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  A Christian Faith Magazine June 2003, Volume 8, Issue 11  
On What Does Peace Depend?
Fr. Paul Check
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We offer our prayers each day for an end to the combat and bloodshed in Iraq, and in other troubled parts of the world as well. We pray for a swift conclusion to the fighting, to the loss of life and to the suffering that inevitably follows all armed conflict. I think it is worth noting here that even as modern weapons become more accurate and precise in their targeting, the loss of innocent life in war does not go down but seems to increase. At the start of the 20th century, for every 10 soldiers killed in combat, one civilian was killed. By the end of WWII however, for everyone soldier killed in combat, 10 civilians lost their lives.

The Church - like her Lord and Savior - does not need anyone to give her "testimony about human nature." (Jn 2:25) Indeed, it is here, on the subject of the tangle of the human heart, that the Church is both a careful expert and at the same time, a gracious mother. She knows the disorder everyone of us senses in our heart, summed up so neatly by St. Paul: "For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do." (Rom 7:19) The Church has a mother's care for all of her "poor banished children of Eve," in the poignant phrase from the Salve Regina. The Church's maternal solicitude for each of God's children-whether Christian or not-obliges her to beg world leaders to find peaceful means to resolve grave differences in a just manner.

However, the Church is not pacifist either. She recognizes the right of a legitimate government to defend (and that is an important word) its citizens according to a strict set of standards, popularly known as the just war doctrine. These strict conditions do not compose a quick formula as much as an analysis from which a practical judgment about concrete circumstances must be reached. As the Catechism says, "The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy [of a just war] belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good." (2309) And that is a heavy burden for a civil leader to carry.

Let's return to the initial question we are considering: on what does peace depend? We can best start to answer that question with a definition of the word peace. We will consult the Catechism for guidance. It says, "Peace is not merely the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers among adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity." (2304)

In brief, then, the substance of peace in much more than the absence of conflict. Peace depends on respect for human dignity and on the exercise of the human virtues, especially the virtue of justice, according to which each person receives his rightful due. And this brings us to St. Augustine's wise and complete in two Latin words definition of peace: tranquillitas ordinis, which means, "tranquility of order."

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