Peace and the Church – Thou shalt not kill!
Pacifists whose opposition to militarism and war was motivated by religion appeared for the first time in the Habsburg Monarchy during and after the First World War.
The German theologist and priest Max Josef Metzger became a pacifist early on as a result of his own experiences as a division commander during the first two years of the war on the Western front. From 1915, he devoted his energies to peace and wrote articles about it in Graz, where he lived and worked. He was the author of Friedensruf an die Völker [Appeal to the nations for peace], which was banned by the censors from publication and distribution. Two years later he elaborated a twelve-point peace programme and sent it to Pope Benedict XV. As the historian Franz-Michael Gansriegler writes, he demanded an end to the armaments race and the effecting of “international justice”. In 1917 he also founded the Weltfriedensbund vom Weissen Kreuz [White Cross World Peace League] which became the International Catholic League after the war, and published the magazine Friedensherold.
Like Max Metzger, the Catholic moral theologist and priest Johannes Ude also became an active opponent of war following his war experiences as a medical orderly. As professor of dogmatic theology and philosophy at the University of Graz he began in 1917 to introduce ideas of peace and anti-militarism into his sermons. A year later his essay Kanonen oder Christentum? was published, a critique of nationalism and militarism rejecting killing of any kind. He is reported to have said “Since the First World War I have personally espoused the thesis in word and writing that the divine commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ applies without exception and that thus the entire militarism should be branded as being counter to the Gospel of Christ and condemned as the most serious crime against the entire Creation”.
Pope Benedict XV, whose pontificate was marked by the First World War and its aftermath, made several attempts to persuade the belligerents of the need to end the conflict and to negotiate peace. In September 1914, shortly after taking office, he made this demand in an encyclical entitled Ubi primum. A year later he once again addressed the belligerent nations in Exhortatio.
The Pope’s Apostolic Exhortation Dès le début was published in the summer of 1917, i.e. three years after the outbreak of war. He offered his services as a neutral mediator proposing peace negotiations to all belligerents. To expedite the process he called for an end to the general military armament and international arbitration for peaceful conflict prevention and settlement.
Translation: Nick Somers
Die Friedensbewegung. Organisierter Pazifismus in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz, hrsg. von Holl, Karl/Donat, Helmut, Düsseldorf 1983, Lemmata: Max Josef Metzger, 272–273.
Die Friedensbewegung. Organisierter Pazifismus in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz, hrsg. von Holl, Karl/Donat, Helmut, Düsseldorf 1983, Lemmata: Johannes Ude, 391–392.
Gansriegler, Franz-Michael: Friede im Dialog, in: Manfried Rauchensteiner (Hrsg.): Überlegungen zum Frieden, Wien 1987, 133–235.
Rotte, Ralph: Die Außen- und Friedenspolitik des Heiligen Stuhls. Eine Einführung, Wiesbaden 2007
Schlott, René: Die Friedensnote Papst Benedikts XV. vom 1. August 1917. Eine Untersuchung zur Berichterstattung und Kommentierung in der zeitgenössischen Berliner Tagespresse, Hamburg 2007
„international justice“: quoted from: Gansriegler, Franz-Michael: Friede im Dialog, in: Manfried Rauchensteiner (Hrsg.): Überlegungen zum Frieden, Wien 1987, 204
„Since the First World War I have personally espoused ...“: Max Metzger, quoted from: Gansriegler, Franz-Michael: Friede im Dialog, in: Manfried Rauchensteiner (Hrsg.): Überlegungen zum Frieden, Wien 1987, 205
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