Former Pentagon Worker to Speak on Non-Violence

Daniella Amendola, Print Editor

The NEPA Ethics Institute will hold a program on ethics and non-violence, the first if a series of events that address the critical concerns of the Sisters of Mercy.

The program, set for Nov. 8, will  feature Fr. Chris Bisett, professor of religious studies and senior administrator at the Department of Defense.

“So this program is kind of interesting, because the presenter is a Franciscan priest— he’s a colleague of mine— but he’s also a senior administrator at the Pentagon,” said Dr. James Calderone, Director of the NEPA Ethics Institute at Misericordia.

Calderone said Bisett has worked for the Department of Defense for a number years for several administrations.

“So he’s going to address the whole issue of ethics of working at the Department of Defense in the Pentagon as a person who basically believes in and lives a non-violent lifestyle. As a Franciscan, of course, peacemaking is one of the most significant aspects of the Franciscan life.”

Calderone said Bisett is going to talk about his  experience and struggles working at the Pentagon, as well as the struggles of some of his colleagues, who went to him with their concerns once they knew Bisett was an ordained priest.  They wanted to discuss war and peace, their roles and the ways in which their spirituality related to their life’s work.

“I think it will be very interesting, in terms of what are the kinds of issues and how do people reconcile— do people reconcile? I don’t know if Father Chris Bisett is a pacifist, but if he is I think that would be even more challenging if you’re working there— whether he believes that defense is a legitimate and ethical dimension of any society and that you have to use force when necessary.”

Calderone said it would be interesting to know the struggles military personnel have.

“You may join the military with one mindset, and then be in it for a while, and then given your experiences and your own maturity, you may be at a very different place.”

The program will also address the various implications of the word “violence.”

“You can be violent in word, you can be violent in omission, and what I don’t do can be violent in a sense,” Calderone said.

Bisett will speak from his position in a setting that people don’t usually associate with nonviolence,  said Calderone.

Calderone also said ethics has to do with critical thinking.

“Upon what do I base choice? Upon what do I base action, or inaction, or in other words, what do I think is right and wrong? But even that gets a little dualistic, because sometimes it’s not so clear.”

Caderone expects that students may receive extra credit for attendance, but they will leave with knowledge they can apply in real-world settings.

“But I think this program in particular is interesting because it’s very practical. Here involves what do you do when your paid position, your work, may be putting you in a situation that challenges your deeply held beliefs.”

Students interested in national security, politics or  government my find Bisset’s experience at the Pentagon particularly enlightening, Calderone said.

“Part of what Chris was doing, I think what he’s doing now, under the Trump administration they were appointing people for the Department of Defense. Well they would go through him, and so he would be one of the people who would be vetting them, and also helping them to start the process of getting clearance, you know, that kind of thing. He was getting into the situation where, what happens when you run into the kinds of people who may not be, let’s say, a security risk, but may not be competent.”

The program will be held Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. in Insalaco Hall 218.