Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Pope Benedict XVI - "Nothing Positive Comes from Iraq"?
Easter is over and I'm back to blogging. It was not my intention to commemorate my return to blogdom by kicking the dead horse of topics past -- the war in Iraq, capital punishment, or political matters in general. But alas, events being what they are . . .
Out of Pope Benedict XVI's 1,444 word Urbi Et Orbi Easter Message for 2007 devoted to an observation of all manner of human suffering throughout the world and the response of the Gospel, much is being made of the following sentence:
In the Middle East, besides some signs of hope in the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian authority, nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees.Amy Welborn has a roundup of pundit's reactions to the Pope's comment (along with the usual raging debate in the combox), including an editorial in the New York Sun (The Eyes of Hope, April 9, 2007):
If the pope wants to help Iraqis and the Americans and others who are risking their lives to help them, he could underscore this progress rather than denying it. . . . in citing a list of trouble spots from Zimbabwe to Sri Lanka, [Benedict] avoided in his Easter message the error the American left makes of focusing on the carnage in Iraq to the exclusion of all the other woes.Michael Novak @ NRO's "The Corner"
"This is a very skewed report on the realities on the ground. But it might mean that the message the Pope wanted to convey is that of the American Left: "Whatever the good or the bad achievements, it is time to get out." In other words, not an accurate description, but a prescription for the near future"and Fr. Neuhaus (First Things' "Pope Benedict on Iraq" April 10, 2007):
There are many opinions on the probability of such success. I am impressed by the reporters and informed observers who have in recent weeks offered tentative but hopeful judgments about the success of the Petraeus strategy. (See, for instance, the recent interview with John Burns of the New York Times ["on Iraq and American media's coverage of it"]). To judge by a few words in his extensive Easter Sunday survey of the world’s many troubles, Pope Benedict is not so impressed. Catholics in particular pay close and respectful attention to the words of the pope, also when he is offering only his own prudential judgment with respect to this or that world problem. Admittedly, it is galling when Catholics and others who are usually blithely indifferent to church teaching seize upon a papal opinion with which they agree and, suddenly becoming hyper-infallibilists, elevate it to dogmatic status.
Over at Evangelical Catholicism, Michael uses the moment to criticize what he perceives to be fellow U.S. Catholics "intellectually wedded to American interests." Peering into the soul of the Commander in Chief, he also calls for "the conversion of President Bush and of all American Catholics who uncritically hold military violence to be more fruitful and 'practical' than the peaceful and submissive example of our Lord."
On the one hand, I think all -- be it Michael Novak or Fr. Neuhaus (or Sydney Carton or "Morning's Minion" over in Amy Welborn's combox), would wholeheartedly embrace Pope Benedict's plea with which Michael concludes his post:
Brothers and sisters in faith, who are listening to me from every part of the world! Christ is risen and he is alive among us. It is he who is the hope of a better future. As we say with Thomas: “My Lord and my God!”, may we hear again in our hearts the beautiful yet demanding words of the Lord: “If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honour him” (Jn 12:26). United to him and ready to offer our lives for our brothers (cf. 1 Jn 3:16), let us become apostles of peace, messengers of a joy that does not fear pain – the joy of the Resurrection.On the other hand, I have to wonder (as a fellow anonymous commentator did at Evangelical Catholicism):
What is the proper Christian response to Islamic terrorism? How does it translate, on a practical level, into national foreign policy?It is one thing to lecture the President from the safe and secure confines of a blog. It is quite another to bear the weight of his responsibilities, along with those presently engaged in formulating our foreign policy in securing a free and liberated Iraq and the greater "war on terror."
The dilemma brought to mind the following passage from an essay written by my father -- "War and the Eclipse of Moral Reasoning" - presented by Dr. Blosser at the Tenth Annual Aquinas/Luther Conference held October 24-26, 2002 at Lenoir-Rhyne College and reprinted with kind permission. Forgive the extensive quotations, but I think it relates to the problem at hand:
John Courtney Murray was once asked by a puzzled friend what foreign policy had to do with the Sermon on the Mount. He answered, "What makes you think that morality is identical with the Sermon on the Mount?" Moral reasoning, Murray insisted, was not simply a matter of quoting Scripture. . . .It is questionable whether the problem in Iraq at this point is so much as an internal "civil war" between Sunni and Shia Muslims as an actual war against Iraqi civilians by external forces (or to quote Iraqi cleric Sadroddin Ghabanchi: "a number of Takfiri groups, which have been imposed on us from outside, have come into harmony with the Ba'thist groups and kill Iraqi Shiites and Sunnites"; see also Iraq's Real "Civil War" Wall Street Journal April 5, 2007).
Suffice to say the counsels of scripture do not easily translate into a practical course of action in response to this situation. Some might think "the peaceful option" -- the only Christian option -- would be one of immediate withdrawal from Iraq and a foregoing of the use of military force. I do not think that is the case. And I think we would be reading too much into Benedict's remarks if we were to decipher from them such a call (or even a call "to repentence" on the part of President Bush).
A reader refers me to an article in www.Chiesa -- "Between Venus and Mars, the Church of Rome Chooses Both" -- which dispels the foolish notion that John Paul II was a "pacifist" or necessarily opposed to the use of military force. With respect to the Church's position on Iraq we glean the following:
. . . So during the months of the war in Iraq, various and sometimes opposing approaches operated at the highest levels of the Church, under the insignia of pope Wojtlya. But these different approaches were essentially reconciled beginning in the autumn of 2003. The turning point was the terrorist bloodbath in Nassiriya on November 12. And the new orientation was marked by cardinal Ruini's homily at the Mass for the nineteen Italians who were killed:
In nearly every conversation, the soldiers, Marines and contractors expressed they were upset with the coverage of the war in Iraq in general, and the public perception of the daily situation on the ground.Back in 2004, a single blogger by the name of Arthor Chrenkoff took it upon himself to comb the web for (suprise!) positive news from Iraq - simply to counter the usual news from the mainstream media (hey, nothing sells like the latest carbomb or bloodbath). Over the course of about two years, Chrenkoff produced 35 roundups of "good news" from Iraq AND Afghanistan. Unfortunately, he took on a position whose employer forbade blogging, but I think it's an example worth following. So to end on a good note, I'd like to direct my reader' attention to:
Blessed Easter to all.