End the national collection for the AMS (Archdiocese for the Military Services)

Bishops' Support for War Underpins Collection for Military Archdiocese

At its November, 2012 general assembly, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved by a majority vote"... financial assistance to the Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS) in the form of a national collection to be taken up every three years proximate to Veteran's Day or a similar strategic date beginning in 2013." The vote was 123 yes, 42 no, with 8 abstaining. (See: Agenda Item Vote Results - November 2012 USCCB General Assembly)

This extraordinary collection is one sign that the spirit of militarism and nationalism has spread apace in our Church of late, at least among our bishops. The AMS must consider it a major coup. Archbishop Broglio of the AMS says the idea came from Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver. (now Philadelphia) George Weigel, a great supporter of the AMS, wrote about it in his December 8, 2010 column, “The Catholic Difference”. The column is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register and appears in some sixty diocesan newspapers. Weigel, of course, was a charter signatory of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) that anticipated the need for something like 9/11 that would serve as another “Pearl Harbor” and galvanize the country behind the neocon agenda. He has long understood how important Catholic support is for the multiple wars PNAC believed would have to be waged to maintain U.S. dominance in the world.

The AMS would have wanted a weekend “proximate to Veteran's Day” in order to capitalize on “support the troops” sentiment which has been the essential, mythical underpinning of U.S. war policies. The weekend was not chosen because Veteran's Day is known as the feast of St. Martin of Tours on the Catholic calendar. This one time soldier, beloved bishop and later, Patron of Soldiers is, rather, an embarrassment for the AMS since his conversion to Christianity at a young age coincided with this refusal of further military service: “I am a soldier of Christ, it is not lawful for me to fight.” (see: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=81)

The AMS, on the other hand, does everything it can to assure young soldiers that carrying out the works of war is what Jesus would want them to do. Catholic military chaplains do not burden tender consciences with questions about the grisly things they encounter in war. They fulfill the role of “force multiplier” that the Pentagon has for them. Many soldiers would not be able to continue being efficient warriors without the spiritual support of chaplains who counsel obedience to commanding officers. Over one thousand Catholic soldiers have been killed in twenty-eight years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan while in its care but the AMS does not know their names. The AMS is not responsible for funerals, which take place at the home parish.

Despite its growing influence in the USCCB, the very existence of the AMS hangs by the thread of the possibility of the existence of a just war. Amazingly, even when the bishops admitted the war with Iraq was unjust before the 2003 invasion and the displays of what “Shock and Awe” would be like, they did not cut that thread of just war. Most bishops quickly supported Catholic participation in the war to avoid even the appearance of being unpatriotic or not supportive of the troops.

Only one Catholic bishop who is an ordinary, Bishop John M. Botean, can be given credit for teaching his people the moral consequences of participating in an unjust war. In a pastoral letter read from every pulpit and mailed to every household, he wrote,

Beyond a reasonable doubt this war is morally incompatible with the Person and Way of Jesus Christ. With moral certainty I say to you it does not meet even the minimal standards of the Catholic just war theory. Thus, any killing associated with it is unjustified and , in consequence, unequivocally murder. Direct participation in this war is the moral equivalent of direct participation in an abortion. I hereby authoritatively state that such direct participation is intrinsically and gravely evil and therefore strictly forbidden..”(To read the complete letter with an introduction, see: centerforchristiannonviolence.org/action-against-violence/)

The collection for the AMS has not been held in Bishop Botean's Romanian Catholic Diocese.  Catholics need also consider that mass abortions are an inevitable consequence of modern war and thousands of pregnant women must have been killed along with their unborn babies in our wars.

Before Catholics respond to the AMS appeal for money, they should consider how well the AMS has preached the Gospel and applied our Moral Tradition to U.S. wars. The words of three popes provide a counter narrative to militarism in the Church and illuminate the answers to these all important questions:

Pope John Paul II

“To attain the good of peace there must be a clear and conscious acknowledgment that violence is an unacceptable evil and that it never solves problems. Violence is a lie. It goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity, the truth about Jesus...What is needed is a great effort to form consciences and to educate the younger generation to goodness, to nonviolence, to love.”

— Message for aWorld Day of Peace, 2005

“A bishop's task is none other than this: to be a convincing witness to and a courageous teacher of the truth.

                                                                                                                                     — from an 'Ad Limina Apostolorum' letter to U.S. bishops

Pope Benedict XVI

“...given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a just war.”

— (as Cardinal Ratzinger) -just before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March, 2003

“The truth is that it is impossible to interpret Jesus as violent. Violence is contrary to the Kingdom of God. It is an instrument of the Antichrist. Violence never serves man, it dehumanizes him.

— on March 11, 2012

Pope Francis

“The word of the Gospel does not authorize the use of force to spread the faith. It is just the opposite: the true strength of the Christian is the power of truth and love which leads to the renunciation of all violence. Faith and violence are incompatible! Faith and violence are incompatible!

— August 19, 2013, Sunday Angelus address

“There can be no religious justification for violence in whatever way it manifests itself.”

— on 9/30/2013

Many Catholic soldiers have experienced the truth of such words in a way that is anything but abstract. In his book Home From the War; Learning From Viet Nam Veterans, Robert J. Lifton wrote, “The veterans were trying to say that the only thing worse that being ordered by military authorities to participate in absurd evil is to have that evil rationalized and justified by [those who are] guardians of the spirit. Chaplains...thus fulfill the function of helping men adjust to committing war crimes while lending their authority to the overall project.”

There is now no possibility of a U.S. war being just. The only role for a chaplain in an unjust war would be to urge refusal of orders to carry weapons or kill. Catholics should insist that their bishop teach with moral certainty that US wars are just before contributing to this collection. The bishops should have been debating how to dissolve the AMS, not extraordinary ways to further fund it. Perhaps that topic will come up as they enjoy another fine meal paid for by the Pentagon and hosted by the military chaplains when their Fall meeting opens on St. Martin's feast day- while the AMS is still counting its blood money. St. Martin of Tours, pray for us!

— Mark Scibilia-Carver

-Mark and Linda Scibilia-Carver have raised two sons and are members of St. James the Apostle parish in Trumansburg, NY. Mark is an arborist and operator of Treetops Tree Service. He is a member of the Ithaca Catholic Worker community and has participated in civil resistance actions at Hancock Airfield where drones are operated within the Diocese of Syracuse to kill targets on the other side of the globe. 

(A similar letter was printed as a “viewpoint” in the November 5, 2012 National Catholic Reporter)

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   "Those chaplains-oh my God!"  With bitter enthusiasm, the veterans gave endless examples of chaplains blessing the troops, their mission, their guns, their killing.  As one of the men put it, "Whatever we were doing...murder...atrocities...God was always on our side."  As a Catholic veteran explained:  "Yes I would go to confession and say, 'Sure I'm smoking dope again.  I guess I blew my state of grace again.  But I didn't say anything about killing."

Whatever his actual words to his confessor, he was referring to religious arrangements that held one spiritually accountable only for a meaningless transgression and not for the ultimate one.  The chaplain presided over this hypocritical ritualization of Evil, and then sanctioned-even blessed-the routine, unritualized, genuinely malignant evil.  This ostensibly religious transaction became a form of "stomach talk," whose informal message was:  Stay within our moral cliches as a way of draining off excess guilt, and then feel free to plunge into the business at hand.

The men  also pointed to the chaplains' even more direct role in promoting false witness.  One veteran told of having become so enraged at the time that he went back to the chaplains' tent later and almost assaulted him.  Overwhelmed with death anxiety and death guilt, the chaplain's plea for false witness threw him into a state of rage and near-psychotic dissociation...

"What kind of sin do I have to commit-how far along the path of evil that you (the representative of the military) are leading me, do I have to go--before I can get you (the psychological/spiritual counselor) to listen to me and help me?"

     Chaplains are not only spiritual counselors.  Americans also perceive them, rightly or wrongly, as guardians of the spirit, as guides to right thinking and proper behavior.  The veterans were trying to say that the only thing worse than being ordered by military authorities to participate in absurd evil is to have that evil rationalized and justified by guardians of the spirit.  Chaplains thus fulfill the function of helping men adjust to committing war crimes, while lending their spiritual authority to the overall project.  The men sought out chaplains because of a spiritual-psychological crisis growing out of what they perceived to be irreconcilable demands in their situation.  They sought either escape from absurd evil, or, at the very least, a measure of inner separation from it.  Instead, spiritual authority was employed to seal off any such inner alternative.  Chaplains then formed unholy alliances, not only with military command, but with the more corruptible elements of the soldier's individual psyche."

+++from  Home From the War: Learning from Viet Nam Veterans by Robert J. Lifton, M.D., U.S. Air Force psychiatrist, Korean War; Professor Department of Psychiatry, Harvard University             

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Looking ahead to the third triennial collection for the Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS) on November 9-10-- does the AMS teach Jesus’ way to eternal life?

                Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?...You know the commandments:  You must not kill… --Mark 10: 17-19

Matthew and Mark record that keeping the Fifth Commandment is the first thing mentioned in Jesus’ answer to a man’s question about inheriting eternal life.  (In Luke, it is the second). Once in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount and twice in Luke’s Sermon on the Plain, Jesus commands his disciples, “love your enemies”, indicating that he considered God’s prohibition against killing to be unconditional and inexorable.  Jesus’ positive commandment of love also appears in the Eucharistic Discourse of John’s gospel: “I give you a new commandment: Love one another, just as I have loved you, you also must love one another.” (13: 34) We are taught that the entire law of the Gospel is contained in this New Commandment.  “Love” is the English transliteration of the Greek word agape but fails to convey its full meaning. Agape is love that is willing to suffer without a desire for retaliation, the highest form of love. The New Commandment is about love without violence as Jesus illustrated in his passion. In a short space, John goes on to reiterate seven times the theme of nonviolent love as the commandment of Jesus.  Keeping Jesus’ commands proves our love for Him and makes us his friends. Clearly, nonviolent love is the teaching, Way and commandment of Jesus.

     The AMS and its officer chaplains would quickly lose favored status as “force multipliers” for the Pentagon if they taught soldiers “you must not kill” and to obey the commands of Jesus.  The AMS keeps its status by counseling obedience to commanding officers and Jesus is not in the military chain of command.

     The theme chosen by the AMS to promote the special collection is, once again, “Serving Those Who Serve.”  Perhaps this slogan is meant to reappropriate a papal title, “Servant of the Servants of God” but we should ask what Christ like service US military personnel render in wars that the AMS has never dared to declare to be just and whether or not it’s Catholic chaplains provide the service of preaching the full gospel to the souls in their care.   Mass abortions have been one inevitable consequence of US wars. Millions have been killed, wounded and made refugees with even more dying due to destroyed infrastructure. Schools, hospitals, bomb shelters, first responders, wedding parties and funerals have been bombed. Cluster bombs and depleted uranium weapons have left a legacy of death, cancer and birth defects. Our “War on Terrorism” contines to terrorize millions of people in the poorest places in the world.  As Dorothy Day once said, “We are performing the works of war, not the works of mercy. We cannot repeat this often enough.” It would be a great service if Catholic chaplains would beg those in their care to stop the killing but their “service”, in the main, has been to provide spiritual support for the works of war.

     Past promotional literature for the AMS collection cites the need for a “strong military” in our volatile world to “defend our religious freedom.”  Militarists claim the US military is a force for good in the world, that it serves the cause of freedom and democracy, protects our “American way of life” and our homeland from invasion.  A far more realistic assessment is that, with over 800 military bases, the US has sought to dominate the world with the threat and use of violent, coercive force for the sake of corporate elites who covet the resources of other countries.   Never ending wars are a gold mine for weapons makers and corporations that supply military contractors. Those who serve the interests of the warmakers have chosen the wrong master. They serve and die in vain if they are killed.  

      Bishops and priests who have not taught the gospel in relation to our wars, especially to our young people who are continually exposed to military propaganda and recruitment, have seriously failed in their responsibility.  The numbers of children killed, wounded, made orphans and subject to exploitation by our wars constitute another extreme form of child abuse.  

     Militarism has deeply penetrated our Church since WWI when our bishops organized themselves as the National Catholic War Council to support that war effort.  Donating to the AMS collection will further the cause of militarism which is directly opposed to Jesus’ way to eternal life, his example of humble service and “giving his life as a ransom for many.”  (-Mk 10: 45) The collusion of religious elites and the Roman imperial occupiers that produced Jesus’ execution has its parallel today as Jesus, present in the least of his brothers and sisters, is executed by US imperial troops with only one obvious objection from a US Catholic bishop ordinary in the last sixteen years. 

   For more on the issue of the AMS and its collection, visit  thecatholiccostofwar.org under the “AMS” tab.

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Every bishop, priest, minister, deacon, or pastor of any Church has a binding moral obligation to teach, properly, all that that Church teaches to those for whom he or she is spiritually responsible. If a Church teaches that there are seven sacraments, a bishop, priest or minister has no business teaching only about the four he or she likes and relegating the remaining three to oblivion, or giving them a short-shrift, tip-of-the-hat presentation, so puerile and shallow that all listening could not but agree with the assessment that these three belong in the realm of the ridiculous.

I am a Catholic priest, and the Catholic Church at the present moment teaches a Just War Theory as a moral option within the Catholic Communion in union with the Petrine Episcopal Ministry of Rome. Therefore, I teach, in all required detail, the content of the Catholic Just War Theory as an ethical option within Catholicism, in the year 2010, for any Catholic wishing to avail himself or herself of it.

I do this because each and every Catholic man and woman has a right to know the full set of ethical options available within his or her Church, as they have a right to know the full set of sacramental options within his or her Church. After being properly informed and educated about the options each person then, before God, has the responsibility to choose to participate in all, one, four, or none of the seven Catholic sacraments. So also with matters moral in relationship to war, violence, and enmity. In the Catholic Church as in most Christian Churches , there exists both the pacific and the non-pacific ethical traditions. All Christians have the right to be apprised fully of each tradition by the Church and its official ministers, starting with the local bishop. After which he or she is free to choose—in conformity with the grace of God given him or her, and the sense of Christic Truth that flows from that grace through faith in Jesus Christ—where he or she, personally, in truth, morally stands. But surely it is obvious that no one can in good conscience choose an ethical faith stance of which he or she has never heard, or of which he or she has had presented to them only by way of flippant, incomplete, derisive half-truths in the lingo that professional religious often employ as a way to respond to questions and issues they do not like to deal with or do not understand.

The bishops, priests, ministers, deacons, and pastors of the U.S. Military Chaplaincy, in conformity with Pentagon authorized policy, do not teach the theology and norms of their Church’s Christian Just War tradition to recruits and military personnel. Neither—again as a matter of authorized Pentagon policy—do they teach those whose immortal souls have been given into their care by their respective Churches about the other half, the older and Apostolic half, of the Christian ethical tradition, the pacific tradition of Christ-like nonviolent love of friends and enemies unto death. The point is this: A Christian priest or minister will be hired to be a military chaplain as long as he or she agrees—makes a pact—not to publicly teach all that Jesus teaches and all that his or her Church teaches. Some ministry! But of course the Pentagon, being big on religion, will throw its multi-billion dollar PR operation full throttle behind any priest or minister who will teach with religious zeal, when an unjust preemptive war is underway, that “ Saint Augustine said, ‘War is love’s response to a neighbor threatened by force.’”

The U.S. Military Christian Chaplaincy in its present uniformed form must be eliminated for reasons that should be brutally apparent. It is clearly not an agency of faithful ministry neither to the moral teachings of Jesus nor to the moral tradition of most of the Churches that have agreed to permit their priests and ministers to participate in it. A Church’s chaplaincy ministry to prostitutes, for which their sugar daddy foots the bill, but in which the sugar daddy forbids the Church’s ministers to publicly speak to the prostitutes about Jesus’ teachings on lust or the Church’s teachings on lust, is not a Christian ministry. It’s a kept ministry. For a bishop, priest or minister to proclaim the Gospel in all its fullness, except as it pertains to the great moral issue confronting his or her congregation, is to fail to proclaim the Gospel. When a bishop’s, priest’s or minister’s congregation or diocese is involved in the unjustified destruction of human life or in supporting murder, then a theologically precise and spell-binding sermon on the hypostatic union is not proclamation; it is evasion. It is the intentional silencing of a subject by not paying attention to it, and instead issuing an effusion of words on every evil imaginable, except the one bedeviling this diocese or congregation at this time. If such silence—avoidance of proclamation—is interpreted as moral justification for doing a grave evil, e.g., murder, then that silence—avoidance of proclamation—is itself a most grave evil.

EMMANUEL CHARLES MCCARTHY

see also:  http://www.centerforchristiannonviolence.org/data/Media/Serving_Those_Who_Serve-03.pdf?rev=E025  an essay by Fr. McCarthy

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Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio
email of January 5, 2012
Archdiocese for the Military Services
U.S.A.

Dear Bishop Timothy,

      I was quite surprised to receive a letter from you, since we have never had contact, and I am not a friend of the American Military.   I imagine that you find it quite awkward to send out a fund-raising letter for your work at Christmastime, since the peace announced by the angels is nothing like the "peace" that the armed forces of the United States bring into the world today.

      America today is losing its democratic form of government and rather rapidly turning into the kind of vicious Imperial power that Rome was at the time that Jesus lived.  None of our wars can be justified morally, since they are arrogant grabs for more and more of the resources of the world to make our selfish style of life more luxurious, and leave others in abject poverty.

      You point out that the country has been at war for 10 years placing a heavy burden on Catholic men and women, chaplains, and you bishop - shepherds !   Well, weeks before the president began bombing, the Pope spoke out in strong, clear language saying that going into this war would be immoral, illegal and unjust !  What did you and the chaplains say to form the consciences of our young men and women about an unjust war, what did the bishops of US dioceses do the educate young men and women to resist enrolling in an immoral war ? Teaching them about conscientious objection to war, about nonviolent resistance to injustice and other options they have as Christians?

     If you didn't do these things, then what kind of "spiritual guidance and support" are you giving our Catholic youth ?    How can our church ignore the direct teachings and practice of Jesus ?  Love your enemies.  Do good to those who hate you. Return good for evil.  Forgive those who harm you. Christians are following the way of Jesus in his nonviolent love of all persons.   

     I have read the "Catholic" Prayer books  that you distribute to our troops, which are supplied by the Knights of Columbus.  They are woefully inadequate to help our youth make  informed decisions of conscience .  In fact they tell our Catholic young men and women not to worry, that they can trust the judgments of their superiors !  Bringing the sacraments and pastoral care to our youth amidst a silence about the immorality of the war itself is a sin of the clergy. As I look in vain on your website for forms that troops could use to state their conscientious objection to war, I know there is no adequate catholic pastoral counseling.          

         I can in no way support your diocese's pastoral work within the armed services.  Please stop using the misleading   full-page ads of propaganda in many of our Catholic magazines, especially,  America.

       Your "thriving vocations program" is very scary.  To think that you are directly encouraging, recruiting and training future priests that from the beginning would be formed in distortions of the nonviolent Gospel of Jesus ought to worry any Catholic community.

     The one part of your work that I can support is the VA Chaplaincy.  I feel great compassion for the very young men and women sent to fight in the many evil wars started by our government. It would be better if it was our congress people themselves were the one sent to the battlefields instead of the youth we have misled, propagandized, and economically forced into giving their lives for the causes of greed and hatred.

      The best support we could give our troops would be to bring them all home to their families.  The hardships they suffer only benefits the rich.  After brutalizing these youth to prepare them for killing others, and then letting so many of them be killed and wounded, our government gives them stingy and inadequate care when they return.  I fully support your work to help them rebuild their lives, to help them try to achieve the fullness of life that God has called them to.  Please use the donation I am enclosing for this work of VA chaplaincy.

+Deacon Jim Rauner

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October 31, 2013

The Most Reverend Robert J. Cunningham
The Chancery
240 E. Onondaga Street
Syracuse, New York  13201

Dear Bishop,

      Hope this letter finds you well.  My purpose in writing you is to share with you my feelings and thoughts about this weekend's second collection for the Archdiocese for the Military Services.  Those who have experienced the trauma of war certainly do need our assistance for their full recovery, as so many do suffer with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  I have had the opportunity to both read as well as attend a workshop by Edward Tick, a Clinical Psychotherapist, who has done extensive work with veterans and PTSD.  The violence of war, as Tick notes, is a major trauma to the soul that no drug can effectively heal.  As so many veterans say,  "War is hell", raises the question, "Why as a faith community, by our silence and lack of conscience formation regarding war and the military, send our sons and daughters to hell/war?" 

      It is very apparent why this weekend has been selected for the collection as to coincide with Veterans' Day.  For us, in our Catholic faith, the day also is the feast of St. Martin of Tours.  His story of conversion centuries ago is still a challenge for us today as Catholics.  Two themes stand out:  the encounter with Christ in the form of the poor, and the conviction that the way of Christ is the way of nonviolence. Upon his conversion, he saw his military life as totally being incompatible with the Gospel and with life in Christ.  This insight prompted Martin to present himself to his military commander to request  a discharge from the army.  "I am a soldier of Christ, and it is not lawful for me to fight," he said. 

      St. Martin of Tours' life and words seem to resemble very closely a talk this past summer by Pope Francis.  He said, "The true force of the Christian is the force of truth and of love, which means rejecting all violence.  Faith and violence are incompatible!  Faith and violence are incompatible!  The Christian is not violent, but (s)he is strong.  And, with what strength?  That of meekness, the force of meekness, the force of love."  It seems as though two competing allegiances are crying for our attention. To which do we honor- the one that upholds militarism or the one that proclaims the Gospel of Life? 

       The Eucharist is the celebration of Christ's non-violent and unconditional love.  It was on the night of the First Eucharist that Jesus said to put away the sword.  And then the following day, the Non-violent One did not succumb to violence, revenge or retribution but showed the power of non-violent love over hate. 

These are challenging times for us as a nation and Church, as we confront issues that put the lives of so many people at risk.  We have to ask ourselves as Church leaders, "How are we to preach the Gospel of Peace in a time of endless wars?"  How are we to preach the Gospel of non-violence in a country immersed in rampant militarism?"  These questions challenge us as a Church to the spiritual and moral leadership we need to give our people and nation. 

      For these reasons of conscience, I will be withholding the materials related to the AMS collection for this coming weekend.  I pray that we can authentically become a Church of non-violent love, that by our witness we will help lessen war and violence in our world.

+Fr. Tim Taugher