Bishop Matthiesen named Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace Award winner

Bishop Leroy T. Matthiesen, who once urged Catholics in the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, to reconsider their employment at a nuclear weapons factory in his diocese, has been named the Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace Award winner.

Writing in 1981 in The West Texas Catholic, the diocesan newspaper, Bishop Matthiesen urged people to seek peaceful employment. His call came after President Ronald Reagan announced that Pantex, the factory outside of Amarillo where all of the country’s nuclear weapons were assembled, would begin assembling neutron bombs.

The bishop, who turns 88 June 11 and has been retired since 1997, recalled to Catholic News Service how he was denounced for his stance, especially when jobs were in high need during the deep recession of the early 1980s. But he said he was motivated by his desire for the world to live in peace. 

“I always agreed with Cardinal (Joseph) Bernardin about this consistent ethic of life, that we shouldn’t just focus on the neutron bomb, that we shouldn’t just focus on abortion, that we shouldn’t just focus on the death penalty or the abolition of torture,” he said. “It’s beginning with the right to life at the very beginning, not ending there, but to have that consistent ethic of life.”

At the time his action heartened the Catholic peace movement. Soon, his fellow Texas bishops joined his call. The U.S. bishops also were influenced as they deliberated on and finally adopted their 1983 pastoral letter on the nuclear arms race, “The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response.”

Bishop Matthiesen will receive the award during Pax Christi USA’s annual national conference on peacemaking July 17-19 in Chicago.

3 Responses

  1. Excellent to see a bishop who appreciates that a “culture of life” has to be a comprehensive effort or it is doomed to fail. How can you have a “culture” of life if only one or two life issues matter?

    Wish we had some younger bishops like him.

    Being completely pro-life won’t make you welcome at the conventions of either political party, but maybe that’s a sacrifice that committed followers of Christ have to make.

  2. A question for all unquestioning pacifists: Where do we find it written that nations ought not protect and defend themselves and that there’s no such thing as a just war?
    That sort of question doesn’t make you feel good? Of course not. And that is the root of your problem.

  3. Duane Lamers said “Where do we find it written that nations ought not protect and defend themselves and that there’s no such thing as a just war?”

    “But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.” Matthew 5: 39 Further along in the same chapter we are commanded to love our enemies. I don’t see how this leaves room for just war or defense of a nation state.

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