Navy chaplain says Afghanistan deployment has three dimensions


TAYLORS — Father Vincent does not mince words about Operation Enduring Freedom. The Navy chaplain just finished a two-and-a-half year tour of duty on the USS Enterprise and stopped in Greenville to spend Thanksgiving with family members.

(Editor’s Note: Following U.S. Department of Defense policy, The Miscellany is identifying the priest only by his first name per security concerns.)

Crew members on the USS Enterprise used to gather in the chapel for prayer meetings. Father Vincent said he read an excerpt from Bishop Fulton J. Sheen’s 1945 book, Seven Words of Jesus and Mary, on the night of Sept. 11. “… Evil will never be able to be stronger than it was on that particular day; for the worst thing that evil can do is not to ruin cities and to wage wars against the good and the living. The worst thing that evil can do is to kill God. Having been defeated in that, in evil’s strongest moment, when evil wore its greatest armor, it can never be victorious again.” The crew cheered.

Father Vincent celebrated Mass at Prince of Peace on Sunday, Nov. 25. In his homily, he emphasized that Operation Enduring Freedom meets all the criteria for a just war. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition — which Father Vincent urged everybody to buy — defines a just war as follows:

— the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

— all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

— there must be serious prospect of success;

— the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition (CCC 2309).

According to Father Vincent, there are three dimensions to Operation Enduring Freedom: military, education, and poverty. Very little has been reported about the poverty in Afghanistan except for the food drops. Illiteracy is high, and the country’s major cash crop is opium.

He faulted the secular media with stressing only the military aspect of the war and urged the congregation to check, a Catholic international news agency in Rome, for more balanced reporting.

Father Vincent stressed that “the world’s going to have to set up a system to define objective reality,” instead of today’s moral relativism. He urged Catholics to follow the Holy Father’s theology of faith and morality and referred specifically to the definition of terrorism in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition. “Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity” (CCC 2297).

Father Vincent had an interesting observation about Oct. 7, the day American forces first attacked Afghanistan. Oct. 7 is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. It is also the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto. An alliance of the Holy League — Spain, Venice, Genoa, and the Papal States — defeated a fleet of Ottoman Turks on that day in 1571. The battle is significant because it was the first victory of Christian Europe over the Ottoman Empire. The Christian forces attributed their victory to Mary’s intercession.

Father Vincent was one of four chaplains serving a crew of about 5,000 aboard the USS Enterprise. The others were two Protestants and a Muslim. The chaplains traveled by helicopter — referred to as the “Holy Heli” — to serve personnel aboard supply ships, destroyers, and cruisers in the area.

Father Vincent, now a lieutenant commander, served as an enlisted sailor in the early 1970s. He noted that he was the only Vietnam veteran aboard the USS Enterprise. After being discharged from the Navy, he worked in the insurance business for five years before entering the seminary. He was ordained in 1984.

Father Vincent is a religious order priest, a member of the Society of Missionaries of the Holy Apostles. He served for 10 years in Peru and Venezuela and one year in Connecticut, where he attended chaplain school.

Father Vincent started drilling as a reservist in 1996 and went on active reserve duty in 1998. He will report to his next post, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on Dec. 21.