Judy McCloskey couldn’t find the spiritual answers she was looking for as a Catholic military wife and patriot, so she created a place where she could. In 1998, CatholicMil.org (CM) was formed — partly in dedication to the Church’s belief that military service is a sacred duty. According the Catholic Encyclopedia, this means the soldier fulfills certain obligations of patriotism and obedience or should even be prepared to sacrifice himself for the country’s welfare. Because military men and women take on these roles courageously every day, they need a reliable support system.
Three crucial layers comprise the foundation and purpose of this organization. First is the spiritual edification of military members on active duty and their family members. Second, it exists to encourage professions in the Archdiocese for Military Services. Last, as an allegiance to Fr. Vincent Robert Capodanno, a Catholic chaplain who was killed in action while reading the Last Rites to fallen soldiers in Vietnam.
It is men like Fr. Capodanno that CatholicMil.org hopes to foster in their battle to protect our nation and restore justice overseas. According to the site, they want to instill “christocentric patriotism,” which is described as a love of country that flows from the love of God. “You could even say Christ was a patriot. He loved Jerusalem. He loved his home and he loves us,” said McCloskey.
This unique brand of patriotism is the essence of CM. McCloskey describes it as “other-centered” and “an extension of the virtue of charity, which is love.” Another important segment of CM focuses on reporting real news from on the battlefield. McCloskey’s annoyance with the mainstream media’s failure to report fairly and accurately inspired her to recruit what are essentially embedded bloggers. CM hosts three blogs, each specifically designated to a different purpose but all focused on reporting news that is otherwise unreported. “It’s not just the news, but also truth about the military service from a military ethics view and from a Catholic teaching perspective,” said McCloskey.
Each blogger carries unique experiences of the war that bring truth and perspective to an under-informed audience. These powerful firsthand accounts convey a reality necessary to bring real understanding about the war and of genuine military service.
Lt. Col. Timothy Parker, one of the bloggers, is commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion, 10th Marines currently deployed to Al-Anbar Province in Iraq and believes that CM is fulfilling a great void with their services. “Catholic-Americans have a proud heritage of service to God and this great nation,” said Parker. “Military service is rightly termed a vocation, which permits us to contribute our own sweat and blood in ensuring a continuation of all the freedoms we are afforded as God-given rights.”
Parker said the website is important because it “recognizes the commitment and sacrifices that all military members and their families endure to maintain these freedoms, and provides a forum in which to meet.”
CM has a five-member board of directors and a sizable advisory board made up of many retired military, Catholic leaders and specialists. Four experts are available to field questions from around the world, including a theologian, military ethicist, and a youth director. McCloskey said the military was “basically a large youth group” so the youth director is important to answer questions from any typical young adult’s perspective. A ministry called Frontline Families focuses specifically on soldier’s families and there are people available to answer questions and lend support 24 hours a day. They have also received significant support from former Alabama Sen. Jeremiah Denton, who was a former prisoner of war in Vietnam.
McCloskey continually referred to the absolute selflessness and generosity of those serving in the U.S. armed forces. She carefully recounted handwritten words from thankful soldiers who received CM’s care packages. One note in particular cited a husband and wife that were effectively taking turns between tours of duty and requested they simply share one care package between them. “It’s pretty clear they don’t realize that they are making history in what they are doing,” said McCloskey. “They are very humble, very eager, don’t complain…Americans complain when we don’t get a good night’s sleep — well you should see where these guys sleep.”
The mainstream media is guilty of over-reporting the negative aspects of war — like persistently blinking death tolls and replaying footage of destruction, but the real motive of the troops is lost beneath this kind of irresponsible coverage. “Our military personnel are not over there to shoot and kill but…to restore freedom, build roads, resurrect a nation that has been under such oppressive tyrannical rule,” said McCloskey.
McCloskey said CM started as nothing more than a glorified blog. The first public mention of the organization was in August of 2001, just two weeks before 9/11. When disaster struck, things got busy. Since then, soldiers have been using the resources and gifts of CM and consistently finding valuable spiritual guidance in the most accessible mode of communication — the Internet. The conservative voice reigns most powerfully through the web and CM is even considering beefing up the site with YouTube videos and other interactive features. Today, CM is a nonprofit, 501.c.3 corporation that survives on donations and outside support.
“Having a site that specifically speaks to the concerns and sacrifices of Catholic military members is a great comfort,” said Parker. “The ability to share sacrifices and draw inspiration from others’ experiences is invaluable.”
In our post interview follow-up, McCloskey selected a quote from the late Bishop Fulton J. Sheen to elaborate her view of the war: "There is a greater tragedy then death- the victory of evil.” In this battle against evil, for the betterment of Iraq and the protection of our nation, CatholicMil.org provides important spiritual weaponry. The shield of faith and sword of righteousness are far more important than the guns on their hips and the helmets on their heads.
McCloskey urges those at home to pray for our troops, chaplains and military families and attempt to help out at a local level. She suggests greeting returning soldiers from the airport and finding a reliable point of contact to get information on what the soldiers really need you to send them.
"CatholicMil’s mission regarding military service is to ‘seek the truth and report it’ and we do so by projecting the voice of the ground troops and their chaplains," said McCloskey.