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There have been a few essays working around my head. I decided to first use this Diary of Worm to first record them. Where else I send to publish them except on remains to be seen This one will be also be available at Catholic Workers and Military Training on Catholic Campuses It is about Dorothy Day, co-founder of Catholic Worker movement and her view of military training (ROTC) on Catholic Universities campuses.

Dorothy Day’s Worst Nightmare

When Dorothy Day died in 1980, the US military was still in the process of moving away from the selective service draft system to the militarization of the education system and installing, therein, bases for recruiting. Also, it was still perfecting the teaching of killing based on reflex action, aka killing without conscience. Today, the military has perfected the militarization of our education system and has quietly installed this reflexive killing into its training programs.

In the April 1948 Catholic Worker, Dorothy Day wrote the following: “Some of us at THE CATHOLIC WORKER have been going to the colleges and distributing a leaflet against UMT (DMS) [Universal Military Training & Departments of Military Sciences]. And most everyone, to whom we gave the leaflet, has expressed acceptance of UMT (DPS) and has thought it a good thing. There are no antiwar organizations in the colleges these days, at least not in the Catholic colleges. There is a sense of the inevitable, that war is to come, that morality has nothing to do with it, that it is a question of licking Russia (or terrorists) before she gets too strong, before she gets the atomic bomb.”

In the above quote if you substitute DMS, Departments of Military Sciences for UMT Universal Military Training and terrorist for Russia you get a view of today’s Catholic universities and colleges, with no antiwar organizations and a sense of the inevitable, endless wars. However, the military training in Catholic colleges and universities is not that of Dorothy Day’s time … and therein resides the nightmare.

Dorothy Day was one of the early resisters in the struggle to remove military training from Catholic universities and colleges. Many Catholic colleges and universities desired to bestow awards and honorary degrees on Dorothy Day during her life time. She respectfully refused such honors from Catholic universities. Among her reasons for not accepting honorary degrees was her strong opposition to US military presence and influence on campuses. To Father Leo McLauglin S.J. of Fordham University she wrote: “The existence of ROTC in the colleges and universities makes it impossible for me to accept. To the President of the Catholic University in April 1971 she wrote: I have had to refuse seven colleges and universities for the reason they had ROTC and in one way or another were closely allied to the Federal Government. In many areas they receive research grants, many that have to do with war and defense.” (See “What is the story behind Dorothy Day accepting the Laetare Medal from Notre”)

After the Vietnam War, many colleges and universities, both private and public, refused to have military training on campus. The Department of Defense developed a new strategy for the militarization of education. For 4th −8th grade students the DoD developed the Starbase “youth outreach program for raising the interest in learning and improving the knowledge and skills of our nation’s at risk youth so that we may develop a highly educated and skilled American workforce who can meet the advanced technological requirements of the Department of Defense.” The program provides students with 25 hours of stimulating experiences at National Guard, Navy, Marine, Air Force Reserve, Army and Air Force bases across the nation.

The Junior Reserve Officer Training Program (JROTC) was greatly expanded after Vietnam. There are now over 3000 JROTC high school programs for Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force “to foster leadership, patriotism, appreciation, training and recruiting for the US military”. For example, in Chicago there are over 40 military academies or JROTC programs in high schools, mostly in areas where low income people of color reside.

The Department of Defense took a different direction in officer military training programs (ROTC) in colleges and universities. During the time of the military draft, 80% of officers were trained at military academies and only 20% in colleges and universities. Now it is reversed. Due to the reluctance of universities to have military training on campus, the schools that elected for military training on campus, called host schools, had their programs enhanced. Other universities in the region, called partner schools, had recruiting offices on campus but sent their students interested in military scholarships to the host school for classes and training programs. Even at this low level of participation, universities and colleges both large and small from Harvard and Stanford to University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee were reluctant to have military recruiting on campus. This was corrected by an act of Congress in 1996.

The 1996 Solomon Amendment is a federal law that allows the Secretary of Defense to deny federal grants (including research grants) to institutions of higher education if they prohibit or prevent ROTC or military recruitment on campus. The law was challenged by law schools in colleges and universities opposed to the presence of military recruiters on campus. In 2006 the Supreme Court upheld the law on recruiting.

Many Catholic colleges and universities became partner schools and sent recruited students to host schools like Marquette University. For example, the Air Force ROTC program at Marquette hosts students from 13 colleges and universities. As of 2012 there were only 23 Catholic Universities and colleges that still had a military training on campus. Only two Catholic Universities, Marquette University and Notre Dame, host all three DoD departments: Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force. This reduction of Catholic universities hosting military training might seem like a victory for Dorothy Day and other ROTC resistors, until one looks at the content of the military training.

In a study of soldiers in World War II, the Department of Defense found that only one of four soldiers fired weapons directly at the enemy. There was a natural reluctance to kill another human that the military sought to overcome. After scientific study of the brain, the US military developed a way of firing a weapon that bypasses a person’s conscience. It is called reflex killing or reflexive killing. The best explanation of this training technique is described in a paper presented to the Joint Services Conference on Professional Ethics in Washington, DC, January 27–28, 2000 by CPT Pete Kilner, instructor at the U.S. Military Academy. In a paper titled “Military Leaders’ Obligation to Justify Killing in War” he says: “Training which drills soldiers on how to kill without explaining to them why it is morally permissible for them to do so is harmful to them, yet that is the current norm. Modern combat training conditions soldiers to act reflexively to stimuli—such as fire commands, enemy contact, or the sudden appearance of a “target”—and this maximizes soldiers’ lethality, but it does so by bypassing their moral autonomy. Soldiers are conditioned to act without considering the moral repercussions of their actions; they are enabled to kill without making the conscious decision to do so. In and of itself, such training is appropriate and morally permissible. Battles are won by killing the enemy, so military leaders should strive to produce the most efficient killers. The problem, however, is that soldiers who kill reflexively in combat will likely one day reconsider their actions reflectively. If they are unable to justify to themselves the fact that they killed another human being, they will likely—and understandably—suffer enormous guilt. This guilt manifests itself as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it has damaged the lives of thousands of men who performed their duty in combat.” The military command refused to morally justify reflexive killing but it is still taught. Due to this method of killing without conscience, the number of soldiers firing weapons at target has increased from 25% to 98%.

Members of the Catholic Worker, co-founded by Dorothy Day, were traditionally leaders of the movement to remove DoD military training from Catholic campuses. However, over the years the resistance efforts of Catholic Workers and other war resisters have taken different directions: protests against drones, nuclear bomb facilities and military spending. This is understandable and good. However, I believe Dorothy Day, with select schools developing large departments of military sciences and the teaching of reflex killing, killing without conscience, would have directed more of her resistance effort at this concern. Catholic universities teaching war, violence and killing now promote the ‘endless wars’ we currently face.

When Dorothy Day heard the Marquette University archives had applied for a grant for the Catholic Worker collection from the Rockefeller Foundation, she informed Bill Miller, her biographer, that if Marquette accepted the grant “no more papers will go to them until we get letters assuring us this will be not be accepted” (recorded in her diary on February 4, 1976). Six days later she reported receiving a “terse letter” from Miller pledging “not to use any Rockefeller funds for archives or his work.”

What would Dorothy Day do with her archives at Marquette if she knew that Marquette University was one of the two Catholic Universities in the county to host military training on campus for Department of Defense Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force and was teaching soldiers ‘reflex killing’? Perhaps she would consider disassociating herself (and the NYCW) from the Archives (stop sending records) only if the libraries received “blood money” from the DoD. But we are just speculating. Sadly not many Catholic Workers or Catholics would stand with her today in her strong beliefs that Catholic universities not host these military training bases, ROTC, which bring in great amounts of money and contribute to militarizing our entire education system.

Catholic Workers believe Dorothy Day is enjoying life eternal in the presence of God. So the real question becomes what are we going to do today about this worst nightmare of Dorothy Day?


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