In remarks widely reported everywhere, His Holiness took almost the same position as the smug Donohue, qualifying his condemnation for the Charlie Hebdo massacre:
“One cannot react violently, but if [someone] says something bad about my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s to be expected,” the pontiff said. “There are a lot of people who speak badly about other religions. They make fun of them. What happens is what happens with my friend [who insults my mother]. There is a limit.”
Well okay then.
Like many Catholics, my first reaction to this was dismay and then anger. However, I have since come to agree with Pope Francis and actually welcome this shift in Vatican policy.
Hitherto, the Catholic Church could always be relied on to be an advocate for peace. No matter what the provocation, the Holy See was there to urge prayers for peace and reconcilation. No dictator was too vile, no terrorist group too cruel to escape the benefit of the doubt.
Despite the doctrine of Just War, the Vatican had become identical to radical Christian pacifists, always claiming that war was the worst possible choice in every circumstance.
I strongly disagreed with this, particularly in the case of Israel, where the violence was one-sided and continuous. The Palestinians could kill in any and every way, openly advocate genocide yet whenever a new atrocity occured, there was the Holy See, urging Israel to seek yet another round of pointless negotiations.
So I welcome this change because it perhaps foreshadows an understanding that yes, sometimes war IS the answer.
Perhaps it is the wholesale slaughter of Christians in the Middle East and Africa and the realization that organizations like ISIS and Boko Haram have no intention of compromise. Perhaps it is also an a recognition that refusal to confront evil is neither moral nor constructive.
Either way, I am hopeful that the Church may finally be open to the notion that sometimes the sword must be drawn to protect the innocent.