Ash Wednesday

March 1, 2017

For immediate release

Priests’ group seeks Catholic commitment to ‘Gospel non-violence’

A national priests' group has cited the words of Pope Francis: "Let us make non-violence our way of life," as they pledged support and offered assistance to U.S. bishops regarding international justice and peace.

The 1,200 member Association of U.S. Catholic Priests sent a letter January 30 to Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, who is the chairman-elect of the American bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace.

Writing for the AUSCP, Father Bernard "Bob" Bonnot said the association "promises to support you, Archbishop, and your committee, when you publicly advocate for active nonviolence, when you address the justice issues of racism, xenophobia, sexism, Islamophobia, and vast economic inequality in order to relieve terrifying suffering in the international community."

Contents of the letter are being released for all Catholics to consider the path of Gospel non-violence at the beginning of Lent. The AUSCP letter offers to assist bishops "in integrating 'Gospel nonviolence' into the many dimensions of Catholic life and institutions, in a way that speaks to the hearts of all, including military personnel."

The AUSCP, in collaboration with Pax Christi and other organizations, asks to accompany the bishops' committee members, "to study and promote the practice of active nonviolence, and to engage people of goodwill in supporting active nonviolent activities worldwide." 

The letter offers some specific actions for the bishops' committee to consider:

• to advocate abolishing war and nuclear weapons

• to discontinue the teaching of the Just War theory and to articulate an ethic of Just Peace

• to call for the elimination of funding for weaponized drones, "whose use outside of declared war constitutes a form of state terrorism"

The priests' letter seeks to promote "active non-violence" as the way to "avoid becoming what we are against." The AUSCP suggests that Catholic leaders draw attention "to the noble resistance" of Ben Salmon, a Denver Catholic who refused to participate in World War I and accepted years of imprisonment, solitary confinement and the possibility of the death penalty.

The bishops have announced the canonization cause for a Vietnam chaplain and recipient of the Medal of Honor, Father Vincent Capodanno. The priests suggest the cause of Ben Salmon to be as worthy.

The priests ask the bishops to consider April 6, the one hundredth anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I as a day to draw attention to the life and non-violent commitment of Ben Salmon, and to be an opportunity to advocate Gospel non-violence as a way of life.

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For additional comment or more information, contact the co-chairs of the AUSCP Working Group on Gospel Non-Violence:

Rev. Bernard “Bernie” Survil (724) 523-0291 or bsurvil@uscatholicpriests.us

Rev. Harry J. Bury Ph.D (651) 698-0221 or hbury@bw.edu

The chair of the AUSCP Leadership Team is Rev. Bernard “Bob” Bonnot, auscpbonnot@gmail.com, or (330) 397-1257.

Sister Jacquelyn Doepker, OSF, is executive secretary, AUSCP, office@uscatholicpriests.org, (872) 205-5862, 200 St. Francis Avenue, Tiffin, Ohio 44883.

 See the AUSCP Website: http://www.uscatholicpriests.org

Information about Ben Salmon may be found at www.bensalmon.org.

Among sites about Father Capodanno:

https://vvmf.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/the-road-to-canonization-father-capodanno/

 

Text of the Archbishop Broglio letter is added, below:

January 30, 2017

Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio

Chairman-Elect, USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace

P.O. Box 4469

Washington, DC 20017-1836

 

Dear Archbishop Broglio,

We, the Association of US Catholic Priests (AUSCP) write to acknowledge your appointment as the Chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). It is a salient responsibility. We pledge our prayers and our willingness to assist you in this important task.

"Let us make nonviolence our way of life," Pope Francis stated in his message for the 50th World Day of Peace celebrated January 1, 2017. We trust you are as encouraged by these words of our Holy Father as we are.

Jesus lived and taught nonviolence; he walked that path to the very end, to the cross. Pope Francis calls this, "a radically positive approach." He writes, "To be followers of Jesus today includes embracing Jesus' teaching about nonviolence." Pope Francis quotes Pope Benedict who said that the command to love our enemies "is the magna carta of Christian Nonviolence....It does not consist in succumbing to evil ... but in responding to evil with good, and thereby breaking the chain of injustice."

Pope Francis further writes, "May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within the society, and in international life. When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the hallmark of our actions, our relationships, and indeed of political life in all its forms."

AUSCP promises to support you, Archbishop, and your committee, when you publicly advocate for active nonviolence, when you address the justice issues of racism, xenophobia, sexism, Islamophobia, and vast economic inequality in order to relieve terrifying suffering in the international community. 

Is it possible for our association of priests to assist you in integrating "Gospel nonviolence" into the many dimensions of Catholic life and institutions, in a way that speaks to the hearts of all, including military personnel? The Association of US Catholic Priests and Pax Christi would like to accompany your committee, to study and promote the practice of active nonviolence, and to engage people of goodwill in supporting active nonviolent activities worldwide. 

We further invite you, and your committee, to advocate abolishing war and nuclear weapons, to discontinue the teaching of Just War theory, and to articulate an ethic of Just Peace.  Thus we urge your committee to advocate for budget cuts to the US nuclear arsenal as well as the reduction of military spending, so that the least of our brothers and sisters are not denied what is their due in gospel justice. We also urge your committee to call for the elimination of funding for weaponized drones, whose use outside of declared war constitutes a form of state terrorism.

Both your committee and our association are aware of the need for peace with justice at home, in our neighborhoods, our churches, our cities, and our country, before we can be a vital witness to the international community. We are conscious of our need for peace within ourselves. We believe we need to avoid becoming what we are against. In opposing injustice, we need to avoid mirroring in our hearts and minds the very patterns we are resisting. Active nonviolence is the way to prevent this.  How can we implement this? We suggest that, on this 100th anniversary of our country’s entry into World War I, can we not draw attention to the noble resistance of a Denver Catholic, Ben Salmon (www.bensalmon.org) in his willingness to face the death penalty rather than train to kill his fellow European Catholics? An ethic of a Just Peace would make this cause as possible as your consideration of the worthiness of Fr. Vincent Capodonna.   

Our association of priests is ready to help your work to advance democracy, human rights, and interdependence, while fostering a just and sustainable economic development which, we judge to be inseparable.

May we join with you, your committee, and Pope Francis to strive to manage conflict through active nonviolence and thrive, living in peace with justice?

Your Brothers in Christ,

Fr. Bob Bonnot, Chair

AUSCP Leadership Team