September 11, 2012 is the eleventh anniversary of the attacks on New York City, Washington, DC, and the Pennsylvania countryside. Over a decade after the tragedy that befell the United States, and indeed the world, debate continues as to the causes of terrorism and the best ways to prevent such attacks from happening again.
In their 2011 document, Forming Consciences for a Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States, the authors directly address terrorism in two places, both appear in “Part II” of that document, “Applying Catholic Teaching to Major Issues: A Summary of Policy Positions of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.” Each topic corresponds to a principle of Catholic Social Teaching.
1. Human Life: In paragraph 67, the bishops write that, “Catholics must also work to avoid war and to promote peace. Nations should protect the dignity of the human person and the right to life by finding more effective ways to prevent conflicts, to resolve them by peaceful means, and to promote reconstruction and reconciliation in the wake of conflicts.” Acknowledging that nations “have a right and obligation to defend human life and the common good against terrorism, aggression, and similar threats,” the bishops are clear that “restraint” and the “ethical limits on the use of force” are necessary. Furthermore, focus should be placed on discerning and responding to “the roots of terror.” Raising “fundamental moral concerns about preventive use of military force,” the bishops urge pursuit of alternative means of combating terrorism. These means include global solidarity and action to overcome poverty, which is discussed later in the same document.
2. Global Solidarity: In paragraph 88, the bishops observe that “a more just world will likely be a more peaceful world, a world less vulnerable to terrorism and other violence.” For example, all people of good will are encouraged to develop strategies to alleviate “poverty and underdevelopment” and to “humanize globalization.” They urge the United States to address the “negative consequences” of globalization and to widen the distribution of globalization’s benefits, “especially among the world’s poor.” These efforts should be undertaken “in partnership with others to build a more just and peaceful world.” Additionally, the bishops urge the U.S. to “promote religious liberty and other basic human rights.” They rule out torture as “fundamentally incompatible with the dignity of the human person and ultimately counterproductive in the effort to combat terrorism.”
All people of good will are encouraged to prevent war and promote peace. Global solidarity and respect for the basic human dignity of each and every person are two important themes of Catholic Social Teaching to guide this work. We must be pro-active: strive to eradicate poverty, promote religious liberty, and uphold basic human rights.
For the full text of Faithful Citizenship see:
Submitted by: N. Rademacher, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Religious Studies