23Feb1941: The world does not know it, but the Church is doing at this moment what it has traditionally done through the centuries, preserving justice during war. She is doing for justice what London is doing for art. Just as in these days, when barbarians rain down fiery death from the skies, the British Government packs up its art treasures, sends them out into the country for safe hiding places until the war is over, when barbarians rain down fiery death from the skies, the British Government packs up its art treasures, sends them out into the country for safe hiding places until the war is over, when the treasures will once more be restored to galleries for a people that needs art for its culture and tradition.
There is no such thing as living without a cross. We are free only to choose between crosses. Will it be the Cross of Christ which redeems us from our sins, or will it be the double cross, the swastika, the hammer and sickle, the fasces?
In late April and early May, the blogosphere was in an uproar over two documents circulated by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which is charged with strategic coordination among federal agencies of the war against terrorism. "The Words That Work" and "Terminology to Define the Terrorists" urged government officials and U.S. diplomats to avoid "Islamism" and "Islamist," "jihadism" and "jihadist," and "mujahadeen" to describe groups like al-Qaeda and their program. Doing so, the documents suggested, could "unintentionally legitimize terrorism." "Never use the terms ‘jihadist’ or ‘mujahadeen’...to describe the terrorists," the argument went. "A mujahad, a holy warrior, is a positive characterization in the context of a just war."
Twenty-four years in Washington having immunized me against surprise when Uncle Sam does something stupid, I didn’t feel personally rebuked by this admonition to verbal chastity, despite having used the naughty J-word in Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism (then perched on the Foreign Affairs and Catholic Booksellers Association bestseller lists). My obstinacy was subsequently reinforced by a Muslim interlocutor, who described the entire exercise as "complete lunacy" on the part of the governmental agencies involved:
"Muslims are big boys and girls and understand these matters much better than anyone in the United States government. The term ‘Islamofascism’ originated with Muslims, ‘jihadist’ is used negatively all the time by Muslims, and ‘mujahadeen’ is not a term of honor when it is abused by terrorists...The real insanity in this is the idea that the State Department is making its policy recommendations on the basis of amateur social psychology. Jihadists are not created by [the] U.S. [government]’s vocabulary...The point should not be to try to get Muslims to like the U.S. by using some kind of ameliorative vocabulary, but to convey to the Muslim masses that the U.S. knows who the enemy is, will punish them, and will support moderate Muslims who also hate the enemy."
In Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism, I criticized the administration’s failures in public diplomacy, so I’m not insensitive to the necessity of making our case for the war against jihadist terrorism—which is, among other things, the war for an Islam capable of living peacefully with social and political modernity—in appropriate terms. Years of reading the great Lebanese-born scholar Fouad Ajami have also taught me to be mindful of what Ajami calls the "pathologies" of the Arab Islamic world, including a hyper-sensitivity rooted in a profound sense of failure. So yes, by all means, let’s make our case in the most persuasive language possible.
But let’s not distort the truth in the process. Let’s not assume that those who shape the debate within the Muslim world are dolts. And let’s not transplant the worst habits of the interreligious dialogue industry—like the habit of avoiding hard issues—to the sphere of U.S. foreign policy.
The NCTC and the State Department might do well to reflect on Benedict XVI’s remarks to leaders of other world religions in Washington in April:
"Dear friends, in our attempt to discover points of commonality, perhaps we have shied away from the responsibility to discuss our differences with calmness and clarity. While always uniting our hearts and minds in the call for peace, we must also listen attentively to the voice of truth. In this way, our dialogue will not stop at identifying a common set of values, but [will] go on to probe their ultimate foundation. We have no reason to fear, for the truth unveils to us the essential relationship between the world and God."
Improving U.S. public diplomacy in this war of competing ideas about the just society must be a priority of the next administration. The false counsel in "The Words That Work" and "Terminology to Define the Terrorists," which reflect the views of Muslims identified with the interreligious dialogue industry, suggests the need for a major course correction, with the government finding itself more thoughtful Muslim counselors, less given to pandering in the face of wickedness. As Benedict XVI insists, real dialogue begins with the hard questions—and names things for what they are.
03Feb2008: While the diplomatic maneuvering between the Holy See and Muslim leaders has taken several striking turns in recent weeks, the Vatican’s strategic purpose in this conversation has been clear since Pope Benedict XVI’s 2006 Christmas address to the Roman Curia. There, while reflecting on his September 2006 Regensburg Lecture and his December 2006 visit to Turkey, the Pope suggested that the Church’s future dialogue with Islam should focus on the positive achievements of the Enlightenment, especially religious freedom understood as a basic human right and the separation of religious and political authority in a justly governed state. Regensburg and the Curial address set off a kind of inter-religious chain reaction.
In October 2007, 138 Muslim officials from around the world issued “A Common Word Between Us and You.” Addressed to the Pope and other Christian leaders, the “Letter of 138” proposed a dialogue based on the two great commandments of love of God and love of neighbor. As I wrote at the time, while the call to a deeper conversation was welcome, the “138” seemed to be trying to change the subject — for there was no mention in their letter of what the Pope had proposed discussing in the December 2006 Curial address.
On November 11, 2007, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Holy See’s Secretary of State, wrote to one of the “138,” the Jordanian prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, accepting the call to a deepened conversation, suggesting that a representative delegation of the “138” come to Rome to meet with the Pope, and proposing three topics for dialogue: “effective respect for the dignity of every human person”; “objective awareness of the other’s religion”; and “a common commitment to promoting mutual respect and acceptance among the younger generation.” In an authoritative commentary on Bertone’s letter, Father Samir Ghalil Samir, an Egyptian Jesuit and Vatican advisor on Islamic affairs, noted that the cardinal’s letter to the prince had tried to get the conversation back on the track proposed by the Pope the previous December: religious freedom and the separation of religious and political authority in the state. Father Samir also noted that several signatories among the “138” had indicated that they were not much interested in discussing those topics.
Last December 12, Prince Ghazi wrote to Cardinal Bertone, accepting the invitation to a meeting in Rome (which will likely take place in March). At the same time, the prince once again tried to change the subject, suggesting that the primary focus of dialogue should be the “intrinsic” questions raised by “A Common Word Between Us and You” (i.e., the two great commandments). At some future point, the prince suggested, “extrinsic” questions could be addressed. A close reading of the prince’s letter suggests that his “extrinsic” questions are what the Pope has gently but persistently insisted be the primary questions for today’s conversation: the natural moral law that can be known by reason; religious freedom, other human rights, and the natural moral law; religious freedom; civil equality between men and women; the separation of religious and political authority in the state.
There is a considerable gap here. The Pope has made clear what the objectives of the dialogue should be; Benedict’s conviction is based on the Catholic Church’s 19th and 20th century experience of wrestling with the question of religious freedom and other challenges posed to religion by the modern state. The “138,” as represented by the Jordanian prince, keep trying to change the subject. The exchanges are polite, but the gap is unmistakable. And the gap is not accidental.
For as I discuss in Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism (Doubleday), it is precisely the issues the Pope identified in his December 2006 Curial address that are at the root of the conflict between jihadist Islam and the rest of the world (including reformist elements within Islam). Can the gap between what the Pope proposes as a dialogue agenda and what the “138” have proposed be bridged at the March meeting in Rome? The answer to that question will be the measure of the meeting’s success. ------------------------------------- George Weigel is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
23Feb1941: The world does not know it, but the Church is doing at this moment what it has traditionally done through the centuries, preserving justice during war. She is doing for justice what London is doing for art. Just as in these days, when barbarians rain down fiery death from the skies, the British Government packs up its art treasures, sends them out into the country for safe hiding places until the war is over, when barbarians rain down fiery death from the skies, the British Government packs up its art treasures, sends them out into the country for safe hiding places until the war is over, when the treasures will once more be restored to galleries for a people that needs art for its culture and tradition; so too, in times of war throughout the ages, when man scorned justice and charity and settled their disputes by violence, the Church gathered to herself the immutable principles of Christ so that when wars ceased, the nations which repudiated them could once more rebuild civilizations anew upon them. But there is this difference between the attitude of the world to the Church now and in the past. Previously when men's passions made them forget justice momentarily, they nevertheless wanted to return to justice when their passions subsided. They did wrong, but they never denied it was wrong. Today, on the contrary, nations not only violate the laws of justice, they even deny there is justice. Because there is a repudiation of a fixed standard of justice, men and nations have no concept of an equilibrium which should be restored after the violation of law. The geometrician who in his inaccuracies or the slip of a pen draws an isosceles triangle with all unequal sides, can repair his error as long as he preserved his standard that an isosceles triangle has two equal sides. In the days of Christian civilization when international equilibrium was disturbed, men could always resort to the due order of things because a moral authority preserved it during their infidelities. But today where international justice is indentified with expediency, men no longer know what is right when they want to get back to it. That makes regeneration and reconstruction well-nigh impossible. But whether or not they will accept a justice grounded in the objective order does not alter the fact that the Church is keeping it for them, if they want it. When this war is over, the Church which will be the only institution to survive it organically, as it has survived all wars in the past, will go to the wounded and bleeding nations and say: "Here, my sons, are the principles of immutable justice, the rejection of which brought you into war." Whether or not the nations will accept those principles as the foundation upon which they will reconstruct a just international order, remains to be seen. But they can be sure of this: IF they continue to exile morality and justice in the next post-war generation as they did in the last, they will only prepare for another dirty mess wherein new-fangled tyrannies and apostate democracies by progressive demoralization will outbid one another in the surrender of the last vestige of Christianity. The danger is that as this war goes on, men will consider peace only as a cessation of hostilities rather than the product of justice, just as presently they think freedom is the absence of law rather than the environment of duty. The mistake the world makes is to think that peace is something directly sought. It is not. Rather, peace is indirectly achieved. It is a by-product, like bloom on a cheek. First you have health, then you have the glorious bloom. In like manner, first you have justice, then you have peace. But to seek peace without justice is only to put rouge on the international cheeks- and the first good rain storm of selfishness will wash it away. It is not peace we must work toward- as if peace were something static like a tree- or the maintenance of the status quo, or the preservation of the present division of wealth. Peace is not a passive but an active condition. It is balance in movement; the tranquility of order. For that reason, Our Lord never said: "Blessed are the peaceful", but "Blessed are the peacemakers" (Matt 5:9). There is the dilemma which confronts the nations: Will they return to an ethical concept of justice or continue to confuse justice with expediency, for example, by calling Russia, as we do, "a friendly nation." There is fundamentally only one test for the dignity of nations. Shall they think that their dignity is lowered by admitting a universal moral principle, even when it goes against them?We are living in days of fear and there is no escape from fear except trust. Everything else we have trusted has failed us: Universal education, progress, science, liberalism, totalitarianism. There is no one left to trust but the Father from whose house as prodigal children we left for a false freedom. I do not know whom you are going to trust, but if my personal trust has any interest for you, I shall trust the only moral authority left in the world, the Chief Shepherd and Vicar of Jesus Christ; and I shall trust in that authority to the end of my life, if God’s Truth and Justice which He gave to His Church cannot be trusted, then nothing can be trusted. I shall trust it, too, because I want a messenger and envoy of Christ who has not tampered with His message because he met a liberal or a scientist or a Bolshevik on the roadway. I shall trust it because I want an authority that is right, not right when the world is right, but right when the world is wrong. I shall trust it because "experience has taught us that no worldly calculations, no human foresights, no political expedients can bring remedy to the grave disorders from which mankind is suffering." I shall trust it because "Christ alone is the ‘corner stone’ (Ephesians 2:20) on which man and society can find stability and salvation" (Summi Pontificatus). I shall trust it because the history of the last few centuries of the wisest men. I can see no hope unless we reverse the present order and admit that instead of politics setting limits to religion and morality of Jesus Christ, religion and the morality of Jesus Christ must begin to set limits to politics.
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The 7th century Christians of Asia and Africa..had trained themselves not to fight, whereas the Moslems were trained to fight. Christianity was saved in Europe solely because the peoples of Europe fought the Mohammedans who invaded...From the hammer of Charles Martel to the sword of Sobieski, Christianity owed its safety in Europe to the fact it...would fight as well as the Mohammedan aggressor.
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