26 Responses to “Thomas Merton, Nonviolence and The Common Good”

  1. Matthew M. Says:

    Fair enough. But, let us therefore remember that there various forms of violence; and that ALL life is then sacred from the very moment of conception to natural death.

    • Good points, Matthew. True faith challenges those whose “pro-life” stance is simply an anti-abortion position. True faith challenges those whose “non-violence” stance is simply an anti-war/death penalty position.

  2. Both of you guys have great points! I couldn’t agree more! Consistent Ethic of Life at all stages and for all members of the human family. Peace and good!

    • Matthew M. Says:

      And, just to clarify, I am slowing conceeding on the death penalty issue, however, greatly struggle with the anti-just war concept. As I told the the confirmation class, we are all a work in progress!

      • The death penalty is interesting to me in that the roles of atheists and Fundamentalists seem to be reversed. Most ateists and Catholics oppose the death penalty.

        For the atheist, the death penalty makes sense, because the punishment by way of terminating the killer’s life is the only “justice” the killer wil receive.

        Yet for the true believer, it seems obvious that the death penalty is wrong. “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, “I will repay.” Yet folks in the Bible Belt, who don’t seem to do much deep thinking, are rabid about practicing it.

        Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

        As for myself, I’m against the death penalty–but it’s for reasons pertaining to “the common good.” Personally I think there are things that some people have done that are so appalling tht it shocks the conscience not to remove them from life. Yet, on the other hand, the world seems to be gradually moving toward greater humanity. Obviously a good thing, and something that the abolition of the death penalty promotes.

        I’m happy to see the world condemning Syria for the regime’s atrocities. Maybe someday. . .

      • Matthew M. Says:

        Capital punishment does have an interesting complexity. I do find it odd the viewpoint of atheists. For me it would seem they would be more apt to support, as the base concept is to protect the “common good”, but I could be over-emphazing Hume.

        As for me, I only recently started to swayed to the possibility of capital punishment (within the confines of temporal justice) as not being in keeping with Catholic “social teachings”. I attribute some to Deacon Dan, (but cannot espouse the OFM “total” concept), but a great deal to a talk given by Fr. Daniel Francis, CSsR in Annapolis. He relayed a story of a Catholic Nazi war criminal in Nurnberg. The Nazi wanted a priest to hear his confession. The tribunal officials finally found one — a old POLISH priest. The priest took three days to hear the man’s confession, and in the end, he gave him a blessing and absolved him.

        Now, Fr. Francis retold this story not for any political agenda, but as an example to a group of young people, to demonstrate mercy, compassion, and true call and effort of a priestly vocation, which surprasses all temporal understanding and reason. It is the true essence and power of redemption, and what I believe should be rationale for injustice of capital punishment.

        There are practical and ecomonical reasons, (much the same as pro-abortionist use saying there are already too many people in the world, or the “what if” scenarios), that make capital punishment logical. But, again that opens an entirely new discussion.

      • >>Fr. Daniel Francis, CSsR in Annapolis. He relayed a story of a Catholic Nazi war criminal in Nurnberg. The Nazi wanted a priest to hear his confession. The tribunal officials finally found one — a old POLISH priest. The priest took three days to hear the man’s confession, and in the end, he gave him a blessing and absolved him. <<

        –Absolution of sins most importantly forgives sins (and, when done before death, ensures one dies in a "state of grace", able to eventually enter heaven)–

        Is that story supposed to impress me or depress me?

        It seems horrible–and on many many levels. (Although I admit I'm not up-to-speed with knowing the rationale behind the concept and other theological details.)

      • Matthew M. Says:

        Both. I can only give you my personal insight after speaking and knowing Fr. Francis, CSsR.

        The first has to do with the supernatural calling of a priest as in Persona Christe. We all know that the priest is a man, but when he is fulfilling the holy role of the sacraments, he rises above his mere temporal and human state. (BTW, this is one of the issues with post Vatican II). Fr. Daniel F, was challenging all of us to think about being able to attempt to separate ourselves from our temporal selves, “justice” and revenge. It is not an easy task.

        The second point/question you bring up gets into the whole Hell and Purgatory discussion, and on that topic, I am certainly not qualified, nor is there enough space in a blog comment to unwrap that onion. Prehaps Deacon Dan, might use that as a future topic.

      • I’m taking notes. These are interesting concepts and you all are obviously well-informed and thoughtful men. I need to follow this blog more–it’s an excellent (and free) education.

      • Just to clarify, as well, I do not embrace non-violence in the way that Br. Dan does. We have discussed our differences. If somebody enters my house in the middle of the night with violent intentions, I could not in good conscience embrace non-violence as father or husband as the only solution.

      • To Jared:

        For whatever it’s worth, I think your position is entirely justifiable. Both Brother Dan and I are single, and that places us in a different position and perspective than someone like you who has a family to care for. And of course Brother Dan is a Franciscan, which is a much higher position than I have, to say the least. However, my lesser spirituality may allow me to be more sympathetic to your circumstances, in a practical and justifiable way.

        I think in instances like this, it is necessary to turn to a moral authority of good and time-honored standing. So, since I’m studying matters related to issues of this type, I did some searching on the net. I also recalled a passage from the Bible.

        The Biblical passage is:

        42:012:039

        “And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.”

        The two references I got on the net are these–

        The first one is from the Catholic Encyclopedia, while the second one is from an article written by someone who believes it is wrong to kill in self defense, yet he also seems to, in an oblique way, concede that the duty a father has to his family is paramount.

        Catholic Encyclopedia–

        Everyone has the right to defend his life against the attacks of an unjust aggressor. For this end he may employ whatever force is necessary and even take the life of an unjust assailant. As bodily integrity is included in the good of life, it may be defended in the same way as life itself. It must be observed however that no more injury may be inflicted on the assailant than is necessary to defeat his purpose.

        http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13691a.htm

        From the second source–

        In the New Testament, however, humanity is called to “live for righteousness” by not resisting evildoers. This distinction between justice and righteousness also appears in the works of Augustine and Aquinas. Augustine, for example, describes the law that permits individuals to kill highway robbers as being just while admitting that he “can’t think of any way to defend those who do the killing.” Similarly, Aquinas describes killing in self-defense as being lawful while suggesting that such action bars one from holy orders. Ramsey, unlike Augustine and Aquinas, does not address the question of justice but instead requires Christians to defend themselves whenever their failure to do so “would involve greater burdens or injury to others.”

        http://www.ashbrook.org/publicat/thesis/spelman/spelman.pdf

        I think it’s that last part that gives you the soundest foundation for your justification, for you are not a single person, responsible only for your own well-being, but rather you also have the obligation to prevent a burden from the loss of a husband and father upon your family.

        >Christians to defend themselves whenever their failure to do so “would involve greater burdens or injury to others.”<

      • Please note that the version of The Catholic Encyclopedia you reference here is the 1917 version and considered entirely out-of-date. There were two subsequent revisions, the most recent in 2002. As for sources on this matter, I suggest looking at the Papal Encyclicals of John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI in addition to the USCCB’s seminal 1983 Document The Challenge of Peace and its 1993 text The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace.

      • Matthew M. Says:

        Respectfully, just because something is old and/or dated from 1917, does not make it obsolete. It may be dusty. If that were that case, the Bible should not be considered. 1917 was a good year (other than WWI). Cannon Law of the Church was established following the papacy of SSPX.

      • Unfortunately, Matthew, that is not true — particularly as both canon law (as you mention) and theology, more relevantly, are concerned. You cannot rely on a text that was published decades before the Second Vatican Council and the progression of magisterial teaching on Catholic Social Thought. If you want to consult The Catholic Encyclopedia, use the most recent edition that actually reflects the current teaching of the church.

      • Matthew M. Says:

        In reference to Catholic Encyclopedia, fair enough. Any non-authoritative document/collection etc, should be the most current.

        However, on the underlying point, it is unfortunate that we will agree to disagree. My point, while presented flippantly, was that just because something is dated pre-Vatican II or post, does not make it either obsolete or “gospel” (not in reference to the Gospels.) That is (IMHO) the joy, mystery, and beauty of our Church.

        In fact why is that so many of the teachings of the saints, especially the Doctors of the Church, St. Augustine, St. Thomas, St. Francis, considered so important, and all of these lived well before all “modernity” by today’s definition.

        Now, one knows at least part of my faith journey. I am far from being a traditionalist or sedevacant, but I also firmly believe that the spirit of Vatican II, has led to the some misteps. I am ever so grateful to JPII and Benedict XVI, moreover our Faith, but I also appreciate SSPX and others who have guided the Church.

      • Hah-hah

        I admit that my knowledge on much of these issues is limited–very limited. For instance, I know nothing of Vatican II, JPII, Benedict XVI, Cannon Law of the Church, and the papacy of SSPX.

        You can however count on me being honest in my statements — I might be wrong about something — but it won’t be because I’m being intentionally dishonest.

        So, the agreeing or disagreeing is just coincidental.

        As far as, “why is that so many of the teachings of the saints, especially the Doctors of the Church, St. Augustine, St. Thomas, St. Francis, considered so important. . .”

        Like Plato and Aristotle, they laid the foundation for all further discussions on these topics, did they not?

      • Matthew M. Says:

        Correct. And, although we may be coming from different directions, we are at least on the same map, hopefully the same date ;-) !

      • Matthew M. Says:

        Wow. Thank you so very much for this.

      • I have to echo Mathew M.’s sentiment. Yet, I’d go a step further and say that time-honored sources are the best. I agree that refinements canbe made, but “entirely out-of-date” makes someone like me think: What’s the use in studying?

        I tried learning pogramming a while back, but I found it far too annoying, because they kept changing the rules every six months.

        There are not ten commandments in the Old Testament–there’s over six hundred of them. Some are so incredibly obvious–and of such a nature that I can’t even alude to them on this thread. I will say though that even gorillas (the moral ones anyway) abide by many of the commandments.

        Years ago I read an economics book, and the author had the kind of sense of humor that I like. He said one definition of economics was “Common sense made difficult.” And indeed, some of it was. Hhe-heh.

        I have that site in decent shape, in case anyone wants to check it out. I’m open to suggestions for improving it.

        http://astudyoftheoldtestament.wordpress.com/

      • Matthew M. Says:

        Mr. Miller et al. I believe we may be on the verge of great Apocalypse, if we agree too much!!! ;-)

      • Donald–thanks for your thoughtful response that I enjoyed reading. I truly detest violence and I am way too sensitive–the news makes me misty-eyed on a nightly basis. In terms of non-violence, exceptions must be made for defense and the refusal to use force in certain situations is sinful. I have never been able to get a straight answer to this question from a person who rejects the use of deadly force in all situations: What should the passengers on flight 93 done on 911? They knew with certainty that the plane was going to be used to slam into a building and kill countless others. When I have asked this in the past, I have only gotten rhetoric about mid-eastern politics. I really believe that the passengers were heroes and had no other moral option than to use force against their hijackers. Killing a human person is always evil, but it is sometimes a lesser evil than the refusal to kill.

  3. >Can any war be just? Or does war and violent force simply advance the partisan interest of a particular person or persons over against the collective interest of the common good?<

    The American Revolution is my favorite example of a just war. I don't think any group made a better case that their cause was just than the Founding Fathers. Those documents, it seems to me, are a high water mark in human history.

    The founders considered the armed conflict merely an unpleasant necessity to the government they wished to establish. That in itself was a unique perspective, and unfortunately one that is rare.

    • Matthew M. Says:

      Mr. Miller, don’t look to much at the stars, planets, or moon, and stand-by fore the Earth may shake…..I agree with you whole heartedly, and there are other examples, but, I won’t push too much of the moment. Be well!

  4. Hi Matthew,

    I found “the Earth may shake” in Isaiah. Didn’t haveany luck with the “to much at the stars, planets, or moon, and stand-by” part.

    Okay. You can push the point later if you like. : )

    So long for now. . .

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