Military vocations


#1

An extremely close Catholic friend is a member of a Navy SEAL team. We got in a discussion about just and unjust wars and early on, he said he didn’t have the luxury of making that decision. When called, he HAD to go and said he didn’t have an option choosing which assignment to take and which one to refuse. He said he’s involved in many “wars”. There’s a war in Afghanistan, a war on drugs, a war on piracy a war to protect our Constitution and even a war to prevent future wars. A teams mission only becomes defensive if it fails. If they are called to “remove” someone, they don’t ask why or what’s he done, they follow orders. I asked about his obligation to God and he said if there is no mission, his first obligation is to God. But if called, his first obligation is to the completion of the mission, his second is to his team members, his third is to his life and God comes forth. Then he surprised me with a question of his own. If you were in battle next to a Catholic Priest and an atheist who happened to be the best soldier in the platoon and had to save one, which would it be. I said without hesitation the Priest. His responds was no, the Priest has no weapon and can’t help you on the field of battle. I asked if he ever prayed in battle and he said only one prayer came to mind…if there was time. “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition”. Can a Catholic, in good conscience, be a SEAL?


#2

Short answer: yes.


#3

[quote="shipwrkd, post:1, topic:287595"]
An extremely close Catholic friend is a member of a Navy SEAL team. We got in a discussion about just and unjust wars and early on, he said he didn't have the luxury of making that decision. When called, he HAD to go and said he didn't have an option choosing which assignment to take and which one to refuse. He said he's involved in many "wars". There's a war in Afghanistan, a war on drugs, a war on piracy a war to protect our Constitution and even a war to prevent future wars. A teams mission only becomes defensive if it fails. If they are called to "remove" someone, they don't ask why or what's he done, they follow orders. I asked about his obligation to God and he said if there is no mission, his first obligation is to God. But if called, his first obligation is to the completion of the mission, his second is to his team members, his third is to his life and God comes forth. Then he surprised me with a question of his own. If you were in battle next to a Catholic Priest and an atheist who happened to be the best soldier in the platoon and had to save one, which would it be. I said without hesitation the Priest. His responds was no, the Priest has no weapon and can't help you on the field of battle. I asked if he ever prayed in battle and he said only one prayer came to mind...if there was time. "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition". Can a Catholic, in good conscience, be a SEAL?

[/quote]

I wasn't a Navy Seal but i did serve in the Army and your friend is correct, soliders give up the freedom of choice when they sign the dotted line.

It is hard to be solider and follow Christ as well, not impossible, but there are extra difficulties to over come.

There are Rules of Engagment which are disgusting to consider , and too much to go into....

Though common sense is still there, just because orders trickle down an are wrong, doesnt mean one can not stand their ground and refuse to follow an unjust/ illegal, or morally wrong order. One just has to be strong enough and prepared to deal with the reprocussions.

Even during peace time these problems arise, having to stick up for others who are being unfairly treated by higher ranking members who exhibit zero common sense, or just dont care.

And an excuse that is widely used is " following orders " as if morals and common sense must be thrown out the window.

But staying strong in ones Catholic faith, attending mass when possible, is a major asset to serving in the military, If I had lacked faith in my time of service, I probably wouldnt be alive today.


#4

[quote="john78, post:3, topic:287595"]

There are Rules of Engagment which are disgusting to consider , and too much to go into....
Though common sense is still there, just because orders trickle down an are wrong, doesnt mean one can not stand their ground and refuse to follow an unjust/ illegal, or morally wrong order. One just has to be strong enough and prepared to deal with the repercussions

[/quote]

Thanks for the responds. Generally when orders are given, information is on a need to know basis and by the time a SEAL decides to stand his ground, his team members lives may be at stake. Orders generally don't trickle down, they come from higher ranking officers with more intelligence then the team gets. Failure to follow ANY order usually means the end of ones career at the very least and possibly a court martial.

There is some truth to Jack Nicholson's line from the movie "A Few Good Men" when he says...we follow orders or good men die.

You'r right about a soldiers life being difficult and a SEAL is a highly trained and disciplined soldier.


#5

To be honest, your friend doesn’t sound like much of a Catholic in the first place. (I guess I’m judging, but just based on your description).

I read a book of a very devout military man who was a paraplegic after the Vietnam war who proposed to his wife this way, God is first, the Army is second, but will you be third. This seems to be the more proper order than the one your friend gave.

In our marriage I know I come third, but I’m glad God is first.


#6

[quote="john78, post:3, topic:287595"]
I wasn't a Navy Seal but i did serve in the Army and your friend is correct, soliders give up the freedom of choice when they sign the dotted line.

It is hard to be solider and follow Christ as well, not impossible, but there are extra difficulties to over come.

There are Rules of Engagment which are disgusting to consider , and too much to go into....

Though common sense is still there, just because orders trickle down an are wrong, doesnt mean one can not stand their ground and refuse to follow an unjust/ illegal, or morally wrong order. One just has to be strong enough and prepared to deal with the reprocussions.

Even during peace time these problems arise, having to stick up for others who are being unfairly treated by higher ranking members who exhibit zero common sense, or just dont care.

And an excuse that is widely used is " following orders " as if morals and common sense must be thrown out the window.

But staying strong in ones Catholic faith, attending mass when possible, is a major asset to serving in the military, If I had lacked faith in my time of service, I probably wouldnt be alive today.

[/quote]

What if the Pope comes out and declares a war unjust? Do you then invoke conscientious objection? Perhaps get charged with cowardice (a capital offense) because you won't deploy?


#7

Yes,

but one should really question before they sign the dotted line if they are prepared to be put into that situation, you do not join the military to pick what wars you want to fight in.

so if you can not be willing to accept that, then one might want to consider joining different parts of the military, there are photographers, doctors, dentists, etc, and the conscientious objection status, which i have not looked into but i am sure has other jobs with it that one can serve in.

Or one could be a military chaplin, now you get both worlds, you get to be a priest and serve the military, how exciting would that be for some young man.

I personally couldnt stomach it though lol.

And cowardice in the military, i mean the military goes to greath lengths not to put to death those who fall into this category, you get the worst of it though, loss of rank, and pay, and a nice length of time in a military prison. Plus I have seen men in my unit not deploy to Iraq back in 99-2000 for a simple training mission or just to relieve another unit, and there the guy would be the next day, mowing the grounds, waiting for more punishment to come down the wire later.

So if one feels after they have entered the military that there is a war/conflict going on, that is against their faith, or values, then that man or woman needs to be prepared to stand for what they believe in and realize that they should do so before being deployed, and to fight tooth an nail to not be deployed, because once you are in a combat zone, it is too late to say ehhh, i have a bad feeling about this i want out. And then that person would need to stop worrying about the actual combat it self and more about preserving ones own life and the lives of his or her fellow soliders. Then once back in the states or behind enemy lines he or she can figure out where to go from there.

But one should not put at risk others lives in the heat of battle or in a combat tour of duty that they serve with. But again one also has to use common sense, which the military does not allow the luxury of doing, so that is where one goes against the famous " following orders " .

We have seen in the news , wiki leaks, and in history of wounded civilians being left on the side of the road as US troops walk by not lending a hand because they are off to some other destination, yet at the same time we see pictures of men an women in uniform holding refugee babies or helping some war torn area of the world.

it is both true, it happens, soliders destroy and rebuild.

So as much as your average trooper may want to help a dieing civilian or severly wounded civilian sometimes they just cant, because the supplies they have are not ment for civilians, they are ment to keep the troops moving and alive.

But again, common sense should prevail in regards to attacking unarmed civilians, and again this falls into rules of engagement and there are long drawn out topics/ debates on the subject.

and one would like to think that all officers in the military are of the highest caliber, that military intelligence is of the utmost truth, so that when orders are given, it is swift and quick and must not be challenged at all.

it just isnt true, these are humans, just like anyone else, no matter how smart they are, they will make mistakes, some times people choose to do the wrong thing, sometimes they are blinded.

But consider this too, Pearl Harbor, facts are out in history that information was sent informing people in command that Japan was on their way, i am sure who ever was first told this information, had a degree from some university, had some nice shiney rank on his collar too or some piece of paper that declared him smarter than the average bear, but he chose to ignore for what ever reason the information given.

Then we have the recent military incident in Tx of an officer a Major who attacked and killed fellow soliders,

the stories go on an on.

So to think that just because someone in a position of power in the military can not and should not be questioned because he has a degree and the peon at the bottom doesnt and one out ranks the other, is nonsense.

but again i point back to my above comments in when one needs to stop questioning and think about his own life and the ones around him.

there is a time and place to question people in power, even in the heat of combat, one just has to be prepared to deal with the reprocussions for standing his or her ground, based on faith, morals, or what have you… because military law is no where near as forgiving as civilian law.


#8

[quote="john78, post:7, topic:287595"]

but one should really question before they sign the dotted line if they are prepared to be put into that situation, you do not join the military to pick what wars you want to fight in.

[/quote]

This is one of my statements from another thread...

My Dad fought in WWII, which was supposedly just because we were returning what was given us at Pearl Harbor. But when we used the bomb on Hiroshima, Pope Pius XII declared it an immoral act. It may well have been, but it brought my Dad home safe and alive to have me. Then at 19 years old, I received an invitation (draft notice) to the Vietnam war. Back then, I'm not even sure if the guidelines for just and unjust wars had been established, but I did know it was war or jail. Next I knew, I was in Vietnam trying to stay alive while watching many who failed. I didn't have a say when our Lieutenant called an air strike that would kill as many civilians as NVA, but that strike probably saved my life. I prayed. I prayed that the pilot would close his eyes to the civilians and that his aim would be true and he would release the napalm canisters without hesitation. His feelings were his problem and I'm sure he saw more of the destruction then I

.
I'm not sure if that pilot who dropped that napalm was Catholic or not and never even thought to wonder if there were Catholics aboard the Enola Gay. If all the Catholics who fought in those wars were photographers and priests I wonder what the outcome would have been and if we'd still be free to voice our opinions on this forum.


#9

I do not think i flat out stole your quote, but i do not doubt i may have at some point skimmed over a thread and saw it, but then again i always go back to there is no more original thinking in the world.... someone else has always at some point in history thought or come up with the same thing one has in the present, though our perspective is what makes it new i suppose.

anyhow

your point is true, we would have a different world if everyone who ever had to make a dramatic decision in times of war decided not to.

I mean we can look at Joan of Arc to a degree, it is speculated on whether or not she par took in any actual battle, but from what i understand she did lead many into battle.

I am merely suggesting, if ones heart is so heavy in regards to going to war or carrying out an order once already in service, that they feel with every fiber it is wrong, that person in order to be able to live with him or herself for the rest of his or her life, needs to make a choice to either carry on with what is going on, or to say no, and be prepared for what comes next and to be prepared to defend his or her position.

Heck how many stories do we hear about of those who where in combat coming back with PTSD, they followed through with what they signed up for, and pay for it afterwards, and sometimes not always, they do not always get the help they need or support.

The military has a hard time dealing with mental issues, and have barely begun to scratch the surface by allowing some to be perscribed anti depresants, the rest are labled cowards and are in turn harrassed, belittled, and ridiculed to no end, and then we hear reports of suicide, and everyone is amazed and wonders how this happened. And then instantly turn to, well we can not blame anyone else for someone committing suicide, the law has at times stated other wise.

So many hard choices one must face when entering into the military, as one has stated, military wives take the spot of number 3, i cant even imagine what they go through.

I wish the military would seriously consider changing the age of enlistment to roughly around 25 yrs old, with the option of those who are younger ( 18 ) to enlist if their highschool grades and ASVAB scores are fairly high relatively .

this would give highschool kids the chance to mature, to go through college and earn a degree and give individuals the chance to think about the decision they are considering.

But putting God before ones country in turn gives a nation better leaders, and service members. A lot of Americans choose to ignore our Fouding Fathers, faith ... What if these men had none at that point in time ? How would battles of been fought had the men from Washington to the basic solider of that time had no faith, would these men have perservered through the elements with little to no rations, tattered uniforms to nothing but their bare feet.

Are we supposed to figure that these men who fought to make this country didn't have faith first ?

any how this thread poses a good debate, i hope to see more thoughts on here.


#10

I had an opportunity to spend quite a bit of tome in Washington DC when my oldest son lived there.The history books taught me that our Founding Fathers were a tight knit group of Patriots when in fact, most disagreed with each other and many hated each other. Most were in it for personal gain. It’s believed that John Hancock, who was a known tea smuggler, thought the best way to keep his prices up was to get rid of the British tea, thus the Boston Tea Party. I watched the recreation of a trial based on fact in which a man beat his slave to death because he didn’t take proper care of his horse. He was found innocent of killing a human being because at that time, a horse was more important then a slave…true story. Of the 204 Founding Fathers, three were Catholic. The majority were Episcopalian/Anglican, so I suppose they had faith, but it was a rather violent faith.


#11

Further questions re: military vocations. The following is from The CCC and the use of atomic weaponry "merits firm and unequivocal condemnation". That said, can a Catholic be involved in the design of such a weapon or even the deliverance of one? We have a number of Ohio class nuclear submarines each armed with up to 24 Trident missiles with nuclear warheads. These are strictly offensive vessels who's only defense is to submerge after releasing it's payload. Can a Catholic serve on a nuclear sub, or for that matter, can we work on the design or building of such a ship? Is there a line and where should it be drawn?

This question is also relevant for I have a son who is a Marine Engineer working for the Navy

2314 "Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation."110 A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons - to commit such crimes.

2315 The accumulation of arms strikes many as a paradoxically suitable way of deterring potential adversaries from war. They see it as the most effective means of ensuring peace among nations. This method of deterrence gives rise to strong moral reservations. The arms race does not ensure peace. Far from eliminating the causes of war, it risks aggravating them. Spending enormous sums to produce ever new types of weapons impedes efforts to aid needy populations;111 it thwarts the development of peoples. Over-armament multiplies reasons for conflict and increases the danger of escalation.


#12

Google "military martyrs" and there should be a website dedicated to them. Among their ranks (pun intended) are:

St George
St Florian
Sts Gervase and Protease (sp?)
St Expeditus

There are also military chaplains whose causes for sainthood are before Rome right now.

There have been holy soldiers. Ask St Joan of Arc for her assistance/prayers. There is a general whose cause is before Rome as well. Can't remember his name, though.

HTH

Blessings,
Cloisters


#13

[quote="shipwrkd, post:11, topic:287595"]
Further questions re: military vocations. The following is from The CCC and the use of atomic weaponry "merits firm and unequivocal condemnation". That said, can a Catholic be involved in the design of such a weapon or even the deliverance of one? We have a number of Ohio class nuclear submarines each armed with up to 24 Trident missiles with nuclear warheads. These are strictly offensive vessels who's only defense is to submerge after releasing it's payload. Can a Catholic serve on a nuclear sub, or for that matter, can we work on the design or building of such a ship? Is there a line and where should it be drawn?

This question is also relevant for I have a son who is a Marine Engineer working for the Navy

[/quote]

Not sure but maybe this should be a new topic. I do see a topic called The Atomic Bomb from last year that went almost 600 posts and could have gone either way. It's mostly on the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki but there's some good stuff in it. You'll probably have a lot more questions then answers if you can make it through forty pages of the 586 posts. I know this action was condemned by Pope Pius XII, but it must have been after they were dropped. The Captain of the second plane had his plane blessed before his mission as he was a devout Irish Catholic.
This question could be a whole new can of worms.


#14

The only case I know of where charges of cowardice came down was a translator who came home with bad PTSD. he was declared fit for duty, and ordered back. He refused and was charged with cowardice. Once the press got ahold of it, the charges were dropped, and the anti-malarial medicine that he was on was declared to be the cause of his behavior.


#15

[quote="epan, post:14, topic:287595"]
The only case I know of where charges of cowardice came down was a translator who came home with bad PTSD. he was declared fit for duty, and ordered back. He refused and was charged with cowardice. Once the press got ahold of it, the charges were dropped, and the anti-malarial medicine that he was on was declared to be the cause of his behavior.

[/quote]

Muhammad Ali was convicted of draft evasion and was sentenced to 5years in prison, fined $10,000 and banned from the ring for 3 years. Because he had the means, he fought the charges and the charges were dropped four years later and he finally was able to return to the ring. A common man without the support or money to appeal would have had to serve the time, as most did. Although there was a blanket pardon issued 10 years later by Carter, not all qualified and still are restricted from some rights.


#16

[quote="shipwrkd, post:15, topic:287595"]
Muhammad Ali was convicted of draft evasion and was sentenced to 5years in prison, fined $10,000 and banned from the ring for 3 years. Because he had the means, he fought the charges and the charges were dropped four years later and he finally was able to return to the ring. A common man without the support or money to appeal would have had to serve the time, as most did. Although there was a blanket pardon issued 10 years later by Carter, not all qualified and still are restricted from some rights.

[/quote]

Yes, draft evasion is a lesser charge. Cowardice is a rare charge. The last time was during the Viet Nam war. There was one charge which was dropped in OIF. It is a capital offense.


#17

[quote="shipwrkd, post:1, topic:287595"]
An extremely close Catholic friend is a member of a Navy SEAL team. We got in a discussion about just and unjust wars and early on, he said he didn't have the luxury of making that decision. When called, he HAD to go and said he didn't have an option choosing which assignment to take and which one to refuse. He said he's involved in many "wars". There's a war in Afghanistan, a war on drugs, a war on piracy a war to protect our Constitution and even a war to prevent future wars. A teams mission only becomes defensive if it fails. If they are called to "remove" someone, they don't ask why or what's he done, they follow orders. I asked about his obligation to God and he said if there is no mission, his first obligation is to God. But if called, his first obligation is to the completion of the mission, his second is to his team members, his third is to his life and God comes forth. Then he surprised me with a question of his own. If you were in battle next to a Catholic Priest and an atheist who happened to be the best soldier in the platoon and had to save one, which would it be. I said without hesitation the Priest. His responds was no, the Priest has no weapon and can't help you on the field of battle. I asked if he ever prayed in battle and he said only one prayer came to mind...if there was time. "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition". Can a Catholic, in good conscience, be a SEAL?

[/quote]

I think either you misunderstood your friend, or he doesn't have a clear understanding of his role in "choosing" war over peace. To begin with, the U.S. military is all volunteer. He chose that. Within the Navy, SEALs are also all volunteer. Within those volunteers, only the people who want to be SEALs the most actually make it through training and earn that distinction. And there is no secret about the nature of their work: your friend volunteered to put himself in scenarios in which he would have to kill people. In some ways, your friend doesn't choose each individual mission he is assigned to. In a moral and philispohical way, he chose *every *mission he is assigned to. I saw another reply that stated, "soldiers give up their freedom of choice when they sign on the dotted line." There's a way of looking at that as true, but it really isn't: you don't give up your choice, that was simply the choice you made.

Evaluating those actions as "just" is a matter of personal conscience. As a Navy B.R.A.T., I understand the point of view that there is a level of justice in violent action for the greater good; that is, having a standing military that engages in violence and war to maintain peace and security for a larger group of citizens is justifiable. With that said, there have been in the past, and there will liely be in the future, situations where soldiers, sailors, and Marines are ordered to do things that are illegal, and more importantly, immoral. Often, when such awful things happen, those in the lower ranks often justify their actions by saying they were following orders, which can be construed as a reasonable defense of a an individual: "They aren't really a monster, someone else made that decision for them, soldiers don't get to think for themselves, etc." On the other hand, I go back to my discussion of what constitutes "choice." Everyone in the U.S. military is there by virtue of choice (i.e. we don't have a draft anymore). Because of this, there is never the ability to hide behind the notion of "following orders." Whether the UCMJ allows for those serving in uniform to choose to follow orders or not is irrelevant: everyone serving in uniform chose to abide by the UCMJ. (To be clear, I would advocate that a soldier never vacate his conscience. For example, when given the order to kill an unarmed civilian, I would say that a soldier ought to disobey the order and accept the legal consequences of doing so. There are, God teaches us, moral absolutes).

Regarding your friend's order of priorities changing depending on his given scenario, there is a little bit of disorder there: either God is one's priority or not. Not just when it's easy or when there isn't anything tough going on in our lives. There isn't any middle ground. Now, I have never served in the military (being prevented on medical grounds), and I certainly haven't served in a forward area, so I cannot personally sympathize with the level of stress, fear, adrenaline, and whatever else that goes on in combat that will strain a person's relationship with God. But it is my understanding that God doesn't compromise or compartmentalize based on our scenario; I say again, either God is a person's number one priority all the time, or He isn't. Moreover, it would seem to me that someone like a SEAL who is constantly in danger would be able to more easily reconize God's unique graces and be able to keep God *more *at the center of his heart, particuarly when in combat. But, to be perfectly blunt, one who says, "God is my priorty sometimes," is really saying, "God isn't ever my priorty."

But to answer your real question of whether or not a Catholic can be a SEAL, I would say "yes" and point you back to my understanding of what can or does constitute "just" war. Is a war only just if it is specific reation to a specific threat (which, by the way, the actions of SEAL teams are specific; they aren't simply gestapo who are conducting an arbitrary reign of terror against random targets in hopes of simply scaring America's enemies; there is a specific reason that SEAL missions are executed)? Or can war be justified in a broader, "for the greater good" sense? Again, yes, Catholics can in good conscience be SEALs, and serve in other combat scenarios, but they are only in good consciene when they understand the morality and philosophy that brought them to choose such a path in the first place, as well as the legal consequences that may ensue if their orders butt heads with their faith and morals. To not have that understanding and to simply chalk up moral and philisophical gray areas to "just following orders" is just intellectually and spiritually lazy.


#18

Your friend is committing idolatry.


closed #19

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