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The CPF assumed a leadership role in Catholic opposition to the Vietnam War and provided an outlet through which lay Catholics could exercise their newfound authority in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.
American PAX, also a predominantly lay organization, focused on nuclear disarmament in the early 1960s and contributed to Catholic protest of the Vietnam War. Like the CFM and American PAX, the CPF embodied a new spirit of lay activism, one nurtured by the Second Vatican Council.
In criticizing the Vietnam War, Catholic activists not only challenged American Catholic tradition, but risked resuscitating an anti-Catholicism nurtured by Protestant America since the eighteenth century.
As CPF leader Tom Cornell recalls, "Before long it appeared to us that action [could not] be separated from education." As a result, the CPF broadened its educational mission in 1965 and 1966 to include public protest of the Vietnam War, a decision that strengthened lay Catholic participation in the antiwar movement and ushered lay Catholics into the vanguard of Catholic social justice activities in the United States.
To justify the escalation of their protest, CPFers argued that the Vietnam War had come to violate the message of Christ and the laws of the Church.
CPFers faced serious hurdles in their attempt to promote both nonviolent resistance and Catholic pacifism and knew that advocating a more confrontational brand of Catholic activism could conceivably threaten efforts to broaden Catholic opposition to the Vietnam War.
In spite of such obstacles and fears, CPFers felt action was necessary and responded to the escalation of the Vietnam War in the summer of 1965 by engaging in a newer "pacifism of the strong"--one that contrasted sharply the "passivist" stereotype.
Reflecting their developing commitment to prophetic witness and their growing confidence, CPFers argued that Catholics could not support the Vietnam War and that they were duty-bound as Catholics to resist the war effort.
Even though the CPF's condemnation of the Vietnam War rested on doctrinal arguments, it came not from those who manned the pulpits in the American Church, but primarily from those who filled the pews.
Yet, while public reaction to Catholic antiwar protest during the Vietnam War varied considerably, the actions of groups such as the CPF did initiate serious discussion within the American Catholic community about the role of the laity, discussions that reflect changing relationships within the American Catholic Church.
As Zoppi and Restaino stated, "Christian law, moral law and civil law are homologous." Clearly some lay Catholics felt that public protest of the Vietnam War was not only unAmerican, but outside the bounds of acceptable Catholic behavior.

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