The Challenge of Peace Ten Years after "The Challenge of Peace"

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By George Weigel

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In the fall of 1989, David Hollenbach, S.J., the prominent Catholic social ethicist who had vigorously defended the theological and political acuity of “The Challenge of Peace” in the early 1980s, noted that the document seemed “already dated.” Father Hollenbach attributed TCOP’s rather brief shelf-life to the extraordinary pace of events in world politics since May 1983; he referred in particular to the rapid and previously “impossible to imagine” transformation of the Cold War under the impact of Mikhail Gorbachev—a transformation that soon led, as we now know, to the collapse of European communism and indeed of Mr. Gorbachev’s state, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.1

The very fact of this committee’s existence suggests its agreement with the claims that the world has changed dramatically since 1983, and that those changes require a careful moral reflection on world politics and America’s role in them. Moreover, I expect that this committee may share Father Hollenbach’s judgment of three years ago, that the rapidity and nature of the changed Weltproblematik accounts for the fact that TCOP is, in some serious sense, “dated.”

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and holds EPPC’s William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.