In our world today there is nothing detectable whatsoever in the way of Christian power. We have numbers, but we are completely enervated, sleeping, smothered, choked – you choose the descriptor. We are like an enormous man dying.
Are we to give a sigh of relief, or a cheer, that the Vatican seems finally to be noticing that Christians are being systematically wiped out en masse in the cradle of Christian civilisation? Or that they are telling the UN Human Rights Council that the use of force “may” be used as a “very last choice,” to defend them?
Some news services are reporting that the Vatican “says military force should be harnessed,” in response to the growing threat of ISIS, but I think this might be a bit strong. I’m pretty sure the word “should” was a bit of journalistic license. At the press conference, Time quotes the Vatican’s UN delegate Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, saying, “We have to stop this kind of genocide.”
“Otherwise we’ll be crying out in the future about why we didn’t do something, why we allowed such a terrible tragedy to happen.”
Alright, but the official joint statement says… well, what, exactly?
The Middle East is living in a situation of instability and conflict that recently have been aggravated. The consequences are disastrous for the entire population of the region. The existence of many religious communities is seriously threatened. Christians are now especially affected. These days even their survival is in question.
Efforts to build a better future for all are frustrated. We witness a situation where violence, religious and ethnic hatred, fundamentalist radicalism, extremism, intolerance, exclusion, destruction of the social fabric of whole societies and communities are becoming the features of a non-viable political and social model, endangering the very existence of many communities, the Christian community in particular.
Why is it necessary that our Holy Church in it’s officials acts and it’s application of doctrine must be entirely passive, even declining to use words on behalf of Christianity itself? In short, what good actually does the Vatican do? Isn’t diplomacy just what happens when nothing is really happening?
We are talking about ISIS, of course, as everyone knows. ISIS, the Islamic supremacist group that grew, with the help of US backing, out of the “rebels” fighting the Assad government in Syria, and has now declared itself the new “Caliphate” to fulfill the command of Mohammed to dominate the whole world. ISIS, only one of the group’s acronyms, stands for “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” and the motivation for its goals is the issue that is being so carefully avoided with such determined diplomatic use of the passive voice.
And all the world knows what ISIS is doing: mass slaughter, mass rapes and enslavement of captives, mass deportations, child soldiers, beheadings, crucifixions, burning captives alive, bulldozing and setting fire to churches, monasteries, towns and villages, jackhammering away any cultural or historic trace of anything that is not specifically Sunni Islamic. But diminished and chest-less modern men, apparently even those representing the Vatican, seem incapable of forthrightly condemning this monstrous Old Testament scenery.
Instead we have from the ostensible leaders of Christianity, an apparently unbreakable habit of dainty, non-committal, UN committee-approved terms like “terrorist groups,” the “so-called Islamic State,” who are creating “a situation of instability and conflict” by committing “human rights violations, repression and abuses.”
In the statement’s strongest language – still doggedly retaining the passive voice – it admits that Christian communities are subject to “barbaric acts of violence: they are deprived of homes, driven from their native lands, sold into slavery, killed, beheaded and burnt alive. Dozens of Christian churches, and ancient shrines of all religions have been destroyed.”
But there is no expression of normal, human outrage, no horror at this, no booming demands for international military intervention. Instead, the situation “raises deep concerns.” This is always coupled with the continued insistence that force can be used only as a last possible resort, and no hint at all how many have to die before we may divine when that point has been reached.
The only force that will be insisted upon for the moment will be the force of dialogue, the force of ‘encounter’ – you know those contemporary pseudo-Christian imperatives which honor and elevate the dishonorable and deadly.
Perhaps most depressing in this minimalist and insipid declarative sentence is the meticulous avoidance – by the Catholic Church – of any mention that the Christians in the Middle East were there first. This and gaping eloquent silence on the long history of Islamic conquest and brutal subjugation – is all the acknowledgement they get from the pope’s representative for 1700 years of suffering.
For every Christian life and village taken today there will countless generations of hopelessness and suffering. Islam, engendered in terror, blackened what was once the great ancient and Christian world well over a thousand years ago. What will it make of Europe now?
So, why is it a bad thing to violently wipe out the remaining shreds of the (native) Christian civilisation? Well, because, Diversity!
In our globalized world, pluralism is an enrichment. The presence and the contributions of ethnic and religious communities reflect an ancient diversity and a common heritage. A future without the different communities in the Middle East will run a high risk of new forms of violence, exclusion, and the absence of peace and development.
A journalist friend in Rome told me that he has occasionally interviewed high-ranking representatives of the Vatican’s diplomatic service and confronted them about their habitual diffidence and addiction to UN-speak. He said that he asked why in none of their official statements they ever actually come out and say anything Christian. That they never forthrightly proclaim that Christianity – that Christ – is the solution to all this. The reaction, he said, was one of blank incomprehension.
In fact, the statement says little about anything, and nothing the world needed to be told about the Middle East, Islam or ISIS. But it does certainly say a lot about its authors and about the deeply engrained culture of diffidence, passivity and, frankly, relativistic weakness – of an absence of belief – that rules all the institutions of the formerly Christian West, and, perhaps particularly egregiously, is the favoured language of official Vatican pronouncements. Certainly there is nothing here to upset the sensitivities of the internationalist bureaucrats, the “aggressive secularists” at the EU who famously refused to acknowledge even the historical existence of Christendom.
Why do we throw our hands up while a feckless, faithless hierarchy destroys the Church?
Much is made today of the danger of sexual sins, of the reality of Hell, and the widespread disregard for chastity. We also hear volumes at the moment (even if only to advocate for statist policy) about the sin of neglect for the needy. But I don’t think Our Lord or Our Mother in Heaven will lament those sins the most when they have the final say on our generation.
I think they will wonder at our cowardice, our failure to do like Peter and Paul: to stand in the Temple and defend the Faith. They will be pleased with our Rosaries said outside abortuaries, but they will wonder why we let so many die in sin or at the hands of killers who hate Truth.