On Faith and Morals

The age of terror started in the southern hemisphere years before September 2001. The twentieth anniversary of the killing at the University of Central America (UCA) in El Salvador of a housekeeper, her teenage daughter, and six Jesuit priests is next Monday. “Be a patriot! Kill a priest!” was an infamous slogan at the time, to terrorize the current generation into submission.

The United States Army School of the Americas (SOA) based at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia then and now trains Latin American soldiers in combat and counter-insurgency. The School of the Americas (SOA) changed its name to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC)in January 2001. The name of Archbishop Oscar Romero is included in the litany of the dead and disappeared, along with four American Maryknoll nuns, the El Mazote Massacre of 900 civilians at the Rio Sumpul, and tens of thousands of Latin Americans massacred, tortured, raped, or “disappeared” at the hand of SOA alumni. Or forced into refuge. Graduates of the SOA are responsible for the worst human rights abuses in Latin America. And Bishop Robert Morlino of the Madison, Wisconsin Diocese since 1999 has been allowed to serve since 2005 as an adviser to Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, on their advisory Board of Visitors. (Bishop Robert Morlino was one of eighty bishops who said he would not have allowed President Obama to speak at the graduation at Notre Dame.)

The annual vigil of prayer and protest against the School of the Americas very much involves the Catholic community. The time of protest outside of Fort Benning is once again at hand as students, religious, labor, human rights and social/global justice groups in solidarity with the people of the Americas, asking on November 20th through November 22nd in nonviolent action exactly what kind of country sponsors the School of the Americas, under any name. The current struggle of a nation coming to grips with the closing of Guantanamo Bay detention camps has precluded any self examination of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, which has continued under Clinton, Bush and Obama. In November, 2004, there were 16,000 outside of Fort Benning, protesting the continued support. After his election to president, Obama has resisted pleas to shut the school but he has promised to end torture.

On the eve of the week of Thanksgiving, with the National Conference of Bishops meeting in Baltimore this week voting on matter of the nature and purposes of marriage, I have to wonder about the Catholic part of Bishop Robert Morlino of the Madison, Wisconsin Diocese. If it is the responsibility as bishop to encourage Catholic institutions to “give public witness to the fullness of the Catholic faith,” as stated by Bishop D’Arcy of Fort Wayne about his pastoral presence at Notre Dame, I have to wonder how in the age of terror Bishop Robert Morlino of the Madison, Wisconsin Diocese can justify his participation in the existence of United States Army School of the Americas. If he is in communion with the faithful, his public witness to the fullness of the Catholic faith gives foundation to those that massacre, torture and force into refuge. How in the name of God could you lend support to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation? And then speak out with credibility on any other moral issue? How is he not censored by the National Conference of Bishops? Or by the Vatican? How is he allowed to speak at any Catholic institution?

With the massacred, tortured, raped, or “disappeared”at the hands of SOA alumni, I am uncertain about Bishop Robert Morlino of the Madison, Wisconsin Diocese ability to judge right from wrong. Why would anyone look to Bishop Morlino for any moral guidance? He also wrote at one time that only he, not his flock, should read The Da Vinci Code to be able to understand it. In a university town.

From the late 1970s into the early 1990s, in another age of terror in the southern hemisphere, the United States supported the Salvadoran government armed forces throughout their civil war, with ongoing persecution of clergy and repression of movements for social change. The November 16, 1989 Jesuits martyrdom in the El Salvador civil war was hardly the only instance of repression. It was no different sponsoring the School of the Americas than being a sponsor of Al-Qaeda.

Since September 11, 2001, the age of terror was a lot more personal. In the southern hemisphere years before September 2001, the tax dollars of the American people were used to terrorize a generation into submission, in places where the number of victims well exceeded that American number of dead on September 11, 2001. Away from the lights of New York.

In solidarity with the people of the Americas, on November 20th through November 22nd the protesters will reveal the radiance of their own discovery, no thanks to Bishop Morlino. It was Joseph Campbell who said that preachers “err by trying to talk people into belief. Better they reveal the radiance of their own discovery.”


POST SCRIPT: In a coup led by Gen. Romeo Orlando Vásquez Velásquez, a two-time graduate of the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), the military overthrew a democratically elected president in 2009. After the coup, the administration of Barack Obama has allowed the training of Honduran officers to continue at the school despite federal law requiring suspension of U.S. military aid and training should a military coup occur in a nation. Consequentially, people of Honduras have fled their homes for the north as the murder rate has spiked — its 2012 murder rate was 90.4 per 100,000, per statistics furnished by the United Nations. With Honduras now the murder capital of the world, Honduran youth make up the highest number of migrants seeking out entrance into the United States … with so little discussion on the interpretation about what should be legal or illegal.

Migrants. Flesh and blood nomads in search of something. Immigrant people. “Mostly they are the same lives. The same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker. As we endow our lives with stories, the importance was in the binding from the relationships, in stories about unconditional love. When your relationships were so alive, when you personally sacrificed something, as your prayers became so alive … and you wanted others to then have the same experience, with God’s intervention in the relationship. Mostly there were the same stories, generation after generation, with a great restlessness. Carrying the fire, with your own tradition, in search of the Promise Land.

LINK https://carmenpampafund.org/get-involved/donate

Joyce Horman, Charlie Horman


4 comments so far

  1. dekerivers on

    Here is a link to my posts about Bishop Morlino. You will see I too have held his feet to the fire on these matters.


    Sorry to not have included them with my other comment on your site.

  2. paperlessworld on

    In Minnesota, the president of Luther Seminary in St. Paul — the country’s largest Evangelical Lutheran Church of America seminary — has resigned amid rising maintenance costs and declining enrollment. The people have spoken. And in November 2012, the archbishop of Boston formally accepted a major reorganization plan that would group the archdiocese’s 288 parishes into 135 clusters that will share staffing and resources. Additionally, the Rev. Paul Soper was named director of Disciples in Mission, the project which will lead the Boston archdiocese’s effort to boost attendance, rebuild a church suffering from declining finances, and address the looming priest shortage. That is the long-term results of poor leadership. The people have spoken and leadership regroups.

    When the pope arranges a bad marriage with a diocese, there will be repercussions. Not all dissimilar to terminating a pregnancy, the loss of a vitality which once had been capable of drawing people will happen in a decade in Madison, Wisconsin. The Wisconsin State Journal reports today that Sister Maureen McDonnell, a Madison nun who has led bus trips to the School of the Americas in Fort Benning and staged a 25-hour prayer vigil and fast at Bishop Morlino’s diocesan headquarters over his position on the federal advisory committee in 2005, has been banned from providing spiritual direction or guidance at any Catholic churches in the 11-county diocese, as well as holding workshops on Catholic church property. Perhaps the bishop is invoking papal infallibility, as so many bishops did during the cover-ups of sexual abuse. (As the price of fig leafs have soared.)

  3. paperlessworld on

    Loyola Law School Professor Bill Quigley of the SOA Watch Legal Collective has provided a summary of 429 pages of documents that the School of the Americas Watch Legal Collective received under a Freedom of Information Act request. According to the National Catholic Reporter, these documents obtained by Washington D.C. lawyer Mara Verheyden-Hilliard demonstrate that School of the Americas Watch was investigated and infiltrated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for at least a decade, from 2001 through 2010.

    The 429 pages of documents — which were obtained by Washington D.C.-based lawyer Mara Verheyden-Hilliard — show this nonviolent human rights organization was under surveillance by the FBI’s counter-terrorism division as well as “a consortium of law enforcement agencies.”

    “In comments to The National Catholic Reporter, Quigley said the FBI surveillance has had a chilling impact on some SOA Watch activists.”

  4. paperlessworld on

    The most recent update on the protests over the School of Americas in Georgia.


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