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Fri Jul 15, 2016, 08:51 AM


Imprisoned war resister rooted in Catholic faith

A photo of Ben Salmon from his case file at St. Elizabeths Hospital for the Insane in Washington, D.C. (National Archives and Records Administration)

Jack Gilroy | Jul. 14, 2016

In less than one year, we will observe the 100th anniversary of the United States' decision to enter the Great War, later referred to as World War I. Our government leaders said that it would be the "war to end all wars." To Catholic church leaders, it was a "just war." Few Catholics had the courage to dispute this claim.

Ben Salmon, a devout Catholic of Denver, did. Salmon, weakened in body by years of physical punishment in U.S. federal prisons, left behind four children. His only still-living child is outspoken in defense of her father, whom she hardly knew. She was 7 when he died.

Maryknoll Sr. Elizabeth Salmon, 91, lives at the Maryknoll Sisters Center in New York. She has had a vibrant, joyous life, including fond memories of her dad. Her father refused to cooperate in any way with the killing machine of war. He was known as an absolutist by some, a slacker by most.

Sr. Elizabeth was born Geraldine Salmon. As a young woman, she had only a hint that her father was a famous person during the Great War of 1914-18. When she was a teenager in a Denver Catholic school in 1940, a friend slipped her a copy of the Catholic Worker. Her classmate pointed to a photo and story about Ben Salmon. Geraldine had only a few seconds to scan the article when a sister took it from her and refused to give it back.


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