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Soldiers viable peacemakers

Letter to the Editor | Friday, October 7, 2005

I thank Michael Schorsch for his prayers in his Oct. 5 Letter to the Editor, “‘War Culture’ the wrong path,” but I am saddened that he so cavalierly dismisses the spirituality of the Notre Dame students and faculty members involved in Army Reserve Office Training Corps and that his perception of the program as one that promotes a “war culture” on campus is so distorted. Contrary to his belief that students in Army ROTC are taught to kill, the reality of the program here is embodied in its mission to “educate, train, develop and inspire leaders of character for the Army and the Nation.” The main focus of Army ROTC at Notre Dame is to develop leadership and character in its participants, and to do so within the just war tradition embraced by the Catholic faith.

Schorsch’s comments do a nice job of presenting the pacifist point of view, and there is much to admire in his words, but he must also be willing to concede that within Catholic teachings, the just war tradition shares equal legitimacy and thus warrants the same level of respect. The U.S. Bishops’ 1983 pastoral letter, “The Challenge of Peace,” states that the traditions of pacifist nonviolence and just war are complementary and “contribute to the full moral vision we need in pursuit of a human peace.” A decade later, the Bishops reiterated their hope that all Christians, both those committed to active nonviolence and those who support the just war tradition, could cultivate the “peaceable virtues,” including love, hope, faith, patience and humility. We in Army ROTC have made and continue to make every effort to do just that by cultivating such virtues among our student participants and faculty members.

While Army ROTC cadets do spend a small portion of their time learning to fire rifles and to accomplish several other war-related tasks (all permissible by the Catholic Church), the preponderance of their training involves leadership instruction and character development to enable them to become effective agents of morality in an increasingly amoral world. Certainly we can both agree that this is an admirable and theologically sound approach.

As a professional soldier, practicing Catholic and the person responsible for developing and teaching the Army ROTC curriculum on campus, I invite Schorsch to come to the Pasquerilla Center and learn what we actually teach and do, as opposed to making wildly inaccurate assumptions about our activities and categorical denunciations of our cadets and faculty members. Rather than indicting an alleged “war culture” on campus, erroneously attributed to Army ROTC, I encourage Schorsch to search for the common ground shared by both traditions, namely, a desire to bring about peace.

Jesus also said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God,” and while unfortunate, it is a sad fact of contemporary times that soldiers are often the only viable peacemakers. Military training in general has a long tradition on this campus, stretching back to 1858, and it is reflective of both the University’s and the Catholic Church’s enduring commitment to the just war tradition. With these things in mind, I believe that it is entirely appropriate that an Army ROTC program exists at the University of Our Lady, the Queen of Peace and mother of God since soldiers may well be the only ones able to establish and maintain the very peace She represents and we all seek, and thus become “sons of God” and of Our Lady as well.

Before he became a saint, St. Francis was a soldier, so I think it was a fitting tribute that, on his feast day, The Observer chose to feature the University’s Army ROTC program on its front page. I am proud that the Fightin’ Irish Battalion delights in producing leaders of character like St. Francis who are equipped to fulfill their temporal, moral and spiritual responsibilities, and I urge Schorsch and others to resist the temptation of associating all that is bad regarding the use of force in today’s world with the Army ROTC program on campus and their brothers and sisters who are participating in it and who are earnestly pursuing their own spirituality in the equally legitimate, wholly respectable, and completely honorable just war tradition.

We who volunteer to serve as peacemakers welcome Schorsch’s prayers, and I offer my own prayers in return that he and others like him may come to understand the entire Catholic tradition as it relates to the use of force and learn to accept, rather than condemn, those who share his love of peace but who differ, within the teachings of the Church, on the permissible means to achieve that objective.

Lieutenant Colonel Kelly JordanProfessorMilitary Science and Head of Army ROTCOct. 5