Twenty nine years ago today six Jesuits and their two housekeepers were murdered by the American funded and trained military of the government of El Salvador. This military intervention continues to destabilize the Americas to this day and it is an outrage to God. My own personal experience of similar intervention aftermath in SE Asia first led me into ministry, and then twenty eight years later out of it when I realized that the church had no intention of being God’s spokesperson in these injustices, let alone doing anything concrete about it from the standpoint of love. In 1992 I was accepted into a fully funded, stipended PhD program in educational epistemology at Boston College (Jesuit). Today Boston College continues to support the US military through its association with the ROTC program. This is in direct contradiction to the life of the man who founded the Society of Jesus by giving up his militarism to radically speak the truth and love others as he had discovered that God loved him, St. Ignatius. I sent the following letter to the university a year ago. I received neither an acknowledgement nor a reply. Since my time at that wonderful institution I have resigned my ordination and taken a vow of poverty, in solidarity with the poor, in order to have greater authenticity with the poor, and so that I do not make enough money to support any government’s military through the taxes I would pay. Yesterday I finished a new edition of the workbook I originally wrote on compassion in 2002. The only authentic response to conflict in the world as a follower of Christ’s is naming the truth, raising up the injustice, and responding with compassion. Any other response is sin arising out of selfishness. There is no such thing as servant-leadership in the church, there is only being a slave of Christ’s, which may mean the actual losing of one’s life. The El Salvador martyrs know this; other Jesuits are seemingly not yet ready to shed their own blood as Christ did for them. And supposed Christians are paying millions in tax payer dollars to send troops to stop a few thousand people fleeing the aftermath of their own murderous intervention.
An Open Letter To Fr. William Leahy, S.J., President, Boston College – For Christ’s Sake, Teach Peace
November 23, 2017
Fr. William Leahy, S.J., President, Boston College
Mr. Ben Birnbaum, Editor, Boston College Magazine
Boston College Magazine
Chestnut Hill, MA
Dear Fr. Leahy, Mr. Birnbaum, and Boston College Magazine,
I attended Boston College as a graduate student from Fall 1992 until Spring 1995. I was awarded a Masters of Education degree in Religious Education in 1995 through the Lynch School of Education. I went on to complete a doctorate in 1999 at Andover Newton in feminist religious educational epistemology, emphasizing compassion. In 2000 we were fully funded tobuy property in order to start a retreat in a region where I had previously served as clergy. In addition to doing that we also began raising food for free distribution among those who have less access to the healthiest foods. To that end we planted a haskap orchard which is fully dedicated to that goal and draws many volunteers each year in its service. We now raise 3,000 haskap, 150 apple trees, and several hundred dwarf sour cherry trees, along with four large gardens of vegetables; these continue to expand yearly. My wife and I have taken vows of voluntary poverty to these ends. The glory is the struggle. My own education at Boston College was invaluable in innumerable respects in guiding and assisting us in this journey.
I am writing to you today, a few days after the Feast Day of the Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador. On that day peacemakers across the United States requested that Jesuit universities be faithful to both the Gospel as well as to the work of the Holy Spirit in the conversion of the founder of the Jesuits – St. Ignatius – and to divest themselves of the teaching of all war and its offshoots on their campuses and/or through the programs they support/sponsor.
I am aware that in 1973 the U.S government Department of Defense (DoD) ended the forced selective service system and created a voluntary military. Conscription turned to public media and educational institutions for recruitment. Programs were devised to lure young persons into the military at all three levels of education, 5th-8th grade, high school, and universities. The grade school and high school programs were directed to poor and at-risk youth, offering them tutoring, adventure, and school funding. Reserved Officer Training Corps (ROTC) for universities underwent major changes. The Solomon Amendment, passed by congress in 1996, is a federal law that allows the Secretary of Defense to deny federal grants (including research grants) to institutions of higher education if they prohibit or prevent ROTC or military recruitment on campus. However, schools did not have to offer the military training on campus to stay a part of this program. Instead, a smaller number of universities agreed to host military departments for Department of Defense, for Army, Navy/Marines and/or Air Force officer training. ROTC students from other schools can then travel to these selected universities for military training while attending regular classes at their own schools. This move allows the DoD to pour resources into schools that either hosted or supported military departments. I am painfully aware of your involvement in one such program. Along with other peacemakers across America I, as a US citizen, an alumni of your school, and a peacemaker, am calling on Boston College to cease your involvement in this program and to teach peace.
As an undergrad university student I, in 1978, assisted a British doctor treating the wounds of Hmong tribal people in the refugee camp in Nong Khai, Thailand. I was 20 years old. These wounds had been inflicted on these non-combative Lao natives by the United States Air Force in a bombing campaign meant to destabilize that region. Clandestine at the time, this is now a documented campaign that rained down munitions on these people on an average of every eight minutes over a period of nine years. It amounted to the greatest bombing campaign in US history; more ordinance was dropped there than in all of WW II. And I can personally attest that you have never seen anything so grotesque and repulsive as someone who has suffered phosphorous burns or had their skin melted off with napalm. My own education at Boston College gave voice to my experience and direction to peacemaking. I am deeply indebted to Brinton Lykes and others for their courage and leadership to me in these regards during my time there. And through their witness I additionally and gratefully eventually became a member of the Roman Catholic Church.
I ask you today to reconsider your involvement in the ROTC program and to be faithful to the Gospel and the teaching of St. Ignatius, and to stop teaching war. Thank you. The courtesy of a response is appreciated.
Craig Larson, OBlSB (Class of 1995)
Carol Larson, OBlSB
Wind and Water Farm Retreat
The Parkland Worker, Catholic Worker Farm (Co-Founders)
Swan River, Manitoba
As we come to know the seriousness of the situation, the war, the racism, the poverty in our world, we come to realize that things will not be changed simply by words or demonstrations. Rather, it’s a question of living one’s life in a drastically different way. – Dorothy Day
History will judge societies and government – and their institutions – not by how big they are or how well they serve the rich and powerful, but by how effectively they respond to the needs of the poor and helpless. – Cesar Chavez