Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Jesuit Priest Defends ROTC

from Marquette Trib 2/9/06
By John Patrick Donnelly, S.J.
Professor, History

On Jan. 26 The Marquette Tribune printed a Viewpoint written by Robert Graf, "ROTC has no place at Marquette." I have known Graf for some 30 years and respect his idealism, but I must object to his arguments and his conclusion that Marquette should abolish its Reserved Officers' Training Corps program, largely because it is opposed to Catholic teaching and the Jesuit tradition. Graf clearly supports the teachings of Catholic pacifism and he cites two leading Catholic pacifists, Dorothy Day and Daniel Berrigan, S.J. But their position has always been a minority position in the Catholic tradition and the Jesuit tradition.

The case for the ROTC programs being consonant with Christianity can be traced to the New Testament. America's purpose of having a strong military is not to wage war but to avoid war. The most successful military alliance in history is the National Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO is successful because it has never had to fight except in trying to keep the successors of Communist Yugoslavia from killing one another. There is an old Latin saying, "Si vis pacem, para bellum," which translates to: "If you want peace, be prepared for war." Jesus said something similar: "When a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are in peace" (Lk 11:21; see also Mt. 12:29, Mk. 3:27).

Who were the Roman equivalent to the young officers Marquette's ROTC program is turning out? The centurions, officers over units of a hundred men. No profession is so highly praised in the gospels as that of centurions. Jesus said of the centurion whose servant he healed, "Not even is Israel have I found such faith" (Lk 7:9; also Mt. 8:5-13). It was a centurion standing at the foot of the cross when Jesus died who exclaimed, "Truly, this man was the Son of God" (Mk 15:39). Who was the first non-Jewish convert to Christianity? Cornelius, the centurion [Acts, 10:1-48]. The Acts of the Apostles traces many instances when Roman centurions protected the apostles: Acts 22:26; 23:17; 23:23; 27:6; 27:43; 28:16. If a military career is un-Christian, how could St. Paul have told Timothy to "work like a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Tim 2:3)?

Is training officers for our armed forces against our Jesuit tradition? I have recently written or edited three books about the early Jesuits. I note that two of Loyola's earliest companions served as military chaplains, Nicholas Bobadilla and James Lainez. Jesuits have served with distinction as chaplains down the centuries; I believe one received the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War II. Loyola's own spiritual writings frequently use military metaphors to describe how Christians must strive for holiness. Loyola even wrote a long letter of advice for Emperor Charles V on how he should launch a naval offensive in the Mediterranean to prevent the Turks from raiding Christian ports and coastlines.

In short, Marquette's ROTC program is consonant with both our Christian and Jesuit traditions.


At March 13, 2006 11:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see how father Donnelly can argue that the conversion of the Centurions is proof that soldiery is consonant with Christian faith. It seems to me that the conversions are a sign of Jesus' ability to turn those who use might to intimidate and oppress on to a new path of righteousness. As for the defense of the Apostles by Centurions...I'm a bit speechless. The Centurions were part of an occupying force charged with maintaining order.

At March 24, 2006 9:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ongoing conversation of ROTC and Catholic education is missing the point with regard to one major issue: allegiance. Let's leave violence aside for a time and assume fully that the Church didn't just screw up when it thought through the rigorous parameters which eventually developed into the Just War doctrine. So, with that assumption already made, let's take a look at what enlisted soldiers and commissioned officers swear they will do in fulfillment of the offices to which they are charged.

"I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God." (Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960 replacing the wording first adopted in 1789, with amendment effective 5 October 1962).

"I, _____ (SSAN), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God." (DA Form 71, 1 August 1959, for officers.)

The military is an institution that serves two entities: the Constitution and the President. The President is the servant of the Constitution. By serving these two entites, the military serves the Nation. Once a person raises their right hand and takes this oath, they abdicate all moral autonomy to make future decisions as to who exactly is an enemy to the Constitution, and how such enemies are to be dealt with. A service member is a servant to a new master, and the interests of this master trump any and all personal convictions (within the bounds of civic law) which might complicate the fulfilling of obligations, which is why we should look to a few main areas of the oaths themselves.

Both oaths demand "true faith and allegiance," and commissioned officers must be "without any mental reservation" as to their readiness to serve the interests of the nation in defense against enemies to the Constitution. So, without addressing any specifics of any war in particular as to whether it may or may not meet the criteria of the Just War doctrine, we see from the very moment of initiation a demand made of service members essentially to submit entirely, without reservation, to the absolute authority of the State in determining the parameters of justice, and more importantly, how individual soldiers are to treat their "enemies". So, let's look at the command of another authority.

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." -Matthew 6:24

Until such a thing exists in the US allowing Catholics to selectively object to wars deemed unjust by the Church, ALL Catholics serving in the military are put into a position of grave moral peril where they must choose which master to follow. It is a decision between the State and Christ's Church. The State is not an institution entirely indebted to the Gospel, and as long as Catholics are willing to raise the right hand and swear an oath of allegiance always and without reservation to uphold State interests, as interpreted by the State, Catholics will continue to serve two masters.

The problem is not so much one of doctrine, but one of deeds and duties. And as long as Catholics continue to abdicate, freely and voluntarily, the moral freedom given to them by Chirst, Church teaching will continue to be without effect. The issue is much more one of allegiance and taking seriously the fact the parameters of the State and the parameters of the Church, and the duties implied by each sphere are radically different. The political landscape has altered greatly since the time of Augustine and Aquinas. If they read our oaths, what would they think? Would they think democracy a likely avenue to arrive at Gospel interests? Would they think reformulating the geopolitical landscape of a region as equally a "just cause" as defense of the Church? Would they think natural resource security as high a cause as defense of the Church? And what would Prophets such as Isaiah, Ezekiel, or Jeremiah think if they looked at the oaths we so flippantly take in service of worldly dominions? I argue that everyone from Isaiah to Aquinas would be quite saddened by how easily we have accepted the new gospel of democratic nationalism, and how easily we have forgotten that we already have a political nation called the Church, and we already have a commander in chief - Christ. Which master do we choose?


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