A reader writes:

After receiving an MTS in Moral Theology (Ethics) from Notre Dame I decided to attempt to become a Marine Officer ...

I think Just War Theory is a plausible theological way to deal with the annihilation of large swaths of humanity at the hands of others, and I cannot even vaguely justify our foray into Iraq in terms of it.  Afghanistan initially may have filled some criteria, but it certainly doesn’t any longer and hasn’t for some time.   Admittedly, I had to do some ethical contortions to justify my choice to try to enter the military.  Some were pathetic: as a woman I would never technically have a combat MOS and as such would always have some moral separation from actual killing.  Others were more honestly reasoned, but none of them were in complete harmony with Catholic doctrinehow could they be?  Ultimately, I decided that I could take responsibility both for disobeying an order I found to be immoral or for making a decision that violated the very core of my conscience. 

That Fr. Hesburgh would say that Notre Dame’s ROTC was a way to “Christianize the military” falls far beneath his demonstrated moral and intellectual par.

It is a way to get bright, competent and well-intentioned people into the military and thus improve it in myriad ways, but it’s a laughable, un-Christian suggestion that enfeebles the mission of both Christianity and a national military.  I don’t mean to suggest that it is ipso facto un-Christian to serve in the military, rather that a certain amount of compartmentalization and humility is necessary to live with and possibly atone for the lack of concert between one’s religious and worldly commitments.  I think the University would do well to deal with a more tractable moral issue of its ROTC program: that it’s primarily utilized because ND has priced itself out of the reach of most students. 

The appeal of the military for many Catholics is obvious: we like rigor and pageantry.  We also take seriously the call to put our faith into action.  In light of our current wars, I now more than ever question the legitimacy of acting out one’s faith in military servicethough I cannot bring myself to pacifismbut I think that it’s a decision best left to each individual and his or her conscience.  Mainly, I decided to join the Marines because I thought it afforded me the opportunity to make a positive impact in the world in  ways that pursing the life of an academic ethicist wouldn’t.  Ultimately, even though my job now is very different than the one I would’ve had had I managed to make it through OCS, undoubtedly I’m still in the same predicament I would have been in: hoping but unsure if what I’m doing is making the world a better place. 

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