The Roman Catholic Church & Violence

The Catholic Church, led by the Pope, believes in world peace.
... Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images News/Getty Images

"For all who take the sword will perish by the sword" is the principle, spoken by Jesus Christ, that the Roman Catholic Church champions in the church's Catechism. But in addition to the Church's stand for making peace with persons and nations, it's also received criticism for some of its past actions that others have called violent.

1 Beliefs

Before Jesus said the words quoted above, the apostle Peter tried to defend Jesus against the Roman soldiers trying to arrest him, by swinging a sword that severed one of the soldier's ears. Based on Jesus' response, Catholic leadership has drawn the conclusion that violence is not defeated by more violence, but is conquered by love. Therefore, notes the Catechism, in times of conflict between persons, ethnicities, religions, nations, or economic and political powers, only love, persuasion and reconciliation are the true keys to reconciliation -- not confrontation or violence.

2 Actions

Catholics are called on to be makers of peace, not merely preventers of war. They do this, in part, by safeguarding the goods of persons, communicating freely, respecting the dignity of others, promoting a spirit of brotherhood, and incorporating justice and charity into their daily lives. However, the Church does make concessions for a nation going to war, as long as it is a "just war" and an act of self-defense. To qualify as a "just war," the defending nation must first have tried all other means of resolution and must have experienced significant and lasting damage from the aggressor.

3 Sexual Violence

In the 21st century, the Roman Catholic Church has made specific comments about sexual violence, in the light of widespread cases of Catholic priests sexually abusing children. Pope Benedict XVI has called such sexual violence a grave sin that offends God and human dignity. Beyond that, the Church has committed itself to immediately suspending offending priests and prosecuting them to the extent of civil and canon laws. And to help prevent future sexual violence, Catholic leadership says it will strive to promote a culture of respect for the human rights and human dignity of every child.

4 Other Involvement

Because of the Catholic Church's violent involvement in the Spanish Inquisition and Crusades against Muslims in the Middle Ages, Pope John Paul II gave an apology in March 2000 on behalf of the Church. Two years earlier Pope John Paul also apologized for the Church's inaction to prevent Nazi violence against Jews and others during the Holocaust. In fact, according to the book "La Popessa," the Vatican invested Church funds in countries fighting on both sides of World War II, leading many to question how "the Church of the Prince of Peace could defend its integrity while underwriting the materials of warfare."

Aaron Charles began writing about "pragmatic art" in 2006 for an online arts journal based in Minneapolis, Minn. After working for telecom giant Comcast and traveling to Oregon, he's written business and technology articles for both online and print publications, including and "The Portland Upside."