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Marquette University Peace Action

Marquette’s Lonely Prophets

Statement of Daniel Maguire, Professor of Moral Theology

Marquette University Peace Action (MUPA) has been a lonely witness to the peace-making tradition that began in the Hebrew scriptures and continued in the Christian scriptures and early Christian communities. Their critique has centered on Marquette’s being a center of ROTC training for 14 local colleges. MUPA accepts the unfortunate fact that ROTC is here. The military are firmly embedded at Marquette, and money is a major factor in their being here. The university and the ROTC students get financial support. MUPA recognizes realistically that ROTC will not be easily dislodged because of that. In my almost 40 years at Marquette, I have told ROTC students: “Take the money from the military but don’t give them your soul.” Of course, it is their souls and minds that the military are targeting, and that is precisely the educational issue that MUPA has been heroically engaging.

MUPA quotes The Army Field Manual:”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 reinforces not contradict, Army values.”

Give the Army credit for candor. That could not be clearer. Religious values are trumped by Army values and valuations. That is a bold challenge to this religiously grounded university. Why has the university mounted no curricular response? That is the question that MUPA has been insistently pressing, like a voice crying in the wilderness.

Pope John Paul II spoke for fundamental religious values when he said: “We can enrich our common heritage with a very simple discovery that is within our reach, namely that war is the most barbarous and least effective way of resolving conflicts.”

Pope John XXIII said that “it no longer makes sense to maintain that war is a fit instrument with which to repair the violation of justice.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu says: “In the wars of the 1990′s, civilian deaths constituted between 75 and 90 percent of all war deaths…Some two million children have died in dozens of wars during the past decade….This is more than three times the number of battlefield deaths of American soldiers in all their wars since 1776.”

War is, by definition, state sponsored violence and it is more brutal than it ever was in history. It is so horrible that after the Second World War the nations of the world decided it could only be used as a police action, collectively, in response to an attack, coordinated by the United Nations.

Professor Richard Falk writes: “World War II ended with the historic understanding that recourse to war between states could no longer be treated as a matter of national discretion, but must be regulated to the extent possible through rules administered by international institutions. The basic legal framework was embodied in the UN Charter, a multilateral treaty largely crafted by American diplomats and legal advisers. Its essential feature was to entrust the Security Council with administering a prohibition of recourse to international force (Article 2, Section 4) by states except in circumstances of self-defense, which itself was restricted to responses to a prior ‘armed attack’ (Article 51), and only then until the Security Council had the chance to review the claim”


ROTC is teaching our students a different gospel. ROTC dissents from the popes by teaching that war is “a fit instrument with which to repair the violation of justice.” It teaches that war is not the “least effective way of resolving conflicts.” In fact it is preparing our students to participate in the three wars now ongoing—not one of which was declared according to Article One Section 8 of our Constitution---wars against Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, with threats of war in the air against Iran. None of those wars meet the six criteria of “the Catholic Just War Theory.” Not one of them meet those criteria. None of them, in other words, satisfy Catholic teaching on war-making. War that is not justified is collective murder and our students are right now being trained to join in.

The challenge to Marquette is educational. The military work on the assumption that war is a continuation of national policy by different means. It works on the assumption of the normalcy and inevitability of war. And it is teaching our students that contrary to the teaching of the two popes just mentioned, and contrary to the biblical peace tradition, war is “a fit instrument with which to repair the violation of justice.” It teaches that war is not “the least effective way of resolving conflicts.”

If ROTC were teaching the normalcy of abortion, Marquette would respond with vigor. Why is war taken less seriously? After all, war is abortifacient. Many of the hundreds of thousands killed in the Iraq war were pregnant women and we inflicted “shock and awe” on them and their fetuses. Our students are being trained to do more of the same.

Solution: every ROTC student at Marquette should be required to take two courses in the peace-making traditions of the world religions, especially Judaism and Christianity, with special training in the Catholic just war theory. They should also be taught the obligations the United States assumed by treaty to observe the United Nations restraints on vigilante war, something we are not now doing.

MUPA is no more radical than the popes. They are prophets calling attention to Marquette’s failure to live up to its avowed moral and religious commitments. They are not calling for the ouster of ROTC. They are not trying to take away ROTC money from Marquette or from Marquette students. They are defending religious values and saying those sacred values should not be trumped by military values as the army insists. They are taking values they were taught in their schools and churches and begging us to live by them. To the shame of all of us, they have been ignored for too long.

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