Catholics in the Military


My compliments on your website (Seapadre)! I love visiting it. Whenever I go there expecting to spend 10-20 minutes, I end up spending 1-2 hours instead :-)

I am a life-long catholic (42 years) and a lieutenant colonel in the Army, presently stationed down the road at Fort Lewis. I have been looking for a website, book(s) etc. that would address the special obligations of christians in military service. Obviously there is plenty of info for my brothers of the pacifist persuasion. What about guys like me, who are arguably in the majority? Your thoughts and suggestions would be welcome.

Thanks for taking the time to run a first-rate website!!


John Ciesla


Dear John,

Good to hear from you. Thank you for the kind words about the website. You ask a question which has been on my mind especially since my niece's husband joined the army and is on his way to a good career in the military.

Jesus praised a Roman soldier, "I have not found this kind of faith in all of Israel." The Gospel and our long tradition testify that a Christian can legitimately serve in the military. However there might come a moment when a Christian soldier has to choose to "obey God not men." (See Acts 4:19) I saw an example of that when I was down in Peru. In fighting Shining Path terrorists, there were excesses on the part of the army. An officer once ordered soldiers to fire on some civilians, village peasants who were suspected of supporting guerillas. There was one soldier who refused to obey the order. I do not know how it all turned out for him, but he was an example I used when talking with young men who would be inducted into the Peruvian army.

Of course, a soldier in the U.S. army would not likely face such a horrible situation. Still we have our own moral dilemmas. A recent case would be the strike against Iraq. From what I read in the media it seemed pretty well justified, but against that were strong statements by our Holy Father. Granted he was not speaking with binding authority. Nevertheless as Catholics we must always take seriously what the pope says. As a citizen my responsibility would be pretty remote, but for you as an officer it would be greater. If you were directly involved in the strike, you would have a most serious obligation to read the pope's words and consider how they apply to your own conscience. Do you see what I mean, John?

For a pacifist the dilemma is different. He is giving an eschatological witness. That is, he makes a commitment to live his life as if the Kingdom had already arrived. It has not, of course. Original sin is very much with us. So like St. Francis he has to be ready to rejoice if someone hits him, robs him or insults him. So far I have not had the pleasure of meeting a modern St. Francis, altho I would really like to. The rest of us have rely on people like you to protect us from unjust attackers.

Meanwhile you and other soldiers are in my prayers. I used to say a Sunday Mass down at Fort Lewis. I greatly enjoyed the apostolate to the men and their families.

God bless,

Fr. Phil Bloom


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