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Theology Department Sponsors “Study War No More”
By Joergen Ostensen

The theology department sponsored a teach-in called “Study War No More,” a four member panel discussing militarism and its relationship to Catholic Social Teaching, and what it means for Jesuit education. Twenty people attended the event in the Blue Chapel on Keating 3rd.

This teach-in took place on Thursday, Nov. 16th, on the 28th anniversary of the murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador by the Salvadoran military. Megan Townsend, FCRH ’18, one of the event’s organizers, said the commemoration of their killing is important because the soldiers were armed and trained by the United States military.

The panel was made up of four members. Martha Hennessy, a member of the Catholic Worker movement and the granddaughter of Dorothy Day; Ray McGovern, a graduate of Fordham who worked as a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analyst before becoming an anti-war activist; Carmen Trotta, a member of the Catholic Worker movement and an anti-war activist; and Meg Stapleton Smith, a second year doctoral student in Theological and Social Ethics at Fordham.

Townsend hoped the event might inspire deeper reflection among students in the same way that similar events had for her. “When I was younger and I came to things like this, it taught me a lot and changed the way that I looked at my university and my country,” she said. Townsend said the event was important to have at Fordham, especially given the university’s connection to former CIA Director John Brennan. “We glorify characters like John Brennan and often silence the voices that are trying to speak up against that,” she said. John Brennan, FCRH ’77, graduated from Fordham and was the Director of the CIA from 2013 to 2017. Brennan is controversial because of his role in both the CIA’s torture policy and drone strikes in the Middle East. Brennan received an honorary doctorate from Fordham in 2012. After the revelations about his torture policy, a group of faculty members urged the university to revoke his honorary degree.

Smith opened the discussion by reading a paper she wrote entitled, “Hearing Black Anger: Militarism’s Stand Your Ground Culture and the Task of the Jesuit University.”
She spoke about how the election of Donald Trump ushered in a new moment for Christian discipleship. She compared the current era to that of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany, but repeatedly stated that this could not be “a Bonhoeffer moment.”
Smith urged the audience to take into consideration the theological contributions of people who are not white men. Theological discussion should be “guided by those on the margins of society,” she said. “The oppressed, more than the oppressors; know how to identify oppression,” she said. Smith pointed out that Donald Trump received a Jesuit education at Fordham and Steve Bannon received a Jesuit education at Georgetown. She wanted the audience to reflect about what that means about the Jesuits.

Smith talked about the role of “stand your ground culture” with respect to United States militarism around the world. She said that, as a result, it is important to integrate Womanist Theology into Jesuit education. That was in reference to Kelly Brown Douglas’ 2015 book “Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God.”
She views a direct connection between racism and militarism and said that “Jesuit universities are all too often complicit in perpetuating [that].”

Carmen Trotta spoke next, reminding the audience that Dorothy Day declined an honorary degree from Fordham University because of the presence of ROTC on campus.
He talked about the importance of a conversation about militarism and theology, and referenced Martin Luther King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech at the Riverside Church. He reflected on the Vietnam era; “It was a high point in American history, people began to resist the war.”

He criticized the apathy of Americans about the issue of militarism. “It could be a high point right now, if people would come again, and yet this gathering is so small. This is not like the Riverside audience that Dr. King spoke to.” There were 20 people in attendance, about half of whom were students.

Trotta talked about the United States’ support for the Saudi Arabian military’s war in Yemen. This is an issue that Trotta and the Catholic Worker have been protesting since April. “The United States is complicit in war crimes, with Saudi Arabia, in Yemen,” he said. Ongoing actions by the United States military was also an issue for Townsend. “We are selling arms to Saudi Arabia who is using it to hurt Yemeni people…and we do it all over the world,” she said.

The issue for Trotta is that people do not care as much as they did during the Vietnam War. He cited New York Senator Chuck Schumer not knowing that there were troops in Niger as evidence of a trend. “People have ceased to pay attention. We have been lulled. We live in our middle class bubbles, we live in our upperclass bubbles, we live in our university bubbles, we live in communities that are bubbles that prevent us from seeing people in other parts of the world, prevent us from even understanding what we ourselves are doing,” he said. The fact that this conversation is necessary was an issue for Trotta as well.

“We think that lesson should have been learned quite a long time ago,” he said.
That did not lessen its relevancy for Trotta. “…at this point it seems like the military industrial complex has achieved what it would consider a perfect balance, 16 years of war where the American people are not really bothered by it,” he said.
Trotta also discussed the role of Fordham in this system. “The Catholic universities all seem to be actually part of the military industrial complex,” he said. He said that is because of the existence of ROTC on campus and the benefits Fordham receives for being a host for that program.

Martha Hennessy spoke as well, reading from Dorothy Day’s 1957 essay “On Pilgrimage.” Hennessy, quoting her grandmother, urged people to take action against injustice. “We can do work which does not contribute to war, we can refuse to pay taxes to war,” she read. Hennessy left the audience with a hopeful message, reading Day’s concluding words; “…we want to learn what love is so as to grow in love, and begin to understand that mystery of suffering and cease to fear, and then victory will be assured.”

The final speaker was Ray McGovern. McGovern talked about how the theological education he received at Fordham was incomplete. He said he had always been taught to do good and avoid evil. He realized that was not enough. “You do good, but if you’re a follower of Jesus…you confront evil,” he said. For McGovern that means engaging in acts of resistance against the system that perpetrates “our original sin” of racism.
McGovern also talked about Brennan’s time as Director of the CIA. He criticized Brennan for his role in drone strikes, calling it an “immensely cowardly way of conducting war.” He said that the people killed in those strikes are not afforded due process because they are not allowed a judicial process. McGovern joined ROTC so he could be a leader in the military, avoiding being a foot soldier. He, like Brennan, worked as a CIA analyst.

The existence of ROTC at Fordham was criticized by all of the panelists.
This was not an attempt to disparage the students at this college who are a part of that program. “People join ROTC for all kinds of reasons and I don’t want to disrespect that at all,” said Townsend.

Bob Howe, director of communications for the university, said people throughout the world are connected to the military industrial complex. “We believe that the nation is well served by Army and Navy officers who have received a Fordham education–one in which competence, character, and integrity are emphasized,” said Howe. “There is a minimal, indirect financial benefit to the University via tuition received from ROTC scholarship students–were the University to end its affiliation with the Army and Navy ROTC programs, those dollars would largely come from the common financial aid pool.”
Townsend said there needs to be more dialogue on the issue of ROTC. “I think it’s a bit biased to have ROTC on campus without having some kind of constant discussion about the ethical implications of that,” said Townsend.

Smith expressed why the event was important to her. “I can get compassion fatigue…coming to something like this cures the soul a little bit,” she said.
She also urged Fordham to make an effort to integrate Catholic social teaching into all disciplines, not just theology. After the panel discussion, Steve Kelly, S.J., and Father Bill Pickard offered a mass in the Blue Chapel to commemorate the six Jesuits murdered in El Salvador in 1989.

Following the mass, there was a brief prayer service on the steps of Keating.
Additionally, all masses at Fordham’s three campuses made an effort to remember the six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter who were murdered in ElSalvador in the liturgy and petitions of the liturgy, according to Campus Ministry.

War is darkness. It discourages and makes everything dark, disrupting God’s plan and destroying what is good and wise. It produces nothing but violence, and it returns upon the violent.

Jesus died for our enemies.

If you want peace, first be peaceful.

Form a Peace Army. Negotiate conflict. Find justice. Plant forests in the desert. Provide for the needy.

Practicing works of mercy toward all people and creatures is an act of piety and the standard of our salvation. At every point, the works of “mercy” are opposite to the works of war.

On September 1st, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, (Pope) Francis asked that macro and micro care for the environment be attached as a “complement” to the traditional seven corporal and seven spiritual works of mercy and for repayment of “debt” for “sins” against the environment.

Corporal Works of Mercy Corporal Works of War

1. To feed the hungry. 1. To destroy crops and poison land and water.
2. To give drink to the thirsty. 2. To destroy water and sewage infrastructures.
3. To clothe the naked. 3. To disrupt economies and create refugees.
4. To visit the imprisoned. 4. To imprison without trial and torture prisoners.
5. To shelter the homeless. 5. To bombard population centers, destroying housing.
6. To visit the sick. 6. To cause epidemics and ban medical supplies.
7. To bury the dead. 7. To kill vast numbers, most of them helpless civilians.
Complement: To love and care for all the Complement: To pollute, damage, kill,

                                                  and degrade
   creatures that form our environment.		   the environment with disregard for all creatures in it.

Spiritual Works of Mercy Spiritual Works of War

1. To admonish the sinner. 1. To create occasions of sin of every sort.
2. To instruct the ignorant. 2. To propagandize, stereotype, and dehumanize.
3. To counsel the doubtful. 3. To spread lies, rationalizations, prejudice, and racism.
4. To comfort the sorrowful. 4. To cause vast amounts of sorrow.
5. To bear wrongs patiently. 5. To spread suspicion, division, and hate.
6. To forgive all injuries. 6. To encourage vengeance and humiliation.
7. To pray for the living and the dead. 7. To pray for victory to us and harm to our enemies.
Complement: Contemplate the love and Complement: Cultivate a

                                                      utilitarian disregard for other
   truth expressed by God in all creatures.	   creatures—their rights, needs, or 
                                                    environmental roles.

All life is sacramental and sacred.

Will you kill, or will you do good? Help end a military presence at Fordham, bearing no ill will.

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