There are two great evils in the world: sin and suffering. Sin is mortal, suffering is physical, and the latter is a result of the former. What happens to the body as pain, and to nature in the form of cyclones, earthquakes and floods, is ultimately an echo, a repercussion and effect of what has already happened in the moral universe. When the big wheel in a machine is cracked, all the little wheels get out of order. As we eliminate sin, we eliminate suffering; as we love God, we cease to hate others. And thus we engage in fewer wars.
The more morality and decency and virtue there are in the world, the more peace there will be in the world. Wars are consequences of a moral rebellion. The Scriptures boldly affirm that war is the result of egotism and selfishness. When civilization is made up of millions of men and women who are at war with themselves, it is not long until communities, classes, states and nations will be at war with one another. Every world war is a turbulent ocean made up of the confluent streams of millions of little wars inside the minds and hearts of unhappy people. War is the final logic of self-will.
War is not necessary, but it does become an inseparable ailment of any world that abandons the supremacy of the spirit. Nietzche, after proclaiming the death of God in the nineteenth century, prophesied that the twentieth century would be a century of wars. There is a possible connection between the importance given to politics and the frequency of wars. In any era of history where politics is the major interest, war is the major consequence. This does not mean that one ought to subscribe to the dictum of Karl von Clausewitz that war is the prosecution of politics by other means. It does mean however, that since politics stresses expediency and pragmatism on a great scale that dedication to truth and morality are minimized. Since the latter are essential for peace, war becomes a greater possibility. When the people are interested in the raising of a family, the cultivation of virtues and the salvation of their souls, they act as a balance wheel against the power-motive of politics. But when both the state and the people give supremacy to politics, the stabilizing influence of society is lost, and with it come civil strife and discord and war.
There is much truth in the thesis of Pitirim Sorokin that as civilization in the modern sense of the term advances, there is an increase of war. There have always been more wars than peace. From 1496 B.C. to A.D. 1861 or in 3,358 years there were only 227 years of peace and 3,130 years of war; this makes 13 years of war for every year of peace. Within the last three centuries there have been 286 wars in Europe. [Ed. note: this has increased even more since Bishop Sheen wrote this, including the current war in the Balkans.]
From 1500 B.C. to A.D. 1860 there were 8,000 treaties of peace which were supposed to remain in force forever. The average length of these treaties was two years. It is likely that there was never a single year when the world did not have a war at least in one country or the other. Two other analyses have revealed that, since the year 1100, England has spent half, and Russia three quarters.
It is not a very sweet pill for our civilized world to swallow, to realize that the false prophets of the last century who predicted an evolution of man into a god, and the necessary progress of humanity to a point where there would be no more war or disease or death, were wrong, and we are now living in a century of war. It behooves us all to admit that there is an evil tendency when uncontrolled by morality and grace will devolve more rapidly than it will evolve. It is our views of the human condition that have been wrong; by denying the possibility of sin and guilt, we have denied the very existence of perversity within us which makes war. Not all will submit to this moral regeneration through self-discipline, but those few who will, will be the leaven in the mass of the world.
It is not our politics and our economics which have to be changed first; it is we ourselves. It is the wars within that have to be stopped. The remaking of the world depends on the remaking of the individual. The return of the individual to God is the condition of more peaceful times.