Student Soldiers

Is There Room for ROTC on Catholic Campuses?

Last year some renegade members of the prolife group at John Carroll University, where I teach, placed signs around the quad that caused quite a stir. One of the signs read: “Vote prochoice-signed Satan.” The resulting uproar led to a university-wide open meeting to air concerns about what is appropriate political dialogue on our Catholic campus.

Although the debate focused on the issue of abortion and was largely predictable, one comment caught my attention. A thoughtful and articulate prochoice student complained that, while the university will not allow a prochoice group on campus, it sponsors an ROTC unit. To this student, it was clearly inconsistent for the university to refuse to recognize a prochoice student group on the grounds that it was anti¬life and at the same time sponsor a military-science program in which students are taught how to maim and kill.

I knew this student to be a passionate advocate of much of the Catholic Church’s social-justice agenda. She knows the tradition reasonably well. Yet she simply assumed that hosting an ROTC program was incompatible with the university’s Catholic mission. The sustained applause that followed her comments suggested that many in the audience shared her view. The fact that the university could host an ROTC program and not host a prochoice group was thought to be evidence of shameless hypocrisy. If a Catholic university is going to ban prochoice...

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