This article on persecution is the fifth in a series called, “The U.S. Military and the Catholic Faith: A Comparison”, which examines the comparisons between the U.S. Army and Catholicism. Throughout my articles, I use the word ‘military’ loosely. I focus on the Army because I am a soldier and grew up through the ranks of the enlisted side. In fact, when I get to Heaven Saint Peter’s going to say, “How’d you earn your living boy?” and I’m going to say… “Army Cadence” and reference Matt 16:19:
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.
There are those who ignore, do not support or criticize the U.S. military. Yet, they take for granted what the military does to keep their nation free. Likewise, those who don’t believe in God, do not support Christianity in general or even persecute the Church. These people also take for granted the fact that without a strong Catholic Christian faith, there might be no education system nor medical facilities as we know them today. The possibility of us even being able to even debate these topics may not be allowed or be possible without the efforts of both the Church and the military. Now, of course, there are many who try to keep neutral, with no personal feelings for or against the Church or the military. However, this passive attitude is a subtle form of persecution. These are the people I would like to reach out to because as the book of Revelation warns us:
I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’ and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (Revelation 3:15-17)
Suffering and Persecution
Everyone goes through different forms of suffering and varying degrees of persecution. In the military, a type of persecution called hazing still happens, even though it is not sanctioned officially. People are belittled, harassed, and picked-on for all various reasons. These types of punishments can even drive someone to commit suicide to escape the pain. There are other countless other forms of persecution people endure while serving in the military. Dealing with hard times as the result of simply carrying out your duty often leads to family problems and even divorce for those in the military.
There are those who also may not be able to handle the pressure of a military lifestyle so they may decide to go AWOL (absent without leave) or desert. Desertion under the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) is a serious offense. If a service member is found guilty then according to the UCMJ 885. Art. 85 on Desertion states in paragraph (c)
“Any person found guilty of desertion or attempt to desert shall be punished, if the offense is committed in time of war, by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct, but if the desertion or attempt to desert occurs at any other time, by such punishment, other than death, as a court-martial may direct.”
Though this is stated in the UCMJ, doesn’t mean that it is usually applied. Similarly, in the Church, people believe and remember only the worst examples from the inquisitions. Generally, the inquisitions were used more of an apologetic approach to rebuke heretics and bring fallen away Christians back to the Church. I am not stating that there were not incidents of torture or death but it was not the norm for the entire history of the Church. Jacques Fournier (Pope Benedict XII) a famous inquisitor “who interviewed some 930 suspected heretics during his career, never used torture; he got all the information he needed through skill and not force.” (Moczar, p. 88, 2010)he early Church, first with Jesus and his Passion. His Apostles who initially started to the spread of the gospel were persecuted for believing in something they knew to be true. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the power in the blood of the martyrs.
Starting with the Passion of Jesus and then His Apostles who started to the spread of the gospel, the early Church was persecuted for believing in something they knew to be true. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the power in the blood of the martyrs.
“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
(Tertullian, 2nd century, “Apologeticum” Chapter 50)
Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even unto death. The martyr bears witness to Christ who died and rose, to whom he is united by charity. He bears witness to the truth of the faith and of Christian doctrine. He endures death through an act of fortitude. ‘Let me become the food of the beasts, through whom it will be given me to reach God.’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2473)
Men and women in the Military have also laid down their lives to keep the rest of their country safe. Often the price for standing up for the ideal of freedom and truth against tyrants or those who seek to deceive and enslave others is death. These men and women, who have died while serving our country in the military, are like martyrs of the faith both now and in the past.
- ARTICLE 85. DESERTION « UCMJ – United States Code of Military Justice. (n.d.). Retrieved July 14, 2016, from http://www.ucmj.us/sub-chapter-10-punitive-articles/885-article-85-desertion
Moczar, D. (2010). Seven lies about Catholic history: Infamous myths about the Church’s past and how to answer them. Charlotte, NC: Tan Books.