Violence and Crime


"Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you." (John 14:27) Of all the attributes Jesus could have chosen as his parting gift to those he loved, he chose peace. And Jesus tells us, "Blessed are the peacemakers. They shall be called God's children." (Matthew 5:9)

As the U.S. Bishops state in The Challenge of Peace (1983), Catholic tradition has always described peace as a positive good. "Peace is both a gift of God and a human work. It must be constructed on the basis of central human values: truth, justice, freedom, and love."

The Church's teaching has also established a strong presumption against war. Violence may at times seem to solve problems. But more often than not, it injures the innocent as well as combatants. People's lives have intrinsic value-they are not "collateral damage." And unfortunately, such events often create a reservoir of hatred and desire for revenge among those injured, eventually leading to more and more conflict.

But peace is far more than the absence of conflict or violence. God's shalom is based on right relationship between God and the people, and between individual persons. Blessed John XXIII notes in Pacem in Terris (1963), "…there can be no peace between [persons] unless there is peace within each one of them; unless, that is, each one builds up within himself the order wished by God."

The fruits of peace among nations are many. Food can be produced without destruction and delivered to family tables. Medicines are in more reliable supply, and hospital resources are not strained by necessary care for the wounded and maimed. People can travel to visit family and friends without constant fear for their safety on the roads. Children are able to attend school regularly. Homes can be built and maintained without fear of destruction by weaponry. People have time for leisure and rest. The common good blossoms and flourishes.

The fruits of peace between people are also many: understanding, cooperation, truthfulness, compassion. But like peace between nations, personal peace does not come without struggle and commitment. To achieve true peace, one must often be willing to compromise, to give up some of what one desires, to take the step of forgiveness. John Paul II recognized this truth in his 2004 World Day of Peace message. " I feel it necessary to repeat that, for the establishment of true peace in the world, justice must find its fulfilment in charity. . . I have often reminded Christians and all persons of good will that forgiveness is needed for solving the problems of individuals and peoples. There is no peace without forgiveness!"

Peace is a priceless gift worth claiming and worth working for. Blessed John XXIII calls it a "fruitful source of many benefits, for its advantages will be felt everywhere, by individuals, by families, by nations, by the whole human family. The warning of Pius XII still rings in our ears, 'Nothing is lost by peace; everything may be lost by war.'" (Pacem in Terris, and cf. Pius XXII's radio broadcast, August 24, 1939)