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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24 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!!

  11. Cory Lockhart

    I am deeply grateful for Archbishop Lori’s Pastoral Letter, The Enduring Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Principles of Nonviolence . I am currently teaching a senior-level college class on nonviolence at a Catholic university in Louisville, KY. Archbishop Lori’s letter was released just a few days after we discussed teaching on nonviolence in the Catholic Church and before we were due to discuss Dr. King and his principles and steps of nonviolence. I was excited to be able to bring this inspiring letter to the attention of my students. From my own experience, I see that people are hungry for new ways, life- and love-affirming ways, to address the difficult issues of our time- nonviolent principles and practices feed that hunger and research shows that nonviolent methods are effective! I hope that more bishops and leaders in our Church will equally embrace and lift up the teaching and practice of nonviolence in our parishes, schools, universities, and other Catholic organizations. I will do my part by continuing my own practice and teaching of nonviolence and by sharing this letter as widely as I can.

  12. terrence rynne

    Terrence Rynne, Teacher of Peace Studies at Marquette University.
    Thank you Archbishop Lori for your leadership. May the Catholic Church, church wide and parish deep, reclaim Gospel Nonviolence as Jesus taught and practiced it. Through Doctor King and Mahatma Gandhi we have learned that Jesus’ message applies not just to interpersonal relationships but also to political issues and problems.
    It is the message the world desperately needs and we are finally hearing it proclaimed by someone in Church leadership. Violence does not work. War never brings peace. Only nonviolent action brings peace.
    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  13. In writing his second pastoral letter, “The Enduring Power of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Principles of Nonviolence,” Archbishop William E. Lori asks us to build bridges to “address the root causes of injustice.” To build a bridge, one must first establish a firm foundation. In this case, we must first understand the meaning of “justice” before we can recognize “injustice.” We must understand the meaning of “injustice” before we can find “root causes.”

    Justice is the ability to conform to generally accepted standards of right and wrong. We find those standards in civil laws and in God’s revelations. There are ample civil laws dealing with drugs, segregation, racism, and violence. The penalties for a failure to comply with these laws are well established.

    Social justice relates to generally accepted right or wrong standards pertaining to life and the relations of human beings with one another in a community. These standards are more attuned to the criteria found in one’s conscience. They find their balance between right and wrong in how individuals would want to be treated themselves.

    Is it possible to resolve the “root causes” of social problems by suggesting that society provide better housing, clothing, food to those with less? Is Christopher Gunty correct when he writes in the March issue of The Catholic Review that we “intensify our efforts to provide a good education for kids…be involved in housing issues and all kinds of (services) that get at the root causes of these things”?

    As I point out in my book Rock of the Apostles: A Brief History of Catholic Tradition, “teenagers should be taught that four simple choices early in life can minimize the possibility of poverty for a lifetime regardless of one’s means and background. Those choices are to graduate from high school, work steadily at any job available, get married before having children, and avoid crime. This simple formula observed and reported on by sociologist Isabel Sawhill is important to a life on earth as a minimal requirement for financial security.”

    The “root causes” of current social problems are not found in racism, segregation, or the condition of one’s life. They are found in a misguided education by ill-educated parents and teachers. They are found in giving a pass to young people who feel entitled to violate a law because he or she is taught something is due them over and above life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is where true injustice is occurring. This is where social justice finds a gap between right and wrong behavior.

  14. I would echo Dr. Eli McCarthy’s comment – to institute a group in each parish to train parishioners in non-violent principles. Then, I would ensure that all parish deacons are charged with leading Social Justice ministries in putting these principles into practice in the public square so that injustices are actually addressed by our legislators. As the Church becomes an effective beacon, the lost will flock to it again, just as they did to Jesus.

  15. All parish committees, governmental entities, individuals, who plan to meet and discuss social justice issues should ask themselves first whether they are intending to change the injustice in men’s conscience OR whether they are searching for ways to increase charity towards the less fortunate. If the latter, they should read with an open mind two widely-read (and debated) reports that cautioned those with such intent. They are The Negro Family: The Case for National Action (1964 Moynihan Report); and Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 (2012 Charles Murray). Whatever actions may subsequently be recommended should strengthen the family and the integrity of the household not diminish it in the sight of its occupants. The level of self-worth is earned, not given.

  16. Archdiocese of Baltimore

    From Thomas D. via Flocknote:

    While racism still exists in our country hasn’t it diminished greatly since the time of Dr. King and the civil rights movement of the 1960’s? In fact isn’t it true that institutional racism no longer exists in our wonderful country as evidenced by black Americans obtaining every position in American society, including President? Unfortunately it seems that now in order for some to acquire or maintain political power or financial gain they must incite racial hatred and division. They attack our police and our criminal justice system which exists to diminish the effects of sin. They use incarceration statistics as evidence of racism and social injustice without acknowledging another possible cause; a pathological culture of young unwed mothers, fatherless children, disinterest in education, predatory violence, and government dependence. Isn’t it true that by all significant measures there is no better place to live as a minority than today in America, and that America remains the land of opportunity if one subscribes to its values? Perhaps as Christians we are obligated to seek the truth and to pray that those who embrace a culture of sin, violence, and irresponsibility; and those who incite racial division, make an honest assessment of their own accountability, seek forgiveness, and embrace Christ.

  17. Archdiocese of Baltimore

    From Katherine C. via Flocknote – responding to Thomas D:

    I am sorry to disappoint you but as an immigrant who moved to the United States in the year 2000 and have lived in 10 US cities in the last 18 years, my report to you on the state of “racial equality” in this country is poor. Very poor. In the inner cities in this country, funding for public education is dismal and that results in subpar education for ethnic minorities such as African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos and other non-white immigrants. So while the schools of wealthy white children are shiny and sparkling clean, the schools of minority children are located in dilapidated, crime-ridden, gang-infested neighborhoods. And as if that weren’t enough, their inner city schools serve them molded bread and expired milk for breakfast…Their teachers either have no training or no passion and often assign the students, problem sets, while they read the newspaper and watch music videos on YouTube…And how do I know all this so intimately, you may ask? Because I was a graduate of such a horrible school system and yes, it did happen here in the United States of America and the New Millennium. I made it out of such a war trench with a firm resolve in my heart and it would be to reform the educational system of this country. I went on to attend and graduate an Ivy League college in the North East and thanks to the sociological training that I received I can tell you very directly that the racial issues in this country are FAR from resolved. If you don’t know the struggles if the poor and of the racially marginalized, I advise you to read more books and watch more documentaries on the struggles of the marginalized in this country. Their struggles are not the creative script of some liberally minded producer. They are the hard and cold realities that I–a non-Democrat, but also a non-Republican thinker and writer–can personally avouch and attest as being true, from first hand experience.

  18. Archdiocese of Baltimore

    From Thomas D to Katherine C. via Flocknote:

    – God bless you as a lawful immigrant to our great nation and thank you for your insight into the state of racial equality in our country. Of course there is no doubt that racism exists in our nation, it is experienced by people of ALL races. But is racism more prevalent and problematic now than it was in the 1950’s? If so, how is that possible? How has America become more racist? How is it that racism is solely responsible for inner city problems when these cities generate income and have been largely run for years by minorities? How is racism responsible for not holding educators responsible for teaching our children? How is racism responsible for inner city youth killing each other?

    If you don’t mind me asking, what made you immigrate to America? Do you think there a better country in which to live as a minority? Through your own talent and drive you were able to succeed and raise yourself out of poverty in our great country. That opportunity exists for all Americans regardless of race. Our Constitution provides for equal justice under the law, NOT equality of outcome. Equality of outcome has been tried in systems like Socialism and Communism and the outcome time and again has been the equal sharing of misery. In addition, I suggest that forced or government legislated equality of outcome is immoral. American Capitalism, despite its faults, has lifted more people out of poverty and has raised the living standard of more people than any other in history. American history is replete with the acts of its citizens and government to address racial inequality – from the civil war where 620,000 Americans died to end slavery, to the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination, through affirmative action legislation and beyond. There may be still be racism in America but America is NOT a racist country.

    I grew up in the city is a wonderful lower middle class family. I had friends who were minorities from poor families. I saw the effects of poverty, drugs and crime in all races. I worked menial jobs, paid for, and studied hard to earn, a college education, and was fortunate to ultimately find a good career. The only privilege I have been blessed with is my faith in Christ and my American citizenship. I am deeply offended when some consider me privileged or supremacist because of the color of my skin. That is racism.

    I seek only an honest and respectful dialog to understand and bridge our divisions, but without substantive answers to these question it’s difficult for me to accurately access racism in our country beyond the rhetoric. I pray that God will bring us peace and harmony.

  19. Archdiocese of Baltimore

    From Katherine C via Flocknote:

    Beautiful video and a very timely and inspiring message for all. Thank you so much for chronicling the ways that Baltimore is taking a step against violence as well as highlighting the integral role that the church has in that process. May God bless your great work and may we all have the courage to join in the efforts!

  20. Archdiocese of Baltimore

    From Chuck Michaels via Flocknote:

    B-R-A-V-O!! Thank you so very much! Now the task is to get this message from the pulpit! And not just once…
    Chuck Michaels
    Pax Christi Baltimore

  21. Archdiocese of Baltimore

    Chuck Michaels via Flocknote:

    B-R-A-V-O!! Thank you so very much! Now the task is to get this message from the pulpit! And not just once…
    Chuck Michaels
    Pax Christi Baltimore

  22. Brian Majerowicz

    We all share a common humanity and being made in the image and likeness of our creator. We struggle and suffer with the circumstances into which we are born, grow, and reach adulthood. The challenge is to overcome our own prejudices, misgivings, mistrust, and fear to reach out in courage to seek common ground and relationship. This is scary and requires a maturity not only in this world but in spirit. We need to remember the example of Dr. King, and St. JPII both reaching out, to those who utterly despised them, seeking relationship and reconciliation. We only have each other. There can be no progress without positive relationship to develop, grow, and create friendship. While this may seem naive, every example we have of practicing care and joy in one another’s presence brings a cetain happiness and acceptance of one another in spite of difference. Difference becomes a kind of bond reflecting the uniqueness of our individual created person and a reminder of what we can learn if we step outside ourselves. Naive, perhaps. But the alternative is not very pleasing in terms of growing together and strengthening each other. The action to step out is hard and we can all be called hypocrites because none of us does this perfectly all the time. It only takes the first step to lead to the second. My hope is to have the strength and courage to get by the fear of what others think and reach out to my brothers and sisters.

  23. Deacon Chuck Hicks

    1. Other Responses: I strongly echo all of the positive responses to the Pastoral Letter so far. I am surprised to see the number of associations and groups that are active in this work – all of which clearly fit the MLK model of non-violent activity. I wonder if I am the only one so unaware. Perhaps such could be advertised more widely in our parishes to the benefit of easing racial/other injustices that feed the violence in our communities (see point 3, below as well).
    2. Comment on the “6 Principles” – the Beatitudes: MLK was a passionately strong practicing Christian. He was also a student of Ghandi and gives Ghandi credit for influencing the development of his own unswerving principles of non-violent action. On the other hand, Ghandi is reported to have studied, in depth, the Beatitudes (Mt: 5) – some report that he meditated on these teachings every morning and evening for 40 years. It is also reported that Ghandi referred to Jesus Christ as the most perfect human who ever lived. There is no evidence that Ghandi ever became a Christian; however MLK refers to him as ‘the most perfect practicing Christian of our time’ (or words to that effect). Clearly, then, we can see that MLK’s principles are rooted firmly in the Beatitudes. I would suggest two things: 1st – let the study questions re: each principle include a challenge to identify the Beatitude(s) that underlie each of the principles, and 2nd – consider using the Beatitudes directly as the “principles” we should explore, discuss and implement as the basis for “changing hearts”. If the Beatitudes are truly the root of non-violent actions for resolution of the issues we face (and they surely are) then we should, as Catholic Christians, go directly to the source. MLK would certainly approve that approach. Archbishop Chaput (Philadelphia), in his book: Strangers in a Strange Land, makes a very convincing and naturally Christian case for seeing the Beatitudes as THE marching orders of Jesus for his disciples – to embrace the Beatitudes is to “put on Christ”. The CCC says essentially the same thing; however Chaput examines such to a much greater and very practical depth.
    3. Inter-parish Collaboration: MLK (in his last book: Where do we go…Chaos or Community) sees Black/White alliances as the only hope for real/full integration of American ethnic, racial, cultural, social, religious communities… (“One nation, under God…”). The Archdiocese has a core presence – a parish presence – in almost every neighborhood in Baltimore and in most of the outer-urban, suburban and rural areas of Maryland. As we implement the pastorate plan for the Archdiocese, perhaps we should also give thought to something like “Virtual Parishes/Pastorates” (VP’s). Such associations could utilize the different gifts in each parish (and/or pastorate) to the mutual benefit of the entire VP. A careful design of VP’s could put the best gifts of an array of parishes/pastorates at the disposal of all. Inter-parish/pastorate alliances within the Church are a natural, especially where there is/can be a strong ecumenical component present. The person-to-person interaction in these kinds of alliances is an important component. To a lesser degree, yet along the same lines, some parishes already do part of this thru “twinning” (an idea proposed in the Pastoral letter). While these relationships are a good start, most of these do not yet achieve any “real/meaningful” personal/communal interaction, along the lines we are striving for in the Pastoral letter.
    4. Media: The Church should take advantage of every opportunity to use the media to promote the positive aspects of a truly, fully-integrated America. I can see first-class (expensive, well of course) movies, made for TV specials, the exploitation of other media sources to spread the Christian message of the “why and the how and the joy” of the brotherhood of all.

  24. The last encyclical of Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris (29), states that everyone has rights, but an understanding of those rights also entails acceptance of duties. Teachers of truth cannot weigh the one without balancing it against the other. If one has a right to a decent standard of living, one also has an obligation–a duty–to live in a becoming fashion. Social teachers cannot forgive the duty for the sake of the right; certainly not if the moral truth is to be known. Finding and correcting root causes of injustice demand attention to both ends of the teeter totter of life–duties as well as rights.

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