The Unholy Days Nagasaki

The Catholic Urakami Cathedral  Aug.9. 1945

I met Bob Cushing a number of years ago and his  case still sticks with me whenever the Unholy Days of August 6-9 come around.

The story is this.

Cushing like many sensitive Catholics has been tortured by the failure of his country to repent of its war crimes of August 6 and August 9, the decimation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the opening of the nuclear age.

Cushing dared challenge “the myth” that his country has always been the global knight in shining armour.The only country ever to use nuclear weapons on human beings has, despite the evidence (see my earlier posting) never acknowledged any culpability here. “The butchery of untold magnitude” as Pope Paul Vl described the bombings” hardly disturbed the American hierarchy.This “crime against God and man himself” as Vatican ll described it had been neatly tucked away and forgotten.

In 2005 Cushing, the son of a military man then an associate at St.Theresa of Avila parish in Augusta, Georgia could no longer stomach the silence and denials around the US and nuclearism.

Augusta had always been a hard nut to crack. Most people associate it with golf and the Masters. Even there there is a story The great course was laid out by golf ikon Bobby Jones in the 20s.The Masters has evolved into the great American tournament. Lots of tradition, the green jacket and all that.The seamier side is that its in cracker country and the club did not allow a black golfer to play in the Masters till Lee Elder cracked the bar in 1975. Then It took 15 more years for the  Augusta National Golf Club to allow its first black member, presumably some wealthy Coke executive. Today, it still bars women from joining.

This is rough ground for the gospel seed to sprout.

Bob Cushing’s journey had been gradual. He had always dreamed of being a military chaplain until he met one, Fr Sal De Angelo who steered him to PAX Christi and its pantheon of nonviolent heroes like Gandhi, Bonhoeffer and  M.L. King Cushing then met the great Jesuit pacifist Dick McSorley and the conversion process began.

In the mid 80s Cushing hosted a hibakusha, a nuclear survivor from Nagasaki at his parish. Sumiteru Taniguchi, Cushing was riveted by Taniguchi’s shocking testimony of being 15 years old when the Nagasaki bomb exploded.

Thrown face down into a ditch by the initial force of the blast, he survived with massive radiation burns on his back,” Cushing wrote. “Forty years later he came to us as a pilgrim of peace. After showing us file footage of his city — before, during and after the blast — he reverently bowed to us, turned his back and unveiled his wounds. I will never forget what I saw: an almost black and white negative imprint of hell on human flesh. When his eyes came up to meet ours, the woman next to me blurted out, ‘Mr. Taniguchi, please forgive us for dropping that bomb on you!’ Before the translator could open his mouth, Mr. Sumiteru Taniguchi responded: ‘I forgive, but please forgive sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.’ ”

Cushing’s pacifism deepened.

He was now at age 55 off to Japan to ask forgiveness. He oreached about his mission and the place erupted. No support from the pastor, the bishop or the diocesan paper.

The bishop said he was “pushing his own agenda.”

Funny. He was free  to obsess about right to life but when he challenged the shocking amount of money spent on war, the lies of GW Bush over Iraq, the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the continued militarization of America , Bob Cushing was told to shut up. The gospel of the nonviolent Jesus now was apparently Cushing’s own agenda. Challenging the American myth was his sin. No support from the pastor or the bishop. Parishioners were incensed. Fr. Cushing had become a pariah.

The local Catholic house organ the Chronicle went ballistic. Yet Cushing was not alone. 500 other Chrsitians who were part of PAx Christi, Augusta  signed the open letter “to the People of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which began  “We are citizens of the United States who wish to express to you our profound sorrow for the atomic bombing of your cities in 1945.”

What, America apologize asked the bishop’s paper. You must be kidding.

“Apologize for what?” it was the Japanese who should apologize.

“[T]he United States only did what it had to do to repel and eliminate Japan’s own imperialistic aggressions. … [W]e suggest the good reverend stay home and tend to his flock at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church in Augusta. … Sometimes bad things have to happen. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 had to happen.”

Like Jeremiah the anguished prophet whose burning heart compelled him to utter the pained truth which would alienate him from his contemporaries, Cushing simply had to speak. His Catholic conscience, buttressed by his association with that dubious Pax Christi  crowd  drove him to confront the myth of America the Pure

And his priest superiors…Just keep going, Bob. You are not wanted here.

I  have often thought of this brave man, now running a parish in Albany, Georgia. It took a lot of courage to confront American innocence during the Unholy Days of August 6-9.

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