SAVING MAJOR VAKOC
The horror and tragedy of war and violence continues in our times and the continuing urge some feel for violence remains largely unabated. Totalitarian regimes like we see in Iran and China think nothing of mowing down those who stand in protest of the denial of their basic rights. How often it seems the local newspapers announce the name of one or more of our sons or daughters serving in the armed forces who has been killed in Afghanistan or Iraq and the printed word is soon followed by pictures on TV of flag-draped coffins, the funeral and the grieving families. It seems at times we can almost become inured to it, give it little thought or attention, or write it off to the realities of war and violence. I turn to this subject this Sunday because for the first time since Vietnam a Catholic priest/chaplain has died of wounds sustained in combat. Major ( Father) James Vakoc of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis was laid to rest this week after having been seriously wounded in Iraq on May 29, 2004 while heroically caring for the troops and their spiritual comfort. Chaplains carry no guns or other munitions but an enemy adversary, even if they wished to, or a roadside bomb is always unable and unwilling to make distinctions. Father Vakoc’s death moves me to say again what I said when the war in Iraq first began (and it was the stated opinion of Pope John Paul II as well) that the war in Iraq did not and does not meet the standards of the “just-war” theory properly applied. It is therefore, quite simply, immoral.
So many young lives lost. My prayer is that President Obama will withdraw our gallant young women and men from harm’s way and soon. What is left behind in Iraq will certainly not be pretty and already the Iraqi government is claiming credit for throwing out the Yankee imvaders. How’s that for gratitude for lives lost? The war in Iraq should be on the list of wrongs that all pro-life people demand to be addressed but it seldom is. Why? Perhaps there is a sense of patriotism, a kind of “my country right or wrong but still my country” or, and I count myself in this group, a reluctance to seem to be saying that our service women and men are engaged in an immoral war. The US bishops have been silent too long and way too supportive. 9-11 gave birth to the Afghanistan incursion in search of the Taliban. I believe that decision met the criteria of “just war” and so did most of the rest of the world as the search for and rendering impotent the terrorists who struck fear into the hearts of peace-loving people throughout the world following 9-11 was justifiable. But it is time for us to remove our soldiers from Iraq. They have done what they could and only history will ultimately judge whether it was worth the loss of life. I suspect most of you who read this like myself will likely doubt it. But it is time for them to come home, to their wives and husbands, their parents and their children, to their jobs and to their places of worship. Father Vakoc’s ultimate sacrifice of self stirs me to ask all of you to pray for peace and an end to all forms of violence and attacks on human life – abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, embryonic stem cell research and war. The President of the United States promised during the campaign that ending this war would be a priority and he seems to be moving in that direction. This effort needs our prayers and our support.