It never fails.
Every time I write about non-violence, pacifism, and an expansive pro-life ideology, someone is always quick to remind me that the Church makes room for the death penalty, war, and legitimate defense—as if to discredit my nonviolent convictions.
Why people are so determined to cling to the exceptions for violence, I don’t know. Perhaps it provides them with a sense of comfort and security in a violent world. Or perhaps they’re just sticklers for the rules. Either way, I think the reactions I get are very telling and reinforce the uncomfortable, radical nature of non-violence.
But I do want to briefly touch on this subject, because at the end of the day, I don’t see any significant difference between my beliefs on violence and the Church’s. In fact, it was the Church that formed my convictions to begin with.
The first thing I want to point out is that the Catholic Church boasts the most prudent, reasonable, and thorough theology out of any religion (something that drew me to the Church in the first place). She perfectly blends the idealism found in the Gospel with the realism of living in a fallen world—which is why there is room for violence in certain extreme situations.
But as I have noted before, the Church is clear that violence is to be used as a last resort if there are no other alternatives. More importantly, the Church doesn’t say that violence is a good thing, or that you *must* support it. It only states that it *can* be permissible. And this makes all the difference.
The exemptions for the use of violence are just that: exemptions. The overall message of the Church is a call to nonviolence, to respect and protect all life to the fullest extent possible—an ideal reflected by Christ himself and a central component to the ministry of Pope Francis.
What this says to me is that Christians should exhaust every last effort to avoid, reduce, and reject violence—and I happen to take that very seriously.