Catholic Social Teaching and Theologies of Peace in Northern Ireland
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Catholic Social Teaching and Theologies of Peace in Northern Ireland

Cardinal Cahal Daly and the Pursuit of the Peaceable Kingdom

Maria Power

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eBook - ePub

Catholic Social Teaching and Theologies of Peace in Northern Ireland

Cardinal Cahal Daly and the Pursuit of the Peaceable Kingdom

Maria Power

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This book investigates the response of the Catholic Church in Northern Ireland to the conflict in the region during the late Twentieth Century. It does so through the prism of the writings of Cardinal Cahal Daly (1917-2009), the only member of the hierarchy to serve as a bishop throughout the entire conflict.

This book uses the prolific writings of Cardinal Daly to create a vision of the 'Peaceable Kingdom' and demonstrate how Catholic social teaching has been used to promote peace, justice and nonviolence. It also explores the public role of the Catholic Church in situations of violence and conflict, as well as the importance for national churches in developing a voice in the public square.Finally, the book offers a reflection on the role of Catholic social teaching in contemporary society and the ways in which the lessons of Northern Ireland can be utilised in a world where structural violence, as evidenced by austerity, and reactions to Brexit in the United Kingdom, is now the norm.

This work challenges and changes the nature of the debate surrounding the role of the Catholic Church in the conflict in Northern Ireland. It will, therefore, be a key resource for scholars of Religious Studies, Catholic Theology, Religion and Violence, Peace Studies, and Twentieth Century History.

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1 Defining the Peaceable Kingdom

The conflict in Northern Ireland began during a time of evolution in the Catholic Church. The Second Vatican Council brought many changes which sought to return the Church to its early Christian roots of evangelisation through witness. At the most visible level, the liturgy was restyled; with the priest turning to face the people during the celebration of the Mass which was now in the vernacular, church architecture became plainer and more focused upon the inclusion of the congregation, and women religious adopted simpler modes of attire. Despite such headline-grabbing adjustments, it was in the areas of structure and responsibility that the most dramatic transformations were to be found, and it was through these that the values and practices of early Christianity could be most clearly restored and enacted. In theory, if not in practice, Catholicism now became an egalitarian religion with each section of the Church, clergy, religious, and laity having distinct roles or areas of responsibility that were equal in importance to one another. The Church thus sought to become a pastoral and prophetic voice within society, stepping back from its previous understanding of itself as a nation-state, instead seeking to promote human flourishing and adopting a missionary rather than political stance to facilitate this. ‘The council fathers were calling for a more adult form of participation [by the laity] in the life of the church. It was the laity who were to take the lead in applying the Gospel to the most pressing concerns of the modern age,’1 with the clergy ‘proclaiming a moral vision’ which would assist the laity in their process of discernment.
Local churches therefore needed to discern the most pressing concerns within their own areas. For the English and Welsh Church in the 1980s, for example, it was the damage being wrought by Thatcherism on already-deprived communities through its policy of deindustrialisation. But within Northern Ireland, there was only one issue: the need to bring an end to the violence and conflict that ravaged the region and destroyed the potential of everyone who lived there. To achieve this, Daly used his moral imagination to influence the development of the social order, guiding it towards the creation of the Peaceable Kingdom on earth whilst ensuring that Catholics were prepared for the afterlife. This process of moral imagination involved two elements: understanding the world as it is and envisaging it as it could be. Thus, the inequalities that triggered and sustained violence and conflict were highlighted, whilst the benefits of an alternative possible future in which inequality did not exist were expounded. All members of the Church were expected to play a role in this reordering of society, with the clergy and laity using their distinct areas of expertise to ensure that this moral reflection mirrored the teachings of Christ as shown in the New Testament and subsequently developed through the Magisterium. Daly’s reasoning in adopting such a method to overcome the violence and conflict in the region was characteristically clear: ‘Peace is a state of mind and of conviction before it is a state of society. It is an ideal and hope for communities, it is a vision of what human existence could be and should be, before it is a fact.’2 This short chapter, therefore, explains the meaning of the ‘moral imagination’ and places the methods used by Daly to achieve this within a wider context.

War and peace through a Catholic lens

This alteration can be seen in the Church’s changing attitudes towards the issues of war and peace. Before Vatican II, the Church’s stance regarding these matters was traditionally aligned with the teaching of Just War, the purpose of which ‘was not to rationalise violence, but to limit its scope and methods in a world where force was a tragic but necessary instrument of the political process.’3 Although Pius XII (r. 1939–1958) had reduced the legitimate causes of war from three (defence, avenging evil, and restoring violated rights) to one, self-defence of one’s own nation or of others being unjustly attacked,4 it was John XXIII who through his 1963 encyclical, Pacem in Terris,5 began to broaden the Magisterium’s understandings of war and peace. This task was continued in Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes and the Papal World Day for Peace Messages inaugurated by Paul VI (r. 1963–1978) on 1 January 1968. This allowed teachings on war and peace to be evaluated with ‘an entirely new attitude’6 and remain in a constant state of review and development for the rest of the twentieth century. Thus, through the teachings of John XXIII, an authentic pluralism in Catholic attitudes to war and peace emerged: just war and pacifism7 (and along with it the right to adopt a stance of conscientious objection)8 were from 1965 onwards both taught as legitimate Catholic responses to war and conflict.9
But what brought about this paradigm shift? The twentieth century witnessed a change in the nature and scale of warfare. War became increasingly mechanised and technologised and by the 1940s genocide was being enacted on an industrial scale.10 As James W Douglass argued in 1968:
The techniques of modern war, automatic and usually controlled at some point remote from the human victims, have made it possible for men to execute massive slaughters without feeling any of the normal pain or anguish implied in a single act of killing. Divorced from the living consequences of their actions, the technicians of military power have had no difficulty in justifying human carnage on their charts and boards, although few would wish to pour napalm personally over a child.11
The end of the Second World War also heralded the commencement of the nuclear age that brought with it the threat of the total annihilation of humanity, leading Popes to ‘sound increasingly clearer notes of caution and reserve about embarking on military solutions to political problems, or even defense against aggression.’12 Daly clearly understood the implications of such changes, writing in 1976:
When, however, the state of technology and the breakdown of the Christian moral consensus combine to make these efforts at restriction more and more unrealistic and irrelevant, then the time has come to ask whether there are in fact any situations of war or revolution in which the conditions for a just war or a just revolution could be verified. I believe that the theology of the just war is still valid in principle; but I see it as more and more difficult to verify its conditions in modern practice of either war or revolution.13
War and peace could therefore no longer be justified or evaluated on the same terms as before.
The Church’s definition of peace provided an acknowledgement of this new paradigm. Within the Catholic tradition, peace was not the mere absence of war or violence. Indeed, such a state of affairs was not considered to be peace at all. As Pius XI (r. 1922–1939) argued in 1922: ‘The nations today live in a state of armed peace which is scarcely better than war itself, a condition that tends to exhaust national finances, to waste the flower of youth, to muddy and poison the very fountainheads of life, physical, intellectual, religious and moral.’14 Catholic conceptions of peace therefore were somewhat different to those of other actors which prioritised security and focused upon often very short timelines.15 This resulted in the development of the state of affairs described by Pius XI. Its definition instead was built upon a desire to make peace, rather than violence and war, the social norm. Until 2003, the Catholic Church retained the idea that the sinful nature of human beings meant that ‘the danger of war hangs over them and will hang over them till the coming of Christ.’16 This did not mean that Christians were powerless to prevent it. Instead, from this viewpoint, peace was not a static state: rather, the understanding of the term employed by the Church offered a vision of society towards which all were expected to work. As Kenneth R Himes, put it, ‘Peace in the political realm was not simply a blessing from God but a task that was to be undertaken by human beings. Peace could be actualised as people of goodwill worked to create a more just social order.’17 This was the Peaceable Kingdom, a state which encompassed justice, the dignity of the human person, the common good, development, solidarity, and dialogue and accommodation with other ideologies, denominations, and religions. It was a collective endeavour undertaken by both God and humanity18 aimed at challenging and changing the social and political structures of society as well as the attitudes of individuals because as Daniel Levine argues, ‘individual acts of kindness and charity are negated by unjust structures of society.’19 All of the Popes since John XXIII have taught that peace could only exist when justice prevails. The most famous statement on this issue came from Paul VI in his 1972 World Day for Peace Message which taught that ‘if you want peace, work for justice.’20 The only way to achieve peace was through an ongoing collective praxis21 focused upon securing social justice which included amongst other things solidarity between peoples, both within communities and internationally, dialogue with the other, and development. Through this a positive c...


  1. Cover
  2. Half Title
  3. Series
  4. Title
  5. Copyright
  6. Dedication
  7. Contents
  8. Acknowledgements
  9. Introduction
  10. 1 Defining the Peaceable Kingdom
  11. 2 The Church as Peaceable Kingdom
  12. 3 Social and economic justice
  13. 4 Political justice
  14. 5 Direct violence
  15. Conclusion
  16. Bibliography
  17. Index