Hard Sayings about Terror

A few days ago, the U.S. Embassy in Rome issued a “security message” for Americans to be cautious about visiting various sites in Italy, first among them “St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.” And both Italian and Vatican security forces have now set up far more serious checkpoints – even just to enter St. Peter’s Square – than the rather casual screening they did in the past. When the pope drove through the crowds there this week, the bodyguard detail was double the normal size. Let’s hope this is not just a passing reaction, but a profound realization of the new, if regrettable, moment in which the world now finds itself. And the nature and magnitude of the response it requires.

Pope Francis himself has several times spoken of attacks like the recent ones in Paris as part of a “piecemeal World War III.” He did so again the other day. He hasn’t elaborated further, and at times has introduced no little confusion about what, exactly, he means by suggesting that some unspecified “they” won’t admit to the reality of the new World War yet. (The Muslim world? The West? America?)

In the past, he has hinted that perhaps all sides are to blame – and that nations or individuals who sell arms in conflicted areas are damned to Hell (that was said directly, no hinting). But Francis also commented in particularly harsh terms, unusual for him when he’s speaking about adherents of another faith, about the perpetrators in Paris, “The path of violence and hatred cannot resolve the problems of humanity, and using the name of God to justify this path is blasphemy.”

Quite so. ISIS and the significant minority of Muslims who to a greater or lesser degree support their violent jihad against the West, however, will not be turned from mayhem by moral condemnation, but by a just application of force – force, as has always been taught in the just war tradition, that is properly used to eliminate implacable killers and to protect innocent lives. There is no negotiation, no “dialogue” with enemies of this sort: death is their message, and the only proportionate response it to refuse to take delivery and return to sender.

It would be heartening to see a vigorous “dialogue” here and with our European allies about how – not whether – to pursue that course, the kind of dialogue among people of common purpose, confident about the rightness of the cause, that we saw in the last World War about how to eliminate the evil of Nazism. The fight will take great prudence, so as not to get drawn into the kind of quagmire, military and ideological, that ISIS desires. That means swift, well targeted, overwhelming firepower and manpower, at the proper time and place, followed by the introduction of troops from our Muslim friends, to hold territory and keep remaining ISIS forces on the run for good.

ISIS on the move in Anbar Province, Iraq [AP]
ISIS on the move in Anbar Province, Iraq [AP]

Instead, what we have at the moment is, of all things, partisan bickering over refugees, a serious problem – to be sure – but a secondary one. Even the Administration says that vetting refugees using current standards takes somewhere close to two years. More seriously, our president doesn’t seem to feel any need to re-examine our course or any sense of urgency about the situation. In the meantime, America, Europe, Africa, the Far East, and the whole world are going to have multiple terror problems on their hands. Egypt, Lebanon, and Iraq earlier this month. France last week, Mali this week. Who’s next?

We’re also frittering away energy trying to assign blame for such attacks in partisan terms. There’s plenty that we in the West have done badly or failed to do, which has affected this whole threat. But we should be clear about one thing: the terrorists are cold-blooded murderers and their apocalyptic violence has very little to do with Western actions and a whole lot to do with perverse currents in Islam.

Just a few historical reference points: We had the Iran hostage crisis under Carter (D), multiple attacks against American targets under Reagan (R), the first bombing of the World Trade Towers in 1993 under Clinton (D), 9/11 under Bush (R), and several “setbacks” under Obama (D).

If there’s any general lesson to be drawn from this history, it’s that Islamic terrorism is non-partisan. It’s an understandable human trait to want to think that: if only we leave them alone, or speak more nicely to them, or deny that their apocalyptic visions or political aspirations are unrelated to deeply held religious views, that these outrages will slowly melt away. And that eventually we can all go back to pretending that everyone in the world really aspires to our American metrosexual, urban (or suburban), secular, skeptical, digital, consumerist lifestyles.

It’s silly to think that we “created” such radicalism. We didn’t. Modernity in general generates reactions against its obvious corruptions and defects. Our multicultural universities, instead of obsessing over microaggresions or Islamo-, homo-, and other “phobias,” perhaps might help us better understand such reactions if they devoted some time to studying how they have emerged in other cultures, and in such murderous form. And from historical circumstances over which no one, not even an American president, has full control.

All of us need to be more engaged in thinking through what we can now do about them. Part of the solution is military, part a battle of ideas. Though let’s be brutally honest: Our influence on Muslim ideology is and will be quite limited.

In just a few weeks, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8), Pope Francis will inaugurate the Jubilee Year of Mercy. It will draw millions of pilgrims to St. Peter’s and other holy sites around Europe. Tempting targets for killers who believe they are fighting “Crusader” forces. The new security around the Vatican and other sites is long overdue, a sad byproduct of our times. But the solution to the broader problem lies elsewhere, at the source. A hard saying, but true.

Robert Royal

Robert Royal

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century, published by Ignatius Press. The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, is now available in paperback from Encounter Books.

  • DeaconEdPeitler

    Just as in the 20th century, the call went out for the faithful to pray for the “conversion of Russia”, so now Rome ought to call for prayer for the conversion of Islam. But that will not happen since we will probably be encouraged to “accompany the Islamic terrorists on their life’s journey”.

    • kathleen

      Pray for the conversion of Islam nevertheless. I was inspired to do so after receiving Holy Communion this morning. And pray for the terrorists as well. Jesus told St. Faustina that prayer for the conversion of sinners pleased him most of all, and that prayer is always answered. We can’t fathom God – our job is to continue to believe in Him and in Jesus Christ whom He sent to save all of us – and the word is “all”. Peace.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Here is a curious autobiographical fact. On three occasions, I have been in the near vicinity of a terrorist bomb explosion.

    The first time, on Monday 22nd January 1962, aged 16, I was on the embankment of the Seine, in front of the French Foreign Office at Quai d’Orsay, when the OAS plastiqueurs set off a bomb there. Three 5 kg (11 lb) charges of C-4 were used, packed into the mouldings of the facade. Hundreds of windows were blown in. One woman was killed and thirteen people injured.

    The second was on Thursday 8th March 1973, when the IRA set off a bomb outside the Central Criminal Court in Old Bailey in the City of London. The bomb, about 14 kg or 30 lb of Semtex, was in a car across the street from a public house called the Magpie & Stump. One bar faces the street and the other is behind it, reached from an alleyway called Bishop’s Court. I was in the back bar, when the front of the building was blown in. In the street, one person died and one hundred and forty were injured

    The third was on Saturday 17th December 1983, when the IRA planted another car bomb, similar to the Old Bailey bomb, in Hans Crescent, at the back of Harrods’s, the London department store in Knightsbridge. I was going there to do some Xmas shopping and had stopped to chat to a friend in Sloan Street. I would have used the Hans Crescent entrance. Six people were killed, including three police officers who had just arrived and were still in their car. One of the dead was an American visitor. Ninety people were injured.

    In retrospect, it is remarkable how little impact these and similar outrages, over a thirty year period, had on daily life in the UK.

    • agape

      Yes and thank God your life was spared.

  • Oscar Pierce

    Insightful..as always, thank you. Of course the vigorous dialogue you speak of, will not occur under the current administration. In my opinion, this is not a mere failure to act; rather a willful choice supported, in effect, by a general population with far larger concerns…such as the microaggressions you refer to. So, from whence the prerequisite leadership…?

    As for myself, I pray a lot.

  • Manfred

    A question: Which do you think has caused more people to spend eternity in Hell: Islamic terrorists, or popes, bishops who did not catechize the faithful?
    Do you know why ISIS is “on the move” in the open in your photograph? Because of a failure of Will, as otherwise Allied aircraft would have strafed that column as was done in the Kuwait war.
    America won our Civil War and and the Allies won WW II when the decision was made: Unconditional Surender.
    Robert, your second paragraph above tells a sad tale. In my opinion, no one in my circles give Pope Francis the time of day, much less spend a moment attempting to parse what he means when he says or writes anything. Lincoln and his generals Grant, Sherfrman and Sheridan, and Churchill and FDR organized and accomplished the victories of their respective wars and I don’t believe Catholicism played any major role at all in the victories.
    Do you know why Portiugal has not been disturbed by terrorists? Because they never offered citizenship to the people in their colonies. Britain and France did and it is their Muslim citizens who are the source of their problems/.

    • PCB

      Dear Manfred: I have a question about your above premise: “Lincoln and his generals Grant, Sherfrman and Sheridan, and Churchill and FDR organized and accomplished the victories of their respective wars and I don’t believe Catholicism played any major role at all in the victories.” – I don’t necessarily disagree with this statement, however, I am not sure I understand fully what point you are making; can you please elaborate more on this assertion? – thanks!

      • Manfred

        Dear PCB: Thank you for your query. The Just War theory has historically been part of the considerations Christian (and pre-Christian) leaders would refer to when planning for war. You would benefit from reviewing the points.
        The Just War theory was abandoned with the Iraq invasion. The Vatican sent two emissaries to tell G.W. Bush that the invasion of Iraq would be “illegal and immoral” as there was no threat to the U.S. or any other country at that time by Saddam. Recall that the last DECLARED war was WW II.The U.S.
        Catholics pose a problem because they would never be able to agree on whether any war would be necessary or just. This Country has killed 60 million children in abortuaries and has sold their body parts for a profit. Some Catholics believe this is heinous and others are indifferent or support it. Catholics cannot even agree whether the Crusades were moral. In fact, every Christian in the Middle East will be wiped out today and all Catholics will do is write about it. They will see their countries overrun with people from the regions the Americans destabilized by invading Iraq and the bishops will respond “Send us more”.

        • PCB

          Thanks for elucidating, Manfred!

        • Quo Vadis

          Manfred: “Catholics cannot even agree whether the Crusades were moral.” Quite frankly, most Catholics don’t even know the real history of the Crusades and understand their true purpose. They accept as fact that they were an aggressive war against poor defenseless Arabs.

          • John II

            That notion of the Crusades dates back at least to the writings of the 18th-century anti-Christian rationalist Edward Gibbon, but it gained much more mileage with the publication of Steven Runciman’s brilliantly written popular three-volume History of the Crusades in the early 1950’s.

            Somewhat like Gibbon, Runciman was a great stylist and personal eccentric, who gave vent to his uppercrust Brit anti-Catholic bias under cover of an apparently prodigious scholarship (his real expertise was in select features of Byzantine history).

            Both the content and the methodology of his Crusade history have been roundly refuted by subsequent scholarship, but Runciman’s version remains in force in the empty heads of today’s secularist advocates (remember Bill Clinton holding forth on the Crusades?) who’ve never even read Runciman, let alone the subsequent refutations.

  • Even though common sense would dictate that Western nations take some kind of action against ISIS and other such terrorist networks, the pacifists in power, both in the Church and in government, will continue to hold back. Just like Obama’s ire will show only when discussing Republicans who rightly declare that his foreign policy has led to this problem, Pope Francis’s wrath will flare up against arms dealers and rich business owners more so than terrorists who torture and kill Christians.

    Royal does well to articulate the position of a just war, which defends the innocent and seeks to eliminate an enemy who refuses to find a peaceful resolution. Nevertheless, there are those who will say that the loving response would be to take in all the refugees and leave their persecutors in peace. Catholics should point out that this thinking equates love with neglect and only worsens a bad situation rather than corrects it. A truly loving response would involve punishment that removes the evil and offers an opportunity for goodness to take place.

    Jesus said that “Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword,” warning Christians against using terrorism since the only logical response to it would be swift and complete annihilation, not conversion. This seems apparent with extreme Islam today.

  • Francis Miller

    I think your defining sentence is the following. ” And that eventually we can all go back to pretending that everyone in the world really aspires to our American metrosexual, urban (or suburban), secular, skeptical, digital, consumerist lifestyles.” I do not think our current administration or what most likely will follow it believes that their aspirations are pretense. It is the blind spot of progressive liberalism. The weakness it carries with it is the lack of definitive leadership based on values. Values to them are merely preferences and in time all who have values will see the that the preference for materialism is right even if it is nihilistic. This fundamental sentiment allows the academic elite and left leaning democratic party to equivocate on the response to ISIS and pound the table with their shoes demanding unhindered access to abortion. I pray that this enormous blind spot causes us to wake up and reject their message.

  • grump

    “It’s a silly to think that we “created” such radicalism. We didn’t.” Perhaps it would be wise to remember, “We reap what we sow.” American militarism and imperialism go way back and the massive “blowback” from a long list of attacked, invaded, overthrown or occupied foreign sovereign lands and regimes, including Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chile, Panama, El Salvador, to name but a few, continues. Call it “terrorism” or “asymmetrical warfare,” but there’s no denying that a highly visible U.S. military presence in more than 120 countries around the world, many of which have majority Muslim populations, has sparked increasing hatred of the West, which is in steep cultural and religious decline.

    In large measure, several decades of U.S. “force projection” or the maintenance of American military hegemony over the rest of the world may be said to have created the “radicalism” we see today. Yes, the “terrorists are cold-blooded killers,” but what differentiates them from U.S. and NATO bombers and drone strikes that reign death down from 30,000 feet killing untold numbers of innocents? Do those lives matter, too?

    Eisenhower’s 1961 warning of the “military-industrial complex” fell on deaf ears. But such admonitions go back to the Founders, who averred that war is the greatest threat to the Republic. James Madison, the chief author of the Constitution wrote, “Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.”

    Perpetual war for perpetual peace…

    • givelifeachance2

      It is only when the Iago who is funding and manipulating all the ideologues. .the communists, the Marxists, the frankfurt neocons…is taken down that we will have true peace.

    • mrteachersir

      Such radicalism originated under the Ottoman Empire, as the Arabs viewed the Ottomans as having bastardized Islam, as evidenced by the decline in prestige and power in the Islamic Empire. This was the begining of the Wahabbist movement. Lawrence of Arabia used that radicalism and Arab nationalism to get the Arabs to fight against the Ottomans in WWI. Behind the scenes, though, the British and French had already agreed to establish “spheres of influence”, and stifle the growing Islamic insurgence. The result of this agreement was the establishment of Arab strongmen, allied with Britain or France, that put Islamic radicalism at bay, at least on the surface.

      Saudi Arabia, which is governed by Wahabbists, has used what we would call “radical Islam” as its governing principle since then…

  • PCB

    “(I)f only we leave them alone” – it is becoming ever increasing clear that ISIS(L)/Radical Islam is demanding a show-down, a final confrontation with the “West”, by their repeated provocations – they are determined to force “Our” hand, with continual pokes, until they wake the “sleeping giant”. In my view, it’s just a matter of time before the West (most especially the U.S.) is forced to meet them whole-heartedly – Holy Mary, Mother of God, Mother of Good Counsel, Mirror of Justice, Destroyer of Heresy, Pray for us.

    • mrteachersir

      Shia Islam, especially the strain in power in Iran, yearns for a final cataclysmic showdown in order to create a chaotic scenario from which to bring back the 12th Imam, and thus the end of the world…

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    The virtually unresolvable difficulty is what does a coalition do with these territories encompassing two nations after they are freed of ISIS control. Do we occupy interminably fighting a guerrilla war as we did in Iraq and leave only to allow them to return. Do we set up a new occupying government in Syria and western Iraq similar to what we did in Japan or leave the status quo in Baghdad and Damascus. Then there are the huge growing Islamic populations in Europe and Israel many who are being rapidly drawn to ISIS religious ideology. Islam is roughly 1/4 of the world’s population and rapidly growing. You speak to Christian re-vitalization which may take aeons. You touch on re-education. There are many Muslim scholars in Cairo and elsewhere who likely would be interested in offering programs in universities worldwide that present the thought of Islamic philosophers during the 11th-12th centuries like Ibn Rushd who promoted a return to reason and separating intolerance in the Koran from the need to accommodate to living in the world. If we were to invade and defeat the ISIS caliphate draconian measures are required including re-education and the willingness of occupiers to set up new inclusive governments unlike the disastrous al Maliki government set up and vainly protected with precious American blood and lives.

    • Tom Brennan

      How about we use a strategy of containment instead? Let ISIS have its precious caliphate, then wait for the historically inevitable: fighting over who gets to play the central role, inability of people who specialize in destroying to build anything worthwhile, disillusionment of those who thought this would bring about paradise on earth.
      Yes, it would be hell for those caught inside ISIS’ borders, but that should be telling. It would also be hell if we invaded.
      And, finally, Just War theory requires a reasonable expectation of “success” – and recent history gives us little confidence of winning either the war or the peace if we invade their territory. But wear them down by containment – that would give lie to their dreams of global expansion. Especially if we emphasize that we are “letting” them have their space.

      • mrteachersir

        This is perhaps the only viable option. A full-scale offensive against ISIS would be catastrophic.not in the actual assault, but in the “peace”. Let those subjugated under ISIS rule see how that all works out. Let Muslims everywhere see the eventuality of ISIS’s collapse.

      • Mike Geremia

        Remember Lawrence of Arabia in Damascus could not get the Arab victors to agree on anything and they began to fight each other……that was 100 years ago…….

  • Howard Kainz

    Toward the end of Robert Hugh Benson’s novel, The Lord of the World, the Antichrist gets the pope and the remaining cardinals to flee to one place where they are to be annihilated. The idea is that by getting rid of them not only Catholicism but Christianity will be finally extinguished. ISIS’ plan to finally decimate Rome after Constantinople (now Istanbul) to gain the ultimate victory of Islam makes sense from their vantage point.

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    Also I should add there are competing dangerous interests including Russia which has a warm water naval port in Damascus controlled territory and whose Alawite Govt is closely aligned ideologically with Shiite Iran. Russia has some 20 million Sunnis within its southern flanks [recall Chechnya] who are closer to ISIS than their Sunni nemesis Shiite Iran. Thus Russia and Iran’s alliance. Turkey is not Arabic but Turkoman who as the Ottoman Empire ruled as oppressors of the Arabs for several centuries. Now Turkey mainly Sunni has ambitions of being the leader in the Sunni world and is evidently unwilling to seriously oppose Sunni Arabs. Perhaps a grand alliance as achieved by Bush 41 in the first Gulf War with the negotiated avoidance of conflict with Russia and Iran and the determination to install new inclusive governments in the territory that is now ISIS coupled with effective re-education is feasible. But virtually no one expects our present administration to provide that world wide leadership. Can it or perhaps something more feasible be done? It doesn’t seem so in my opinion short of Divine intervention.

  • augury

    Would argue that “we” certainly did create the radicalism on display in Paris. For decades we’ve been propping up the Saudi Royalty, first to get them to get Sadat to expel the Russians from Egypt and then as part of the neo-con project to support Israel. The Alwaleed Center at Georgetown shows the deep incestuous inter-connectedness between Washington DC neocons and the Saudi Royals. The Faustian bargain for the American -Saudi alliance, of course, is the militant Wahabism coming out of Saudi, which is the sole source of the terrorism we’ve been living with the last 20 years. ( BTW, “we” more directly caused the current ISIS manifestation of Wahabism by waging a moronic neo-con war in Iraq, and then worsened the error by pulling out precipitously, thus creating a vaccuum for the ISIS facsists to exploit) The root causes of this terrorism are very identifiable and can be extirpated. The cost? I doubt the Saudi Royal family retains power if we/ they move decisively to stop up the gushing Wahabist sewer. A “democratic” Saudi Arabia puts all the more pressure on Israel, whose interests are, of course, the main reason there is such a thing as neoconservatism in the first place. I suspect that ISIL’s days are numbered. Radical Islamic terrorism? Not so much.

    • Chris in Maryland

      Islam has always been radically violent…for 1,400 years…because the Koran commands violence against Christians, Jews and other non-Muslims.

      • Mike Geremia

        Islam: Either convert or DIE……………..

  • georgethorvat

    This author and most others who seem to know little about history should take some time to study the reason and purpose’s of The Crusades. The Crusades came about to blunt the advances the Muslims were making in their attempt to conquer the world and wipe out all other religions.

    Also don’t for a single moment think that there is such a thing as a peaceful Muslim. Just look back to 9/11 and watch the videos of all the Muslims in every Muslim nation dancing in the streets when The World Trade Centers two buildings came crashing down taking over three thousand innocent souls to their graves.

    • Rick

      True…and don’t forget the inquisition…It was very necessary to stop raids along the Iberian coastline.

  • Bro_Ed

    We are where we are and the historians will decide how we got here. We must decide what to do now. Our enemies are Muslim Terrorists. Not “Radical” Muslim Terrorists because, as far as I know, there are no “Conservative” Muslim Terrorists, let alone “Moderate” Muslim Terrorists.

    Second, you don’t negotiate or try to convert a rabid dog. You destroy him. The Muslim Terrorists seem to believe that they are bringing on the End Times They are willing (eager even) to die for that. I think bombing them is a big help as are the drones that sent off Jihadi John and the Belgium Massacre Planner to their preferred world. But – as always – Victory will come down to troops on the ground going town to town, building to building, cleaning them out. What troops? I would pray not our’s but the Arab world isn’t too enthused about taking the lead and bearing the burden. Is this because they’re afraid, they don’t trust their crooked leaders, or because they secretly support the terrorist cause? The biggest thing we have going for us is that they seem to hate each other almost as much as they hate us. The Muslim world must be made to realize that this is their problem. They must mobilize to solve this problem. We can arm and advise, but they must be out front.

  • John II

    “The path of violence and hatred cannot resolve
    the problems of humanity, and using the name of God to justify this
    path is blasphemy.”

    “Quite so.”

    Sorry, but I can’t understand what you’re referring to when you say “Quite so.” It’s not at all clear what the Holy Father is talking about. Who on earth today is using the name of God to justify violence and hatred?

    Allah is not the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, nor the Person of Jesus. Pope Benedict XVI made that point almost in passing in his lecture at Regensberg. In doing so, he sparked several rent-a-mob protests in the Islamic world and at least one publicized murder–of a nun working in a north African hospital.

    Does the Holy Father know anything serious about Islam? He certainly knows nothing about economics, and the ignorance doesn’t seem to prevent him from ranting publicly about the topic. Is it morally acceptable for an influential person to speak out when he doesn’t know what he’s talking about? Or even to allow his sloppy obiter dicta to free reign under any circumstances?

    • Howard Kainz

      You are over-reacting. Arabian-speaking Christians also refer to God as “Allah.”

      • John II

        I’ve never heard of such a language. If you mean “Arabic-speaking,” your point is merely pedantic. If it isn’t clear to you that I’m referring to the “Allah” of the Qur’an, you may take my point as now clarified.

        On the other hand, perhaps you’re merely under-reacting from the comfort of your study. These are shallow waters.

    • Poor Sinner

      Thank you for pointing out, John, that Allah is not our God, in line with Pope Benedict XVI. According to the Quran, “Allah is the best of deceivers.” Allah is Satan, not God. By your fruits you shall know them. We can finagle about translations all day long, but the fact remains that Muslims believe Allah deceived humanity into thinking Christ’s attackers killed Him when they really did not, because Allah took Christ to himself. To believe that is to be deceived. Muslims are deceived. I love them as brethren in the Abrahamic religions, but as the good book says, Ishmael shall be a wild ass of a man who turns his hand against all men and against whom all men shall turn their hand. Yes, Christ the King is Prince of Peace, and blessed are the peacemaker, so we should turn the other cheek. But Christ also said He came to bring the sword and that we should carry swords, so war can be just. There is a long tradition of soldier-saints to this purpose: St. Martin de Tours, St. George, St. Joan of Arc, St. Louis IX (who died on a Crusade), St. Michael… We must invoke their protection in a war that is fundamentally not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities. Intriguingly, Saint Francis of Assisi, who sought to be a knight at one point, went to Africa to be beheaded by Muslims, but they loved him so much they refused to. We should pray to the Holy Poor Man of Assisi for the peace of Europe, the Middle East, and the world. Peace begins in our own hearts, spreads to our families, and from there, to the rest of the world, as Mother Teresa pointed out.

      • Michael DeLorme

        Would that it were true that the good Benedict had insisted, explicitly, that Allah is not the God if Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or Christ. The Regensburg Lecture took as its starting point a 14th century dispute over whether God is pure will (voluntarism) or pure reason (intellectualism).

        It seems that within Islam the belief in a God of reason is almost non-existent. God, for Muslims, is pure will. Within Christianity though, we find both strains. The disciples of Thomas Aquinas tended to believe God is pure reason; followers of Duns Scotus that He is pure will.

        The criticism against the traditional understanding of a God of reason is that He seems to acquire too many layers of cultural accretions and become the “the God of the philosophers and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” as Pascal put it.

        The problem with a God of pure will is that everything becomes arbitrary. A follower of Aquinas might say: murder is intrinsically evil; even if God didn’t exist, it would be reasonable to hold that murder is evil; and since God wills only what is good, He could only have prohibited murder.

        If God is pure will, there is no need to understand anything. He could just as easily have commanded that we commit murder; the only necessary moral posture is one of obedience.

        Certainly one may infer from Benedict’s remarks that he doesn’t consider the notion of Allah to be the equivalent of Yahweh, when he writes “Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…”

        That certainly seems to be the posture of Muslim extremists who are able to commit every kind of barbarity, not because it’s reasonable but because they imagine it to be commanded.

        Unfortunately, in referring to that part of his lecture that caused controversy in the Muslim world, in footnotes Benedict writes:

        “I hope that the reader of my text can see immediately that this sentence does not express my personal view of the Qur’an, for which I have the respect due to the holy book of a great religion.”

        I love Benedict; I only wish he hadn’t blinked here.

        • Poor Sinner

          This is very interesting background; thank you! I also wonder whether the predominantly Western distinction between an internal and an external concept of the holy war of jihad is nothing more than a superimposition of Cartesian mind-body dualism upon an Eastern ideology that maintains no such intrinsic distinction. For ISIS, war is war, against flesh and blood, rather than powers and principalities.

  • In regards to ” Our multicultural universities, instead of obsessing over microaggressions or Islamo-, homo-, and other “phobias,” perhaps might help us better understand such reactions if they devoted some time to studying how they have emerged in other cultures, and in such murderous form”

    Please note that Notre Dame and Georgetown both have centers of Islamic studies, Georgetown I know has taken millions from Saudi Arabia and I am sure Notre Dame has too. I am not sure how Catholics are supposed to oppose Islam when it seems that the Church is wholesale capitulating to them and aiding and abetting their evil cause on top of it (google Muslim Brotherhood, State Dept and Georgetown University). Seems to me that these colleges and others are purposefully brainwashing young people to accept Islam (whilst covering up the ugly little realities of Shariah), and reject judeo-christian values as cruel, outdated and unfair.
    Also, it irks me that Georgetown has a Christian-Islamic Peace Center. I guess the Jews aren’t important enough to be included.

  • sw

    1. How can one agree with the Pope that “The path of violence and hatred cannot resolve the problems of humanity” and still recommend using force (i.e. violence) to solve the problems
    of humanity in the same paragraph?

    2. Who is “we”? If France is attacked, an argument may be made that France may or may not justly fight a war, but the US has nothing to do with it. The Magisterium has stated in no uncertain terms that pre-emptive strikes are violations of the Just War Doctrine.

    3. All too often someone claims that wars are okay because of Just War Doctrine, but they do not mention the specifics of why, in a specific case the doctrine is applicable for EVERY tenet (which it has to be). Here, I will show that it is not applicable to ANY tenet.

    3a. “the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain” There is no nation declaring war, so Just War Doctrine does not apply. Also, from the US perspective the damage is certain – certainly 0.

    3b. “all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective” From a US perspective, the means of putting it to an end is simple – do not start it.

    3c. “there must be serious prospects of success” This is impossible because no one knows who these people are. The only means of certain success would be to kill everyone who is not you, which would violate 3d below.

    3d. “the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.” I will give the author the benefit of the doubt that he may be able to restrain himself to use excessive force. But I will not grant the US government that. Given past experiences, I cannot see how anyone could. For ONE example, over 400,000 Iraqis died in pursuit of an al Qaeda that may have numbered, at most, a few hundred. The author cannot claim moral ignorance if he supports the US military and they kill far beyond what he believed
    was just. If he ignores the facts of history regardless of how unpleasant they are to him, he is just as morally culpable as those pulling the triggers.

    4. For more similar comments, see my comments in yesterday’s article “Whither Islam?”

    It is difficult to follow the rules when you do not like them. But that is specifically when adherence to rules is most needed. As Catholics, we need to follow the rules of the Church and not rationalize those rules that are inconvenient to us. If we do, what is the point of being Catholic?

    • John II

      “As Catholics, we need to follow the rules of the Church and not rationalize those rules that are inconvenient to us.”

      Actually, as adult Catholics, we need to apply reflective prudential judgment to the “rules of the Church.” We also need to resist any temptation to aggrandize the authority of the Church in selective support of our particular political preferences.

      All Catholics are free to be pacifists or to be opponents of capital punishment. No Catholics are free to support their preferences with moral smugness derived from habits of flimsy argument and opportunistic citation.

  • Mike Geremia

    it is about time for the Pope to call for a 21st century Crusade…..call upon all the nations in Europe to recruit and send a million man army of all European nations to go to the middle east and wipe out ISIS……………….

  • S-Pi

    A lot of good sense here. However, “followed by the introduction of troops from our Muslim friends” is part of the suggested course of action. It is a basic principle of Islam, in the Quran, not to ally with infidels, especially against other Muslims. Seemingly inexplicable incidents like murder of some of our soldiers by our “allies” in Afghanistan should come as no surprise. The time has come when people who kill us thing they are pleasing God.

  • Robert A Rowland

    At last someone who understands the real problem with Islam. There can be no dialogue between evil and good. Any war that attacks Islam and evil must be a just war. There will be no peace in the world until the last Muslim converts or is destroyed. That may not be the way we want – But It must be the way that judgment must take. There is only one God, and His name is not Allah.

  • pescher

    “In ignorance they forgot what they knew,
    In pride they mocked who they were;
    In consequence, they disappeared”.
    A child will pester their parents by asking “why” which suggests to me that we are created/have evolved to seek the truth. While riven by forces to avoid this search, our minds will not be content until they rest in the Truth. Our task is to bombard our culture with an abundance of facts until there is no safe place for ignorance to hide.

  • Poor Sinner

    Good question! What I am attempting to articulate is that Westerners tend to conceive of mind as being one thing, and matter as another – flesh versus the spirit – whereas I’m not sure such a difference exists in the metaphysics of Mohammed. I could be wrong; I’m just throwing it out there. It would have radical implications as far as ethics is concerned though, I would think.

  • Maritime

    Great article!