During the summer of 1945, Father George Zabelka served as a Catholic chaplain with the U.S. Army Air Force. Zabelka was stationed on Tinian Island in the South Pacific and was priest and pastor for airmen in the 509th Composite Group.

The 509th was the group that dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Not surprisingly, this experience had a profound impact on Zabelka. He would later decide that war was wrong, and that the only way to be a Christian was to be a pacifist. In 1980, Zabelka spoke about his experiences and views with Sojourners magazine. The newspaper Catholic San Francisco has reprinted this interview in its latest issue.

Whether you are religious or non-religious, I think you will get something from reading it. Here’s an excerpt:

The facts are that 75,000 people were burned to death in one evening of fire bombing over Tokyo. Hundreds of thousands were destroyed in Dresden, Hamburg and Coventry by aerial bombing. The fact that 45,000 human beings were killed by one bomb over Nagasaki was new only to the extent that it was one bomb that did it.

To fail to speak to the utter moral corruption of the mass destruction of civilians was to fail as a Christian and a priest as I see it. Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened in and to a world and a Christian church that had asked for it — that had prepared the moral consciousness of humanity to do and to justify the unthinkable. I am sure there are church documents around someplace bemoaning civilian deaths in modern war, and I am sure those in power in the church will drag them out to show that it was giving moral leadership during World War II to its membership.

Well, I was there, and I’ll tell you that the operational moral atmosphere in the church in relation to mass bombing of enemy civilians was totally indifferent, silent, and corrupt at best — at worst it was religiously supportive of these activities by blessing those who did them.

Click here to read the interview.

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