Harder Than War: Catholic Peacemaking in Twentieth-Century America

By Patricia McNeal | Go to book overview

Preface

THIS BOOK BEGAN TWENTY years ago when I wrote my doctoral dissertation, "The American Catholic Peace Movement, 1928-1972." During the intervening years three significant changes took place that led me to update my research and write a more comprehensive study of American Catholic peacemaking in the twentieth century.

The first change took place in 1983 when the American Catholic hierarchy began to assume an important role in American public life by issuing pastoral letters that addressed society's main social problems. By explicitly stating the church's moral position and values, the hierarchy hoped not only to educate its members but also to occupy a central place in the public discourse about public policy in the United States, and thus to make a distinctive contribution to the life of a pluralistic society. The pastoral that received the greatest press coverage and discussion was The Challenge of Peace: God's Promise and Our Response. In this document, the Catholic hierarchy fully embraced the legitimacy of Catholic peacemakers who rejected the just war doctrine and looked to the Gospels as the source of their pacifist and nonviolent positions.

The second change was the historical study of the Vietnam War. A plethora of books on Vietnam filled the marketplace and a new field of study was created. Two recent political studies of the antiwar movement of the Vietnam era-- Charles DeBenedetti and Charles Chatfield , An American Ordeal: The Antiwar Movement of the Vietnam Era, and Melvin Small, Johnson, Nixon, and the Doves--made me acutely aware of how significant and distinctive a force religion was in the American Catholic peace movement when compared with the broader antiwar movement. Though Catholic pacifists were always

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