A subsidiary of Pax Christi International, Pax Christi USA (PCUSA) was founded in 1972 by Bishop Thomas Gumbleton and a small handful of mostly lay Catholics, to “create a world that reflects the Peace of Christ by exploring, articulating, and witnessing to the call of Christian nonviolence.” Viewing military action as immoral and unjustified under all circumstances, PCUSA flatly “rejects war, preparations for war, and every form of violence and domination.” All international disputes, says the organization, could and should be reconciled “through the United Nations and other channels.” Thus PCUSA engages in “peace education” and promotes “the gospel imperative of peacemaking as a priority in the Catholic Church in the United States.”
Further, PCUSA seeks to “transform structures of society”—most notably the capitalist economic system that allegedly spawns racism, militarism, and economic injustice. The organization displayed its socialist leanings in 2000 when it endorsed the Earth Charter, a document blaming the “[in]equitable distribution of wealth within nations and among nations” for many of the world’s environmental, social, and economic woes.
In 1999, PCUSA launched “Brothers and Sisters All,” a 20-year initiative designed to transform the organization into an “anti-racist, multicultural Catholic peace and justice movement.” Rooted in the premise that the United States is a nation where “personal and systemic racism continues to perpetrate deep spiritual and social brokenness” against nonwhites, this program aims to combat “white skin privilege” and “to dismantle racism within our hearts, our structures, and our culture.”
In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, PCUSA condemned the Bush administration for pursuing “political expedience” via policies steeped in the “scapegoating of peoples,” the “fanning of religious intolerance,” the “curtailing of civil rights,” the “justification of torture,” and the “moral bankruptcy of pre-emptive war.” For instance, Pax Christi denounced the October 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan as an ill-advised expression of “violence and vengeance.” In December 2002, PCUSA dispatched its own delegation to Iraq to defend the legitimacy of Saddam Hussein‘s regime and to protest a war that would “slaughter thousands of innocent [people] in a land already devastated by sanctions.”
Pax Christi’s contempt for the United States extends also to America’s loyal ally, Israel. In the spring of 2003, for instance, the organization blamed the “vicious circle of violence” in the Middle East chiefly on Israeli intransigence. By contrast, PCUSA portrayed the Palestinians as a people who had already made an “internal [psychological] transformation” and thus were “ready to go to peace talks.” “Palestinian hostility,” said PCUSA, was “not due to inborn hostility against the Israeli people” but rather to Israel’s persistent refusal to permit Palestinians to exercise “their fundamental rights.” If only Israel would “put an end to the occupation and … create the State of Palestine,” Pax Christi assured, the Palestinians “will become friendly to Israel.”
In 2004, local chapters of PCUSA signed—along with more than 200 other leftwing groups—a letter exhorting members of the U.S. Senate to oppose Israel’s construction of an anti-terrorism security barrier in the West Bank. The signatories characterized the barrier as an illegal “apartheid wall” that violated the civil and human rights of Palestinians.
In October 2008, PCUSA launched “A New Moment for Nuclear Disarmament,” a national initiative encouraging the United States to dispose of its nuclear-weapons arsenal.
Another PCUSA campaign advocates the closure of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (known until 2001 as the School of the Americas). Pax Christi charges that this Georgia-based combat-training school for Latin American soldiers has produced many graduates who, in turn, went on to torture, rape, and murder hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans.
SAKALA, a Creole acronym which translates into English as “The Community Center for Peaceful Alternatives,” is a collaborative Port-au-Prince-based project between Pax Christi USA & Pax Christi Port-au-Prince that “blends sports, community building, and peace education in an effort to provide safe environments and empowerment for youth, women, and other community members.”
Pax Christi’s Global Restoration Committee contends that “our food choices impact the use of fossil fuels,” and thus encourages people to eat locally-grown foods rather than “food imported across thousands of miles”; to eschew meat and instead “eat lower on the food chain”; and to plant their own gardens using natural fertilizers and insect repellents.
PCUSA’s Conscientious Objection program encourages “those [including American soldiers] who hold sincere convictions, motivated by conscience,” to refuse to participate in war.
Another Pax Christi initiative, the Ambassadors of Peace program, was established to officially honor the organization’s “extraordinary and experienced leaders,” including such luminaries as Cathleen Crayton (who has served as an official with such organizations as NETWORK and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development), Thomas Gumbleton, and Colman McCarthy.
In 2011, PCUSA gave its Teacher of Peace Award to Colleen Kelly, founder of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows; the award ceremony featured a special guest appearance by Jim Wallis. Previous winners of this prize included such notables as Daniel Berrigan, Philip Berrigan, Roy Bourgeois, Dorothy Day, Thomas Gumbleton, Colman McCarthy, Helen Prejean, and Martin Sheen.
PCUSA is a member organization of the Nonviolent Peaceforce coalition and the Win Without War alliance. Moreover, a few regional Pax Christi branches belong to the United for Peace and Justice coalition.
For additional information on PCUSA, click here.