By: Taylor Fulkerson
The social memory of American Catholics has always seemed to be lacking on the Catholic side; that is to say, most American Catholics are thoroughly assimilated into American culture.
In that light, I want to honor the memory of one particular American Jesuit, Father James Guadalupe Carney, S. J.
Carney entered the Jesuits of the Missouri Province and, following a deep desire to do mission work, found his way to Honduras to work with the rural poor and form cooperatives. His work there eventually led to his expulsion from Honduras. He was killed in 1983 by a joint operation of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Honduran army shortly after accompanying Honduran revolutionaries back into the country as an unarmed chaplain.
He is traditionally remembered on Sept. 16, although this date is only an approximation. This week marks 30 years since his death.
In the 30 years that have passed, American Jesuit higher education has certainly emphasized the role of social engagement and immersion. I do not believe, however, that Jesuit universities in the United States have followed an honest examination of conscience.
Father Ignacio Ellacuría, S. J. proposed this examination of conscience during the heightened political violence in El Salvador during the 1980s, and I believe we should be asking the same questions he and Carney asked: Who are the crucified people of today? How are we complicit or culpable in their crucifixion? How can we help to take them down from the cross?
There is no doubt that many people in this world are continually oppressed and crucified by the actions of the U. S. military. Hundreds of thousands of persons (the majority of whom are civilians) are negatively impacted by U. S. military action every year, and it would be many more if we were to include those who have been historically besieged and still live in a sea of trauma and loss.
It is the moral responsibility of Xavier University — administration, faculty and students — to recognize and denounce this force of evil in the world, particularly by being self-critical. In short, it is the moral responsibility of this community to end the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program at Xavier.
To be perfectly clear, this is no condemnation of any individual: no administrator can be held accountable as an individual, nor is any ROTC cadet any less a member of this community for being in the program.
Xavier has historically maintained strong connections to the military, to be certain. It has been ranked as one of the most militaryfriendly universities in the country since 2010 by Victory Media.
However, neither this nor our personal relationships to the U. S. Armed Services or military personnel should obscure the fact that the military is an inherently violent institution.
Nor should we forget that the Catholic tradition is ripe with this critical spirit. In pre-Constantine Christian communities, serving in the military was a grave sin, one that was antithetical to a life in Christ. And as late as the Cold War, there was doubt over whether Catholics should be charged with duties involving nuclear weapons since Catholic social teaching condemned nuclear weapons altogether.
Pope Francis recently enunciated this point of view in reference to the conflict in Syria, and in very clear language said: “Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence.” In such a cycle of destruction, the quantity of human lives is the focus, effectively ignoring the qualitative nature of the human person, a direct contradiction of Catholic belief in human dignity.
It’s time to get honest, and not just by studying some tidy encyclicals for tomorrow’s lecture. The bottom line is this: we’re told that our patriotic duty and American identity comes first. We are Catholics only after we do service to the country and the military- industrial complex. Moral obligations become an afterthought, if that.
It is, then, our responsibility as American Catholics to affirm the Jesuits of recent decades, especially those who have died as a result of American imperialism and militarism. As Xavier students, faculty and administrators, we are called to say no.
No to war. No to violence. No to institutional oppression and complacency. Yes to life for all people, everywhere.
Taylor Fulkerson is the Opinion & Editorials Editor at the Newswire. He is from Lanesville, Ind, and is majoring in Philosophy and Spanish.