From Nonviolent Cow

TeachWarNoMore: Not your Father's or Mother's Military

St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, became a “soldier of Christ,” laying down his weapons as a soldier before the statue of the Black Madonna at Montserrat. Both before and after his conversion, he was a Catholic; but only after his conversion was his first loyalty to Jesus and not to the state. Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, refused to accept honoree degrees from a Catholic university that had an ROTC program, saying it was a violation of her conscience.

Since the time of Dorothy Day, modern warfare and military training has radically changed. The military presence on Catholic campuses is no longer that of our father’s or mother’s experiences or simply that of former ROTC programs.

After World War II, the military discovered that in combat, just one of four soldiers fired their weapons. So the military developed a new way for training soldiers to fire their weapons called “reflexive fire drills” or “reflexive killing.” In the movie “Soldiers of Conscience” it is well described by an ROTC instructor on a college campus and by a military instructor, Cpt Peter Kilner, at West Point. In Kilner’s paper to The Joint Services Conference on Professional Ethics he describes it this way: ”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 thru 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.” This new method of training has raised the ratio of engaging weapons to 95% but, as Cpt Pete Kilner’s paper points out, with grave consequences “since soldiers may kill reflexively, eventually the soldiers return home and reflect on their actions.”

The military manuals and rules of engagement for wars have significantly changed over the years. For example, the present Army training and leadership manual states: “Your personal values may and probably do extend beyond the Army values, to include such things as political, cultural, or religious beliefs. However, if you’re to be an Army leader and a person of integrity, these values must reinforce, not contradict, Army values.” Yet the Catholic Catechism states “The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community.”

After the involuntary Selective Service System was ended in 1972, many colleges and universities for academic, moral, ethical or discrimination reasons dropped their military training programs on campus. As the number of colleges and universities willing to offer military training diminished, the military, through the congress, decided to act. In 1996 Congress passed the Solomon Amendment. This act is “a United States federal law that allows the Secretary of Defense to deny all federal grants to institutions of higher education if they prohibit or prevent ROTC or military recruitment on campus.”

The passage of this law forced colleges and universities to choose between being a “partner” or “host” military school. Most schools choose to become “partner” schools where military recruiters are allowed on campus but the military students at the school are sent to “host” schools for training. This way the partner school maintains all Federal funding and scholarship money without actually having military training on campus. A few schools, including most major Jesuit universities like Marquette, chose to become “host” schools, which offer military training on campus. Unlike other departments, the host university has little control over the curriculum or academic standards of these departments.

Since all colleges and universities, be they partner or host schools, benefit from military scholarships and have access to all Federal grants, why would a private Catholic university choose to be a host school?

From what we can learn there seems to be three motivations for Catholic Jesuit universities to host military bases on campus: money, pride and honor.

University administrators at Marquette have refused to answer questions about their financial arrangements with the Secretary of Defense. But we do know, from military sources, that additional financial benefits do go to host schools.

Being a major military training base for the region, as Marquette is for 14 local colleges and universities, does bring some honor. Fr. Wild S.J., the president of Marquette University, has stated: “As such, I as President am proud of Marquette’s long-standing affiliation with ROTC.” In general, Marquette has ignored the moral and ethical question of military training on campus and has consistently refused to engage in dialog on this moral issue.

Marquette also takes pride in hosting the archives of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement. A few years ago when the resistance to military training on campus was renewed, Marquette started a “Center for Peacemaking”. However, the Center has publically refused to acknowledge the ethical and moral consequences of military training on campus. Marquette University takes great pride in the Catholic Worker Archives, the Peace Center and the military on campus.

This brings us full circle back to St. Ignatius of Loyola and Dorothy Day. In his “Spiritual Exercises,” St. Ignatius presents a reflection on two leaders and two strategies. “The strategy of Lucifer is simple and seems so light-filled and clear in its direction: to riches (or ‘this is mine’), to honor (or ‘look at me’), to pride (or I AM…).” The other leader’s, Jesus’, strategy is also simple, “although at first it seems like a paradox. If I have been graced with the gift of poverty (‘he emptied himself, becoming human’) then I am rich; if I have nothing of myself (‘everything I have is from the Father’), I have no power and I am despised and receive the contempt of the world (‘even to death, death on a cross’); if I have nothing, my only possession is Christ (‘Christ is God’s’) and this is to be really true to myself — the humanity of a person whose whole reality and value is grounded in being created and redeemed in Christ.”

Dorothy Day was very clear about the Catholic Worker movement not associating with the government war making and military training. Catholic Workers are noted for their resistance to military weapons and training. When a military partner school located an ROTC office in a residential hall named after Dorothy Day, her grandchildren demanded the office be removed or the hall be renamed. The ROTC office was moved.

Marquette and other Catholic universities may need to offer ROTC programs to financially survive. But there is no law forcing them to host the military, to teach and train soldiers on campus in the ways of war and in values contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Perhaps today we need to say, “Catholic Universities, the military teaching and training you host on Catholic campuses is contrary to our Catholic faith and not in harmony with the wishes of our Jesuit father, Ignatius, and our Catholic Worker mother, Dorothy Day. “Be Faithful to the Gospel and no longer host the Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force on Catholic campuses.”

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Page last modified on March 20, 2010, at 04:24 PM