The reluctant prophet Fr. George Zabelka

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I remember when “the reluctant prophet” George Zabelka  came through Toronto years ago.He died in 1992 but his memory and witness stays with me.

A very humble guy who became converted to the nonviolent gospel. A guy who “said nothing” when one of the greatest crimes in history took place: the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Years later (2005) I met a priest from Augusta, Georgia Bob Cushing who was been relieved of his duties in his parish because of negative backlash resulting from his decision to travel on a pilgrimage to Japan to apologize to the Japanese people for the United States’ use of atomic bombs on two of their cities 60 years ago.

The bishop. Kevin Boland wrote him saying “I am concerned about your using your position as an ordained priest of the Catholic church to foster and nourish your agenda as it pertains to your opinions about World War II,”

The nonviolent gospel of nonviolence is named as “your agenda’. Amazing.

Cushing stated the obvious that Americans have never dealt with the bombings, which Pope Paul VI called “butchery of untold magnitude.”

The Catholic Worker true to its mandate is promoting the film which includes witness from our friend in the peace movement, a survivor herself, Setsuko Thurlow. Their intro follows:

This film is not simply a biography; it is a visual testament that reflects the breadth of Christian doctrine and a view that the heart of Christianity is living a discipleship of Christ as active non-violence.

As a young priest and active duty officer in World War II, Father George Zabelka was the chaplain who offered spiritual reassurance to the crews of the bomber planes (right before the planes left the ground) that dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Father Zabelka remembers that he did not object before the planes took off although he knew what the planes were ordered to do. The severity of those attacks and devastation for civilians caused by those bombs prompted Father Zabelka to question what level of killing is acceptable and to what ends.

The conflict grew for him between his identity as a Catholic priest and his identity as a military chaplain who had given religious
sanction and moral clearance to the bomber crews. Father Zabelka questioned if it is possible to be a Christian and also to partake inthe ethos of war and militarism.

After Father Zabelka left the armed forces at the end of WWII, he resolved his question through experiencing the civil rights movement,the ideas of Martin Luther King, Jr., the theologies of nonviolence and the protest movements against the Vietnam War, nuclear proliferation, the military industrial complex, and militarism.

In the end Father Zabelka found affirmation of his belief that a discipleship of Christ rejects violence, protests violence, and aspires to live for the good news of peace, bearing love not arms.

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1 Comment »

  1. 1
    mushafta Says:

    Great story Ted!
    Dissidents have a place in the church.


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