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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Domine non sum dignus

In illo tempore:

1 And when he had finished all his words in the hearing of the people, he entered into Capharnaum. 2 And the servant of a certain centurion, who was dear to him, being sick, was ready to die. 3 And when he had heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the ancients of the Jews, desiring him to come and heal his servant. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they besought him earnestly, saying to him: He is worthy that thou shouldest do this for him. 5 For he loveth our nation; and he hath built us a synagogue.

6 And Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent his friends to him, saying: Lord, trouble not thyself; for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof. 7 For which cause neither did I think myself worthy to come to thee; but say the word, and my servant shall be healed. 8 For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers: and I say to one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doth it. 9 Which Jesus hearing, marvelled: and turning about to the multitude that followed him, he said: Amen I say to you, I have not found so great faith, not even in Israel. 10 And they who were sent, being returned to the house, found the servant whole who had been sick.

A moving and profound story in the life of Our Lord. I bring this up because of the confusion and theological dishonesty of certain priests when preaching on war, peace and military service. What occasioned this post is the latest of the certain antics of a particular Jesuit, who, if he is not an embarassment to his order, ought to be. It seems that Fr. Ben Jimenez, S.J. and fellow travelers from the Catholic Worker Movement had a little protest in the shadow of the Dome yesterday and stated that university's ROTC program contradicts Catholic teaching.

Whoa there, Padre! What particularly about the ROTC program contradicts Catholic teaching? The last time I checked, pacifism was not the Church's position--default or otherwise. Augustine and Aquinas acknowledged the legitimacy of the military. In fact, Aquinas situates his discussion of war and soldiering in the context of legitimate authority exercising charity over the citizenry he is charged with the care of. The good Jesuit Bellarmine commented in De Laicis that if Our Lord's teaching were pacifistic, why would he not admonish the Centurion (supra) and tell him to leave his profession? Bellarmine continues by acknowledging the baptism of the Centurion Cornelius (Acts 10) with his whole family and asks: If soldiering is contrary to Catholic teaching, why was he not admonished and instructed to leave behind this ungodly profession?

In fact, if I recall, the Second Vatican Council in Gaudium et Spes #79 states:
As long as the danger of war remains and there is no competent and sufficiently powerful authority at the international level, governments cannot be denied the right to legitimate defense once every means of peaceful settlement has been exhausted. State authorities and others who share public responsibility have the duty to conduct such grave matters soberly and to protect the welfare of the people entrusted to their care...Those too who devote themselves to the military service of their country should regard themselves as the agents of security and freedom of peoples. As long as they fulfill this role properly, they are making a genuine contribution to the establishment of peace.
So again, I ask: what about ROTC contradicts Catholic teaching?

I have long thought that Our Lord has a special place in His Sacred Heart for soldiers, especially the grunts who do a job that no one should ever have to do. I know that Mother Church opens her tender arms to these souls who--with all their weaknesses and warts--are just as much children of God as are other poor souls. Perhaps this is why--at the moment when Heaven is united to Earth and God is united to man--we repeat the words of a humble soldier who said it better than anyone ever could: Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur anima mea.