Author - Maryann Cusimano Love

Pope Francis, Action, and Dialogue
Atomic Anniversaries and Nuclear Disarmament
Pope Francis Changes the Conversation on Climate Change
The God Squad
Just War Against ISIL?

Pope Francis, Action, and Dialogue

Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S., and to our campus here at the Catholic University of America, shook us up, literally. They moved the earth and changed the physical infrastructure of the campus to make room for the 30,000 guests we hosted last week. Landscaping and bushes were moved and strategically planted to funnel the crowds; trees were temporarily trussed so as not to block the view. Every trash can and parking meter were removed, for security purposes (to avoid Boston Marathon bomber scenarios). Satellite dishes and cell towers filled the parking lots to service the crush of international media who followed Pope Francis’ every move.

The hallmarks of Pope Francis’ papacy are the Four Ps– people, poverty, the planet, and peace– and he notes these are deeply interconnected, not separate technical issues, but joined moral challenges.

Why so much attention to an old, poor priest from Argentina? He is a humble man in a selfie age, an antidote to the narcissism that blares at us from all sides, in every reality TV show, celebrity product, and Facebook overshare that crowd our lives. When “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire” is the most popular game show, Pope Francis prefers to be a “Servant.” Amidst a particularly mean-spirited U.S. Presidential primary race, in which candidates call immigrants rapists and criminals, Pope Francis declared himself the son of an immigrant family, and hugged an immigrant girl.

Actions speak louder than words, and Pope Francis’ actions spoke eloquent volumes. His trip itinerary was written 2,000 years ago in Matthew 25: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink (lunch with the homeless at Catholic Charities DC), a stranger and you welcomed me (visit with immigrants in Harlem at Our Lady of Angels School, and throughout the trip), naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me (visit to the Infirmary for elderly Jesuit priests in Philadelphia), in prison and you visited me” (visit with prisoners at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility). His schedule also mirrored the Sermon on the Mount, in his meetings with the meek, the poor, the merciful, the persecuted (the Syrian family he embraced and blessed at the World meeting of Families), those who mourn (in a particularly moving ecumenical prayer service at Ground Zero in New York), and the peacemakers (interestingly, the only hand shake he extended at Congress was to peacemaker, Secretary of State John Kerry). These actions touch us at a deeper level than mere words, and are accessible across lines of culture and creed. Gandhi famously meditated on the Sermon on the Mount daily, saying if this was what it meant to be a Christian, then he was a Christian.

Pope Francis’ trip resonated so strongly with so many, of all creeds and none, because the powerful language of his actions are widely accessible and respected. Some decry these encounters as “mere gestures,” but to do so is to miss that religious language is action. The language of the gospels is all action as well. Jesus heals the sick, feeds the hungry, ministers to the stranger and the outcast, builds peace in a war zone, and invites us to do the same. Pope Francis’ actions follow the path of Jesus of Nazareth, and like Jesus, he invites us to walk with him, and waves us on with a smile of encouragement.

Jesus talked with sinners, prostitutes, strangers, Roman rulers, Pharisees and hypocrites, the poor, the ill, women, children, working and hungry people. Likewise on his U.S. visit, Pope Francis talked with criminals, rulers, the poor, the ill, children, immigrants, an anti-gay marriage court clerk, and invited an openly gay journalist to read the First Reading at the Madison Square Garden mass. He repeatedly tells us dialogue, dialogue, dialogue is the only path to peace, and he models that for us by engaging in encounters and dialogue with a wide variety of actors. Pope Francis continually calls for dialogue among people who disagree, coming from different positions and backgrounds. Dialogue is often criticized as cheap talk, a substitute for “real action.” But for Francis, dialogue is not cheap talk, but deep and respectful listening to sometimes hard-to-hear themes. Dialogue is the start of deeper, more respectful relationships that are the lifeblood of peace.

In the crush of 30,000 people on our college campus, with the hum of cameras and satellite feeds to all corners of the globe, I was struck by the silence, by the quiet as people strained to listen to Pope Francis’ words. We live in an age awash in information, but short on wisdom. Why are so many people, from all creeds and none, listening to an old, poor, Argentinian priest? Because wisdom is in short supply these days, and wisdom never gets old.

Atomic Anniversaries and Nuclear Disarmament

What kind of peace do we seek? The Roman historian Tacitus, writing near the time of Jesus, described how the Pax Romana was experienced by people, like the Celts and Jews, who had been conquered by the Romans: “They make a desolation and call it peace.”

Seventy years ago, the U.S. made a desolation, and called it peace. The U.S. sought an unconditional peace with Japan, before the Soviets invaded Japan in WWII. Toward this end, the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing more than a quarter million people, mostly civilians.

As Christians, this is not the sort of peace we seek. Jesus of Nazareth made it clear that he was not in favor of a desolate peace, a negative peace, based on the threat of military destruction. At the time, Catholic and religious leaders were some of the few voices raised in opposition to atomic weapons. The Holy See argued “the new death instruments” were “catastrophic.” Atomic weapons raised a “sinister shadow on the future of humanity.”

Their concerns were sadly prescient. Army Air force leaders argued for more atomic bombings of Japanese cities. The world’s nuclear arsenal rapidly grew from a handful of U.S. atomic weapons in 1945, to over 66,000 nuclear weapons at the height of the Cold War, primarily in the U.S. and Soviet arsenals. Today, many citizens mistakenly believe the nuclear danger largely receded with the end of the Cold War twenty five years ago. Unfortunately, nuclear weapons present huge dangers today, from threats of accident, to hundreds of thefts of fissile materials and/or weapons, to proliferation and use by terrorists and insurgents such as ISIL. This is a real concern, not merely the stuff of action movies. ISIL stole over 80 pounds of uranium from Mosul University in Iraq this past year. While that material is not weapons-grade, it could be used in a dirty bomb that would spread panic and radiation.

Pointing to the disastrous humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, religious communities have joined with secular advocates for deep reductions of nuclear weapons. Former “Cold Warriors” such as President Reagan’s Secretary of State George Schultz, President Nixon’s Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn, and President Clinton’s Secretary of Defense William Perry, today all urge deep reductions in nuclear arms.   Pope Francis concurs.

The Japanese continue to advocate for a world free of nuclear weapons. As Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui put it in marking the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings, “Our world still bristles with more than 15,000 nuclear weapons, and policymakers in the nuclear-armed states remain trapped in provincial thinking, repeating by word and deed their nuclear intimidation. We now know about the many incidents and accidents that have taken us to the brink of nuclear war or nuclear explosions. Today, we worry as well about nuclear terrorism. To coexist we must abolish the absolute evil and ultimate inhumanity that are nuclear weapons. Now is the time to start taking action.”

There are other paths to peace, that I discuss in the cover story of America magazine this week.  The Just Peace tool box gives us many proven methods to build lasting, sustainable peace, approaches that do not “make a desolation and call it peace.” We should use just peace and reconciliation approaches to nuclear disarmament.

Pope Francis Changes the Conversation on Climate Change

Pope Francis is changing the conversation on climate change from fear to love in his new environmental encyclical, addressed to all people, and one of the highest forms of church teaching for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. Francis calls us home, to love our neighbors and our common home, our gift from God. Yes, he calls us to energy conversion, but from energies of despair and denial to God’s sustainable energy of generous love and sharing. Climate change is not about polar bears vs. profits. He challenges both the left and the right, calling us all  in a new direction, beyond fear and paralysis to love and agency, from indifference and greed to global solidarity. The encyclical is not an “ecobummer,” as Francis reminds us that we are “created for love,” and that God’s ” love constantly impels us to find new ways forward,” to build “a civilization of love.”  A positive way out of the ecological impasse? As the encyclical is titled, “Praised be!”

Francis reminds us that we are neither spectators to an environmental train wreck, nor powerless to change course. He repeatedly reminds us of our God-given agency, both our complicity in environmental degradation, but also, more importantly, our ability to change course. He calls, as all Popes do, for all hands on deck, for greater international institutional capacity, greater corporate accountability, and greater local and individual action. This call to action using all our institutions is both a practical and a moral matter. When the challenges are this urgent, we have to use all available tools, and work through, reform, strengthen, expand and improve many institutions:  states, existing and new international institutions, civil society partnerships, more ethically oriented businesses, churches and individuals– all have a role, and no one is off the hook. This wide invitation to act is also a moral matter, as we all are called to use our agency and God-given gifts for the common good.

Pope Francis, as he always does, calls for respectful and effective dialogue among the local, national and international actors. He urges us to listen to and amplify local voices, which can “make all the difference” particularly when international politics are log jammed. Some of the most loving and effective responses to creation care arise at the local level, due to a sense of “responsibility, a strong sense of community, a readiness to protect others, a spirit of creativity and a deep love,” and concern for what we will “leave to our children and grandchildren.”

This creative community love is in the DNA of all effective environmental protection. For example, when I was a toddler growing up in Buffalo, New York, Lake Erie was dead. The massive great lake, one of the largest in the world, was so badly polluted that people could not swim in the lake, huge fish kills were common, and the Cuyahoga River, feeding into the lake, caught fire. Big industries used the lake as a dump. While all were impacted, the poor (who did not create the crisis) were hit hardest, who used the lake for food, drink, and exercise. The rich could opt out of the crisis, through private swim clubs, imported fish and bottled water.  Growing up, my mother told me how mothers concerned about the health risk to their families organized in “Housewives Against Pollution.”  They successfully lobbied for environmental protection measures, which eventually became state law, industry standards, and international law, and the health of the lake rebounded.  When Pope Francis notes that “access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival” and that community engagement “makes all the difference,” I think of these busy mothers, engaging in politics out of love for their children and communities.

Pope Francis acknowledges the serious self-destruction we have done to our common home and our relationships, but his message is optimistic. He likens environmental protection to falling in love. Our abilities to creatively love, to join in the circle of God’s love, can heal our self-destruction.  In contrast, the public debate on climate change is marked by fear. The latest reports by climate scientists and climate deniers do not mention “love” once. For Pope Francis, love is central to environmental protection; he discusses love 71 times.  Francis reminds us that we are not alone on our journey home. Our Creator does not abandon us, but constantly invites us to join His project of love. We “still have the capacity of collaborating to build our common home.” It is never too late to do the right thing. God still invites us to love, and to come home to respect, protect, and share his bountiful garden. “Praise be!”

The God Squad

The U.S. government now has a “God Squad.” Religious factors impact many U.S. foreign policy issues. The government needs a stronger toolbox to engage with religious actors and factors in foreign policy. It has been a long, hard road, but the U.S. government is increasing this capacity and commitment. This week Dr. Shaun Casey, Special Representative for Religion and Global Affairs, Secretary of State John Kerry, and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, headlined a panel discussion on “The Future of Religion and Diplomacy” to shine a light on the U.S. State Department’s efforts to help policy makers better understand and engage with the religious dimensions of world affairs. The event was hosted by the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute, which does important work to educate people in the First Amendment principles of the U.S. Constitution. The State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs has issued guidance to the Department of State and all U.S. Embassies and Consulates around the world regarding engagement with religious actors and factors in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. Also, several special envoys with responsibilities for religious foreign policy issues are being consolidated into the Religion and Global Affairs Office. This “God Squad” aims to improve the U.S. government’s capacities to effectively navigate the religious dimensions of foreign policy.

This process began in the 1990s, with the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act. Religion was neglected as a factor in foreign policy during the Cold War, as it was thought to be unimportant in the fight against “Godless Communism.” The fallacy of this view was shown in events from the Iranian revolution to the resurgence of religion with the fall of the Soviet Empire. The 1998 IRFA law created several institutions to promote religious freedom, the external, independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom outside of government, and within the State Department, the IRFA law created an Office of International Religious Freedom and an Ambassador of International Religious Freedom (a position now held by Amb. David Saperstein). The State Department IRF Office was charged with producing the annual IRF report. But it also was mandated to interact with civil society, including religious actors, persecuted groups, and human rights groups, as this would be necessary to gather the information for the report and to help guide U.S. foreign policy in this area. This small office, while important to promote religious freedom, was not enough to address all the areas where religion impacts U.S. foreign policy. It has been supplemented with a Special Representative to Muslim Communities (the position now held by Shaarik Zafar), the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism (Ira Forman now holds this post), and the Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (Arsalan Suleman is Acting Special Envoy). Over a year ago, a new office of Religion and Global Affairs was created, directed by Special Representative Dr. Shaun Casey. Now these positions are consolidated into the Office of Religion and Global Affairs, bringing this expertise together. The office is located on the 7th Floor of the State Department, a sign of the importance of the issue to Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry noted at this week’s event that “Religion matters in the world today. If I were to go back to college today, I’d major in Comparative Religions.” Madame Secretary Albright concurred, picking up a theme from her book  The Mighty and the Almighty, noting the challenge before us lies in “harnessing the unifying potential of faith while containing its capacity to divide.”  The heartbreaking headlines from Syria show great challenges lie before us. Godspeed to the “God Squad.”

Just War Against ISIL?

Congress approved President Obama’s plan to expand military and counter terrorism actions to degrade and defeat ISIL. ISIL has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, according to United Nations investigators, deliberately targeting and killing thousands of civilians.  Many in Congress and the public call for the U.S. to further bomb ISIL, in order to stop their killing campaigns, to kill them so that they will not kill others, particularly civilians.  The Pope and other Catholic leaders have been criticized for their statements on the need to protect civilians and build a lasting peace for all in Syria and Iraq, especially persecuted minorities and Christians. Yet the Holy Father and the Holy See, as well as career military officers, are the voices of reason in these debates, repeatedly pointing out that bombing ISIL is not the same as building a lasting peace in the region; the U.S. cannot bomb its way to peace.  Only politics, dialogue, inclusion, and nonmilitary options can build sustainable peace.

ISIL and Syria’s deliberate targeting of noncombatants violates international law, as well as ancient moral codes about the use of force, known as Just War tradition (JWT).  But would expanded U.S. military strikes constitute a just response?

St. Thomas Aquinas never imagined a world of robot drones dropping hellfire missiles, or the use of chemical weapons that kill thousands of people in a breath, but these old moral codes can still provide guidance in modern warfare.  JWT is a centuries-old guide to thinking about when and how it can ever by morally justifiable to violate the commandment “Thou shalt not kill.” JWT holds that even during warfare we are still capable of moral behavior, and still obligated to protect human life and dignity. JWT stakes out the middle ground between realpolitik, which always allows war, and pacifism, which never allows war.

            Before entering combat there must be a just cause such as self defense and the protection of human life. Certainly the Iraqis and Syrians have the right to use force to defend themselves against the attacks of ISIL and of the Assad regime.  But do external actors such as the U.S., Britain, and others, have a just cause to militarily intervene to protect civilians in Iraq and Syria from ISIL as well as from their own brutal government?

Beyond just cause, a whole package of JWT moral criteria must also be met.  Only a right, public authority can enter into war, guided by the right intention of protecting peace and the common good. Force can only be used as a last resort, when success is possible, and the harms of war will not outweigh the reasons for going to war. During war, force must be discriminate and proportional.  Civilians must be protected, not targeted.  In discussing potential limited military targets, the Obama Administration shows attention to proportionality and discrimination.

The ISIL and Syrian cases are hard because they hit JWT on its growing edge, humanitarian intervention and the Responsibility to Protect (or “R2P”).  Some just war thinkers propose that expanding just cause to include protection of civilians in humanitarian interventions should correspond with restricting right authority to only a right, public, international authority such as the United Nations, not a decision made unilaterally by a single state alone.  The Responsibility to Protect takes this approach.  R2P is a new international security and human rights norm, adopted in 2005, to address the international community’s failures to prevent and stop genocides, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.  R2P notes that the state has the primary responsibility for protecting its own civilians from atrocities.  But if a state is unable or unwilling to protect its citizens, as when the Assad regime perpetrates war crimes and crimes against humanity against its own citizens, then the international community has a responsibility to protect endangered civilians.  R2P and JWT both  prescribe non-military means be used first.  But if peaceful humanitarian and diplomatic means fail, the international community must be prepared to use collective force authorized by the UN Security Council.  Stipulating an international right authority is good in theory, to restrict states from defining military interventions as “humanitarian” that were more self-serving in nature.  But restricting right authority to the UN Security Council raises the bar for intervention in a way that is difficult to reach.  In practice it means usually only civilians in diplomatically isolated or pariah states could effectively claim a UN right to protection. For Syrians it has made international authorization near impossible over the past year, as the permanent members of the UN security council, such as Russia, promise to veto any UN Security Council motion for intervening in its ally, Syria.  Ironically, ISIL’s own brutality is today driving greater international consensus.  President Obama is asking the UN Security Council to act, but is conducting an expanded campaign regardless of the UN response.

Probability of success and comparative justice (the idea that more good than harm will come of intervention) are the hardest Just War criteria to meet in the ISIL and Syrian cases.  According to Former Ambassador Ryan Crocker as well as General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, any military intervention may fail.  Dropping bombs will not build a lasting peace.  U.S. military intervention could make matters worse, according to General Dempsey.  “We could inadvertently empower extremists.”  Arming the locals can backfire.  ISIL wields US weapons–humvees, tanks, machine guns, and artillery– which they seized from the Iraqi military.  ISIL may be attempting to lure the U.S. into greater military interventions in Iraq and Syria, thus painting themselves as legitimately responding to foreign aggressors and occupiers of Muslim lands.

Just War Tradition attempts to limit war, but here lies the problem. Limiting war, however laudable and needed in containing ISIL, is not the same as building peace.  The U.S. has made this mistake before.  In both Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush administration invaded with little attention beforehand to the most basic aspects of how they would build peace after invading.  Military interventions can backfire, make things worse, and have unintended consequences.  There was no al Qaeda or ISIL in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion; the U.S. invasion created both.  Today, those who simplistically applaud military interventions against ISIL focus on the tactics of war, but not the strategies of peace. They weigh tactical, operational questions of military logistics, basing, and targeting, the how-to of military destruction.  But what sort of peace do we seek in Iraq and Syria and the Levant region? If a U.S. military intervention helped contain ISIL, who would govern these countries and how? Too often the U.S. engages in military magical thinking.  Yet the overwhelming predominance of the U.S. military power to destroy does not carry with it some magical power to easily create new political orders and institutions.  When 160,000 U.S. troops were fighting in Iraq, they were not able to create a stable, political order.  How will much smaller military operations achieve this now?  Peace must be built, with time, trust, and societal participation, as described in emerging Just Peace moral criteria.  JWT must be married to these just peace criteria.  Iraq and Syria show how much we need an expanded toolbox for building just peace.

© Daniel Philpott The views expressed in this forum are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily represent those of Daniel Philpott, CCHR, or the University of Notre Dame.