Fr Emil Kapaun and Fr Willie Doyle

The Servant of God Fr Emil Kapaun

Some readers may be aware of the Servant of God, Fr Emil Kapaun – we have mentioned him in the past, and he is probably very familiar to readers from the United States.

He was a military chaplain in the Korean War, and he died in a prison camp. The similarities between his service as a military chaplain and Fr Doyle’s  are startling, even down to the way both of them would lie in shell holes to encourage frightened soldiers or encourage the men simply by their presence. Both risked their lives to save their men numerous times, and both paid the ultimate price for this selflessness – Fr Doyle was killed by a shell; Fr Kapaun died in a prison camp.

Fr Kapaun’s cause for beatification has been opened. He was also posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama yesterday – his nephew accepted the award. This is excellent news, and draws attention to the heroism of military chaplains.

There is controversy about Fr Doyle and the British army’s near equivalent of the Medal of Honor – the Victoria Cross. There are suggestions that Fr Doyle was nominated for this award but that it was denied because he was a Catholic priest. Carole Hope, who has just completed a new biography of Fr Doyle, has done some further research on this question – her book will be published next year.

Along with opening his cause for beatification, perhaps it is time to start thinking about a posthumous military award for Fr Doyle?

Fr Kapaun and Fr Doyle seem to me to be priests after Pope Francis’ heart. He has spoken many times about the need for priests to go out and be amongst the people, to live side by side with them and share their pains and sorrows and that shepherds should smell like their sheep because they are so close them! Perhaps nobody does this more than heroic military chaplains like Fr Kapaun and Fr Doyle who lived with their men, shared their sufferings when they didn’t have to, who saved their lives and who died for them. Such men deserve the highest military and ecclesiastic honours.

Here is the website for the Fr Kapaun Guild

Here is an excellent review of Fr Kapaun’s military service:

And another:

Here is an EWTN programme about Fr Kapaun:

Finally, Dave, a frequent reader and correspondent, left a message with some links on the blog last night but it was blocked for some reason, so I have placed it below:

Today, US Army Chaplain (Captain) Emil J. Kapaun, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by the President of the United States for his service during the Korean War. Fr. Kapaun a was kind, holy and courageous priest who gave his life ministering to his fellow POWs in a miserable Chinese prison camp in 1951. He was much like Fr. Doyle, always where the bullets flew the thickest, taking care of the wounded, dead, and dying. It took over 60 years for Fr. Kapaun to receive this honor. There is no doubt that Fr. Doyle should have been awarded the British equivalent of the Medal of Honor, the Victoria Cross, almost 100 years ago. Fr. Kapaun is also designated a “Servant of God,” in the sainthood process, another title that I believe Fr. Doyle is deserving of.
I personally met one of the soldiers whose life he saved; Staff Sergeant Herbert Miller, a tough WWII veteran who was about to be executed while he lie wounded in a ditch. Fr. Kapaun, pushed the Chinese soldier away and carried SSG Miller on his back, in the middle of a Korean winter, over 30 miles to a POW camp, saving his life many times over. Fr. Kapaun was a great priest, soldier and friend to all, much like Fr. Doyle. Their lives are an incredible inspiration to me. I get chills thinking about their faith and courage.

3 thoughts on “Fr Emil Kapaun and Fr Willie Doyle

  1. This is very good news indeed. It would be nice to think the British government might follow suit with regard to Fr. Willie. When I first read the O’Rahilly biography my initial thought was “oh well, it’s just one of those things” that Fr. Doyle was not awarded the VC. Now that I have done the research for my book I consider it to be an absolute disgrace. I am sure that my chapter which deals with the VC issue will cause some controversy – if it is circulated widely enough and comes to the attention of “powers-that-be.” There again, Fr. Willie cared nothing for such decorations, but then if his wishes had been followed the O’Rahilly biography would not have been published in its current form, to the detriment of us all. My manuscript has only just gone to the publisher – I will update you when a publication date has been decided. There is still work to do e.g. assembling an index, which will go to a professional indexer to do.

  2. Fr. Kapaun received his Medal of Honor, not for one specific act of bravery, although there were many, but for his conduct during the entire time he was in Korea. This is not unprecedented for the Victoria Cross either. Leonard Cheshire, the great WWII RAF bomber pilot received the VC, not for one mission, but for his conduct during 100 combat missions 1939-45. Fr. Doyle seems to fall into this category. Although he performed uncountable acts of bravery, most of these are probably lost to history and memory. But his conduct for the entire period he was in France and Belgium is certainly worthy of the VC.

  3. I hadn’t dropped by here for a few days, partly due to a faulty connection with the internet. I’m delighted that you have featured Fr Kapaun. I read a biography of him when I was around 15 and was truly inspired. When I visited Korea for the first time, in 1971 on my way to the Philippines, I was very conscious of Father Kapaun when I celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Columban house in Seoul. The EWTN programme mentioned that he once considered joining the Columbans – mispronounced as it so often is as ‘Columbians’! – and if he had he might well have ended up in Korea where a number of Columbans were killed during the Korean War.

    Persons like Fr Doyle and Fr Kapaun are the true face of the Church and the true face of the priesthood.

    Googling ‘Fr Emil Kapaun’ on YouTube will bring up a surprising number of videos, most of them short and some with his voice. In one he says that we must make a choice ‘between being loyal to the true faith or of giving allegiance to something else’. Pope Francis echoed these words in his homily during his Mass with the cardinal-electors when he said, ‘When we do not profess Jesus Christ, the saying of Léon Bloy comes to mind: “Anyone who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil.” When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil, a demonic worldliness.’

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