Are Drones Moral?

The Washington Post had an interesting article about the use of drones in warfare. My snap judgement comment is twofold. First that all war is evil and that we need to figure out other more peaceful ways of resolving conflict. The second is that until we do so, any way we can save lives in the process is something that we should certainly explore.

The increased use of drones has indeed been successful according to the WP:

With a year to go in President Obama’s first term, his administration can point to undeniable results: Osama bin Laden is dead, the core al-Qaeda network is near defeat, and members of its regional affiliates scan the sky for metallic glints.

Those results, delivered with unprecedented precision from aircraft that put no American pilots at risk, may help explain why the drone campaign has never attracted as much scrutiny as the detention or interrogation programs of the George W. Bush era. Although human rights advocates and others are increasingly critical of the drone program, the level of public debate remains muted.

But what of the psychological issues that arrive for those who are dropping bombs on faceless people? What harm does that cause? Also how ELSE might drones be used in the future is a subject that is unavoidable. Could drone technology be furthered to develop all kinds of horrible uses for it?

Dianne Feinstein notes:

“Whenever this is used, particularly in a lethal manner, there ought to be careful oversight, and that ought to be by civilians,” Feinstein said. “What we have is a very unique battlefield weapon. You can’t stop the technology from improving, so you better start thinking about how you monitor it.”

Indeed. While drones save many lives, they probably also cause irreparable psychological harm to many soldiers as well and the moral slope has a deep decline. Still, until we come up with more peaceful solutions, does the President have another choice?

Kim Jong Il Dead: What’s Next for North Korea?

It’s a dangerous time for North Korea (and the world) now that Kim Jong Il is dead. Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times shared this snip on Facebook moments ago.

North Korea is by far the most repressive and totalitarian country I’ve ever visited; it makes Syria or Burma seem like democracies. In North Korea, homes have a speaker on the wall to wake people up with propaganda in the morning and put them to sleep with it at night. The handicapped are sometimes moved out of the capital so they won’t give a bad impression to foreigners. And triplets, considered auspicious, are turned over to the state to raise. And now this nuclear armed country is being handed over to a new leader, presumably Kim Jong-un, still in his 20’s. The last transition was a dangerous time, as Kim Jong Il tried to prove his mettle by challenging the world, and this one mayl be as well. Look out.

As always, we pray for the soul or Kim Jong-Il. May he find the peace that he couldn’t find here and let us all pray for peace in the world, especially in North Korea. May the new leadership find more peaceful ways to lead their country and promote freedom over the oppressive ways of the past.

May we all find peace in this season that preaches the same.

Speaking for ALL Human Life

The always brilliant Br. Dan Horan, OFM has an excellent piece today on the Boehner situation. He defends the Catholic Theologians against those who claim that they are simply a strike from the left-leaning side of the Church (and presumably not as Catholic as some others would like them to be) and that these people have never spoken up for life at all.


Is it true that the signatories of this letter have been silent in matters concerning moral teaching related to abortion? I’m not sure that is true. I suggest that one possibility has to do with who is “silent” when.

Could it be that amid the often loud and bombastic shouts of challenge from some Catholics in matters related to abortion, the said shouters are so focused on their own involvement in the debate and protest to examine the perhaps less-orotund voices now critiqued for their continued championing of Catholic moral teaching?

As Sidney said in the Lillies of the Field, A-a-a-men.

He goes on to elucidate an amazing argument. But the most brilliant line comes at the end:

It is not enough to defend the unborn at the expense of the living. While it may be easier and safer to march for the sake of a baby never born than it is to care for the poor and marginalized in our midst, we must work with as much vigor and determination — if not more — for the poor and marginalized as we do for the unborn.

Perhaps if those who are still shouting would be quiet for a while and listen to what these teachers and leaders have to say, they will recognize the call of the Shepherd from the Gospel; the shepherd who both cares for his sheep, but in the end separates the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25).

Perfect. This week at UB, the UB pro-life club (which is not run by Campus Ministry but we have given them support–it’s not a Catholic club—it’s open to all religions and is student run) has their cemetery of the innocents display vandalized. This came on the heels of swastikas and other anti-semetic hate words were written all over a bathroom near the Hillel Campus Ministry after a known Holocaust denier was allowed to speak on Campus.

Hate and vitriol has no place anywhere. And we stand in solidarity with our Jewish friends against those who would bluntly rather have them eliminated. It’s amazing that such hate still has legs in this broken world.

But with regards to the cemetery, I’ve never been a fan of a display that ONLY speaks for the unborn. Several times now I’ve advised the club to be more consistent and that their message for supporting the unborn will gain a wider audience and they will be able to keep the doors open to dialogue. A better idea would have been to have 10 crosses that stated a “life issue” and asked for prayers for all of them. For example:

“For the unborn, the most vulnerable in society”
“For victims of domestic violence”
“For innocent victims of war”
“For our enemies, that their heart can be turned and we can live in peace.”
“For the elderly, and victims of euthanasia”
“For children abused by clergy and other adults”


That would’ve made someone think twice about vandalizing it and given us an opportunity to have an actual conversation instead of a one-way diatribe that only gets responded to with vandalism.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not defending the vandals and it was wrong for them to do what they did. But we need to be craftier in trying to speak with those who disagree with us. Because in the end, we still have to work with them in order to achieve our goals.

What Should Have Happened When President Obama Went to Notre Dame

Theologians across the Catholic spectrum have fired a salvo at Speaker of the House, John Boehner saying the Republican-supported budget he shepherded through the House of Representatives will hurt the poor, elderly and vulnerable. This comes as the speaker has been invited to be the commencement speaker at The Catholic University of America.

From the NY Times

“Mr. Speaker, your voting record is at variance from one of the Church’s most ancient moral teachings,” the letter says. “From the apostles to the present, the Magisterium of the Church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor. Your record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the poor is among the worst in Congress. This fundamental concern should have great urgency for Catholic policy makers. Yet, even now, you work in opposition to it.”


And more importantly, the theologians, unlike a lot of clergy, alumni and students at Notre Dame, did not ask that Mr Boehner’s invitation to speak be rescinded as many classless others did at Notre Dame.

Stephen F. Schneck, one of the professors who drafted the letter, stated it best:

“We are going out of our way to say, ‘Welcome to the Catholic University,’ ” Mr. Schneck said, “ ‘but we don’t agree with you.’ ”

Now that’s the way to protest and keep the conversation open.

Obi-Wan Kenobi is to Bin Laden As Darth Vader is to…..

OK this is one of the most creative ventures I’ve seen in some time.

It a mock news report from the Galactic Empire Times reporting on the death of Obi-Wan Kenobi of Star Wars Fame.

I’d suggest reading the whole thing here but there’s a snip below.

“For over two decades, Kenobi has been the Jedi rebellion’s leader and symbol,” the Lord of the Sith said in a statement broadcast across the galaxy via HoloNet. “The death of Kenobi marks the most significant achievement to date in our empire’s effort to defeat the rebel alliance. But his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that the rebellion will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad.”

Obi-Wan Kenobi ’s demise is a defining moment in the stormtrooper-led fight against terrorism, a symbolic stroke affirming the relentlessness of the pursuit of those who turned against the Empire at the end of the Clone Wars. What remains to be seen, however, is whether it galvanizes Kenobi’s followers by turning him into a martyr or serves as a turning of the page in the war against the Rebel Alliance and gives further impetus to Emperor Palpatine to step up Stormtrooper recruitment.

Very creative and it reminds me of the old Pogo cartoons in tone. “We have met the enemy and it is us?”

I’d also like to remind us that one of the central themes of Star Wars is forgiveness. Luke and Vader certainly have that moment. Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker (Vader’s alter ego) also do.

Pray for Our Enemies

From today’s NY Post:

A Catholic church in Ireland has provoked outrage among its parishioners after announcing plans for a Mass to pray for the “soul” of Osama bin Laden.
The Church of the Assumption in the affluent Dublin suburb of Howth distributed a leaflet to parishioners during its Sunday services that included details of the service.
Listed under “Mass Intentions” for Thursday in the church pamphlet distributed yesterday was a call to prayer for “Osama Bin Laden (Recently Deceased)” during that day’s 10 a.m. Mass.
Parishioners were immediately incensed, saying the idea of praying for the al Qaeda leader was an “insult,” particularly with the upcoming visit of President Obama to Ireland.

I think all churches should respond by doing the same. Perhaps not a mass particularly for bin Laden, but rather a plea to pray for our enemies and for those enemies that have died that they might in death turn towards the light that is God.

But I wouldn’t be completely opposed to a mass for Bin Laden either.



Op-Ed: Buffalo News: Can we find it in ourselves to forgive bin Laden?

The Buffalo News published an op-ed I wrote regarding the death of bin Laden. Same notes, different key…based on the last few days of material.

Upon hearing of Osama bin Laden’s death, I looked to my wife and said, “I know it’s not right to celebrate this, to take pleasure in vengeance, but I have to say that I’m not going to lose too much sleep about this death tonight.”

For Millennials, Sept. 11, 2001, was a seminal moment. Coupled with the madness of Columbine, the world suddenly became a very precarious place. Sunday night, many young people filled the streets, and while all seems right with the world right now, we all fail to see that things are not any different. War still rages on many fronts and terrorists still plan attempts to bomb subways and buildings and not merely disturb our peace, but eradicate it.

As a campus minister, I know that this does not look one bit like the peaceful kingdom of God.

Some thoughts from the local paper’s peanut gallery as well include:

Alan Marshall from South Wales, NY: A country that does not stand up for the rights of its citizenry is surly doomed. Before forgiveness is given the guilty must feel sorrow for the lives they so needlessly and suddenly have ended. So Mr. Hayes before you so cavalierly ask me to forgive Osama bin Laden, lets first ask the innocent people in the World Trade Center Twin Towers how they feel, remember those tortured soles? The ones that decided to jump 110 feet to their certain death, the courage to perform that act was surely superhuman, but better than enduring the searing heat of 2000 degrees and the eventuality of being burned alive. How about the passengers aboard flights 11, 77 and 175, think they wanted to die on that sunny gorgeous day, I think not. And lest we forget flight 93 those passengers at least had some time to react to their situation before their impending doom, they reacted and fought back! They didnt try to befriend the hijackers they fought back, force against force. You statement We can rejoice only when peace reigns instead of vengeance sounds nice and looks good on paper but you seem to miss one thing. They dont like you, your family, your beliefs, your god, your very being. You can offer you hand in friendship but realize they have from day one hated you and what you stand for.

For the record, I lost two friends that day and a distant family member in my wife’s family. So I know well the pain that has been inflicted by the terrorists. My point is that our hatred of them based on their hatred of us does not bring us closer to peace. It moves us closer to being like the terrorists.

That said, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have to fight against the forces–especially when faced with an immediate situation as those on United 93 like my friend Debbie Welsh, were thrust into.

However, the more we hate the terrorists the deeper their hatred for us grows. Now that Bin Laden is dead, what are we holding onto? Forgiveness calls us to move on into a healing space. That indeed takes time, but can we at least now take that first step towards peace?

Hello Dalai

The Dalai Lama weighed in on Osama Bin Laden and the possibility of forgiveness today.

As a human being, Bin Laden may have deserved compassion and even forgiveness, the Dalai Lama said in answer to a question about the assassination of the Al Qaeda leader. But, he said, “Forgiveness doesn’t mean forget what happened. … If something is serious and it is necessary to take counter-measures, you have to take counter-measures.”

A very measured approach by someone who is known for peace. It does seem like the LA Times is accurately saying that it seems like he’s saying that the US is justified in killing Bin Laden. It sounds vaguely like the Just War theory. Perhaps the Dalai Lama is saying that he’s too dangerous to be kept alive at this juncture and that in order to protect the public the United States is justified in killing him instead of imprisoning him.

I’m not sure I agree, but I can understand the mentality.

Dick McCloskey, who’s daughter Katie, died in the attacks had similar thoughts in the LA Times:

“The killing of a human being is never a good thing. I think it’s necessary sometimes, and in this case it was necessary. We had to get rid of this guy, and I applaud those who put their lives on the line to do this. But for anybody who wants to celebrate, I’d rather see them do that by doing something good for someone today.”

Like most people I’ve talked with, the issue of celebrating the death of Bin Laden with a beer bash in the streets seems to be what strikes many as inappropriate, at best.

All of this undoubtedly played into the good sense that President Obama showed by not releasing the pictures of a dead Bin Laden. His mention of not needing to “spike the football” was on the mark in my opinion.

As I’ve been saying all week. It’s time to stop stupid celebrations and start to do some serious healing through reconciliation.

How Do We Feel About God’s Forgiveness of Bin Laden?

I can see the anger spewing already at the sight of this post…

“God forgave Bin Laden? No way! The guy was evil. He got it all wrong. He made all the wrong choices.”

Others will point out the reality of hell as a possibility for all of us. A statement which is undoubtedly true in my own mind.

However, because hell is a reality, that doesn’t change the unlimited forgiveness that God offers to everyone, Bin Laden included. Hell is simply a state of being that is in the absence of God.

Forgiveness is always offered to everyone. Whether that person accepts God’s reconciliation or not is another story.

Jim Tighe, who lost his dad in the 9-11 disaster and is a candidate for the diaconate, put it best today in this snip from a touching post:

As a disciple of Christ, my life is given to his work. It is the work of bringing people into the light, not condemning them to the darkness. Osama Bin Laden was always easy to condemn into the darkness. On this issue, it is easier to go with the Philadelphia headline “Got the Bastard,” then it is to follow the words of Christ. But I’m going with Christ. This is, as best we know, a lost soul. Nothing to cheer about. That’s not what we do.

This is no way a defense of the man. He chose to live in the darkness. Any condemnation comes not from God but from his own choosing, just like the rest of us. He got what he chose, life in the darkness.

Whether Bin Laden or any of us choose any form of that darkness over God in perpetuity will be between us and God. The rest of us are left to speculate and I would say to even do that, is haughty and unhelpful.

Prayer is where we are most called. Knowing of God’s mercy, perhaps we should pray that peace can find the hearts of all those who choose darkness and that they can find their way back to light at some point.

After all, if God wills everyone to be saved, than perhaps so should we?

Is It Wrong to Celebrate Bin Laden’s Death?

Linton Weeks from National Public Radio emailed me after reading some of my comments on the need to forgive Bin Laden. And he wrote this outstanding column exploring much of the same questions. I’m quoted extensively in this so I’ll just quote from there and let you read the remainder of the column.

Not ‘Our Finest Moment’

The Roman Catholic Church responded to the news of bin Laden’s death with this statement: “Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of everyone before God and man, and hopes and pledges that every event is not an opportunity for a further growth of hatred, but of peace.”

“I think that’s on the mark,” says Mike Hayes, a campus minister at the University at Buffalo. “As a Catholic Christian, I cannot celebrate the death of anyone, especially when it is done violently. Naturally, my human nature fights against that idealism, especially when I think of those who I lost personally that day and all those who lost their life on 11 September.”

However, adds Hayes, who runs the Googling God blog for young adults, “I don’t think that the celebrations in the streets were our finest moment as Americans, and reminded me much of the anger I felt at seeing Afghans dancing in the streets at the fall of the Towers on that dreaded day.”

Hayes says: “We are called to forgiveness. And that is the only way that we can be truly free. Holding onto our hatred keeps us in slavery to bin Laden’s madness and gives the terrorists continued power over us.”

There is also a sense of false elation, he adds, “because many believe that the world is a safer place because of this death. That relief is probably misguided.”

Misguided indeed. The world might indeed be more precarious today that ever before. As a former New York City resident and now a resident of Buffalo, I remarked to a friend, “It’s a good day to live in Western NY. I don’t think I’d be too eager to take the subway today.”

Milennials certainly have grown up in this culture of terrorism and now that Bin Laden has died, there was a need for a collective sigh of relief, a sigh that grew into rampant celebration–something I found to be detestable, but understandable.

A former intern of mine wrote me from Singapore yesterday and had a good comment or two.

Its a catharsis for our young generation that the bogey man is dead. Not all bogey men, but one of them…the problem is in the real world the bogey man still is a human. And we must recognize him for his faults and maybe his virtue.

But right now we all have a lot of emotion kicking around that gets in front of that vital point, emotions that are valid, and real. Give it a second, and you will see the millenials will figure it out. To paraphrase an Irish writer I can’t remember. “its good enough to know that he was a man and that he lived” usually thats reserved for the over eulogized, but in this case its equally poignant.

Indeed. Excellent comments. A colleague of mine today asked why the world is any more precarious for the millinnials then it was for children of the 50 and 60s with the fallout shelters and air raid drills. As a Gen Xer we were scared to death of the Russians. However, today, we don’t really know the enemy as well. We don’t always know where the enemy will turn up. That, coupled with the over-parenting that many millennials have been raised with and the world can often seem far too scary and that we have far too few ways to battle back.

And JK on the NPR Website added this:

J K (phillipaj) wrote:
I’m glad that this question is being asked. Frankly, I was disturbed by the pictures and video of people rejoicing, jumping up and down with the American flag, and holding beers. This man was a killer and the world is safer without him, but to celebrate anyone’s death seems morbid and inappropriate to me.

Osama Bin Laden killed thousands of people – those people are still dead. As a result of 9/11, we invaded two countries – we are still there. Soldiers have died, been maimed, been severely injured, committed suicide – they are still dead or injured. Civilians have died, been maimed, been severely injured, committed suicide – they are still dead or injured.

To see mostly college students, who are here safe in America spending their days in the library, celebrating with beers while soldiers and civilians are still fighting and dying and trying to just survive another day, seemed to me disrespectful and out of touch. And I write this as a recent college graduate: I know that I was and am removed from most of the real implications of the after-effects of 9/11. Osama is dead, but let’s not forget that the impact of his actions and others’ reactions will continue to affect the world for many, many decades to come.

We continue to pray for peace and hope that we can show more decorum so that the rest of the world can continue to respect us.