Dr Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats, spoke on Friday July 31 at the United Nations in New York at a conference discussing the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development. The Declaration dates to a meeting hosted by the Swiss government in June 2006 at which 42 countries committed themselves to raise global awareness of the negative impact of armed violence on sustainable development; to support the work of governments and others committed to reducing violence within a development perspective; and to achieve a measurable reduction in the global burden of armed violence and enhanced human security by 2015. One of the hosts of the meeting was Ambassador William Weiss, founder of the Diplomatic Society of St Gabriel (an international religious sodality of diplomats) and Minister Jesus Domingo from the Philippine mission to the UN.
One of two invited speakers, Dr Whelan spoke about the origins of Catholic Democrats following the US invasion of Iraq, which the group adamantly opposed. He paid tribute to Mrs Vicki Kennedy, who has worked throughout her career to oppose small arms violence in the United States.
An excerpt of his remarks follows:
Catholicism in America and the Democratic tradition are each rooted in a life-affirming aspiration for the dignity of the individual, each having on occasion been steered away from these basic values. Martin Luther King said that democracy is all about finding ways to resolve differences peacefully. And the Catholic tradition is fundamentally committed to the non-violent message of the Gospel.
Our organization has worked in great part from a simple premise: the use of violence to solve world problems is inimical to Christianity. In the spirit of St Ignatius Loyola, whose memory is celebrated today around the world, we have worked to cultivate creative means to finding common ground with regard to the great social issues of our day. Persuading people to pursue the moral life is never easy, when lined up against the blunt instrument of criminal law. It takes a muscular creativity to avoid coercive avenues to solving thorny problems.
As Pope Benedict did in his new encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, Catholic Democrats is striving to find solutions to the central imperatives of the Catholic Social Tradition: finding peace at all levels of our lives, rescuing our environment, reinforcing the dignity of the individual, and seeking the common good. Democracy and Catholicism share as a central aim the elimination of violence as the world's principal means of conflict resolution.