Wednesday, December 17, 2003

THE POPE'S FOLLY. Cardinal Renato Martino joined the few yesterday in trying, unsuccessfully, to throw a wet blanket over the rest of the world’s joy at the capture of Saddam Hussein. Martino expressed pity for Hussein, especially that his medical exam was shown on television. You can understand his pity. You obviously want to show the upmost respect to a man who has rape rooms, beats the feet of athletes until they cannot walk, kills thousands of those in a different sect of his own religion, and will fall into history somewhere beneath Hitler and Stalin. It would be too easy to point out that the history of the Catholic church is full of the same stuff. Maybe the common ground generates the pity.

But more importantly is the motivation for the Vatican’s continued support of the old Iraq against America. Remember that even Italy supported us. It is the Vatican’s diplomatic effort to appease the Muslims. Part of this is to try to open the doors of Arab countries to Catholicism, as the church tries to protect and maintain its small remaining congregations in those countries. Part of it also is to try and insolate the church from attack as the Muslim jihad expands. So, the Pope issued a statement saying Muslims could get to heaven without faith in Christ (something I’ll wager he does not believe), sends envoys to rogue states, and panders to Arab countries in the press.

The sadder fact is the Vatican’s support will not help anyone. Sure, some of the critics of the President will cheer its support. His supporters will snort in derision. But even some of this opponents will not want to be aligned with the guy in the fancy robe.

The Catholic church has lost much of its moral authority, especially in the United States. Not just because it sides with our enemies, but because of the huge child abuse scandal. I do not think the Church can regain its ground here unless its leaders repent in sack cloth and ashes. So, who cares if they cater to a madman dictator. The made a deal with Mussolini, they can make one with Hussein and the other middle east dictators.

The further sad fact is that the Vatican misunderstands the nature of Islamic fundamentalism, or overestimates its abilities. Muslim fundamentalists do not recognize the right of anyone else to exist. They truly believe you must convert or die. It is not even enough anymore for you to be a Muslim, you must be a radical Muslim. Catholics are not exempt. In fact, Muslims remember that much of their historic struggle has been against Catholicism, as the Pope ordered the Crusades and Catholic armies impeded their march across Europe. Do you think it is merely coincidence that they changed the name of Constantinople?

Final proof may lie in the latest news. Intelligence services are warning that bin Laden may be planning a terrorist attack against the Vatican at Christmas.
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