Readers’ Responses March/April 2020

Readers respond to our print, web and social media posts

Editor’s note: This issue’s Readers’ Responses column is devoted to reactions to a letter in our November/December 2019 issue criticizing Maryknoll Father Vincent Capodanno, who was killed serving as a military chaplain during the Vietnam War. Father Capodanno was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously and his cause for canonization has been sent to the Vatican.

In his letter finding fault with Maryknoll Father Vincent Capodanno for serving as a military chaplain “on the battlefield called Vietnam,” Ray Kalainikas suggests that Father Capodanno was not “Christ-like and saintly like Gandhi.” Perhaps Kalainikas has not read Gandhi’s autobiography and does not know that Gandhi organized a volunteer ambulance corps to support the British Army in the Boer War. Years later, during World War I, Gandhi organized another volunteer ambulance corps to aid the British. That was a politically incorrect move on his part. Yet, that is what made Gandhi and Capodanno both Christ-like: their willingness to respond to suffering with compassion, not politics.
Eugene Sobka
Salinas, California

My parents were Maryknoll contributors, as I am now, 80-plus years all together. As I was reading your November/December magazine, I was thinking of passing it to my son and his family. When I came to the reader’s letter “Saint or Hero” my heart sank and I was deeply perturbed. My father was in the U.S. Army for 22 years and my son was a Marine for seven years. Father Capodanno did not “green light” killing and maiming and to say so is callous and mean-spirited, not only to him but to all who serve and have sacrificed much. Father Capodanno was a light to his fellow servicemen and revered for faithfully standing with his men, providing sacraments, comfort, solace, faith and in the end giving his own life. He continues to be the ultimate example of what it is to serve others. I will not be passing the Maryknoll magazine to my son so as not to cause any more pain and anguish to him or any service member who might read that letter. As Catholics, we are called to be Christ-like by building and lifting each other up, and we should all be more judicious in what we say or write and more importantly what we print, because once said it never goes away.
Anny Cortes Penny
The Woodlands, Texas

I wish to comment on the letter regarding Navy Chaplain Father Vincent Capodanno in your November/December 2019 issue. I am familiar with Father Capodanno because I lived in Staten Island, N.Y., before retiring to Florida. I prayed to Father Capodanno for his intercession for healing from multiple sclerosis, which I had suffered from for 11 years. I believe I was healed from MS through Father Capodanno’s intercession and I contacted the Archdiocese for the Military Services and informed them. After a two-year investigation of all my medical records, the archdiocese sent them to the Diocese of Palm Beach, Fla., which also investigated. This past July the investigation was closed and sealed and given to the postulator from Rome. Father Capodanno is, in my mind, a saint.
Joanne Coscia
Vero Beach, Florida

The November/December letter writer is misguided in his thinking about military chaplains. Navy Chaplain Father Capodanno did not give the green light for anybody to kill and maim the enemy in Vietnam. That is not the job of a chaplain. Chaplains are considered non-combatants. Ironically, Father Capodanno tried to save the life of a young Marine by shielding him when he, himself, was hit by enemy fire. Greater love no man has than to lay down his life for another. That’s the stuff that saints are made of.
Joseph P. Nolan
Waterbury, Connecticut

A letter in the November/December 2019 issue of Maryknoll magazine insinuated that Father Vincent Capodanno was not Christ-like. Father Capodanno’s mission was not to debate the rules of war, but to minister to those to whom he had been entrusted. He ended up giving his life to that mission. Instead of condemning a man who lived his faith and died so that others might live, perhaps we should examine our own Christ-like examples and seek out the places in our own lives where we give the green light to killing and maiming: ignoring the truth about abortion … pretending pornography is a victimless crime … agreeing with the lie that euthanasia is “mercy.”
We are never called to judge others. Our job is to live out the Gospel as people fully alive in Christ.
Emily Tennant
Bethesda, Maryland

I was flabbergasted to see a reader’s comment that Maryknoll Father Vincent Capodanno, as a military chaplain, gave a “green light to killing and maiming the enemy” in Vietnam. I served in Vietnam as a Navy “Marine Doc” with my brother Marines and I can say from firsthand experience that military chaplains serving with our armed forces never give even a hint to any soldier to kill an enemy in any way. Many military chaplains have risked and given their lives while providing comfort and the last rites to mortally wounded soldiers. My combat brothers served and risked their lives to give that writer the freedom and right to be ignorant.
Saul G. Moreno
El Paso, Texas

Regarding a reader’s condemning of Father Vincent Capodanno, I feel sorry for him if he really believes that Father Capodanno gave the green light to kill the enemy. Father Capodanno was trying to save souls. If we refused to fight for what is right, we might still be under British rule, still have slavery and Japan and Germany would rule a large part of the world.
Robert Plassmeyer
Santa Clarita, California

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