Recently we here at Catholics Against Militarism made a small effort to counter a very troubling article promoting militarism which appeared in the National Catholic Register. The article, by Wayne Laugeson, was provocatively entitled Catholic, and Killing for a Living, and it was about the “hot topic” of American snipers.
Our email drawing attention to the article and asking for people’s help appeared on the Lew Rockwell blog.
I would like to make a few comments about what I consider to be the most remarkable and disturbing aspect of the article — the emphasis on the Christian, pro-life credentials of the snipers. My comments are directed strictly at pro-life Catholics and Christians who join the military, not police or law enforcement snipers who are in a completely different situation. It is a serious weakness of the article that the author conflates the two different types of snipers.
The basic premise of the article is that being an “American sniper,” including participating as a sniper in America’s foreign wars in Iraq and elsewhere, is all about protecting innocent life and fighting evil, just like being against abortion and part of the pro-life movement.
Jack Coughlin, the Marine Corps sniper who is the principle subject of the article, is a “devout pro-life Catholic.” The people Jack killed were “ruthless killers,” and being a sniper is about saving innocent lives.
Butch Nery, another devout Catholic and Vietnam veteran says that an American sniper defends the “country and the oppressed” and “helps disadvantaged individuals … survive evil aggression.” Nery also says this:
“When you are overseas, and you see some of what the enemy does to innocent women and children, you don’t have any questions about the morality of a sniper’s role in the overall mission.”
And, we are told, police sniper Derek Bartlett believes that the Bible contains many justifications of violence in defense of innocent life in war and peace.
Dave Agata, a “nondenominational Christian,” says that snipers are “mostly a moral pro-life community” and that “an American sniper is someone tactically trained to save innocent lives.” Mr. Agata makes the most dramatic statement about abortion in America:
“In this country, you can take a young girl to a clinic and pay some butcher to take the life of a baby.”
But for Catholics, of course, this is actually an understatement. Catholics believe that abortion is murder and that this “butchery” has been going on for decades and has taken millions of innocent lives. It is often described correctly by pro-life activists as a holocaust, a genocide and mass murder. Consider that in 2012 alone, the Planned Parenthood clinic on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, where I live, performed nearly 7000 abortions.
It seems to me that our first obligation is to defend the innocent and fight evil right here in our own backyard. If we had a decent, healthy society then Dave Agata’s “butcher” would be arrested and prosecuted and prevented from doing further harm. But who is protecting this ruthless killer?
It is, without a doubt, the U.S. Federal Government that is the most powerful defender and promoter of the abortion industry in our country. If it wasn’t for Roe v. Wade, which overturned state and local authority and made abortion the law of the land for hundreds of millions of people, we would have some state and local governments that would restrict and even abolish abortion.
American Snipers, I am ready to take you at your word that you are devout Catholics and/or pro-life Christians who want to defend the innocent and oppose evil in the world. We are of like mind on this matter. The only thing I hate more than war is abortion. But I believe you are making a terrible mistake. You are devoting your talents and courage and sacred honor to assisting and strengthening our great enemy, the U.S. Federal Government. This government is the enemy of the unborn and the innocent, and I would add that it is also an enemy of peace. Is it that hard to imagine that this amoral, anti-Christian entity which enforces the unjust, diabolical abortion law, might also be engaging in unjust wars? This question is not honestly discussed in the article.
If Catholics and other pro-life folks were willing to non-violently resist Federal power and challenge it with the local authority of states and cities, Church and family, we might be able to establish a beachhead in North Dakota or Alabama, or even in “liberal” Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the two most Catholic states in the union. We might create an example of a state or city with genuinely Christian pro-life laws and values that might spread to other places. But this can never happen as long as good Catholics are so submissive to and entranced by the immensely powerful and increasingly totalitarian central government and its armed forces. In effect, America’s perpetual wars and suffocating militarism serve to distract American Catholics from the fundamental evil of abortion which exists at the core of our society. In order to make inroads against the culture of death, the Catholic love affair with the military and the state must end.
Ultimately, both literally and figuratively, between us pro-life Catholics and the walls of that Planned Parenthood clinic stand the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps.
So obviously I have some serious disagreements with the Catholic snipers and other Catholic soldiers regarding the foreign wars of the US military, but our Catholic Faith and our pro-life commitment should enable us to find some common ground and possibly even work together. I’d like to hear from Jack Coughlin or Butch Nery or any “Catholic killer” who shares their viewpoint. Just post a comment to this blog or use the contact page and I’ll get back to you and we can have a private conversation. Perhaps we can even meet face to face at some point and talk, man to man, brother to brother, Catholic to Catholic. You never know what might come out of such a meeting, since “the Lord works in mysterious ways.”
Recommended further reading: