Taking a position on nonviolence and just war
Rate the contents of this page:
- To explore the complex relationship between nonviolence and just war in the social doctrine of the Church
- To generate controversy in order to deepen understanding of the content processed
At least 60 minutes with a group of 15-20 participants, although it might take less time with a smaller group
Four or more
- Copies of a handout illustrating the content processed (see below)
- Flip charts
- Judicial robes or other garments that might be fun for participants to wear to play the role of judges (optional)
I) Divide the plenary into four teams. Team A should prepare to support the content in the handout “Violence is never a proper response”, and team B to support the content in the handout “Criteria for exercising armed resistance” (see below).
Team C act as observers and team D as judges.
II) Ask teams A and B to develop sound arguments in support of their respective positions and tell them they’ll be debating with each other. Their task is to convince the judges of the rightness of their position. In order to do so, each team should focus on the strengths of their position and the weaknesses of the other team’s position.
III) Distribute copies of the handout and allow time for teams A and B to prepare to defend their positions. Meanwhile, brief teams C and D.
Team C consists of observers. By observing the debate, they should assess the strengths and weaknesses of each team’s arguments. They should note these down on a flip chart during the debate.
Team D is the Bench. They should nominate a Chief Justice. Their task is to decide which team has the best argument. They should assess the teams’ capacity to defend their positions rather than the validity of their arguments as such. At the end of the debate they should name a winner.
IV) Ask each team to sit together to defend their positions. You could have teams A and B facing each other in a formal debate setting. Provide flip charts for team C and ask team D to sit as a Bench (with all due ceremony!).
See the example below:
INSERT IMAGE HERE
III) Start the debate between the teams. Let people express themselves freely and do not control the dynamics of the interaction.
IV) After 10-15 minutes (or when you deem fit), stop the debate. Ask participants to reflect silently for one minute on what emerged during the activity.
V) Ask the judges to retire to prepare their verdict. Meanwhile, ask team C to give feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of each position.
VI) When they’re ready, ask the judges to present their verdict, give grounds for their decision and name a winner. You can celebrate with due pomp.
If you wish, you can generate discussion on the issues arising.
As an alternative to the above procedure, you can have individuals rather than groups defending positions.
Team A defends the proposition: Violence is never a proper response
Violence is never a proper response. With the conviction of her faith in Christ and with the awareness of her mission, the Church proclaims “that violence is evil, that violence is unacceptable as a solution to problems, that violence is unworthy of man. Violence is a lie, for it goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity. Violence destroys what it claims to defend: the dignity, the life, the freedom of human beings” [Pope John Paul II, Address at Drogheda, Ireland (29 September 1979].
The contemporary world too needs the witness of unarmed prophets, who are often the objects of ridicule. “Those who renounce violence and bloodshed and, in order to safeguard human rights, make use of those means of defence available to the weakest, bear witness to evangelical charity, provided they do so without harming the rights and obligations of other men and societies. They bear legitimate witness to the gravity of the physical and moral risk of recourse to violence, with all its destruction and death” [Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2306].
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 496.
Team B supports: Criteria for exercising armed resistance
The Church’s social doctrine indicates criteria for exercising the right to resistance: “Armed resistance to oppression by political authority is not legitimate, unless all the following conditions are met: 1) there is certain, grave and prolonged violation of fundamental rights; 2) all other means of redress have been exhausted; 3) such resistance will not provoke worse disorders; 4) there is well-founded hope of success; and 5) it is impossible reasonably to foresee any better solution” [Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2243]. Recourse to arms is seen as an extreme remedy for putting an end to a “manifest, long-standing tyranny which could do great damage to fundamental personal rights and dangerous harm to the common good of the country” [Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Letter, Populorum Progressio]. […]
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 401.