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'Pacem in terris' turns fifty.

From Commonweal's April 26, 1963, editorial:

If the past is any guide in these matters, the Catholic response to Pope John's magnificent encyclical Pacem in Terris will be slow and tentative. This is not to say that there will not be initial praise and publicity; that much at least is traditional. Already that praise has been heard. But the difference between initial praise and a full-blown change in Catholic thought at all levels is another matter; too frequently it has taken years or decades for the full force of an encyclical to be felt. In part, the reason for such lags bear on the slowness of Catholics to change their customary ways of thinking on fundamental issues; then, too, the very language of encyclicals and their deference to the past often obscures those elements with a radical import.We fervently hope this will not be the fate of Pacem in Terris.

Alas.Read the whole thing here (.pdf). And don't miss the "Addition to the Staff" announcement on the second page.

About the Author

Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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s. "It is not enough, for example, to acknowl- edge and respect every man's right to the means of subsistence: One must also strive to obtain that he actually has enough in the way of food and nourish- ment." Here we are fifty years later and the poor get poorer in the US while 7 million children die every year without food and basic medicine. The William F Buckley (who criticized PIT) Catholicism prevails with 100 million dollar cathedrals and a church more charged up about the unborn than the born.

The Prophet Micah calls us "... to walk humbly in the presence of [our] God." (6:8) That fifty years after Pacem in Terris finds us as Mr. Mazzella describes should direct us to Micah's wisdom.An hour's drive from my home woud take us to one of California's agricultural counties, where 35.9% (2011) of the children less than 15 years old live below the designated poverty line, and half of those in homes with less than 50% of the poverty level. In a county-wide population of 79,257, there are 700 children in the foster-care system, supported by a cadre of not quite 40 guardians ad litem, called Court-Appointed Special Advocates for Children in Califormia. The population of the county self-designates as 75.5% Roman Catholic.And we are building $100M cathedrals?Mark

And here in NYC, where more than 800,000 children live in poverty, we will be spending $177,000,000.00 to renovate our cathedral.

Some people of Good Will argue that Cathedrals are beautiful and necessary. I disagree with the latter. Give me a sunset, sunrise or a starlit night any time. Free. The Empire goes on with the verbiage meanwhile untold children.......

Why relegate our questions to cathedrals? How much money is raised every year by the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum, et al. Not to mention the Philharmonic, the Opera and Broadway musicals. How much is spent by collectors (private and corporate) every year at galleries, auctions, and private transactions? How much is spent dining out, while thousands upon thousands of New Yorkers lack food security? I am sure there are a couple of hundred restaurants in Manhattan that will charge a couple on a date $500 or more for dinner and a bottle of wine without batting an eye.

Fifty years ago this month, a group of about 60 women traveled to Rome to thank Pope John XXIII for "Pacem in Terris", and to urge him to speak out even more strongly and publicly on the urgency of disarmament. Dorothy Day went by boat: I know that my mother Hermene Evans paid her trip one way. Mother was a Commonweal subscriber even before graduating from Wellesley in 1927. The initiators of the idea were from Women Strike for Peace, of various religions or of none. The Pope was too ill by then to receive them in a private audience, but praised their work and urged them to continue their efforts, in a general audience. From Rome they went on to Geneva, where they met with World Council of Churches leaders, and held an overnight vigil outside the UN headquarters. U Thant saw that they were provided with coffee and hot chocolate. A booklet was published a few months later, with photographs and news clippings from many countries. Grant, I'm going to send you a copy of the booklet: I think this valiant effort should be recognized. Of course many of those women are no longer alive.

Tangent -- but something to do with peace: It looks like there's another saint, Fr. Emil Kapaun, an inspiring American chaplain during the Korean War. Read about Pres. Obama awarding him the Congressional Medal of Honor. Fr. Kapuan is also up for Beatification. Pres. Obama should become a preacher when he leaves office -- this speech is a homily on generosity.

"Why relegate our questions to cathedrals?"Jim, it is like pedophilia. Terrible everywhere but more reprehensible by avowed preachers of the gospel. The RCC has been a very rich church with tons of apologetics trying to explain this away. It is a profound scandal that few want to confront let alone do something about.

Bill, wherever the riches are, apparently they aren't in Chicago. We're laying off diocesan workers, and closing and consolidating parishes and schools.

Jim: And I bet the Archdiocese has property it could sell (like cathedrals and other assets) that it could use to keep those workers on the job.I agree that the world lavishes money on foolish things (like $100 bottles of wine) when people are starving and dying. But our religious leaders are supposed to set an example for the world to follow. How can we preach agains "consumerism" and "secularism" when we're spending $100s of millions on buildings?

Hello All,I don't often take the time to study papal encyclicals, but this Sunday I took Grant's lead and studied parts of Pacem in Terris. I was struck (although "blown away" might describe my reaction better) by Pope John's emphatic and clear enumeration of a number of rights that he expressly regards as natural rights. Some of the stated rights include a right to: bodily integrity, the means necessary for the development of life, to share in the benefits of culture, to be respected, to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, to choose the kind of life which appeals to her/him, to meet and form associations, and to private property. (And there are more rights enumerated, but I think this is a representative sample.)Since I teach philosophy, I suppose I somewhat automatically categorize what I read into particular schools, but I am struck by just how similar the rights Pope John discusses in Pacem et Terris are to those defended in the contemporary (that is last 55 years) tradition known as political liberalism. And (an occupational hazard) I've been struck by just how vehemently some Roman Catholic intellectuals oppose political liberalism and deny that people have natural rights. (To be clear, one need not embrace political liberalism in order to embrace natural rights.) I'm wondering if any pope before John XIII explicitly stated that people have particular natural rights. If I'm not mistaken Pacem et Terris predates Vatican II's Gaudiem et Spes and its eloquent statements on human rights.Alasdair MacIntyre may be the best known living Roman Catholic philosopher. I certainly have utmost respect for his work (which contributed importantly to my own choice to become a professional philosopher). In one of his books, MacIntyre flatly denies that people have natural rights and claims that natural rights are a mere fiction that modern philosophers made up in an attempt to shore up their own faulty moral systems. It struck me that if we Catholics were consistent (and I think we seldom are), we would be calling MacIntyre a dissenter or "cafeteria Catholic", same as we tend to label those who openly disagree with parts of other papal encyclicals such as Humanae Vitae. (And just to be clear, from what I know of Professor MacIntyre he is generally more faithful to Church teaching than practically anyone known to me.)

Peter ==Where does MacIntyre talk about rights being fiction? I've read mostly his early stuff and don't remember his saying that. Very surprising, though I admit that describing the ontological status of a right would be difficult. To which category(ies) does it belong? Relation? Quality? A combination?

Hi Ann (and all)!MacIntyre states his denial of natural rights explicitly in his best known book "After Virtue". This is also where he explicitly calls natural rights fictions. So far as I know he has not departed from this particular position in his later work. I also don't know if he ever explicitly engaged with the claims of natural rights in Pacem et Terris or Gaudiem et Spes. (I disagree with MacIntyre on the matter of natural rights among many issues, though I continue to admire his work.)

Thanks, Peter. I checked my copy of After Virtue and see that I noted "NONSENSE" and "bilge" in the margins of the section about rights. But I had completely forgotten what he had said. I didn't notice that he apparently also had no notion of duty/obligation. Hmmm. So what is it in his theory that binds us if there are no rights and obligations? (I must admit I have always found the notion of an obligation to be quite mysterious metaphysically. What category does it belong to? I assume relation. But did Aristotle himself think there were such realities? I can't say I remember him talking about them.)

Peter ==In Rerum novarum Pius XIII speaks explicitly of rights, e.g., "For, every man has by nature the right to possess property as his own." If I'm not mistaken Quadragessimo anno also refers to rights.

Hi Ann (and all)! Thanks for the reference, but did you mean "Leo XIII"?This is terribly interesting to me since it's my understanding that there was some serious debate in the long past regarding the legitimacy of property right. For example, I thought (and need to check) that Aquinas believed that property was an acceptable human institution needed to prevent free-rider and other problems, but I donj't think he allowed that people have a natural right to property. Maybe Aquinas scholars here can clue me in?

Thanks, Peter. I get the popes confused.The quotation I give above is, of course, only a translation from the Latin. I checked out Wikipedia (the Sage of the West) for use of the word "rights" and didn't find much about its early use. I'm wondering which Latin word it translated in RN. And was that Latin word, whatever it is, in general use in classic Scholastic ethics? I also checked a few other things, e.g., the Magna Carta, but it talks about "liberties" and just says what will be done and not done by the crown. "Privileges" is another word that is interesting in such contexts. And, of course, the correlative "duty" would be interesting to check out. (I can't get to a good library, so I can't do it. Sigh.) MacIntyre himself grants that even though the word "right" might not be used before the 17th century that that doesn't imply that the *concept* had not been developed. Seems to me this would be a good topic for a philosophy paper, even an MA thesis -- the use of the word "rights" in Scholastic ethics and its predecessors in medieval and later Western Latin. Some of those word search apps could be invaluable in doing it. There's a lot of Latin stuff online now.

Appaently a lot has been done on the meaning(s) of "rights", and there has been a lot of controversy over it. Hmm. See Stanord Encyl. (thought the distinction there between "subjective" and "objective" rights is a bummer, as far as I can see.

Hi Ann (and all)!Some time back Fr. Komonchak alerted us to a splendid historical study "The Idea of Natural Rights" by Brian Tierney. I haven't penetrated this fine book that deeply yet but it has a fascinating discussion of the evolution of church thought on property rights. The more recent philosophical literature on rights has grown so much that I doubt anyone in the field can keep abreast of it all. (I'd like to do some work on the analytical structure of natural rights in the future, time permitting.)

Peter =Does Tierney get into the metaphysical status of right/obligation/jus? That's about all I'm really interested in, in ethics -- the really foundational stuff. I know very little ethics -- I never got into it because few philosophers seem to be interested in the metaphysical grounds. Aristotle's teleology grounds his ethics, but he leaves important questions unanswered. (I checked the Index of Tierney's book at Amazon, but it wasn't too helpful.)

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