Catholics and the USMC


#1

Was just watching the movie “Full Metal Jacket”, and as I recall, the DI’s at PI in USMC boot camp during the middle 60’s when I was there, used to call us Roman Catholics “Mackerel Snappers” . . . presumably a reference to our tradition of eating fish on Fridays rather than red meat.

Since I’ve long since left the Catholic church (no longer running for saint hood, as I put it in another thread . . . am sure Sister Doris, the Prefect of Discipline in my Catholic high school, would think I am yoked with the devil now), I have no idea if the thing about eating fish on Fridays still prevails.

So I have to ask CT or JStang or FL or samspade or jebby, is this still the case? As far as I recall, it was never a matter of dogma or anything referenced in the Douay-Rheims Bible . . . it was just more of a tradition. But I remember as a kid being convinced that if I ate red meat on Friday I was going to burn in the everlasting fires of Hell for that transgression. Again, CT/JStang/FL/samspade/jebby, is the Catholic Church still doing that, or is “Mackerel Snappers”, as Richard Nixon/Haldeman/Ehrlichman would have said, an “inoperative” phrase now?

Incidentally, “Full Metal Jacket” is pretty close to an accurate portrayal of the way it was back then. Except, there is a line: “In the rear with the gear”, which in my time was “In the rear with the q****'s” . . . though I don’t expect Hollywood would have gotten away with THAT phrasing.

We had a guy in our boot camp platoon, Private Anthony Sasso, who was from New York. Unfortunately for Sasso, he also had a heavy Bronx accent. The DI’s, predominantly guys from the deep south, didn’t “appreciate” his speech pattern, and consequently beat him frequently. One of my memories from that time was the sound of Sasso’s body frequently slamming against a wall locker while sustaining heavy blows to the solar plexus by the DI’s. It was almost like a perpetual hobby for them.

I myself was obnoxiously cerebral at the time, a characteristic also which the DI’s didn’t “appreciate”. Consequently, I suffered a fair share of beatings myself. I remember thinking one time during a particularly severe beating, “Why don’t you guys go pick on Sasso instead of me?”

But I believe it’s a much kinder and gentler Marine Corps and Catholic Church these days, isn’t it?


#2

I don’t recall anything from the religious aspects as a source of “training.” Race wasn’t used either. Other than that, FMJ was pretty accurate still. Since then though, they’ve gone through “The Crucible” and other changes. From the 70;s through 96, boot camp was pretty much unchanged. Physical beatings were probably much less, and were certainly not proper, but to be truthful, they probably never were.


#3

[quote=“JStang, post:2, topic:39650”]
I don’t recall anything from the religious aspects as a source of “training.” Race wasn’t used either. Other than that, FMJ was pretty accurate still. Since then though, they’ve gone through “The Crucible” and other changes. From the 70;s through 96, boot camp was pretty much unchanged. Physical beatings were probably much less, and were certainly not proper, but to be truthful, they probably never were.
[/quote]Oh no, I didn’t mean to convey there was anything in FMJ related to religion . . . on the contrary, I agree with you . . . I don’t think there was. The movie just made me think of them calling us “Mackerel Snappers” when I was there.

As far as race in the movie, there wasn’t anything overt, but R. Lee Ermey, who played the DI (and who WAS a REAL DI in the USMC) nicknamed a black recruit “Snowflake” in the movie.

We had a black DI who frequently said “Now you’re pickin’ the cotton.”

And the beatings actually diminished shortly after I left PI (December, 1966) for ITR . . . Infantry Training Regiment . . . in Camp Geiger.

One of the DI’s in our recruit regiment at PI made a recruit lay down prone on the parade ground while he made his platoon march over the guy. That recruit died from kidney failure, traced to the marching-over incident. Consequently, there was an investigation, disciplinary action against the DI (he may have been court martialed and sent to Leavanworth for murder for all I know), and the entire DI corps at the island “got the message”. Beatings were significantly reduced.

And I agree with you, beatings were not “proper” training methods to begin with. I just wish that would have been realized before I got mine. Have to do a Maxwell Smart “missed it by that much” dance there.

Nevertheless, I did survive, albeit I remember being in the shower one time, looking at my stomach, and seeing black and blue outlines tracing the pattern of four knuckles.


#4

I picked up what you were laying down man.


#5

I thought he was asking about eating meat on Fridays. I’m not a Catholic, so I can’t say for sure, but I think it is no longer required, although many Catholics still practice it. It was a form of “fasting.” The very good Jews fasted twice a week - on Wednesdays and Fridays, I think. A few Christians practice this, too. But I believe they do real “fasts” - I mean, they don’t substitute one thing for another (like fish for red meat) - they completely skip a meal.


#6

[quote=“Susanna, post:5, topic:39650”]
I thought he was asking about eating meat on Fridays
[/quote]Yes, you are correct. But that question, which was my primary question, sort of got buried in the tangential discussion of PI and FMJ (which I myself helped on.)

So, the question again. CT/JStang/FL/samspade/jebby, is this meat/fish Friday thing still going on for Catholics? Why do you think I perceived violating this as a damnation? (Granted, I was a kid when I thought that way, so that may have had a lot to do with it.)

Thanks Susanna for getting me back on track.


#7

Bobjam: In answer to your question, the Friday abstinence of eating meat was changed, not done away with as some Catholics believe. Let me explain: The Church developed the meatless Fridays for two reasons: 1) as a commemoration of Christ’s Passion and death on Good Friday (as a way of performing a small penance in that remembrance); and 2) something to do with the shortage of meat in Europe at the time (I’m not sure exactly what that was about, but I remember reading about it sometime ago.)

Now, in 1965, the Catholic Church went through an ecclesiastical conference called “The Council of Vatican II” as the Council of Vatican I had occurred in the 19th century. In the VCII decisions, it was decided to relax the meatless Fridays. BUT…and here’s the rub…it was not the dismissal of meatless Fridays that they relaxed. What they relaxed was the sin of deliberately eating meat on Fridays–the act of disobedience–because eating meat is not evil or sinful. This is the same as the sin of Adam and Eve. Their sin was not eating a piece of fruit, but in disobeying God’s command. So, what VCII did was to remove the sinful part of meatless Fridays AS LONG AS ONE MAKES ANOTHER ACT OF PENANCE TO REPLACE the meatless Friday. In other words, the requirement of performing an act of penance on Fridays is not removed. If we decide to eat a rare steak on Friday that is fine. BUT…we must replace that with another act of penance. Unfortunately, many Catholics today have been poorly catechized over the past 50 years since 1965, and they have not been taught about the penitential acts on Fridays. I personally do not eat meat on Fridays because it is much easier for me to remember and not have to come up with my own penances.

Now, as to your question about being “yoked with the devil”, God judges each of us with perfect justice. Keep in mind that the Scriptures say that God’s mercy is greater than His justice. For whatever your reasons on leaving the Church, only God knows your heart. Even you don’t know your heart as God does. My guess is that you are still beloved by God. I believe that God comes to each of us at the moment of death. It is then that we come face to face with our own sinfulness and with God’s infinite mercy. We are all sinners. Bobjam. And we all fall short of God’s path. I don’t believe at all that you are “yoked with the devil”. No way…and I have my reasons for saying that.


#8

Groovy, man…


#9

You perceived this as damnation because that is how it was taught back then. Purposely eating meat on Fridays was considered a mortal sin. Dying in the state of unrepentant mortal sin gets a “Go to jail, do not collect $200” ticket. Now, there are “conditions” to committing a mortal sin…and I’m not going to get into that at this point. But suffice it to say that God loves us more than we love ourselves. We must always put our faith in His love and mercy.


#10

@CT,

First of all, thanks very much for the detailed explanation. I knew you would have those details. My compliments. You probably know more about the history of some Catholic doctrines than some of the staff at the Vatican.

[quote=“ClassicalTeacher, post:7, topic:39650”]
So, what VCII did was to remove the sinful part of meatless Fridays AS LONG AS ONE MAKES ANOTHER ACT OF PENANCE TO REPLACE the meatless Friday. In other words, the requirement of performing an act of penance on Fridays is not removed. If we decide to eat a rare steak on Friday that is fine. BUT…we must replace that with another act of penance.
[/quote]Sounds a little arbitrary and sort of relative when one picks a “substitute penance”. How does a Catholic decide if the penance is sufficient as a substitute for not eating meat? Is there a guideline? Or is it just up to the individual to make their own determination? Even if it’s the latter, I’d always be wondering “Is that enough?”

It’s like in Confession when the priest said something like “Say 12 Hail Mary’s for your penance.” I always figured, “This guy KNOWS and has been trained to know what is appropriate.” I never “wondered” when I walked away from the confessional.

THIS seems like the priest would be saying “Figure it out for yourself. Do whatever penance YOU think is right.” My reaction to that would have been, “HUH!!???”

[quote=“ClassicalTeacher, post:7, topic:39650”]
only God knows your heart. Even you don’t know your heart as God does.
[/quote]I am comfortable and at peace with the Faith I have now . . . more comfortable and at peace than I ever was when I was “in” the Catholic Church. I did my “due diligence” and came up with a set of beliefs I feel are “right” for me.

I kind of disagree with your second sentence in the sense that I am NOT going to lie to myself or live a lie on something so critically important. Don’t misunderstand, I am NOT saying I know “better” than God. Just saying that I wouldn’t be comfortable with MYSELF unless I was truthful.

BTW, when I say “comfortable”, I’m NOT talking about the comfort of satisfied physical appetites. The path I have chosen is just as difficult as Catholicism had it. I didn’t use “ease of pursuit” as a criterion for choosing my path.

[quote=“ClassicalTeacher, post:7, topic:39650”]
I don’t believe at all that you are “yoked with the devil”. No way…and I have my reasons for saying that.
[/quote]I appreciate your confidence in me. Though I was “half-joking”, there was an element of truth to what I said. Some Cathlolics might condemn me, and if I had been a Quaker or JW and left those churches, I expect my Quaker or JW associates would have shunned me.

So I appreciate and value a practicing Catholic’s forebearance. Thanks.


#11

[quote=“ClassicalTeacher, post:9, topic:39650”]
You perceived this as damnation because that is how it was taught back then. Purposely eating meat on Fridays was considered a mortal sin.
[/quote]It was “considered” a mortal sin? Really?

Just by nuns teaching in high school in the early 1960’s, or by the church fathers themselves? If it was an “official” church policy/doctrine, when and how did it change?


#12

I was not in boot camp (San Diego) during lent. However, I was later stationed at Parris Island a few years later. I could be mistaken, but I think there were seafood options on Fridays.

I am Catholic, but I’m a bad one, so I won’t speak to how Catholics view people like me who have no problem eating meat at any opportunity. Honestly, I go by the Golden Rule and I don’t sweat the small stuff. Details details, as long as the mission is accomplished, I don’t much care.


#13

Well, I suppose the personal penance thing is arbitrary–but that is the way it is. I have no illusions that most people (Catholics) either don’t do the personal penance thing on Fridays (mostly because they are unaware that it is a requirement) or pick something that could hardly be described as penance… But, the fact remains that a penance should be something that we find at least minimally uncomfortable. One thing I’ve suggested to my past students is to watch less TV (forget about eliminating TV all together–that would be hellish for most!), doing their homework on time or before Sunday night at 10 p.m., or doing something special with your younger siblings (a “positive penance”!), or helping mom and dad out without an argument. All of those things, although appearing to be un-penance-like, are sacrifices–and sometimes its those little sacrifices which cause us the most distress. Who knows? Each person is different.

If a Catholic chooses a particular penance for a Friday and thinks to himself, “Is it enough?” he/she has the wrong concept of what a sacrifice/penance is and how God views it. It is our intentions that are important…not the degree or level of pain we suffer that makes the difference. I believe there are many scriptural verses which talk about God wanting to turn our stony hearts into hearts of flesh. God knows we can never do anything perfectly…or even adequately sometimes. It is our hearts that He wants to penetrate. This is precisely why the Church changed the requirement of meatless Fridays–the Church, in her great wisdom–attempted to instill in us a movement of love in our hearts for God–a natural desire to please God (although pleasing God is often misinterpreted as trying to earn our way into Heaven–it is not that), to be united with Him. Unfortunately, the message of the Church and her purpose never seemed to filter down into the pulpits or confessionals.

As far as confession is concerned, I’ve had the usual 5 Our Fathers, 5 Hail Marys penances. But, I’ve also had some wonderful “penances” of a positive nature–some which truly were a sacrifice, but also drew me closer into the mysteries of the Heart of Jesus. I’ve forgotten what my penances were a few times, but I made up my own knowing that God knows my heart and my intention to perform my penance dutifully.

I think a lot of Catholics (and I think maybe you-but I may be mistaken) struggle with the Faith because of being naturally scrupulous. I have a dear friend who has suffered from spiritual scrupulosity most of her life. She constantly questions herself in her motivations, whether or not she has performed her Christian duties to the best of her ability, always second-guessing herself–and basically driving herself nuts in the process. I am not a counselor in any definition of the word, but I have helped her to see that God doesn’t require a daily crucifixion from us. St. Therese of Lisieux spent her short 26 years on this planet pleasing God in “little ways”. (Which weren’t so little in reality!) Her whole spirituality was to submit herself into God’s loving heart each and every moment of each day in doing what was normally required of her to the best of her ability and never looking back. That was her “little way”. I would recommend anyone reading her autobiography “The Story of a Soul” to know more about her spirituality and her relationship with God. Quite beautiful–for any Christian. She is my namesake. She was called the “Little Flower”–she gave herself that title. I, on the other hand, am the “little weed”. But even little weeds please God with their beautiful flowers from time to time.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to get into a long sermon. But these things flow from my heart. I feel so blessed and graced to have been given this gift of Faith in Our Lord. It is the most precious thing in my life. Forgive me if I went on too much.

There is a beautiful saying in the Scriptures that I love: “Be still, and know that I am God.” It gives me great comfort when I am struggling to manage my life–especially when I am trying to wrestle the reigns away from Him. I hope I’ve explained these things to you adequately. God bless you for your heart…


#14

Catholics aren’t the only ones who struggle with the “is it enough?” syndrome. Especially people who grew up in a very legalistic church atmosphere. It seemed like a lot of the sermons we got were legalistic - trying to make the outward appearance exactly what would be pleasing to God, for instance. When I was growing up, it was “sin” for a woman to cut her hair, and to have a permanent; to wear makeup or jewelry; many such things. Some churches (not by specific denomination, but within evangelic circles) were almost cultic in their “outward appearance” rules. Funny, most of them applied to women . . .


#15

I’ve read about those Christian groups. I worked with a young woman many years ago in Chicago who was a Baptist. But, she was a different kind of a Baptist. She was the administrative assistant to one of the company’s managers. Whenever there was a Christmas party or some other kind of celebration for the employees (it was a huge, international corporation) she refused to go because she believed that drinking any kind of liquor was a sin–even a glass of wine or champagne. She did wear make-up, although very little, and dressed well, but never immodestly. She wasn’t very friendly either. But, I didn’t have much to do with her boss either. I remember her telling me once that she was engaged to be married and there would be no liquor served at her reception–not even wine. I just thought that was a bit odd. But, that’s what she believed.


#16

Mom said that no alcohol at wedding receptions is the norm for the Nazarene and Free Methodist denominations. I don’t believe that the consumption of alcohol is intrinsically a sin (otherwise, why would Jesus have turned the water into wine?). I never took up drinking myself though; I’m glad I didn’t, because I believe I have the kind of personality whereby I wouldn’t know when to put the bottle down.


#17

I’m in the same mindset as you. I think anything done to excess can be an occasion of sin for some people. I, too, have that kind of “addictive” personality, too. I always refused to do any kind of heavier drug over that of marijuana because I was too afraid I’d like it too much. I think I would have liked any kind of “downer” way too much. Thank God He preserved me from that. I would have easily wound up in the gutter–or morgue.


#18

As I said before, only God can read our hearts and our intentions. There are some who consider themselves to be good and holy Catholics, but are anything but. Then, there are those who think themselves “bad” Catholics and unworthy of God’s love. Remember the parable that Jesus told of the two men who went to the Temple. The one man went straight to the front of the congregation praying and showing off how holy he was. Another man entered but stayed in the back lowering himself to the ground and beating his breast because he felt so unworthy to enter God’s house. Which one do you think found favor in God’s eyes? The man with honest humility, of course. Jesus was very clear about the prideful and the humble. He didn’t lie.