The peace of this world and God’s peace

The Pope’s recent World Day of Peace message suggests that Archbishop Martino, while perhaps one-sided in his statements, wasn’t speaking altogether in a vacuum. In his message, the Pope reviewed with approval the thought of his predecessor John XXIII in Pacem in Terris. He can’t help but present the encyclical as somewhat of a medley that began with the statement that “peace on earth … can be firmly established and sustained only if the order laid down by God be dutifully observed,” but soon moved to the United Nations and wholly abstract definitions of truth, justice, love and freedom—to all appearances, an order of things laid down by purely human reason and desire.

Both popes attempt to square the circle in various ways, although John Paul II seems more vividly aware of the dangers of over-reliance on formal procedures and authorities rather than particular substantive moral commitments. The problem though is that if the latter are necessary, there’s no reason to believe that wars will come to an end. It’s like expecting sin to come to an end. But then “working for peace” becomes a matter of trying to resolve particular issues rather than creating the gigantic structures of universal permanent peace that people want. The very possibility of a “peace movement” as now understood in the world at large disappears. And if that’s right it’s not clear what these messages, with their talk of a “new stage” of the human journey, are about.

(Some background relevant to various “peace movements” can be garnered from a recent article at FrontPage about the failures of rationalist foreign policy.)

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