Harder Than War: Catholic Peacemaking in Twentieth-Century America

By Patricia McNeal | Go to book overview

4
The Birth of Nonviolence From World War II to Vatican II

FROM WORLD WAR II to Vatican II the main focus of the Catholic Worker, as well as the American peace movement, was the development of the concept of nonviolence as a means of social protest. Among American Catholics concerned about war and peace issues, the Catholic Worker alone moved beyond pacifism into nonviolence under the leadership of Robert Ludlow and Ammon Hennacy. The CAIP had no interest in nonviolence but aligned itself instead with the "realist" school of theologians led by John Courtney Murray, S.J., who attempted to apply just war principles to American nuclear policy. Both CAIP and the Catholic Worker, as well as the entire American peace movement, were greatly influenced during this time period by the Cold War.

After World War II, the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States permeated every aspect of American life. The peace movement retreated in face of the issues raised by the Cold War, such as the fear of communism, the arms race, and defensive security. The loyalty-security mania of the early 1950s led to McCarthyism, the domestic counterpart of the nation's foreign policy.1 Ironically, the Cold War accelerated the very forces the peace movement sought to restrain. Peacemakers continued their struggle by formulating alternatives to American military policies ( CAIP) and by serving as prophets of nonviolence (Catholic Worker).

The American peace movement had a long-term Interest in Gandhian nonviolence. Nonviolence is "the force which is born of Truth and Love" (satyagraha) and exercises "power or influence to effect change without injury to the opponent."2 Nonviolent resistance is a technique of action that employs noncooperation and civil

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