Justice and Peace

1 January 1999

One of the problems with life is that from time to time it presents us with puzzles. One of the puzzles I’ve come across is how to deal with Justice and Peace.

The higher reaches of J&P are quite different from the parish groups. Although, they are all good kind people, rather like Pope Francis, to me their aim seemed to be to propagate political correctness and liberation theology under the misguided impression that this was Christianity. After 40 years of trying, I have been quite unable to change their minds and, as far as I can tell those in charge at national and diocesan level are just the same today. And this despite the fact that one of the people who persuaded Pope Paul to found J&P was my great hero Fr Arthur McCormack MHM. Modern J&P dismisses out of hand their co-founder’s urging that population growth must be controlled: they thus make it almost impossible to achieve justice and peace, as we can see in Africa and the Middle East.

Sometime in the 1990s I wrote a page to ease my exasperation. It did not seem right for me to publish it or send it to anyone whilst I was treasurer or soon after retiring, but now that decades have passed perhaps it is OK to state my opinion. My difficulty is that whilst the upper echelons are pushing political correctness and liberation theology and doing harm, the parish J&P groups are mostly doing great good even though on a small scale: supporting financially and in other ways various schemes in poor countries. This is what, in the 1950s and 1960s, I had hoped would be the Church’s response to poverty, but on a very much greater scale.

My difficulty is that my criticism of the politically correct, anti-capitalist ideologues may be thought to apply to parish groups which in fact are mostly marvellous. So please bear this in mind when reading my page on J&P.


Written before 2000 just for myself to help me calm down

When we put on our Justice and Peace hats, or the hats we wear for Vocation for Justice, the Catholic Institute for International Relations, or even CAFOD in its campaigning mode – when, indeed, we are in that happy state of being always right and always in the right – we do suffer from one difficulty, and that is, we are unable to take the advice to look occasionally for any minor fault of our own. That is to say, to put it picturesquely, to look for any mote or speck in our own eyes, which could be blurring our vision.

The principal reason for this is, of course, that, as is well known, when we are wearing any one of these hats, we do not have a speck or mote in either of our eyes. There is also an important secondary reason; namely, the fact that, even if there were such a speck, any time spent looking for it, would be time which could have been better spent in the much more important task of trying to dig out the great logs, beams, and planks stuck – irremovably as far as I can tell – in the eyes of everyone else.

Is there anyway in which we can get the feeling of having a bit of grit in the eye so as to get some insight into why everyone else is so blind? No, there isn’t. Freedom from any blurring of our vision whilst we wear these hats is absolute, serene and life long.

But, when wearing our other hats, at least for myself, the situation is not so serene. We may need to be ready for a surprise when we see family planners and capitalists, sinners and profiteers all, ahead of us in the only queue that matters. We all want to be in that queue, but I wonder if our relentless criticism of almost everyone else will turn out to be a plus point in securing a place, however far down the list.

Can anything be said to prepare for any surprise when these things come to be assessed? Yes there is.

If the use of contraception turns out not to be a mortal sin, and if rapid population increase turns out to be a major, even the major cause, of extreme poverty, it is possible that our silence on this matter may turn out to be less praiseworthy than the activities of the family planners.

And further. If capitalist economic systems turn out to be better systems for providing food, drinkable water, sanitation, shelter, education and medical care for the poor than communist economic systems, or than other systems smiled upon by our organisations, (and when we look at the astonishing improvement in living conditions in the Far East, this seems to be so) then we are not in such a strong position as we might have thought.

So, just in case, just to be on the safe side, perhaps when we hurl necessary criticism at these capitalists and profiteers, we should do so not so much from our present stance of “everyone’s wrong except us”, but rather from a position which could best be described as “sackcloth and ashes”.