Tag Archives: integrity

Character: “The Decisive Factor in the Life of an Individual and of Nations Alike.”

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I teach ethics, and as I observe the words and actions of President Trump and his closest advisors I see a massive attack on facts, truth, reason, intellectualism, and with them, more importantly, on integrity and character. It is actually very disconcerting to see those in power attempting to re-write facts, history, and even their own statements and promises before our eyes, denying truth, subverting facts, and pretending that with the exception of what they say today, there is no truth.

When Sean Spicer praised the February jobs report, a report that he and the President used refer to as “phony” he was asked if President Trump thought that this report was accurate. He grinned and said “They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.”

But then what can be expected from an administration that when contradicted calls the contractions lies, and those who insist on facts to be liars? It has insisted that alone of Federal Government employees that White House staffers don’t need to follow government ethics rules, and removes them from required ethics training. This goes to the heart of the problem with this administration, it does not care for truth and has long given up, if it ever had it. President Trump’s long history of not being an honest businessman, his numerous adulterous affairs during his marriages, and a list of people that he has cheated that runs into the hundreds with thousands of lawsuits against his business practices should have warned us that he would be the same man that he has always has been, and now he is in a position not only to continue to destroy any hint of his own integrity, but that nations as well, and many of his followers do not seem to give a damn.

Ethics do matter and facts do matter. Steven Covey wrote that “Moral authority comes from following universal and timeless principles like honesty, integrity, treating people with respect.” This is sadly lacking in the current administration, and it will be the death of the Republic. When the American President cannot be trusted to tell the truth and when his administration works to shield themselves from the law there will be reverberations. The moral authority of the American nation is at stake, and that matters more than the power of our economy or the military might of the nation. Once that trust, once that moral authority is eroded, the very foundations of the country are undermined, and quite possibly fatally undermined. As Thomas Paine noted: “Character is much easier kept than recovered.”

A nation founded as ours on the proposition that “all men are created equal” which depends on its leaders and citizens caring about their fidelity to the Constitution must understand that its character is linked to how we live up to those great secular scriptures. Character as Theodore Roosevelt noted is “in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.” 

So until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under ethics, News and current events, philosophy, Political Commentary

“Integrity, Purity Unselfish Devotion to Duty” Reflections on Winfield Scott Hancock after another Gettysburg Staff Ride

hancock

“I shall not fight upon the principle of state-rights, but for the Union, whole and undivided.” Winfield Scott Hancock

I am back home after leading another trip to Gettysburg with a new group of students.

I always come away from Gettysburg with a new appreciation of the sacrifice that was made there by so many Americans. I am always humbled and learn something new. I only wish that most Americans and our leaders of both political parties as well as most media types and pundits could grasp what I experience on each visit to this “hallowed ground.”

Quite honestly I do not think that the vast majority Americans understand, appreciate or value in the slightest the sacrifices of the men who fought and in many cases died to preserve the Union at Gettysburg. Even among those who do I think that the object of their appreciation are the military aspects of the battle often taken in isolation, not the profound strategic dimensions of what this battle as well as the fall of Vicksburg in the west at the same time had on the war.

Nor do they appreciate the massive political, ideological and social effects bought about by those Union victories in ending the war and how those effects redound to us today. This is especially true of the pundits, politicians and preachers, the “Trinity of Evil” as I call them whose shrill voices urge on divisions between our people; including some that call out for violence to maintain their groups social, economic or religious advantages over others. Quite a few even lament the fall of the South and the institution including the washed up rock and roll musician of the political right Ted Nugent who wrote in the Washington Times in July 2012: “I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War.” 

All of that concerns me as an American and a historian; because I realize how dangerous such historical ignorance and visceral propaganda is in the life of any nation. Thus when I go to Gettysburg, or for that matter any other battlefield of our American Civil War the sacrifices of those men and what they fought to maintain is again imprinted on my heart.

Abraham Lincoln eloquently noted about those soldiers who fought to turn back the Confederate tide at Gettysburg in his Gettysburg Address:

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

While I am an idealist I am also a pragmatist. I respect the right of others, even those that disagree with things that I very much believe in and support. Like it or not the keystone of our governmental system is one of compromise. That being said having relatives that fought on both sides of the American Civil War that I am not a sectionalist. Nor am I a person that attempts to use the political system to ensure that others have to follow my religious beliefs or to enrich certain groups. The democracy that is part of our republic’s system of government is not a perfect system by any means. In fact as the great English Prime Minister Winston Churchill noted “democracy was the worst form of government except for all the others.”

Thus I appreciate military men who maintain their oath to the nation in times of great conflict not abandoning it to support causes that they know are wrong because the people of their state, or interest group seek to divide that Union. Winfield Scott Hancock was one of those kind of men, as was George Meade, and John Buford, all of whom played key roles in defeating the Confederates at Gettysburg.

Hancock, who earned the title “Hancock the Superb” was the commander of the Union II Corps at Gettysburg. Upon the death of John Reynolds early on the first day of battle Hancock was appointed by Meade as commander of the Federal Left Wing, in effect becoming Meade’s deputy commander for the rest of the battle. He was seriously wounded as Pickett’s Charge came to its bloody end at “the Angle” and his dear friend Confederate General Lewis Armistead lay mortally wounded a few hundred yards away.

Hancock is an interesting character. He was from Pennsylvania but was a Democrat. He was not a Republican like Lincoln. Hancock was not a political ideologue but was since he was a Democrat he was suspect by some in the party establishments of both parties and never was given independent command.

Hancock gave his advice to Armistead and others who were preparing to leave the Union in early 1861 including Armistead and his commanding officer Brigadier General Albert Sidney Johnston. He made himself clear:

“I shall not fight upon the principle of state-rights, but for the Union, whole and undivided.” 

During the war he served with distinction and Ulysses Grant wrote of him:

“Hancock stands the most conspicuous figure of all the general officers who did not exercise a separate command. He commanded a corps longer than any other one, and his name was never mentioned as having committed in battle a blunder for which he was responsible. He was a man of very conspicuous personal appearance…. His genial disposition made him friends, and his personal courage and his presence with his command in the thickest of the fight won for him the confidence of troops serving under him. No matter how hard the fight, the 2d corps always felt that their commander was looking after them.”

After the war he supervised the execution of those convicted of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and in various postings in the occupied South attempted to mitigate some of the actions of those bent on vengeance and others who tried to exploit the defeated people of the south for political or economic gain.

Hancock ran for President and lost a narrow election in 1880 to James A. Garfield. After that he returned to the Army and died at the age of 61at his headquarters of complications from diabetes.

He was praised by political opponents. Former President Rutherford B. Hayes wrote:

“if when we make up our estimate of a public man, conspicuous both as a soldier and in civil life, we are to think first and chiefly of his manhood, his integrity, his purity, his singleness of purpose, and his unselfish devotion to duty, we can truthfully say of Hancock that he was through and through pure gold.” 

Another political opponent Republican General Francis A. Walker lamented not supporting Hancock in 1880 after the great corruption that engulfed the country during “Gilded Age” of the “Robber Barons” the 1880s. Walker wrote:

“Although I did not vote for General Hancock, I am strongly disposed to believe that one of the best things the nation has lost in recent years has been the example and the influence of that chivalric, stately, and splendid gentleman in the White House. Perhaps much which both parties now recognize as having been unfortunate and mischievous during the past thirteen years would have been avoided had General Hancock been elected.”

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As I stood at the statue that marks Hancock on Cemetery Hill this weekend I again was struck by the bravery, courage and integrity of that remarkable man.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Kira Gets Married, the June Swoon and the Rise and Fall of Stars

kira 1Kira Arriving escorted by her Proud Dad Tony

After having to deal with what has seemed like and unending series a series of memorial services, funerals and family medical crisis’ I finally something to celebrate.  Judy and I are going to the wedding of Kira.  Kira goes to the same church as Judy whose mother sings in the same choir.  Kira is a choir child and occasionally will sing with them. We first met Kira when she had just graduated from high school.  Even then she was a joy.  She was and is one of the sweetest girls we have ever known.  Of course Judy knew Kira and her family at church.  I was on the road frequently and only occasionally attended the church.  I got to know her better over at Gordon Biersch where she worked when Judy and I first started going there.  The first time I actually met her Judy told me “THIS IS KIRA AND YOU WILL OVERTIP HER.”  I did so but never regetted it, Kira always earned it.  If things were not too busy and even if they were busy Kira would pull up a chair by us and just talk.  Sometimes it was life, sometimes church, school or relationships but the conversation between us and Kira was something that we looked forward to every time we went to Biersch.  Now we know all of the bartenders and quite a few of the servers at the restaurant, and we love them all and we pretty much overtip them as well.  Kira however was something special.  As she completes college I know that she will do great things.   Her soon to be husband is a lucky man and is advised to take good care of Kira.

Kira is also a beautiful girl.  She comes from Irish and Italian stock, but you would think that she came direct from directly from Erin.  Her personal and physical beauty must have attracted guys like flies.  She seems to have stepped out of an Andrew Greely Bishop Blackie mystery as the sweet and beautiful heroine who helps Blackie solve the mystery.   If we had a daughter, we would want her to be Kira.

Kira will be married in the yard of her parent’s home.  Her and our Priest, Fr Jim will perform the ceremony.   The location is because some people attending are decidedly anti-Catholic and will not enter a Catholic church.  This means of course that I will be in my clericals tonight and maybe even wear a big pectoral cross or crucifix.  I seldom wear these even though my church says priests should wear silver pectoral crosses.  I personally find them a bit pretentious, but in this case to help draw fire from Fr Jim and make the anti-Catholics uncomfortable I will wear this and ingratiate myself to them.  Now, this will be a sacrifice for me as it will be hot and humid tonight.  Today happens to be the hottest day that we have had this year the temperature will be in the mid to high 90s with a heat index of over 100 degrees.  I will likely be sweating like a Boiler Technician on a World War Two cruiser in the South Pacific, probably off of Guadalcanal.  I hate humidity.  However tonight the cause is worthy of suffering for Jesus and I’m sure that the Deity Herself will approve.  When Judy and I were married we had temps in the high 90s but we were married in California with NO HUMIDITY thank you God.  There is the possibility that we could get storms so I am praying hard that at least for the duration of the ceremony that the heavens do not open as this is an open ceremony.  Now I do this kind of thing a lot with the Tides with varying degrees of success.  I do pray that the Deity Herself will smile upon Kira’s wedding.

kira 2Kira and Nate

A practical implication for Kira and her very soon to be husband is that the Roman Catholic Church will not recognize tonight’s ceremony because it is not being done in a church building.  The Commonwealth of Virginia will recognize this, but the church will not.  So tomorrow they will have the rite done in the small chapel in the church proper.  It is kind of a two step way of doing this and thankfully for the bride she has a wonderful priest who will work with her.  The inside the building requirement is because of an understanding that since marriage is a Sacrament of the Church that the wedding is to be performed in a religious setting among the faithful.  Complicating the situation was that Kira’s family’s home is in the boundary of another far more conservative parish that would have had to okay it, no chance of that. I do understand this requiement under Canon Law and try to follow it myself though I am not Roman; however as a Navy Chaplain sometimes I make exception to this.  However I also have theological questions about the necessity of getting married in the church building.  If the church is present where the Bishop is and by extension where the Priest is; and the Sacrament is performed in accordance with the Marriage Rite and proper intent of it being a Sacrament  conducted by a validly ordained Priest, how can it not be valid?  It seems to me that the same Holy Trinity which sanctifies the Rite conducted by the Priest is capable of doing this outside as well as inside of the church building.  I’m sure that the early Catholic Church could not do this, neither the Celtic Catholic missionaries who converted much of Western Europe.  They simply did not have the facilities.  Likewise, the underground churches in China or Islamic nations. The Bishop or Priest was present with the faithful and that ensured the validity of the sacraments, not the location.  I’m sure to get a barrage of theological criticism from the Ultra Montanes Canon Law Nazis but what do I care?

kira 3Presentation of the Newly Married Couple

A SHAMELESSS PLUG AND FREE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THE ABBY NORMAL ABBESS: Judy contributed her part for the wedding doing a beautiful Celtic design for the bulletin covers.  I saw her working on these and the detail that she puts into her work and the beauty of the finished product is simply amazing.  If you need digital artwork done for almost anything, or for that matter religious statues restored or custom clergy vestments she is incredible. Some of my posts about our Wiener Dogs display her work.  These are drawings and not photos if you have any questions.  Contact her through the like to the Abby Normal Abbess on the blog role link on right column of this page.

Speaking of the Norfolk Tides, they are emulating the old San Francisco Giants and are experiencing a “June Swoon.”  This has not been a good month for the home team.  The Orioles gutted our fearsome batting order bringing Nolan Reimold, Matt Wieters and Oscar Salazar to the big team where they are all doing well.  Our hitting has died, thankfully the pitching staff is still holding together.  Even more importantly our closest competitor the Durham Bulls are doing even worse this month and we remain a game up in the International League South.  I must redouble my prayers for the team and perhaps ask Tides General Manager Dave Rosenfeld if I can bless the bats.  After all it was Yogi Berra who once said: “I never blame myself when I’m not hitting. I just blame the bat and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn’t my fault that I’m not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?”  Since Master Yogi has made this pronouncement I am sure that something has happened to the bats and that an exorcism might be due.

Finally some stars are rising and falling this week in the Navy.  First the rising star:  Captain Frank Morneau, my first Commodore at EOD Group Two was selected for the rank of Rear Admiral Lower Half.  This is the same rank as a Army, Marine Corps or Air Force Brigadier General.  There are not many EOD Officers who have risen to this rank.  Captain Morneau is the second.  He was great to work for and is a dynamic and energetic officer.  I remember him most as being a baseball fan, actually a Yankees fan that carried a game used bat to staff meetings.  Since I only carry a baseball in my digital camouflage uniform and get some looks as I toss up and down as I walk our corridors I can imagine the looks that Rear Admiral Select Morneau will get at the Pentagon or Congressional hearings on EOD issues.

The falling star is Rear Admiral Alan Blues Baker, the Deputy Navy Chief of Chaplains and Chaplain of the Marine Corps.  Admiral Baker is a graduate of the Naval Academy and former Surface Warfare Officer.  He was investigated by the Navy Inspector General (why we don’t have an Inspector Admiral I will never know) for an allegation of retribution and violation of the Military Whistle Blower Protection Act in regard to the FY 2008 Chaplain Captain selection board.  I do not know Admiral Baker but as a career officer and chaplain in both the Army and Navy see his forced retirement and failure to become our Chief of Chaplains as yet another stain on our Corps.  I wish this had never happened and will keep him and his family in my prayers even as I pray for the future leadership of the Chaplain Corps.  Admiral Bob Burt who was scheduled to retire will remain in office for another year and Rear-Admiral Select Mark Tidd will assume the office as the Deputy and Chaplain of the Marine Corps as scheduled.

This issue grieves me.  I remember when my Brigade Executive Officer and later acting commander Colonel Jim Wigger tell me that the Chaplain Corps in the Army was far more political and had no Ruths, being so ruthless in comparison with the Army Medical Department.  The Army Medical Department was a pretty ruthless organization, so when Colonel Wigger told me that I was somewhat skeptical.  He told me that I was jumping from the “frying pan into the fire” and he was right.  The thing about chaplains regardless of denominational affiliation, theological background or rank is that we are expected to be above the board and exemplify integrity.  If we even give the impression that we are somehow unethical or lacking in integrity then what we say means nothing because people will either not believe us or discount what we say.  It creates a problem for those who are doing good things because some people will lump us all in with the wrong doer. When a chaplain falls it can create a crisis of faith in the community. It is the same as when a civilian minister falls from grace.  The Catholic pedophile priests, pastors of Evangelical Mega-Churches or large ministries who are accused of financial or sexual misconduct created the same problem for civilian ministers as well as military chaplains.  Admiral Baker’s fall comes on the heels of a young Chaplain named Dillman who was convicted of a number of sexual assault and improper conduct charges a couple of weeks ago.  This young man once named as a Military Chaplain Association of America  “Chaplain of the Year is going to Leavenworth for 10 years.  A couple of years ago we had a priest who was convicted of a number of sexual assault charges by having sex with other men and not telling them that he was HIV positive.  This chaplain was a “poster boy” for the Chaplain Corps and the Roman Catholic Church Military Archdiocese.  Another Chaplain named Klingenschmitt was convicted of disobeying lawful orders after having engaged in a prolonged period of protest against the Navy.  Klingenschmitt, who I have written about on this website before made an absolute ass out of himself by protesting the Navy in front of the White House, making spurious allegations against multiple commanding officers and lying through his teeth about “not being allowed to pray in Jesus Name.”  When I was at Camp LeJeune I had to relieve two Chaplains who were kicked out of the Navy for sexual misconduct, one Protestant and one Catholic.  When I was at Headquarters Battalion 2nd Marine Division I was given charge over several chaplains who had not acquitted themselves well in order to try to help them become successful.   I also saw Army Chaplains conduct themselves in less than exemplary fashion.

Of course chaplains and ministers are human and we all are flawed, as the Apostle Paul wrote “All have fouled up and fallen short of the Glory of God.”  This being said chaplains and ministers while being human and free to make mistakes need to be sure that those mistakes are not those which compromise our integrity.  When I was a young Army Chaplain we were told that SAM, Sex, Alcohol and Money were the three biggest issues that put chaplains out of the service in jail.   Let’s add retribution to that list.  It is a sad day for the Chaplain Corps.  Please pray for us as individuals as well as a Corps as we walk through this valley and keep Admiral Baker in your prayers.

Peace, Steve+

Post Script: The wedding went off well, the promise of the Deity Herself to hold back the rain materizlized as she had promised.  Howver it was hot and humid and though I look good in them was regretting wearing my clericals.  The June Swoon con tinues for the Tides and the Bulls but the Gwinnett Braves are sneaking up and are within two games of the Tides and one of the Bulls.  We have been getting some runs but need to have things come together and fast.  Harbor Park is withing my resposne time to the medical center so if there is nothing critical going on tomorrow afternoon I will head over and watch the game.  So for selfish reason if nothing else I pray for the good health of all tomorrow.

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