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The horrors of war cause the chaplain to have his doubts
about God, and he struggles to maintain his faith amid the senseless
violence around him. One of the hardest things for the chaplain
to deal with is the way that religion is constantly being co-opted
for reasons having nothing to do with God or even with the comfort
of the men. For example, the chaplain’s atheistic assistant, Corporal
Whitcomb, wants to send form letters home to the families of men
killed and wounded in combat. The chaplain objects because the letters
are insincere, but Colonel Cathcart insists on the form letters
because he believes that they will bring him recognition. Such events
force the chaplain to realize that religion is not valued on its
own terms, but only as a tool that the officers can use to further
their own causes.
When three men drag the chaplain into an isolated cellar
and accuse him of unspecified crimes, he realizes that, because
they have the power to beat him to death, his innocence has become
irrelevant. Shortly afterward, the chaplain fakes an ailment and
checks into the hospital. He has realized that trying to exist within
the rules is impossible; having justified sin to himself, he feels
The chaplain’s character reminds us of one more way in
which war upsets moral and ethical codes. Just as Doc Daneeka is
confused about the role of a doctor in a world where man’s primary
goal is to cause injury and death, the chaplain is disoriented by
a world where killing has become a virtue.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Catch-22!