OUR ADVICE CONTACT A CO COUNSELOR on the GI Rights by redheadwaitress


									       OUR ADVICE                                               WITNESSES
                                                                                                                         C AT H O L I CS
                                                                                                                          A ND W A R

   CONTACT A CO COUNSELOR on the GI Rights                 “I went to Iraq and was an instrument of vio-
Hotline (800-394-9544) or at CPF before you             lence; now I’ve decided to become an instrument of

approach your commander. The CO application             peace.” -Camilo Mejia was the first soldier to
process is complicated and often misunderstood.         refuse re-deployment to Iraq. He was declared
                                                        AWOL. Wearing a medal of St. Francis, Mejia

                                                                                                             IN THE MILITARY
         Wouldn’t you protect your mother?              turned himself into authorities. He served 9
However you answer that, remind the questioner          months in military prison, during which time his
that CO is an objection to war, an organized and        CO claim was rejected as “too political.”
collective use of lethal violence.                        “My participation in systems of violence
         Don’t plenty of Catholics fight in war?        completely debilitates the living example I
You don’t need to answer for others in the mili-        believe is my bounded duty as a Christian to
tary - just yourself. You can stress that Church        offer.” -Joshua Casteel, an eight-year vet-
teaching firmly supports the refusal to partici-        eran of the U.S. Army and former interroga-
pate in war. In the early Church, military service      tor at Abu Ghraib prison, began his CO
was prohibited, and many saints were martyred           application in Iraq. It was approved.
by the Romans for throwing down their weapons
and proclaiming, “I am soldier of Christ.” More
recently, the Vatican II document Gaudium et spes
(#78-79) and the U.S. Bishops’ The Challenge of
Peace (#118-120) give support for COs.
         Why not serve as a noncombatant?
Some take this option, but most believe that
even administrative jobs serve the cause of war.
A recent CO also said: “All deployments now can
quickly become combat zones. With my refusal to
participate in violence, I will be a liability.”
Blind obedience is not an option for Catholics: in
the face of war, soldiers must choose. The                    For more information, contact:
Church’s options are nonviolence or just war                 CATHOLIC PEACE FELLOWSHIP
analysis. Both raise tough questions. As Cardinal                     P.O. Box 4232
Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) said, “Today                    South Bend, IN 46634
we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to
                                                                     (574) 232-2295                           Catholic Peace Fellowship
admit the very existence of a ‘just war’.” Learn
more at our site, then seek guidance and prayer.               catholicpeacefellowship.org                      catholicpeacefellowship.org
E   ach year, a small but steady number
    of people in the U.S. military receive
                                             APPLYING TO BE A CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR
legal status as conscientious objectors         The information provided below is based on Department of Defense directives and our experience
(COs) - those who have acquired “a firm,        counseling soldiers through the process. More details can be found at catholicpeacefellowship.org
fixed and sincere objection to all war.”     1) NOTIFYING THE COMMANDING OFFICER                    proceeding. Applicants are allowed to make a per-
COs are either reassigned to noncombat-      After undergoing a “crystallization of conscience”     sonal statement, present and question witnesses,
ant duties in the military (1-A-O), or are   in which one has come to reject war in any form,       and examine all items in their files. Applicants
honorably discharged (1-O). In order to      applicants must notify their immediate com-            are entitled to be represented and to record the
be legally recognized as military COs,       manding officer that they want to apply for con-       hearing, at their own expense. After the hearing,
soldiers must prove they became              scientious objector status. The unit commander         the investigating officer will prepare a written
opposed to participating in all war after    (who will want to know whether they seek non-          report and make a recommendation.
                                             combatant status or a discharge) is to provide a       5) THE FINAL REPORT
signing the enlistment contract and
                                             CO packet. Soldiers need to advocate for their         Applicants have the right to rebut the report’s
entering the military.                       rights and not let the process delay.                  findings (usually within 5-15 days), after which
    resently, soldiers cannot legally        2) THE APPLICATION                                     the appointing officer makes a recommendation.
P   object to a particular war; they must
prove an opposition to all war. This
                                             Applicants need to provide the following infor-
                                             mation: The nature of the belief requiring CO
                                                                                                    Applicants have the right to rebut any additional
                                                                                                    evidence adverse to their claim.
                                             status; specifics about how these beliefs devel-       6) THE FINAL RECOMMENDATION
denies the right of selective conscien-
                                             oped; when and why these beliefs became incom-         Ultimately, the secretary of the service branch
tious objection (SCO), despite repeated      patible with military combat service; the circum-      has the authority to grant CO status. The deci-
calls for that right from U.S. bishops.      stances, if any, under which applicants believe        sion is usually made between six and nine
Nonetheless, some soldiers have chosen       the use of force is justified; and how their daily     months after the application. According to regu-
this path and endured the consequences       life has changed because of these beliefs. Political   lations, during this time, applicants should be
of a court-martial. Other non-pacifists      statements should be avoided; this will lead to a      assigned duties that conflict as little as possible
believe that no modern war could fulfill     negative ruling. Applicants must also provide          with their stated beliefs.**
requirements for a just war. Thus they       letters from those who know their sincerity.           7) APPEAL OR DISCHARGE
apply as full COs. Clearly, the 375,000      3) THE INVESTIGATIVE INTERVIEW                         If a claim is denied, applicants should contact a
Catholics in the military have good rea-     Applicants must attend an interview with a mili-       lawyer or the Board of Corrections of Military
son to engage in conscience formation.       tary chaplain and a psychiatrist to validate the       Record (lengthy processes). Applicants can also
                                             sincerity and source of their convictions and to       submit a new application if a further change in
I placed my M-16 across my lap, and          asses their mental status. Interviewers submit a       belief has occurred. If approved, the applicant is
                                             written report.                                        granted 1-A-O noncombatant status or the 1-O
silently cried out a prayer to God. I was    4) THE INVESTIGATIVE HEARING                           honorable discharge, whichever they requested.
suddenly struck with a realization that      The reports and the application are submitted to       **Regulations state that if soldiers apply for CO
                                             the commanding officer with court-martial juris-       status after their unit receives mobilization orders,
would soon change my life. The dead                                                                 they can still be deployed. These soldiers may have
                                             diction over the applicant (“appointing officer”).
and injured... were victims of war, and      Applicants will be assigned an investigating offi-
                                                                                                    to go through the CO process while at war. They can
                                                                                                    make the case , however, that to comply with regula-
soldiers like me were responsible for        cer from a different company to hold an informal       tions, they should be put “in the rear detachment”;
war.                     -An Army Pfc.       hearing, not governed according to rules of legal      thus not deployed while their application is pending.

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