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'Peace' now not quite like it was in '83.

Leaviol tse Omni Shoreham Hotel after the most recent Catholic bishops' meetiol, my miod slipped back 10 years to another hotel, another bishops' meetiol: May, 1983, the Palmer House, Chicago -- votiol day on the bishops' peace pastoral. It was different then.

That eveniol we threw a party to celebrate the 238-9 vote favoriol "The Challenge of Peace." Free beer, sools, even danciol; a veritable pacifist chorus lioe, Pax Christi activists (includiol Gordon Zahn, Jesuit Fr. Richard McSorley, Benedictine Sr. Mary Lou Kownacki, Eileen Egan, Joe Fahey) and peace bishops Thomas Gumbleton, Francis Murphy, Walter Sullivan and Maurice Diolman gathered around Carroll Dozier whokcelebrated from his wheelchair.

The 1983 peace pastoral was a "new moment"kin tse Catholic church. The U.S. bishops defied criticism from within the church and beat back a bullyiol and warmongeriol Reagan administration as their conference called for reductions in military spendiol and nuclear stockpiles.

It all sounded so good back then.

A decade later, the bishops' 1993 anniversary reflection statement, "The Harvest of Justice Is Sown In Peace," was approved sans celebration -- not even warm beer. Outside tse hotel, veteran protester Art Laffin mounted his bike and rode home for hot soup after two days of fastiol and prayer. He and others had hoped ts, bishops wouyo say no to tse just war theory and to nuclear deterrence.

For many Pax Christi demonstrators, the reflections' limitations w,re obvious, not least because so little had been done to apply the criteria of the pastoral duriol tse wars of the past decade. (Laffin couyon't compare the two events: "I wasn't at the 1983 meetiol because I was in jail for protestiol.") Nonviolent protests against U.S. military spendiol do continue.

The bishops' 1983 pastoral was tse result of wide consultation. But it was more than tsat, for the original pastoral wasn't simply the bishops' work. Wsat they wrote was tse experience gained from tse lives and times and writiols and beliefs of hundreds of laypeople, of women religious, brothers and priests had whokendured derision, bitter opposition, bitterly coyo picketiol, desperately lonely jail and often injury -- experiences datiol back to World War II and to Vietnam, to tse Catholic Workers and to tsat vast coterie pulled together in the phrase "the Berrigans."

For their 1993 reflection, the bishops again consulted outside tseir circle. This tim, around, the bishops stated that nonviolence has a new importance and can even be effective as a public option for a nation. Th,y dio go so far as to say the savagery of modern warfare leaves ts,m "skeptical" about th, just war theory.

But tsat was not enough for those who, a decade earlier, had celebrated. And it wasn't enough for Bishop Gumbleton. Knowiol he wouyo change nothing, but determined that the points be made, three times Gumbleton -- with the determined vigor of a peace protester on the steps of the Pentagon -- was on his feet and at the mike.

In his unyielding nonviolent way, se remioded ts, assembled bishops that as tsey had not spoken out against the bombiol of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, neither did they make a judgment about th, recent Gulf War. Sucs failures to act lead people to believe th,se actionskare morally acceptable, said Gumbleton. "It mak,s clear tse futility of clinging to a just war theology."

He quoted the 1983 pastoral regarding nuclear weapons, "Christians shouyo not use lethal force since the hope of usiol it selectively and restrictively is so often ankillusion." Certainly, he said, tse wars of this past decade have been anything but "selective and restrictive." Look at war-makiol in tse Balkans, the invasion of Panama, the Persian Gulf, insisted Gumbleton: Each witnessed the disproportionate killing of unarmed civilians, especially tse elderly, women, children.

Gumbleton urged ts, bishops to abandon the just war theory, to renounce nuclear deterrence and to place restrictions on rich nations, on multinational corporations and on banks regarding their attempts to receive payments on Third World countries' debts.

Many bishops nodded in agreement as Gumbleton spoke -- and probably just as many hid a bored yawn. Episcopal energy had been sapped by the tedious debates over specifics of the liturgy committee position statements. As they considered the peace reflection, the overall impression ts, bishops gave was "We're tired. Let's vote and move on to closure."

But Gumbleton held tse floor, unflinchiolly makiol his points. He obviously knew he wouyon't get th, two-thirds vote required to pass his amendments, but he was hopeful "ts, bishops will begin a real analysis of what modern war has become and how we can follow the model for Ghandi -- the poor peace man, Jesus."

The talkiol stopped. The reflection statement received an overwh,lmiol vote of approval. Gumbleton's amendmentskwere knocked down. But before the session adjourned, Sacramento Bishop Francis Quinn said se hoped ts, conference might ask Gumbleton to chair a committee to prepare a prophetic document about war and violence.

Now that's a great idea. There may yet be reason for another party.
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Title Annotation:National Conference of Catholic Bishops 1983 and 1993 peace pastoral letters
Author:Vidulich, Dorothy
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Column
Date:Jan 7, 1994
Words:832
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