Saturday, February 28, 2009
Whether coincidentally or by design, Ruth Gledhill has answered my criticism that she and her set give a pass to militant Islam while holding an anti-Papist prejudice against a far less objectionable practice of the Catholic Church. Check it out. She has begun to express awareness of what today's jihad is really about: destroying the Jews, restoring Muslim purity, and conquering the West. My conservative friends should drink to Ruth for that post, especially if it is representative of what religiously progressive Western journalists believe as a group.
Many Western liberals prefer to ignore the fact that our enemy is not "terror" in itself. Our enemies are not just a scattering of religious fruitcakes who happen to commit crimes for their cause. Terrorism is a tactic in what they conceive as a generalized jihad. The tactic is employed to cow people into submission. Unapproved Muslim regimes are to be overthrown, Israel "wiped off the map," and the West ejected from the House of Islam. In due course, a revived caliphate will be established. It will move on to conquer the House of War, the world of the "infidels." That is the strategic vision of radical Muslim movements, whose motivations and aims are expressly religious. This is a multi-generational religious war that we will lose if we do not see it as such. Nor will we win by pulling punches, bestowing more foreign aid, and encouraging piecemeal democratic reforms. We can win only if the masses in the House of Islam adopt and pursue a different vision of Islam. They must be convinced that Islam should not be the violent, cynical scourge that al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the mullahs of Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah have turned it into. They must eventually find that Muslim totalitarianism is no more to their liking than Western decadence. Given what Islam has historically been, we cannot ensure such a result by anything we do or become. We can only resist being cowed, defeat the jihadis in battle, and otherwise avoid making things worse. Ultimately, change will have to come from Muslims themselves.
Still, Ruth isn't quite ready to maintain the needed focus. Referring to the Holocaust-denying SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson, she writes:
The outrage in the West over Williamson is not motivated by anti-Catholic prejudice. We have been guilty of that over history and of course the persecution of Catholics in the past and in the present where it occurs is something needing repentance.
The Williamson episode signifies something far greater and more dangerous, and the above gives an indication of what that is. 'Never again,' is the slogan we should all adopt. And we must all say it, and teach our children to say it, again, again and again.
I agree with Ruth that the Catholic Church ought not to tolerate anti-Judaism. In fact, since Nostra Aetate she has not. The Vatican's refusal yesterday to accept Williamson's half-hearted "apology" is one more bit of evidence of that. Indeed, the current flap only confirms the view of many traditionalist Catholics, who are supersessionists to a person, that the Vatican has gone too soft on the Jews and compromised the Catholic Faith in the process.
What people like Ruth need to realize is that the Pope cannot please all the people all the time. What he does, and is doing, to calm Jewish fears will earn him the opposition of many Catholic trads and many Muslims. It also needs to be understood that the polity of the Catholic Church is not entirely like others.
People are not excommunicated just for being prejudiced against the Jews or anybody else. People are not excommunicated for being dotty conspiracy theorists. People aren't even excommunicated for being nasty people. People find themselves excommunicated for certain things they do. Typically they excommunicate themselves, by doing things such as cooperating in abortion or living in adultery; that's called excommunication latae sententiae. Sometimes they are excommunicated formally, or ferendae sententiae, by doing things such as getting themselves ordained without permission. Williamson was excommunicated in 1988 along with his fellow SSPX bishops because the founder of that society, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, ordained them against the express wishes of the Pope. His excommunication has been lifted for the same sort of reason that Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople lifted the mutual excommunications of the two sees that had occurred in 1054: to remove an obstacle to full communion between the SSPX and the Holy See. That is why Benedict XVI never bothered to consider Williamson's views on the Jews. They weren't seen as relevant to the issue at hand. And I don't think they should be seen as relevant to the issue at hand.
Again, this is not to say that anti-Judaism should be tolerated. It shouldn't be, and it isn't. Thus, merely removing the formal excommunication of SSPX bishops isn't going to restore objectively full communion between the SSPX and Rome. The real obstacles are doctrinal, and they're unlikely to go away. Supersessionism is one of those doctrinal obstacles; and the Vatican might want to use the Williamson flap as a way to emphasize that. But I believe it's far more important to confront Muslim-traditionalist anti-Jewishness than to confront Catholic-traditionalist anti-Jewishness. The trads don't want to see a new Dark Ages in Western Europe and elsewhere any more than we do; but if the West doesn't get its act together and stem the tide of radical Islamism, that's exactly what we will eventually see.