Protests aimed at solidarity
Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, March 28, 2007
I want to offer a reflection on the purpose of the protests held by members of the Catholic Peace Fellowship and Catholic Workers questioning the presence of ROTC at Notre Dame. In “Solicitudo Rei Socialis,” Pope John Paul II told Catholics that the only way to dismantle structures of sin is to approach them in a diametrically opposed attitude, i.e. solidarity (SRS, no. 38). In this spirit of Christian solidarity, the protest held in front of the Main Building called the administration to examine its contribution in training soldiers to fight in a war that two popes and the vast majority of bishops worldwide have called illegal, immoral and unjust.
This is not to say that the soldiers that ROTC trains are immoral or unjust people. It is my firm conviction, however, that this has to do with the ethical formation that Notre Dame tries to provide and not with a ROTC program that systematically trains many of our noblest young men and women to dehumanize the other and surrender their consciences. In effect, ROTC soldiers are put in a position in which, as Christians, they must dismiss the prevailing norm of our military, that soldiers ought not be conscientious people. In this way, the protests were a call to solidarity not only with Iraqis, but with soldiers who struggle to live their faith in conscience.
This protest must also not be viewed in isolation. One problem with protests in general and the anti-war movement in particular is that they are done in confrontation with those in power. However, to encourage conversion of hearts and the fostering of solidarity for peace, dialogue and common discernment are also necessary. The Notre Dame Peace Fellowship, of which I am a member, has been and will continue to be dedicated to dialogue and friendship with the soldiers on our campus. In this way, it can be hoped that conscience can be restored to our consideration of war and peace, and that Americans reject a dehumanized vision of the enemy and build peace with love in our hearts.