Pope: “You Go to War w/ Salvation Army You Have, Not Salvation Army You Want”

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — The Salvation Army was founded in 1865. Its first converts were alcoholics, heroin addicts, prostitutes and other “undesirables” unwelcome in polite Christian society. And for nearly 150 years, these undesirables have been running one of the most lucrative and scandalous charities in existence.

From 1940 through the 1970s, the Salvation Army in Australia sheltered approximately 30,000 children and acknowledged that sexual molestation may have occurred, affecting as many as 500 potential “claimants” (the term the Army uses to describe victims of its abuses who have secured legal counsel).

In December 2001, a Moscow court ruled that the Salvation Army was a “paramilitary” organization subject to expulsion when the Army jokingly told Russian officials that after it had trained Polish soldiers to commandeer septic tanks, they would invade.

Because of the Army’s substantial fortune and exclusionary practices, critics often call its tax exempt status into question. Examples cited include its notable income, ties to multinational corporations, discriminatory hiring practices against those it believes to be homosexual, and its selective, equally discriminatory position on who receives its aid. For instance, when it was revealed that the George W. Bush White House committed to issue a regulation that would override local anti-discrimination laws, disclosure of the Salvation Army’s request outraged civil rights groups and lawmakers. Oddly, it also resulted in several Boy Scout leaders inexplicably severing their allegiances with the Army.

In December 2010, the Salvation Army faced a new torrent of public outrage when it was discovered that branches in Texas were requiring proof of citizenship to determine a needy child’s eligibility to receive the hand-me-downs of wealthier Americans.

Today, the Army finds itself plagued with a visible rise in protests, vandalism and death threats. On February 8, 2010, a Salvation Army store in West Virginia was vandalized, with all its doors and windows smashed. Although the vandals stole only $20 from a cash register, repairing the damage will cost thousands. In Texas, an intoxicated man threatened to get a gun and kill everyone at the Salvation Army shelter.

This increase in violence has forced desperate Captains, fearing for the safety of their troops, to turn to the Vatican for assistance. Last week, the Pope called a meeting to discuss available options and strategies.

The Pope arrived with a full security detail flanking his newly up-armored Pope Mobile, protected by over five feet of bullet proof plexi-glass and reinforced Kevlar panels. Pope Benedict XVI addressed the crowd through a speaker attached to a papal body-double, while the pontiff himself hid within a lead body casing. In his speech, he reassured all members of the Salvation Army: “Clearly we have God on our side and need not dwell in fear. I am living proof of this faith in action. You must remain strong. The Lord will protect those who truly believe in Him. No harm will come to the devout.”

But one Army member was unconvinced. He disrupted the Pope’s speech with an impromptu question that shocked all in attendance: “Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles? And why don’t we have those resources readily available to us? Like, can we get Pope Mobiles too? Bullet proof vests? Some less embarrassing uniforms?”

The Pope seemed stunned, but asked the solider to repeat his question. After, the Pope replied, “It isn’t a matter of money. It isn’t a matter on the part of the Army of desire. It’s a matter of production and capability of doing it. As you know, ah, you go to war with the army you have—not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

Author: BC Bass

5 thoughts on “Pope: “You Go to War w/ Salvation Army You Have, Not Salvation Army You Want”

  1. [BC Bass wrote:]A man who won the lottery attempted to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Salvation Army. They would not take the money, citing that he had obtained it gambling. Which is sinful, they said. Then I suppose they went back to their Bingo games.

    Two points:

    The Salvation Army does not run bingo or any other gambling for fundraising.

    I am assuming the “spurned donor” story is the one out of Florida a few years ago. A local Captain did indeed refuse the donation at first, BUT HE WAS OVERRULED by his divisional headquarters, and the donation accepted. Salvation Army founder William Booth is quoted as saying, “the only thing wrong with tainted money is that there ‘taint enough.”

  2. I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I think it’s important that they get the protection they need, as pointed out in the article, to defend themselves from further attacks.

    I also agree that satire is fun, but that the shooting Major Philip Wise in front of his children was inexcusable. It truly is a tragedy. I don’t recall mentioning that in the article, though. I went back through it. Maybe I need to read between the lines a little more.

    Now that I’m thinking of it, I realized how right you are. There are a lot of things that just aren’t that funny. I mentioned a few of them in the article. But here’s another one. In 2009, a Salvation Army worker was arrested after authorities discovered he had molested three young girls, impregnating one of them. She bore his child. Even worse, detectives discovered that the Salvation Army worker had tried to hire a hit man to kill witnesses who could testify against him – including all of his alleged teenaged victims, an infant only months old, and any family members who quote “got in the way.” Now that’s not funny. The hit man didn’t think so either. He confessed.

    There’s also the infamous case of the Salvation Army captain who ran down one victim in his car and then killed another on his way to the hospital. He was arrested for homicide, which also isn’t that funny.

    Then there’s this truly unfunny story. The Salvation Army would not remove its minister, Gary Hallock of Pennsylvania, from his duties teaching children bible stories, even after he had been arrested for sexually abusing children at his church. Captain Hallock had victimized seven children, ages four to 15, and even a profoundly retarded 15-year-old boy. He was sentenced in 1990 to up to 72 years in prison. Nope, still not funny.

    In 2004, the Salvation Army briefly threatened to close soup kitchens in New York City if the local government enacted legislation that would require firms that do business with New York to offer health benefits to partners of gay staffers.

    And yes, most famously, an expose originally published in the Washington Post in 2001, and covered later in the Seattle Times, revealed that the Salvation Army worked closely with the Bush Administration to make it easier for government-funded religious groups to discriminate against gay people, in return for the Salvation Army openly supporting government faith based initiatives.

    It’s hard to praise, unconditionally, an organization for its good works when it openly espouses discrimination and offers bribes for government protection against its discriminatory practices. I don’t recall Jesus urging people to bigotry. But I might need to read between the lines a little more.

    The Salvation Army has a history of sexual abuse and scandal, but so do many other institutions. I believe these things just happen… mostly because no real oversight exists. Should the Salvation Army be closed down? Certainly not. Is it beyond reproach or criticism? Hell no.

    But the one thing I can’t get past is the discrimination. It doesn’t make sense to me. It doesn’t make sense in the context of the New Testament, which I understand the Salvation Army takes rather seriously.
    In the instance of closing the soup kitchens, the Salvation Army put the interests of those disadvantaged citizens it had committed to helping beneath its own ideological self interests. Here’s another case. A man who won the lottery attempted to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Salvation Army. They would not take the money, citing that he had obtained it gambling. Which is sinful, they said. Then I suppose they went back to their Bingo games.

    So again, the Salvation Army demonstrated that its charity had less to do with altruism than with a myopic sense of dogma. Is that really helping? I don’t think so, but that’s my opinion — nothing more. Is that what Jesus said to do? Not that I remember.

    So does any of this mean it’s funny that Major Wise was killed by criminals? Absolutely not. But on average nearly people are murdered in this country each day. Wise was one of many Americans slain that night in a robbery gone wrong, and his role as a Salvation Army worker is immaterial to the situation. The Salvation Army itself was not the target: a guy standing out on the street with a pot of money was.

    I also don’t think it’s funny that children have been sexually abused for decades and that the organization has tried to cover it up each time. I don’t think hungry people being turned away from food that was offered to them — so that the Army could make a political point — was funny either. In fact, it seems a bit cruel to me. I don’t think terrorism is funny. But I also think that persecuting every member of the Muslim faith is aberrant and disgusting. So many things in this world aren’t funny.

    Nothing in this article takes pleasure in the killing of Major Wise, or even references it. There are good people at the Salvation Army, just as there are good people in the most corrupt of institutions in this country. I happen to know a few. But what I’m wondering is: by your own insinuation, should ALL targets with “good intentions” be off limits? Should we not denounce illicit or disastrous government policies, or criminal individuals within the ranks, because the larger body is trying to do what it sees as good works? Sarah Palin, no fan of satire, defended Rush Limbaugh for his distasteful and vitriolic denouncements of people with whom he disagreed. She said Limbaugh was just engaging in satire himself. So can we write Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity to tell them to shut up now? “Obama’s off limits, O’Reilly!” I can finally say that, right?

    Plus, we never really know all the moving parts that lead to an incident, do we? I met a man two years ago, in his late 80s, who had proudly served in the Hitler Youth. I speak German, so I was able to converse with him when we crossed paths at Oktoberfest. He seemed such a kindly old man, but he was firm in his resolve that Hitler was right and the rest of us were wrong. He was sorry I didn’t “understand” history the way he did. I had disappointed him. And I seemed like such a good boy at first.

    Should he also not appear one day as a passing character in a satirical story? I mean, he helped kill a whole bunch of innocent women and children – he’d tell you all about it – but he also belonged to his local Catholic church and was one of its most passionate workers (not to mention largest donors). He celebrated Kristallnacht and Christmas with equal zest. I can give him a pass for the wholesale slaughter of these Jews, right? He tried to help his community. He worked in a homeless shelter. He played the Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas) at orphanages. He had also been beaten once by a gang of kids. It was brutal. He didn’t think he was going to make it, dying on the streets of Munich alone in a Santa costume. Had he died, the headline may have read: “Local Church Worker Dies En Route to Play Santa for Orphans.” A tragic headline, don’t you think? The point is: it’s still a tragic death, but how would you feel about it if you knew what I knew about the man? I’m by no means implying that Major Wise has skeletons in his closet. All I’m saying is that we can play the “What If” game until the cows come home with nothing productive in the way of results. The only solution, it would seem, is to make EVERYTHING off limits to criticism, probing, satire, parody, you name it. Because we can’t know everything about any given situation. Sometimes situations are systemic, and the whole is truly bigger than the sum of its parts. We can’t continue to walk on egg shells either.

    When I worked as a reporter for wire services, I visited the body of a young man who had been dragged to death while tied to a car. This was in Africa. He was accused of being homosexual, but no one could offer any kind of proof other than conjecture and dubious speculation. Two Salvation Army workers stood accountable for the acts. They were never prosecuted or even arrested. They were questioned and let go, even though every shred of evidence was clearly linked to them. They were found behind the wheel of the car, the corpse still attached to the bumper. Because the Army’s ties to an already discriminatory political system were that strong, nothing was mentioned of the incident outside some foreign press in the mid 1990s. But I didn’t find that funny. Good friends I have, who work for the Salvation Army, found it revolting and tragic.

    But they did chuckle at this article. I’ll call them tonight and ask them to stop.

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