Ben Salmon just popped up online at the Jewish Peace Fellowship website. More specifically, he made his appearance in the February 2019 issue of the Fellowship's monthly newsletter in an article written by Jack Gilroy entitled: "No War is Just: Ben Salmon."
Gilroy shares the highlights of Ben's stand against war and his subsequent torture and punishment by the military, closing the article with a couple paragraphs on the rising Catholic interest in disavowing Just War belief. Ben has made quite an impression on the Shalom readership as several have endorsed the petition to put Ben Salmon on the path to sainthood with one reader stating: "This man is a hero, not a traitor!"
If your curiosity leads you to investigate the Fellowship website, you'll be able to discover the Jewish tradition of pacifism and a Prayer for Peace in a Time of War that should get as wide a coverage as Ben Salmon's witness.
Compassionate Brockport, a group working for a more caring community in Brockport, NY (a village on the Erie Canal just west of Rochester), is holding an arts contest for students from elementary school through college on the theme of Love without Violence. Inspiration for entries can be had from the "exemplary commitments" made "to a world of Love without Violence" by Malala Yousafazi, Martin Luther King Jr., Franz Jagerstatter, Rosa Parks, and Ben Salmon. The guidelines for entries are at https://www.compassionatebrockport.org/ARTS-CONTEST.php.
The Friends of Franz and Ben have made a contribution to the Arts Contest prize fund.
The April 2017 issue of Peace & Change contains an article by Dr. Michael Baxter of Regis University, Denver entitled 'On the Front Lines in "The Army of Peace": The Life and Witness of Ben Salmon to a Church and a World at War.' The link to the published article online is http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/pech.12234/full. However, the Friends of Franz and Ben have obtained a license to reproduce the contents of the article on this site and a copy of the article provided by Professor Baxter can be accessed by clicking anywhere on the abstract below.
Please read the article and join the counter-tradition of radical pacifism discussed by Michael Baxter envisions arising from Ben Salmon's witness.
Note that a quote from page 212 of Ben Salmon's Magnum Opus was incorrectly published in the article about 2/3rds of the way down page 16. The quote should be "Evil can be conquered by Good..."
Ben Salmon's present from the US Government arrived in the mail on December 25, 1917. The gift was the 15-page Questionnaire which began with "NOTICE TO REGISTRANT.-You are required by law to return this Questionnaire filled out in accordance with instructions contained herein within seven days from date of this notice. Failure to do so is a misdemeanor punishable by fine or imprisonment for one year and may result in the loss of valuable rights and in immediate induction into military service." Ben got on the Questionnaire mailing list by registering for the draft on June 5, 1917, as required by law. http://www.bensalmon.org/whats-new/the-debut-of-ben-salmons-conscience
The Questionnaire was mailed to all registrants to facilitate their classification into one of five classes. The classes were numbered "in the inverse order of their importance to the economic interests of the Nation, which include the maintenance of necessary industry and agriculture and the support of dependents." Thus, Class 1 consisted of men that were of little importance to the economic interests of the Nation and were the first called to military service. The World War I draft did not empty the Class 1 list so the other classes were not called. The questions determining which class a registrant was assigned to are on the first page of the Questionnaire, shown on the left.
Recall that Ben Salmon submitted his registration with a claim for exemption due to "Conscience" along with a letter to "His Excellency, Woodrow Wilson" stating that he would prefer prison or death before participating in war. Ben continued to speak out against the war in the intervening months and in October 1917 he published and widely distributed a pamphlet entitled "Killing the Wrong Men" in which he made a plea for peace. This pamphlet attracted the attention of the Bureau of Investigation (the predecessor to the FBI) and both the local Denver and national press. After meeting with the US District Attorney for Denver, who must have told Ben that advocating for peace while the US was at war was treason, Ben ceased distribution of the pamphlet. Though he stopped that pamphlet, Ben continued in his attempts to end the war by publishing "Tax the Rich to Pay for the War" in November 1917.
So it could not have been much of a surprise when Ben wrote the following letter to his local draft board on December 26, 1917, the day after he received the Questionnaire, stating he would not fill out the Questionnaire though his refusal would violate the law.
Denver, Colorado, Dec. 26, 1917.
Local Board for Division No. 1,
City of Denver, State of Colorado,
3607 West 32nd Ave.,
The government's Questionnaire was received by me
yesterday -- Christmas day -- the day we celebrated the birth
of Him who bade nations as well as individuals "Love one another."
"You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt
love thy neighbor, and hate thy enemy. But I say to you, Love
your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them
that persecute and calumniate you." St. Matthew, V-43,44.
You may inform the proper officials that I refuse to
answer the Questionnaire.
I am legitimately entitled to exemption: a wife and
mother to support. However, I will not use my dependents to
shield me from an institution against which my soul rebels.
War is incompatible with my conception of Christianity.
I positively refuse to aid organized murder, either directly or
indirectly. I must serve God first, and, in serving Him it were
impossible to be other than loyal to my country -- the world.
Ultimately, individuals and nations must awaken and
rally to Christ's Standard or perish. Meantime, I must stand
firm and trust in God.
Let those that believe in wholesale violation of the
commandment "Thou shalt not kill" make a profession of their
faith by joining the army of war. I am in the army of Peace,
and in this army I intend to live and die.
Very truly yours,
(Signed) Ben J. Salmon.
If Ben Salmon had filled out and returned the Questionnaire, having a dependent mother and wife would likely have placed him in Class 3 or 4 and he never would have been drafted. However, he specifically stated in the letter to the Draft Board that he didn't want to take the easy way out when the war and the draft were his soul. On December 26th he gave notice to the Board and to the government that he was going to fight to the finish in the "army of Peace" against the evils of conscription and war.
The seven-day countdown of the window in which to return the Questionnaire had begun when the Questionnaire was mailed and Ben patiently waited throughout the 1917-1918 holiday period for the Board to respond.
The next blog post will detail the Board's actions at the end of the countdown but I will throw in a bit of a spoiler here: Neither the Board nor the US Government acted on Ben's admonition that Jesus bade nations "Love one another." I'll admit that's not much of a spoiler, since the fact that the Nation is not acting out of love is fairly obvious given the US military installations and forces currently stationed in 150 countries around the world. A century later, Ben Salmon's words and witness are needed to remind nations and individuals of Jesus' commandment to "Love one another."
- Steve Smith
By Mark Scibilia-Carver and the Friends of Franz & Ben Leadership Group
On April 6, 1917 the United States House of Representatives voted in favor of President Wilson’s war resolution and the U.S. entered WWI. On April 18, while meeting as the trustees of Catholic University (CU), two Cardinals and six Archbishops signed a letter which was delivered to Wilson by James Cardinal Gibbons. In the most effusively patriotic language possible, it promised all out support of U.S. Catholics for Wilson and the war.
That promise was kept. Three cardinals, including Gibbons, set up a general “Convention” of Catholics which took place at CU on August 11-12. “There were present official representatives, clerical and lay, from sixty-eight dioceses...twenty-seven national Catholic organizations and also of the entire Catholic press…In November, the Archbishops of the United States constituted themselves the National Catholic War Council. “ (Handbook of the NCWC, pages 8,10) The NCWC is considered the predecessor of today’s United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), making 2017 its centenary year.
Cardinal Dolan failed to mention that by the time the U.S. entered the war, millions of baptized Christians on both sides had killed and savaged each other in the war. Pope Benedict XV had termed it a useless slaughter, had called for a Christmas Truce on December 7, 1914, which was briefly observed by soldiers themselves (and later became the subject of the film Joyeux Noel), and had continued fervent efforts to end the conflict.
On August 1, 1917, Benedict issued a note to all the warring nations calling for peace and providing a plan on which it could be established. On August 15, Benedict’s Apostolic Delegate to the U.S. sent a note to Cardinal Gibbons asking him to “exert his influence” to have Wilson endorse the Pope’s peace plan. Gibbons assured the Delegate he would do all he could to further the Pope’s wishes. While not for certain, it is doubtful Gibbons kept this promise. In any case, the NCWC had just been formed and its direction was not altered. Gibbons was intent on using the war to further Catholic ascendancy in the U.S. (for more detail see “Snubbed, Pope Benedict XV and Cardinal James Gibbons”)
Having ignored this history, Cardinal Dolan failed to express concern about what it has led to, the pervasive Catholic support for war and militarism that is so evident today. One has only to attend a funeral Mass for a Catholic killed in Iraq or Afghanistan to see the glorification of war and warriors in a religious setting. Some idea of what a counter-gospel message is given at these funerals can be gotten by viewing the “Scroll of Remembrance” at: www.thecatholiccostofwar.org, which lists over 1000 U.S. Catholics killed in these wars. The homilies at these Masses reveal a “style of politics” that will ensure another century of Catholic support for war.
In his Presidential Address to the Fall Assembly, Cardinal DiNardo said our contribution to society as a people of faith “...is always to witness to the Gospel” and “Let us follow our Holy Father ever more closely.” To date, only one bishop who is an ordinary has made reference to the Gospel in relation to U.S. wars. Most bishops consider themselves just warrists and these can make no reference to the Gospel to support any killing. Just War Theory carries very little doctrinal weight, having never been articulated in a papal encyclical or by a council of the Church (see "In 1918, this American Catholic accepted a death sentence rather than go to war" for an update on the status of Just War Theory). The bishops have not even been able to use Just/Unjust War Theory to approve of Catholic participation in U.S. wars which are as patently unjust as WWI. Rather than fall back on the tradition of Gospel Nonviolence as lived by many saints and the early martyrs, they presently approve of Catholic participation in our wars via documents titled “Responsible Transition” written by a bishop who chaired the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace. The documents make war policy suggestions to the government and avoid teaching what the moral consequences of participation in an unjust war are. (Killing in an unjust war is murder.) Thus the US bishops continue supporting Catholic participation in our wars with no reference to either part of our Moral Tradition. Bishops who are concerned “always to witness to the Gospel” have certainly not been courageous or convincing teachers of the truth about Jesus.
Cardinal DiNardo, well known for his pro-life advocacy, responding to the November 5th massacre at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas said: “A Culture of Life cannot tolerate and must prevent senseless gun violence in all its forms.” Perhaps the Cardinal simply does not consider the last 26 years of U.S. war making, with millions killed, to have entailed any senseless gun violence or he would have tried to prevent it. Nor has he reckoned with the fact that among those killed are thousands of the unborn along with their mothers. On November 10, Pope Francis categorically condemned not only “the threat of their use” but also “their very possession” when speaking of nuclear weapons, yet Cardinal DiNardo didn’t mention this in an address otherwise concerned with following "the Holy Father ever more closely.” One hundred years earlier, Cardinal Gibbons was no closer to following Benedict XV.
Ed Loring of the Open Door Community (now of Baltimore), Joe Byrne of Jonah House, and I were able to witness to the Gospel and a Consistent Jesus Life Ethic on the sidewalk outside the Baltimore Basilica as the bishops entered for the opening Mass.
We put Ben Salmon’s five foot tall icon at the gate, spread signs along the sidewalk and held others:
There is no such animal as a just war- Ben Salmon
Either Jesus was a liar or war is never necessary -Ben Salmon
Mass abortions are the inevitable consequence of modern war -Fr. Charles McCarthy
After 100 years of “rendering to Caesar” it’s still a National Catholic War Council
The only “Responsible Transition” is to Gospel Nonviolence
We are Un-American: We are Catholic -Dorothy Day , 1948
1000+ Catholics have died in vain in Iraq and Afghanistan
You are my friends if you do what I command you. Love your enemies (3X) +Jesus+
$ on war is theft from the poor. Observe the Day of the Poor. Repent of support for U.S. war.
Archdiocese for the Military Services: “Force Multiplier” for the Pentagon, Spiritual enabler of the Works of War
(At this meeting, Archbishop Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services took over the chair of the bishops’ International Justice and Peace Committee, after being elected to this position the previous year.)
It has also been 100 years since Ben Salmon’s prophetic witness and resistance to war was ridiculed, condemned and ignored by Catholics of all stripes. He had an unusual combination of courage, love and wisdom that enabled him to endure insults, torture, prison and heartbreak for his faith in the nonviolent way of Jesus. We pray his example will lead many to non-cooperate with war and militarism and bring one more bishop the grace to teach with authority that it is no longer licit to even speak of a just war. In fact, it never was.
Sunday, November 11, 2018 will be the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, the end of the “War to End All Wars” that didn’t, as well as the Feast of St. Martin of Tours. St. Martin, Bishop of Tours, whose conversion to Christ made it impossible for him to continue serving in the military, is the patron saint of soldiers. When the USCCB has its opening Mass on that day, perhaps the liturgy booklet will contain the words of St. Martin and of Benjamin Joseph Salmon, true witnesses to the Gospel.
On All Saints Day 2017, Ben Salmon's grave was marked with the stone shown below. The Friends of Franz and Ben collected donations to have the stone placed on Ben's unmarked grave in Mt Carmel Cemetery, Hillside, Ill. Further information is on the Memorial page.
One hundred years ago on October 29th, 1917, Ben Salmon self-published a pamphlet entitled Killing the Wrong Men, that he hoped would eventually "cob-web" the United States when citizens bought and distributed his circular. The cover letter Ben sent and a copy of the circular are available as a .pdf file here
It is worth noting that radical Catholic Ben Salmon included the footnote: "Our slogan: Loyalty! First to God, then to our country."
As Secretary of the Denver Branch of the People's Council of America for Democracy and Peace, Ben advocated, in his circular, a peaceful resolution to the war the US had recently entered. Circulation of such a "seditious" and "treasonous" (in 1917 America had war fever) idea quickly launched an investigation by the US Bureau of Investigation (the predecessor to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)), led to the revocation of mailing privileges for the circular, and also caused the Knights of Columbus to expel Ben from membership. The result of all this denigration interrupted the distribution of the circular. However, Ben quickly rebounded and got out an improved circular a few weeks later, though it didn't fare any better with the censors. Details can be found at http://www.bensalmon.org/pamphlets.html
Though the Government plagued Ben and his neighbors with its investigation, the final result was that Ben was not prosecuted (the case was closed when Ben was sentenced to hard labor by the US Army) and his threatening pamphlets were preserved in the Bureau archives to be read in the 21st century.
Ben Salmon appears in the online edition of America, The Jesuit Review. On September 22, 2017, America magazine published an article entitled: "In 1918, this American Catholic accepted a death sentence rather than go to war." Author Barry Hudock outlines Ben Salmon's conscientious objection and actions opposing war, anchored on Ben's Catholic faith, and states: "Ben Salmon may one day be recognized as a prophet who helped lead his church in a direction as surprising as it is consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ." When Ben was standing against killing during WW1, the Catholic church in America was doing all it could to aid the war effort and Ben's witness went largely unnoticed. Hudock presents a timely update on the Catholic view of war, noting that the 'Just War' doctrine of Saints Ambrose, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and other medieval theologians has not been rigorously reviewed and only made "its first substantive appearance in an ecclesiastical document in the 1992 catechism" and thus has "little" doctrinal weight. A quote from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger points out the Catechism adds no doctrinal authority to Just War theory but simply documents it. Hudock then presents statements made by the three most recent Popes illustrating the Church's progress toward that day when, as Ben Salmon wrote a century ago, "...the Pope will officially declare that the command to not kill means to not kill."
Barry Hudock's article on Ben Salmon should be read by everyone in this time of perpetual war to learn of Ben's witness and to learn of the hope shown by the Church's movement from treating pacifist Salmon as an embarrassment to several present-day papal statements praising peaceful revolution and exhorting everyone to embrace Jesus' nonviolence teachings.
And please share this article and the revelation of the Church espousing nonviolence freely through social media and with folks at Mass and at other community interactions.
Friends of Franz & Ben are pleased to offer a brief but poignant comment about the moral courage of conscientious objector Franz Jagerstatter. Robert Ellsberg, publisher of Orbis Books and author of All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time, knows courage in the midst of crisis. During the Vietnam War, Robert's father, Daniel Ellsberg, released what became known as the Pentagon Papers. Robert's father said that after reading of the courage of Franz Jagerstatter, Austrian Catholic who refused to cooperate with Nazism, he felt compelled to release the history of the United States Government's secret expansion of the Vietnam War. Robert Ellsberg describes Jagerstatter’s courageous journey to trial in Berlin and beheading for refusing to swear allegiance to Nazism. Ellsberg then urges us to follow our consciences with the strength and resolve Jagerstatter had.
Franz Jagerstatter's ordeal parallels the witness of Ben Salmon during the earlier World War 1. This website is dedicated to the message of Ben Salmon, a Denver, Colorado Catholic, who refuted the Catholic doctrine of Just War and followed his conscience thru forced induction, court-martial, imprisonment in "The Hole", torture, and finally a hunger strike that led to his release, but also impaired his health for his remaining days. Please browse this site to learn more of these men who obeyed their Consciences.
Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, http://vcnv.org, attended the prayer vigil that was held at Ben Salmon's grave on June 20, 2017 and posted the following description of the event at www.huffingtonpost.com on July 10, 2017 and also on the vcnv.org site at http://vcnv.org/2017/07/10/aint-no-such-thing-as-a-just-war-ben-salmon-wwi-resister/
“Ain’t No Such Thing as A Just War” – Ben Salmon, WWI resister
July 10, 2017
Several days a week, Laurie Hasbrook arrives at the Voices office here in Chicago. She often takes off her bicycle helmet, unpins her pant leg, settles into an office chair and then leans back to give us an update on family and neighborhood news. Laurie’s two youngest sons are teenagers, and because they are black teenagers in Chicago they are at risk of being assaulted and killed simply for being young black men. Laurie has deep empathy for families trapped in war zones. She also firmly believes in silencing all guns.
Lately, we’ve been learning about the extraordinary determination shown by Ben Salmon, a conscientious objector during World War I who went to prison rather than enlist in the U.S. military. Salmon is buried in an unmarked grave in Mount Carmel Cemetery, on the outskirts of Chicago.
In June, 2017, a small group organized by “Friends of Franz and Ben” gathered at Salmon’s gravesite to commemorate his life.
Mark Scibilla Carver and Jack Gilroy had driven to Chicago from Upstate NY, carrying with them a life size icon bearing an image of Salmon, standing alone in what appeared to be desert sands, wearing a prison-issue uniform that bore his official prison number. Next to the icon was a tall, bare, wooden cross. Rev. Bernie Survil, who organized the vigil at Salmon’s grave, implanted a vigil candle in the ground next to the icon. Salmon’s grand-niece had come from Moab, Utah, to represent the Salmon family. Facing our group, she said that her family deeply admired Salmon’s refusal to cooperate with war. She acknowledged that he had been imprisoned, threatened with execution, sent for a psychiatric evaluation, sentenced to 25 years in prison, a sentence which was eventually commuted, and unable to return to his home in Denver for fear of being killed by antagonists. Charlotte Mates expressed her own determination to try and follow in his footsteps, believing we all have a personal responsibility not to cooperate with wars.
Bernie Survil invited anyone in the circle to step forward with a reflection. Mike Bremer, a carpenter who has spent three months in prison for conscientious objection to nuclear weapons, pulled a folded piece of paper out of his pocket and stepped forward to read from an article by Rev. John Dear, written several years ago, in which Dear notes that Ben Salmon made his brave stance before the world had ever heard of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, or Mohandas Gandhi. There was no Catholic Worker, no Pax Christi, and no War Resisters League to support him. He acted alone, and yet he remains connected to a vast network of people who recognize his courage and will continue telling his story to future generations.
Had his wisdom and that of numerous war resisters in the U.S. prevailed, the U.S. would not have entered W.W. I. The author of War Against War, Michael Kazin, conjectures about how W.W. I would have ended if the U.S. had not intervened. “The carnage might have continued for another year or two,” Kazin writes, “until citizens in the warring nations, who were already protesting the endless sacrifices required, forced their leaders to reach a settlement. If the Allies, led by France and Britain, had not won a total victory, there would have been no punitive peace treaty like that completed at Versailles, no stab-in-the back allegations by resentful Germans, and thus no rise, much less triumph, of Hitler and the Nazis. The next world war, with its 50 million deaths, would probably not have occurred.”
But the U.S. did enter WWI, and since that time each U.S. war has caused a rise in taxpayer contributions to maintain the MIC, the Military-Industrial complex, with its vise-like grip on educating the U.S. public and marketing U.S. wars. Spending for militarism trumps social spending. Here in Chicago, where the number of people killed by gun violence is the highest in the nation, the U.S. military runs ROTC classes enrolling 9,000 youngsters in Chicago public schools. Imagine if equivalent energies were devoted to promoting means and methods of nonviolence, along with ways to end the war against the environment and creation of “green” jobs among Chicago’s youngest generations.
If we could share Laurie’s revulsion in the face of weapons and inequality, imagine the possible results. We would never tolerate U.S. shipment of weapons to opulent Saudi royals who use their newly purchased laser guided munitions and Patriot missiles to devastate the infrastructure and civilians of Yemen. On the brink of famine and afflicted by an alarming spread of cholera, Yemenis also endure Saudi airstrikes that have wrecked roadways, hospitals and crucial sewage and sanitation infrastructure. 20 million people (in regions long plagued by U.S. gamesmanship), would not be expected to die this year from conflict-driven famine, in near-total media silence. Just four countries, Somaliland, Southern Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen are set to lose fully one third as many people as died in the entirety of the Second World War. None of that would be a normal occurrence in our world. Instead, perhaps religious leaders would vigorously remind us about Ben Salmon’s sacrifice; rather than attend the annual Air and Water show, (a theatrical display of U.S. military might which turns out a million “fans”), Chicagoans would make pilgrimages to the cemetery where Ben is buried. At this point, Mount Carmel cemetery is known for being the burial place of Al Capone.
The small group at the gravesite included a woman from Code Pink, a newly ordained Jesuit priest, several Catholic Workers, several couples who were formerly Catholic religious and have never stopped ministering to others and advocating for social justice, five people who’ve served many months in prison for their conscientious objection to war, and three Chicago area business professionals. We look forward to gatherings, in Chicago and elsewhere, of people who will take up the organizing call of those who celebrated, on July 7th, when representatives of 122 countries negotiated and passed a U.N. ban on nuclear weapons. This event happened while warlords wielding hideous weapons dominated the G20 gathering in Hamburg, Germany.
Laurie envisions building creative, peaceful connections between Chicago youngsters and their counterparts in Afghanistan, Yemen, Gaza, Iraq, and other lands. Ben Salmon guides our endeavors. We hope to again visit Salmon’s gravesite on Armistice Day, November 11, when our friends plan to set up a small marker bearing this inscription:
“There is no such thing as a just war.”
Ben J. Salmon
Oct. 15, 1888 – Feb. 15, 1932
Thou Shalt Not Kill