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Then and Now


On February 2, 1981, Pope John Paul II delivered an address to members of the NATO Defense College, on the topic of war and peace. Here’s the money quote:

In my recent Encyclical I pointed out that foremost among the threats to peace was not only the stockpiling of atomic weapons, but a manipulation of the very notion of peace itself for the purposes of self-interested parties. In this regard I stated: ‘The technical means at the disposal of modern society conceal within themselves not only the possibility of self-destruction through military conflict, but also the possibility of a ‘peaceful’ subjugation of individuals, of environments, of entire societies and of nations, that for one reason or another might prove inconvenient for those who possess the necessary means and are ready to use them without scruple. An instance is the continued existence of torture, systematically used by authority as a means of domination and political oppression and practised by subordinates with impunity.”

Thus there can be no peace where the dignity of human individuals is denied. For wherever we find the domination by one person over another in the latter’s choice of destiny or rightful access to the truth, there we will already discover the seeds of a bitter resentment or deep-seated animosity. Yes, guaranteeing freedom is an essential part of working for peace.

It seems to me that if the Pope still held to this vision, he wouldn’t be opposed to the war on Iraq, or at the very least not so stridently opposed. What do you suppose happened in the last 22 years to change him?


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