ROTC and Department of Military Sciences at Catholic Universities

The Reserved Officers Training Program (ROTC) for Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force has been on college campuses for a very long time. However, after World War II ROTC has significantly changed on campus. Now there are two kinds of ROTC programs on university campuses. One type of ROTC is as a partner school to the military where officer training for the Army, Marines, Air Force and Navy is offered but no teaching or training is on campus. ROTC students are sent off campus for military education and training. This type of program qualifies students at the University and the University for all Federal scholarships and grants. The second type of program is where the university or college actually hosts one or more departments of military science where the teaching of war, military values and military training takes place on campus for students from the university and other campuses with partner ROTC programs.

It was this latter type of ROTC program, teaching war on campus, that I was referring to when I asked 23 Jesuits, members of the Society of Jesus, about military training on Catholic campuses. The question was: “Is it moral or ethical for a Catholic University to host military training on campus?” Only 2 of the 23 Jesuits responded, not with an answer but with a question about the difference between hosting departments of military sciences and having an ROTC program on campus. Below is my response, which I hope to use as a draft for an article on “Militarization of Education.” Hopefully the Jesuits, who run many Catholic Universities, were ignoring and rejecting me, not the moral issue of teaching war and military values on campus contrary to the Catholic faith, which the martyred Salvadoran Jesuit Ignacio Ellacuria called a “mortal sin.”


Sign of Contradiction
  1. The military found out that a significant number of soldiers did not fire their guns in the war. More instinctive means of killing the enemy needed to be developed and were.
  2. Technology has radically changed the nature of war. A retired MU professor once told me that the dropping of the atomic bomb threw out the validity of the “Just War Theory”.
  3. The rules of engagement for war have significantly changed. For example, now one can kill up to 30 civilians to get to an enemy target. After that estimate permission must be secured from a superior officer.
  4. The Selective Service System that forced men to serve, kill or be killed was eliminated for the volunteer army.
  5. The military manuals, such as the Army manuals, have significantly changed. Now the Army Manual states that military values take priority over personal religious or moral values. This is a direct contradiction to the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church that puts conscience over government. (See Gospel Values Vs Military Values.)
  6. After Vietnam many colleges and universities on ethical and moral grounds dropped ROTC programs from the school.
  7. Some schools, like Marquette and other Jesuit schools, added on departments of military science during this time to take up the slack in training officers for the military. The majority of military officers are not trained at military academies but in Departments of Military on college campuses.
  8. In 1985 when Salvadoran Jesuit Ignacio Ellacuria told John Dear S.J. in an interview: “tell the Jesuits of Georgetown that they are committing mortal sin because they are supporting the forces of death which are killing our people” this was the old model; ROTC equals a Department of Military Science on campus.
  9. As the number of colleges and universities willing to offer this new way of military training diminished, the military through the congress decided to act and in 1996 passed the Solomon Amendment. This act is “a United States 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.” This law was challenged by the Notre Dame Law School and in 2006 was upheld by the Supreme Court. The only exemption is for any institution with “a longstanding policy of pacifism based on historical religious affiliation.”
  10. This began a new model of ROTC. Faced with this loss of funding many schools reinstated ROTC programs, but they only had to not prevent recruiting and military training.
  11. Large schools, like Harvard, Stanford and Columbia and small schools like Concordia, Alverno and Mount Mary reinstated or kept ROTC programs but send ROTC students to military host schools in the area for military training and teaching. Thus they were able to keep their moral integrity and Federal funding and not teach war on campus.
  12. Students were bused by the military to colleges and universities that hosted departments of military sciences, like Marquette or St. Louis, for classes like “principles of war” and the teaching of military values and training in ways of war. I do not know yet if these host schools receive additional federal moneys for having a military battalion on campus.
  13. Host schools, like many of the Jesuit Catholic schools, are allowed no supervision of the curriculum of the departments of military science, the only departments of a Catholic university that do not have to conform to the values and morals of the Catholic Church.
  14. For example, Marquette University, via its departments of military sciences, teaches war and military values to students from 14 colleges and universities in the region.
  15. Simply stated, some Catholic schools have become officer military training bases to students, just as the School of Americas (SOA) is a military training base for soldiers from Latin America countries. There is no accountability in this training for the moral values associated with Catholic schools. In fact until recently war games with guns were conducted on campus. Now some military training exercises, such as war games, are conducted on military bases.

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