Message of John Paul II for the World Day of Peace (January 1, 2003)

Source: FSSPX News

Not a day goes by without the media telling us of armed conflicts in various parts of the world. The current situation on the African continent is explosive : The Central African Republic, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast are experiencing open conflicts. Persecutions against the Christians in Asia and Africa – especially by Muslims – are expanding (Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Sudan, Libya). South America is not spared : Brazil is in the hands of a communist, Argentina is bankrupt and Columbia is at grips with rebellious factions. All this to say nothing of the wars organized by the United States, of the battlefield that the Holy Land is, and of the social conflicts ready to break out at any moment in our over-industrialized countries.

Yes, the world needs peace, and thus, a message of the pope pointing the way to peace was answering a crucial need. However, we may legitimately ask the question : is this message of John Paul II an adequate response ? Does it give us a principle of solution for a lasting peace ? The text must be analyzed.

Let us first note some positive elements :

• One chapter of the message reminds us that politics cannot be exercised apart from morals. "Politics is a human activity ; consequently it is itself subject to the moral judgment"1

•"Pacta sunt servanda". It is about respect for the commitments pledged between States.

•"Peace is not so much a question of structures as of persons"2. Let us note the truth here which could be thus expressed : "It is of no use to possess sane institutions, if the minds are not educated to revere and respect them." Or still : "The ultimate end of the law is a virtuous life ; now, this latter is not given by the law." But in itself the expression seriously lacks realism as Cardinal Pie says : " One must entirely ignore the real conditions of mankind not to see to what extent vice, or even the mere failings of the institutions, has an influence over all classes of society, and weighs even upon apparently the most firm and independent minds."

Recalling the work of John XXIII

John Paul II recalls how the encyclical Pacem in terris was – in his eyes – an opening towards a movement for peace when the world was becoming engulfed in the cold war and mankind was under the threat of atomic war. Evoking "a new awareness of the dignity of man and of his inalienable rights"3 , Pacem in terris consecrates the entrance of mankind into a new stage characterized by "the idea of the natural equality of all men"4. "The road to peace, the pope taught in the encyclical, had to go through the defense and promotion of fundamental human rights." We easily recognize here a conception of the world and of society which denies the existence of original sin, taking up the ideology of "the philosophers of the Enlightenment" and the French Revolution.

The egalitarianism of the philosophers led John XXIII to establish a new definition of the "universal common good", which is no longer considered according to traditional theology as the good of the universe tending towards God, but as a world-wide realisation of the Rights of man. "One of the consequences of this evolution was the obvious exigency of a public authority, at the international level, which could dispose of the effective ability to promote this universal common good. (...) Thus it is no wonder that John XXIII considered with great hope the United Nations, constituted on June 26, 1945. He saw in it a credible instrument to maintain and reinforce peace in the world. This is why he particularly appreciated the Universal Declaration of the Rights of man of 1948, which he held as "a step towards the establishment of a juridico-political organization of the world community"."5

A certain ineffectiveness

However, this new way opened by John XXIII did not answer all his hopes : " Not only the precursor’s vision of John XXIII, i.e. the perspective of an international public authority at the service of human rights, has not yet completely become a reality, but unfortunately we must acknowledge that there are frequent hesitations on the part of the international community regarding the duty of respecting and applying human rights"6. And the Pope complains about a certain ineffectiveness of these new dispositions due to the lack of rigor in the implementation of the "fundamental rights" and the "duties which flow from them".

The pope’s solution to the present problem

Notwithstanding this ineffectiveness, and while realizing the increase in the world’s conflicts7, John Paul II goes further along the same line : yes, we ought to celebrate Pacem in terris and its new principles, we ought even to think about a new organization of the whole human family : " Has not the time come when all must collaborate to the constitution of a new organization of the whole human family, to insure peace and harmony between the peoples, and at the same time to promote their integral progress ?" However he specifies : "It is important to avoid any misunderstanding : it is not here a question of the constitution a world super-State. We mean rather to underline how urgent it is to speed up the progress already going on to answer the almost universal petition for democratic modes of exercising political authority, on the national as well as on the international level, and to also answer the demand for transparency and credibility at all levels of the public life. Confiding in the goodness present in the heart of any person, Pope John XXIII willed to lean upon it and he called upon the whole world to have a more noble vision of the public life and of the exercise of public authority."8

Such is the solution proposed by Pope John Paul II : to reinforce the legacy of Pacem in terris, to "think about a new organization of the whole human family", to "profit from the prophetical teaching of Pope John XXIII. (...) The ecclesial communities will study how to celebrate this anniversary in a fitting manner during the course of the year, by initiatives which will not fail to have an ecumenical and interreligious character, and which will be open to all those who deeply want to "overthrow the barriers which divide, to tighten up the links of mutual love, to be understanding towards others, and to forgive those who have wronged them"9.

Is this an adequate solution ?

What does the coming of peace presuppose? Everybody agrees to take up the definition of Saint Augustine : peace is the tranquility of order. But what order are we talking about ? In Pacem in terris, John XXIII does state that "peace on earth can be founded upon and strengthened only in the absolute respect of the order established by God"10. But John XXIII speaks of a new order, "of a new stage reached by humanity on its way" and says that this way "goes through the defense and promotion of fundamental human rights." "On the basis of the conviction that all human beings are equal in dignity, and that, consequently, society must adapt its structures to this presupposition, there quickly rose up human rights movements which gave a concrete political figure to one of the greatest dynamisms of contemporary history."

On the other hand, the order about which Saint Augustine speaks is the natural order in which the rights of God and not the rights of man prevail ; a natural order which can be reached only– in the situation of a nature wounded by original sin – by grace which heals nature. The order concerned here supposes the supernatural order, grace, even if this latter remains gratuitous and is not due to nature. Now, grace, the supernatural order are given to us by Our Lord Jesus Christ, and by him alone, "for there is no other name under heaven, in which we can be saved"11. This is why there is no peace possible in the world outside of Jesus Christ, of his influence, for – to make our own the famous words of Cardinal Pie – "Where Jesus Christ does not reign, there is disorder and anarchy".

And this great bishop goes on : "Morals which could suffice for the pagan nations have been insufficient ever since the Christian era. "If I had not come and spoken to them,” said the Savior, “they could be excused. But now, they cannot be excused for their sin". Thus, the morals, which are deliberately reduced to the law of mere nature, are from now on unable to bring salvation, even temporal salvation, to individuals or societies. It is insufficient and incomplete, and, besides, can be kept in its entirety only with the supernatural help of grace. And, if it were true that there is no longer is Christian society on earth, you would have no more success in remaking a society of honest pagans".12

" You will teach that dogma is indispensable, that the supernatural order, in which the very author of our nature has created us, by a formal act of his will and of his love, is obligatory and unavoidable. You will teach that Jesus Christ is not optional and that outside of his revealed law, there does not exist, there will never exist, a philosophical and peaceful happy medium where whosoever, be it a chosen soul or a common soul, could find rest for his conscience and the rule of his life."13

But is it not illusory to preach Jesus Christ nowadays ? Is it not preaching in the desert ?

To this, Cardinal Pie would answer : " The good remains good, and must continue to be called as such, even when "nobody does it". Furthermore, a small number of persons putting forth claims is sufficient to save the integrity of the doctrines. And the integrity of the doctrine is the only chance for the restoration of order in the world."14

In the Documents, the reader will find a collection of quotations taken principally from Cardinal Pie, on the necessity of the social kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ.