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Ministry in the Military: Serving Those Who Serve
Susan Hines-Brigger
Source: St. Anthony Messenger magazine
Published: Friday, November 11, 2011
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The headquarters for the U.S. Archdiocese for Military Services in this file photo from June 2007.
Editor's note: This article first appear in St. Anthony Messenger in November 2004.

Archbishop O’Brien [then head of the Archdiocese for the Military] calls the work of those in the military a “noble profession,” akin to police officers. Their duty, he says, “is to defend the weak and the poor and the defenseless. I think it is not only a noble profession but also a lofty vocation.

“Christ defined himself as one who came to serve and not be served. We have young people giving their lives to total strangers for the cause of peace. They wouldn’t be doing what they are doing unless they’re peacemakers.”

But he points out that even St. Augustine recognized “that at times we must take actions that otherwise would be unpalatable because there’s evil in the world and we have to confront evil by putting an end to it somehow.” He described just war as “benevolent severity,” but only as a truly last resort. St. Thomas Aquinas treats the military profession under the category of charity, he says.

And what about the Good Samaritan?

“What would have happened a half hour before if that Good Samaritan came down and found the man about to be attacked or in the middle of the attack?” Archbishop O’Brien asks.

“Did he have a right to step back and say, ‘I’ll become a Good Samaritan when the thing’s over,’ or did he have an obligation to step in and do what he had to do and only what he had to do to put an end to that aggression? That is what our people are sworn to do.”

Father Bruno is even more direct: “Whether anyone likes it or not, the Church is in the military. So what would they have us do, just withdraw and leave them alone? Let them fend for themselves? “I would say on the average probably 25 percent—anywhere from 23 to 28 percent—of the active-duty personnel in the Department of Defense at any one time are Roman Catholic. That’s a huge number of people. So what do we do? Leave them alone? Let them go it alone, not be there to provide for them? We can’t really do that as a Church. Like it or not, they are a part of the Church and the Church needs to be there for them.”

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