Today the National Catholic Reporter published an article on the upcoming collection for AMS called “Bishops’ support for war underpins collection for military archdiocese.” Father Z criticized the article on his blog, calling the article an “attack” on military chaplains. It is unfortunate that any form of criticism is labeled an “attack.”
Father Z believes that the collection to support the Archdiocese for Military Services is important. We believe, along with the author of the editorial, Mark Scibilia-Carver, that the comingling of militarism and Christianity raises certain questions that, after a decade of war, must be asked and addressed. We believe this is important. We see the collection for AMS as being representative of a bigger problem, one that demands an honest conversation. Some dialogue would be healthy for our Church and for our country.
We respect Fr. Z’s view, but we found his commentary to be defensive and reactionary. We wish he would have addressed the actual points Mark Scibilia-Carver brought up, in order to foster some dialogue so desperately needed, instead of characterizing negatively any Catholic who has concerns that are related to the military. If you depict someone with an opposing point of view as silly, irrational, and out-of-touch, then I guess you don’t have to address his argument.
Not that anyone asked us, but this is our response to Father Z, which we wrote in the comments of his blog.
The hippies have a point here: Militarism inside the Church discourages serious reflection on the moral gravity of war. Militaristic sermons reinforce the assumption that the U.S. military is a force for good. That assumption is debatable! When priests replace serious reflection about mass violence with unchecked glorification of all things military, they fail in their duties as priests. That’s not an “attack.” It’s legitimate criticism. We need to have a dialogue about the appropriateness of militarism inside the Catholic Church. Toward that end, check out our manifesto at Catholics Against Militarism.
Father Z seems to think that anyone who criticizes the military, militarism, or U.S. foreign policy is a troop-spitting, drugged-up, hippie-flowerchild. That is not true! The Founding Fathers viewed a standing army as one of the biggest threats to liberty. James Madison wrote, “Of all the enemies to public liberty war, is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.” Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler wrote, “War is a racket…It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many.” In 1961, Dwight Eisenhower warned that the military-industrial complex created the potential for “the disastrous rise of misplaced power.” Michael Scheuer, a CIA veteran who ran the Counterterrorist Center’s bin Laden station from 1996 to 1999, wrote, “The fundamental flaw in our thinking about Bin Laden is that ‘Muslims hate and attack us for what we are and think, rather than what we do’…It’s American foreign policy that enrages Osama and al-Qaeda, not American culture and society.” I am a former Marine, a veteran of the Iraq War, and a conservative/libertarian who agrees Father Z and his readers about most theological and political issues. When conservatives accuse war critics of “attacking” the troops, they’re no different than liberals who accuse welfare critics of “attacking” the poor.
P.S. There is not a single verifiable instance of antiwar protestors “spitting” on troops returning from Vietnam. That’s an urban myth used to silence war critics. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/press_box/2000/05/drooling_on_the_vietnam_vets.html
For the record, Father Z, neither of us here at CAM smokes hash or owns a bong. We do, however, like the guitar. You have to admit these are awesome. Let’s get coffee sometime.
I read it much more as an attack on the rights of the enlisted men and women to the sacraments and to spiritual guidance; and on the bishops for trying to provide for the men and women of the armed forces than as an attack on the chaplains, per se.
Hi Gerald. Thanks for your comment. It is important to keep in mind that AMS existed for many years without this collection. Our campaign did not threaten the existence of AMS in any way. That was not the point. Obviously, people wish to characterize it that way. It’s a straw man, an avoidance tactic. If one can re-frame the issue in that way — “the motive here is to deny certain Catholics the sacraments!” — well, then that shifts the whole debate onto more comfortable terrain — “who could possibly argue with providing Catholics access to the sacraments?!” — and then one doesn’t have to face the music so to speak, wrestle with the harder, bigger questions CAM is asking along with the writer of that article.
The word “attack” is hyperbolic, I maintain. If you ask me to donate to Cause X, and I then peacefully explain why I will not contribute money, am I “attacking” Cause X? That’s not an attack. That’s refusing to give money to something and explaining why you are refusing. That’s called voicing an opinion.
Are you “attacking” me because you are visiting my website and voicing opposition to a campaign that I started? No. You’re not.
If I were to scream, “Gerald is attacking CAM! Gerald is attacking CAM!” that would just be a lame attempt to brand you a nasty person. On the contrary, you make a valid point about a valid concern, about the way you view it. It’s not an attack.
I think military folks have a right to spiritual guidance, too, but one has to question the quality of spiritual guidance that can be offered to military people by chaplains who are, increasingly, recruited from within the ranks of the military. Something tells me their “guidance” might be, shall we say, tempered as a result of their psychological conditioning and organizational loyalties. This question about the spiritual “guidance” provided is an important one because I think the Catholic Church is supposed to be more than just a sacrament factory.