King Pastoral Discussion


The Enduring Power of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Principles of Nonviolence

Welcome to the discussion forum for Archbishop William E. Lori’s pastoral letter, “The Enduring Power of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Principles of Nonviolence.” 

In his letter, Archbishop Lori asks Catholics to reflect on ways they can heal the racial divide and respond to injustice in peaceful, loving ways.

How do you foster understanding and justice? What more can be done in our parishes, schools, ministries, families, government and the wider community? What ideas do you have for implementing Dr. King’s principles in the Archdiocese of Baltimore?

Share your thoughts below. Please include your name and email address. Approved comments will be published within one day of posting. 

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10 Responses
  1. Ann

    I watched and waited. In vain. All the ‘religious’ leaders who came to Baltimore after the riots to puff out their chests and expostulate had packed up it seems and left when the spotlight dimmed. Who organized the victimized citizens in those neighborhoods to appear front and center weekly in the mayor’s office demanding cleanup and demolition of the blighted blocks? Demanding a timeline? Demanding lights be fixed, curbs repaired, more police presence? Block by block. Prosecuting the landholders. No one. No one. That is the issue of the disaffected. They know no one will listen to them. Have organized peaceful groups go to the government office and make their grievances known. Unrelentingly. Perfect opportunity for the Church to liaise and get the ball rolling. Get the basic needs met– shelter, safety, sources for nourishment (grocery stores). Be there for them to guide them and restore their sense of value. I am not a Baltimore resident. I do know how any other neighborhood group would act if faced with the deplorable conditions of those blocks. Think asthma.

  2. Mary Kambic

    I am a resident of Baltimore city. Fortunately, we do not need anyone coming in to “guide” us or “restore our sense of value”. We are doing it ourselves! My email list every day lists the blossoming projects in the city organized, in many cases, by youth groups. We have Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, the Baltimore Algebra Project, the Showing Up for Racial Justice groups, the Harriet Tubman House in West Baltimore where young people are planting neighborhood gardens, We Are Cove Point, along with environmental groups fighting oil trains traveling through the city, skyrocketing water bills, and selling homes for overdue water bills. I am so proud of what we are all doing supported by our excellent city delegation in Annapolis to accomplish change. As one who believes in the principles of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, and am proud to have marched with him in April 1967 in NYC, his ideals are alive and well here in my neighborhood and Catholic parish.

  3. I believe that the most powerful recent statement on the way of active nonviolence comes from our Holy Father Pope Francis. He holds up Dr. King as one of the shining examples for us. I am sharing his message below.

    Also –
    In going forward to pursue the ambitions of Archbishop Lori’s pastoral letter, we need to look deep in our hearts and ask, “Do we have the courage to seek solutions or are we content to just identify problems and then blame others?”

    As Archbishop Lori rightly points out, we need to have the courage to seek solutions and break through the fear we have that if we get behind a solution that involves any kind of compromise or collaboration with others opposed to us, then we will be viewed as ‘caving in’ or worse ‘betraying’ our group (how ever that group might be defined – by race, creed, class, etc.). Let’s have that courage and let’s pursue the ways of active nonviolence.

    This struggle is much bigger than just Baltimore, but Baltimore can be a place that leads. Anyone with ideas or just interested in solutions focused discussion please tweet #SolutionsForBaltimore

    Here is the message from Pope Francis referred to earlier:

  4. Mary Kambic

    Thank you, Mr. Senft, for your contribution and reminders of the message of Pope Francis. I have several questions that we as a Catholic community can consider and study; Non-violence is not an easy path to follow. Its principles have been used not only in racial issues in the United States, but for nations demanding freedom. No one can read a paragraph on non-violence and participate in political action without careful study and preparation for what that means. In other words, be prepared for a lot of reading and work! Some Catholics have applied Dr. King’s principles because they all were or are members of several groups in this country that have non-violence as their mission. For instance, the Fellowship of Reconciliation in New York, is still working for these principles. Dr. King and Bayard Rustin were members of FOR. During the unrest following the death of Freddie Gray, FOR ministers traveled to Baltimore to provide training in non-violent protest. Pax Christi represents the Catholic voice of non-violence. Our Catholic teachings should lead us to see how racism is tied to other evils in society. It’s no coincidence that Dr. King delivered his critical speech against the Vietnam War at Riverside Church in NYC explaining how his experience with racism caused him to see other evils in society, such as war. A final warning: I am alarmed at how the idea of “civility” is being used to punish, fire, and destroy the reputations of people of good will in this country. We have to clarify when it is not appropriate to be civil. When someone speaks racist or supports evil ideas in a public forum, we must carefully decide what is appropriate action. Turning backs? Hissing? Booing? Walking out? Someone will ALWAYS tell you there is “a better way”, “A different way to say it”, ” and Dr. King’s favorite “Wait”! Get on board, this is a rocky ride!

  5. Rose Berger

    The Baltimore Archdiocese has taken a step in leading the U.S. Catholic church on a serious, sustained examination of violence, nonviolence, and the church’s teachings on such. We need principles not only for regulating wars between states, but for the everyday violence happening in our communities–and not just moral teaching but practical training. I’m grateful for Archbishop Lori reflecting not only on Dr. King’s principles but on the tactics and practices for social change. I would like to see every diocese in the country use Archbishop Lori’s pastoral as model for reflecting on Catholic Nonviolence in their own diocese. We need this teaching and leadership and we need the resources at the diocesan level serving in this direction. Every Catholic Church should be the “go to” place to effectively prevent, interrupt, and transform violent conflict. The research data is in on how to do this effectively. Now is the time for the church to lead on nonviolence and just peace.

  6. Archbishop Lori’s pastoral reflection on the Enduring Power of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Principles of Nonviolence is a gift to a world hungry for social, economic, racial and environmental justice — for hope. Especially important is Archbishop Lori’s recognition that creative and powerful nonviolent efforts for a just peace already abound in Baltimore’s neighborhoods. That is so true! In recent years, groundbreaking empirical research has demonstrated the effectiveness of active nonviolence and the importance of increased investment in understanding and scaling up nonviolent approaches to addressing major social crises and conflicts. Yet, active nonviolence is often misrepresented, misunderstood, too narrowly defined or wrongly dismissed as either passive or utopian.

    The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, a project of Pax Christi International in cooperation with many religious communities and other faith-based organizations, is enormously grateful for Archbishop Lori’s pastoral reflection. We believe that the Catholic Church can play a major, positive role in expanding our understanding of and commitment to active nonviolence by integrating the study and practice of Gospel nonviolence explicitly into the life, including the sacramental life, and work of the Church through dioceses, parishes, agencies, schools, universities, seminaries, religious orders and Catholic organizations. Archbishop Lori has made a tremendous contribution to Baltimore and beyond by encouraging all of us to imagine and learn how to apply effective nonviolent tools for achieving the social transformation our neighborhoods, our country and our world need. Pax Christi International and our Catholic Nonviolence Initiative will be listening with care to the insights about nonviolence that Archbishop Lori’s leadership generates – and watching for ways to support Baltimore’s nonviolent movement for a just society.

  7. This is a really wonderful and courageous initiative you have taken in writing this letter! As you implied, we all have room to grow in the virtue of active nonviolence. We are learning that nonviolence is the power of love in action and the path to fuller truth of our sacred dignity; a spirituality and a distinct virtue; a culture of nonviolent creativity, practices and related virtues; and an effective methodology and constructive force for transforming conflict, protecting others, and challenging all forms of violence. Nonviolence is giving blessing (1 Peter 3:9) “not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.”

    I am the Director of Justice and Peace for U.S. Catholic leaders of men’s religious institutes (CMSM). We passed a resolution on Gospel nonviolence ( this past August and have been working on implementation. Some of the ways you might consider advancing your initiative are the following: 1) call on your Catholic parishes to offer regular training in a range of key nonviolent skills- e.g. nonviolent communication, active bystander intervention, unarmed civilian protection, nonviolent resistance, conflict transformation, and restorative justice circles, etc. The DC Peace Team ( and local Pax Christi groups could help; 2) call on your Catholic seminaries, schools, and parishes do offer regular courses in Jesus’ way of nonviolence; (see here for sample curriculum: 3) develop restorative justice circles across the diocese responding to issues of harm, discipline, and even violations of rules or laws; 4) mobilize the Catholic community to advocate for city, state and federal policies that increase funding for nonviolent practices to engage conflict, that decrease funding for lethal weapons, and that require frequent, ongoing de-escalation training for our police officers.

    As you may know there is a global Catholic Nonviolence Initiative ( which has been mobilizing as well as encouraging Pope Francis to write an encyclical about nonviolence. Anything you can do to help move that along would also be really helpful for our shared concerns. I would be happy to talk more about any of this and learn from your experience. See the CNI action guide for more ideas (

    With Hope,

    Eli S. McCarthy, Ph.D.

  8. Many thanks to Archbishop William E Lori’s Pastoral Letter, The Enduring Power of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Principles of Nonviolence. May this be a first step toward declaring Baltimore to be a city of Nonviolence similar to Carbondale, Illinois. We, in the Twin Cities of St Paul and Minneapolis in Minnesota, are moving efficiently and effectively toward this end. We are following Carbondale’s ten steps which involves Mayors, City Councils, the Police, Churches, Schools, Libraries and the like including the Media and the Arts. The results are leading to greater empathy and compassion throughout the area. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, the expectation of an event tends to cause it to happen. I invite Baltimore and all the other cities to participate in this active nonviolence implementation.

  9. We have been greatly encouraged and energised by Archbishop Lori’s pastoral and will share it far and wide here in the UK. Thank you. It is refreshing to see leadership of this kind that addresses the a core problem of our time – the various faces of violence – and draws on well established traditions and approaches by way of response. Good too that it has questions built in that will engage faith communities in exploring how a commitment to active nonviolence can be integrated into the life of our church communities, schools, pastoral programmes and more.

  10. Cathy Pearce

    I am so very pleased that the Catholic Church is beginning to promote active nonviolence as was our infant church in ihe first centuries. There is no evidence that any violent action is supported in the New Testament or in Jesus Christ’s life or teachings. The heart of the gospel is nonviolent. Peace ne with you!!

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