The National Catholic Review
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More Than a Game

For athletes around the world, only a few months of training remain before the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. But these potential medal-winners are not the only people who have been preparing for the big event. The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales is hoping that after three years of preparations, their plan to reach out to the millions of visitors to London during the Olympics will increase interest in the Catholic faith and raise awareness of such social justice issues as homelessness, fair trade products, the environment and human trafficking.

The British bishops’ plan addresses both personal spirituality and service to others and includes the training of 24 chaplains, as well as volunteers from more than 5,000 parishes, the creation of two hospitality centers and a youth village offering sports-themed catechesis. A conference on disability, theology and sport will also take place before the Paralympic Games. The bishops also are working closely with More Than Gold, a charity conducted by 16 Christian denominations to enact programs like one that recruits London families and hotels to house athletes and their relatives who may not be able to afford to stay in London otherwise.

Parishes will be encouraged to pray for peace and, in particular, for an end to gang violence. They will also offer refreshments to those who stand along the streets to watch the passing of the Olympic torch. The British bishops’ program is an admirably wide-ranging one with attention to the whole person. It is a creative, well-rounded and thoughtful effort that encourages attendees to embody those same qualities.

Too Long a Sacrifice

In the early morning of March 11 a U.S. staff sergeant walked off base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and began a rampage that would end in the deaths of 16 civilians, including three women and nine children. It is too soon to say precisely what provoked this murderous attack, but it is well past time to ask if the paradigm of the “volunteer professional” as the foundation for the contemporary U.S. armed services may be nearing a breakdown. The current personnel structure of the U.S. military relies on an unprecedented number of combat tours by service members. The assailant had already completed three tours of duty in Iraq, during which he suffered a brain injury, and was beginning yet another combat tour, this time in Afghanistan.

How many days in combat can any single individual endure before trauma and stress begin to diminish mental health or dislodge his or her moral compass? The military’s overdependence on a small pool of service members is clearly taking a toll on these individuals and their families. The dreadful events in Kandahar suggest that even more gruesome collateral damage may be attributable to the military’s multi-tour rotation system.

The nation is faced with a stark choice: find a way to expand the military so that the same men and women are not repeatedly deployed into combat, most likely through a draft; or find a way to advance U.S. geopolitical interests without leaning so heavily on military power. Perhaps both options complement each other. The possibility of a truly shared sacrifice ensured by universal conscription may be enough to discourage an overreliance on war-making in U.S. statecraft.

Cleveland’s Reprise

“It is evident, therefore, that the requirements of law for the licit and valid relegation of a church to secular but not unbecoming use have not been met, and that St. Patrick Church...has not been lawfully and validly relegated to secular but not unbecoming use.” That Vaticanese declaration may sound bland to some, but it was welcome news to parishioners in Cleveland, who had protested the closing of 13 churches. The recent ruling by the Congregation of the Clergy reversed some of the closings initiated by Bishop Richard G. Lennon in 2009 as part of an archdiocesan reconfiguration. The canonical reason: the archdiocese had not consulted its presbyteral council before the decision.

It is natural that parishioners in Cleveland, and elsewhere, feel attached to their parishes. And it is laudable that the Vatican, which is sometimes seen (unfairly) as removed from the daily concerns of local parishes, offers an avenue of canonical redress. It may sometimes be necessary for parishes to be closed, for unavoidable reasons. Some parishes no longer attract enough parishioners; because of changing demographics, there may be more Catholics in newer areas that are underserved; and financial shortfalls make keeping all churches open an impossibility. But these reasons sometimes fail to convince everyone: in a few dioceses sit-ins have been sponsored in shuttered churches. Some parishioners protest, claiming their local parish has enough money to survive. But this may mean that other areas, with growing Catholic populations, will be underserved. The church as a whole—not just bishops—must respond to the sometimes uncomfortable demands of changing demographics and apply its resources where they are needed the most. And that’s true in Cleveland, California or Calcutta.

Comments

Luisa Navarro | 3/27/2012 - 3:28am
Curiouser and curiouser.
There's the Holy Father in Mexico, then in Cuba.
Lots of intelligent comments to be expected.
Nothing.
OK: perhaps calling your journal "America" means "United States". Not terribly politically correct to usurp a continent's name to call the United States.
But ignoring what is catholically south of your borders really is betraying Ignatius -and us all.
C Walter Mattingly | 3/25/2012 - 2:24pm
It is gratifying to find America and others here entertaining a return to the draft. For some time now I have felt that Charles Rangel and I were about the only two who would entertain that idea. President Obama won't, of course, as it might cost him votes, nor likely his opponent for probably similar reasons.
In addition to the reasons given above, of involving all in risk for reasons of social equity and also for the check that fact might have on military engagement, there are at least two other, perhaps equally, important advantages of a return to the draft. The draft was a great source of nourishment for the old, and unfortunately antiquated, idea of America as the Melting Pot. In my brief infantry stint, I interacted with all sorts of Americans upon whom we had a mutual dependency. The special place old Army Buddies held in the experience of many men as time passed is just that: they made friends that they could not possibly have interacted with in everyday social circumstances. In addition, a practical issue. One of the most difficult challenges to our budget deficit today is retirement benefits. The military has a very attractive one, which has the effect of retiring 38 year old men and women for 2/3 of their adult lives. If the ranks are supplemented with draftees, the great majority of whom will leave as trained servicemen after their draft stint, we could reduce the number of those who receive these benefits substantially, making our armed forces, especially the Army, more affordable for a country drowning in red ink. 
john ryan | 3/23/2012 - 2:36pm
 ATTN:EDITOR,I may have sent my comment about the draft a short time ago and now I suspect I didnt use my full name. If this is the case can I add it now? I am John Ryan of Virginia Beach Va. and my e-mail is jryan43@cox.net.
Thank You, John
john ryan | 3/23/2012 - 2:01pm
The elimination of the draft has caused/contributed towards, some of the current problems in our country. Our "leaders" in Washington display a cavalier attitude toward sending our servicemen and servicewomen off to fight,show the flag,stabilize,nation build,etc in some sort of movable feast of month to month objectives defined by "whats happening now" because the large majority of them and their family members never served. Besides the ongoing deployments, little if any thought appears to be given to the increasing isolation of the military from the mainstream of the U.S. population. A relativly small warrior class sufficed up until Dec.6 1941 but by Dec.8 we as a nation began our journey to becoming a world power. If we accept the world power or world leader definition (rightly or wrongly) we cant do it on the cheap as regards our population. It is morally wrong! A draft must include everyone of military age. If your number is drawn you go. No exemptions. The draft system as practised during Viet Nam was a national disgrace targeting a specific portion of our population. How many of the Washington elite can you think of right now who managed student exemptions or secured hard to get berths in National Guard and reserve units during Viet Nam? Those berths would be of no use to them today because without the Guard/Reserve our military couldnt do the job WE have given them. If we reject the world role no draft is needed but if we keep it we must share the responsibilties that go with it. Our U.S.Reps./Senators would think twice before allowing the President to involve us in another war. (I will let the argument as to women being subject to a draft another time.)
John
ed gleason | 3/23/2012 - 12:40pm
Mary is correct. Protestants would go gaga if they had as many parishioners as the churches we are closing. Fully ordain married deacons and then woman deacons as a first step .... let 2 or three mrried priests take over a parish. vitality is brought in not found.
5436984 | 3/23/2012 - 10:44am
In regard to "Cleveland's Reprise" I offer the following:

Many of the 13 parishes referred to in this article had vibrant communities and were financially solvent.  The only reason the bishop can validly offer for their closings is that there are too few priests to staff them.  If that is the reason, shame on the church for punishing the laity for lack of vocations to the priesthood.  There are many married men and women who have heard the call to priesthood and would step up to the plate.  Even ordaining women deacons would provide added sacramental and ministerial support.  With the ever growing pre-Vatican II mentality and centralization of authority and power, the church leadership only has itself to blame on their current journey of retrenchment.
Mike Evans | 3/23/2012 - 10:34am
The reason for "consultation" with the priests' council is explicitly to seek a wider sense of wisdom and consensus. Every closing has serious difficulties; if the bishop does it without consultation among the clergy, let alone the faithful, he should simply be removed from office.
8891044 | 3/23/2012 - 10:11am
Re: "Too Long a Sacrifice"

I also think we need to bring back a draft but one with no exceptions: draft the sons and daughters of presidents, congressmen, corporate executives and labor union leaders, the wealthy as well as the poor.  It doesn’t have to be military service; it could be something similar to the Peace Corps or Americorps – anything that would involve more than 1% of American citizens.
It might help us to avoid wars and rebuild our own country.



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