Category Archives: Archdiocese of Military Services

CatholicCostofWar.Org

Thanks to Mark Scibilia-Carver for putting up the site thecatholiccostofwar.org and for sending us the link.

“These pages are dedicated to the U.S. Catholic victims of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both soldiers and civilians, who have been killed in these unjust wars and to the memory of Ben and Elizabeth Salmon, Catholic resisters of WWI. It also serves as an indictment of the Catholic Bishops of the U.S. whose response to these wars has been characterized by cowardice, moral laxity and relativism, to the point that they are guilty of material cooperation with the objective evil of unjust war.

Surprisingly, the Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS) does not keep a record of those killed while under its care.”

He writes: “Under the ‘Defund AMS’ tab is a version of the letter I got published in NCR just before the first collection.”

We will add this as a permanent link on the Resources page.

In Case You Missed It

CAM started a few years ago when we wanted to speak out against the first ever collection for the Archdiocese of Military Services and we suggested putting a paper of protest in the collection basket.

Bob Woldrop of the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House in Oklahoma City prepared a similar statement this year. It can be found here: http://www.justpeace.org/mscollection.pdf

Though this happened on November 5 and 6 this year, and we forgot to tell you about it, it is still good to read the statements and ponder them and keep this small boycott in mind for next year.

Fr. Emmanuel McCarthy writes: “I have added a few words to it to make it fully consistent with my conscience. But ninety-nine percent of what is written is Bob’s work.”

Here is the text of the statement slightly tweaked by Fr. McCarthy:

I am not giving to the 2016 Archdiocese for Military Services Collection on the weekend of November  5-6.The bishops of the Archdiocese for Military Services, together with nearly all of their brother United States Bishops, are guilty of material cooperation with the objective evil of unjust war. In 2003, both Pope John Paul II and then Cardinal Ratzinger, who later became Benedict XVI, condemned our attack on Iraq as an unjust war. In spite of the Pope’s opposition, the Most Rev. Edwin O’Brien, then Archbishop for the Military Services advised Catholic members of the US Armed Forces: “Given the complexity of factors involved, many of which understandably remain confidential, it is altogether appropriate for members of our armed forces to presume the integrity of our leadership and its judgments and therefore
to carry out their military duties in good conscience.”

Subsequent events have sadly proven the truth, wisdom, and prudence of Pope John Paul II’s judgment, and the fallacy and danger of the moral relativism embraced by the Bishops of the Archdiocese for Military Services and most of the other US Catholic Bishops regarding unjust war.

The consequences cascading from our invasion brought death and injury and social dislocation to hundreds of thousands and devastated the historic Christian communities of Iraq and subsequently Syria. It may fairly be said that those who enabled and supported the war on the people of Iraq are “secondary terrorists” in that they created the support system and the objective conditions on the ground in the Middle East that are driving the extreme forms of terrorism currently prevalent in the region.

Evil actions have evil consequences and those who propose the actions must own the evil consequences —and repent.

Therefore, because of these issues, and the overriding issue that Jesus absolutely rejected violence and enmity and taught His disciples to do the same, I am not giving to the collection for the Archdiocese of Military Services.

It is a sad and scandalous day when a people’s religious leaders fail them so egregiously. I promise to pray for the conversion of the Military Services hierarchy and clergy, and for the moral and physical protection and conversion of the members of the U.S. Military, and of all members of all militaries who are our sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers, and children.

They deserve religious leaders who will courageously preach and teach the entire Gospel of Christ, not just that which is acceptable to the United States Government.

Oops, They Did It Again

This article was written by Bob Waldrop and was posted on AntiWar.Com. Here is the link.

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Oops! The Catholic Bishops Forgot To Include War in Their List of Issues for Pro-Life Month!

In the Catholic Church, October is “pro-life month” – an organized focus on the Church’s teaching that life should be respected from the moment of conception to the time of natural death. Yet, “time of natural death” notwithstanding, the issue of war doesn’t even get a sentence.

The letter of the Archbishop of New York City, His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, chairman of the bishops’ committee on Pro-Life Activities, introducing this year’s activities, says nothing about war. There are brochuresavailable for free download – on mercy, abortion, suicide, euthanasia and end of life care, fertility treatment, adoption, and the Care of Creation. War however is not a topic of concern. The bishops suggest intercessions and bulletin notes for the month of October, but invite no one to pray about war. The 18 page catalog of pro-life resources has nothing about war or peace. The bishops’ website section on Pro-Life Activities, has 15 topics, but nothing about war and peace. They provide lots of free social media for posts and tweets, but again, we find not one mention of war.

This cannot be an accident. How can it be anything other than a deliberate decision to marginalize the issue of Catholic participation in the unjust wars of the United States government? Alas, this latest maneuver is consistent with the U.S. Catholic bishops’ attitudes since the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq.

When the United States attacked the people of Iraq in 2003, Pope John Paul II judged that to be an unjust war, a decision confirmed by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict. He famously stated that there was no justification for a preventive war in Catholic teaching.

The US bishops’ position was summarized in their November 2002 statement: “With the Holy See and bishops from the Middle East and around the world, we fear that resort to war, under present circumstances and in light of current public information, would not meet the strict conditions in Catholic teaching for overriding the strong presumption against the use of military force.”

It is fair to ask, in light of subsequent history: Did the US bishops actually believe what they and Pope John Paul II said about this war? What actions – if any – followed their words?

One bishop certainly believed the Pope. The Most Reverend Michael Botean, of the Eparchy of St. George in Canton for the Romanians, wrote to his people during Lent 2003, saying: “Therefore I, by the grace of God and the favor of the Apostolic See, Bishop of the Eparchy of St. George in Canton, must declare to you, my people, for the sake of your salvation as well as my own, that any direct participation and support of this war against the people of Iraq is objectively grave evil, a matter of mortal sin. Beyond a reasonable doubt this war is morally incompatible with the Person and Way of Jesus Christ. With moral certainty I say to you it does not meet even the minimal standards of the Catholic just war theory. Thus, any killing associated with it is unjustified and, in consequence, unequivocally murder. Direct participation in this war is the moral equivalent of direct participation in an abortion.” (Emphasis added.)

That level of moral certitude was not shared by the rest of the Bishops. Their response, as we moved directly to war, can only be described as moral relativism:

  • “People of good will may differ on how to apply just war norms in particular cases, especially when events are moving rapidly and the facts are not altogether clear.” Nov. 2002.
  • “People of good will may apply ethical principles and come to different prudential judgments, depending upon their assessment of the facts at hand and other issues.” Sept. 2002
  • War has serious consequences, so could the failure to act. People of good will may and do disagree on how to interpret just war teaching and how to apply just war norms to the controverted facts of this case. We understand and respect the difficult moral choices that must be made by our President and others who bear the responsibility of making these grave decisions involving our nation’s and the world’s security.” March 2003

The Most Rev. Edwin O’Brien, then Archbishop for the Military Services, on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, March 25, 2003, advised Catholic members of the US Armed Forces:

“Given the complexity of factors involved, many of which understandably remain confidential, it is altogether appropriate for members of our armed forces to presume the integrity of our leadership and its judgments and therefore to carry out their military duties in good conscience.”

Praising the war by their faint condemnation of it.

Subsequent to these statements, the U.S. Bishops did not distinguish themselves as peacemakers. Indeed, for most of the bishops, the Iraq War was not an issue of concern. It may fairly be said that they praised the war with their few and faint criticisms of it. In 2006, I researched the individual statements about Iraq of the bishops who are responsible for dioceses in the US I searched the website of every diocese, the website of the primary daily newspaper in the diocese, and did searches via Google on the bishops’ names for statements made between 2002 and 2006 on the subject of Iraq.

  • Only 39 diocesan bishops made public statements calling for prayers for the people of Iraq.
  • Twenty publicized or endorsed the various statements of the bishops’ conference on Iraq.
  • Twenty-eight provided some sort of catechesis about just war teaching.
  • One hundred forty-six of the bishops responsible for dioceses had nothing to say about Iraq.

I found all the bishops on the Internet talking about other issues –mostly about the clergy sexual abuse crisis – so the problem was not that the bishops were absent from the Internet. What they were absent from was public teaching about just and unjust war and a firm and unequivocal witness to the right to life of the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sine poena nulla lex. (Without penalty, there is no law.)

The refusal of bishops to issue canonical declarations such as that of Bishop Botean, and their public embrace of moral relativism on this critical Gospel of Life issue, gave the government and the armed forces tacit ecclesiastical approval to wage an unjust war against the people of Iraq. Their unspoken message was clearly understood by everyone concerned:

“Do what you will to the people of Iraq, we will not use our canonical authority to stand in your way. We will thus make it easy and morally comfortable for you to kill hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom will be women and children.”

The Iraq War had an objective moral reality that was independent of any person’s perception of its morality. It was either a just war or it was an unjust war. It could not morally be”both-and.” While it is true that people can come to different moral conclusions about international issues, it is not true that all of those opinions are correct, nor are they morally equal. Unjust war at all times and under all circumstances is a moral evil on the part of the aggressor.

Here is how Bishop Botean constructed his argument on the moral equivalency of involvement with the Iraq war and murder:

  • Botean starts with – “The Church teaches that good ends do not justify the use of evil means. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states this principle succinctly: ‘One may never do evil so that good may result from it.’ (1789) .”
  • He writes – “Paragraph 2309 of the Catechism states: ‘The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy.’ Since war is about the mass infliction of death and suffering on children of God, Christians can enter into it and fight in it only if the war in question strictly meets all the criteria of the just war theory, and only if these same standards are likewise meticulously observed in the course of fighting the war. Vague, loose, freewheeling, conniving, relaxed interpretations of Catholic just war theory and its application are morally illegitimate because of the gravity of such a decision.”
  • He continues – “’The evaluation of these conditions of the just war theory for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good,’ states the Catechism. (2309) However, the nation-state is never the final arbiter or authority for the Catholic of what is moral or for what is good for the salvation of his or her soul. What is legal can be evil and often has been. Jesus Christ and his Church, not the state, are the ultimate informers of conscience for the Catholic. This is why the Church teaches as a norm of conscience the following: ‘If rulers were to enact unjust laws or take measures contrary to the moral order such arrangements would not be binding in conscience.’(Catechism 1903) She also warns ‘Blind obedience [to immoral laws] does not suffice to excuse those who carry them out’ (Catechism 2313). When a moral conflict arises between Church teaching and secular morality, when contradictory moral demands are made upon a Catholic’s conscience, he or she ‘must obey God rather than man’ (Acts 5:29).”

It is a tragedy of historic proportions that the United States Catholic Bishops turned a deaf ear to the cry of the people of Iraq for life and opted instead for moral relativism. Their behavior was so egregious that it seems to me to be material cooperation with the objective evil of unjust war.

The Fruits of Moral Cowardice

Since one-fourth of the US armed forces are Catholics, if the bishops had gone as far as Bishop Botean, the United States would have had difficulty waging its unjust war on Iraq. The impact of their moral relativism is all too evident. Millions of people throughout the Middle East hate us because someone that they knew and loved died in our war. We laid the foundation for the birth and success of terrorist groups such as ISIS. The Christian communities of Iraq and Syria have been devastated.

So if we look at what the bishops have not done in the past and are not doingtoday regarding the unjust wars of the United States, it’s hard to take them seriously when they speak about the “Gospel of Life.” Their own inactions and silences boldly proclaim that the United States Catholic Bishops don’t really believe that everyone has the right to life, from the moment of conception to the time of natural death. The people of Iraq never had that right in the eyes of our bishops. Too bad for them that they were in the way of the geopolitical maneuvers of the United States.

The bishops will no doubt protest “this is slander,” but let’s ask the people of Iraq what they think about these bishops’ “defense” of their right to life. This is a scandal as bad as the clergy sexual abuse tragedy, yet it flies under the radar. No one sees that the empire’s bishops are morally naked when it comes to war and peace.

One has to wonder when peace will get a chance with these bishops and they will defend all life, from the moment of conception, to the time of natural death, with the same intensity and vigor that they dedicate to raising funds for their annual diocesan appeal. In view of the lack of attention given to this issue by the bishops during their official “pro-life month,” the answer is evidently “don’t hold your breath.”

“Thus says the LORD regarding the prophets who lead my people astray; Who, when their teeth have something to bite, announce peace, But when one fails to put something in their mouth, proclaim war against him. Therefore you shall have night, not vision, darkness, not divination Then shall the seers be put to shame, and the diviners confounded; They shall cover their lips, all of them, because there is no answer from God. . . . Therefore, because of you, Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem reduced to rubble, And the mount of the temple to a forest ridge.” Micah 3:5-7, 12

Bob Waldrop is the founder of the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House in Oklahoma City, which works in food security and for justice and peace. He has consistently opposed all of the United States military adventures since the 1970s when he met Justin Raimondo and Eric Garris tabling for the Libertarian Party at the San Jose Flea Market. He has been a consistent critic of the poor performance of the United States Catholic Bishops on the issues of war and peace since the embargo on the civilian economy of Iraq. His anti-war paper trail is at http://www.justpeace.org/warresponse.htm. He gardens, reads science fiction, and works as a church musician.

Catholic Military Chaplaincy

The above video was produced by the Catholic News Service. Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy is interviewed therein. While he provided over an hour of commentary, only a few soundbites were included. Below is an introduction to an independent taping of the same thing that was provided to the Catholic News Service. You can hear Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy’s thoughts in three parts.

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The Christian Military Chaplaincy: An Orwellian Ministry.
Part One 
A Ministry of the Ministry of Truth
by Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

Friends,

July 29, 2016 is the anniversary of the U.S. Military Chaplaincy. There will be, indeed there already has been, a parade of kudos in the Catholic and Christian press legitimating and glorifying the Catholic and Christian U.S. Military Chaplaincy. A few months ago Catholic News Service asked me to speak on camera about the Catholic Military Chaplaincy as a piece of an eight part series it was creating. What I had to say lasted for over an hour. a small segment of which was used in Part V of the series which I sent to you recently in Fast Food Helping Twenty-One. Since I knew extensive editing would be done to what I had to say, two days later in exactly the same location that the CNS interview took place I restated my position on the Christian Military Chaplaincy almost verbatim on another camera. CNS, I guess, owns the original reflection I made for it. But if that presentation and the presentation I made two days later were placed side by side there would not be a jot of significant difference.

I have broken the hour plus presentation into three logically-ordered, consecutive parts under the general title The Christian Military Chaplaincy: An Orwellian Ministry.

Over the next three days, one per day will our Fast Food Helping. Since each segment is about thirty minutes I am sending one per day in both video and audio-only format via Dropbox. This is the only way the video and audio format could be transmitted together and still be received on a normal computer. I am sending the audio only, an mp3, along with the video because at a length of thirty minutes you may prefer to put the presentation on your iPhone etc. and listen to it in some other place, e.g., bus, car, plane, walking, etc., than in front of a computer screen. To open the Dropbox and access both formats simultaneously, just click on the URL below. Then click on mp3 for audio only or mv4 for video only. If you have any problems with the Dropbox let me know.

I have also attached an Christian Military Chaplaincy Part Three. The caveat here is that this is a transcript of a verbal presentation and will not read like an essay. But, it is totally accurate.

I hope this is helpful to you in some way in fathoming the depth of the false witness to the teaching of Jesus on violence and enmity in the Gospels, which the U.S. Military Chaplaincy presents to Christians and to the non-Christian public in general with the backing of tens of millions of dollars each year from the U.S. government.

Do send a video, audio or print copy—or all three— to your Bishop, priest, minister and to any military chaplain you may know.

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Presuming Integrity

The following was written by Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy:

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34th ANNUAL FORTY DAY FAST for the TRUTH OF GOSPEL NONVIOLENCE; July 1-August; FAST FOOD: TWENTY-SECOND HELPING (2016)

We don’t cut up when mad men are bred by the old legitimate, regular-stock, Established Church religions, but we can´t allow wildcat religions to indulge in such disastrous experiments.” -Mark Twain

There is nothing that ISIS has done or is doing under the auspices of “God’s will” today that Christians, their Churches and their Church leaders have not first done or are not doing under the auspices of  “Deus vult.” 

The Telegraph, London, 19 July, 2016

“U.S. air strike killed more than 85 civilians, including children, in Syria on Tuesday. Pictures of the aftermath of the dawn strikes village of Tokhar near Manbij in northern Syria showed the bodies of children as young as three under piles of rubble.” 

America Magazine, 4/7/03

“The head of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, said in a letter to his priests on March 25 that members of the armed forces should carry out their duties in good conscience, because they can presume the integrity of the leaders who decided to go to war in Iraq.”

[For the record, the specific people to whom O’Brien says a Catholic can give a presumption of integrity regarding the truthfulness of what they are saying, which then morally permits a Catholic to kill and maim designated enemies, are Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, Perle, Libby, Feith, etc.]

 

Truth is universally understood to be the first casualty of war. The Greek poet Aeschylus (525BC – 456BC) wrote, “In war, truth is the first casualty.” The evidence of the historical record since 500BC incontestably validates  this statement. Those leading a country into war lie without limit or reservation. How then can a Bishop, any Bishop of any diocese, logically and in conformity with the extremely high and strict standard of moral certainty that must be met before engaging in killing people or causing people grave suffering hold and communicate to those in his moral care that the politicians leading a country into war can be presumed to be telling the truth? He can’t. That is fact, not opinion. This is why no Bishop ever even tries to lay out to his people in detail the Catholic moral principles and their logical application on which he is morally permitting them to go to Iraq etc. and kill and maim other people. So as regards Catholic Bishops, it seems, that neither the moral teaching of Jesus in the Gospels nor the moral teaching in Natural Law Catholic Just War Theory applies to them.

Their personal and collective silence gives moral consent—and they know this— to the Catholics of each of their respective dioceses, to go to the Middle East and continue killing and maiming people by the truck load daily. It is more than past time to stop mouthing the U.S. media mantra, “Why don’t moderate Muslim cleric speak out against ISIS terrorism” Straighten out first your own house of God; war is terrorism. Ask why Catholic Bishops for the last thirteen years have not spoken out against American Catholic military terrorists roaming about and ravaging the Arab population and the Arab countries of the Middle East, thousands of time beyond what ISIS has done?

But then, “We don´t cut up when mad men are bred by the old legitimate, regular-stock, Established Church religions, but we can´t allow wildcat religions to indulge in such disastrous experiments.”

-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

Merton on East and West

From the essay “Beyond East and West” by Thomas Merton:

“We are no longer living in a Christian world. The ages which we are pleased to call the ‘ages of Faith’ are certainly not ages of earthly paradise. But at least our forefathers officially recognized the favored the Christian ethic of love. They fought some very bloody and unChristian wars, and in doing so, they also committed great crimes which remain in history as a permanent scandal. However, certain definite limits were recognized. Today a non-Christian world still retains a few vestiges of Christian morality, a few formulas and cliches, which serve on appropriate occasions to adorn indignant editorials and speeches. But otherwise we witness deliberate campaigns to oppose and eliminate all education in Christian truth and morality. Not only non-Christians but even Christians themselves tend to dismiss the Gospel ethic on nonviolence and love as ‘sentimental’. As a matter of fact, the mere suggestion that Christ counseled nonviolent resistance to evil is enough to invite scathing ridicule. One Catholic writer declares in so many words that he will stick to natural law and abandon the Sermon on the Mount to ‘Protestant ministers and Jewish Rabbis.’ It is therefore a serious error to imagine that because the West was once largely Christian, the cause of the Western nations is now to be identified, without further qualification, with the cause of God.

 

Refusal to Serve as “Empire Chaplain”

DemocracyNow! had an interview on Friday with former Army Reserve Chaplain Captain Chris Antal. This is what happens if you are a chaplain in the military and your “message doesn’t support the mission”!

Well, two days after it appeared online, I was contacted by an Army lawyer who had read the post. He forwarded it to my commander. I was summoned to the commander’s office. He told me that my message doesn’t support the mission. He told me that I make us look like the bad guys. He asked me to take it down, which I did, and immediately. Nevertheless, I was subjected to an investigation. It’s called an Article 15-6 investigation. I had to get a trial defense lawyer in Afghanistan, that was provided to me by the Army. And that process drew out for about two months, and it ended with what’s called a general officer memorandum of reprimand. I was handed an official reprimand that said I had made politically inflammatory statements, and I was, on that basis, released from active duty in Afghanistan, sent home with a “do not promote” evaluation, which is really a career killer in the military.

No one can serve two masters.

I can’t find the text of his open letter to President Obama online. Here he is reading it aloud:

Women at War or War on Women?

In regard to the recent post by Cammy about the military’s offer to freeze the sperm and eggs of soldiers, I feel the need to comment if only to give myself a brief blog item to send to others who are better qualified or better positioned to raise an alarm about this.

In vitro fertilization (IVF), as a means of human reproduction, is an evil use of medical technology which is forbidden by God’s laws. That is not my opinion. That is the teaching of the Catholic Church.

Here is a link:

Church teaching on In vitro fertilization

That’s one of the great things about being Catholic. You don’t have to agonize over every moral dilemma that comes along (and new ones come along at a breathtaking pace these days). You don’t have to make all decisions based on your own very imperfect intelligence, knowledge, feelings and judgment. Some things have already been decided for you. Save yourself the effort and the grave danger of getting it wrong. Believe what the Church teaches and live by it.

Here is the link to the recent speech by Defense Secretary Ash Carter outlining the new programs to “support our military families.” Many good Catholics who are strongly pro-llfe and pro-family still hold the American military and government in high esteem. I beg them to read Mr. Carter’s speech carefully and then get back to me.

Force of the Future

The Force of the Future apparently requires the Family of the Future. Within the past year or two we have seen several rapid fire developments. Women can not only join the military but they are now able to engage in combat. They may even be required to register for the draft and forced to fight for the American Empire in the near future. Furthermore, in order to make all this more palatable, the Pentagon will now assist and encourage women to freeze their eggs and then provide the IVF technology to let potential moms serve the State first, and postpone having a family to a more convenient time. Evil on top of evil on top of evil. The military is not merely reflecting the evil in society, it is here acting as an innovator of evil in the cultural realm and it has specifically targeted young women and is now waging war against femininity and natural law.

Where are the Catholic priests and bishops, the Catholic fathers and grandfathers? Who will stand up to this? 

Please readers, if you find examples of Catholic voices that condemn this atrocity let us know about it.

Doug Fuda

 

Il nostro soldato (Our Soldier)

This article talks about the role of religions during the First World War in Italy. It devotes specific attention to Catholicism and the attitude to the war of the Catholic Church and the Holy See. Here is an excerpt about the “usefulness” of religion and military chaplains:

Agostino Gemelli (1878-1959)

Agostino Gemelli (1878-1959)

“In 1917, Agostino Gemelli (1878-1959), a Franciscan military chaplain, doctor and psychologist, published a book entitled Il nostro soldato (Our Soldier), in which he demonstrated (on the basis of personal observations and data collected from other military chaplains) that the religion of the soldiers at the front was not the expression of an authentic faith, but the result of psychological mechanisms that could be directed to reinforcing their strength and commitment in battle.”

I have not been able to located this book online, but from what I can glean from online sources, this lack of authentic faith was, to Gemelli, not a bad thing, necessarily! It could be exploited.

“Gemelli also had an apologetic objective: to show the army and the Italian state the importance of religion in the psychology of the soldier, in order to achieve victory, and in the “national education” of the Italian people after the war.

The Italian authorities, for their part, were well aware of the usefulness of religion to maintain soldiers’ morale, and optimize their commitment to the war effort. As early as 12 April 1915, before Italy’s entry into the war, one of Luigi Cadorna’s (1850-1928) circulars reintroduced the role of the military chaplain – gradually suppressed between 1865 and 1878 and partially readmitted to the health services in the war in Libya – by establishing the allocation of Catholic chaplains to each regiment….

According to official estimates, 24,446 clergy were mobilized during the war, of which 15,000 were soldiers and 2,400 military chaplains. The latter carried out many functions, ranging from giving spiritual comfort to education. The most strictly religious tasks were celebrating mass in the field, the functions for the repose of the dead, the administration of the sacraments (including general absolution and communion before the fighting), and preaching. The sermons intertwined explanations of the Gospel with reminders of the values of order, discipline, and patriotism. Except in the case of a minority of nationalist chaplains, the preaching was not usually aligned with war-time propaganda, but tried to mould behaviour in the listeners which would be not only patriotic, but also Christian. Therefore, there was an insistence on the necessity of faith and religious practice, the purity of morals and language, and a sense of duty and obedience. The performance of duties by the soldiers was not presented as a constraint imposed from above, but as a spontaneous adhesion, arising from love of the country, which was presented as a Christian virtue.

…The religion proposed by the Catholic chaplains was different from the religion “experienced” by the soldiers. This was expressed in devotional and superstitious practices whose objective was safety and personal salvation and a peace that did not depend upon victory. It resorted to materials from various sources, linked to the most ancient beliefs (such as stones, nails, human remains) and the landscape of war (copper crowns from grenades, bullets extracted from the wounds of comrades) or the Catholic tradition itself (scapulars, blessed laces, medals, alleged relics, rosaries, crucifixes, vials of holy water, medals, holy cards, prayers and votive offerings).

Hm. This Agonstino Gemelli is an interesting figure. According to this article: “Scholars tend to judge him solely in light of the Fascist regime and mark him as the archetypical clerical fascist.” He was known for his accommodations to the State. It seems Agostino Gemelli was also an outspoken critic of Saint Padre Pio, stating that Padre Pio was “an ignorant and self-mutilating psychopath who exploited people’s credulity” with his stigmata. Yikes! I have not seen any evidence that Gemelli has been considered for sainthood, though I do think the American government might be taking a few pages from his playbook when it comes to how religion can be “useful” to reinforcing commitment to war.

Chaplain Questions Militarism, Gets Fired

I wish I had heard even one homily like this on a Sunday in the last 14 years, just one. But I haven’t, which is part of the reason we started this site.

In February, Preacher Randy Beckum carefully and respectfully questioned Americans’ increasing love of militarism, in light of Christian truth. The majority of his sermon consists of quotes from Scripture. He is a soft spoken person. He is not being disrespectful to military personnel, nor is he really making any assertions. He is asking questions, simple questions, basic questions — that is all. He is trying to spur thought, trying to “start a conversation.”

That is too much. It was deemed offensive and disrespectful. He was fired. When the kinds of questions he is asking become too controversial for American Christians to tolerate, I think that is a sign that something is wrong, very wrong. Too many American Christians want certain topics to be considered “off limits,” as in “you can’t go there” or “it is wrong to question this.” Violence and war (and participation in war) is the number one topic that they want deemed “off limits.” It seems quite clear to me that they are afraid of the questions: If you ask the questions, they might lead you to the “wrong” conclusions.

But it is never “wrong” to question anything! Inherent in the Christian faith is an ongoing attitude of self-criticism, self-critique. This applies to both our own souls and our country at large. Our religious leaders garner much praise, love and support when they unite us as Christians (and Americans) by demonizing and vilifying the  “other,” whether that “other” be Muslims, liberals, secularists, terrorists, Obama, etc. We feel edified and strengthened through opposition, enmity. But when they urge us to look at ourselves, and within ourselves, we no longer feel united in self-righteousness and mutual admiration and self-congratulatory celebration for our collective awesomeness: We feel disharmony, disagreement, self-doubt, and maybe even if we let ourselves “go there”…shame? guilt? And how can a country stay strong and united if our leaders make us question our own awesomeness? We kill the messenger and feel safer. With that scary voice silenced, we can once again relax, comfortable and settled with our self-justifications.

Sermons like this in civilian life are rare. They are dangerous for the one who delivers them. So, can you imagine a military chaplain giving a sermon like this? All of the pressures that already exist for our religious leaders — pressures to be popular, to be PC, to be accepted and loved by everyone — all of those pressures are only increased exponentially in the even more militaristic culture of the military.

This story apparently became popular over on Reddit, where it made the front page by attracting readers’ attention and receiving over 500 comments. I would like to know what became of this story and whether the Chaplain got his job back, but a quick Google News search shows only exactly one search result: the original story. Apparently, no mainstream media outlets, local or national, have found this story worthy of reporting?