Friday, November 26, 2010

Appeasement Did Not Win the Cold War and It Won't Work with Islam

George Weigel learned a thing or two by researching and writing extensively about Karol Wojtyla/Pope John Paul II. His treatment of John Paul II's role in ending the Cold War and liberating Eastern Europe from the Russian yoke in his great biography of the Pope is sterling and it highlights the huge gap between the curia's seemingly incurable, temperamental proclivity for appeasement of dictators and totalitarian systems.

But John Paul II was only able to do what he did to confront the Communist regimes because he went over the heads of the Vatican bureaucracy to speak directly to the people. He was able to broker his natural charisma, his media savvy and his personal courage to do what he never could have gained a consensus among his bureaucrats to do. (My favorite line from the CBC movie version of his life is one worried Vatican official saying to another: "He is the pope and he KNOWS it!")

Pope Benedict XVI is a good man with a firm commitment to orthodoxy, but when it comes to politics, the media and communicating his message without letting it be corrupted or co-opted between the time when it leaves his mouth and the time when it reaches the hearers of his audience - well, the most charitable thing to say is that he is no John Paul II.

John Paul II is one of the greatest historical figures of the 20th century and one of the reasons for this assessment is his role in liberating Eastern Europe from totalitarian rule. His contribution to the consigning of Communism to the dustbin of history was made because he rejected the quarter century long Vatican posture of appeasement of Communism and joined Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in being willing to confront totalitarianism with courage and determination.

Today, the Vatican tendency to appease totalitarianism has not changed and was on display in the recent synod on the Middle East held in Rome. The synod hardly criticized Muslims for anything but let Israel have it with both barrels. There were calls for the Palestinian "right of return" and for the handing over of all "occupied lands." The whole tone was that Israel is the problem and peace cannot be achieved without more unilateral concessions from Israel - concessions that place the viability of the country in serious jeopardy. Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee, who addressed the synod, reports that at the news conference at which the final report was released, the following revealing statements were made by Monsignor Cyril Salim Bustros. Despite the fact that these statements were not in the final message from the synod, they do reflect the thinking of many at the synod.
But now in October 2010, Monsignor Cyril Salim Bustros, Greek Melkite archbishop of Our Lady of the Annunciation of Boston, Massachusetts has stated that "[t]he Holy Scriptures cannot be used to justify the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of the Palestinians, to justify the occupation by Israel of Palestinian lands." Furthermore, Bustros said that "[w]e Christians cannot speak of the 'promised land' as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people. This promise was nullified by Christ[.]" And finally, Bustros affirms that "[t]he Palestinian refugees will eventually come back and this problem will have to be solved."

In essence, these words contradict "the Second Vatican Council teaching and Pope Benedict himself -- who has welcomed the return of Jews to their ancient homeland."
Not all Catholics on the Left, it would seem, have yet accepted Vatican II! Forget the right, when will the Left catch up with the repudiation of supersessionism? Perhaps it is the case that the long-standing Vatican tendency to appeasement is leading the Roman Catholic Church into dangerous anti-Semitic waters.

Ironically, just as the synod was ending, the ineffectiveness of appeasement was made clear by a vicious attack on a Catholic Church in Baghdad. See the Washington Post story here. George Weigel comments at First Things:
The murder of more than 50 Catholics by jihadists during Sunday Mass in Baghdad on Oct. 31 is the latest in a series of outrages committed against Christians by Islamist fanatics throughout the world: Egypt, Gaza, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Sudan and on the list goes. The timing of the attack on Baghdad’s Syriac Catholic cathedral was striking, however, for it came shortly after the conclusion in Rome of a special Synod on the Middle East. During the Synod, very little was said about Islamist persecution of Christians; indeed, every effort was bent to show the Catholic Church sympathetic to Muslim grievances, especially with regard to the politics of the Middle East.

This strategy of appeasement has always struck me as unwise. The al Qaeda-affiliated jihadists’ answer to the Synod—the Baghdad murders—has now proven the strategy deadly. Appeasement must stop. . . .
The Vatican bureaucracy and local Catholic leaders in the Middle East must also reexamine the assumption—widely bruited at the recent Synod—that resolving the Israel-Palestine issue through a two-state solution will solve every other issue between militant Islam and Christianity. It won’t. Moreover, a viable two-state solution, which every reasonable person supports, is not on the short-term horizon (although important steps are being taken to build the infrastructure of civil society on the West Bank). Meanwhile, Islamist depredations against Christians in the Holy Land are a present reality. Christian leaders whose people are being murdered by jihadists and other Islamist fanatics ought to stop blaming their precarious situation on the State of Israel and put the blame where it belongs: with Muslim intolerance.
Weigel is absolutely right. The Synod on the Middle East was just another sad chapter in the history of Vatican appeasement of totalitarianism. Islam must be confronted as Communism was confronted. It cannot be won over by concessions or bowing and scraping, which it interprets as signs of weakness. Where is John Paul II when we need him?

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