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Monday, March 27, 2017
Viewpoint: Young Catholics should not be encouraged to join the Army
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 Catherine Hand, from Tideswell in Derbyshire writes:

“I do not think it right that the Army should be allowed to come to a careers evening in our school,” I said as a governor of our local Catholic comprehensive school.  Amazement, surprise and incomprehension greeted me.

My assertion that I did not think that a career which trained people to kill was suitable for a Christian, someone who tried in their own life to follow Christ’s teaching and example, mystified my fellow governors.

Five hundred years ago, the Catholic Church condoned the Inquisition and the often brutal execution of heretics.  Now we are ashamed of that history, although those actions were sanctioned by canon law.  Now we have the Just War doctrine, but I wonder if, in years to come, that will be regarded as an equally poor excuse for war as we would consider sixteenth century canon law as an excuse for torture.

Modern warfare makes it well-nigh impossible even to adhere to the demands of the Just War doctrine; for example in all wars since the First World War more civilians than military personnel have been killed in conflicts, something the doctrine says is impermissible.  The requirement that wars should be defensive rather than aggressive is also hard to apply with a clear conscience to the wars Britain has engaged in in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite what the politicians tell us.

Quite apart from doctrine, we have the example of Jesus, who lived under a cruel occupation and was unjustly condemned to an appalling death, and who yet refused to react violently, and told Peter to ‘put up your sword’.  How can we read the Sermon on the Mount, and then manufacture weapons of slaughter and send young men out to use them indiscriminately?

It may never be possible to prevent nations going to war, but the only hope for this will come from people refusing to fight, and stating their reasons for doing so, backed up, one hopes, by the whole Christian Church, and by those of other faiths.  To act against the mainstream of patriotism, security and public opinion requires huge courage, but has been done in the past, not least by our own Padley Martyrs.

The bravery of our soldiers is undeniable.  They need chaplains such as those recently appointed from this diocese, also courageous men, to be with them in difficult times.  I would hope, though, that these chaplains would also be there to encourage them to question what they are doing, and if their consciences cause them to refuse to fight, to support them.

By definition, the winning side in any war has to be the one that kills more children, more women and more men than its opponent: ‘They make a desert and they call it peace’.  Do we really believe that might is right?

Harry Patch said:  “War is only legalised murder; disagreements should be settled round a table, do not go to war.”

Every Sunday, every day, we pray for peace.  Do we really act in such a way as to bring it about?

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Tags: Catherine Hand, Viewpoint: Young Catholics should not be encouraged to join the Army

Members Opinions:
November 17, 2009 at 8:52pm
The British Armed Forces do not train people to kill, but to defend freedom and righteousness.
If Ms Hand thinks this can be done without resort to legitimate force, then she forgets that Man is a fallen creature with a capacity for evil.
That the Gospels highlights and quotes at least two soldiers indicates that there is no censure as such against the military.
November 18, 2009 at 5:05pm
I have to applaud Ms Hand for her stance against the growing involvement of the armed forces in recruitment within schools.

At Pax Christi we are deeply concerned by the unethical ways in which a career in the armed forces is sold to young people. The reality of being trained and expected to kill and risk being killed in combat is hidden behind a veneer of glamour, adventure and career opportunity. In focussing their recruitment efforts towards young people in socially and economically deprived areas of the country the forces prey on young people’s vulnerability and that sense of hopelessness that sees a military career as the only or last resort.

A 2007 report by David Gee (freely available from explores these and many more of the ethical concerns surrounding the recruitment of young people to the armed forces. This is a useful resource when exploring the question of the army being involved in school in any form and particularly at careers events.

We need not question the validity or necessity of having armed forces when supporting Ms Hand in her moral stance. We can easily see that this Christian response coupled with the questionable ethics that underpin the army’s recruitment policy brings us to the conclusion that the armed forces and arms industries, through careers promotion, cadet forces and funding, should have no place in Catholic schools or indeed any school. It is essential that our young people are protected and empowered to make well informed and wise choices.

Matt Jeziorski
Schools and Youth Outreach Worker, Pax Christi
November 28, 2009 at 1:03am
By: frengen on 11/27/09 [Delete]
The armed services are, of course, trained to kill other men. Sometimes, inevitably, they kill women and children too.Many Catholics must have noticed that the Church "allows" different opinions on war-killing and judicial killing ( capital punishment) but that, in practice, today in this country, few lay or clerical members of the Church raise the issue which Catherine Hand has highlighted.We could perhaps properly recall that ,in Europe's 20th century wars, there were almost certainly more Catholics among the "bad people" ( Germans, Italians etc) than among "us". As for Ireland, better not to mention.I find it hard to see how young Catholics today should be encouraged to join the killing machine of an increasingly "secular" state, and one of the few "democracies" where a Roman Catholic is barred from becoming Head of State, and, in practice, will not become Prime Minister.This aspect pales into insignificance, maybe, alongside the more general ethical angle. the reaction of Mrs. Hand's fellow governors speaks volumes on the lack of proper reflection and debate of the rather important issue of volunteering to kill who one is told to.

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