A ‘Manual’ for Escaping Our Vicious Cycles: The Political Relevance of Enemy-Love
In his 2017 World Day of Peace message, Pope Francis made a subtle yet stunning move when he called the Sermon on the Mount the Church’s “manual” for peacemaking at every level. Continuing the “fresh reappraisal” of war that the Second Vatican Council launched, Francis’s choice of a term associated with the “Manualist” tradition of natural-law casuistry signaled the Catholic magisterium’s growing commitment both to rooting its teaching on peace and war in biblical sources instead, and to active nonviolence in pursuit of just peace. Given centuries of dismissal of Jesus’s teaching as irrelevant to real-world politics by both Catholics and Protestants, reception of Francis’s signal will benefit both from fresh biblical exegesis and new insights into natural law. Informing the biblical side is the groundbreaking work by Glen Stassen on the triadic structure of Jesus’s teachings in Matthew 5-7, and its practical implications for just peacemaking. Informing the natural-law side are recent findings from social psychology and neuroanthropology on the role of mimesis in human formation. The two fields join in underscoring the creative power of what Stassen called transforming initiatives for breaking cycles of violence.