Category Archives: CAM Original Articles

Peace Day

In 1981 the United Nations declared by unanimous resolution that September 21 be recognized as The International Day of Peace. This is a “globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace.” (see: internationaldayofpeace.org).

Why is “building a Culture of Peace” so hard for us?

Every reasonably intelligent person will say that they want peace and yet a Culture of Peace eludes us. At this point many a reasonably intelligent person will also reflexively qualify their desire for Peace with some form of the following: “…but we can’t have Peace as long as they…”. So the work to establish a Culture of Peace stalls.

“Who do you think you are?” is usually expressed as the indignant rejection of an insult but if we consider it as a serious question for ourselves to answer, it may shed some light on why it’s so difficult for us to establish that Culture of Peace.

Maybe we think we are inherently a violent and warlike species. Maybe we think it’s “in our genes” and that “we can’t help it.” Maybe we believe that, despite our best efforts, we are killers from a long line of killers.

That is the Old Story.

This is the story of us, locked into a world of toxic competition in which some must “lose” in life in order for others to “win.” It’s the concept that supports capitalism as we know it and keeps us in seemingly endless wars.

But is this who we really are?

There is a New Story (see: mettacenter.org) of humanity that is emerging. This story paints a very different picture of who we are. It shows us that, at our core, we are actually good rather than evil. We are inclined to cooperate and help each other succeed in life. We see this truth emerge again and again when some sort of disaster strikes (remember how people treated each other right after 9/11?) and our differences are quickly put aside. For however brief a time, we see each other clearly. We see each other as fellow human beings instead of as members of some artificial category.

Creating a Culture of Peace becomes not only possible but natural when we start to remember who we really are and start letting go of the false narratives that hold us prisoner.

As a means to reaching this end there is the concept of the two hands of Real Peace. One hand is closed and says “I oppose your injustice and destructiveness” while the other hand is open and says: “I’m open to you as a person.” This is a realistic practice. We can affirm the humanity of every person without exception while standing firmly against all systems that oppress any person anywhere.

This Real Peace rests on the foundation of our relationships with each other. These relationships form the bonds of our inter-connected nature. That is where our real security begins and how it thrives. It is not our neighbor’s fear of us that makes us feel safe. We feel safe with each other because, in some way, we see each our neighbor as family. Security is the result of knowing that what happens to any family member happens to all family members. We have defined “family” in an exceedingly narrow way for far too long. That needs to change and change fast.

Building a Culture of Peace does not mean that we will live in a conflict-free world. There will be conflict well into the future as long as human beings are involved with each other. What it does mean is that we solve our problems without resorting to violence. It means we recognize that the problem is the problem and not that people are the problem. It means that we give up the illogical belief that hurting others, or ourselves, is a viable way to resolve conflicts.

Building a Culture of Peace is both realistic and natural for the human family when we understand who we are in relationship to each other. We hold ourselves back from this realization by continuing to cling to our artificial categories of identification. We imagine that we are members of a particular nation, religion, political party, profession or class. No such category gets close to the depth of who we really are as beings. That would be like going for your regular medical check-up and having your doctor assess your health by examining the clothes you’re wearing. It doesn’t get to the heart of the matter.

If we want to establish a Culture of Peace in human society we will need to establish that culture within ourselves as part of the process. We need to heal the injuries sustained by our fragile humanness by claiming the truth of our own sacredness. Not only our own but the sacredness of everyone else as well. There is no one who isn’t. This sacredness is by no means limited to human beings. It encompasses all of creation.

We get to the heart of the matter when we recognize the sacredness of All. There we will find the Culture of Peace.

Moral Equivocation 101

Father Raymond J. de Souza wrote “The Morality of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 75 Years Later” at The National Catholic Register:

https://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/the-morality-of-hiroshima-and-nagasaki-75-years-later

In it, he said: “It is beyond dispute that nuclear weapons — a single bomb capable of killing 140,000 in Hiroshima and 75,000 in Nagasaki — changed the military dimension of the war. The atomic bomb made it clear that every major city in Japan could be obliterated with a few dozen American sorties. The unconditional surrender of Japan thus followed swiftly.”

He is wrong. Maybe he should listen to members of the military at the time, some with titles like Admiral and General and names like MacArthur, Eisenhower and Nimitz, to understand the “military dimension” of the use of the nuclear bombs on Japan.

It’s sad when we have to rely on the LameStream news of Yahoo/LA Times to help us unequivocally understand the horrors of war, over the FakeNews of a supposedly Catholic publication:

https://news.yahoo.com/op-ed-u-leaders-knew-100525153.html

Cancel Culture comes to Carmel

On Father’s Day, my longtime pastor Father Ted Rothrock gave a rousing homily reminding the viewing audience at home and the few of us still in the pews that Holy Communion is the point of church (meaning the Catholic Mass).  He also said we needed to preach this from the rooftops.  After Mass, I asked him in honor of his homily if we could have a Eucharistic Procession along the Monon Trail in downtown Carmel on July 4th.  The City had canceled the usual annual Celebration of Secession from the London Crown parade, so I assumed this was a good way to fill that vacuum.  He intended to take his annual July break to boat on Lake Michigan so passed the duty to his young pastoral associate.  The associate happily agreed to do so. 

I called Father Summerlin to start the planning, and we agreed 10am on July 4th worked best.  I started emailing all this lists and contacts I have in the Carmel Catholic Community.  The next day Father Summerlin asked for me to explore whether the City had any permitting requirements for this type of gathering.  I agreed to do so, though since this was small and was essentially a group of people walking together on a public trail, there probably wouldn’t be any permit requited.  I did not intend to block streets or the trail itself. 

My wife humorously asked whether Jesus asked Pilate for permission to enter Jerusalem on the donkey so long ago.  Since this was not about my views on government (I’m an anarchist in the tradition of Murray Rothbard) but about Jesus, I contacted the police department and parks department to determine whether we needed permission or were required to notify.  Both confirmed my original view. 

In the meantime, Father Ted penned his weekly bulletin article; this one would generate national headlines since he made some pointed remarks about the leaders of the BLM and Antifa movements.  In a church with only about 25% of its normal weekend attendance because of the fear of a virus (which is worse, a virus or Satan?), it is somewhat ironic that this one bulletin article of his finally hit such a nerve.  He has written many similar stemwinders over the years.  He is a breath of fresh air in an increasingly irrelevant and milquetoast Catholic Church.  Some people that didn’t like Father Ted’s article announced they were going to protest our church on Sunday.  Father Summerlin said the Eucharistic Procession was cancelled, in light of this, even though it was just a few parishioners gathering together and taking a walk with Jesus on a public trail. 

Our new administrator appointed by the Bishop invited the protestors onto church property. The church also blocked some people, including a Lutheran pastor, from “counter” protesting on church property. Therefore, so these two groups could get visibility, they both ended up largely protesting on the public easements, including a neighbor’s house across the street. They didn’t ask for permission of the city to do this!

In a side note, there were many more of us who prayed in front of the church most of the day around a beautiful St. Elizabeth Ann Seton statue commissioned by Father Ted than there were protestors. Some people walked out during the Bishop’s comments before Masses this weekend about the suspension; my family did not the night before because his message was so watered down either way that it was hard to get so emotional. We are a large parish and I have been asking Father Ted to get the Bishop here. Sad that this is what it took.

Unfortunately, my takeaway from this: John the Baptist said He must increase, I must decrease. The Church did decrease by not having a Eucharistic Procession, unrelated to anything except Jesus, and protestors increased onto church property to celebrate the scalp of Father Ted’s pastorships (this one and his next assignment, at the largest parish in the diocese). This is a site against militarism, but it does not encourage cowardice either by the Faithful or the Hierarchy. I pray that we listen to John the Baptist.

Hitting Bottom

We are moving through a remarkable period in our history. We are contending with the COVID-19 pandemic. Racist behavior continues to emerge in our country and elsewhere. Authoritarian governments are on the rise both in the United States as well as in the international community. As a nation we have been involved in the so-called War on Terror in multiple fronts in the Middle East for nearly twenty years with no end in sight. People everywhere are facing the consequences of toxic human behavior upon the biosphere that we are completely dependent upon. The potential devastation from this situation alone is dire enough to dwarf all others. In short, we find ourselves in a “perfect storm” scenario.

It is well understood by people in recovery that an active addict will need to “hit bottom” before they are ready to commit to meaningful changes in their way of life. A person, caught up in an addiction process, will resist and deny with all their strength until the painful reality of the consequences of their lifestyle comes crashing through their last layers of denial.

Hitting bottom for an individual can take many forms, among them are: broken trust, job loss, homelessness, losing friendships, being shunned by family members, serious injury, divorce, and the death of a loved one. This is a person’s direct experiencing of the natural consequences of a destructive way of life. The common denominator is that hitting bottom is extremely painful. The painfulness is ultimately what breaks the fantasy bubble of addiction and reveals the hard truth of What Is. The fantasy world of addiction is inherently unsustainable.

This is all fairly straightforward and understandable when we look at it thought the lens of individuality. Any individual person can get caught up in an addiction process if they are in enough pain. The challenge we face now is to see the same process occurring on a societal level. This is difficult because we are heavily conditioned to think in terms of individual responsibility rather than in terms of shared responsibility. In the world of addiction this is exemplified by the active addict’s false assertion that “I’m not hurting anyone but myself.” This is one of the many variations of his or her denial system.

However, what if we take an honest look at ourselves through a communal lens? Would we see that, as a species, human beings are also caught up in an addiction process? Are we as a human community addicted to a destructive way of life? Are we also in a state of denial to some degree?

Obviously, we cannot speak of every individual human being behaving in lock-step conformity. We can instead speak of a “critical mass” of humanity whose collective behavior makes a significant impact on the world. What is it that enough of us do with regularity that would constitute an addiction process?

What is humanity addicted to?

Control and domination. In other words, we play God.

We do it to each other, we do it to countless other animals, and we do it to all sorts of plant life that share this planet with us. We convince ourselves of our superiority in order to justify the way we use and abuse human and non-human life in order to make ourselves more comfortable and to feel special. We get a rush when we imagine that we have “conquered nature,” “tamed the wilderness,” or somehow defeated someone or something. In our addiction to control and domination we act with little concern for the consequences of what we do in the name of “civilization.” In our addiction we care about getting what we want. Anything else is secondary at best.

We are tragically addicted to polluting the air, water, and soil that every form of life on this planet depends on. Humanity does this in so many ways that we simply consider them to be part of “normal” life. The list is extensive: Extracting and burning fossil fuels, industrial waste, plastic waste, nuclear waste, and, of course, the extensive toxicity of our constant warfare. This constitutes an incomplete list to be sure but I think the point is made. We do a lot to try to control and dominate the world that is truly devastating to animal and plant life in global ecosystems. Basically, we treat Mother Earth as if it’s exclusively our species’ Town Dump.

Part of what characterizes an addiction process is the absence of awareness or concern for the natural consequences of one’s actions. While our awareness and concern has definitely been increasing over the past 50 years or so, it has not been nearly enough to significantly change our destructive behavior patterns. Is it possible that, at this point in our collective history, our addiction to poisoning the biosphere so that we can feel dominant and “in control” of “our world” has finally caught up with us?

Has our addiction to believing in “human exceptionalism” and the multitude of quick fixes and instant gratifications we have indulged in for so long finally brought us to the point where we are hitting bottom?

Maybe.

Responsibility is a choice but accountability is inescapable. We can choose to avoid our responsibilities for some period of time but they will always catch up with us. We can choose to accept our responsibilities but if we do not, accountability will be imposed upon us. If this happens and Nature ends up holding us accountable it will be a much more unpleasant process. Being proactively responsible won’t be painless but it will be a lot better than being forced into accountability.

If we willingly choose to be responsible for our destructive behaviors we will need to accept humility. Genuinely humbling ourselves means a lot of letting go. We will need to let go of our assumed “human exceptionalism” and our assumed right to dominate other people as well as other life forms with whom we share the Earth. We will need to let go of our assumed “master-servant” relationship with the world. We need to let go of our belief that Mother Nature is supposed to clean up after us no matter how big a mess we leave for Her.

Maybe the toughest thing to let go of is our allegiance to the materialistic paradigm that has dominated our society for so long. This mindset is something that most of us have been conditioned to see as “natural” since childhood. This is a belief in the primacy of things and that these things must be bought with money. This paradigm claims that having enough things will make us happy and satisfied. Having enough things will make us safe and secure. It says that this is the way we need to live our lives. This is a perspective that tells us that “greed is good.” It spins fairy tales about who is deserving of a “good life” and who isn’t. This paradigm supports an implicit justification for cruelty as a necessary component of a grand competition that rewards the “strong” and punishes the “weak.” This is all logical if we on our tiny planet moving around within an unimaginably vast universe are nothing but a collection of randomly assembled atoms and molecules. Such a premise requires an enormous level of human arrogance. It means asserting that we know all we need to know about our world, what it consists of, how it operates and that we are quite comfortable with dismissing whatever doesn’t fit with what we “know.” That’s a lot of arrogance.

So if we let go of our desire for control and domination, embrace genuine humility, and stop playing God, where does that leave us?

If we can overcome our fear of change we will be able to see something we’ve been blind to just as every addict is initially blind to what recovery is really all about. We will become open to a new framework of a healthy individual and communal life. What might such a new framework look like? We can begin by re-examining the framework of active addiction and ask ourselves: What would be radically different from this?

The unofficial mantra of the active addict is as follows:

“I want what I want when I want it!”

This expression emerges from a particular mentality. This mentality is the problem as well as the point from which real change emerges.

Our growth begins when we addicts finally hear Reality answering us with Tough Love when we beg for things to stay the same:

“Please, don’t make me do that! I promise this time I’ll…”
“It’s too late for that.”
“Wait? What do you mean? Do you actually mean that I have to……?”
“Yes! That’s exactly what I mean!”
“But what about…?”
“No!”
“But….”
“No!”
“I promise that this time…”
“I said No!!”

Left with no other option, we relinquish our desire for control, dominance and and our imagined greatness and we finally dare to place our trust in something beyond ourselves. In the language of recovery, we surrender to a Higher Power.

There can be no recovery from addiction without mindful healing from the traumas that sparked and fueled the addiction process itself. As a a nation, we have a number of unhealed injuries that desperately still need healing. A short list includes our history of racism and its fallout, patriarchy that still regards women as second-class citizens, hyper-individualism that shames those who are not “successful”, and our destruction of nature in the name of promoting our civilization. Perhaps most critically, we must understand that trauma is actually a two-way street. Trauma occurs in the act of one injuring another and both parties are negatively impacted. This means that the perpetrator is also traumatized during the act of injuring another. This is most tragically revealed in the current epidemic of suicides by both past and present day military personnel. “Moral injury” is the term that has become recognized as this perpetration-induced trauma that so many of these men and women are suffering from. It’s a kind of karmic blowback and it painfully demonstrates the illusion of our supposed separateness from each other. It similarly shows how we are profoundly connected to each other which means that what we do to another we are also doing to ourselves.

It’s no wonder that so long ago we were advised to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

That continues to be a very difficult lesson for humanity to learn. Thousands of years in our classroom and we are still struggling to get a passing grade.

So the opposite of the addiction mantra might be something like this:

“We know that we can wait for what we want. We know that the needs of others are just as important to them as mine are to me.”

We need a change in our consciousness. It’s actually very possible for us to do that. Millions of recovering addicts have been showing us the way for a long time. It’s ironic that the very people that society has so long despised are the very same people that have implemented this change in their lives. A teacher of mine claims that the universe runs on irony!

One way to begin is to choose to cultivate a consciousness of compassion. It needs to begin as a choice just as one chooses to exercise and eat a healthy diet in order to get in shape. It requires consistent practice and dedication. We have to do the work. Shortcuts won’t get the job done.

What does all this mean for a society addicted to whatever it can get its hands on to feel in control and to not feel the pain of all the injuries it has caused and endured?

It means that we truly appreciate the gift that this world is for every life that shares it. This gift is not just for humans to do with as we please for our exclusive enjoyment. Mother Earth is a gift for all who live on her land, in her waters, and in her air. It is a gift that deserves to be respected.

We are not respecting this gift when we make excuses to keep dumping toxic material wherever we please. When we engage in the state-sanctioned mass murder known as war, when we perpetrate deforestation on a mass scale and destroy whole ecosystems, and when we burn whatever will burn in order to “advance” human society we are not respecting our gift.

It means that we stop expecting others to clean up after us. Healthy adults clean up after themselves. Viewed through the communal lens this means that humanity grows up, stops treating Mother Earth as our town dump, and starts to clean up all the mess we have made.

It means that we accept responsibility for what we have done and hold ourselves accountable for all of it. We need to make amends and reparations everywhere it is appropriate to do so. We need to express our genuine regret and remorse to all whom we have injured. No phony “celebrity apologies” will suffice. It’s got to be real.

We need to continually commit ourselves to growing in wisdom and compassion.

Finally, we need to remember that we are always susceptible to relapsing back to our old addictive ways. We are either busy recovering or we are busy relapsing. We become the process that we invest in.

Have we “hit bottom” as a society? Are we ready to say “Yes” to our recovery process?

We are about to answer those questions.

For all the fathers

So, great news. It looks like we’re getting very close to requiring young women to register for the draft. Ah, the apex of feminism! Finally, we’ll have real equality: Men and women will both have an equal opportunity to become slaves, forced to go kill and die for the state.

I’ve been feeling inspired by David Martin (co-author of The Martyrdom of Thomas Merton — see episode 31 of the podcast), who writes excellent parodies. I think there is a parody that could be written about this: It would be called: “Daddy’s, Don’t Let Your Daughters Grow Up to Be Draftees” to the tune of the ol’ Waylon Jennings song, of course. But the problem is, I have limited creative juices right now, what with my 9-to-5 and the podcast. David says he does too.

Maybe we can collaborate, all of us.

Here’s a couple of lines I came up with…

Draftees are easy to love but they’re harder to hold
They’d rather live their own life than do what they’re told…

And another…

Daddy’s’ don’t let your daughters grow up to be draftees
Don’t let ’em pick up guns and drive Army trucks
Let ’em be healers and mothers and such…


Here’s all the lyrics. Comment if you come up with something!

Cowboys ain’t easy to love and they’re harder to hold
They’d rather give you a song then diamonds or gold
Lonestar belt buckles and old faded Levi’s and each night begins a new day
If you don’t understand him and he don’t die young
He’ll probably just ride away

Mamas’ don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don’t let ’em pick guitars or drive them old trucks
Let ’em be doctors and lawyers and such
Mamas’ don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
‘Cause they’ll never stay home and they’re always alone
Even with someone they loveCowboys like smokey old pool rooms and clear mountain mornin’s
Little warm puppies and children and girls of the night
Them that don’t know him won’t like him
And them that do sometimes won’t know how to take him
He ain’t wrong he’s just different
But his pride won’t let him do things to make you think he’s rightMama don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don’t let ’em pick guitars and drive them old trucks
Let ’em be doctors and lawyers and such
Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
‘Cause they’ll never stay home and they’re always alone
Even with someone they loveMamas’ don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don’t let ’em pick guitars and drive them old trucks
Let ’em be doctors and lawyers and such

“Today’s clergy, by contrast …

use their waning authority to cheer for the very state programs and warmed-over distributism which renders them irrelevant to official secularism.” That is the summary by Jeff Deist, president of the Mises Institute, founded by Lew Rockwell, of the views of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, about the current church.

It is so fitting with what Ellen and Doug have posted recently about the churches closing for Coronavirus, and aligns with the recent episodes of the podcast, where both http://thecatholiccostofwar.org/ and http://www.emmanuelcharlesmccarthy.org/ have pointed out the Bishops haven’t changed their stripes, giving into the State both for war and for the “War Against COVID-19”.

My own Bishop doesn’t believe the Faithful and Staff are capable of keeping the Churches cleaner than Lowe’s or Kroger. “O you of little faith.” Bishop Doherty is relying on the “experts”, including a politically-appointed OB-GYN.

These are the same “experts” who claim the flu is super-deadly, yet potentially lie about that!

The CDC has been saying a significant number of people die from the flu.  It turns out the number is combined for influenza and pneumonia.  See Table 10 for 2017:
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr68/nvsr68_09-508.pdf

See it for 2004:
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr55/nvsr55_19.pdf

I initially thought if the hospitals have handled 25-50,000 flu deaths for years, this would also be manageable.  I believe they stopped separating flu and pneumonia in Table 10 in 2008.  Yet, we still get this yesterday:
https://mobile.twitter.com/CDCFlu/status/1243613266460520452

Please pray for my neighbor, my age (early 40s) and in good shape, who is recovering after having to be ventilated from suffering with this. We don’t know the extent and danger of this, but the Bishops rely on those who lied us into numerous wars and lie about the “common” flu. No wonder Hoppe observes they are irrelevant.

The Child of Fear

It seems that all too frequently we see eruptions of hatred in our world. We see episode after episode of hatred boiling over into violence. We see this on the international stage, locally, and everywhere in between. It has become an un-ending parade of horrors that we are compelled to witness. Our schools and places of worship have been consistently targeted. People who have been marginalized within our society have also been targeted although they often don’t get the same level of media recognition.

Hatred is the child of fear. When it grows large enough, hatred gives birth to violence.

There is nothing new about hatred boiling over into violence. Tragically, this has played out in human history from our very beginning. Here we are, now in the 21st century, still hating and killing each other.

In one respect, fear is the beginning of our evolution. Our ancient ancestors survived, in no small part, due to their ability to experience fear. As they learned how to balance their fear by applying their intelligence to dangerous situations they learned how to be careful. As our ancestors developed the habit of cautiousness, our existence as their descendants became assured.

Long ago we humans learned to fear whoever seemed “different” in some way. Long ago this was literally a matter of life or death. It’s not so hard to understand the power of such primal learning. Once upon a time it was highly adaptive and beneficial. Such conditioning runs deep in us even now.

Hating can be understood as going on the offensive in order to protect and defend against some perceived threat. Attack “them” first and make “them” think twice about attacking ”us.” Assuming, of course, that “they” are actually planning to attack.

Haters are afraid.

They fear annihilation. They fear degradation and humiliation. They fear being displaced, replaced, and having their culture erased.

This is an intensely painful fear!

How can such pain-fueled hatred be met?

Conventional wisdom would suggest that you “fight fire with fire” and respond with exactly the same kind of energy and if at all possible, do so with even greater force. The main problem with this conventional wisdom is that it’s really unwise It is the inside-out, upside down logic that wants us to believe that someone with cancer is going to be saved by having more cancer cells injected into their body. If your doctor told you that was your treatment plan you would probably seek a second opinion.

Instead, we need to go further down the rabbit hole. It’s not enough to see that hatred emerges from fear. We are speaking here of a fear that is the result of not recognizing the difference between fact and fiction. We need to understand where that fear comes from. When we go deeper we find this fear is product of ignorance.

In human terms, this ignorance is the belief that someone or some group is actually not good enough and therefore undeserving of equal treatment or even existence. Such beliefs are based on irrational judgements of perceived danger: “They are threatening our way of life.” “They are going to take over and we will be at their mercy.” “There’s not enough for all of us so someone will not get what they need.” Will it be “us” or “them” that is deemed unworthy? Ignorance says that someone doesn’t deserve to stay in the lifeboat and everyone in the boat looks at everybody else while silently thinking “It’s not gonna be me that gets kicked out!”

What are the people in the lifeboat ignorant of? What don’t they know? More to the point, what are they believing that is not true?

Here’s the Big Lie:

The tragically-believed lie says that we are all separate from each other and the rest of Creation. The Big Lie is that we are separate from the Ultimate Mystery that created us. This ignorance of our true inter-connectedness and interdependency keeps us stuck in an Illusion of Separateness and trapped in the Fear of the Different Other.

The liberating truth is that each of us is profoundly inter-connected. We are intimately part of each other and all of Creation. All of Creation is likewise part of each of us.

We all come from the same creative energy, the same Sacred Source. In traditional religious language, we are all part of the body of Christ. If you prefer a more secular narrative, we all come from the same recycled stardust. As far as we can tell, biodiversity appears to be the modus operandi of the Ultimate Mystery that all of us have emerged from and continue to be a part of. Diversity, not uniformity, seems to be the way of the universe. It is interesting to note, however, that uniformity seems to be the clear and consistent preference of all authoritarian groups throughout human history.

What drives a segment of the human population to embrace a social system that requires everyone to “follow the leader” in order to avoid being severely punished? What is the incentive for people to stop thinking and being responsible for themselves and allow “those in charge” to think and decide for them?

In a sense, this can be seen as a choice made out of frustration with the democratic process-how nothing ever seems to “get done” to improve things. In another sense, this choice can be understood as an evasion of personal responsibility insofar as it is a consent to let the powerful make decisions without interference from those without power. In return the powerless are promised to be looked after and protected by the reigning elite. It’s the old deal of trading away freedom in exchange for security.

If we know what a bad deal this is how do we keep agreeing to it? What motivates a person to sign on the dotted line?

A conspiracy of ignorance and fear.

Our “old programming” for irrational fear has never been deleted. It remains dormant within us just waiting for an injection of energy into its system. Unfortunately, there are groups who want to cultivate fear in as many people as possible. The reason for this is simple: People are much easier to control when they are scared.

We are presently caught in a riptide of fear-based hatred in our society. This is the consequence of a culture that has been structured according to a primitive fear of the Different Other. The violence that is the natural progression of hatred is the response to a misperceived threat. This misperception is part of the “old programming” that remains within us such that different-ness is misunderstood as danger. Since this fear is embedded in our culture we must recognize that it is systemic in nature and systemic problems must be met with systemic solutions.

We need to recognize this fear as a remnant of our ancestral survival. It is now time for the old way of survival to step back and make room for living as we were meant to live as human beings, as Sacred Children of the Ultimate Mystery. While we recognize the old way as an early human adaptation, we must now firmly assert its obsolescence. This primitive fear has served its purpose and now our evolutionary journey needs to continue toward a rational compassion that excludes no one. This attitude of compassion rests on the scientific foundation of the inter-relatedness of all life on this planet. The reality is that we are all part of the same family. Perceived differences are superficial and obscure our unity only by a veil of ignorance.

The work of our time is to remove the veil of ignorance that interferes with the expression of natural compassion for all. We seek to open the way for an appreciation and expression of the healthy diversity of the human family. The challenge we face today is to love courageously in response to all forms of hatred and any violence that emerges from that hatred. We do our best to love the person infected with hatred and refuse the temptation to retaliate with violence when the hate-infected person lashes out. It is extremely difficult work but it is absolutely necessary because we are all in this together. We cannot escape our inter-connectedness. Either we will all go down together or together we will all rise up and be who we really are: People of Courageous Love.

Teach Your Children Well

Our latest podcast, Episode 28, featured Sam Dean, husband, father of seven children, Catholic convert and former Army Officer (1988-2010). He talked about his quest to find answers to his questions about “Just War” and where that has led him. Here is a an essay he wrote which he has given me permission to share here.

________________________________

A CATHOLIC FATHERIN A PERPETUAL WAR SOCIETY REACHES OUT FOR HELP FROM THE CHURCH

by Sam Dean

I am the 50 year old father and primary catechist for my seven children and I need your help. I have come to a question on a Catholic teaching, a changeable doctrine, that I cannot answer. I’ve asked this question of my pastor, my bishop, and more than a dozen other Catholic orders, organizations, and even our Pope. I have received three responses. When I asked the question on Catholic blogs or radio the subject quickly changed or I got an answer to a different question. When I asked PhDs in Catholic seminaries I often received arrogance, obfuscation, anger, and finally and always, silence. The silence, as they say, is deafening.

What question could possibly elicit these kinds of responses? It has nothing to do with sex or the sexual abuse scandal. It has nothing to do with money or the banking scandal. It has nothing to do with some obscure doctrine that only someone who did his PhD dissertation on would know existed. The doctrine is hardly thought of at all, but is relevant to an American on a daily basis.

Before I ask you this question, I should introduce myself. I celebrated my 26th wedding anniversary this year. My wife is a cradle Catholic who married a rather poorly formed Methodist and finally, after more than a decade and a half of prayer, witnessed my entering into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2006. As I noted earlier, we have seven children, but we have at least four more we hope to see in heaven. I retired from the US Army in 2010 and currently work at a small Catholic seminary as the registrar. 

That question…? How does a man in my situation come to a question that causes such discomfort? For me and this question, it was quite by accident. In our parish, we are blessed to have the Order of Preachers, Dominicans. In 2011, I was walking down a corridor of the church with a perfectly wonderful priest. I suppose the topic of discussion related to my former career and his interest in military history. That fateful moment occurred when he commented that, in his opinion, those Catholics who believe in nonviolence were “just wrong”. He proceeded to describe a scenario that would allow a preemptive war against the Plains Indians in defense of Chicago. I had recently retired from the military as an officer and I played a mental game by using the military planning steps to evaluate his scenario. I played with this scenario for quite some time. In the end, I was left with a curiosity about the Roman Catholic Just War Doctrine (JWD) as his scenario had raised more questions than it answered. I decided that I needed to understand the JWD better as my children were coming of age and would soon be eligible for military employment.  I spent 20 years in the US military and didn’t know the JWD; my children would know their Church’s teaching on war.

Over the next months and years I read many books on the JWD. I discussed the JWD with the professors who teach it at seminaries and those who give lectures on the subject. I expected that my concerns about the JWD were that I didn’t understand it and that a simple explanation would be evident. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. The more I researched, the more my concerns grew. My years as a military officer required me to study military history and as I came to understand the JWD, I began to question whether the wars I fought in and those that I had studied had met the stringent JWD requirements.

It helps me to understand an idea if I understand the larger picture into which it fits. The Roman Catholic Just War Doctrine has a knowable history. The idea of a “Christian” just war was first brought into the Roman Catholic Church by Saint Ambrose in the late 4th century and by his pupil, Saint Augustine, in the early 5th century. I had expected our JWD to have its genesis from the Gospel or New Testament, but in reality it is from Cicero, a 1st century B.C. Roman political philosopher. At a time when our parish priest would still discuss the JWD with me, I asked him if he knew the origins of the JWD. He didn’t, but asked the Dominican House of Studies in Washington D.C.. Their response was that it was from Cicero. I still remember the uncomfortable look on his face when he related to me the answer. I wonder sometimes if he still grapples with that answer. I know I do. It is not easy for me to reconcile the fact that my Church’s JWD is not based on the New Testament, but 1st century B.C. pagan Roman political philosophy.   

Now that we know the origin of our JWD, what is its purpose? The JWD defines when a Catholic may morally participate in the mass homicidal violence we call war. According to the JWD, in order for a Catholic to participate in war, the war must be “just”. In order for a war to be just, it must meet each of the requirements of the JWD before the war is commenced (Jus ad bellum) and while it is being prosecuted (Jus in bello). The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states in 2309 that “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. At one and the same time:” (emphasis mine) If any of the requirements of the JWD are not met, the war is unjust and a Catholic may not participate. Any homicide, the killing of a human, committed in an unjust war is murder. As we know, murder is intrinsically evil. In summary, Catholics may participate in a war as long as it is just and not if, at any time, it is unjust. In this aspect, the JWD is very clear and specific.

How certain do I need to be that a war is just? What I found was that the level of moral certainty to which the requirements of the JWD must be known before a Catholic may make a decision is very specific, but that it still requires a personal assessment. The CCC 2309 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.” Clearly we Catholics must know that a war is just to a very high degree of certainty before we participate. A war is considered unjust until it has met and continues to meet all of the JWD requirements to a level of moral certainty that is measured with “rigorous consideration” or probabiliorism. I found it helpful to understand another moral decision that requires a level of certainty of probabiliorism – the decision to bestow holy orders on a seminarian. Our Church will only bestow holy orders on a person when it knows to a level of certainty of probabiliorism that he is prepared for priestly life. As you can imagine, this is a very important decision and one which our Church does not make haphazardly. Correspondingly, we must apply the JWD to the same level as our Church applies this certainty to its future priests. Of course, not all priests remain priests. Our Church recognizes that it cannot be perfectly certain (absolute tutiorism). We are not expected to be perfectly certain that a war is just. Our Church guards against weakening the standards of moral questions (laxism). No one wants a priest that is not prepared for the priestly life. Any attempt to weaken or apply the JWD in a manner not as strictly as the doctrine demands courts committing murder. Both absolute tutiorism and laxism are condemned by our church. In my research, I never found absolute tutiorism, but found laxism quite common with the JWD. 

I think two explicit examples from our Church may help us fully understand the gravity of this aspect of the JWD. Saint Pope John Paul II stated in his encyclical The Splendor of Truth (Veritatis Spendor), “Like the natural law itself and all practical knowledge, the judgment of conscience also has an imperative character: man must act in accordance with it. If man acts against this judgment or, in a case where he lacks certainty about the rightness and goodness of a determined act, still performs that act, he stands condemned by his own conscience…”

The CCC 2242 states, “The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” “We must obey God rather than men”:”

What are the specific requirements of the JWD? Again, our CCC 2309 gives the requirements to initiate a just war as: 

  • the war must be defensive;
  • the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
  • all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
  • there must be serious prospects of success;
  • the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

The CCC states the following requirements for conducting a war:

  • 2312  The Church and human reason both assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflict. “The mere fact that war has regrettably broken out does not mean that everything becomes licit between the warring parties.”
  • 2313    Non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners must be respected and treated humanely. Actions deliberately contrary to the law of nations and to its universal principles are crimes, as are the orders that command such actions. Blind obedience does not suffice to excuse those who carry them out. Thus the extermination of a people, nation, or ethnic minority must be condemned as a mortal sin. One is morally bound to resist orders that command genocide.
  • 2314    “Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation.” A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons—especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons—to commit such crimes.

You can see, as I did, that it is extraordinarily difficult for a Catholic to justly participate in a war, as the requirements for the JWD are demanding. The JWD is not difficult to understand and shouldn’t be difficult to apply. I could see quite plainly that even the first requirement, that a war be defensive, would eliminate over half of all wars. Both sides of a war cannot wage a defensive war (certainly not to a level of moral certainty of probabiliorism), which eliminates one side of any conflict outright. In many wars, neither side is defensive. Because of the other requirements and the level of rigorousness of the JWD, reaching the level of “just” is nearly impossible. Remember, if ANY of the requirements are not met, a war is unjust and a Catholic may not participate or must stop participating. I felt confident that I could teach my children the Roman Catholic Just War Doctrine. Now what I needed were some concrete examples of our Church applying its 1600 year old doctrine. 

My search for that historical example was where the wheels came off of the bus, so to speak. As I searched, I asked the following question many times. 

In the approximately 16 centuries since the Roman Catholic Church adopted the JWD, when have the leadership of the Church within a state’s boundaries ever declared their politician’s or Caesar’s war unjust?

For the JWD to have any moral force, answers such as the following should be so numerous as to require many volumes to contain it. “Dear Prime Minister/President/Caesar, though we remain obedient subjects, we Catholics will not be able to participate in your war as it does not meet our doctrine for just wars.”  The only example I found was a pastoral letter published by Bishop John Michael Botean of the Romanian Catholic Church. I would highly recommend reading his letter at (http://www.centerforchristiannonviolence.org/action-against-violence/). He understands and employs the Roman Catholic Church’s Just War Doctrine and passes his pastoral judgement on to his flock.

If well over half of all wars must be unjust from only one requirement, that is a stunning verdict on the JWD and those entrusted with the shepherding of the souls of their flocks. That is my question that elicits the responses that I described earlier in my article. Do you understand my predicament, fellow Catholics? If I am to catechize my family, the men of the Church owe me/us an answer.

My question for you readers, fathers, mothers, clergy, Catholics, is how can this be? If we are a “Just War” church, how can our doctrine always give us war? As a parent and primary catechist for my seven children, what do I teach them?

As I researched the JWD and searched for examples of our Church following her own doctrine, I came across a few noteworthy descriptions, responses, observations, and interactions. What I offer next may help you understand the pervasiveness and depth of the problem. 

The curriculum at most Catholic seminaries for the Master of Divinity degree includes one or two basic Catholic moral theology courses, one course on medical morality, one course on sexual morality, and one on the Church’s social teachings. The JWD is not covered in the basic moral theology course(s). The JWD, the Church’s moral doctrine governing the mass killing of humans is taught in the Catholic Social Teaching course. This seems somewhat out of place considering the intrinsically evil nature of murder and the “rigorous consideration” we demand for a just war. I would never have imagined that the moral ins and outs of sex would receive an entire semester course, but mass homicide would receive a few hours along with discussions on wages and housing. Could the fruits of this priority be seen in our Church? Many of our laity see sex as a social event and are nearly all completely ignorant of their Church’s requirement for justified human slaughter – the JWD.   

In 25 years of attending Catholic Mass, I have never heard a homily on the JWD. I’ve received many homilies on illicit sex, abortion, homosexuality, St. Thomas Aquinas, the Bishop’s Annual Appeal, and many others, but never one on the JWD. I have learned that my experience is not uncommon.

I sent the letter to my pastor. He eventually commented to me that he had received the letter and that he would eventually respond once he learned more about the JWD. How could he have successfully passed through six years of Dominican seminary, many years as a priest, and become the pastor of a parish and not know the JWD? The United States has been at war in more years than it has existed and we have clergy who are unfamiliar with the precise doctrine that must guide our decision to participate in justifiable or murderous killing?   

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My family visited a Catholic seminary for a tour. On that tour, they were shown a statue and a painting of the founder, a monsignor. On the monsignor’s cassock are ribbons from his time in the Prussian military during the mid- to late-19th century before he became a priest. He fought in the 1864 war with Denmark and the 1865-66 war with Austria. These wars were not “just” according to the Catholic JWD. Each was a war of aggression and could have easily been avoided. That he participated in these wars is unfortunate; that he displayed the accouterments from these unjust wars on his clerical clothing is a scandal. That our Church still displays these ribbons perpetuates a laxist understanding of the conditions that must be met for a Catholic to justly slaughter humans in war. If he, instead of military ribbons, wore ribbons with the names of women he bedded (was victorious over) before he became a priest, would he have been permitted to continue once a bishop found out? I suspect he would have been censured and the ribbons removed. There would be no paintings or statues to perpetuate what the Church is willing to admit is scandal.   

The quote below is from an email response I received from a moral theology professor at a Catholic major seminary. This professor is a priest and is loved and respected by the faculty and the seminarians. In spite of his extensive education, years of teaching, and position of influence over future priests, he argues for a JWD that is measured by laxism. 

“As for the question of a just war. The Church has spelled out rather carefully the necessary conditions for a just war both in its initiation and in its prosecution. These are predicated on the idea that individuals and groups have an absolute right to defend against having their lives taken by unjust aggressors, and that it is morally permissible to save life, my own or that of other innocents, even by using lethal force if necessary. People can and do have differing opinions about whether these conditions are met in particular situations. There were in my view, too many people who were willing to state that they were not met in the Iraq war and that it was therefore an unjust war. They were never able to prove this claim and so what is gratuitously proposed can be dismissed.” 

Of course, a war must be proven to be “just” BEFORE a Catholic may participate and continue to be proven “just” each moment. For but one moment of unjust prosecution of the war and it is “unjust” according to the JWD. How can a priest, a teacher of moral theology, a holder of such an influential and learned position, so easily fall into a condemned form of moral justification (laxism)? 

I’ve included an excerpt from each of the three responses I received to the many letters I wrote. Each had a slightly different focus, but each had a theme that I found common to my overall research.  

– “I think you have answered your question regarding JWD. Through your research of this topic you could not find a clear answer to what makes a just war. Yes, the catechism gives some guideline to follow and questions that must be asked. However, in any conflict be that war or a family dispute there are no clear answers available; each individual is charged with the obligation to seek peace and restore harmony and for this to take place forgiveness is necessary.”

– “Applying the just war doctrine to a particular war is not easy. The just war criteria are very subjective. Over the years, the just war doctrine was applied to many wars, all of which were declared “just”. It is difficult to objectively define what is “grave”, “certain”, “impractical”, “ineffective”, “serious prospects of success”, or “disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated”.”

– “…the application of any moral norm is always subject to interpretation. What does it mean, in the practical order, to be just, for instance? We may all hold justice as a value and have every good intent to live justly, but that in no way means what we all view a specific activity in the same way. What one person views as a just solution to an issue may appear unjust to another. We live in a gray world.”

If a Catholic does not know to a level of probabiliorism that a war is just, he cannot participate. That is our doctrine and has been for 1600 years. If our clergy do not have confidence in the doctrine, why do we pretend?

I called into EWTN’s Open Line Friday radio show on September 12, 2014. The topic was the Just War Doctrine and I was able to ask my question. The answer was a frantic hodgepodge of comments that avoided the question. I was told that the Church didn’t dare oppose the state and gave the example of what happened to the Dutch churches when they openly opposed the German wartime actions against the Jews in Holland. I was also told that Jesus had no problem with military action because He didn’t lecture the Roman centurion when He was asked to heal the Roman’s slave. And finally, that it wasn’t the role of the Church to make the decision of whether a war was just, but was the responsibility of the state. Let those sink in for a moment. We shouldn’t oppose the state because something bad might happen… so we are a Church of cowards? Jesus didn’t lecture the Centurion for his being a soldier therefore his conduct must have been licit…and what of the other sinners in the Gospels who didn’t have their sins lectured on? Are we to accept their conduct as licit? The state determines the morality of its own actions and we Catholics must blindly obey… abortion, anyone? Sadly, this episode of Open Line Friday is missing from EWTN’s saved episodes. Perhaps they will find it so you can listen to what it is like to ask that question. 

When I ask that question and the person remains in the conversation for more than a few minutes, he invariably offers the wars against Hitler or Mussolini as good examples of the JWD in action. Of course, if you read my question closely you realize that this too avoids the question. It is easy to state that some other country is pursuing an unjust war. Clearly, both Germany and Italy pursued unjust wars in the 1930s and 40s. The problem is that in 1940 40% of Germans were Catholic and 50% Protestant. If we Christians didn’t murder for the state, Hitler has no army, SS, Gestapo, or camp guards. When Bl. Franz Jagerstatter refused to fight for the German army he was confronted with priests and bishops all demanding that he drop his moral arguments and support the German state’s demands. He was martyred in 1943 for his stand; without the support of his “Just War” Church.     

The political ally of Hitler, Benito Mussolini, invaded Ethiopia in 1935-1936. During this offensive war, the Italian military used poison gas on the Ethiopian military and civilians. This was a war that was completely and obviously in violation of the JWD. Why didn’t the Italian bishops instruct their flocks to remove themselves from this mass murder? Can we find the letter from the Bishop of Rome to his flock or to Mussolini informing him of our JWD? Italy was almost completely Catholic during this mass murder. Who does Mussolini command if the Catholics of Italy will not murder?

I’ll end with an excerpt from The Civilization of Christianity by Fr. John L. McKenzie, who is considered one of the preeminent biblical scholars of the 20th century. 

“Like all my contemporaries on seminary faculties, I had been reared on the ethics of the just war… We were all taught the traditional Catholic morality that while killing a person is morally neutral, bedding him or her is intrinsically evil. We may find reasons for doing away with a person, but we can never find a moral justification for bedding the person, except marriage. There is something fallacious about the thinking which finds illicit sexual relations intrinsically evil but killing people morally neutral: all you need is a sufficiently good reason. Why that does not work for sexual intercourse I do not know….(But) I never thought I would live long enough to see carnal intercourse become as morally neutral as killing. Modern science and philosophy have made of carnal intercourse a ‘meaningful interpersonal relations.’ To me the ‘meaningful interpersonal relations’ is just as phony a piece of morality as the just war theory. I call them both phony.” (p. 11)

Will my pastor, my bishop, or any of the many Church leaders ever step forward and answer a father’s question? Do they even care?

Swords into Plowshares, and tea caddies

Until Lew Rockwell posted Ellen’s interview with Andrew Bacevich, whom I have long deeply admired, I knew nothing about CAM. I also knew nothing about Kings Bay Plowshares. I am working through that ignorance, and gained further insight listening to Episode 15 of these podcasts. Coincidentally, I am reading “Pacific” by Simon Winchester. I came across this paragraph of actually turning swords into ploughshares in immediate post-World War II Japan.

“Factories that had been weeks before making war materials switched their production lines to start making items needed not by generals and admirals, but the bone-tired civilians and by the ragged menfolk returning from the battlefields. So bomb casings became charcoal burners, sitting nearly upright on their tail fins and helping households get through that first bitter winter. Large-caliber brass shell cases were modified as rice containers, while tea caddies were fashioned from their smaller shiny cousins.”

Searchlight mirrors were “beaten” into Tokyo windows, and a fighter plane engine factory started making water pumps. What could the United States do if we beat the nukes at Kings Bay into productive use? Hopefully, at the least, the Kings Bay 7 beat their rap.