By Fr. George Welzbacher
February 14, 2010
This Wednesday, February 17th, is Ash Wednesday, the day on which, in this year of grace, the holy season of Lent begins! Like Good Friday, Ash Wednesday is a day of both fast and abstinence, that is to say, on Ash Wednesday all Catholics from the age of fourteen are solemnly obliged to abstain from eating meat-that is what is meant by abstinence-and beyond this general obligation all Catholics between the ages of eighteen and fifty-nine are obliged to eat somewhat less than usual at two of the day's three meals and to refrain from eating between meals - that is what under current Church law is meant by a fast. Those whose physicians have counseled them, in view of a medical condition, not to follow this pattern of fasting are exempted. Furthermore ON ALL THE FRIDAYS OF LENT, ALL CATHOLICS WHO ARE FOURTEEN YEARS OLD OR OLDER- WITH NO CUT-OFF AGE-ARE OBLIGED TO REFRAIN FROM EATING MEAT, in other words, ALL the Fridays of Lent are days of ABSTINENCE for most teenagers and for adults of any age. A FRIDAY IN LENT? NO MEAT!
The purpose of Lent, this season of greater commitment to penitential acts and greater devotion to prayer, is to help us to put our souls, our spiritual "house", in order. Lent should thus be a time of prolonged and prayerful examination of conscience, focused on the question: What is it in my present life that is disordered? And what practical steps do I have to take to get rid of this disorder? What inducements to disorder in other words need to be cut out of my life? God's help will be needed every step of the way, both to identify the disorder and to diagnose its cause, as well as, to do what it takes to set things straight. Our Lord's warning, if neglected, will be confirmed by experience: "Without ME YOU can do NOTHING!" That is why not just serious reflection and courageous effort but above all else prayer, prayer that is earnest, humble and persistent, is a requirement for success in straightening out the mess that we may have made of our lives. Reconstruction and Rehabilitation--a very different kind of "R and R" --that's what Lent is all about. Through strenuous prayer and penitential acts to unblock whatever is obstructing our soul's life-line to God-there we have our work cut outfor us! So let's roll up our sleeves and do it! And may God sustain us in this holy resolve!
On each Friday of Lent, the Stations of the Cross will he conducted at 7:00 in the evening, concluding with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and preceded by a Soup Supper served in the Church hall beginning at 6:00 p.m. On Ash Wednesday, in addition to the regular 8:00 a.m. Mass, a second Mass will be offered at 5:15p.m. Ashes will be distributed after each oft hese two Masses.
* * * * *And a propos of this whole topic of order and disorder, would it be unfair to categorize as a prescription for disorder President Obama's declared intent, as part of his program for "transforming" America, to constrain our armed forces into welcoming within their ranks those who will make an open display of homosexual behavior? Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (rather cautiously) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen have testified before Congress that while considerable time may still be needed to work out the details of its implementation, the policy itself is one that they support. To anticipated objections grounded in Scripture-Romans 1: 24-32; 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10; 1 Timothy 1: 8-11-secularists will reply that in a secular society such as ours argumentation that proceeds from a purely secular point of view is alone worthy of a hearing. Accordingly, in discussions with those who hold to such a view, an effective critique of the President's policy must restrict itself to the question: will implementation of the policy contribute to, or derogate from, the military's capacity to fulfill its mission of winning our nation wars?
A thoughtful comment addressed to this question appeared on the Op-Ed page of The Wall Street Journal for February 4th. The essay was submitted by Mackubin Thomas Owens, a Marine infantry veteran of Vietnam who is currently the editor of Orbis, the quarterly journal of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. May I share his essay with you.
* * * * *The Case Against Guys in the Military
By Mackubin Thomas Owens
Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, February 3, 2010
As expected, President Obama pledged during his State of the Union address to "work with Congress and our military to fmally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are." This law-often mistakenly referred to as "don't ask, don't tell-was passed in 1993 by a veto-proof margin in a Democratic- controlled Congress.
The law codified regulations in effect before President Bill Clinton's inauguration, making the historical prohibition against military service for homosexuals a matter of statute. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates observed in June of last year, "What we have is a law, not a policy or regulation. And as I discovered when I got into it, it is a very prescriptive law. It doesn't leave a lot to the imagination or a lot of flexibility."
The congressional findings supporting the 1993 law (section 654 of title 10, United States Code) reflect the common-sense observation that military organizations exist to win wars. To maximize the chances of battlefield success, military organizations must overcome the paralyzing effects of fear on the individual soldier and what the famous Prussian war theorist Carl von Clausewitz called "friction" and the "fog of uncertainty."
This they do by means of an ethos that stresses discipline, morale, good order and unit cohesion. Anything that threatens the nonsexual bonding that ties at the heart of unit cohesion adversely affects morale, discipline, and good order, generating friction and undermining this ethos. Congress at the time and many today, including members of Congress of both parties, believe that service by open homosexuals poses such a threat.
There are many foolish reasons to exclude homosexuals from serving in the armed services. One is simple anti-homosexual bigotry. But as the late Charles Moskos, the noted military sociologist, observed during the Clinton years, this does not mean that we should ignore the GOOD reasons. And the most important is expressed in the 1993 law: that open homosexuality is incompatible with military service because it undermines the military ethos upon which SUCCESS in war ultimately depends.
Winning the nation's wars is the military's functional imperative. Indeed, it is the only reason for a liberal society to maintain a military organization. War is terror. War is confusion. War is characterized by chance, uncertainty and friction. The military's ethos constitutes an evolutionary response to these factors-an attempt to minimize their impact.
Accordingly, the military stresses such martial virtues as courage, both physical and moral, a sense of honor and duty, discipline, a professional code of conduct, and loyalty. It places a premium on such factors as unit cohesion and morale. The glue of the military ethos is what the Greeks called philia-friendship, comradeship or brotherly love. Philia, the bond among disparate individuals who have nothing in common but facing death and misery together, is the source of unit cohesion that most research has shown to be critical to battlefield success.
Philia depends on fairness and the absence of favoritism. Favoritism and double standards are deadly to philia, and its associated phenomena--cohesion, morale and discipline-are absolutely critical to the success of a military organization.
The presence of open homosexuals in the close confines of ships or military units opens the possibility that eros-which unlike philia is sexual, and therefore individual and exclusive - will be unleashed into the environment. Eros manifests itself as sexual competition, protectiveness and favoritism, all of which undermine the nonsexual bonding essential to unit cohesion, good order, discipline and morale.
As Sen. James Webb (D., Va.), who was awarded the Navy Cross for valor as a Marine officer in Vietnam, wrote in the Weekly Standard in 1997, "There is no greater or more natural bias than that of an individual toward a beloved. And few emotions are more powerful, or more distracting, than those surrounding the pursuit of, competition for, or the breaking off of amorous relationships."
The destructive impact of such relationships on unit cohesion can be denied only by ideologues. Does a superior order his or her beloved into danger? If he or she demonstrates favoritism, what is the consequence for unit morale and discipline? What happens when jealousy rears its ugly head? These are questions of life and death, and they help to explain why open homosexuality and homosexual behavior traditionally have been considered incompatible with military service.
Although it is popular to equate opposition to permitting homosexuals to serve openly in the military today with opposition to racial integration of the services six decades ago, the similarities between two cases are superficial.
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell, who no doubt knows something about racial discrimination, made the proper distinction in a reply to former Rep. Pat Schroeder during testimony before the House Armed Services Committee in 1992 when she argued that point. "Skin color is a benign nonbehavioral characteristic. Sexual orientation is perhaps the most profound of human behavioral characteristics. Comparison of the two is a convenient but invalid argument," he said.
The reason for excluding open homosexuals from the military has nothing to do with equal rights or freedom of expression. Indeed, there is no constitutional right to serve in the military. The primary consideration must be military effectiveness. Congress should keep the ban in place. It certainly should not change the law when the United States is engaged in two wars.
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