Amid the cries of the Jewish community calling for Pope Benedict XVI to denounce comments insulting to Jews made at the Vatican’s recent Middle East Synod, Islamists stormed into a Catholic church in Baghdad and murdered at least 52 hostages. While many were notably silent about this slaughter of Catholics, our Jewish friends at the Simon Wiesenthal Center and elsewhere were quick to condemn the attack along with the Pope. All eyes appear to be on the Vatican as the Pope prepares his apostolic letter to the Middle East. Is it possible that some bishops have themselves become hostages of Islam? What might we expect the Pope to say in his apostolic letter?
In order for Catholics and non-Catholics alike to understand more clearly the depth of the dangers and temptations for Catholic bishops in Muslim countries, I believe it is critically important to consider a recent article by my Catholic compatriot Robert Spencer at FrontPageMag. Considering the conflicting messages coming from two bishops in particular, Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros and Emmanuel III Cardinal Delly, we should consider that this could be something of a hostage situation itself.
Their odd statements of late were almost certainly made in an attempt to protect their communities. The situation of Christians in the Middle East is bad enough, and they may fear they will make it even worse by speaking more honestly about Islamic supremacism and jihad. But Western audiences should note the full reality of the situation, and call all the more loudly for the human rights community to speak out, and for the world to take action, to end the persecution of Christians in Muslim countries — so that these embattled leaders need exhibit Stockholm Syndrome-like symptoms, or dissemble to protect their people, no longer.
The problem Pope Benedict now faces might be likened on some level to the same conundrum experienced by his predecessor Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust. Say too much and more people will be murdered. Say too little and more people will be murdered. There is no perfect answer here for the Pope and some believe no matter what he says, it may be “too little, too late” for Christians in some Muslim countries.
We can take comfort that even the leftist National Catholic Reporter [NCR] seems to agree on an important point with both Robert Spencer and myself that Archbishop Bustros’s comments about Judaism in particular are not in keeping with Nostra Aetate, the document of Vatican II dealing with Catholic teaching on non-Christian religions, and should in no way be seen as official Church teaching about Judaism.
In any event, if one wants to know the official teaching of the Catholic church vis-à-vis Judaism, there’s a wealth of material to draw upon — beginning with the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. A one-off comment from a single prelate does not, and by definition cannot, carry anything like the same weight.
Catholics believe that the Church, through the Pope, cannot and will not teach an absolute contradiction on matters of faith and morals. It is for this reason that we should in no way expect the Pope to agree with Archbishop Bustros’s comments, which are troubling even to NCR. Having said that, all who are friends to Jews and Catholics in the Middle East and who understand the political and violent nature of Islam would do well to continue to be watchful of the Religious Left’s alliances with Islamists — troubling alliances sometimes even to be found within our own chanceries — and to speak out for truth and for peace.