Cardinal O'Connor Defends Berry Again

New York Cardinal John J. O'Connor wrote a second newspaper column on his support for Lt. Ryan

C. Berry's fight against having to share duty with a woman, saying he supports the officer because the fight is about the importance of conscience.

“Without it we have nothing,” the cardinal wrote in the Aug. 5 issue of his archdiocesan newspaper, Catholic New York.

The critical issue, he said, was “that the integrity of conscience never be demeaned, dismissed, punished or even unappreciated in the armed forces of the United States.”

Cardinal O'Connor first commented on the issue in his July 29 column, “From My Viewpoint,” in the New York archdiocesan weekly, Catholic New York.

“Were Lt. Berry a woman who objected to sharing such quarters with a man, on grounds of moral integrity and fidelity to church teaching, she would have my full support,” he wrote.

As in the first column, Cardinal O'Connor drew on his experience of 27 years as a Navy and Marine chaplain, which culminated in promotion to Navy chief of chaplains.

“No commanding officer ever even remotely suggested that I encourage any man or woman in the armed forces to violate his or her conscience,” he said.

And referring particularly to his service in Vietnam, he said that except for some “relatively uncommon brutalities” the men fighting there “followed their consciences.”

“We depended on the conscience of our fighting forces,” he wrote. “I never want to see those consciences dulled, even in the height of battle.”

Cardinal O'Connor said that in some battle situations it might be imperative to have “split-second obedience and response to orders.”

But Berry has not been “jeopardizing national security,” but is in a situation where “there is all the time in the world to look rationally and objectively at the situation, “ he said.