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Catholic Social ActivismProgressive Movements in the United States$
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Sharon Erickson Nepstad

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781479885480

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479885480.001.0001

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Peace, Nonviolence, and Disarmament

Peace, Nonviolence, and Disarmament

(p.47) 2 Peace, Nonviolence, and Disarmament
Catholic Social Activism

Sharon Erickson Nepstad

NYU Press

This chapter explores the pacifism of the early Christian church and how the conversion of Constantine in the fourth century led to the development of the just war doctrine. At the conclusion of World War II, the advent of the nuclear arms race rendered some aspects of the just war doctrine obsolete. Pope John XXIII addressed these concerns in his encyclical Pacem in Terris, released in 1963. Numerous Catholic peace groups thought that the Vatican did not take a strong enough stance on war, militarism, and nuclear weapons. The Catholic Worker movement called for a return to pacifism and introduced the techniques of nonviolent noncooperation with civil defense drills in the 1950s. The chapter covers other Catholic peace movements and organizations, including Pax Christi, the Catholic Left that opposed the Vietnam War through draft card burnings and draft board raids, and the Plowshares movement, whose members damaged nuclear weapons to obstruct the nuclear arms race. Eventually, the US Catholic Bishops released the pastoral letter The Challenge of Peace, which condemned nuclear weapons and called for disarmament.

Keywords:   pacifism, just war doctrine, Pacem in Terris, Pope John XXIII, Catholic Worker, Pax Christi, draft card burnings, draft board raids, Plowshares movement

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