous toward others, open to others, to listen to others including the non-verbal as well as explicit words, to listen to the many selves within us.  Ignatian spirituality helps us to put our best foot forward, to get in touch with our core values.   Some refuse to solve conflict fairly or peacefully, non-violently.  They use deceit, coercion, manipulation, physical, emotional, economic violence.  Unequal power often means unfair resolving of conflict.

Our attitude toward others affects how we deal with them.  Are others objects with whom I am in conflict or persons, fellow travelers on the same planet, persons with whom I can share the earth's abundant technological resources?

To solve conflict in a responsible non-violent way we need to want to solve conflict.  That's a spiritual challenge

Many objections to nonviolence come in the form of extreme examples or situations. What does one do if an invading army is torturing, raping, and killing civilians? These examples are like asking how I stop a fire if my house is already 5/6th burned down? Active nonviolence needs to begin at the beginning, at the pre-school age, then be a continuous part of the growth and development of each one of us.

But we can end those extreme situations by establishing a democratic world authority with effective international law.  Although a democratic international police body will at time need to use a minimum of force, law can minimize the amount and degree of violence in our world.

Nonviolence means I favor persuasion over coercion, education over force, law over war.

An intelligent, active citizen is using nonviolence. Prayer, discernment, religion are forms of nonviolence. Creating small faith communities that work for change is nonviolence.  Education, especially peace education, is a major form of non-violence.  Crafting wise laws is a form of non-violence.  Creating a system of economic democracy is non-violence. Developing a vision of the kind of world you want in 2030 is non-violence.  Global Campaign for Peace Education

Also:  Roger Fisher and William Ury, Getting to Yes;  Fr. Niall O'Brien, Island of Tears, Island of Hope.  Living the Gospel in a Revolutionary Situation, 1993 (one important part of non-violence for Fr. Niall O'Brien is justice.  There can be no real reconciliation without justice.  If you steal my watch, I may forgive you.  I also want my watch back.) Jim McGinnis, A Call to Peace, 52 Meditations on the Family Pledge of Nonviolence Liguori.

Non-violent Social Movements, A Geographical Perspective, edited by Stephen Zunes, Lester R. Kurtz and Sarah Beth Asher

Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan, Thomas Weber, Nonviolent Intervention Across Borders, A Recurrent Vision

See also: Global Peace Service USA, P.O. Box 27922, Washington, DC 20038-7922,,, Mediate; Center for Nonviolent Communication, PO Box 2662, Sherman, TX 75091,
Unfortunately, some use the internet to bully and harass.  See Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use

To teach tolerance for all see

The primary community to foster peace and justice is the family.  More and more families are taking a pledge of nonviolence.
The Family Pledge of Nonviolence:  Making peace must start within ourselves and in our families.  Each of us, members of the ____________ family, commit ourselves as best we can to become nonviolent and peaceable people.

To Respect Self and Others:  To respect myself, to affirm others, and to avoid uncaring criticism, hateful words, physical attacks, and self-destructive behavior.

To Communicate Better:  To share my feelings honestly, to look for safe ways to express my anger, and to work at solving problems peacefully. (

To Listen:  To listen carefully to others, especially those who disagree with me, and to consider others' feelings and needs rather than insist on having my own way.

To Forgive:  To apologize and make amends when I have hurt another, to forgive others, and to keep from holding grudges.

To Respect Nature:  To treat the environment and all living things, including our pets, with respect and care.

To Play Creatively:  To select entertainment and toys that support our family's values and to avoid entertainment that makes violence look exciting, funny, or acceptable.

To be Courageous:  To challenge violence in all its forms whenever I encounter it, whether at home, at school, at work, or in the community, and to stand with others who are treated unfairly.

This is our pledge.  These are our goals.  We will check ourselves on what we have pledged once a month on __________  for the next twelve months so we can help each other become more peaceable people.

FAVAN (Families Against Violence Advocacy Network) can be reached at 4144 Lindell Blvd, #408, St. Louis, Missouri 63108, Recommended reading: Jim McGinnis, A Call to Peace, 52 Meditations on the Family Pledge of Nonviolence, Liguori, 1998.

I Thessalonians 5.11  "Encourage one another and build one another up.  As indeed, you are doing."

An excellent way to heal sexual, emotional, physical abuse is to form a positive vision of healthy relationships among all and then implement our vision.

We have traveled light years ahead in communication, mediation, and conflict resolution. Further research and education in non-violent ways of solving conflict can prepare society as a whole for more breakthroughs for the human family which will make war and violence obsolete. "The process is neither simple nor linear, but cumulative and highly networked across society" p. 9 Unjust Deserts, How the Rich Are Taking Our Common Inheritance And Why We Should Take It Back) Dr. Gar Alperovitz applies our common growth in technical knowledge to the economy, but why can we not say the same for communication, mediation, and conflict resolution?


Humboldt State University (California) initiated the Graduation Pledge of Social and Environmental Responsibility. It states, "I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organizations for which I work." Students define what being "responsible" means to themselves. Students at well over a hundred colleges and universities have used the pledge at some level. The schools involved include small liberal arts colleges (Whitman and Skidmore); large state universities (Oregon and Wisconsin), and large private research universities (Harvard and Stanford).. This now includes some schools overseas, graduate and professional schools, and high schools. Graduates who voluntarily signed the pledge have turned down jobs they did not feel morally comfortable with and have worked to make changes once on the job. For example, they have promoted recycling at their organization, removed racist language from a training manual, worked for gender parity in high school athletics, and helped to convince an employer to refuse a chemical weapons-related contract.

Manchester College now coordinates the campaign effort, which has taken different forms at different institutions. At Manchester, it is a community-wide event involving students, faculty, and staff. Typically, fifty percent of students sign and keep a wallet-size card stating the pledge, while students and supportive faculty wear green ribbons at commencement and the pledge is printed in the formal commencement program. Depending upon the school, it might take several years to reach this level of institutionalization. If one can just get a few groups/departments involved, and get some media attention on (and off) campus, it will get others interested and build for the future. The project has been covered in newspapers around the country (e.g., USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, and Boston Globe), as well as being covered in magazines (e.g., Business Week), national radio networks (for instance, ABC), and local TV. stations (like in Ft. Wayne, IN).

The pledge helps educate and motivate one to contribute to a better world. Think of the impact if even a significant minority of the one million college graduates each year signed and carried out the Pledge.

PLEASE KEEP US INFORMED OF ANY PLEDGE EFFORTS YOU UNDERTAKE, AS WE TRY TO MONITOR WHAT IS HAPPENING, AND PROVIDE PERIODIC UPDATES ON THE NATIONAL EFFORT. Contact for information/questions/comments; or write GPA, MC Box 135, Manchester College, 604 E. College Ave., North Manchester, IN 46962. The Campaign also has a web site, at 

Voting and Non Violence
I think being an intelligent, active citizen is essential to a non-violent society.  Since many of us lead busy, sometimes hectic lives, instant solutions and immediate decisions are convenient.  Yet we hold in trust in the United States a distinctive legacy of freedom and  self-determination.  Stewardship of that trust challenges us to a responsible exercise of our citizenship.  I think voting is the ordinary way we  have of exercising the virtue of patriotism and citizenship.  

I suggest that citizens get in touch with their basic religious and human values and evaluate candidates and issues in the light of those values.  If I become informed about the issues, monitoring not just what candidates say but what they do and how they vote, after reflection I may be able to make an informed and generous decision.  If I vote simply on slogans and images, the democratic process is diminished and weakened.

In a network of small values-based communities,  I think we can work for a further consensus of what human rights are, of what a truly effective democratic international authority would look like, of how to fashion economic democracy.  The next step is to translate that consensus into workable laws on a local, state, national, and world level.

To contact US Senate
To contact US House
For current citizen issues

Reform Voting Structures?

Besides monitoring elected officials,  do we need to make our voting system better?  Two major changes would be public financing of elections and some form of proportional representation.

There are many different types of proportional representation.  Some of the most common are:  The List System, Mixed Member System, Choice Voting. (See Center for Voting and Democracy   The Center for Voting and Democracy is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that studies how voting systems affect participation, representation and governance.

For more details, I suggest you consult the Center for Voting and Democracy.  But I will offer a brief explanation as I understand it.  In proportional representation or full representation instead of electing one person in each district, several people are elected in a larger district.  This full representation voting system allows voters to have representation in proportion to the voting preferences of the electorate.  20% of the votes means two (20%) of 10 seats.  50% of votes means five (50%) of 10 seats. For example, instead of 50 single-member districts, there would be 5 ten-member districts. Thus if candidates of one party win 40% of the vote in a 10 member district, they receive four of the ten seats or 40% of the seats. If another party wins 20% of the vote, they get two seats. A party with 10% of the vote gets one seat. In proportional representation all voters receive some representation and all groups are represented fairly. There is a greater variety of opinion, and some of the real issues like abolition of poverty, the war system, global warming, fair trade, environmental degradation, unemployment, violation of basic human rights, etc. could become part of the public debate.  

Proportional or Full Representation has no ideological bias but facilitates fuller and more informed discussion of policy options.  Without ever winning a single district or receiving more than 10% of the national vote, the German Greens were able to see several of their environmental positions become part of a national consensus.   Research has shown that systems of proportional representation result in greater numbers of elected women and minorities in federal, state, and local elections.  

Some form of proportional representation is used by most of the world's established democracies.   ?Winner-take-all" is used only in France, Great Britain, and a few of Britain's former colonies like the US that inherited it.  Even the United Kingdom used proportional representation to elect representatives to the European Parliament.  In their first elections, Scotland and Wales chose proportional systems and there is discussion in Great Britain itself on reforming the voting system.

Margaret Thatcher and John Major enjoyed a majority of seats in the British parliament for almost two decades without ever having more than 44% of the popular vote. This meant that Great Britain was ruled by a party that most people voted against!

The vast differences in wealth and power are contrary to the message of Jesus to share.  We need to be in solidarity with one another and form community.    Inequitable distribution of wealth and the power that accompanies vast differences in wealth weakens the common good and the democracy we all strive for.  This inequitable distribution of wealth makes campaign finance reform even more urgent.

The air waves belong to the people. The media should freely give all serious candidates the opportunity to make their case. There has not been serious movement in Congress to finance campaigns publicly or generate free time during prime listening hours for diverse political opinions.

Would you suspect that horse races were fixed if you were told someone could predict eight out of ten races, a year before the races?  The Center for Voting and Democracy predicted the winners of 83% of US House races in 1998 and their likely victory margins long before the Monica Lewinsky scandal.  The 361 candidates the Center predicted would win had much more campaign cash than their opponents.  Only seventy-four House election races were doubtful.  Most election districts are fundamentally tilted toward one party or the other.  The big donors give largely to candidates they know will win.  The results of elections since 1998 have been similar.  

 Among the twenty one democracies in Western Europe and North America, the US is next to last in voter turn-out. Why is there low voter turnout in the US and a lack of focus on the issues?  Now the major political parties gerrymander voting districts to their own advantage.  A Republican in a Democratic district effectively has her/his vote negated and vice versa.  

Proportional representation was a key part of the peace accord in Northern Ireland. Choice voting or "single transferable vote" or "preference voting" was used.  Voters rank the candidates they like in order.  Ballots are allocated to first choices, but may be transferred to next choices to assure as many effective votes as possible.  Because all seats are weighted equally, candidates win by reaching a "threshold" that is roughly equal to the number of votes cast divided by the number of seats elected.  The Irish Times wrote "The elections resulted in an assembly representative of the community in all its shades and variations.  A winner-take-all election would have been disastrous."

Proportional representation can't be used for single seat offices like the president, governor, or mayor.  However, there are much better ways of electing single seat offices such as Instant Runoff Voting, Approval, or Condorcet's Method.  All of these methods give voters a greater voice in how their vote is used, and alleviate the "lesser-of-two-evils" dilemma.

Few if any of the candidates have a consistent ethic of life which pays equal attention to life after birth as before birth and vice versa. Most candidates seem to have the old-fashioned notion of "defense" meaning nuclear weapons, weapons in space, extravagant military spending, the US as policeman of the world.  What we need to defend is education and the environment. What we need to defend is the common good, not just of the United States but of the entire human family.  What we need to defend is the dignity and human rights of each human person. We need to join the World Community.

 Money follows power because power gives greater access and influence.  Only one-third of adults still vote.  Even when on the winning side, a voter has little sense of a meaningful vote when their candidate always wins by a landslide.  Because of gerrymandering incumbents can pick their voters before the voters pick them.  It is obvious to many that the US needs some form of proportional representation and campaign finance reform in order to have meaningful elections.   Although many feel proportional representation is essential to effective democracy in the US, the challenge is how to change a system that now benefits the two major political parties.

Is God trying to say something to us? States that did not have a single campaign visit from either presidential candidates in 2000 between April and the elections were Idaho, Utah, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, South Carolina, Hawaii, Delaware and Vermont.  Four of the top eight media markets, Boston, Dallas, New York City, and Washington, DC had six presidential ads aired.  Eight media markets in close states each aired more than 6,500 presidential ads!  

In the House in 2000 there was a near 99% incumbency re-election.  The Center for Voting and Democracy predicted 237 House "landslide" races that were won by approximately 20% or more.

The US is almost the only democracy that does not administer national elections on a national level.  Much of the local equipment is aging.  Modern equipment would allow instant runoff voting and choice voting.  If a citizen chose Nader first, Gore second, for example, votes for Nader would have automatically transferred to Gore.

Originally Southern states got more House members by counting slaves as three-fifths of a person.  This gave slave states more votes in the Electoral College.  Some argue that whatever its origin the electoral college insures that voters in small states have a voice.  Others counter that voters in small states have a bigger voice than those in large states.  In Wyoming one vote in the Electoral College corresponds to 71,000 voters; in Florida, one electoral vote corresponds to 238,000 voters.  Reformers want each state to have only as many electors as it has members in the House of Representatives.

The US winner take all system needs serious review.  In 1992 in Colorado, Clinton got 40%; Bush 36%; Perot 23%.  Clinton got all of the electoral votes negating 60% of Coloradans.  Nationwide Clinton had 43% of the popular vote; Bush 37%; Perot 19%.  In most democracies, Perot would have joined either Bush or Clinton.  In 2000 Gore and Nader together got 52% of the popular vote and in other nations could have formed a coalition.

Those who don't vote are increasingly low-income, young, and less educated.  Little effort is made to reach the vast numbers of poor and working-class voters.  In 2000 the NAACP and others heard testimony of long poll lines that closed early, confusing ballots, "lost" registrations, strict limitations on how long voters could spend in the voting booth.  Registration is often unnecessarily complicated.  Local and county officials often have excessive discretionary power.  Voting is restricted to one workday.  

Because of antiquated voting mechanics more ballots were spoiled in the presidential race than were cast for Nader.  If one candidate wins by ten votes out of six million, he gets 100% of the state's electoral votes and in the case of election 2000, 100% of the representation on a national level.  Ballots cast for a losing candidate are always "invalid" for purposes of representation.  Only those cast for the winner actually "count."  Winner-take-all elections under represent the voice of the minority and exaggerate the power of the winner.

For further reading see Douglas J. Amy, Proportional Representation, The Case for a Better Election System, Crescent Street Press, 1997. For further information see The Center for Voting and Democracy:

As I reflect on the election process, give me the freedom to think outside the box, dream dreams, and change the structures.  I dream of an economic system in which we have enough time to be good citizens (as well as to pray, to be good family members, etc.) I dream of community ownership of the Communications Media.  Information is power.  Time is power.  Money is power.  If information, time, and money are not democratic, we don't have full democracy. Having said all that, let's do the best we can with what we have.  Small faith-based communities such as Christian Life Communities could discern together how best to vote in a particular election.

Concerning the rights of corporations, I refer you to Greg Coleridge, the author of Citizens Over Corporations, The History of Corporations in Ohio :"Corporations did not have First Amendment or any other "rights" originally. Corporations were granted First Amendment rights in 1978 in the First National Bank v Bellotti decision. The original intention was that corporations were a creation of the state and, thus, the state could condition their terms as it saw fit. This included, among many democratic provisions, the prohibition of corporate funds for political, or even in some states for charitable, purposes. The belief was that corporations were to provide useful goods or services. Period. They were not established to govern. Instead, they were anointed by the courts as "persons" [in 1886] with, thus, many of the same personhood (including many Bill of Rights) protections. This is absurd. People who work within corporations can speak freely of course, but the notion that the corporation itself should have First Amendment rights is the question.

Labor unions are different legal creations. They are designed not to produce goods or services but are set up to be a collection or community of like-minded people who pool their resources to gain greater leverage vis a vis the institution where they are employed. They are, by nature, more democratic. Corporations are hierarchical.

Their differences are also illustrated by the fact that today when a group of people want to form a corporation, all that's required is for them to fill out a few forms, send in a registration fee and viola, they're a corporation. By contrast, when a group of people want to form a union, hurdle after hurdle both on and off the work site is placed before them.

I don't believe unions should be able to contribute/invest in political campaigns either. Frankly, though, I'm of the belief that ALL elections should be entirely publicly funded. This should include free media time on the public airwaves, including TV and radio.  How can we have public elections when financing is private, be it from corporations, unions, or wealthy individuals? Recipients will by nature feel beholden to those who bankroll their campaigns. Why too many candidates sell out the public most of the time after they're elected is because the interests of voters and funders aren't the same. And most funding for most successful candidates are from wealthy individuals and/or corporations.

Reform Present System

Present political elections are deeply flawed. The poor don't have the money, time, or skills to influence political  candidates. Often fearful of losing their jobs, lower-income voters prefer silence to speaking their minds.  Even  middle-class workers and professionals often lack the time to be responsible citizens.  

The free press is hardly free. It's very expensive. Even media independently owned do not want to antagonize actual or potential advertisers.  I think the communications media should belong to the people, not just a wealthy few.  Indeed the vast differences in wealth and power are contrary to the message of Jesus to share and be in solidarity with one another and form community.  The media should freely give all serious candidates the opportunity to make their case. There has not been serious movement in Congress to finance campaigns publicly or generate free time during prime listening hours for diverse political opinions.  In Great Britain it costs 50 cents a person to finance elections; in the US $3.50 a person.  

Public elections should be financed publicly.  What we are funding is not candidates that we disagree with but a process of free and fair elections in which all serious candidates are taken seriously and have adequate opportunity to make her/his positions known.  On the other hand, we as citizens have a serious obligation to listen and make a reflective decision on which candidate to vote for.

Partial or full funding of the electoral process should not be confused with voting for a particular candidate.

Because of antiquated voting mechanics more ballots were spoiled in the 2000 presidential race than were cast for Nader. If we spend public monies to up-date the voting mechanics, we are improving the electoral process. We vote for a particular candidate.

I think we all want a voting process which is as free and fair as possible, giving all serious candidates adequate opportunity to make their case.  If there are vast differences in the monies that candidates have, there are vast differences in the opportunity that candidates have for free speech.

Jesus urged all of us to share, to create community, and foster the common good, to be in solidarity with others.  Inequitable distribution of wealth and the power that accompanies vast differences in wealth weakens the common good and the democracy we all strive for.  This inequitable distribution of wealth makes campaign finance reform even more urgent.

I also favor a non-partisan discussion of the value of some form of the proportional representational system that Cincinnati had between 1925 and 1965. If we don't address the democratic process, we will remain a nation with inadequate voter participation. 

                                                        Making the US More Democratic

Among the twenty one democracies in Western Europe and North America, the US is next to last in voter turn-out, with only 36% participating in the 1994 Congressional elections and 44% in 1996.  Even many who did participate in 2000 felt dissatisfied.

In proportional representation or full representation instead of electing one person in each district, several people are elected in a larger district.  This full representation voting system allows voters to have representation in proportion to the voting preferences of the electorate.  20% of the votes means two (20%) of 10 seats.  50% of votes means five (50%) of 10 seats. For example, instead of 50 single-member districts, there would be 5 ten-member districts. Thus if candidates of one party win 40% of the vote in a 10 member district, they receive four of the ten seats or 40% of the seats. If another party wins 20% of the vote, they get two seats. A party with 10% of the vote gets one seat. In proportional representation all voters receive some representation and all groups are represented fairly. There is a greater variety of opinion, and some of the real issues like world federalism, human rights, and economic democracy become part of the public debate.  

Now the major political parties gerrymander voting districts to their own advantage.  A Republican in a Democratic district effectively has her/his vote negated and vice versa.  

To the Editor, New York Times, ?Before Sept. 11 became a national tragedy, it was Election Day in New York City. Not a few of those who lost their lives at the World Trade Center had voted before going to work ? perhaps their last civic act. Their votes were nullified when the election was canceled and  rescheduled for Sept. 25. That primary may well determine how representative and effective city government will be as New York recovers and rebuilds.  What better way for New Yorkers to honor the dead and to show the world the resiliency of our democracy than to go to the polls in huge numbers and help shape the city's future?

For further reading see Douglas J. Amy, Proportional Representation, The Case for a Better Election System, Crescent Street Press, 1997.
For further information see The Center for Voting and Democracy:

We need to go from winner-take-all to all-are-winners.

Dreaming Dreams

As I reflect on the election process, give me the freedom to think outside the box, dream dreams, and change the structures.

I dream of an economic system in which we have enough time to be good citizens (as well as to pray, to be good family members, etc.) I dream of an economic freedom in which corporations don't overshadow political freedom.  Local community ownership of the means of production would balance participatory political democracy.  Even government fashioned according to the principle of subsidiarity needs the check and balance of ownership of the factories and farms.

I dream of public elections which are financed publicly.  Legislators should not be spending a disproportionate amount of their time raising money.  Wise and fair legislation requires careful attention and spiritual freedom.  I dream of some form of proportional representation.  50% of the vote should mean 50% of the representation; 30% 30%, etc.  Instant run-off voting would remove the lesser of two evils dilemma.

I dream of community ownership of the Communications Media.  Information is power.  Time is power.  Money is power.  If information, time, and money are not democratic, we don't have full democracy.

Having said all that, let's do the best we can with what we have.  Small faith-based communities such as Christian Life Communities could discern together how best to vote in a particular election.


Consistent Ethic of Life
I think God calls us to bring the Peace of Christ to life before birth and life after birth. I subscribe to what Joseph Cardinal Bernardin called a consistent ethic of life, a seamless garment.   I feel called to protect all life at all stages.  It doesn't seem to me consistent to defend life before birth and neglect life after birth or vice versa.  All persons have value that comes from God, even when they might seem utterly lacking in any value.

Because life is sacred, I feel the taking of even one human life is to be done in fear and trembling.  War takes thousands of lives and is often an ecological disaster.  I don't think war is a humane way to defend society.

I think capital punishment is cruel and unusual punishment.  Persons convicted of crimes are not simply objects of fear and vengeance but human persons.  No human life, no matter how wretched or how miserable, no matter how sinful or lacking in love, is without value.  Fr. Karl Rahner, S.J., Jesuit priest and theologian, defined every human being as "God's absolute, radical self-revelation." Killing desensitizes us and makes us more violent.  It's hard for me to see that adding violence is subtracting violence, that subtracting life is adding life.

The Pope decried "debates about the way to kill, as if there were a way to 'do it well.'""There is no human way of killing another person," he declared.

Over 2100 groups nationwide now endorse a moratorium on executions!  Equal Justice USA is a grassroots project of the Quixote Center that mobilizes and educates ordinary citizens around issues of crime and punishment in the U.S.  By transforming our culture of vengeance and violence, Equal Justice USA builds support for an alternative public policy that is both effective and humane. 

Abortion attacks the most vulnerable and defenseless.  If we develop a culture of life, we will promote life from womb to tomb.  Of course, we cannot become active in all issues at once.  No person or group is free to be unconcerned about all the attacks on human dignity, nor are we free to ignore the interdependence of all the efforts on behalf of human life. there are numerous activities being carried out in defense of human dignity. There may not be room for all of them on our schedule, but we must make room for all of them in our heart and in our prayers.  And we can establish priorities for ourselves while giving some attention to related causes.

In 1983, , Joseph Cardinal Bernardin was asked to talk at Fordham Jesuit University in New York City. The topic was The Challenge of Peace, God's Promise and Our Response. Cardinal Bernardin had played a leading role in the formulation of The Challenge of Peace.  At Fordham Cardinal Bernardin urged a consistent ethic of life and a constant love of life. We can't protect life before birth and destroy life after birth; nor promote life after birth and destroy life before birth. Cardinal Bernardin invited Jesuit Catholic universities to develop a consistent ethic of life and promote a constant love of life. He also urged civil discourse with those who disagree with us. We can't promote physical life while engaging in verbal and emotional violence.

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin: The Seamless Garment: An American-Catholic Dialogue, Dec. 6, 1983, Fordham Jesuit University:  "I am convinced that the church is in a position to make a significant defense of life in a comprehensive and consistent manner. . The Challenge of Peace links the questions of abortion and nuclear war. No other major institution presently holds these two positions in the way the Catholic bishops have joined them.  This is both a responsibility and an opportunity.. there is need for an attitude or atmosphere in society which is the pre-condition for sustaining a consistent ethic of life.. We intend our opposition to abortion and our opposition to nuclear war to be seen as specific applications of this broader attitude.. Our moral, political and economic responsibilities do not stop at the moment of birth.  Those who defend the right to life of the weakest among us must be equally visible in support of the quality of life of the powerless among us, the old and the young, the hungry and the homeless, the undocumented immigrant and the unemployed worker.. substance and style are closely related.  The issues of war, abortion, and capital punishment are emotional and often divisive questions.. We should maintain and clearly articulate our religious convictions but also maintain our civil courtesy.  We should be vigorous in stating a case and attentive in hearing another's case:  we should test everyone's logic, but not question his or her motives."

In March 1984 Cardinal Bernardin was invited to talk at St. Louis University, another Catholic and Jesuit university. Again the topic was a Consistent Ethic of Life, a seamless garment, alluding of course to the garment of Jesus, not torn at the crucifixion. John 19.23 "There was also the tunic of Jesus, but this tunic was woven in one piece from top to bottom and had no seam. The soldiers said, 'We should not tear it.'" Cardinal Bernardin continued: "My purpose is to foster the kind of sustained intellectual analysis and debate which the Jesuit tradition has cultivated throughout its history."

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin: A Consistent Ethic of Life: Continuing the Dialogue, Mar. 11, 1984, St. Louis Jesuit University: "The case for a consistent ethic of life--one which stands for the protection of the right to life and the promotion of the rights which enhance life from womb to tomb--manifests the positive potential of the Catholic moral and social tradition.  It is both a complex and demanding tradition; it joins the humanity of the unborn infant and the humanity of the hungry; it calls for positive legal action to prevent the killing of the unborn or the aged and positive societal action to provide shelter for the homeless and education for the illiterate.. a systemic vision of life seeks to expand the moral imagination of a society, not partition it into airtight categories."  

War, abortion, executions, assisted suicide cannot be collapsed into one problem, but they must be confronted as pieces of a larger pattern. A consistent ethic of life promotes rights which protects life from womb to tomb. It is not possible for everyone to be equally involved in all issues, but the Church as a whole has to cultivate a connection between all life issues. No one can do everything, but each of us can do something. We need to support one another in not tearing a seamless garment. We need to broaden creatively our attitudes, our ways of thinking, and our practical response.

What does "Consistent ethic of life" mean? Cardinal Bernardin: "There is need for an attitude or atmosphere in society which is the pre-condition for sustaining a consistent ethic of life." p. 7 Is there an attitude or atmosphere in society for respect for all life? on campus? in ourselves? Can we help to foster such an attitude?
"A consistent ethic of life is very necessary for preserving a systemic vision." p. 15 As you know, my vision is for a common ethic, non-violence, basic human rights, economic democracy and democratic world order. Abortion is a violent act. Can we form a common ethic of respect for life on campus? Is economic justice a right that would make choices for life easier?
"The consistent ethic theme seeks to engage the moral imagination and political insight of diverse groups and to build a network of mutual concern for defense of life at every stage in the policies and practices of our society." p. 24. Can we improve the consistent ethic of life at Dorothy Day house?
"When we accept violence in any form as commonplace, our sensitivities become dulled. When we accept violence, war itself can be taken for granted. .Abortion in particular blunts a sense of the sacredness of human life. in a society where the innocent unborn are killed wantonly, how can we expect people to feel righteous revulsion at the act or threat of killing non-combatants in war?" P. 87 Consistent Ethic of Life. 1988
"The effect of single-issue voting strategies is to reduce the chance that parties and candidates will be judged by standards which test their vision of society and their capacity to address the basic needs of the common good. Morally, a single-issue strategy forfeits many of the resources of the moral teaching of the church. To highlight one question as the primary and exclusive objective in the policy process is to leave too many issues unattended and risks distortion of the single-issue itself." P. 233 Fr. J. Bryan Hehir, Th.D.

Archbishop Cardinal Bernardin:  "Candidates who unequivocally subscribe to the consistent ethic of life in its full scope, as well as in its moral analysis of distinct issues, could sincerely disagree with others about strategies for the implementation of that principle, could oppose legislation supported by some, could support legislation opposed by others, or could decide that it is not in the best interest of the state to seek particular legislation or to enact it at a given historical moment. Although we might disagree with such candidates and might not vote for them because we disagree with their prudential judgments, in this context it would be inappropriate to say that such candidates or public officials are either acting immorally or that they should be otherwise castigated or ostracized."  P. 255 Before we condemn a particular candidate, we may need to hear his reasons for voting or not voting for particular legislation.

Conclusion: Though life issues differ among themselves and distinctions need to be made, one thread weaves itself throughout the seamless garment: an attitude of respect for all life, made in the image and likeness of God. As individuals we are too limited to undertake the task of promoting a consistent ethic of life. But together we can assess our strengths, divide responsibilities, and set priorities. Together we can imagine new structures, fresh strategies, and long-lasting solutions.

Selections from Standing for the Unborn: A Statement of the Society of Jesus in the United States on Abortion: We wish to underscore the correctness of Catholic Church teaching regarding abortion, joining with many other people of conscience who are working to protect life in the womb. .In 1995 representative Jesuits from around the world met in Rome for the 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus. In ?Our Mission and Justice n.52? they noted: ?Human life, a gift of God, has to be respected from its beginning to its natural end.? Until women and men individually and collectively make a profound commitment to the value and dignity of all human life, we will never find the true peace, justice and reconciliation God desires for us. . disregard for life shows itself in direct assaults on human life such as abortion, capital punishment, senseless violence, escalating militarism, xenophobia, and the skewed accumulation of wealth and life-sustaining resources. P. 1.

Jesuits draw upon a long and rich tradition of reflection, professional study, experience, and spirituality that brings many resources to the complexities of the abortion issue.

Abortion is a human rights issue. It is also a social issue, and not simply a personal decision made in artificial isolation from wider social reality. Attempts to frame the issue as merely a question of personal preference or private choice ignore important features of abortion as a public policy. Because the state and society as a whole have an intense interest in promoting respect for life, we may not with a clear conscience relegate such life and death issues to the private realm, no matter how appealing and convenient such arguments may appear on the surface.

We must "speak the truth with love." The dialogue should never devolve into a shrill clash of shouts, much less threats of violence. P. 2.

There can be no service of faith without the promotion of justice. . St. Ignatius was famous for teaching the discernment of spirits and urged his followers to take greater notice of their emotions, internal movements and spiritual desires. . .A key theme of Ignatian spirituality is freedom from fears or inordinate attachments; freedom to pursue a more authentic calling, lifestyle or set of relationships. Freedom is not the power to do what we like but what we ought.
Too often "liberty" and "choice" devolve into code words for utter freedom to terminate a pregnancy without limits or conditions. P. 5

To be pro-life is to be pro-woman. . We must offer a woman or a girl who is pregnant, frightened, and alone a better alternative than the destruction of her own unborn child. P.6

While emphasizing the value of tolerance and mutual dialogue, the great Jesuit theologian Fr. John Courtney Murray advised against a moral relativism that leads to despair of finding common fundamental truths. P. 7

It is our desire that Jesuits, along with their colleagues, will continue to offer a consistent message of respect for life. . All of God?s daughters and sons, particularly the most vulnerable and those yet to be born, must be treated with respect and protected by the laws of our nation. P.8

See also Choosing Life, A Dialogue on Evangelium Vitae, edited by Kevin Wm Wildes, S.J. and Alan C. Mitchell.

We need to bring the peace of Christ to life before birth and life after birth. Jesus indicated his peace was unique. "Peace is my farewell gift to you. I do not give it as the world gives peace. Do not be distressed or fearful." (John 14.27) "In Me you may find peace. You will suffer in the world. But take courage! I have overcome the world." (John 16.33)
Although I have always tried to live the peace of Christ, I don't identify the peace of Christ with political and economic peace. I look upon integral peace as grace and mystery. Comprehending peace can be as elusive as God, the author of peace, or the human person, who never fully reaches peace, or the human family, who at this stage groans and is in agony as it searches for peace. I don?t think we should be too quick to conclude that we fully understand what the peace of Christ is or can be.

Luke 2 Simeon: said: "Jesus is a light of revelation for all nations." Jesus had a vision of a world in which each of us is a winner. Luke 4.18, 19 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore He has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord." (See Leviticus 25.10 "This fiftieth year you shall make sacred by proclaiming liberty in the land for all its inhabitants.")
Mark 1.11 ;"You are my beloved Son: with you I am well pleased."

I invite everyone who feels energy around visioning to dialogue with me and search together how the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola can interface with the creation of a peaceful world. Because of original sin, I think our present vision is murky and cloudy. Perhaps together and with the help of the Holy Spirit we can get our vision of where we want to go back in focus. Addressing the 28 US Jesuit Colleges and universities at Santa Clara, Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, the spiritual leader of the Society of Jesus, said: We need "a sustained interdisciplinary dialogue of research and reflection, a continuous pooling of expertise. The purpose is to assimilate experiences and insights according to their different disciplines in 'a vision of knowledge which, well aware of its limitations, is not satisfied with fragments but tries to integrate them into a true and wise synthesis.'

The whole idea of visioning world structures may seem daunting and overwhelming. But I never underestimate the will and power of God for good. The establishment of the International Criminal Court, the European Union, the culture of human rights in our world have been nothing short of miracles. With one another and with God?s help, starting small, we can go forward with a vision of peace. Perhaps one aspect of an interrelated vision appeals to us more than others and we want to develop and work say for crisis counseling centers or a Christian Life Community.

What does the world need? Visioning can help us to clarify the greatest needs. What are my talents, passions, and strengths? Around what part of a long-range vision do I have the most energy? These questions can help us discern our long-range and short-range call from God.

I find looking ahead and forming a vision of structures we need for a livable world integrates my education and gives purpose and a goal to my study and research. I think it's valuable for each of us to form a vision for the structures we think our world needs to make it more in accord with God?s Word. It can lift us out of the present and the past and move us together toward a world more in accord with God's Word. Especially students can begin to form their vision of the future and their place in implementing that vision. Keeping a record of our insights and experiences are helpful in this process. Part of our experience should always be hopeful, positive, and loving.

I think we must work for a society in which we attend to one another's physical and psychological needs.  It is precisely when persons appear worthless and expendable that they need greater help on our part.   

I urge prayerful reflection of Standing for the Unborn: A Statement of the Society of Jesus in the United States on Abortion available at under Publications. "Abortion is a social issue, and not simply a personal decision made in artificial isolation from wider social reality. . .as St. Paul reminds us, we must 'speak the truth with love.'  The dialogue should never devolve into a shrill clash of shouts, much less threats of violence. . .in 1995 representative Jesuits from around the world met in Rome for the 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus.  In 'Our Mission and Justice' they noted that 'Human life, a gift of God, has to be respected from its beginning to its natural end.' (n.57)  Until men and women individually and collectively make a profound commitment to the value and dignity of all human life, we will never find the true peace, justice and reconciliation God desires for us.  A spirit of callus disregard for life shows itself in direct assaults on human life such as abortion and capital punishment, as well as in senseless violence, escalating militarism, racism, xenophobia, and the skewed accumulation of wealth and life-sustaining resources."

Another group with a consistent ethic of life is Feminists for Life of America  

Dorothy Day promoted a consistent ethic of life and is a model for us of non-violence. (The Dorothy Day Library is on the Web at:        

Another Catholic group with a consistent ethic of life is Pax Christi USA  see  

Pax Christi USA strives to create a world that reflects the Peace of Christ by exploring, articulating, and witnessing to the call of Christian nonviolence. This work begins in personal life and extends to communities of reflection and action to transform structures of society. Pax Christi USA rejects war, preparations for war, and every form of violence and domination. It advocates primacy of conscience, economic and social justice, and respect for creation.

Pax Christi USA commits itself to peace education and, with the help of its bishop members, promotes the gospel imperative of peacemaking as a priority in the Catholic Church in the United States. Through the efforts of all its members and in cooperation with other groups, Pax Christi USA works toward a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world.

Pax Christi is a section of Pax Christi International, the Catholic peace movement

An Evangelical advocate for a consistent ethic of life is Rev. James Wallis and Sojourners

Can a Catholic Vote for a Pro-choice Candidate?

How can we secure a place at the table for the unborn, those hungry, those who lack health care, decent work and wages, education--indeed, hope for the future? For Catholics, a special table--the altar of the Eucharist is where we find direction and strength to take what we believe into the public square, using our voices and votes to defend life, advance justice, pursue peace and find a place at the table for all God's children.

More than 30,000 children die every day as a result of hunger, international debt, and denial of basic human rights.

Jesus calls us to love one another.  The words and example of Jesus demand care for the least of these.

Responsible citizenship doesn't stop on election day,  It means letters to elected representatives, phone calls, even visits.  Responsible citizenship is a virtue.  Participation in the political process is a moral obligation.

"We hope that voters will examine the position of candidates on the full range of issues, as well as on their personal integrity, philosophy, and performance.  We are convinced that a consistent ethic of life should be the moral framework from which to address issues in the political arena. . . The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine.  A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church's social doctrine does not exhaust one's responsibility towards the common good.. . We believe that every human life is sacred from conception to natural death and in every condition. . .The US needs to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty as a step toward the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons.  We urge all to join the treaty to ban anti-personnel landmines.  We need to avoid the scandalous global trade in arms. . .We do not teach that killing is wrong by killing those who kill others. . We urge our nation to abandon the use of capital punishment.  Affordable and accessible health care is a fundamental human right.. .We need to address seriously global climate change.. . A more just world will be a more peaceful world. . .We cannot compromise our basic values or teaching, but we should be open to different ways to advance them."  Faithful Citizenship

From Fr. Joseph Mulligan, S.J., a Jesuit priest originally from Detroit but serving in Nicaragua since 1984

"Dear Friends,
        I would like to share with you the full text of a Letter to the Editor which I sent to the Detroit Free Press, part of which was published on Friday, Sept. 10 2004.
        After that, you will find a set of excerpts from the U.S. Catholic Bishops'  statement: "Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility." This statement reiterates the Catholic Church's opposition to abortion but also indicates the wide range of human-life issues to be considered in evaluating political candidates. is also a useful website in this regard.
        Those of you who are not Catholic may wish to share this information with friends who are.
Sincerely, Joe Mulligan, SJ

Dear Editor,

        Patricia Montemurri ("Catholics allowed pro-choice vote," Sept. 7) has performed an important service for Catholics and others by highlighting the  teaching of the Vatican and the U.S. bishops on how to evaluate candidates and platforms before Nov. 2. In his statement of principles, the Vatican's Cardinal Ratzinger reiterated the Church's opposition to abortion and then went on to address the issue of voting: "When a Catholic does not share a candidate's stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate  reasons."
        Proportionate reasons for voting for Pres. Bush's opponent are not hard to find. Many Catholics and other Americans believe that Mr. Bush has given a very bad moral example as president: he has seriously diminished the integrity of his office by deceiving Congress and the public on the reasons for invading Iraq and by spurning an international approach not only to the question of launching a war on Iraq but also to the issues of global warming, nuclear-arms control, and other crucial matters which have deep moral implications.
        The unilateralism of this administration can also be seen in its refusal to deal with terrorism and human-rights violations through mechanisms like the International Criminal Court, which the Bush White House is not only boycotting but sabotaging. Its reckless attitude of being above the law helped to produce the atrocities against Iraqi prisoners, a shameful scandal which has tarnished
America's reputation throughout the civilized world.
        The president has tried to gain points among churchgoers by announcing that religious organizations would receive part of $188 million in government grants this year for social service programs. But this "faith-based initiative" is but small compensation for the cutbacks in governmental social programs which have resulted from Mr. Bush's favoritism toward the super-wealthy and from his escalation of the Pentagon budget.
        And many recall clearly that Pope John Paul II had clearly condemned the notion of  "preemptive attack" against Iraq before Mr. Bush launched it. The holier-than-thou pretensions of this president turn to dust when we consider his policies on the entire range of human-life issues.
                                Father Joseph E. Mulligan, S.J.

A large percentage of voters in the 2004 election said they voted according to their "moral values."  Was their concept of "moral values" too narrow, personal, and individual?  Pope John XXIII said a democratic world authority is an absolute moral imperative.  Basic health care for all is certainly a moral value.  A consistent ethic of life is a moral value. 


Part of the family pledge of non-violence is to treat "all living things, including our pets, with respect and care."  The Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 2416 states: "Animals are God's creatures.  God surrounds animals with his providential care.  By their mere existence they bless God and give him glory.  Thus we owe animals kindness.  We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals."

The New Dictionary of Catholic Social Thought ("Animals, Rights of") says:  "Scripture places a high value on animals. . . animals are part of the universal drawing together of all things in Christ's peace-bringing redemption.  The Bible has a vision of a peace in a creation where humans and even all animals are vegetarian. . .wolf and lamb, lion and ox, child and poisonous snake, will live together without harm. . .the Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep."

World Council of Churches: "This is not a simple question of kindness, however laudable that virtue is.  It is an issue of strict justice.  In all our dealing with animals, the ethic for the liberation of life requires that we render unto animals what they are due, as creatures with an independent integrity and value.  Precisely because they cannot speak for themselves, the Christian duty to speak and act for them is the greater, not the lesser."  (Liberating Life.  1988)

Some feel we should be kind to animals but make human persons a priority.  I think the two go together.  The evidence is that if a child is violent to animals, she/he will be violent to persons.  Animals, people, and the earth are part of a whole.  Peace education must include love and respect for all of God's creatures. (See Animals, People, the Earth)

Animal issues include large factory farms in which chickens, pigs, calves, etc. are keep inside in small enclosed areas; animal experimentation for medical science; testing cosmetic enhancements on animals to judge the safety of the product; trapping animals for furs; using animals for games.  It's easy for me to see that acquiring supposed safer cosmetic products and luxury items are no excuse for cruelty to animals.  I have major concerns about how meat is grown.  Animal experimentation for medical reasons is perhaps the most controversial, but reputable doctors feel there are alternatives and that the transfer from the effect on animals to the effect on humans is often flawed.  Because something is harmful to animals does not always mean that it will be harmful to humans and vice versa.

For further reading I suggest Andrew Linzey, Animal Theology, U. of Illinois Press, 1995:  God values all creation.  Animals praise their creator and reflect God's glory.  "Animals do not exist in a wholly instrumental relationship to human beings" pp. 22-24  The weak and defenseless should be given greater moral consideration, not less. p. 28  Philippians 2.5-9.  In generous self-giving God lowered Himself for us.  Should we not do likewise for animals? The strong should protect the weak.  Our special value in creation is our unique ability to care for God's creation.  P. 33  The covenant extends to all living things, Genesis 9.8-17; to the earth itself 9.13  Not one sparrow is forgotten by God.  Luke 12.6.  Human uniqueness is the capacity for service and self-sacrifice, p. 45.

Genesis 1.29-30:  I give you and animals plants for food.  Genesis 9.1-4: God concedes to Noah and his sons every moving thing that lives for food to accommodate sinfulness.  Genesis 9.4-5:  You shall not eat flesh with its life, i.e. its blood.  Isaiah 11.6-9  The wolf shall lie down with the lamb.  Whatever God may have conceded in the past, vegetarians today can say,  "It is no longer necessary to kill for food." p. 129.

See also Voices of the Religious Left, A Contemporary Sourcebook edited by Rebecca T. Alpert, Temple University, 2000.

Christianity and Vegetarianism

Pursing the Nonviolence of Jesus, by Fr. John Dear, S.J. : Vegetarianism can help end world hunger.  While people suffer and die of starvation in Central and South America, these regions ship their grain to the US to feed our cows, pigs, and chickens so that we can satisfy our desire for animal flesh, milk, and eggs." Genesis 1.29 "God said, 'See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.'" . . Leviticus strictly prohibits the eating of anything with fat or blood, and many argue that the law of Moses actually forbids the eating of flesh entirely because it's impossible to get blood totally out of meat. .Daniel a nonviolent resister  refuses to defile himself by eating the king's meat.  He and three friends actually become much healthier than everyone else through their vegetarian diet.  They also become ten times smarter, and "God rewards them with knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom."

The prophet Isaiah proclaims the vision of the peaceable kingdom, that new realm of God where everyone will beat their swords into plowshares, refuse to study war, enjoy their own vine and fig tree, and never fear again.  Several passages condemn meat-eating and foresee a day when people and animals will adopt a vegetarian diet, when "the wolf shall dwell with the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the kid. . They do no violence, no harm, on all my holy mountain." Isaiah 11.6-9.

 If you go to my web-site on food and farming in the section on Economic Democracy, you can see that I feel food, farming, diet need more common discernment together.  I think science, experience today can supplement the values of Scripture which tell us to love and care for ourselves, others, animals, and the earth.  If one reads scriptural and spiritual writers today, we can't easily come to decisions on diet for our human family or for ourselves as individuals.

In the US twenty times as much energy is required to produce a calorie of animal flesh as the amount needed to produce a calorie of vegetable food. We wastefully cycle 70% of all we grow, such as soy, corn, wheat, and other grains, through animals, rather than eating these foods directly.  More than half of all the water used in the US is used to raise animals for food.  The intensive production of animals for meat requires twenty-five times as much land as the production of the same amount of food from vegetable sources.  The nine billion land animals that we raise for food in the US excrete 130 times as much waste as the entire human population of the US--130 times! Animal waste is swimming with bacteria, hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides.  It's toxic waste, and is the number one source of water pollution.

The American Dietetic Association and the American Medical Association have concluded that vegetarians are actually healthier.  Vegetarians tend to weigh less and suffer at a fraction of the rate of meat-eaters from heart disease, cancer, and stroke--America's three biggest killers.  Meat is entirely devoid of carbohydrates and fiber but has heavy doses of artery-clogging saturated fat and cholesterol.  On the Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn programs, patients become "heart attack proof" to quote Dr. Esselstyn, by getting their cholesterol levels lower than 150, the level below which no one has ever been documented as to have had a heart attack.  The average vegan cholesterol level is 128.

Meat contains pesticides and other chemicals up to fourteen times more concentrated than those in plant foods.  

Vegetarianism supports human rights as well as animal rights.  Domestically, slaughterhouses are dens of death not just for animals, but for the people who work in them.  Slaughterhouses have the highest rate of injury, the highest turnover rate, the highest repeat-injury rate, and the highest rate of accidental death of any industry in the country.  Slaughterhouse workers have nine times the injury rate of coal miners.  Slaughter houses are continually searching for replacement workers and have to bus people from Mexico and Central America to slaughterhouses in Iowa, Minnesota, and elsewhere.

The raising, transporting, and slaughtering of food animals entails enormous mistreatment and suffering of literally billions of creatures each year, in addition to the massive damage to the environment. Raising livestock is more destructive in depleting topsoil, groundwater, and energy resources than all other human activities combined, as well as causing enormous environmental damage such as clearing of forest, destruction of wildlife habitat, and pollution of rivers and lakes.   see

New Yorker, Oct. 23, 2006, p. 64:  "As people migrate to cities, they invariably start to eat more meat, adding to the pressure on water resources.  The amount of water required to feed cattle and to process beef is enormous:  it takes a thousand tons of water to grow a ton of grain and fifteen thousand to grow a ton of cow.  Thirteen hundred gallons of water go into the production of a single hamburger; a steak requires double that amount.  Every day, a hundred thousand people join India's middle class, and many have become affluent enough to eat out every week."  


How do you usually handle conflicts?

I.    After each of the following techniques, indicate whether you use it frequently, occasionally, or rarely. 

                                                                                                     Frequently  Occasionally  Rarely  
1. Avoid the person . . .
2. Change the subject . . .
3. Try to understand the other person's point of view . . .
4. Try to turn the conflict into a joke . . .
5. Admit that you are wrong even if you do not believe you are . . .
6. Give in . . .
7. Apologize . . .
8. Try to find out specifically what you agree on and disagree on to narrow down the conflict . . .
9. Try to reach a compromise . . .
10. Pretend to agree . . .
11. Get another person to decide who is right . . .
12. Threaten the other person . . .
13. Fight it 0ut physically . . .
14. Whine or complain until you get your way . . .
15. Play the martyr; give in, but let the other person know how much you are suffering . . .

Which of the above ways of dealing with conflict do you find acceptable?

We deal with conflict in various ways.  We compete.  We collaborate.  We compromise.  We avoid.  We accommodate.  Each of these may be appropriate at different times.  All of us need help in discerning whether we have found a proper balance in dealing with conflict.

At times if conflict becomes acute, a mediator can be helpful.  These mediators need special training.

Resolution of conflict is a mainstream issue of interest to all, individuals, families, businesses, nations, the world.  We can't expect government leaders to deal with conflict in acceptable ways if they have never been exposed to peace and conflict education and training.

II.  Most of us use different techniques for resolving conflicts with different people.  Sometimes people in different situations require different techniques -- you may not be able to talk to your boss the way that you talk to your best friends.  But often we use a very limited number of techniques with certain people.

After each group of people listed below, indicate by number the techniques listed above that you most frequently use to resolve conflict with them.  (For example, if you frequently change the subject with parents, place a "2" in the first column after "Parents.")  Disregard any groups of people that do not apply to you.  Then for each group, list any techniques you might be able to use effectively that you do not now use. 

                                                 Techniques Now Used                    Techniques You Might be Able to Use  
Brothers and Sisters  . .
Parents . .
Older People . .
Teenagers . .
Friends . .
Others . .

Basic Conflicts in Our Lives

When I got my third Master's degree in Religious Education I  became aware of God's presence in signs, the witness of the saints, physical nature, the sacraments, the events of our lives. Fr. Jose M. Calle, S.J. presented a theology and a philosophy of signs. Only persons can make a material thing into a sign. Words are signs. But sometimes words are not needed. And sometimes words are too explicit. I became friends with women students during the Loyola Pastoral Institute, and I felt they helped me to understand the importance of the use of implicit signs.

Fr. Calle saw the following six fundamental conflicts and tensions at the base of human existence:
1. A yearning to live is in tension with the anxiety towards one's own contingency.
2. A sense of responsibility is in tension with the temptation towards escapism.
3. A yearning for freedom exists in tension with the awareness of partial slaveries.
4. A need for union and communion of life with others is in tension with the constant danger of egocentrism.
5. A need for a loving and protective presence is in tension with the very human pain of loneliness.
6. A need for a collective solidarity is in tension with the common attraction to exclusive ghettos.

God speaks to us in signs, the witness of others, the sacraments, scripture, physical creation. The conflicts or tensions in our lives can also be a sign, a call from God to resolve that tension and conflict in a responsible way. An awareness of these basic tensions confirmed in me the need for on-going Ignatian discernment.

God can be a rock of security for us in the midst of our insecurity. I certainly have felt this in the periods of insecurity I have experienced. God can redeem and free us. This spiritual freedom has come to me in unexpected ways. I am thankful for the graces I have received. God's Covenant calls us to live in community. However imperfect, Jesuit religious life has been a blessing and solace to me.  Community gives us a security which allows us to face conflict in creative ways.
Mental Health

Those reading the signs of the times and working for peace and justice confront a world filled with war, violence, oppression, and injustice.  It is natural to have feelings of overwhelming anger, grief, and depression. Crying is natural, normal, and healthy.  Time needs to be given for reflection, prayer, journaling, sharing with a friend or support group.

If depression becomes severe, you may need professional help in order to express your feelings to a therapist.  Find a counselor who sees your concern for other people as appropriate.

If you follow the spirituality of light and dark graced story (on this web-page see other sections on "theological reflection" and "Ignatian Discernment"); you start with the light graced story.  There are 5000 peace groups in the US alone. Think often of friends and heroes who inspire you.

Physical health has a positive effect on mental health.  Exercise, proper nutrition, relaxation and fun, enough sleep, avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol and sugar are all important.

Developing a long-range vision for the future gives us hope.  The best antidote to feelings of discouragement and pain is hope.  Even when we don't see any signs for optimism, as religious people we have hope.

We do what we can each day.  It may seem as though we are trying to empty the ocean with a spoon, but if we prioritize, every small action helps. When we think of all of the acts of peace going on all over the world, it gives us hope. No one of us can do everything.  We have to leave a little for the angels to do.

Channel your anger into meaningful analysis and action.  If you're ready to explode or feel frustrated or out of control, share with a friend, take a break, get exercise, work with your hands.  Count to ten, breathe deeply, relax your muscles.

Although psychic numbing can be a temporary protective measure, it's healthy eventually to face reality. Set aside a time each day to worry.  What's the worst thing that could happen to us and to our world? Go from nightmares to dreams.

Cultivate a sense of humor.  Smile.  Using comparisons or exaggeration make people laugh. "The meek shall inherit the earth--but not the oil rights."

The more we work for peace and justice in a peaceful way, the healthier we will be.  There's no way to peace.  Peace is the way.

(See Working for Peace, A Handbook of Practical Psychology and Other Tools, Neil Wollman, Ph.D, Editor)


Civil Disobedience
A method used by Mahatma Gandhi, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Lech Walesa, and many others is civil disobedience.  Since I believe in world peace with justice through world law, I consider any act which would lessen respect for law as leading to violence. Those who practice civil disobedience do so because they see a higher law than civil law, God's moral law.  In fear and trembling and with much group discernment they see civil disobedience as an appeal to a higher law.  Civil disobedience is non-violent, public, following a carefully formed conscience, and done with great respect for law in general.  Tax resistance in the face of excessive military spending is a form of civil disobedience.  There is support in Congress for tax laws that would allow citizens to be selective conscientious objectors to certain aspects of the federal budget such as military spending.

Civil disobedience draws public attention to unjust laws.  If the media gave a more balanced point of view, those working for peace and justice would see less need, I think, for civil disobedience.

In Acts 5. 29 St. Peter insisted that God's law took precedence over human institutions.  Many Christians were martyred rather than obey Roman laws that demanded a denial of their faith.

It does not follow that all acts of civil disobedience are automatically appropriate, or that everyone who rushes to an act of civil disobedience acts wisely.   I think acts of civil disobedience demand discernment, discipline, and commitment.   (See Dictionary of Ethics, Theology and Society, p. 152, 153)

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. gives the rational for civil disobedience in his Letter From Birmingham City Jail.  If done well, civil disobedience has basic steps:  1.  Research and social analysis;  2.  Negotiation with public officials; 3.  Self-purification which for me would include spiritual discernment.  4.  Direct action.

Although we do not conclude lightly that a civil law is unjust, not all civil laws are in accord with moral law.  Racial segregation laws were clearly not in accord with God's law.  One who practices civil disobedience must do so openly, willing to accept the penalty; and lovingly, with the highest respect for law.

As is obvious from this web page, I am a strong advocate of world peace with justice through world law.  I see civil law as a force for change to a world more in accord with God's Word.  Yet I have great respect for leaders who have practiced civil disobedience.  


Global Peace Service Movement

If  people are properly trained and educated, how could the Global Peace Service Movement contribute to non-violence?  It could mediate and negotiate for those engaged in violent or potentially violent conflicts at home or abroad.  It could encourage and facilitate preventive diplomacy.  The best possible defense is a lack of enemies. Those on the verge of conflict could develop ways of constructive dialogue.  The Global Peace Service  could establish locally-based early warning systems for disputes on local, national and regional levels.  It could enlist and train men and women in peacemaking, and peace keeping skills.  It could provide emergency relief in times of natural or human- made disasters in ways that strengthen the local capacity to deal with future disasters in nonviolent ways.  It could organize and monitor elections.  It could accompany peace, justice, and human rights workers who are threatened.  It could care for, counsel and repatriate refugees.  It could assist local groups to Global Peace Service strengthen their ability to protect and care for the environment. It could help convert troops trained in waging war into troops skilled in protecting and enhancing life.  Wherever there are blue helmets of the UN, there could also be white helmets of the Global Peace Service.


International Nonviolent Standing Peace Force

Peaceworkers ( is asking for support of an international nonviolent, standing peace force.  The Peace Force will be sent to conflict areas to prevent death and destruction and protect human rights, thus creating the space for local groups to struggle nonviolently, enter into dialogue, and seek peaceful resolution.  The horrors of Kosovo, Rwanda, Iraq, East Timor, Columbia, Israel would be lessened.  Contact Sister Patricia A. Keefe, OSF,

Wholistic Security

We will not have true security until everyone has basic human rights including economic rights.  Part of dealing with conflict is recognizing the actual situation, then dialoging and working to resolve the conflict in a responsible and just way. (See Conflict in Context: Understanding Local to global Security, Gayle Mertz & Carol Miller Lieber Educators for Social Responsibility


Keep your temper; a stout heart in defeat.  Win without gloating or boasting; lose without offering excuses.  Have respect for referees, rules, and umpires.  A true sportsperson plays hard to win, but respects her/his opponent and accepts defeat gracefully.

Capacitar's Mission

Capacitar - meaning to empower, to encourage, to bring each other to, is an international network of empowerment and solidarity connecting people from grassroots groups. Capacitar believes that through nurturing, listening and responding to the deeper wisdom of body and spirit, people can heal and transform themselves, their families and communities. Using popular education methods which recognize that people are subjects of their own experiences, Capacitar uses simple practices of healing, team-building and self-development to awaken people to their own source of strength and wisdom so they can reach out to heal injustice and create a more peaceful world.

Christian Life Communities

The main line religions agree on the positive nature of peace as healthy relationships with God, our neighbor, and the earth.  One way to reach out to God, our neighbor, and the earth is through covenanted faith communities that integrate Ignatian spirituality and justice such as Christian Life Communities.  Christian Life Community is a discerning community for mission. see

Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management

Cutting across political, economic, and social boundaries, the Ohio Commission has pioneered problem-solving methods and initiated programs that provide alternatives to fighting, impasse, and litigation. Through its accomplishments, the Commission has gained recognition as the most comprehensive state dispute resolution program in the country.

Created by legislation in 1989, the Commission consists of twelve volunteer members appointed by all three branches of state government -- the Governor, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio, the President of the Ohio Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. With a broad mandate to serve individuals and organizations at multiple levels of society and joint representation from all the branches of government, the Commission is in the forefront of a national movement to promote the use of dispute resolution process and conflict management skills.
Why are new methods for resolving disputes needed?

Most people are familiar with the traditional means of resolving disputes by avoidance, violence or litigation. Avoiding the problem may put it off, but seldom resolves it. Violence creates disruption that often goes beyond the immediate participants to affect the larger society. Litigation is an important and valuable process, however, many disputes can be resolved by less adversarial means. Schools, courts, communities, and government agencies need to have a variety of approaches at their disposal to address conflict. They need to be able to assist individuals and groups not only in resolving their disputes, but in learning new ways of managing conflicts. What are these new methods? Conflict management teaches individuals concepts and skills for preventing, managing and resolving conflicts. Dispute resolution encompasses a spectrum of skills and processes, ranging from direct negotiation among parties to intervention of an impartial third party skilled in problem-solving. Some of the processes, such as mediation, are more informal and are designed to help the parties develop their own solutions. Other more formal processes, such as arbitration, may give an outside third party authority to impose binding solutions on the disputing parties.

With a small skilled staff of dispute resolution and conflict management experts, the Commission acts as teacher, catalyst, consultant, collaborator, trainer, and evaluator. Its mission is to disseminate information about positive ways to manage conflict, resolve disputes, and build foundations upon which these approaches can become part of our social institutions and our individual lives. The Commission focuses its efforts in four primary areas across Ohio's schools, courts, communities, and government.

The Commission works with a multitude of individuals and organizations to increase knowledge and use of dispute resolution techniques and to provide assistance in managing conflicts. Some of the avenues by which the Commission performs these services are listed below.

Training and Education - The Commission presents hundreds of hours of informational seminars and training workshops. In addition, the Commission maintains a resource center with publications, videotapes, and other materials about dispute resolution and conflict management.

Pilot Projects - In partnership with schools, courts, community groups, and state and local government officials, the Commission initiates pilot demonstration programs. It evaluates these programs to determine the best methods for implementing the use of dispute resolution techniques in various settings and circumstances.

Mediation and Facilitation Casework and Referrals - These services are provided for state and local government officials and agencies who are seeking assistance to resolve conflicts.

Commission Program Areas

Schools: The Commission, in collaboration with the Ohio Department of Education works to provide grant programs to supply primary and secondary schools with a comprehensive approach to implementing and maintaining conflict management programs. The Commission offers introductory information, consultation, training and program evaluation tools as well as providing opportunities for networking to schools.

Communities and Courts: The Commission works with court and community organizations to encourage and support the growth of programs throughout Ohio that provide conflict resolution services to neighbors, local businesses and consumers, and local governments and citizens. The Commission wants Ohio's citizens to have the opportunity to learn about effective ways to manage conflict and to be able to have a variety of dispute resolution options available.

Government: Commission staff provides training and consultation throughout state government in various agencies. Facilitation and mediation services are also available. The focus of these services is to increase the use conflict management in both internal and external operations. The Commission, in partnership with several organizations, has developed a program to train local government officials in problem solving and conflict management skills. It assists in resolving disputes among local government bodies or officials throughout the state.
 Write to us Riffe Center, 77 South High Street, 24th Floor Columbus, Ohio 43215-6108
Phone 614/752-9595 - Fax 614/752-968

Education as a Form of Non-violence

The Institute for Peace and Justice has many resources on educating for peace. See the pledge of non-violence

Go to  DIOCESAN & OTHER RELIGIOUS LEADERS  Also click on the ADVOCACY webpage.

"In the face of escalating violence, escalate love"

 Some Conflict Resolution Courses At Xavier University

Prophets and Non-Violence Theology 334: A study of Gandhi, King, Hanh (Buddist); Wink (Jesus), Dorothy Day. Study of the Fellowship of Reconciliation; examining the spiritual foundation of non-violence.
Class uses role playing, studies case scenarios of conflict situation. Begins with interpersonal relationships, then the class moves to church, political, and world issues. Sr. Rosie Miller.
Communication Arts 327, 296. Interpersonal Conflict Management. Week-end degree program. Ethan Raath. Personal conflict: Definition, styles of handling conflict, giving clear, complete messages, regulating anger, increasing communication and active listening abilities, employing win-win methods to conflict.
Keeping a journal which reflects insights into conflict and practical learning.
Studying negotiation for mutual gains, how to moderate conflict, third-party intervention, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Communication Arts 327 Interpersonal Conflict Management Mrs. Deborah Pearce
1. Definition of conflict 2. Styles of handling conflict 3. Developing clear, complete messages on important issues. 4. Power balances in relationships. 5. Conflict management. 6. Win-win problem solving.
Challenge of Peace in the Contemporary World TH 345 Dr. John Sniegocki
Peace understood holistically as social justice, ecological sustainability as well as absence of violent conflict. Interconnections of inner peace, interpersonal peace, and social peace.
Middle East, religious perspectives of peacemaking, non-violence, conflict resolution/transformation, human rights, international law, United Nations, impacts of economic globalization on social conflict.
Dr. Brennan Hill, Eight Spiritual Heroes, Their Search for God; Elise Boulding, Cultures of Peace Stephen Zunes Tinderbox: US Foreign Policy and Roots of Terrorism; Walter Wink Powers That Be Fisher ed. The Essential Gandhi; Thich Nhat Hanh, Essential Writings (Buddhist)
Theology 310 Marriage and the Family Jackie Hartman: Conflict in marriage and the family. Better ways to communicate. Use "I" statements vs. "you" statements. YOU statements tell another how they are feeling! You statements are often blaming or accusatory. I doesn't carry blame and can cause less resentment and defensiveness. Focus on behavior not the person. Behavior is easier to change than personality. Have an appropriate time and place to communicate. Summarize what other says; validate, affirm other's feelings, ask for clarification. Conflict resolution is not about winning a battle.
Dispute Settlement Human Resources 305 Dr. Mike Marmo. Role of advocates and neutrals. Cases examined. Case projects. Labor-management. Employer-employee that do not involve unions. Other disputes. Selecting an arbitrator, due process.
Office of Residence Life: Resident Assistants Assertiveness Training, Conflict Resolution, Confrontation skills.
Roommate agreement. Tool for setting expectations. Roommate relationships and general relationships with parents, friends, floor community, professors, etc.
Staff also has a day-long training on conflict resolution.

1. Take responsibility for your own actions 2. Confront others.

Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)

Student growth is also measured by "the other side of the report card."  Students actively engaged in class and come prepared, who cooperate with their peers, who resolve conflicts peacefully, who complete their work, who attend school often and on time, and who demonstrate initiative and leadership are more likely to succeed in school and, ultimately, in life.  If these characteristics are so important, why don't newspapers rank schools in terms of the social and emotional aspects of education as well as test scores?  In life, doesn't it matter who shows up, who works well with others, who can solve problems, who is prepared for what must be done, who can function as part of a team, and who is an ethical person?  Are these attributes any less important than algebra, geometry, chemistry, and spelling?

With the focus on the academic side of the report card, we risk losing sight of the other side--the side that reflects how we live with one another, whether we are inclined toward peace or war, and whether we have the skills we need to avoid violence.  The skills of sound character and citizenship have been termed emotional intelligence or social and emotion learning.  See  

Resources for Conflict Resolution

 A web-based clearinghouse for working with and learning from conflict in higher education is based at the College of Urban, Labor, and Metropolitan Affairs at Wayne State University.  e-mail: 313.577.4343

Violent Video Games

Instead of games that teach cooperation and healthy interaction, corporations are producing and marketing video games even for children rooted in a culture of sex and violence.  Point accumulation and game wins depend on the number of kills.  Murders can be graphic.  The game player, the child, is the killer.  The games teach criminal strategy, hit man skills and exploitive sex, including prostitution.  Sales of software are in the billions of dollars.  Critics say  the industry is every bit as central to the pop-entertainment universe as movies and music.  One video rewards players for stealing cars, assaulting police officers, and beating sex workers.  Another requires layers to run down pedestrians, including elderly women with walkers.  Completing all levels of the game requires the killing of 33,000 people.  Ethnic Cleansing begins when the player, a hooded Klansman or Neo-Nazi, emerges from a ghetto crack house, shooting into a crowd of brown-skinned opponents.  A young Palestinian Ahmad shoots Israeli settlers.

The perpetrators of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School were regular players of the video game Doom.  An eleven-year-old Japanese fan of the game Battle Royal slit a classmate's throat with a box cutter.  A fourteen-year-old cut off the head of an eleven-year-old.   The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Psychological Association have issued a joint statement on the impact of entertainment violence on children; these organizations concur that exposure to violence in media and video games contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares and fears of being harmed.  (See the US Surgeon General's Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior. Television and Growing Up: The Impact of Televised Violence.  Report to the Surgeon General, US Public Health Service, Rockville, Maryland: National Institute of Mental Health; 1972.  Publication Number HSM 72-9090.