War and peace


In October 1966, Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan and his then auxiliary bishop, Joseph L. Bernardin, issued a joint pastoral letter to the people of the Archdiocese of Atlanta on the issue of “War and Peace.” In his foreword to the book, Days of Hope and Promise, The Writings and Speeches of Paul J. Hallinan, Archbishop of Atlanta, the future cardinal archbishop of Chicago, Joseph L. Bernardin, wrote of his friend and mentor: “He felt as a bishop one of his main responsibilities was to help those around him see how the Christian faith was related to their daily lives. … To accomplish this he constantly addressed himself to the real issues of the day regardless of how controversial they might be. He was one of the first bishops, for example, to speak out on the moral implications of the war in Vietnam. He disagreed completely with those who considered the war as a matter which should be left exclusively to the generals, the diplomats and the politicians.”

The future cardinal then quoted from their joint pastoral letter, War and Peace. “We must speak out; we cannot remain silent. In his novel, War and Peace, Tolstoy asks how men can ignore the continued disasters in which ‘Christians, professing the law of love, murder one another.’ Christian consciences and voices must be raised against the savagery and terror of war. We must speak out — for justice, for truth, for freedom and for peace.”

The archbishop who had served our nation as a military chaplain in the Second World War and his then auxiliary bishop wrote that all Catholics needed to speak out giving “an effective witness to the Gospel message which provides a sure framework for universal brotherhood. This must be based on mutual respect and love so essential to the establishment of peace. For this reason, an American Catholic who has lost his moral perspective on war can hardly be called a true patriot.”

The two bishops were clearly challenging Catholics in the midst of a war to encourage their fellow citizens and those with whom our nation was in conflict to have “mutual respect and love for each other.” Obviously, this was and still is a difficult challenge to accept, much less to preach to those who are convinced that killing is an acceptable way to solve human difference. In the Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II describes this attitude as the culture of death that Christians must seek to change with the Gospel of Life. Yes, in fear, there are those who encourage us to hate and to kill our enemies, but if we are to be true to the Gospel, we must encourage among all people mutual respect and love.

The two Catholic bishops in Atlanta in 1966 wrote this about what true patriotism demands: “The well being of every nation depends on the patriotism of its citizens. The American Catholic — citizens, soldiers, pacifist — has held an honorable place in our country’s history side by side with those of other faiths. The bishops of Vatican Council II, however, clearly point out that there is a significant difference between true patriotism, which ‘is living for God and Christ by following the honorable customs of one’s nation,’ and ‘false patriotism, which stems from a narrowing of mind … racial prejudice and bitter nationalism.’ True patriotism, in other words, does not end at a nation’s borders. That American is truly patriotic who, while devoting himself to the legitimate needs and concerns of his country, also seeks ‘the welfare of the whole human family … a universal love for all people.”

In May 1967, Archbishop Hallinan in Detroit shared what he entitled “Remarks on War and Peace.” In this speech, he elaborated on what had appeared in his pastoral letter of October 1966. He also wrote that in his mind, there were several moral issues that did not need to be debated but accepted: “the indiscriminate destruction and/or methodical extermination of cities and peoples; the acknowledgement of the courage and honesty of the honest soldier and the honest pacifist; escalation and overkill; full access to all the necessary facts from civil and military leaders; the use of international bodies working for peace like the United Nations.”

Archbishop Hallinan, in his pastoral and in his “Remarks on War and Peace” given in Detroit, made his own the observations of Pope John XXIII that “in an age which prides itself on its atomic energy, it is unreasonable to hold that war is still a suitable way to restore violated rights; and of Pope Paul VI at the United Nations on Oct. 4, 1965: “No more war, war never again.”

And he made his own the words of his fellow Ohioan, General William Tecumesh Sherman, given, according to the archbishop, a dozen years after Appomattox to the graduates of the Michigan Military Academy: “I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.” The archbishop noted the last three words are the shortest definition of war on record.

Msgr. Thomas R. Duffy is pastor of St. Michael Church in Garden City and dean of the Pee Dee Deanery.