Close the SOA?
The Catholic Left's annual protest against the School of the Americas has taken on a quasi-liturgical formality, with amply-photographed pilgrimages of students and clergy assembled outside Fort Benning featured in nearly every Catholic school alumni magazine. The reason the closure is imperative, activists say, is that the SOA provides a school for torture and political subversion. Even allowing for partisan exaggeration, my hunch was there had to be some basis in fact for the complaints; after all, the rebaptism of the SOA with the curiously Soviet-sounding name of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation suggests we're not meant to know -- or ask -- what really goes on inside. Yet the Close the SOA crowd are extraordinarily reticent about providing hard evidence, or even soft evidence, regarding the atrocities plotted or abetted behind the barbed wire. If the SOA/WHISC is an Abu Ghraib finishing school, why not show us the jpegs?
The current school's Board of Visitors includes political and religious advisors, including a priest who was a missionary in Central America in the 70s and 80s. This board helps to ensure that the school doesn't lose sight of its mission to inculcate respect for democracy and human rights. I would have thought the critics would applaud this, but they don't. Each year the school has an open house, but the critics prefer to get themselves arrested by making a scene on the outside of the base instead of coming in peacefully and engaging in dialogue during the open house. The critics attack a 25 year old history instead of getting to know the current faculty and students and sitting in on lectures and lessons (as the school invites them to throughout the year). The critics don't want facts to get in the way of their crusade).
So here's the rub. If the SOA were what its opponents say it is, even anti-Communist conservative Catholics, in the main, would agree it should be purged or shut down. But is it? Asked what really goes on in an abortion clinic, pro-lifers have a super-abundance of data, almost all provided by abortionists themselves. Asked what really goes on in SOA, its opponents talk about the death squads of Duarte's El Salvador: a grim history, true, but dating from the 1980s. More telling, the SOA survived all through the Clinton era, when the Left had excellent access to Washington policy makers. More telling still, it's hard to find at present any serious drive to enlist U.S. senators in the cause. Were there smoking guns to display, could it really be the case that no Democrat would take the opportunity to embarrass the current administration?
You have to wonder whether, at bottom, the annual SOA rally is meant to compensate for the bad conscience progressive Catholics have about their complete inability to face up to abortion. Their own rhetoric of concern for the defenseless points them inescapably toward the radical pro-life camp, and they can't help but feel a twinge of guilt in their helping -- if only by silence -- the abortionist cause. Nor can they be unaware of the paradox that the wealthiest and glitziest elements of U.S. society are overwhelmingly pro-abortion: there are no celebrity gallery openings or opera benefits or Broadway galas organized to support Operation Rescue.
Hence the crusade to close the SOA might seem to promise progressives the moral ascendancy -- Gott mit uns! -- of the 1960s Civil Rights movement. The taunting directed at the bored Fort Benning sentries by the protesters has all the old revolutionary timbre. The question is: do they believe it themselves?
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Posted by: Fr. Walter -
Oct. 13, 2005 8:20 PM ET USA
Well, if abuse of human rights by some graduates of the SOA is the criteria for closing it as a school of formation, than we should close just about every major seminary in the United States, as well as every college and university. There is a certain, forgive me for being blunt, willful idiocy about those who are protesting yearly to demand the closing of that school. In reality its goal is to train officers in an American understanding of human rights, not in human abuse.
Posted by: Convert1994 -
Oct. 13, 2005 11:11 AM ET USA
When I think about the sorry state of dogma and theology at Catholic universities -- not just UD -- I recall the words of the late Bishop Sheen: "Send your children to a state school where they will have to fight for their faith rather than a Catholic school where it will be taken from them!"
Posted by: -
Oct. 12, 2005 2:15 PM ET USA
The University of Dayton has hosted Catholics for Free Choice board member, Rosemary Radford Reuther. Avowed socialist, Barbara Ehrenreich (who has said the only thing she regrets about her abortions is that she had to pay for them) was here last year promoting her new book . Brian McNaught who "married" another man in Canada was here last year promoting same sex marriage. The Vagina Monolouges have been performed on campus for the past FOUR years including an appearance of Eve Ensler herself.
Posted by: Convert1994 -
Oct. 12, 2005 8:48 AM ET USA
Don't get me started on the University of Dayton. All I hear coming out of there is anti-SOA and anti-death penalty, NEVER anti-abortion! UD nuns embrace feminist spirituality, too. Why does UD allow Protestant campus ministry to exist there? Who does UD sanction Kwanzaa on campus? On December 8, 1992, I attended Mass at UD on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the priest used his homily to bash the Church over nonordination of women. A Catholic university? I do not think so.
Posted by: peco -
Oct. 11, 2005 5:44 PM ET USA
Oh, so lets shut down the SOA because some of its grads have participated in "human rights violations". Well guess what? Using that rationale West Point and many other US schools (including those leftist Ivy League schools) should be closed because some of their grads have returned to their countries and have been less than model citizens and leaders. Hey let's get rid of the Catholic Church because there are pervert priests. Give me a break! More tired old leftist BS.
Posted by: -
Oct. 11, 2005 4:11 PM ET USA
I participated in the SOA protest for the last three years AND led a group of 70 students from the University of Dayton to the March for Life. Approximately 15 of those students had also attended the SOA protest a month and a half earlier. Many people at the protest also attend the open house. I did, two years ago, along with a number of fellow UD students. SOA Watch does know a lot of what goes on in the school, and they have documented many cases of abuses of human rights abuse by SOA grads