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'I can't say somebody else is responsible'.

Fr. Robert Cushing's path to war resistance was no simple matter. Growing up the son of a military officer, he admired friends of his father and dreamed of being a military chaplain, an ambition he pursued after he was ordained in the Augusta, Ga., diocese.

But during his preparation for priesthood he had encountered other heroes, advocates of nonviolence.

Shortly after ordination, Cushing met Fr. Sal DeAngelo, 'an Army colonel and chaplain. Cushing told DeAngelo his life story and his dream of being a military chaplain. "I'm glad to hear your story, Bob, but with heroes like Gandhi, Francis of Assisi, Dietrich Bonhoffer, Martin Luther King, I think that you really ought to check into the Pax Christi thing," Cushing said the. priest told him. "Bob, if you became a military chaplain you'd either reform the whole system or you'd be in jail a lot."

DeAngelo suggested that Cushing go to an upcoming lecture by the late Jesuit Fr. Richard McSorley, a pacifist with ties to Pax Christi and the Catholic Worker movement. It was no immediate conversion, but Cushing began a different journey, one that his elderly father, also Bob Cushing, does not understand.

On Aug. 1, Cushing left for Japan to apologize for the 1945 U.S. atomic bombings of two Japanese cities.

"My father is absolutely sullen about this whole thing. He won't talk about it."

Another turning point for Cushing was counseling B-52 pilots who asked for his help to study the question of the formation of conscience and nuclear weapons. Cushing said the event "that absolutely pushed me over the edge" was when he heard an air raid siren blast off in a small military town where he was visiting during the height of the Cold War. Though it was only a test, Cushing thought it was signaling nuclear war.

"It went off and it kept going on and on, and my hair stood up on my body and I said, 'It's happening. It's too late. Oh my God, it's too late,'" Cushing recalled.

"My hair was standing on end. My heart was pounding and with tears in my eyes, it was the end of the world. And I said, 'Oh my God, I didn't do what I could do, and now it's too late.'"

Then the siren stopped and a neighbor told him the siren was justa test, that it sounded every Wednesday morning at 11 o'clock.

"I sat back in the car and just cried, and I said, 'I've got to do something because if it ever does happen, I'm responsible. I can't say somebody else is responsible. I'm responsible.'"
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Title Annotation:NATION
Author:O'Neill, Patrick
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 12, 2005
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