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A friend, who did not know who Father Emmanuel Charles McCarthy is, sent me this article saying he thought of me when he read it. I do know who Father McCarthy is, a Melkite Catholic priest and author on Christian Nonviolence.

by Father Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

“Chaplains and psychiatrists 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 (in this way psychiatrists resemble chaplains more than they do other physicians). 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 and psychiatrists thus fulfill the function of helping men adjust to committing war crimes, while lending their spiritual authority to the overall project.” (HOME FROM THE WAR: LEARNING FROM VIETNAM VETERANS —ROBERT J. LIFTON, MD, DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHIATRY, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL)

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 per-emptive 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.


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