The Pope’s Insulting “Message of Peace”
Since 1968, the Catholic Church has designated January 1 as a “World Day of Peace,” with appropriate messages and commemorations. This is a fine idea, not least because prior to that time, January 1 was the Catholics’ “Feast of the Circumcision,” and thinking about genital mutilation makes me ill. This year, though, the Pope unleashed a nearly 5000 word message that has little to do with peace, and everything to do with insulting and demeaning those who are unwilling to kiss the Papal foot. Let’s take a look at some excerpts of what the man said:
In other areas we see more subtle and sophisticated forms of prejudice and hostility towards believers and religious symbols. At present, Christians are the religious group which suffers most from persecution on account of its faith. Many Christians experience daily affronts and often live in fear because of their pursuit of truth, their faith in Jesus Christ and their heartfelt plea for respect for religious freedom. This situation is unacceptable, since it represents an insult to God and to human dignity; furthermore, it is a threat to security and peace.
It’s certainly true that Christians are persecuted in places like India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Egypt, and Sudan. Strictly as a matter of numbers, the persecution of Shiites by Sunnis in places like Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Malaysia probably has the Christians beat, but I’m not interested in empirical data here. What I’m interested in is how the Pope defines “persecution.” As he says later:
There also exist – as I have said – more sophisticated forms of hostility to religion which, in Western countries, occasionally find expression in a denial of history and the rejection of religious symbols which reflect the identity and the culture of the majority of citizens.
What he’s talking about is the court case pending in the European Court of Human Rights to take the crucifixes out of Italian classrooms – the ones that have been there since the 1920s as part of the deal Mussolini cut to win Church backing for his wars of conquest. The European Union has rules in its “Convention on Human Rights” along the same line as our First Amendment, and government brainwashing of schoolchildren to favor one religion over another is flatly contrary to those rules. When the Pope talks about symbols of the “majority” of the citizens, though, he treads on dangerous ground. In the Czech Republic, for example, a majority of the citizens now have no religion at all. By the Pope’s logic, it would be ok for schools there to put up signs in every classroom saying “Belief in God is for morons,” because that reflects the majority view.
Next, the Pope repeats the age-old demand for special privileges for believers over nonbelievers:
Religious freedom should be understood, then, not merely as immunity from coercion, but even more fundamentally as an ability to order one’s own choices in accordance with truth.
What he’s talking about here is the alleged right of licensed pharmacists, for example, to choose which medications they will and won’t sell, based on what God experts tell them. Catholic pharmacists should be able to refuse to sell contraceptives, since that would promote sin. Catholics who work in government-funded adoption agencies should be able to pick and choose which taxpayers they will serve, based on their perception of the couple’s morality. Muslims should be able to wear whatever they want, whenever they want, so that only non-Muslims have to comply with their employer’s dress codes.
Not content with demanding free government advertising and special legal privileges, the Pope devoted a major portion of his message to excoriating humanists for being evil, virtually subhuman creatures. Humanists have no lasting ethical values and principles, no “authentic” freedom, and are incapable of building a just society:
Without the acknowledgment of his spiritual being, without openness to the transcendent, the human person withdraws within himself, fails to find answers to the heart’s deepest questions about life’s meaning, fails to appropriate lasting ethical values and principles, and fails even to experience authentic freedom and to build a just society.
Worse yet, humanist freedom is “self-negating,” humanists are incapable of seeking goodness, and thus lack respect for others:
A freedom which is hostile or indifferent to God becomes self-negating and does not guarantee full respect for others. A will which believes itself radically incapable of seeking truth and goodness has no objective reasons or motives for acting save those imposed by its fleeting and contingent interests; it does not have an “identity” to safeguard and build up through truly free and conscious decisions.
The Christian term of contempt for the Enlightenment idea that society should be able to make rules for itself based on its own collective experience without regard to what the experts say God wants, and that those rules should be flexible enough to change occasionally rather being stuck in a 2000-year old time warp, is “moral relativism.” In his loathing for moral relativism, the Pope makes a rather astonishing claim:
The illusion that moral relativism provides the key for peaceful coexistence is actually the origin of divisions and the denial of the dignity of human beings.
So in the Pope’s re-write of history, there were no “divisions” among people during the Crusades his predecessors sponsored, nor in the religious wars that wiped out a third of the population of central Europe in the 17th century, since such divisions did not arise until Voltaire.
On a roll, the Pope added that:
Christian communities, with their patrimony of values and principles, have contributed much to making individuals and peoples aware of their identity and their dignity, the establishment of democratic institutions and the recognition of human rights and their corresponding duties.
Which part of the “patrimony of values and principles” is the Pope referring to? The values and principles of slavery, an institution lovingly fostered by the Church for almost the entire period of its history? The values and principles of the Inquisition, which tortured hundreds of thousands for real or imagined dissent? In the spirit of humanist charity, I could let those pass; but when the Pope starts giving Christianity credit for “the establishment of democratic institutions,” I have to draw a line. Christianity, especially his branch of it, fought democracy tooth and nail for centuries on end, not giving up the ghost until the last Catholic military junta fell from power in South America. Democracy is the antithesis of God expert power; if you want a current example, take a look at how the so-called “country” of Vatican City is run.
Mention should be made of the religious dimension of culture, built up over centuries thanks to the social and especially ethical contributions of religion. This dimension is in no way discriminatory towards those who do not share its beliefs, but instead reinforces social cohesion, integration and solidarity.
I’m not sure which planet the Pope is referring to here. The “religious dimension of culture” is not “discriminatory towards those who do not share its beliefs”? Like the beliefs about gay sex? By the way, note that he’s bragging about all religion here, not just Christianity; maybe on the planet he’s thinking of, there is no Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.
Here’s a humanist message of peace, 98% shorter than the Pope’s: Treat others the way you wish to be treated. Don’t ask people to promote views they despise. Let everyone obey the same laws. Don’t lie about history. And above all, make your points forcefully, about religion or anything else, but don’t condemn your adversaries for being morally defective, and deserving of being tortured in hell for all eternity. That is not the path to peace.