Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fr. Richard Neuhaus on "The Warrior Class"

... Of course there are Christians who don’t think Christians have any business being in the military to begin with. The thinking of two generations of Protestant clergy was formed by Roland Bainton’s 1979 book, Christian Attitudes Toward War and Peace. Bainton didn’t convert all of them to pacifism. Not by a long shot. But he entrenched the feeling that there is something deeply dubious about the morality of Christians in military service.

Bainton’s history has been sharply challenged. Of particular interest is Louis Swift’s The Early Fathers on War and Military Service. Oliver and Joan O’Donovan’s From Irenaeus to Grotius: A Source Book in Christian Political Thought also has instructive material. There is no doubt that in the first century, Christians were ambivalent, to say the least, about serving in the Roman military and, for that matter, about the empire itself. Whether this had to do primarily with the morality of warfare or with idolatry is much disputed. Soldiers were required to take an oath to the gods of the empire and to the emperor, and such oaths were forbidden for Christians. All that changed dramatically by the fourth century and the dawn of what came to be called Christendom. The argument over whether Christendom represented a triumph of the gospel or the fall of the Church continues to this day, and probably will continue until Our Lord returns in glory. Refracted through the twists and turns of history, it has everything to do with today’s debates over religion and the political order in our society.

The undeniable fact is that today hundreds of thousands of devout Christians serve in America’s armed forces. If, as some contend, pacifism is a mark of the Church, they are all guilty of mortal sin and are beyond the pale. With relatively few exceptions, and for good reasons both humanly natural and theological, Christians in America don’t believe that. This is not the place to engage all the arguments involved between pacifism and just-war doctrine. It is the place to note that what Kaplan and others call the “warrior class” is increasingly divorced not only from civilian society but from the society that ought to matter most, the Church.

Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus, The Warrior Class First Things "On the Square" Dec. 14, 2007

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Reunion of Iraqi Christians and Muslims

Cardinal Emmanuel III DellyThis past Sunday, Christian worshippers in Baghdad celebrated Mass and welcomed Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, leader of the ancient Chaldean Church, recently elevated by Pope Benedict XVI in a symbolic expression of his sympathy for, and solidarity with, the Christian community of Iraq. Sameer Yacoub (Associated Press) reports:

Under heavy guard and broadcast live on Iraqi state television, the service was capped by a handshake from a visiting Shiite imam—a symbolic show of unity between Iraq's majority Muslim sect and its tiny Christian community. . . .

Delly presided over other services this week in Baghdad and the northern Kurdish city of Irbil, spreading his message of unity and forgiveness among Iraq's Christians.

"We are of one family, everyone should work for the progress of this country," he said during his sermon.

The frequent target of Islamic extremists, Iraq's Christians have been forced to flee by the tens of thousands or to isolate themselves in barricaded neighborhoods if they choose to remain.

"We pray today for the sake of each other and to forgive each other, as well to be directed to do good deeds," Delly said. "That is my demand for the Iraqis, moreover I urge the return home for displaced people and immigrants to their ancestral land."

Many people who filled the pews at the elegant brick Church of the Virgin Mary said they were taking advantage of a lull in violence to attend services and to congratulate Delly. The imam of a nearby Shiite mosque shook hands with him in the church's courtyard after the service.

"I came here to show the unity of the Iraqi people," said the black- turbaned imam, Jassim al-Jazairi. "We are happy with the cardinal. We are very proud of any person, whether Christian or Muslim, who raises the name of Iraq in the international arena."

This past November combat journalist Michael Yon released a truly epic photograph of Christians and Muslims, placing a cross atop the St. John's Church in Baghdad ("Thanks and Praise" Against The Grain Nov. 8, 2007). In "Come Home", Michael Yon provides the background to the story and the momentous events that occurred after the taking of the photo.

On November 19, 2007, Most Reverend Shlemon Warduni, Auxiliary Bishop of the St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Diocese for Chaldeans and Assyrians in Iraq officiated at a mass in St. John’s Church in Baghdad. He was welcomed home by a crowd of locals and American soldiers, who had fought hard to cleanse the streets of Al Qaeda. According to Michael Yon, "speaking in both Arabic and English, Bishop Warduni thanked those American soldiers sitting in the pews for their sacrifices":

. . . when al Qaeda came to Dora, they began harassing Christians first, charging them “rent.” It was the local Muslims, according to LTC Michael, who first came to him for help to protect the Christians in his area. . . . the Muslims reached out to him to protect the Christians from al Qaeda. Real Muslims here are quick to say that al Qaeda members are not true Muslims. From charging “rent,” al Qaeda’s harassment escalated to killing Christians, and also Muslims. Untold thousands of Christians and Muslims fled Baghdad in the wake of the darkness of civil war.
According to Michael Yon, the front pews of the Mass were filled with Muslims, to express their solidarity with their Christian neighbors and invite them back to Iraq. He concludes his post:
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen any fighting. I can’t remember my last shootout: it’s been months. The nightmare is ending. Al Qaeda is being crushed. The Sunni tribes are awakening all across Iraq and forswearing violence for negotiation. Many of the Shia are ready to stop the fighting that undermines their ability to forge and manage a new government. This is a complex and still delicate denouement, and the war may not be over yet. But the Muslims are saying it’s time to come home. And the Christians are saying it’s time to come home. They are weary, and there is much work to be done.
Let us pray that it's only the beginning -- and give thanks to the U.S. and Iraqi military efforts to make this possible.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Benedict Appoints Archbishop Timothy Paul Broglio to Head of Archdiocese for the Military Services

Michael Iafrate (Vox Nova) expresses his disappointment in the appointment of the military's new "warrior shepherd":

When the news broke that Archbishop Edwin O’Brien was being moved from his position as head of the Archdiocese of United States Military Services to serve the Archdiocese of Baltimore, I was secretly hoping that the Church would use the opportunity to quietly get itself out of the business of serving as chaplain to the American war machine.

No such luck. Meet the new warrior shepherd, Archbishop Timothy Paul Broglio.

More on the newly-appointed head Archdiocese for the Military Services, courtesy of the Boston Pilot:
“I am indeed privileged to take the reins from Archbishop O’Brien,” said Archbishop Broglio at a Nov. 19 news conference at the military archdiocese’s headquarters in Washington.

The new archbishop, who has never been in the armed forces, said he has encountered members of the military in countries where he served in the diplomatic corps. He said his primary goal will be to find more chaplains. Currently there are about 300 Catholic military chaplains serving U.S. troops.

“The greatest resource of our [archdiocese] is our priests,” Archbishop Broglio said. “Chaplains are committed to letting the light of Christ shine.”

In the new post, he will be in charge of the spiritual, pastoral and sacramental care of the 375,000 Catholic active-duty U.S. military personnel and their 800,000 family members; 200,000 Catholics in the Reserves and National Guard; 30,000 Catholic patients in 172 Veterans Affairs hospitals; and 66,000 Catholics in government service overseas in 134 countries.

As the statistics indicate the overwhelming responsibility of the archdiocese is for the personnel of the military services, both at home and around the world. As well as those who are in the care of the Veterans Affairs medical facilities. Equally though the archbishop has the pastoral care of some 66,000 Catholics in United States’ government services across the globe, many of them in diplomatic postings for the United States.

Archbishop Broglio is to be installed as head of the military archdiocese Jan. 25, the feast of the Conversion of Paul, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

Quite a job -- let's keep Archbishop Broglio in our prayers, that he will fulfill his duties to the best of his abilities.