Catholic Church is journeying back to its nonviolent roots

The Catholic Church preaches, teaches and practices total nonviolence.

This statement is not true regarding the Catholic Church today. But it was an accurate and true description of the Catholic Church during its first 300 years.

The first generations of Christians – even during times of severe persecution – took most seriously Jesus’ commands: “But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. … Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

But this drastically changed when Emperor Theodosius I issued the Edict of Thessalonica in 380 A.D., making Catholic Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire. This marriage of church and state swung open the doors for Christian participation in the military of the Roman Empire. And sadly, Christians have been fighting for empires ever since.

But modern era popes have been leading the Catholic Church step-by-step back to its nonviolent beginnings; back to its peace-centered Gospel roots.

From St. Pope John XXIII to Pope Francis, popes have strongly condemned violence, war and all forms of bloodshed.

The Holy See’s former nuncio (ambassador) to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, said the Vatican attitude for centuries was: “War is inevitable, so let’s put some strict conditions to limit its effects [the just-war theory]. In these last decades we have adopted a different perspective and we say peace is possible, so let’s work tirelessly for peaceful solutions.”

The Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) – in leadership support of 17,000 religious priests and brothers in the U.S. – on Aug. 3, at their national assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution titled “Gospel Nonviolence: The Way of the Church.”

In their resolution, the CMSM resolve to pray and educate for conversion to Gospel nonviolence in the Catholic Church and beyond – including in their formation programs, schools and preaching.

And to those who falsely claim that practicing nonviolence allows those using violence to freely harm and kill with no resistance, the Conference of Major Superiors of Men offers effective nonviolent alternatives to war and all other forms of violence.

They have committed themselves to advancing practices of restorative justice which focuses on the harm done and how to heal that harm, unarmed civilian protection which provides direct nonviolent accompanying protection, nonviolent resistance which opposes injustice and violence through non-cooperation as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement did, and nonviolent civilian-based defense which mounts nonviolent defense as was done in the Philippines during the repressive Marcos regime.

Very Rev. Brian Terry, president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, sums up well the nonviolent challenge of Jesus facing the Catholic Church: “We need always to remember the words of Pope Francis which reminds us that if we are not giving witness to the Gospel of Christ we are giving testimony to something else.”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century,” has been well received by diocesan and parish gatherings from Santa Clara, Calif. to Baltimore, Md. Tony can be reached at


Over 20 million people facing starvation – and we should care!

By Tony Magliano
Think to a time when you were hungry. Remember how it felt, a bit uncomfortable, right? You may have even said, “I’m starving!” But you knew that in a short time the next meal would be there for you. Knowing that a good meal was awaiting you allowed your slight hunger to actually whet your appetite.

Now imagine that you are very hungry and have no idea where the next meal will come from for you and your family. In this case your hunger is physically painful and terrifyingly stressful.

Imagine now that there is no work to be found, the drought has dried up your crops. Your livestock is dead. And you and your family have eaten the last seeds that were meant for next season’s planting.

This is how many Africans are feeling, especially those in South Sudan, Somalia, Northeast Nigeria, and nearby Yemen. In these nations over 20 million people are facing famine and starvation. Armed conflict and severe drought are the main engines driving this emergency – the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II.

“Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death” and “many more will suffer and die from disease,” said Stephen O’Brien, U.N. under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs. He emphasized that to avert a catastrophe, immediate adequate funding from wealthy nations is critical.

O’Brien said the largest humanitarian emergency was in Yemen – the Arab world’s poorest nation – where two-thirds of the population – 18.8 million people – desperately need aid, and over seven million people are hungry and don’t know where their next meal will come from.

Compounding the famine, Yemen is now facing the world’s worst cholera outbreak according to the U.N. which has placed blame on all sides of the nation’s ongoing conflict between the U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia-led coalition and the Houthis.

An editor friend of mine in Nigeria put me in touch with Bishop Stephen Mamza, head of the northeast Nigerian Diocese of Yola. Bishop Mamza sent me a report with his assessment of the crisis in Yola. His report states that the U.N. World Food Program’s response to the food crisis in Nigeria is critically underfunded, meaning that hundreds of thousands of food insecure Northeast Nigerians are not being helped.

Please email and call your two U.S. senators and congressperson highlighting this emergency, and urging that instead of slashing funding to programs that feed desperately hungry fellow human beings and programs that assist the poorest of the poor to build self-sustaining lives, the 2018 fiscal year budget needs to robustly increase funding for these life-saving programs.

And urge them to stop supplying weapons to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, and instead to broker an immediate cease-fire with total access to humanitarian relief.

Catholic Relief Services is on the ground in Bishop Mamza’s diocese and throughout Northeast Africa working to ease the suffering. Please help them expand their life-saving efforts by making a generous donation to CRS’ “Africa Hunger Crisis Emergency Fund.”

“For I was hungry and you gave me food” (Matt. 25: 31-46).

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century,” has been well received by diocesan and parish gatherings from Santa Clara, Calif. to Baltimore, Md. Tony can be reached at

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