Pope Francis said the inspiration for terrorism wasn’t Islam but a world economy that worshiped the “god of money” and drove the disenfranchised to violence.
“Terrorism grows when there is no other option, and as long as the world economy has at its center the god of money and not the person, “ the pope told reporters late Sunday as he returned to the Vatican from a five-day visit in Poland. “This is fundamental terrorism, against all humanity.”
Speaking on his flight from Krakow, the pope was responding to a question about links between Islam and recent terrorist attacks, particularly the killing on Tuesday of a priest in northern France by followers of Islamic State.
Pope Francis suggested that the social and economic marginalization of Muslim youth in Europe helped explain the actions of those who joined extremist groups. “How many youths have we Europeans left empty of ideals? They don’t have work, and they turn to drugs and alcohol. They go [abroad] and enroll in fundamentalist groups,” the pope said.
His own experience in interreligious dialogue had shown him that Muslims seek “peace and encounter,” he said. “It is not right and it is not just to say that Islam is terroristic.” And he said no religion had a monopoly on violent members.
“If I speak of Islamic violence, I should speak of Catholic violence. Not all Muslims are violent, not all Catholics are violent,” Pope Francis said, dismissing Islamic State as a “small fundamentalist group” not representative of Islam as a whole.
“In almost all religions there is always a small group of fundamentalists,” even in the Catholic Church, the pope said, though not necessarily physically violent. “One can kill with the tongue as well as the knife.”
Pope Francis on Sunday defended his avoidance of the term “Islamic violence” by suggesting the potential for violence lies in every religion, including Catholicism.
“I don’t like to talk about Islamic violence, because every day, when I read the newspaper, I see violence,” Francis said, when asked about why he never speaks of Islamic terrorism or fundamentalism when condemning attacks such as the murder of a French priest last week, who had his throat slit by an Islamic terrorist as he was celebrating Mass.
The pope said that when he reads the newspaper, he reads about an Italian who kills his fiancé or his mother in law.
“They are baptized Catholics. They are violent Catholics,” Francis said, adding that if he speaks of “Islamic violence,” then he has to speak of “Catholic violence” too.
This — all of this — is not just stupid, it’s offensive. Or rather, it’s offensive because it’s so stupid, and does nothing but sow confusion.
Where to begin? Let’s start with the bit from Crux. The parallel between baptized Italian Catholics who kill family members and Muslim terrorists who slaughter Christians and others (including other Muslims they deem heretics) in the name of Allah is crazy. Guess what, Francis? All across the Islamic world, Muslim men steal, they beat their wives, they cheat their neighbor, and so on, not because Islam tells them to, but because they are human beings. Same in Christian countries, and in every society on earth. At issue is Muslim slaughtering priests at the altar, turning non-Muslim girls into sex slaves, blowing up churches, and carrying out all manner of barbaric evil explicitly and unapologetically in the name of their religion. You can call it a twisted interpretation of Islam, or condemn it for other reasons. In the cases of the baptized Catholic who kills his mother-in-law, or the believing Muslim who does the same, in neither instance is their religion a motivating factor in the crime. It is incidental to their violent acts. The terrorism that ISIS and its supporters carry out is done openly in the name of Islam, motivated by their interpretation of the religion.
I can’t decide whether it’s more disturbing if the Pope really cannot see the fallacy here, or if he is just saying what he figures is diplomatically correct.
Second, this idea of Francis’s that economics, not religion, is behind Islamic terrorism, is materialist claptrap that one would think a Pope is beyond falling for. The world is full of desperately poor people who do not slaughter priests. The world is also full of desperately poor Muslim people who do not slaughter priests, shoot up nightclubs, mow down people with trucks, and so forth. In fact, poverty is not much of a factor at all in who becomes radicalized by Salafi Islam. A decade ago, The Guardian looked at the kind of people joining al-Qaeda:
A typical volunteer is a well-educated, upwardly mobile man in his mid-to-late twenties – European volunteers are on average aged 25 – from a middle-class background and a stable family, and without a strong religious upbringing. Many spoke several languages and were technologically literate. Almost two-thirds – including Europeans – were married.
The most common route to joining the jihad is through groups of friends – often experiencing similar feelings of isolation. There is a suggestion that several volunteers from central Europe appear to have have been brought up as Christians.
More recently, there was this 2014 British medical study of UK Muslims:
New research from Queen Mary University of London has found youth, wealth, and being in full-time education to be risk factors associated with violent radicalisation. Contrary to popular views – religious practice, health and social inequalities, discrimination, and political engagement showed no links.
The pioneering research assessed population prevalence of sympathies for terrorist acts – a key marker of vulnerability to violent radicalisation – and their relationship with commonly assumed causes of radicalisation. The community study surveyed over 600 men and women of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Muslim heritage in London and Bradford, aged 18-45.
A small minority of people (2.4%) expressed some sympathy for violent protest and terrorism, whilst over 6% remained neutral – i.e., they did not show sympathies but nor did they condemn such acts. However, sympathy levels increased among those under 20, those in full time education rather than employment, those born in the UK, and high earners (£75,000 per year or more).
What is Francis doing? Is this just the usual progressive Catholic see-no-evil dingbattery, or is there something else happening here? Again, how very odd for a world religious leader to deny the power of religion to mold the minds of men and to motivate their behavior. You would expect a vulgar Marxist to say all things are motivated by class and economic struggle and nothing but, but you wouldn’t expect a Roman pontiff to take that ridiculous and easily disproven line.
At a time when the world needs strong, realistic religious leadership to deal with the realities of Islamic terrorism (realities, I should say, that include the fact that most Muslims are not terrorists), Francis is offering jelly-brained liberal nonsense.
Speaking of which, did you see this disgraceful op-ed in The New York Times denying that Father Jacques Hamel was a martyr? Its author, Paul Vallely, is a biographer of Pope Francis. He wrote, in part:
Some leading Catholics immediately compared Father Hamel to Thomas Becket or Oscar Romero, other priests killed in their places of worship. But there are important differences. Fathers Becket and Romero knew the dangers they were facing, taking a stand against the civil powers of their day. Their martyrdoms were ones of defiance.
By contrast, Father Hamel was going about his lifelong business in St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray as an everyday exemplar of quiet holiness, kindness and love for the people in his community. That devotion was not confined to serving other Catholics: A local imam, Mohammed Karabila, paid warm tribute to the priest for his role in promoting interfaith dialogue. The town’s mosque was built on land donated by Catholics to the Muslim community.
Some will react to that threat by unwittingly accepting the terrorists’ agenda, as the archbishop of Rouen appeared to do when he described the killing of Father Hamel as an “assassination” — as though a provincial priest would be a target. But others reject the Islamic State narrative. “This is not a war of religions,” said a Parisian churchgoer. “It’s not a Muslim who killed a Catholic. It is simply evil.”
Reciprocal talk of martyrdom is unhelpful. The impulse to canonize Father Hamel, however sincere and well intentioned, feeds the idea of retaliation — our martyr for yours — that gives the jihadists the war of religions they seek. As to sainthood, let history judge rather than us making it a proxy for a political response.
So: an elderly Christian priest is slaughtered like a sheep at his altar during mass, by two Muslim men who had pledged allegiance to ISIS, and who shouted “God is great!” as the murdered the old curé. But the priest was not a martyr because to call him what he is would be politically undesirable?
But worse than the incoherence is this: the question of whether Fr. Hamel is genuinely a martyr is one that Vallely desperately wishes to avoid. For him, the Church is not to acknowledge its martyrs unless such acknowledgment serves what Vallely believes to be the proper political calculation of the moment. For him this is the key: “we must resist the notion that a fundamental clash of civilizations is the issue.” Nothing can be done that stands a chance of feeding a political narrative which Vallely finds tasteless. Thus: “The real problem is the pathology of a perverse minority of extremists with distorted notions of holy war and martyrdom.” Ah yes, thereal problem at last! This is moral equivalence at its most loathsome: those who would seek Fr. Hamel’s canonization are morally indistinguishable from his murderers, because both belong to that “perverse minority of extremists with distorted notions of … martyrdom.”
So let not the Church call its martyrs martyrs, lest by doing so she fall into “extremism.” Let not the ancient commitment to honor the martyrs of Christ get in the way of political convenience. Let not Fr. Hamel be honored, lest some political benefit accrue to Marion Maréchal-Le Pen. God forbid!