As the world focused on a pope’s election and the enthusiasm that immediately
followed, another significant religious event escaped detection.
weeks after Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis I, a
prominent Italian commentator who converted from Islam to Catholicism in 2008
announced he would leave the Church.
Magdi Allam – an emigrant from Egypt
who fights Islamism in Europe and who was baptized by Pope Benedict XVI – wrote
in his March 25 column for Milan’s Il Giornale that he was leaving “because this
Church is too weak with Islam.”
Allam is right.
Since Pope John
Paul II’s tenure, the Catholic Church has refused to hold Muslim theologians and
clergy accountable for the hatred and violence many of them preach. Instead, the
Vatican promotes dialogue and mutual understanding at all costs – even at the
cost of moral credibility.
John Paul II condemned what he called a
“culture of death,” referring to the West’s tolerance for abortion and birth
control. Yet when faced with a more virulent culture of death – a Palestinian
Authority that promotes genocide by teaching children to become suicide bombers
– the late pope fell silent. Given Pope Francis’ history and recent actions,
Israelis and Palestinians can expect more tired, limp rhetoric about peace that
hides Catholicism’s sentimental complacency.
When Pope Benedict attempted
to challenge Islam in his famous address at Regensburg in 2006, the future pope
Francis publicly distanced himself from Benedict’s remarks. As the archbishop of
Buenos Aires, Bergoglio said Benedict’s comments “don’t reflect my own
opinions,” and “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.”
As London’s Telegraph reported March 15, the Vatican
responded by removing another Argentine archbishop from his post after he
expressed a similar opinion.
Bergoglio reacted by boycotting a synod that
Pope Benedict called.
“The only thing that didn’t happen to Bergoglio was
being removed from his post,” Argentine columnist Horacio Verbitsky wrote in
On March 22, one day after his installation Mass, Francis urged the
Catholic Church to “intensify” its dialogue with Islam and Muslim leaders to
influence “all people in such a way that everyone can see in the other not an
enemy... but a brother or sister.”
On March 29, Good Friday in the
Western Christian calendar, Francis’s sermon included remarks about Benedict’s
trip to Lebanon last year: “We saw the beauty and the strong bond of communion
joining Christians together...
and the friendship of our Muslim brothers
ON APRIL 22, two archbishops from the Syrian Orthodox
Church were abducted at gunpoint near Aleppo. The next day, a release from the
Vatican’s press office stated that the pope was following the situation “with
intense prayer for the health and release of the two kidnapped
On April 30, President Shimon Peres told the pope the Middle
East was “disintegrating” and faced “real existential danger.” A statement from
Israel’s embassy to the Holy See added that the pope condemned anti-Semitism and
suggested a “global meeting of hope” for religious leaders to oppose “violence
The Vatican’s release, however, called for a “speedy
resumption” of peace talks between Israel and the PA, and added that Peres and
Francis had cordial discussions.
On May 11, the Syrian Arab News Agency
reported the desecration of the nearly 2,000-year-old Mar Elias Monastery. The
vandals also decapitated a statue of the saint. The Vatican issued no formal
On May 12, Francis canonized some 800 Catholics beheaded in
1480 by Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II’s invasion force in Otranto, Italy, for
refusing to convert.
“As we venerate the martyrs of Otranto,” Francis
said, “let us ask God to sustain many Christians who... now suffer from violence
and to give them the courage of fidelity and to answer evil with
Such remarks, intended to encourage persecuted Christians,
actually do the opposite. They tell innocent men, women and children that, while
they might be honored in death, they will receive no meaningful support while
The Vatican is in a unique position to provide meaningful
It owns billions in stocks, bonds, securities and
shares in corporations and holding companies. Surely, it can sell some of those
assets to help beleaguered charities provide food and clothing for persecuted
In any event, sanctimonious rhetoric and diplomatic nuance
will not appease fanatical barbarians of any persuasion.
barbarians have only one goal: to kill anyone who blocks the imposition of their
Will exposing the barbarians for what they are, decrying genocide
as such and demanding accountability work? Perhaps not. But unless Francis and
his bishops – indeed, all Christian leaders – take a more forceful stance, even
at the expense of their cherished ecumenical dialogue, their churches will
continue their slide into moral irrelevance.
The author is a freelance
writer from California who publishes on religion and morality.