National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
May 9, 2003

LettersMilitary recruiting

As a veteran with 26 years active and reserve duty, I was appalled at the naivety of the articles on military recruiting in the March 21 and March 28 issues of NCR. Perhaps the author might have had an awakening if she had talked to some of the millions of veterans who see their military service in a positive light. Most I know do just that. The government spends money on a lot more useless projects than recruiting and Junior ROTC. Who does she think protects her freedom to state her opinions and where do they come from? We have an all-volunteer force. What is so bad about schools that see their students become more responsible by participating in Junior ROTC? I’d do my 26 years over any time.

Sandwich, Mass.

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In a letter in your April 11 issue, Jerry Mazenko says, “Military service teaches young men and women discipline, camaraderie, pride, patriotism and job skills.” I referred to the Beatitudes, and to Matthew 25: 31-45, and even to the Ten Commandments without locating how learning such things was related to the love of God and/or the message of Jesus. Military service also teaches young men and women to kill other people. Rather than “Bring back the draft,” as Mazenko suggests, I say, “Bring back conscientious objection.” Our current rash of excessive patriotism has blinded us to the values to which we are really called by God, in favor of those that are convenient, useful and expedient.

San Diego

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In his letter “The case for war” (NCR, April 18), Anthony Marques says that if my intentions in my letter of March 28 “were to make a watertight case in favor of this war,” I failed miserably to do so. My intention in writing that letter was not to make a watertight case in favor of this war at all. It was to condemn a petition, “Brothers and Sisters in the Military: Refuse to fight, refuse to kill,” as a totally inappropriate and even subversive exhortation to the men and women in our military services to forsake the oath they have taken to defend this country and its people and instead to lay down their arms in the face of any either actual or potential enemy. This to me borders on treason, and those who signed it should be regarded as at least not having proper concern for the welfare of our (and their) country.

I stand by my position that Jesus never taught radical pacifism of the kind that holds that even a war of defense is morally wrong and that his friendliness toward Roman soldiers is an indication of this. For Mr. Marques to say that Jesus’ friendliness toward Roman soldiers was “befriending the foe” is absurd and reflects ignorance on his part. There is no evidence whatever that Jesus regarded the Roman soldiers as “foes.”

As for turning the other cheek, that is meant as a counsel of perfection for individuals and is not a commandment of policy to civil governments, a distinction that Mr. Marques is apparently unable to make. I will pray for him that he may come to have a better understanding of these complex matters.

Claymont, Del.

On respect for the law

I appreciated the Rev. Martin Deppe’s letter (NCR, March 28) about international law and the war in Iraq.

I am a lawyer. I am passionate about the law. Law is the nonviolent method by which civilized people resolve their disputes. It is the cornerstone of civilization. No community can survive without law. Without law there is chaos. Disputes are then resolved through violence.

As the Rev. Deppe pointed out, the U.N. Charter was agreed to by the United States in the United Nations Participation Act Dec. 20, 1945, (Public Law 264, 79th Congress). It states that, “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”

This war clearly violates the U.N. Charter. It violates international law. It clearly expresses a preference for violence over law as a method of resolving international disputes.

Is Saddam Hussein evil? Yes. In fact, he is so evil that he might fairly be compared to the Devil himself. Isn’t it right to violate the law to catch the Devil?

In the play “A Man for All Seasons,” a man leaves the house of Sir Thomas More after announcing his intention to do something that is morally wrong, but not illegal. More’s son-in-law, Roper, asks More to exercise his power as lord high chancellor and arrest the man. More refuses, and Roper is outraged:

More: There is no law against that.

Roper: There is! God’s law!

More: Then God can arrest him.

Roper: Sophistication upon sophistication.

More: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what’s legal not what’s right. And I’ll stick to what’s legal.

Roper: Then you set man’s law above God’s!

More: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact -- I’m not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can’t navigate. I’m no voyager. But in the thickets of the law, oh, there I’m a forester. I doubt if there’s a man alive who could follow me there, thank God. ...

Alice: While you talk, he’s gone!

More: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! …

Knoxville, Tenn.

Homosexuality and abuse

I was pleased to see that the issue of homosexuality and sexual abuse in the Catholic church has been discussed in a Vatican symposium. It is important for the leaders of our church to understand that sexual abuse committed by priests is not caused by homosexuality. It is also important to distinguish that homosexuality is a risk factor for sexual abuse of adolescent boys, but so are many other things. The article “Homosexuality a risk factor, Vatican told” brought up the point that being freshly ordained is also a risk factor for sexual abuse. So what do we do to extinguish that risk factor, not ordain any priests? It is utterly ridiculous to target one group of individuals for a behavior that is being committed by many different groups and types of people.

Dubuque, Iowa

War profiteering

Prior to the United States’ invasion of Iraq, it was the Iraqi companies and their engineers that build roads and schools, ran the water and electric companies and the hospitals, and generally maintained the infrastructure of the Iraqi nation. Why cannot the United States let the contracts for the rebuilding of Iraq to Iraqi companies who have the experience and expertise in the country? This would also build the country economically. Letting contracts to Halliburton and other U.S. companies appears to be a form of war profiting that is inexcusable.

Dubuque, Iowa

Robert Hoyt’s death

The death of Robert Hoyt, the founder of professional national Catholic newspaper reporting in America, marks a “watershed” event.

I was the subject of a National Catholic Reporter article (Jan. 17, 1968) regarding my removal as pastor. Bishop Vincent Waters [Raleigh, N.C., diocese] said this of NCR: “I hope you finally fold up and we finally get good journalism.”

You haven’t folded up in the 35 years since and, yes, we have finally gotten good journalism -- thanks to Bob Hoyt!

Pascagoula, Miss.

The do-nothing USA?

It is interesting to note how writers are selective in choosing arguments to prove a point. The letter writer from Baltimore (NCR, April 18) is a good example. He writes that we have been doing little or nothing for more than two decades, despite numerous attacks on our country by terrorists.

Since the group of terrorists seized the American Embassy in Tehran 23 years ago, the United States invaded Grenada (1983), bombed Libya (1986), waged surrogate wars in El Salvador (1980-92) and Nicaragua (1981-90), bombed and invaded Panama (1989), invaded Iraq (1991) and Bosnia (1995), bombed Sudan (1998), invaded Yugoslavia (1999) and invaded Afghanistan (2001-02). In addition, the United States had been bombing Iraq about three times a week from the end of the Gulf War (1991) to the beginning of the current war.

From 1945 to the end of the 20th century, the United States attempted to overthrow more than 40 foreign governments and to crush more than 30 populist movements fighting against insufferable regimes. In the process, they bombed about 25 countries, killed several million people and condemned many millions more to lives of agony, poverty and despair.

Sterling Heights, Mich.

Military chaplains

I had written to Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, of the Military Ordinariate, three times to inquire whether the chaplains were reading the bishops’ letter condemning the war against Iraq to the troops and never received a clear answer. The April 4 NCR gave the answer. The chaplain quoted said the words of the pope and bishops were meaningless to the troops, that the morality of the war is not something discussed and that they don’t even question orders.

This is a candid avowal of complete and utter failure. As representatives of the church, chaplains have the obligation to explain the church’s teaching on war, convey the teaching of the bishops and inform the troops that killing in an unjust war is murder. Chaplain Thomas Doyle -- and there is no indication he is an exception -- chose rather to obey the military. If the chaplains had done their duty, enough soldiers would have refused to fight that the war could possibly have been avoided and thousands of lives saved.

By their failure the chaplains have rendered the faith of the troops and the church meaningless. If the words of the pope and bishops are meaningless and orders are obeyed without question, the position of the church is no different from the church in the days of Nazi Germany. This is a sad time for the church.

Fukushima City, Japan

On Bush

“As a combat veteran, I will not stand idly by and watch our security destroyed by a president who went AWOL rather than fight in Vietnam. I say ‘NO’ to war in Iraq.”

These words were spoken by Robert M. Bowman, Ph.D., Caltech, Lt. Col., Ret., USAF, head of the Institute for Space and Security Studies, and “probably the best public speaker in America today,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Lt. Col. Bowman flew 101 combat missions in Vietnam and is also an up-coming presidential candidate.

I heartily reinforce this condemnation by Dr. Bowman of our war-loving, non-elected president, the Cowardly Lion of the Republican Party, and advise him to curb his future lust for other people’s blood.

Brooklyn Center, Minn.

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As a World War II combat veteran, I’d like to say that the only thing our illegitimate president has earned is our contempt. Bush has trashed our civil liberties, basic public services, the economy and even the United Nations, the main hope for world peace. Our boy president promised us continuous war, and that seems to be the only promise he intends to keep.

Silver Spring, Md.

Letters to the editor should be limited to 250 words and preferably typed. If a letter refers to a previous issue of NCR, please give us that issue’s date. We reserve the right to edit all letters. Letters, National Catholic Reporter, P.O. Box 419281, Kansas City, MO 64141. Fax: (816) 968-2280. E-mail: Please be sure to include your street address, city, state, zip and daytime telephone number.

National Catholic Reporter, May 9, 2003