PAST and FUTURE
Categories: BLOG |
Posted: 13/03/2019 |
In this week's blog Bruce Kent, renowned justice campaigner, Vice-President of CND, Pax Christi, and the Movement for the Abolition of War reflects on a life of campaigning and questioning.
Over many years I have acquired quite a collection of papal and episcopal pastoral letters, statements and instructions. They have something to say on a wide variety of subjects. Some ring much louder bells than others. Top of my chart comes the message Pope Francis sent to a Rome Symposium on Disarmament in 2017. He had this to say about nuclear weapons: 'The threat of their use as well as their very possession is to be firmly condemned.’
Out of the church window go decades of unconvincing moral distinctions between deterrence and use.
My runner up for first prize goes to the bishops of the world for their 1971 statement on justice. It came out in English with the title Our World and You and runs to 12 pages. This sentence is my favourite: 'We are called to preach…the good news of the mission of Christ to liberate mankind. Right at the heart of this preaching lies the work we must do for Justice.’
Charity is vital but so too is justice. Charity is not too difficult: be loving and generous to those in trouble and dig deep into your pocket when the call comes.
Justice however is much more uncomfortable. In a rich world why are some people starving? Where do all the weapons come from that make wars - Yemen for instance - possible? Why is the United Nations Charter not available on church bookstalls? Why was there no church outcry when it was decided to spend at least £200 billion, not on the NHS, but on yet another set of nuclear weapons? Are there not moral problems when the rich can have spare homes while some of the poor have nowhere to live?
In that powerful 1971 document there is a bit about the Church's own witness. For instance it says: ‘To help all members of the church take part in the making of decisions Councils at every level should be set up’. Well there are some diocesan and parochial councils but most of us are still waiting.
These were all very new ideas to those of my vintage generation. Justice raised questions of politics and that, so many then thought, was for the politicians. So called 'Charity' law made it, then and now, financially safer to avoid contentious issues of 'politics'.
My 'mistake' was to get involved with Pax Christi at an early stage. An accident really, since all I wanted was to recommend some good holiday experiences for the members of 'my' youth club. Pax Christi led me onto CND, to the International Peace Bureau, to War on Want, to Prison Reform projects and to the Catholic Worker movement. Beware - once you start sliding it’s not easy to stop! I don’t regret a moment of it and am still more than happy to be an active member, not in the way I had planned, of our universal church. But then someone brighter than me said once that God writes straight with crooked lines. Or something like it.
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