Fulton Sheen on the Signs of Our Time

Sunday, February 26, AD 2017



Lent is a good time for confronting evil, both inside of ourselves and the evil of the World.  In 1947 then Monsignor Fulton Sheen gave a very important radio address.  He could discern that humanity was at a turning point and he issued an alarm and a warning.  His words are more relevant today than they were seven decades ago.  Below is the text of his speech:

‘Signs of Our Times’

sermon delivered on January 26, 1947

God Love You!

I want those to be my first words of greeting to you as they will be the concluding words of each broadcast. They embody three ideas: God is love; God loves you; and since love is reciprocal may you love God in return.



This is the 17th year I have had the privilege of addressing you on the Catholic Hour and it is probably safe to say that at no time in those years-not even during the war when we saw victory ahead-have the souls of men been more in the dark about the future, less insecure about the present. We are living in the twilight of a civilization, and for that reason, we have entitled this series Light Your Lamps. Under this title we will discuss in eleven broadcasts a subject which we were unable to discuss the last few years, and it will be that which is contained in the Papal Encyclical Divini Redemptoris:  the all important subject of Communism.



It is very difficult to do justice to any phase of this encyclical in the sixteen minutes allotted to me, so this year I shall write a much fuller treatment of each broadcast which will be put into pamphlet form and which the National Council of Catholic Men will send to you free each week if you make your request known to them.



Why is it that so few realize the seriousness of our present crisis? Partly because men do not want to believe their own times are wicked, partly because it involves too much selfaccusation and principally because they have no standards outside of themselves by which to measure their times.  If there is no fixed concept of justice how shall men know it is violated? Only those who live by faith really know what is happening in the world. The great masses without faith are unconscious of the destructive processes going on.The tragedy is not that the hairs of our civilization are gray; it is rather our failure to see that they are. The very day Sodom was destroyed, Scripture describes the sun as bright; Balthasar’s realm came to an end in darkness; people saw Noah preparing for the flood one hundred and twenty years before it came, but men would not believe. In the midst of seeming prosperity, world-unity, the decree to the angels goes forth but the masses go on their sordid routines. As our Lord said: “For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, even till that day in which Noah entered into the ark, and they knew not till the flood came, and took them all away; so also shall the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matthew 24:38, 39) Well may Our Saviour say to us what He said to the Saducees and Pharisees in His time:  “When it is evening, you say: It will be fair weather, for the sky is red. And in the morning: Today there will be a storm, for the sky is red and lowering. You know then how to discern the face of the sky: and can you not know the signs of the times?” (Matthew 16:2, 3)

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14 Responses to Fulton Sheen on the Signs of Our Time

  • “…….brothers in Christ, comrades in anti-Christ.”

    So many concrete truths and so relevant for today. If ever your confronted by a Protestant who demeans Our Lady or the great concept “Ad Jesum per Marium,” please just share any of the writings of soon to be declared “Saint” Fulton Sheen.

    This is a man of God. Not was.

    A personal gift was given me this morning by this post. Two years before my father’s death, after his second stroke, he was having great trouble speaking. He wasn’t connecting words, and many times the words he chose we’re unintelligible. ( for those who know my practice in grammar the Apple doesn’t fall from the tree..)

    The only pure three word sentence that he repeated over and over to us boys, five, was; ” God love you.” So much so, that we repeatedly said it back to him. When I read this post this morning I received a hug from Heaven. Thanks, pre- Saint Sheen and “in the making” Saint Donald. Peace.

  • Good link Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus.
    Especially the comments.
    The excerpt from G.K.Chesterton to be exact.

    The banners of tolerance from LBGT is indeed similar to the banners of 1938.
    To coat the White House in this smearing of colorful feces by the Sultan Obama was one of the ugliest portraits ever contrived by an imposter in Chief.

    Good riddance Hussain.

    We Shall Rise!
    Not the beasties who act on unnatural impulses and tell US it’s okay….God understands me and my behavior isn’t offensive to God. That Political Correctness is the same tripe the brown shirts pushed on the world. Sodom and Gomorrah will be played out again if We do not rise. Marriage is between Man and Woman… Only.

  • The written text appears to be a different version of the spoken address, and they do not track together. Both are of value., and are truth.

  • No comment until I can recover from the vision of Archbishop Sheen who defined our times.

  • What a prophesy! exactly as is happening now

  • Whoever has ears should hear!! DO NOT dispute his words/warnings. They are God speaking to us. Bishop Sheen is wonderful and will be a saint!

  • After 2,000 years, Jesus’ church is still being a place of hope 😀 :

  • This remarkable address was delivered seventy years prior to the Fatima centenary. Is this seventy year period significant, I wonder? When we consider the fairy floss and mind-stultifying nonsense that has been inflicted upon us over the last half-century, listening to Ven. Fulton J. Sheen brings home to us the awful realization of just how far we’ve fallen. And insofar as our bishops reluctantly acknowledge the unprecedented crisis in the Church, what do they propose as a solution? They offer us a means for a renewal, a “new evangelisation” using, among other things, the wishy-washy, unidentifiable as ‘Catholic’ – the Alpha Course which, in truth, only serve to pull the wool further over our eyes.
    Only massive and severely painful Divine intervention can renew the Church. Alpha Course will not steady the Ship. It will only drive her further onto the rocks. And I don’t mean ‘the Rock’.

  • Thank GOD FOR Archbishop Sheen. He got it so right. A great need to return to God and prayer.

  • Bishop Sheen delivered this radio address the year I was born. When I grew up in the 50s, the World still seemed somewhat good. I have seen so many adverse changes in the World since I was born. It happened so fast that most people fell in the trap of the City of Man, and not the City of God. Bishop Sheen almost mesmerized me as a little kid of about 5-7. I will always remember that he predicted the fall of Soviet Communism in the 1950s. He said it would be the year 1985!!! He was certainly not to far off.

  • Yes, thank God for Archbishop Sheen! How can I share this with friends and family?

  • Susan.
    Are you using a smart phone?
    If so you can either copy and paste from the top by holding your finger on the window that is the-american-catholic….Or go to far right top where the three dots are vertical. Hit that and the scroll down to share….

    Hope this helps you.

    Paste this to your friends email once you’ve opened up their address by holding your finger on the area where you write the message.
    The paste will automatically place this page on their email address.

    Good luck.

Quotes Unworthy of Framing: Bishop Sheen

Saturday, September 20, AD 2014

Bishop Sheen



“The very fact that in World War II we chose to fight in alliance with one form of totalitarianism against the other two forms, though all were intrinsically wicked, proves not only the basic sympathy between Western materialism and communism but also the grave mistake of trying to drive the Devil out with Beelzebub.”

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

The start of a new series.  In this set of posts we will take a look at truly foolish things said by people I generally admire.  First up, this gem from Bishop Sheen.

The idea that we chose to have the Soviet Union as an ally in the Second World War is a doozy.  Hitler made the choice when he invaded the Soviet Union.  If Bishop Sheen had then wanted us to be at war with both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, he would have had to have been content with Western casualty totals probably five times what they turned out to be, and his proposed course of action would have required the existence of Western leaders capable of explaining to puzzled populations why their nations were going to war with the Soviet Union that was holding down 80% of the Wehrmacht.  Such a policy would probably have resulted in an eventual renewal of the alliance between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany and led to a conflict that the Western Allies could not have won without resort to nuclear weapons, something that Bishop Sheen of course opposed.

At the end of the War we could of course have launched a new war to drive the Soviet Union out of Eastern Europe.  With the exception of General Patton, there was zero appetite among the Western Allies for a new conflict after the vast blood letting that had wrecked most of Europe.  I doubt if Bishop Sheen would have supported such a conflict for long, due to his coming out against the Vietnam War in 67.  When the going got tough geo-politically, Bishop Sheen tended to hit the road.

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51 Responses to Quotes Unworthy of Framing: Bishop Sheen

  • I’m sure the millions that died at the hands of the Soviets after WWII would agree with Bishop Sheen. And understanding the context of this quote (i.e. The cold war), might give a different perspective.
    As for Vietnam, unless one is sitting in the time period, watching your neighbors and friends coming home in body bags (and there were MANY), I’m not quite sure we can judge that stand today either. That again is easy to look through a lens of 2014.

  • Do you recognize the contradiction in your comment? Vietnam casualties would have been as nothing compared to the casualties we would have incurred in a war against the Soviet Union either during WW2 or after WW2, not to mention the casualties we would have incurred in beating Nazi Germany without the aid of the Soviet Union. 75% of all troops of Nazi Germany who were killed in the War were killed by the Soviets.

  • We really owe the soldiers of the Red Army a huge debt. There are a lot more Americans alive today because of their efforts.

  • Donald, I trust you have something in the pipeline on the disaster that is Blase Cupich?

  • American food and trucks helped in their victory. Twenty million dead Soviets. Only Hitler could have made them fight so hard to maintain a regime most of them secretly despised. A war against Nazi Germany without the Soviets would have involved, conservatively, five to six million US casualties, with only concentrated use of as many atomic bombs as we could build probably bringing it to a conclusion.

  • “Hitler made the choice when he invaded the Soviet Union.”
    Excellent insight. A defensive war is waged by the aggressor.
    “We really owe the soldiers of the Red Army a huge debt. There are a lot more Americans alive today because of their efforts.”
    The Russians were fighting to save themselves. Like Napoleon, Hitler never counted on the Russian winter. Credit Our Lady with the lives saved.

  • I don’t think that the quote of Bishop Sheen is in itself “truly foolish”. It is a broad over-generalization and an obviously overly intellectual statement. For example, it is an undeniable fact from the history of philosophy that communism was born out of Western materialism. As far as the phrase “grave mistake” is concerned, it would be dishonest for Sheen to have applied it to the entirety of U.S. and British war leadership (due to the necessity imposed by the war) but entirely on target for people who thought that there was any real affinity between Western democracy and the Soviets.
    Of course, there are tons of truly foolish implications that can be derived from any quote like this.

  • your not accurate Winston Churchill and Montgomery wanted to take the Eighth Army fresh from so many victories to tear across the rest of Europe but Eisenhower said no. I suggest you might want to read Churchill’s memoirs, from the battle of the bulge onwards. He seems to have a different slant on some of your former comments

  • The Eighth Army ended the war in Italy. It was in no position to tear across Europe. Churchill did recommend that Montgomery’s Twenty-First Army Group attempt to seize Berlin. Eisenhower rejected proposals to try to beat the Soviets to Berlin because there was no point to it. The Soviets and the Western Allies had already agreed to the boundaries between their two sectors at Yalta. The battle for Berlin cost the Soviets 81,000 dead and 280,000 wounded. I far prefer the Soviets to have sustained those casualties rather than the Americans and the Brits.

  • Then let’s just get out of Korea, also.

    Who cares if the Commies slaughter millions of innocents and take away freedom from people?

    What sweat is that off our nose?

    Are we created just for our own comfort and ease? Or are we really to hate and fight evil, sometimes temporarily aligning with evil to defeat a greater evil in the moment?

  • Bishop Sheen was a great man and should be lifted to the Altar as a Saint. Furthermore, when I first read the quote from Bishop Sheen above, I thought, “How profound.” Then I read Mr. McClarey’s discussion and realized my error. The Soviet Government was evil, not the Russian, Ukrainian and other Soviet people who opposed Hitler.
    BTW, I wish that neither Americans nor Soviets had been killed. And we do owe a debt of gratitude to the Red Army however much that it was our mortal enemy in the Cold War.
    War is never as clean and cut and dry as people playing armchair philosophers make it out to be. It’s bloody and muddy and full of equal amounts of heroism and depravity sometimes on both sides of the fence. Thank God the nukes on my sub were never let loose in the Cold War.

  • PWP:

    Your sub nukes, along with B52’s/B-2’s and ICBM’s kept the Cold War from getting hot.

    Obama and the idiots are doing far worse damage today. They are arming Islamist terrorists. The only condition: the Islamist terrorist gang doesn’t call itself “ISIS.

    Here’s my advice to Americans, from Herodotus/Platea/Thessalonians with Persian army. The (pejorative deleted) foreigners (who we welcomed into our country) are deliberately planning to kill us. Then, arm yourselves and sell your lives dearly. Do not allow yourselves to be slaughtered. That disgrace, at least, you can avoid.

    Because Obama, Holder, eta al are on the same “team” as ISIS.

  • “We really owe the soldiers of the Red Army a huge debt. There are a lot more Americans alive today because of their efforts.”

    Let’s not forget the Filipinos, whose homeland got invaded because it was American territory.

  • Quite right Nathan, although I rather suspect that the Phillipines would have been invaded even if there were no Americans there. The Japanese needed to control it to protect their sea lanes to the oil of the Dutch East Indies.

  • Years ago I read a comment that I thought over the top, but post 9/11 politics convinced me it was true: “World War Two was all about saving the Soviet Union”.

    Now, I don’t mean this was true for FDR or for the average American. Far from it. By early 1941 we had enough evidence for the malevolence of the Nazis. But the American left basically defended Hitler. Pete Seeger wrote anti-Roosevelt songs. Stalin had, after all become Hitler’s silent partner in Eastern Europe.

    But imagine an alternate history where Germany does not invade Russia and Pearl Harbor still happens. Roosevelt would have become the war-loving tool of robber barons such as Henry Ford, Henry Kaiser, and Glenn Martin. Pete Seeger would have continued to crank out the protest songs. Perhaps Rooseveltvilles would have sprouted up on the National Mall and even near Hyde Park, filled with ‘pacifists’ protesting “all those dead boys”.

    Of course, none of this happened. The divisiveness seen in nearly every other American conflict did not surface. On 9/11/2001 the U.S. lost 1,000 more people than at Pearl Harbor, and all were civilians, yet political activists within two years were sitting each others throats over the war. The only reasonable conclusion is that the activists of 12/7/1941, who a year earlier were antiwar and apparently quite willing to slit political throats, supported the war to save the Soviet Union. They put the USSR’s survival even ahead of the USA’s.

  • Mr, McClarey
    But he is not talking about fighting the Soviets. He is talking about the “deal with the devil”. And it’s context. It’s easy to look at his statement through 2014 eyes and say, oh no, he was wrong.
    This is what happens when one lifts a quote without looking at that time and out of context.

  • “But he is not talking about fighting the Soviets.”

    His statement is historical hogwash and I took it seriously to demonstrate just how much Bishop Sheen was talking on a subject he was either bone ignorant about, or was too interested in attempting to make a ridiculous point to think through the implications of what he was saying. Trying to defend the statement by saying it was taken out of context is simply assinine.

  • “His statement is historical hogwash and I took it seriously to demonstrate just how much Bishop Sheen was talking on a subject he was either bone ignorant about, or was too interested in attempting to make a ridiculous point to think through the implications of what he was saying. Trying to defend the statement by saying it was taken out of context is simply assinine. ”

    Best Mark Shea imitation I’ve seen in a while!

  • How ridiculous. World War II was instigated in Europe in part by Stalin. If the good bishop Sheen ever believed that Stalin gave up any hope of spreading the Workers’ Paradise through Europe before WWII then Bishop Sheen was foolish.

  • “Best Mark Shea imitation I’ve seen in a while!”
    It could be better:
    1. No use of the term reactionary.
    2. No blaming the US somehow for Stalin and Hitler.
    3. No condemnation of right wingers.
    4. No mention of “the thing that used to be called conservatism”.

  • Very interesting idea for a set of posts.

    To be fair to Mark Shea, maybe you can do the reverse when you complete this series:

    Take a look at truly intelligent things said by people you generally don’t admire.

  • Overall, Bishop Sheen’s statement seems sound: the US found it easy enough to work with the USSR above and beyond mere military coordination and supply. We helped repatriate refugees from the Soviet regime (at gunpoint when necessary) after the war, allowed Soviet expansion at Yalta and the other conferences, and chose to ignore Soviet atrocities such as Katyn forest at the Nuremberg trials and pretend the Nazis were behind them. (The three-part documentary “World War II Behind Closed Doors” touches on many of these cynical diplomatic maneuvers.) If all this doesn’t necessarily demonstrate a “basic sympathy,” surely it shows the futility of trying to drive out one devil with another, nyet?

  • “We helped repatriate refugees from the Soviet regime (at gunpoint when necessary) after the war,”

    Members of Vlasov’s Russian Liberation Army who fought for the Nazis. Hardly refugees but rather enemy soldiers. I wouldn’t have turned them over to the Soviets, but calling them refugees is incorrect.

    “allowed Soviet expansion at Yalta”

    We “allowed” nothing at Yalta. The Red Army was already in control of Eastern Europe and only World War III was going to change that.

    “and chose to ignore Soviet atrocities such as Katyn forest at the Nuremberg trials and pretend the Nazis were behind them.”
    Correct, although until the War had ended it was difficult to prove conclusively who had been behind it, since the Nazis were in control of the area and had been busily murdering millions of Poles at the same time they were claiming that Katyn was a Soviet massacre.

    “If all this doesn’t necessarily demonstrate a “basic sympathy,” surely it shows the futility of trying to drive out one devil with another, nyet?”

    All those who survived the Nazi regime would vigorously disagree with both you and Bishop Sheen father. Of course, your comment does not address what other course the Western Allies should have taken after Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union.

  • It is worth remembering that in September 1939, many people in Britain had grave suspicions of the motives of the British and French governments in going to war at all.
    This was a feeling that only intensified during the “phony war.” There were any number of local wildcat strikes on the railways, in the Glasgow shipyards and in the Lanarkshire coalfields (also in Kent, where many of the miners were Scottish). Trades Unionists, in particular, feared that the War was being used by the ruling class to erode the hard-won gains of organized labour.
    All that changed with Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union. The war was now perceived as a workers’ struggle against Fascism; hence the TUC’s demand for Europe to be liberated from the Urals to the Canaries.

  • I do not find Archbishop Sheen’s comments on the materialism of the West and the marxist materialism of the Soviet Union off base at all. If a culture, society etc sees everything in solely an immanentist, this worldly perspective, whether marxist or capitalist, the root is the same, even if the expression and fruit are different.

  • Please Botolph, if you are going to make excuses for Sheen’s comment address the points I raised or do not bother taking up space in the combox on this thread. He made a very specific allegation and it deserves to be addressed in a historical, and not a metaphysical context, as Sheen made a historical allegation in support of his preposterous contention.

  • Sorry about irritating you Donald but Sheen’s historical comment about the alliance between the West and the Soviets during WWII was actually a ‘metaphysical’ one: “the sympathy between Western materialism and communism but also the attempt to drive out the Devil with Beelzebub”

    I cannot forget that the Soviet Union had made a pact with the Devil of Nazi Germany, dividing up Poland etc with not a pang of conscience. What seemed to be two diametrically opposed forces: fascism and communism were allied (if temporarily). Of course it is not coincidental that both had ‘socialist’ [materialist] in their titles. As for the West, in the struggle to emerge from the Great Depression there was such emphasis on ‘material good’ etc. one could say-and this is what I believe Sheen was saying-there was a real shift in the consciousness. soul of the West toward materialism

  • Once again Botolph address my comment. Sheen said that the Allies chose to ally themselves with the Soviet Union. I explained why that was historical rubbish and that the only alternative was to declare war on the Soviet Union, as well as on Nazi Germany. Sheen was attempting to make a point against Western materialism and abusing history in the process. Such misuse of history always arouses my ire, even when someone I admire is doing it.

  • ahhhh Ok Point taken, Donald. We became allies because Hitler invaded the Soviet Union: Hitler made us allies. That I can see and agree with. It leaves another question however-which is related-why the Soviets, if such ‘great allies’ waited until a few days before the end of WWII in the Pacific to declare war on Japan. [This is not a argument against what Sheen or what you said but a question that keeps bugging me]

  • Prior to 1943 they lacked the troops to do so. They stripped their best troops to send against the Nazis. As a matter of fact it was the Siberian divisions who spearheaded their counteroffensive in the winter of 41-42. After that, we put no pressure on them to declare war on the Japanese as we assumed, correctly, that a ground offensive by the Soviets in Manchuria would have a negligible impact on Japan without American naval and air supremacy, which we did not achieve around and over Japan until the Spring of 45. At that time we pressed the Soviets to go to war against Japan after Germany was beaten and Stalin promised to do so within 90 days of the German surrender, to give the Soviets time to send veteran units to the far East. Quite a few of our military men thought bringing the Soviets into the War at that point was unnecessary, but they were overruled by the civilian leadership. The simple fact was that we had beaten Japan by that time. Getting the Japanese leadership to admit that fact was the problem.

  • thanks for the info and insights

  • Botolph you wrote “What seemed to be two diametrically opposed forces: fascism and communism were allied”.
    It is of course a modern myth that they were “diametrically opposed”, a myth derived from the 1941 invasion of the USSR by the Wehrmacht. In fact both forces were dedicated above all to coercion and control of human beings for immoral ends. In theory they differed on private ownership of property and on racism, but in practice there was little difference – see what happened to Hugo Junkers or to the Crimean Tatars for counterexamples to the prevailing wisdom.

  • I wasn’t referring to enemy combatants, properly so called, in regard to the forced repatriation, but rather to the minority populations (civilians) who tried to flee the Soviet armies into non-Soviet territory and were turned back, forcibly. Our troops, reportedly, stood by helplessly as some of these poor souls leaped to their deaths rather than submit to the Soviet yoke. I don’t have the reference at hand, unfortunately, but this allegation of Solzhenitsyn’s (in “The Gulag Archipelago”) was later substantiated by, of all papers, “The Sunday Oklahoman” in the late 1970’s.

    As to ceding territory to the Soviets at Yalta, et al.: does this include eastern Germany, for instance? Are you saying that it wasn’t agreed that Russia would move in from the east to Berlin, so that, consequently, our forces (Patton, for example) were deliberately halted to allow the Soviets to arrive in Berlin first?

    As to the appeal to “all those who survived the Nazi regime”: we have to remember that many of them ended up back in Soviet gulags or in front of firing squads because they had somehow been corrupted by being POW’s of the Nazi regime. This kind of appeal seems to me like something imponderable; I mean. how do we begin to assess whose gratitude is more weighty amid so much violence?

    What other course could we have taken at that point? I’m not sure I see how letting them fight it out could have been worse than forty-odd years of Soviet domination in eastern Europe and the suffering and death that entailed for countless people.

  • Stalin and Hitler agreed to carve up Poland for a bunch of reasons. First, Poland existed. It was no longer carved up between the Kaiser and the Czar, as it was from 1793-1918. Second, Poland threw Germany out of Greater Poland in 1918-19, received Gdansk (Danzig) as a free city and took over much of Pomerania as a result of the Versailles Treaty. All were embarrassing to Germany. Stalin was an officer in the Red Army who made a huge screwup that led to the Miracle of the Vistula during the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-20. The USSR sued for peace after the Polish Army drove the Red Army out of Poland and halfway to Moscow.

    Hitler hated Communists as much as he hated Poles and Jews and the USSR was always his main target. Stalin was stupid enough to believe Hitler would keep his word. Byelorussians, Ukrainians and Russians paid for this stupidity with their lives. As Mr. McClarey said, Stalin kept huge reserves of hardened, cold-weather trained troops in Siberia to guard against a Japanese invasion, releasing them only after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

    Stalin received massive aid from the USA. Weapons, food, oil, trucks, anything FDR could give Stalin – Stalin got. Meanwhile, the USSR did nothing to assist the USA in our fight against Japan. Stalin wanted another front opened in Europe, accusing the West of letting the USSR bleed to death, ignoring his own complicity in starting the war in Europe – and, of course, Stalin had his spies in the FDR administration, including the Manhattan Project.

    The USSR declared war on Japan three months after the end of the war in Europe. They kept after the Japanese Army, smashing them in China, Manchuria and Mongolia, even after Japan surrendered, carting off factories and shipping them back to the USSR.

    Stalin got his empire. Stalin took Polish territory east of the Curzon Line (the Kresy) and gave Poland some of Germany. Stalin swept through the rest of Eastern Europe. Stalin got Communist dictatorships from Berlin to North Korea, from the Baltic to the Adriatic.

    The USSR was never more than an an enemy of an enemy, other than Communist dupes in the Democrat Party, Hollywood, certain unions and elsewhere, but Bishop Sheen should have known that.

  • Fr. Johnson, regarding “Our troops, reportedly, stood by helplessly as some of these poor souls leaped to their deaths rather than submit to the Soviet yoke”, I definitely recall reading a biography of Harry Truman in the early 1970’s in which Truman stated that this event disgusted him and led to his decision to give North Korean POWs the choice to not return – a decision that delayed the Korean armistice for months. Many such events were known when they happened, and then forgotten.

  • I’m not quite sure where this fallacy began that because we allied ourselves with Russia during WWII for strategic reasons means that we accept carte blanche their actions in every other regard but it’s not rational.

    This same fallacious refrain can be heard when discussing America’s Middle Eastern foreign affairs strategy from yesteryear. Often we strategically align ourselves with an enemy of our enemy and it backfires at some future point years later.

    It’s certainly possible for prudent decisions today to require further prudent containment from fallout tomorrow.

  • PF wrote: “Stalin got his empire. Stalin took Polish territory east of the Curzon Line (the Kresy) and gave Poland some of Germany. Stalin swept through the rest of Eastern Europe. Stalin got Communist dictatorships from Berlin to North Korea, from the Baltic to the Adriatic.”
    In 1946 that empire was even more frightening. It included part of Austria, parts of Finland, northern Iran, and the Chinese regions of Manchuria, Xinjiang (which the USSR had occupied before 1940), and Inner Mongolia.

    “The USSR was never more than an enemy of an enemy, other than Communist dupes in the Democrat Party, Hollywood, certain unions and elsewhere, but Bishop Sheen should have known that.”
    Well, not as far as Democrats were concerned. Harry Truman and his allies had purged most such dupes from the Democratic party in Sheen’s time. The anti-communist actions of the Americans for Democratic Action under people like Arthur Schlesinger Jr were largely successful, and resulted in their bolting the Democratic party for the Progressive party with Henry Wallace in 1948. The dupes didn’t slink back in until after 1968 when people like Schlesinger had lost their nerve, and they later got their revenge and took over the ADA.

  • “I wasn’t referring to enemy combatants, properly so called, in regard to the forced repatriation, but rather to the minority populations (civilians) who tried to flee the Soviet armies into non-Soviet territory and were turned back, forcibly.”

    The only forced repatriation I am aware of were enemy combatants. We did return Soviet prisoners of war as the Soviets returned our prisoners of war from camps they captured from the Germans. We also repatriated Soviet slave laborers sent to the West by the Germans to work as slaves. Hundreds of thousands of Eastern Europeans were allowed as refugees to stay in the West.

    “As to ceding territory to the Soviets at Yalta, et al.: does this include eastern Germany, for instance? Are you saying that it wasn’t agreed that Russia would move in from the east to Berlin, so that, consequently, our forces (Patton, for example) were deliberately halted to allow the Soviets to arrive in Berlin first?”

    Yep. The Western Allies had liberated much of what made up East Germany and a fair amount of Czechoslovakia and were obliged to withdraw from these territories due to the Yalta agreements.


    “This kind of appeal seems to me like something imponderable; I mean. how do we begin to assess whose gratitude is more weighty amid so much violence?”

    We destroyed one of the worst regimes that has ever besoiled this planet. Are you suggesting we then should have started another war to end the Soviet Union? That was the alternative to what occurred in 1945. Blaming the Western Allies because the Soviet Union survived due to the fact that Hitler was mad enough to attack Stalin strikes me as wrong-headed.

    “What other course could we have taken at that point? I’m not sure I see how letting them fight it out”

    Harry Truman proposed just that after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. It was foolish in the exteme. If Hitler had managed to conquer the Soviet Union he may have been unstoppable, especially since it is likely that he would have had ICBMs with nukes before we had them. World War IV might then have begun with a Nazi nuclear strike on the Continental US circa 1949. Of course, this ignores the fact that Hitler declared war on the US immediately after Pearl Harbor, so we really had no choice about being involved in the War against Hitler. As for Eastern Europe, Hitler planned to kill all Slavic untermensch, as he considered them, except the few he kept as slaves, or “racially pure” kids who could be raised as Germans.


    He managed to kill six million Poles before the war concluded. I say without hesitation that the Eastern Europeans were better off under Communist domination than they would have been if the Third Reich had won the war.

  • “If Hitler had managed to conquer the Soviet Union he may have been unstoppable, especially since it is likely that he would have had ICBMs with nukes before we had them.”
    Don, the opinions I’ve seen among the European physicists at Los Alamos was that this was unlikely. Their consensus was that the timing of the 1939 discovery of fission was most fortuitous for the U.S. A fission discovery a year or two earlier would have favored a German first development, since the Germans would have benefited from the further discoveries of these very scientists prior to the imposition of wartime secrecy (it is well documented that secrecy and the flight of these physicists to America hamstrung the German nuclear program, and a Soviet collapse would not have changed that). A fission discovery a few years later might have favored a Soviet first development, since the Manhattan Project might have been given a lower priority if it was approved at all. If this conjecture is true it makes one wonder about Providence.

  • Once the US had the bomb the Germans would quickly have built one. Captured German scientists were instrumental in building the Soviet bomb in 1949. Combine this with Werner von Braun and his rocket whiz kids and I think the world narrowly missed a nuclear war in the fifties.

  • Sorry Don, but the only German scientist I know of who aided the Soviet bomb program was Klaus Fuchs, and he did it from Los Alamos. They ‘captured’ him a long time before.
    As to the rest of you idea, I do agree with some alternative history buffs that a German triumph in Europe could have set the stage for a nuclear confrontation and Cold War between the U.S. and Germany. Could have. Such a scenario would have required that the U.S. refrain from using nuclear weapons against Germany in August 1945, and that would not have happened unless perhaps Hitler never declared war on the U.S. and Churchill’s government fell.

  • Periodically, when I see the topic of fission come up, I have to mention that there is a fundamental difference between nuclear reactors making lots of pollution-free electricity and nuclear bombs making really big explosions. I work in the former. Making electricity from fission is safe, clean and cheaper than fossil. I have been involved in this work for 30+ years. I still live and breathe. Reactors use fuel with less than 5% U-235 or Pu-239 enrichment. Making explosions from bombs requires fuel enriched to greater than 93% U-235 or Pu-239. Reactors do NOT explode. Bombs do explode. A reactor is NOT and CANNOT be a bomb. But I don’t have time for a physics lesson here, so kindly read on:
    There will be more in the next post at that blog.

  • “German physicists who worked on the Uranverein and were sent to the Soviet Union to work on the Soviet atomic bomb project included: Werner Czulius, Robert Döpel, Walter Herrmann, Heinz Pose, Ernst Rexer, Nikolaus Riehl, and Karl Zimmer. Günter Wirths, while not a member of the Uranverein, worked for Riehl at the Auergesellschaft on reactor-grade uranium production and was also sent to the Soviet Union.

    Zimmer’s path to work on the Soviet atomic bomb project was through a prisoner of war camp in Krasnogorsk, as was that of his colleagues Hans-Joachim Born and Alexander Catsch from the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institut für Hirnforschung (KWIH, Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Brain Research, today the Max-Planck Institut für Hirnforschung), who worked there for N. V. Timofeev-Resovskij, director of the Abteilung für Experimentelle Genetik (Department of Experimental Genetics). All four eventually worked for Riehl in the Soviet Union at Laboratory B in Sungul’.[90][91]

    Von Ardenne, who had worked on isotope separation for the Reichspostministerium (Reich Postal Ministry), was also sent to the Soviet Union to work on their atomic bomb project, along with Gustav Hertz, Nobel laureate and director of Research Laboratory II at Siemens, Peter Adolf Thiessen, director of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institut für physikalische Chemie und Elektrochemie (KWIPC, Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry and Electrochemisty, today the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max-Planck Society), and Max Volmer, director of the Physical Chemistry Institute at the Berlin Technische Hochschule (Technical University of Berlin), who all had made a pact that whoever first made contact with the Soviets would speak for the rest.[92] Before the end of World War II, Thiessen, a member of the Nazi Party, had Communist contacts.[93] On 27 April 1945, Thiessen arrived at von Ardenne’s institute in an armored vehicle with a major of the Soviet Army, who was also a leading Soviet chemist, and they issued Ardenne a protective letter (Schutzbrief).”

  • Don, funny that you list some German nuclear physicists who worked in the Soviet Union. In the last few weeks my manager has had a copy of Asif A Siddiqi’s Challenge To Apollo: The Soviet Union and The Space Race, 1945-1974, NASA Special Publication 2000-4408 on his desk, and I managed to read several chapters. An online version can be found here: http://www.ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=20000088626

    Using documents made available just after the collapse of the USSR, Siddiqi does an excellent job documenting the use of German rocket science expertise. He comes to a number of interesting conclusions:

    1) The Soviet counterpart to the U.S. Operation Paperclip may have been most beneficial to the Soviets not because of the German talent it acquired but rather because it broke down the compartmentalization between Russian design teams and thus better pooled existing Russian talent
    2) The USSR, in failing to acquire significant amounts of A-4 (V-2) hardware, was forced into a remanufacturing regime that gave it more expertise than simple pilfering in Germany would have given them
    3) And this:
    “There are, however, key differences in the role of Germans in the United States versus that of those in the Soviet Union. The Germans in the Soviet Union never participated in the mainstream rocketry program. In fact, after the restoration of A-4 production and the G-I debacle, they worked completely independently and without much influence on Soviet plans. Not a single one of the German missiles designed in 1947 through 1950 was ever built. Following the significant events of 1946-47. the Germans essentially played a peripheral role. proposing a number of important technical innovations. only some of which were adopted by the Soviets. Compounding Korolev’s personal resistance toward cooperation with the Germans was a much more imposing political imperative-one that was grounded in xenophobia and distrust. While some Soviet engineers may have realized the extremely important value of potential German contributions to the rocketry program, there was never any concerted effort to make maximum use of Grottrup’s team.

    “There is no doubt that the Soviet Union benefited from A-4 technology in developing its early ballistic missiles. There is compelling reason to believe that the USSR might have floundered for years before moving ahead to such ambitious concepts as the R-3 had it not been for mastering the design and manufacturing technologies of the A-4 rocket. On the other hand, the available evidence suggests that Korolev and his team made very little use of German expertise, at least after 1947. Their influence over the direction of the Soviet ballistic missile program was marginal at best. Thus, if the parameters of the debate are limited to “the Germans,” their contribution to the rocketry program in the Soviet Union was far less than that in the United States. In purely technical terms, the benefit to the Soviets were in such areas as the design of guidance systems and the test and launch equipment. Perhaps some of the more advanced managerial techniques among the Germans may also have found their ways into Soviet institutions. A CIA report, authored in 1960 and declassified in 1980, summed up the total German contribution:

    “The German scientists made a very valuable contribution to the Soviet missile program; however, it cannot be said that without the Germans the Soviet Union would have had no significant missile program…There is no doubt that it took the German wartime success with guided missiles to cause Stalin and his colleagues to devote large scale support to the Soviet effort in this field. Once this support was forthcoming the use of German scientists permitted the Soviets to achieve results in a much shorter time than it would have taken them along but there is no reason to believe that the Soviets could not have eventually done the job by themselves.”

    I doubt that the Soviet bomb program would have been run any differently than the Soviet missile program, and so I would conclude that any captured German nuclear scientists would most likely have played only peripheral roles there.

  • Mr. McClarey, isn’t that the great geopolitical tragedy for the Philippines? Every time someone wants to build an empire in the Pacific, the Philippines gets the raw end of the bargain. Think Spain 1565, USA 1898, Japan 1941 . . .

    Just a humble suggestion, but what about a series of posts on the war efforts of the lesser-known Allied countries? E.g., Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Philippines, etc.

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  • Mr. Ang, remember that the United States pretty quickly repented of any desire to build an empire with the Philippines. Recall also that the biggest ‘raw deal’ the Philippines ever got from the U.S. was when a delegation of Filipino leaders travelled to Washington in 1898 and requested U.S. statehood in a meeting with Secretary of State John Hay, only to be rebuffed on basically racist grounds (not that Hay was a racist, but he bowed to the racist politics of his day). Had Hay then and there agreed either to statehood or to commonwealth status the later 1899-1909 conflict would likely have never happened.

  • Penguins Fan wrote, “Stalin was stupid enough to believe Hitler would keep his word.”
    I doubt that. What were his options? The Western powers had excluded the Soviet Union from the Munich conference of 1938. Subsequent Western reactions to the annexation of Czechoslovakia had convinced him that the Western democracies lacked the will to take on the Nazis. Having been rebuffed by Britain and France in the March and April of 1939, when the Soviet Union had proposed a collective security pact with a guaranteed two-pronged attack on Germany, he concluded the Non-aggression pact in the August.
    Events seemed to justify Stalin’s scepticism. Even after they declared war in September, Britain and France adopted a purely defensive posture and, had Hitler launched his attack on the Soviet Union then, there is every likelihood they would have continued to sit on their hands, or even conclude an armistice.

  • “Just a humble suggestion, but what about a series of posts on the war efforts of the lesser-known Allied countries? E.g., Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Philippines, etc.”

    Not a bad idea Nathan. I’ll see what I can do.

  • Hi, Folks!
    As promised, and while not directly relevant but mentioned only because the topic of fission is mentioned in various comments above, here is the 2nd blog entry from James Conco at Forbes on why a commercial power reactor cannot be a bomb or be used to make bomb material. Enjoy!

Archbishop Fulton Sheen on the Silver Screen

Saturday, July 31, AD 2010

A new documentary on the life of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen will be shown in movie theaters as pre-release screenings.  It will also be available in DVD format (TBD).

A brief synopsis of the film is provided by the distributor (with minor editing):

“Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: Servant of All” is a one-hour documentary that tells the story of Sheen and the tremendous impact he had on individuals, the Catholic community, the American public, and the world. Divided into five main sections, the film uses still images, video footage and interviews with those who knew Sheen to tell the story of this remarkable man, gifted teacher, missionary, priest, and loyal son of the Church.

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One Response to Archbishop Fulton Sheen on the Silver Screen

  • I ordered the producer’s Small Audience Pack of 10 DVDs and helped host a screening for my Rochester, NY parish.

    There is not much I can add to Sister Burns’ review other than to say that our group really enjoyed this presentation. The content and production values are excellent.

    One slightly amusing incident did occur: When Fr. Jack Whitley, C.S.B. first appeared on the screen both our assistant pastor and myself exclaimed almost simultaneously, “My old English teacher!”

    Fr. Whitley was both an English teacher and the librarian at the Aquinas Institute in Rochester for many years. He is quite a character in his own right and we both had fond memories of him.

Papa Bene on the Importance of Spiritual Direction

Wednesday, June 30, AD 2010

Spiritual Direction is where you have a spiritual director, whether a priest or layperson, offer advice, guidance, and feedback in your spiritual health.

This usually involves going over what ails you, whether spiritual or even non-spiritual at times.  Then your director offers his or her direction in what aspect of your spiritual life may be deficient and offers a remedy to that deficiency.

This has been my experience so don’t take me as an expert, but as a witness in having spiritual direction.

Saint Theresa of Avila had outstanding spiritual directors which I long for and are a rarity to find.  She had spiritual direction from well educated and newly formed Jesuits who attacked the problem at it’s core.

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14 Responses to Papa Bene on the Importance of Spiritual Direction

  • Isn’t this why St. Josemaria Escriva established the Opus Dei prelature?

  • AK,

    Yes, one reason why.

    What’s with the Cthulhu icon?

  • Spiritual direction has been a tremendous grace for me. I’ve been getting it off-and-on for years from Opus Dei people, but I finally “got serious” about it a year ago. It’s probably the only way a schlub like me will ever be able to kick the devil’s ass.

  • Tito,

    No idea. I’m technologically incompetent. In addition to spiritual direction I am in need of technical direction.

  • AK,

    Just poking fun at you.

    I’ve changed the self-generating gravatar from abstract to monsterID.

  • I’ve had nothing but disappointment in my search for a spiritual director. A few priests are willing to be a spiritual director to a certain kind of person – say, in a particular state of life – and aren’t seemingly interested in anyone else, but many aren’t seemingly interested in *anyone*.

    I say “seemingly” because it’s not my place to judge them. At some point a priest’s lack of support for a person in spiritual crisis has to rise to the level of serious sin. I’ve had a couple of confessors whose souls I pray for with significant concern.

  • Pinky,

    I haven’t encountered what you have, but I do long for an excellent spiritual adviser, which I haven’t found yet.

    I’m worried about putting more stress on our priests.

    That is why I mentioned the Jesuits of Saint Theresa of Avila’s time because THAT is what exactly I need.

    Well formed, well educated, and kind spiritual advisers.

  • Tito, I wouldn’t want to say anything that would discourage someone from looking for a spiritual director. I, personally, am just shell-shocked from my experience, but I had some bad luck. And I can’t complain (but sometimes I still do). When you consider the Fall of the House of Maciel, a lot of good people must feel a lot more let down than I ever have.

  • Pinky,

    I hope my comment hasn’t led anyone to be discouraged to search for a spiritual director.

    As for me, I am still looking and so should you!


  • It is nice to know that I am not the only sinner in need of direction. I must admit that pride gets in the way. When I reverted to the Faith, I think I was captivated by Grace and then I relied heavily on the natural virtue of religion. It seems a schmuck like me needed to get catechized after three decades of paganism. It worked for a while and then it became like I was reaching for faith by my own power – God had another plan and he let me get knocked down. He is wonderful.

    Now with my new found humility and a vestigial tinge of pride, He has brought me to the realization that I am NOT so special and I am just like every other sinner; which is to say infinitely special in His eyes, and of the lowest consequence from every other perspective. That is great.

    But, then I feel lost. I know the faith better than the average ‘Catholic’ – I am not boasting, I think this is natural for converts and reverts – The Catholic religion is very exciting and intellectually stimulating. That is NOT enough, in fact, I am not so sure it is even all that necessary. Apparently, the Cure d’Ars was not too bright and yet he was far more faithful and in love with God than I. So I began going to Reconciliation more often, and as often as possible to the same priest. That was very helpful, but he is new, he is busy, he has other sinners that need confession and we can’t really get deep into the issues. He tells me I have a pretty good perspective on the nature of my sins – that has to be Grace. But, I know I need something more.

    I used to think the holier people went to daily Mass, weekly confession, and had spiritual directors. I am now realizing that all that assistance is probably not for the holiest souls, but for the least – like me. I think I need more help, I don’t think I am alone (judging from this thread and the poor quality of Catholic culture in our country). So where to go?

    I have been bumping into Opus Dei more and more and St. Escriva’s books are, well, just amazingly insightful. I keep reading about different spiritualities and praying for guidance, but I seem to like aspects of de Sales, Ignatius, de Montfort, etcetera, etcetera. All good stuff. All orthodox Catholic. But it seems I need focus. So that is what lead me to think of spiritual direction.

    Then I am absent from this site for over a month and the moment I come back, Tito, posts this thread. Theoincidence? Must be.

    So how do you go about figuring this out. Opus Dei is the direction I am planning on going in. In fact, before I stumbled across this thread, I had called to the local Opus Dei study center to make an appointment.

    Do any of you know more about what is required, expected and the type of direction one can expect. I don’t want to be too skeptical, but I know that once the founder dies, things can get dicey. Heck, the Church’s Founder lives and things are dicey. Before, you tell me to pray for the Spirit of discernment – I am doing that. I am still looking for some practical advice from others exploring the same thing. I know this is just a blog, but I have found some of the mos profound Catholic insights on here, although y’all are charitable enough to tolerate some serious wackadoos, too. I might be one whenever the Federal Reserve or the War for Southern Independence comes up 🙂

    Any ideas?

  • Theoincidence

    I like that term! 🙂

    As a Catholic I don’t believe in coincidences. Everything happens for a reason.

    This ‘theoincidence’ probably means God is directing you to follow a holier path. To pray more often during the day and do an examination of conscience at least once a week.

    I attend the month Opus Dei evenings/mornings of reflection. They involve over a two hour period three talks on the faith, reflection, prayer, and benediction of the Holy Sacrament. All throughout the evening/day the Sacrament of Confession is available.

    It’s pretty peaceful and you feel as if your spiritual batteries are recharged after each reflection.

    So I highly recommend it AK!

    (Here in Houston we have an evening of recollection once a month and a morning of reflection once a month… normally these monthly reflections coincide on the same week. This may differ from city to city)

  • Thanks, Tito,

    Theoincidence is not my word. I heard one of my brothers use it on our weekly Cardo Pivot Point call.

    I have been to the reflections, we have one next weekend. I like the Saturday morning Opus Dei reflections with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

    I am going to go meet with one of the Opus Dei priests and I’m sure he’ll have some ideas about what I should do to make the decision.

    St. Josemaria was inspired to develop Opus Dei during the Spanish Civil War, so it seems perfect for our times. It is sometimes tempting to run into the desert and become a hermit; but, I don’t think that is where God wants most of us. I am glad you brought this important aspect of spiritual growth to everyone’s attention. I think it is a path many, if not all, of us should pursue.

  • For my part, God has blessed me with a wonderful Jesuit director for many years but then I have to say he’s directed me under duress bc he’s my brother so he basically has no choice 🙂 That said, a wonderfully accessible book has been published this year precisely for Catholics who say they can’t find a good SD. For 15 bucks, its helped me alot & might help others: Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Michael Gaitley, MIC by Marian Press.
    If you’re serious, this book will help and, best part, its not written by academics for academics!

  • GB,

    Thank you for that recommendation!

    If there are other such books out there that our readers are aware of, please share them with us.

    One reason I posted about his was because I too am yearning for a top-notch spiritual director.

    You are very blessed, GB, to have such a good SD!

No More Generations?

Monday, June 7, AD 2010

On the NYT’s philosophy blog, there was an article written about the decision to have children. I didn’t realize it when I first read it, but it was written by notorious pro-abort Peter Singer (and by notorious, I mean that he’s pro-choice even after birth).

But very few ask whether coming into existence is a good thing for the child itself. Most of those who consider that question probably do so because they have some reason to fear that the child’s life would be especially difficult — for example, if they have a family history of a devastating illness, physical or mental, that cannot yet be detected prenatally

All this suggests that we think it is wrong to bring into the world a child whose prospects for a happy, healthy life are poor, but we don’t usually think the fact that a child is likely to have a happy, healthy life is a reason for bringing the child into existence. This has come to be known among philosophers as “the asymmetry” and it is not easy to justify. But rather than go into the explanations usually proffered — and why they fail — I want to raise a related problem. How good does life have to be, to make it reasonable to bring a child into the world?

A quick observation will point out that Singer assumes that health is a requirement for happiness, an assumption well refuted by many anecdotes about the joy of those who suffer with illness.

However, I find it amazing that Singer is willing to attempt to determine how “good” a child’s life will be.

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12 Responses to No More Generations?

  • I’m beginning to think that Peter Singer is the greatest (unwitting) Christian apologist of our generation.

  • Comment #4 at NYT:
    “Perhaps it’s my depression talking, but I have long maintained that I was done a disservice by being created in the first place. I would not inflict that pain on anyone else.”

    Comment #6:
    “I think about this a lot – so many pregnant women are out there, and I wonder where they find the hope to have children. My son is a young adult, and I feel that the likelihood of his living out a natural lifespan is small. Environmental disaster, terrorism, the end of the world feels awfully close. Frankly, I love the idea of a planet devoid of people, healing itself from our damage, taken over by animals and plants. I don’t think most people lead such fabulous lives, and I don’t think it’s worth sacrificing our beautiful home to let more people slog along.”

    This is what we’re dealing with.

  • Singer makes an odd structural decision in his piece. He lays out all the reasons for not reproducing, and then throws in with no explanation in the last paragraph:

    I do think it would be wrong to choose the non-sentient universe. In my judgment, for most people, life is worth living. Even if that is not yet the case, I am enough of an optimist to believe that, should humans survive for another century or two, we will learn from our past mistakes and bring about a world in which there is far less suffering than there is now. But justifying that choice forces us to reconsider the deep issues with which I began. Is life worth living? Are the interests of a future child a reason for bringing that child into existence? And is the continuance of our species justifiable in the face of our knowledge that it will certainly bring suffering to innocent future human beings?

    Which leaves us with the question: if he think that life is actually worth living, why? Or is this his own blind leap of faith? From what he lays out before, there seems little reason to come to this conclusion. It strikes me as a rather intellectually cowardly approach not to even provide support for your own conclusion.

  • Yes, that struck me too. It does seem that in essence he has faith in progress (and science presumably) that the suffering scales will be tipped.

    What I don’t understand is how it is justified to make the generations in between suffer (including Singer as he continues to live a life not worth living) so that the future generations can enjoy a life worth living.

  • “But you have to give Singer credit for being logical. If there is no good, no purpose in love or sacrifice and no eternal life, then perhaps life is not worth living and humanity ought to cease to exist.”

    Isn’t it none-sense to speak about what will be good or bad for a nonentity? I mean, before conception, “you” don’t exist. And if my life is so bad, how could it be better for me to die when (if you believe the self perishes at death), there is no more “me” in the equation?

    Singer is playing with square circles as if he were doing serious geometry.

  • Singer is playing with square circles as if he were doing serious geometry.

    When I first heard of the David Benatar book Singer cited, I thought the same thing — it’s sheer nonsense. To what entity does the “good” of nonexistence accrue? What does it even mean to talk of “good” if there is no existence to assert what is good or bad?

    These guys need to do some serious reflection on the meaning of Exodus 3:14.

  • Singer’s position seems to be that life may be worth living in the future, so he thinks it’s worth continuing the species in hopes that we get there, and also because most people today already assess life as worth living.

    I took him to be raising questions more than providing answers, so I don’t fault him for not providing more support for his position. He may, in fact, have developed his position quite thoroughly elsewhere.

  • God however, does have the capabilities to sort through all the factors to decide when it is best that a child come into the world.

    Would you say that when each and every child comes into the world, that God has decided it was best?

  • Kyle:

    I have a feeling “best” is the wrong word, b/c I don’t know if there ever if a “best” time for a child. I do think that God finds that it would be good for a child to be born and so it happens. If it would be bad for a child to come into the world, I don’t think it would happen.

  • Wow, someone from Vox-Nova defending Singer. Shocking.

  • Karen,

    Kyle was not defending Singer’s views, he was just trying to figure out what the heck they are. In that regard, he was doing no differently than I.

  • Karen,

    I have no qualms about defending Singer when I think he’s right. In this case, though, I merely noted how I understood his position: I didn’t judge his position as right or wrong.

The Vocation of a Soldier is Next in Dignity to the Priesthood

Sunday, February 28, AD 2010

There are some whom denigrate soldiers and policemen and the plan God has for them in Salvation.  I disagree completely and there are many examples of saints and popes who have honored the soldier and policeman in defense of justice and peace.

I found this quote by Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen‘s Wartime Prayer Book:

“The great French Lacordaire once said the vocation of a soldier is next in dignity to the priesthood, not only because it commissioned him to defend justice on the field of battle and order on the field of peace, but also because it called him to the spirit and intention of sacrifice.”

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105 Responses to The Vocation of a Soldier is Next in Dignity to the Priesthood

  • I was given this book just before my 1st deployment to Iraq in 2003 (the initial surge). When I came back to the states I decided to finally get confirmed. The great bishop is and will always be an influence in my spirtuality.

  • Thank you for your great service to our country.

  • The Church fathers had a radically different view. I think it was St. Basil who advised soliders to abstain from communion for a fixed period of time.

    And even today, the Church supports the conscience protections in the military – just as no Catholic medical practioner should be forced to engage in immoral acts, no Catholic soldier should be forced to fight an unjust war – and the Iraq war was patently unjust. Where the the Catholic military consciences? Where those people calling loudly for conscience protections in other areas? Silent.

  • Christ, in disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier.”
    – Tertullian

    “If you enroll as one of God’s people, heaven is your country and God your lawgiver.”
    – St. Clement of Alexandria

    “Murder, considered a crime when people commit it singly, is transformed into a virtue when they do it en masse.”
    – St. Cyprian

    “Christians, instead of arming themselves with swords, extend their hands in prayer.”
    – St. Athanasius

    “I am a soldier of Christ and it is not permissible for me to fight”
    – St. Martin of Tours

    “For certainly it is a greater work and much more marvelous to change the minds of opponents and to bring about a change of soul than to kill them…”
    – St. John Chrysostom

  • “Do not think that it is impossible for any one to please God while engaged in active military service. Among such persons was the holy David, to whom God gave so great a testimony; among them also were many righteous men of that time; among them was also that centurion who said to the Lord: I am not worthy that You should come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed: for I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my servant, Do this, and he does it; and concerning whom the Lord said: Verily, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. Matthew 8:8-10 Among them was that Cornelius to whom an angel said: Cornelius, your alms are accepted, and your prayers are heard, Acts 10:4 when he directed him to send to the blessed Apostle Peter, and to hear from him what he ought to do, to which apostle he sent a devout soldier, requesting him to come to him. Among them were also the soldiers who, when they had come to be baptized by John,— the sacred forerunner of the Lord, and the friend of the Bridegroom, of whom the Lord says: Among them that are born of women there has not arisen a greater than John the Baptist, Matthew 11:11 — and had inquired of him what they should do, received the answer, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. Luke 3:14 Certainly he did not prohibit them to serve as soldiers when he commanded them to be content with their pay for the service.

    5. They occupy indeed a higher place before God who, abandoning all these secular employments, serve Him with the strictest chastity; but every one, as the apostle says, has his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. 1 Corinthians 7:7 Some, then, in praying for you, fight against your invisible enemies; you, in fighting for them, contend against the barbarians, their visible enemies. Would that one faith existed in all, for then there would be less weary struggling, and the devil with his angels would be more easily conquered; but since it is necessary in this life that the citizens of the kingdom of heaven should be subjected to temptations among erring and impious men, that they may be exercised, and tried as gold in the furnace, Wisdom 3:6 we ought not before the appointed time to desire to live with those alone who are holy and righteous, so that, by patience, we may deserve to receive this blessedness in its proper time.

    6. Think, then, of this first of all, when you are arming for the battle, that even your bodily strength is a gift of God; for, considering this, you will not employ the gift of God against God. For, when faith is pledged, it is to be kept even with the enemy against whom the war is waged, how much more with the friend for whom the battle is fought! Peace should be the object of your desire; war should be waged only as a necessity, and waged only that God may by it deliver men from the necessity and preserve them in peace. For peace is not sought in order to the kindling of war, but war is waged in order that peace may be obtained. Therefore, even in waging war, cherish the spirit of a peacemaker, that, by conquering those whom you attack, you may lead them back to the advantages of peace; for our Lord says: Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God. Matthew 5:9 If, however, peace among men be so sweet as procuring temporal safety, how much sweeter is that peace with God which procures for men the eternal felicity of the angels! Let necessity, therefore, and not your will, slay the enemy who fights against you. As violence is used towards him who rebels and resists, so mercy is due to the vanquished or the captive, especially in the case in which future troubling of the peace is not to be feared.”

    Saint Augustine to Count Boniface (418AD) Boniface was governor of the diocese of Africa and a Roman general.


  • The soldier is next in dignity to the priesthood? Well, so much for all the holy monks and nuns.

  • Henry,

    I guess you know better than the Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

  • MM

    Notice how they idolize the makers of death, and follow through with the errors they claim is had in liberation theology.

  • Tito

    Well, I guess you think he knew better than St Basil the Great? It is interesting to see how you go about this. What about Servant of God Dorothy Day? Seriously, Fulton Sheen did good work, but I am sure what I say about him being able to make mistakes is how you would respond to St Basil. But the fact remains, the Christian tradition doesn’t raise soldiers to this status — but they have consistently called those who are holy virgins to this level of sanctity. Take that as you will.

  • Henry,

    Leaving all that aside, the point of this post is to show soldiers that God has a place in salvation for them.

    To many times do well-meaning Catholics denigrate solider and police officers for their vocations. Without them we would have anarchy.

    The hate that comes from those that put down soldiers is unwarranted and not Christian.

    “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”

    – Holy Gospel of Saint John 15:18

  • Plus, if you want to go further, Sheen is quoting someone else — though it seems in affirmation, it does leave him room for correcting it as well. It is not his statement — and indeed, it seems to be a rhetorical flourish that is being quoted, which also suggests something of the value of this quote. Again, it is interesting to see how you use might for the sake of salvation, when Scripture consistently suggests otherwise. That says much.

  • “Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience – almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad. The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate. It also demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one’s deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate. In a word, freedom is ever new. It is a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over for the cause of good (cf. Spe Salvi, 24). Few have understood this as clearly as the late Pope John Paul II. In reflecting on the spiritual victory of freedom over totalitarianism in his native Poland and in eastern Europe, he reminded us that history shows, time and again, that “in a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation”, and a democracy without values can lose its very soul (cf. Centesimus Annus, 46). Those prophetic words in some sense echo the conviction of President Washington, expressed in his Farewell Address, that religion and morality represent “indispensable supports” of political prosperity.”

    Pope Benedict April 16, 2008


  • Tito

    If you wanted to say “they too can be saved” and “we can honor the good they have done,” I would have no problem. Indeed, I did a post on that theme several years back: http://vox-nova.com/2007/11/12/for-veterans-monday/

    To suggest “they are like priests” and “they are saving us” is I would say dangerous — very dangerous.

  • Donald’s typically selective, and equivocal, quotes to the contrary, Pope Benedict has been consistent that true freedom is in Christ, not war. Pope Benedict recognizes, of course, the temporal realm, but he would not equivocate this to priesthood and soteriology.

  • Henry,

    Bishop Sheen was quoting the Abbe Lacordaire. Remember Bishop Sheen said “next in dignity”, not the next best thing. Next in dignity in the context of spiritually sacrificing themselves for justice.

    I also agree with your quotes in context, nuns and monks are next in spirituality. There is room for many in God’s Kingdom.

  • Donald wasn’t contradicting Papa Bene. He was showing that soldiers have a place in God’s kingdom through their vocations.

  • for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm give them victory; but thy right hand, and thy arm, and the light of thy countenance; for thou didst delight in them. (Psalms 44:3)

    1 “Woe to the rebellious children,” says the LORD, “who carry out a plan, but not mine; and who make a league, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin; 2 who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my counsel, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh, and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! 3 Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation. 4 For though his officials are at Zoan and his envoys reach Hanes, 5 every one comes to shame through a people that cannot profit them, that brings neither help nor profit, but shame and disgrace.” 6 An oracle on the beasts of the Negeb. Through a land of trouble and anguish, from where come the lioness and the lion, the viper and the flying serpent, they carry their riches on the backs of asses, and their treasures on the humps of camels, to a people that cannot profit them. 7 For Egypt’s help is worthless and empty, therefore I have called her “Rahab who sits still.” (Isaiah 30:1 -7)

    1 Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD! 2 And yet he is wise and brings disaster, he does not call back his words, but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the helpers of those who work iniquity. 3 The Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together. (Isaiah 31: 1-3)

  • Karlson, unlike you Pope Benedict understands that peace and freedom in this fallen world can often be had only through the lives of soldiers:

    “On the 6th of June, 1944, when the landing of the allied troops in German-occupied France commenced, a signal of hope was given to people throughout the world, and also to many in Germany itself, of imminent peace and freedom in Europe. What had happened? A criminal and his party faithful had succeeded in usurping the power of the German state. In consequence of such party rule, law and injustice became intertwined, and often indistinguishable. The legal system itself, which continued, in some respects, still to function in an everyday context, had, at the same time, become a force destructive of law and right. This rule of lies served a system of fear, in which no one could trust another, since each person had somehow to shield himself behind a mask of lies, which, on the one hand, functioned as self defense, while, in equal measure, it served to consolidate the power of evil. And so it was that the whole world had to intervene to force open this ring of crime, so that freedom, law and justice might be restored.

    We give thanks at this hour that this deliverance, in fact, took place. And not just those nations that suffered occupation by German troops, and were thus delivered over to Nazi terror, give thanks. We Germans, too, give thanks that by this action, freedom, law and justice would be restored to us. If nowhere else in history, here clearly is a case where, in the form of the Allied invasion, a justum bellum worked, ultimately, for the benefit of the very country against which it was waged.”

    I realize this is all very galling for a Leftist ideologue like yourself, but facts are stubborn things.

  • “A few days after the liberation of Rome, Lieutenant General Mark Clark, Commander of the Fifth Allied Army, paid his respects to the Pope: “I am afraid you have been disturbed by the noise of my tanks. I am sorry.” Pius XII smiled and replied: “General, any time you come to liberate Rome, you can make just as much noise as you like.””


  • Henry,

    As much as I disagree with some of your perceptions and interpretations of Catholic teaching and its implementation, I see the fruitfulness of charitable dialogue and engagement on issues pertaining to the Church.

    Thank you for all your comments!

  • I argued in a paper that is currently under review for publication that the u.s. military is seen by many americans to be another type of priesthood. Tito, Donald, et al. make that view explicit when they place u.s. soldiers inside the hierarchy of the church. This combination of u.s. militarism and Catholicism is PRECISELY fascist.

  • At the root of this idolatry is a profound misunderstanding of the reality of Christian sacrifice. Tito, et al. substitute a secular, pagan, nationalistic understanding of sacrifice for the understanding we have of sacrifice as following the non-violent way of the cross.

  • Donald R. McClare-
    Now that is classy. Would that I could come up with a response like that on the fly!

  • I’m always amazed that people who denigrate the military are oblivious to the fact that they only possess that right because someone somewhere gave their life in order to preserve our freedom of speech.

  • Truth be told – I have said in the past and live by it – I would gladly die for a person’s freedom of speech.. Sad to me that they usually do not rescipicate that feeling…

  • Michael,

    I am quoting both Servant of God Fulton Sheen and Lacordaire. Where have I said that soldiers are an institutional vocation?

    As to the second approved comment, review what I typed above.

    Please argue the substance of the posting and stop denigrating the writers of this website and anyone else that doesn’t fit into your bizarre construct of Catholicism.

  • I’d say ‘next in dignity’ is taking it a bit far.

  • John – Good to hear. I like the distancing going on at this blog.

  • Soldiers and priests can be good, bad or mixed, usually mixed, depending upon the soldier or priest. What is clear however, is that Catholicism has recognized a role for both of them. There has been an attempt over the past few decades by some Catholics to contend that the profession of arms is dishonorable and contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church. That is simply not true as even a cursory look at the history of the Church reveals.

  • “Donald R. McClarey
    Now that is classy. Would that I could come up with a response like that on the fly!”

    Thank you Foxfier! Coming from such an able combox warrior as yourself that is high praise!

  • John Henry,

    Take it up with the Abbe.

    I know he’s gone, just getting punchy this evening. It’s been a looong week.

  • What is clear however, is that Catholicism has recognized a role for both of them. There has been an attempt over the past few decades by some Catholics to contend that the profession of arms is dishonorable and contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church. That is simply not true

    I agree, Donald. I think we can over-praise the military, and that doing so can have very real harms. At the same time, the denigration of soldiers that takes place in some quarters contradicts a great deal of the Christian Tradition.

    To be sure, I think there is an honorable place for pacificism also within that Christian tradition, but I don’t think either pacifists or soldiers have the right to excommunicate the other.

  • I don’t think Donald was excommunicating pacifists (at least not in this thread).

  • I don’t think Donald was excommunicating pacifists (at least not in this thread).


  • Michael,

    It’s called constructive dialogue.

    Something of which you are incapable of.

  • After chaplains John Henry, my highest esteem goes to pacifists who have served as medics. This gentleman especially:


  • Soldiers, firefighters and policemen put their lives at risk every day for other people. This is part of their job description. Putting your life at risk for another person only a daily basis is a noble thing. I think this is probably what Sheen meant. At the root of his comment is a simple understanding of self-sacrifice; there is no deep evil; there is no understanding of the soldier as priest; there is no militarism; there is no paganism. And I hope every person’s life’s work is placed in the hierarchy of the Church. Everything ought to be for God.

  • Henry,

    As I recall, a week or two ago, you wrote a post arguing against moral rigorism in regards to “cooperation with evil” by pointing to the example of St. George, who was a Roman soldier in close service to Emperor Diocletian. Now you’re arguing, from the example of St. Basil that the Church Fathers held soldiering to be immoral. Which is it?

    Is it, perhaps, that St. Basil was adhering to ideas regarding the purity required for receiving the Eucharist which would seem beyond Jansenist to us today? After all, he also held, if memory serves, that married couples should not receive the Eucharist after performing the marital act, for a similar period. If you want to hold the one as normative, would you similarly hold the other?

  • “I was given this book just before my 1st deployment to Iraq in 2003 (the initial surge). When I came back to the states I decided to finally get confirmed. The great bishop is and will always be an influence in my spirtuality.”

    Robert thank you for your service. Most Americans greatly appreciate it and honor you for it.

  • I’d say ‘next in dignity’ is taking it a bit far.

    I would assume that the logic behind the quote is that just as the consecrated life required the denial of self for the world of the Church, so the vocation of soldiering involves the risk of one’s life on behalf of the lives of others.

    In this sense, I can see how the vocation taken in its essentials would be seen as next in dignity to the consecrated life — and at the same time I don’t think that would necessarily be a claim that soldiers as individuals possess superior moral virtue. Indeed, clearly, soldiering is a vocation with rather extreme moral risks built into it. That said, however, it is singular in the sense in which soldiering involves potential sacrifice on behalf of others — which is why being a soldier is so frequently used as a metaphor both in the Scriptures and in the writings of the saints.

    It is, I must admit, a bit confusing to me how pacifists (if they are really serious about pacifism and believe soldiering to be thoroughly evil, as Michael seems to claim to do) fill this rhetorical and literary gap. Looking at the canon of literature, mythology and history, it seems a rather sparse shelf once one has rejected everything that involves violence.

  • Listening to a German woman speak about her experience as a ten-year old at the end of WWII, she told me that her family could hear the American guns and hoped they would reach their house before the Russian soldiers. She, as well as others, are grateful to the American soldiers for defeating Nazi Germany.

    We all owe our service people gratitude for their protection.

  • Darwin-
    Might one say that Priests offer their lives, and Soldiers offer their deaths?

  • Henry is right. Economic justice is prohibited because we live in a fallen world, but military action is not. Why?

    Is there such a thing as a just war? I think so, but the bar is set really really high. There must always be a presumption against war. As John Paul called for in Centesimus Annus, we must all say “never again war” and move on to different ways of solving conflicts, and by treating underlying issues of justice that often cause war.

    Or, as Benedict put it, nothing good ever comes from war. War is the ultimate last resort, the ultimate sign of failure. It is a time for mourning, not rejoicing. The kind of military glorifiction on display here should be offensive to all followers of Jesus the Christ. It embodies a pagan ethic. Consider again the quotes from the Church fathers from my earlier comment – these men knew what it was like to stand up against the pagan mindset.

  • Actually Tony Pope Benedict in his D-Day quotation I cited above said that a very good thing, liberation, came for the people of Europe from the victories of the Western Allies in World War ii, including his native Germany.

  • The kind of military glorifiction on display here should be offensive to all followers of Jesus the Christ. It embodies a pagan ethic.

    What military glorification? The quote from Fulton Sheen? For real?

    Come now, you can’t let the fact that a blog you don’t like prints something make you respond irrationally.

  • Just curious about what this would mean for Christian soldiers in Iraq during the most recent war. Would it have been their Christian duty to country to fight against the armies that invaded in a pre-emptive war?

    Cathy – I have a simliar story. A good friend of mine told me recently of the liberation of his village from the Soviets by Germans in World War 2. He was just a child at the time, but he remembers the German soldiers re-opening their churches (shut down by the communists). The men were more than happy to join the German army and fight for their liberators against the Russians and Allies, as was their Christian duty.

  • DC

    Re-read my comments. Take care to read them and the context. And take care to do what they told you to do. Then you will see your comment (and Donald’s) are completely offbase.

  • The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of freedom and a force for liberation. In recent years, this essential truth has become the object of reflection for theologians, with a new kind of attention which is itself full of promise.

    Liberation is first and foremost liberation from the radical slavery of sin. Its end and its goal is the freedom of the children of God, which is the gift of grace. As a logical consequence, it calls for freedom from many different kinds of slavery in the cultural, economic, social, and political spheres, all of which derive ultimately from sin, and so often prevent people from living in a manner befitting their dignity. To discern clearly what is fundamental to this issue and what is a by-product of it, is an indispensable condition for any theological reflection on liberation.

    Faced with the urgency of certain problems, some are tempted to emphasize, unilaterally, the liberation from servitude of an earthly and temporal kind. They do so in such a way that they seem to put liberation from sin in second place, and so fail to give it the primary importance it is due. Thus, their very presentation of the problems is confused and ambiguous. Others, in an effort to learn more precisely what are the causes of the slavery which they want to end, make use of different concepts without sufficient critical caution. It is difficult, and perhaps impossible, to purify these borrowed concepts of an ideological inspiration which is compatible with Christian faith and the ethical requirements which flow from it.

  • You want a quote. How about this quote from a Roman Centurion found in the third edition of the Missale Romanum:

    “Lord, I am not worthy
    that you should enter under my roof,
    but only say the word
    and my soul (my servant) shall be healed.”

    And unlike the woman taken in adultery, no follows on orders to soldier no more.

  • “Poison.”

    What does a hair band from the 80’s have to do with anything here?

  • “Just curious about what this would mean for Christian soldiers in Iraq during the most recent war. Would it have been their Christian duty to country to fight against the armies that invaded in a pre-emptive war?”

    Yes. Because American’s invasion of Iraq did not fall under the criteria of a just war, the only Christian soldiers deserving praise (from Christians) for fighting in that war are any Iraqi Christians who were defending their homeland against the unjust invader. This is not to say that American Christian soldiers can be held subjectively culpable for participating in the war; only that their participation in what was in fact an unjust action should not be described as something it was not–i.e. virtuous, etc.

  • WJ-
    you do realize that there’s a case for Iraq being a just war, and that such a determination is for the nation’s leaders, not folks who want to drag comboxes off topic?

  • “I’d say ‘next in dignity is taking it a bit far.”

    Anyone intimately familiar with the sacrifices the men and women of a nation’s military make – not for glory, but for love of country and countrymen – should not find fault with the sentiment expressed in Archbishop Sheen’s book.

    “Greater love than this no man hath than to lay down his life for his friends.”

    My family has a close relative who just returned from Iraq and suffers terribly from PTSD. He left 4 years ago a vigorous young man, full of life. He returned a broken man … physically, mentally, and emotionally. No one intimately familiar with the physical, psychological, and emotional toll that war often (if not always) takes on those who fight it could EVER “glorify” war. There’s nothing glorious about it.

    But the soldiers themselves who fight those wars are due our honor and esteem, and I will place them very high among those worthy of such. It is no stretch to me, at all, to find the dignity of the vocation of those who sacrifice so much for so many … something for which there is no true recompense beyond recognizing and honoring said sacrifice … to be ranked among the highest of vocations.

  • At the risk of being despised by both sides of this lively debate, might I offer a philosophical point that appears overlooked? I hope the length of this comment does not deter all the fine minds on this stream.

    The question is this: What is the nature of a soldier?
    This seemingly simple question might appear simple to answer as well. But how this is answered reveals part of what appears to be, what MacIntyre once termed, a “conceptual incompensurability” between the two sides of the debate here.

    If we look to Archbishop Sheen, we could define soldier as one who is “commissioned by the spirit and intention of sacrifice to defend justice on the field of battle and order on the field of peace.”

    Now, this definition is, rightly, quite generic enabling its universal application. All of its elements (sacrifice, justice, field of battle, order and peace) are in no way simple and universally accepted elements, i.e., much of how these elements are understood will depend upon the cultural context that ‘thickens’ them. I’m not denying an ‘objectivity’ to them, but asserting that the objectivity is in excess of any one definition (which is why they are defined, thought, examined etc. over and over.)

    This generic and universal definition of ‘soldier’ is necessary to any ecclesial advocacy of its ‘vocational’ component. I think all would agree that were the Church to say “being a US soldier,” or “being a British soldier,” is next in dignity to the priesthood, something would clearly be amiss.

    But if this term soldier is generic and universal, then it is applicable in any number of ways. Didn’t Dorothy Day “defend justice and order” and was hers also not a “field of battle”? Doesn’t the nurse who sees her work as a Christian Calling also not “defend justice and order” on a “field of battle”? Doesn’t a teacher? A mother, father, grandparent?

    So, in this broad, universal sense of soldier, there ought to be nothing overtly offensive – for it describes every lay Christian in the Church Militant.

    If one is unhappy or unconvinced by this analogical use of ‘soldier’ and believes that these ecclesial voices (Sheen, JPII, John XXIII) clearly intends a military application of the term (where ‘military’ means an association with the the armed forces of modern nation states), then, it appears to me, one faces the unhappy consequence of finding a way to defend the post’s interpretation of its three citation without exposing an a priori allegiance to a particular nation state’s military that the citations did not – indeed could not – intend.

    In other words, it seems that when the nature of the term ‘soldier’ and its use in the post’s citations are taken into consideration, one can endorse the idea only when the term ‘soldier’ is taken analogously to include the likes of all Christians whose vocation is intrinsically to “Defend justice and order on the field of battle called by the intention of sacrifice.”

    Sure, this may also include members of the armed forces who do look at their role as somehow serving God. But here we would have to include all members of all military machines, including those we in the West find unjust.

    At the risk of violating the Godwin principle, and because it makes the point quite clearly, this would have to include even the Nazi soldier who, firmly buying into the propaganda, is willing to sacrifice his life for the defense of justice and order. Denying this claim would require one to invoke the particularities of the Nazi context that are not intrinsically included in the universal sense of soldier. But refusing these particulars is precisely what allows one to endorse the term. So one runs into an inconsistency.

    If this last point is not conceded, then any endorsement of the citations in this post betray a form of American Exceptionalism which, clearly, the citations do not intend. One may very well admit to being an American Exceptionalist, but one ought not suggest that Sheen, JPII, or John XXIII were also.
    Consequently, in this case, the interpretations of these citations would be in error, inferring upon the words of these fine upstanding members of the Church (Sheen, JPII, John XXIII) meaning that they did not intend.

    One might argue that John XXIII is clearly speaking about the soldier of a military, since he himself is referring to his own experience as such. But it seems that in this case, his experience, which does indeed invoke his own personal particular experience with a military, is the concrete ground upon which his universal, more generic, endorsement of ‘being a soldier’ is founded. In other words, it is not the particularities of his military experience he is praising, but the way that it enabled him to understand the deeper meaning in all sacrifice for the good, which also shines in the works of lay people in general. Otherwise, John XXIII would have declared his own military a key part the definition of soldiering.

    And here is the conceptual incommensurability I spoke of: the objection to the use of soldier in this post may be directed to a particular thickening of the term within a given context (e.g., the current US military actions) while those defending it seem to be defending the universal idea of self-sacrifice for justice and order. The debate will go on and on if this is the case because there is no conceptual common ground.

    So underneath this debate is still a more concrete debate about the consistency of national interest with Christian teaching, really. Soldiers do not exist in the universal, generic sense; unless Christians are all strict Platonists, universals are not real even though they have, what Aquinas called, a ‘fundamentum in re’, a foundation in reality.

    So to sing the praises of soldiering, one must have in mind a particular soldier, upon a particular field of battle. This, it seems, redirects the whole discussion to these particularities rather than to the universal, generic truisms of the good of self-sacrifice for justice and order.

    For it seems we can all agree that the Christian laity, all of us soldiers for the Church militant, merit just as much dignity as the clergy, though in a different manner.

  • “you do realize that there’s a case for Iraq being a just war, and that such a determination is for the nation’s leaders, not folks who want to drag comboxes off topic?”

    Hitler determined his war was just. In fact, everyone on every side of a war believes there war is just. So we just listen to the leaders? No, that is not what the Church teaches.

  • And lest we forget, not all of those who fight the wars have the opportunity to return with physical, psychological, and emotional scars. Many pay the ultimate sacrifice.

  • “Just curious about what this would mean for Christian soldiers in Iraq during the most recent war. Would it have been their Christian duty to country to fight against the armies that invaded in a pre-emptive war?”

    Yes. Because American’s invasion of Iraq did not fall under the criteria of a just war, the only Christian soldiers deserving praise (from Christians) for fighting in that war are any Iraqi Christians who were defending their homeland against the unjust invader. This is not to say that American Christian soldiers can be held subjectively culpable for participating in the war; only that their participation in what was in fact an unjust action should not be described as something it was not–i.e. virtuous, etc.

    In other words, American soldiers battling on behalf of the Ba’ath Party / Tikriti clan meets the criteria for a just war.

  • Foxfier,

    Sadly, no. There is no plausible interpretation of Just War theory according to which the U.S. invasion of Iraq was just. I wish it wasn’t so. I supported the Iraq War on the basis of the facts as they were presented by “the nation’s leaders” at the outset of that war. Those facts have all been shown to be not facts at all, but distortions, half-truths, and lies. Indeed, *even if* one were to accept George Weigel’s cockamamie interpretation of JWT and how that theory applied to America in early 2003, that would *still* not be enough to warrant our calling the invasion just.

    By the way, our “nation’s leaders” don’t get to “determine” whether a war they begin is just or unjust, anymore than they get to determine whether a piece of legislation they enact is just or unjust.

    I’m sorry for dragging this off-topic. I was responding to Ryan Klassen’s question.

  • “In other words, American soldiers battling on behalf of the Ba’ath Party / Tikriti clan meets the criteria for a just war.”

    I think you must mean “Christian soldiers” in the sentence above.

  • Supposing that you do mean “Christian soldiers” in your response, I’d have to say that your formulation is unclear.

    “Battling on behalf of” is not precise enough of a descriptor, since one can easily imagine a Christian solider battling on behalf of Iraq during Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, which was of course unjust.

    Also, whether and to what extent any particular solider *identifies* his defense of Iraq with the defense of the Ba’ath Party is an empirical question, one which is elided in your formulation.

  • WJ-
    you make a ‘determination’ when you make a decision. As per Catholic Answers, “The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.”

    WMDs? Mass-murder? Secret nuke program? Nerve gassing the swamp Arabs? Bah, why would soldier willing to fight against THAT be worthy of any respect.

  • Foxfier:

    The confusion of CA is that the evaluation of whether or not to engage a war is indeed in the hands of the leaders of the nation; but that is not what determines whether or not a war is just.

    Here is a statement from someone who has actual ecclesial authority: http://www.catholicpeacefellowship.org/nextpage.asp?m=2123

  • Brendan,

    I don’t think you will find both sides disagree with you — yes, the word soldier can have many implications and meanings, and that is an issue which I didn’t raise and you are right to do so.

    Nonetheless, I do think many people arguing against my views have only argued against something which I didn’t say (or believe), which is why I recommended my Veteran’s Day post. The context of my reply is with the glorification of military might as for the sake of liberation – something which is very dangerous indeed to hold to, as the Church has pointed out time and time again.

  • If you want to make it all a matter of ecclesiastical authority, Henry, it bears pointing out that while Catholic Answers is not an ecclesiastical authority, the Bishop of the Romanian Catholic Diocese of Canton, OH likewise has no ecclesiastical authority over Roman Catholics, much less Roman Catholics at a national level.

  • Foxfier,

    I think you are confusing two distinct issues here. On the one hand, it is true that JWT gives political authorities the final responsibility for determining, in any given instance, whether a war they are about to embark *should* be embarked upon; on the other hand, in we are make any sense of what it means to “evaluate…conditions” and to make a “prudential judgment,” we have to allow for the possibility of *mis*evaluating this conditions and of making the *wrong* judgment. Otherwise whatever the political authorities decided was a just war *would be* a just war, and this is absurd.

  • Brendan,

    Very good point — though I think it’s fairly clear in the quotes that these are all refering to “soldier” in the military sense, it is clearly “soldier” as a universal, not the absolutizing of the cause of a single nation.

  • DC

    And while it is true he has no direct authority except over his flock, it is also clear that as a bishop, and a part of the Magisterium, he has far more authority than CA — CA when it gets beyond the realm of apologetics is sadly quite bad.

  • WJ,

    A question for you: You argue that because you think that just war teaching cannot possibly justify the Iraq War, that the only Christian soldiers fighting for a just cause in the war were any Iraqi Christian soldiers fighting for Hussein.

    However, is it not questionably whether fighting to protect the Baathist dictatorship is itself just even if one posits that the US did not at that time have a just cause to topple the regime.

    Further, it’s important to recall that not only did many in the US believe that Iraq possessed WMD, but many in Iraq did as well. There were a number of cases where groups of Iraqi soldiers surrended and immediately begged for chemical warfare protective gear, because they believed that their own army was about to launch a chemical attack on the Americans, and many of the units in the regular army hadn’t been given any protective gear to keep them safe from any chemical weapons used by their own side.

    The situation since 2003 is even more complicated, since one of the primary tactics of the insurgency has been to attack Iraqi civilians and the Iraqi government. American soldiers in the last seven years have primarily been asked to fight alongside the Iraqi military against tribal and foreign fighters seeking to destablize the Iraqi government. In such a situation, would fighting with the Americans not be the just course?

    And indeed, statements from the Vatican and USCCB since the initial invasion have essentially supported this — though many “peace advocates” still seem to favor the idea of immediate pull out, apparently because the number of Iraqis who suffer as a result do not matter so long as it is clear the the US “loses”.

  • DarwinCatholic,

    You make two good points here, let me address them in turn:

    1: However, is it not questionabl[e] whether fighting to protect the Baathist dictatorship is itself just even if one posits that the US did not at that time have a just cause to topple the regime[?]

    Granted that Iraq was an unjust regime, does this make it unjust for soldiers to defend that regime against an unjust attack? This is a tricky question. My sense of JWT (and I am open to correction here) is that the Justness or Unjustness of each regime, as it handles its own internal affairs, is insufficient by itself for determining, in any particular case, whether a defense action taken on behalf of that regime falls under a Just War properly understood. My sense is that the tradition is *very*, perhaps *too* conservative here, so that one could determine that, even *granted* that Iraq was an unjust regime, still, according to JWT, that regime has a right to protect itself against a foreign unjust action. I wonder whether your own sense of JWT fits with this, and if it does not, I’d like to hear an alternate view.

    Second, even granted that the Iraqi defense was a Just one, I agree with you that it is very likely that many of the soldiers fighting in its cause did so in an unjust way, insofar as their aim was the continued propping up of the “Baathist dictatorship” rather than a defense of their nation, or homeland, or families. But I think that this question is an empirical one: surely many Iraqis fighting against the US were motivated by duty to country, by a sense of wanting to protect their families, etc.; and many others had the “intention” of supporting the “Baathists.”

    I suppose my final, hesitant, answer would be that the U.S. invasion of Iraq at least allowed for the *possibility* of a just resistance to that invasion, without being sufficient for it.

    2: I agree that the years following the unjust invasion complicate things significantly, and that any decision in this area has to take into account what would befall the Iraqis if the U.S. were to leave as precipitously as we arrived. And I am much less sure of what the correct course here would be.

  • I think Darwin’s last paragraph gets to the heart of the pathologies of our political discourse.

  • Something tells me that Just War Theory in the hands of some has degenerated into a sterile intellectual exercise completely removed from the dilemmas that actual policy makers face.

  • Henry,
    You are correct, of course, that the question of whether a war is just cannot be collapsed into the question of who decides. That is, just because those who are responsible for making the decision do so does not render their decision correct. But I don’t think that there was any “confusion” on that point in CA. This is the nature of a prudential calculus. The consequence of this is that the Church normally cannot speak authoritatively as to the calculus’s outcome, which is why a Catholics may often differ as to their assessments and normally cannot be assumed to non-compliant with Church teaching even if they take a view that differs from that of their bishop or even the Holy Father (which does not mean that the views of Church leaders should not be very seriously considered, of course). All that said, the job of individuals to make such prudential calculuses cannot be used as an excuse for rationalization. Just because the Church may not be in a position to authoritatively object to one’s calculus, does not mean that one’s calculus is somehow protected from culpable moral error.

  • Art Deco,

    As I understand it, theorizing about just war is important just because “actual policy makers” are usually motivated by many different things, precious few of which concern justice. Is bioethics a “sterile intellectual exercise” that is completely removed from the “dilemmas” that actual scientists must face?

  • FWIW, I think the justness or unjustness of the current invasion of Iraq hinges on whether the one a decade earlier was just. A logical thought process would go like this: Iraq unjustly invaded Kuwait. Kuwait was just resist and ask for assistance for other nations. The US was just in taking up that cause. The US, Kuwait and a host of other nations succeeded in driving Iraq out of Kuwait and would have been justified in seeing it through until Saddam’s regine was toppled.

    They didn’t do it, they instead agreed to a conditional cease fire and withdrawl. Saddam Hussein violated those terms almost immediately. Everything from flying fighters in the no-fly zone, to locking on and/or firing at coalition aircraft to not allowing UN inspectors do their job. Most instances were dealt with directly and in a very measured manner even though they were cause enough to resume full hostilities. Note that Saddam also used the situation to severely persecute many of his own people.

    Barring any change in Saddam’s attitude and actions or an outright regime change a continuation of the hostilities were imminent. After 9/11 those in charge made the call that Saddam’s belligerence needed to come to end.

    I’m not 100% sure what to think because like the rest here I don’t have *all* the facts, but I reject the notion that no person of good will and informed conscience could come to the conclusion that the war was just.

  • In retrospect, I want to take back my too-strong claim that *only* Christian Iraqi soldiers could be described as behaving “virtuously,” or “with Christian honor,” etc. in the Iraq War. In making this claim I was trying to show that because the U.S. did not fulfill the “jus ad bellum” criteria of Just War, an American solider’s participation *in* that war was different from an Iraqi solider’s–since at least the Iraqi solider *might* be engaging in an activity that fulfills “jus ad bellum” criteria.

    What I oversimplified, and, unfortunately, may have misrepresented, was the principle of the moral equality of combatants, according to which a soldier is responsible only for his “jus in bello” behavior. The reasoning goes that because individual soldiers cannot be expected to have the knowledge or power to inform the political “ad bellum” decision, their moral status *in* war derives from their behavior within the war. This principle is not uncontroversial, but it is unsettled enough that I need to at least affirm the possibility that American soldiers *may* be praised for their conduct in the Iraq War, even granted that that war was unjust.

    I don’t have a settled opinion on the moral equality of combatants principle; good arguments can be found on both sides.

  • WJ,

    I would say no. But those practical dilemmas are what prudential judgments are formed from, not only from the moral principles. And that’s were scientists and physicians may come to different conclusions. Even more so it seems in deciding if a war meets just criteria.

  • This refers to WJ’s 10:54 am comment.

  • Phillip,

    I agree with you that practical dilemmas are where prudential judgments are made. I was only responding to Art Deco’s assertion that, because this is so, *therefore* thinking hard about the structure of moral action is a “sterile intellectual exercise.” Just the opposite, it is a *necessary*, if insufficient, to make clear to political actors and to scientists just what these moral principles are, and why they are important.

    Now I simply *must* get back to my real writing.
    Thanks for the conversation.

  • …lest I give my wife the grounds for a just military action…:)

  • This is not meant to be an insult, but it seems to me that most of you don’t have any idea of what you’re talking about. There’s ideal musings, and then there’s actual experience. God’s gave me an experience that very few will ever have: that of being a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment. The so called ‘tip’ of the spear.

    It is quite possible to have ‘served’ in the military, and never come close to experiencing what I did. It is even possible to have gone to war in Iraq, and never to have come close to experiencing what I did. For what I experienced was the raw spirit of modern violence, and in particular, the culture that such a spirit forms.

    Those who belong to the officer corps, or to non-combat units, or even to combat units of a lesser sort, these soldiers do not tend to experience the essential spirit of modern warfare. They get whiffs, but they do not breathe and eat the stuff.

    I want to tell it to you straight, apart from the doctrines, apart from the philosophies and the ideals: Modern warfare is demonic, and these demons savage the souls of those at the heart of it. It endangers a person’s soul to enter certain parts of the U.S. military – those units with the most responsibility for directly killing in close-quarters.

    Ideally, yes, perhaps saints with swords could kill enemies in a just-war via double-effect. Maybe it has even happened throughout history. But I tell you this – modern war, today, with its machines and dehumanization and propaganda and materialistic-totalitarianism . . . this type of war distorts the souls of those who really engage it. The demonic danger is real, and it is overwhelming. I do not blame the military, I do not blame the soldiers. I blame the fallen world, and I blame Satan.

    If we think the world is fallen enough to require war, we should be able to see that the world is too fallen to wage war without being destroyed by the demons such violence unleashes. God help the young men we place into such hell!

  • Thank you, again, for sharing your experiences Nate. The personal testimony of one person is not always the best basis for formulating public policy, but it certainly is more valuable than most of the abstract theorizing that takes place on these topics (including my own abstract theorizing).

  • Thank you, John. I agree – my experience is just one of many, and we should listen to them all. Most soldiers who have seen the real face of war (and I’m not sure I can include myself among them) do not want to talk about it. I’ve been agonizing over this all morning, honestly. I do not mean to offend anyone with a different opinion than mine, and if my words are strong, it’s a reflection of the intensity of what I went through, and my empathy for those who might have to endure the same thing.

    Catholics often scrutinize where they send their kids to school, what books their kids read, what friends their kids make, and so forth. But when it comes to the military – a government run institution – I find that we become blind believers. If a secular college is a dangerous place for a young Catholic, how much more a secular military?

    One small nugget: ‘cursing like a sailor’ isn’t just a phrase. F*ck was the word we used most often, about everything, in literally every other sentence. You might think I’m kidding about every other sentence, but it’s really true. The constant cursing is probably the ‘smallest’ thing I can think of, in terms of demonic influence, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

  • Nate,

    I appreciate your experiences and cannot relate to them. I don’t know if the modern battlefield involves more direct killing than the ancient. Can one begin to imagine the horrors of the Greek phalanx with the direct killing involved there. Siege warfare of the middle ages is also brought to mind. The Church was aware of these and still considered the place for a just war.
    Then there is the continued modern day demands on the police officer and the coarsening that can result from that. Yet police are still needed and their actions, when performed morally, are just.

  • One small nugget: ‘cursing like a sailor’ isn’t just a phrase. F*ck was the word we used most often, about everything, in literally every other sentence. You might think I’m kidding about every other sentence, but it’s really true. The constant cursing is probably the ’smallest’ thing I can think of, in terms of demonic influence, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

    FWIW, that seems to be a fairly common thing among people our age (men in particular, but women as well) in situations where it’s not actively cracked down on. I’ve run into f**k-speak everywhere from archeology digs to forklift operators to sales teams — basically anywhere that “the management” doesn’t make it clear it’s not acceptable on business premises. We live in an uncivilized age. (Like just about all ages…)

    That said, I think you make an important practical point, which people would do very well to keep in mind at the same time they contemplate more abstract points. No matter how much the risk of self for others may bring an opportunity for saintliness and nobility to the calling, being a soldier is also going to mean seeing and being involved in horrible things, being far from home, being in fear, having at your hands the tools for intimidation and violence, and by turns being extremely bored — all things which provide ample opportunity for grave sin.

    While I think Sheens point has an essential validity, it’s clear that soldiering involves a host of temptations which young men far from home are often not good at resisting. While I continue to think that serving in the military is an honorable and necessary thing which Catholics should not universally shrink from (though clearly not everyon is not called to such a thing), one would be pretty foolish to think, “Oh, I better encourage my son to join the army. Clearly, he’ll never to be tempted to sin there.”

    And come to that, this is true (though in different ways) of other professions where personal sacrifice and helping others would seem to be central — as seen in alcoholism and other personal dysfunction rates for doctors, priests, policemen, etc.

  • I am generally quite sick of debates over issues that have absolutely no chance whatsoever of changing a mind or even getting one to bend a little. That’s why I haven’t said anything about this.

    I will say this: I oppose America’s foreign policy of the moment – and if the political sympathies and donations made by many of the actual troops themselves are any indication, so are the people who are being asked to die for it – but I also completely reject any attempt to denigrate American soldiers or patriotism in general as “fascist” or somehow immoral.

    So I am equally disgusted by two opposite viewpoints: 1) the view that to oppose the insane think-tank fantasies that have guided foreign policy is to somehow oppose the troops or be unpatriotic, and 2) the view that to support the troops in any capacity is somehow “fascist.”

  • My view of soldiers and public attitudes towards them was summed up by Mr. Kipling:


    I went into a public-‘ouse to get a pint o’ beer,
    The publican ‘e up an’ sez, “We serve no red-coats here.”
    The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,
    I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:
    O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
    But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,
    The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
    O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.

    I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
    They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;
    They sent me to the gallery or round the music-‘alls,
    But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!
    For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside”;
    But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide,
    The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
    O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.

    Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
    Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;
    An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
    Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
    Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”
    But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
    The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
    O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

    We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
    But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
    An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
    Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;
    While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind”,
    But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind,
    There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
    O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind.

    You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
    We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
    Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
    The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
    For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
    But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
    An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
    An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

  • Rick Lugari – Great comment. That’s exactly the way I look at it.

  • “F*ck was the word we used most often, about everything, in literally every other sentence. You might think I’m kidding about every other sentence, but it’s really true.”

    Well that was certainly also true when I was in the Army back in the Seventies. It was also true of the English Army that fought against Joan of Arc. Their favorite expression was G-dd-mn. Some things remain true across the centuries when it comes to the military experience. I do not swear and I did not when I was in the Army. The swearing bothered me to some extent, although quite a few of my profane colleagues became good friends with me. In spite of their profanity many of them were good-hearted and men of honor. In regard to swearing in civilian life, that has radically increased since the Sixties, certainly when it comes to public swearing.

  • Don would probably know for sure, but I believe that back in the day the English Army was so enamored with “G-dd-mn that their French opponents routinely referred to English soldiers as the “G-dd-mns.”

  • Quite right Mike.

  • WJ & Mike Petrik,

    How about a nifty pic to go with your icon?

  • Mike,

    I remember reading that.

  • On the use of the F-bomb, remember: this about a decade old.
    (F* rap.)

    Men in their twenties also greet each other with “f*ker.”

  • I seem to recall reading that it was the Ausies who made f*ck military standard usage in the Great War. At which time its use are noun, adjective, adverb and verb all rolled into one was still comparatively new.

    Though my grandfather who began his 30-year career in the navy in 1945 (and past whose lips I never heard a single profanity pass) always insisted that when he was in the Navy profanity was not nearly as pervasive as in modern WW2 dramas like Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers — the which are in turn far more clean-cut in their language than the Mamet and Tarantino-esque speech patterns of many ordinary civilians my age.

  • I recommend “No Victory, No Peace” by Angelo Codevilla.

  • “Lord, I am not worthy
    that you should enter under my roof,
    but only say the word
    and my soul (my servant) shall be healed.”

    And unlike the woman taken in adultery, no follows on orders to soldier no more.

    Argument from silence.

    Anyone intimately familiar with the sacrifices the men and women of a nation’s military make – not for glory, but for love of country and countrymen – should not find fault with the sentiment expressed in Archbishop Sheen’s book.

    You can’t be serious. You can say this about any person or group of people who is willing to kill and die for what they believe. You could say it about “the terrorists.” Sacrifice does not equal Christianity. Sorry.

    It is telling that all of you agree with Sheen’s comment about soldiers being just below priests. How about sisters? Oh yeah, it fits in with your sexism.

    Many pay the ultimate sacrifice.

    Last I checked, Calvary was the ultimate sacrifice. NOT U.S. SOLDIERS.

    2) the view that to support the troops in any capacity is somehow “fascist.”


  • While I’ve worked jobs where people cursed – from janitors to cadets to high school students – I’ve never encountered the level of cursing that I found in the Ranger regiment. It’s a small thing, however. More startling is the open display of pornography, the constant boasting and announcements of masturbation (“I gotta go jack off – you got some porn?”), the songs of not only killing children and nuns, but of raping women, and so on and so forth. I should re-iterate that this is the experience of a private in an elite special operations unit, not the experience of a desk clerk in a non-combat unit. I would also add upon Donald’s comment that this didn’t make us bad. I’m only pointing out the cultural current and demonic activity, which I associate with the mission: killing other human beings like ourselves.

  • I think there are probably countless volumes of untold stories of heroism, sacrifice and compassion demonstrated by our American soldiers, stories that stay within the confines of family, only to be briefly revealed at the death of an old soldier. One such story was recently related to me — the story of an 18-year-old sergeant, serving in Italy during World War II, who was machine-gunned by a German soldier. The young American was able to shoot back and, while both were lying wounded on the ground, an American patrol happened upon them. The young American insisted that the German not be killed, so instead of firing a fatal shot into the German, the American troops took both wounded men to a hospital to convalesce. These untold stories demonstrate the character of our soldiers, character that has been instilled in our young men by their families, communities, country, and belief in Christ. So what if that utilitarian Anglo-Saxon word is used in excess — our soldiers are not attending tea parties and picking daisies.

  • It’s so sad how someone like Nate can so passionate share his experiences, here, at Vox Nova, on his own website, on the Catholic Peace Fellowship site, etc., yet what he is saying just does not sink in for some people. Instead, he gets “Oh but Nate, yours is just one person’s experience.” These people will praise a complete stranger on this blog who happens to mention his “service”, praising his heroism, etc., without knowing a damn thing about him. When Nate continually shares from his heart his very personal experience and his judgment about the nightmarish dimensions of the military, he is usually brushed off. Another flag waving post follows on the next day.

    Some of us listen, Nate, and refuse to remain on the level of abstraction that some of the bloggers here do. They have an image of the u.s. military in mind, not reality.

  • “Some of us listen, Nate…”

    Don’t confuse listening and agreement, Michael.

  • Thanks, Michael. And thanks to all who have patiently listened to me. Thanks be to God for those who have gone further, and agreed with me. Cuz’ I know it ain’t easy! 🙂

    Also, I really encourage everyone to read Michael’s paper once it becomes available. It’s an in-depth theological examination of what every new military recruit will be forced to face: an anti-Christ culture. Granted, anti-Christ cultures do abound in America. I think we should just remember that the military is (at the least) no exception.

The Coming Open Rebellion Against God

Tuesday, February 9, AD 2010

The title of this article almost sounds surreal. At first one could be forgiven for thinking it was some sort of low budget End Times movie seen on some local cable access channel. However, the information contained within this article is real, fortunately, as believers and specifically those of us who are Catholic we know that Jesus promised that His Church would not fall despite the attempts of those working for the evil one. God is the truth and God is love, but the mere fact that He is both has caused many rebellions against him literally from day one. Sadly, those who often claim to be the smartest act the most childish, by at first claiming God doesn’t exist and then claiming if He does exist, He doesn’t make sense at least to them. This article will look at this behavior from the world’s earliest moments, but will mainly focus on what has happened in the last few years, right up until this very moment.

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Bishop Sheen on Fatima

Wednesday, February 3, AD 2010

The things that you find on the internet!  Bishop Sheen gives a brilliant exposition of the miracle of Fatima.

Bishop Sheen believed that our Lady of Fatima would lead to the conversion of Islam.  Here are his thoughts on that subject:

Moslemism is the only great post-Christian religion of the world. Because it had its origin in the seventh century under Mohammed, it was possible to unite within it some elements of Christianity and of Judaism.

Moslemism takes the doctrine of the unity of God, His Majesty, and His Creative Power, and uses it as a basis for the repudiation of Christ, the Son of God.

Misunderstanding the notion of the Trinity, Mohammed made Christ a prophet only.

The Catholic Church throughout Northern Africa was virtually destroyed by Moslem power and at the present time (circa 1950), the Moslems are beginning to rise again.

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6 Responses to Bishop Sheen on Fatima

  • Wow – this is a totally new perspective on Christian-Muslim relations. This means that “dialogue” should really focus on Mary. Are there any follow ups on this line of thinking, on groups that took it up in their missionary efforts, even Orthodox groups perhaps?

  • Very interesting. Thanks for posting this.

  • Thanks for this Don.

    Fulton Sheen was definitely a powerful and dramatic orator. I knew of him when I studied with the Redemptorists back in ’58 and ’59 testing a vocation, and knew a little of his assertion concerning the conversion of Islam. But that’s the first time I have seen these videos, and the first time I have read the full text of his talk on Fatima.

    Excellent stuff.

  • Abp. Sheen said this more than 50 years ago. He noted the growth of anti-Christian sentiment and predicted it would increase. That is happening. But there are also reports of Muslims converting, making great sacrifices and facing death as a result.
    When Fulton J. Sheen is canonized, perhaps an additional title could be placed after his name, “Prophet”.

  • Thank you JJO2 and Don. Bishop Sheen had a great gift of communicating in simple direct terms complicated truth. I think this show on Fatima was one of his best efforts.

  • Dear writer and all

    I would like to point out that those whom submit to God’s will are called Muslims and their religion is called Islam. Not moslems, moslemism or Mohammedism, Muslims do not worship Mohammed (Peace be upon him) nor do we believe he is the founder of Islam. The name Islam and Muslims is what God calls us in the Quran, it is not a religion named after a man.

    And regarding why muslims believe Jesus (peace be upon him) is a prophet, and not Son of God or God, is answered in the following link.

    Prophet Jesus and Muhammad (Peace be upon them) in the Holy Quran and Previous Scriptures

    Other useful websites


    Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him)

    By a German diplomat

    I hope this provides a better understanding.

    It says in your scripture “blessed are the peacemakers” I hope Jews, Christians and Muslims co-exist peacefuly.

What’s His Line?

Wednesday, April 1, AD 2009

Hattip to the Curt Jester.  I loved What’s My Line as a kid.  The game show aspect was fun, but I really watched for the wit of the panelists.  Entertaining and amusing without profanity, vulgarity, salaciousness, nudity or explosions.  How did they ever do it? 

The Bishop Sheen episode aired October 21, 1956  at the height of Sheen’s fame.  Note the high respect for him by the host, the panelists and the audience.  How much ground the Church has to regain in our society!

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Pride of Peoria

Thursday, December 18, AD 2008

“A Paris reporter asked TV-Comedian Milton Berle how he felt about the Bishop Fulton Sheen program which is on a competing channel with his own show. Said Berle: “We’re known as Uncle Miltie and Uncle Fultie now. It doesn’t make any difference if we’re in competition. It’s a pleasure to have him opposite me. After all, we’re both using old material.”

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2 Responses to Pride of Peoria

  • He wrote the book. Literally. Too far ahead of his time. After his departure from teevee, the lights went out on its use by orthodox Catholics. Of course, coincided with GoGo60s, hootenanny Masses, academics spouting any nonsense they please. Along comes a cloistered nun in Alabama who gets into the cable game around the same time as CNN and ESPN. Wow amazing use of teevee to educate and inspire the faithful. If the Good Bishop were alive he’s use internet, ipods and mp3 as tools. Or stuff still in R&D labs. That same Alabama-based network of course has the good sense to rerun the Good Bishop’s programs. Where they are still fresh and timely. Everything old is new again.

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