Perhaps the most tragic image from the Easter massacre in Sri Lanka is a picture of girls in white dresses and veils who were about to make their first Communion at one of the two Catholic churches that Muslim terrorists attacked. Instead of forming a line to receive the Eucharist, the girls were aligned in a row of neat, lifeless bodies.
"I condemn this barbaric Islamist violence," wrote Cardinal Robert Sarah in his Easter tweet. Sarah, from Guinea, is the prefect for the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
Yet far too many Catholic prelates express the kind of vapid sentimentality Pope Francis displayed in tweeting about the massacre:
"Today, too, let us join in prayer with the Christian community of Sri Lanka, which was struck by terrible violence on Easter Sunday. We entrust to the risen Lord the victims, the wounded and all the suffering."
Francis' response is the latest in a series of similar non-reactions from the Vatican and Catholic prelates to the murder of the innocent and the persecution of the faithful, especially by Muslims. But such responses demonstrate more than moral apathy. They illustrate the Vatican's policy of appeasing Islam at the expense of the innocent, which reflects Rome's embrace of secular utopianism.
Pope John Paul II ignited the appeasement policy as part of his geopolitical agenda. For the late Pope, Islam represented an ally against secularism and materialism, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies, as well as a partner in forging an ideological alternative.
"The Church is aware that it can offer a sort of new civil religion to the United States of Europe," wrote Enzo Pace, sociology professor at the University of Padua. "Islam thus becomes the most important moral interlocutor because the Church sees it as a well-structured religion which is on the increase in contemporary Europe. The real object of this consideration of Islam is the social and cultural integration of Muslim groups in the new Europe."
The new Europe's fate depended on constant dialogue with Islam.
"For Karol Wojtyla (the Pope's given name), religious dialogue is necessary in order to foster the common good of humanity," wrote Renzo Guolo, an expert in Islam at the University of Trieste. "This dialogue is sustained by the awareness that there are common values across cultures, because these values are rooted in human nature. These include the defense of the family, opposition to abortion, and peace."
At the United Nations' 1994 conference on population and development, the Vatican joined Iran, Libya and Sudan to deny funding for health programs that included abortion and contraception. In other areas, John Paul II went farther.
In 1990, he publicly opposed the war that the United Nations' military coalition -- led by the United States -- fought against Saddam Hussein's Iraq, which invaded and annexed Kuwait. The late Pope opposed the war despite the fact that Vatican foreign policy views the UN as the ultimate international arbiter. To understand the gravity of John Paul II's erroneous moral thinking, consider that Iraq's aggression paralleled Germany's invasion and dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in March 1939.
In 2001 while visiting Syria, John Paul II became the first Pope to pray in a mosque. Later, he kissed a Koran. In 2002, the late Pope criticized Israel's construction of a security fence that drastically reduced Palestinian suicide bombings, which killed and maimed Israeli civilians. He told Israeli President Moshe Katzav during a papal audience, "We need bridges, not barriers."
John Paul and his prelates constantly condemned the secular West's "culture of death" that embraced abortion, contraception and euthanasia, yet never used that phrase to condemn Islam's embrace of religious murder. That embrace includes the Palestinian Authority's use of children's television to indoctrinate youth into becoming suicide bombers.
Guolo called John Paul II's approach, "dialogue to the extreme."
Bishops blindly followed Rome's example. Belgian bishops allowed Muslim immigrants to live in their churches to try to force the government to grant asylum. Dioceses sold unused schools and churches to Muslim groups. European bishops supported accommodating Muslims in Catholic schools and encouraged Muslims to build mosques. In 2002, Boston Cardinal Bernard Law bowed toward Mecca while praying in a mosque.
When Benedict XVI confronted Islam during a speech in the German town of Regensburg in 2006, his remarks angered the sitting archbishop of Buenos Aires.
"These statements will serve to destroy in 20 seconds the careful construction of a relationship with Islam that Pope John Paul II built over the last 20 years," said Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who added that Benedict's remarks "don't reflect my own opinions."
Seven years later, the College of Cardinals elected Bergoglio as Pope Francis, who amplifies his late predecessor's moral silence concerning Islam.
That silence extends to China, which can now appoint bishops to govern the state-run religious organization for Catholics, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. China received that power after signing a secret agreement with the Vatican in September. Though the Pope must approve the state's appointments, the agreement undercuts Catholics who face persecution for worshipping outside the CPCA.
During negotiations, the chancellor for the Pontifical Councils for Sciences and Social Sciences made a breathtaking comment.
"Right now, those who are implementing the Church's social doctrine the best are the Chinese," Argentine Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo said in February 2018. "They search for the common good and subordinate everything to the general welfare."
Sorondo's praise ignores the fact that China ranks among the world's worst air polluters, performs between 10 million and 23 million abortions a year and persecutes Christians who worship outside of state-approved churches.
Nevertheless, Sorondo focused on China's implementation of "Laudato Si," Francis' environmental encyclical, for "defending the dignity of the person" and "assuming a moral leadership that others have left," a reference to the United States' withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on carbon-dioxide emissions.
Sorondo's comments reflect the Vatican's embrace of secular utopianism, which began at the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). A pastoral document concerning modern politics and economics, "Gaudium et Spes," declared in its introduction:
"Never has the human race enjoyed such an abundance of wealth, resources and economic power, and yet a huge proportion of the world's citizens are still tormented by hunger and poverty, while countless numbers suffer from total illiteracy."
"Therefore," the document continued, "there must be made available to all men everything necessary for leading a life truly human, such as food, clothing, and shelter; the right to choose a state of life freely and to found a family, the right to education, to employment, to a good reputation, to respect, to appropriate information, to activity in accord with the upright norm of one's own conscience, to protection of privacy and rightful freedom even in matters religious. Hence, the social order and its development must invariably work to the benefit of the human person."
In 1967, Pope Paul VI called for international agencies to manage the world's economic and political development in his encyclical, "Populorum Progresio":
"Such international collaboration among the nations of the world certainly calls for institutions that will promote, coordinate and direct it, until a new juridical order is firmly established and fully ratified. We give willing and wholehearted support to those public organizations that have already joined in promoting the development of nations, and We ardently hope that they will enjoy ever growing authority."
In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI took that concept to its logical conclusion in another encyclical, "Caritas in Veritate," which advocated giving the United Nations power to direct both international and domestic economic policies:
"In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need ... for a reform of the United Nations...and, likewise, of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth. ... To manage the global economy ... to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority..."
But at what cost?
"The faithful in China are suffering and are now coming under increasing pressure," retired Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former archbishop of Hong Kong, wrote in October. "Early this year, the government tightened regulations on the practice of religion. Priests in the underground on the mainland tell me that they are discouraging parishioners from coming to Mass to avoid arrest."
Guolo wrote that bishops noticed how John Paul II "who ordinarily speaks about all topics, had spread a veil of silence over the persecution of Christians in Muslim countries."
An eloquent plea came from a woman from Northwest Africa named Nura, who converted from Islam to Christianity and who told Milan's Corriere della Sera in 2002:
"We feel abandoned. After our conversion, we have no one to support us. We ask the Church and Italy: protect us, defend us."
Nearly 20 years later, the Vatican's deafness is getting worse.