Sunday, August 24, 2014

"All are Equal Before God" — Rights of Humanity and a Right of the Aggressor

James Foley is dead: the photojournalist, not the movie director. If someone had paid the $132,000,000 USD that ISIS apparently wanted, he might be alive. Or maybe not: there's a reason for United States policy about not paying ransom.

Folks who engage in kidnapping or terrorism have to have flexible ethics: I'll get back to that.

I learned that James Foley was Catholic from a post by Rebecca Hamilton, on Google Plus — indirectly. For a while, I thought I'd be writing about the Rosary, prayer, and family. Then I ran into this:
"...As Islamic State fighters have swept through northern Iraq, Pope Francis has repeatedly spoken out against the violence that has seen thousands of Christians and others, including Shia Muslims and members of the Yazidi sect, killed or driven from their homes.

"He said this week that Western countries would be justified in acting to stop the 'unjust' aggression...."
(Reuters Africa)
Ever since the European branch of Western Civilization took off, a few centuries back, "Western countries" have generally been the most active in world affairs: for good or ill.

Even so, saying "...that Western countries would be justified..." seemed oddly specific. The Catholic Church is literally catholic, universal. (July 25, 2014)

That started me wondering: was there something about the mess in Iraq and Syria that made it okay for only one set of countries to stop unjust aggressors?

I still think the 'Catholic' connection with the Foley family's loss is interesting, so I put excerpts from what I'd found at the end of this post: along with part of a transcript of what Pope Francis said.1

Unhappy About Change


Apparently ISIS, the folks who killed James Foley, aren't happy with today's world. They seem to yearn for the 'good old days,' when they believe Islam measured up to their standards and preferences. They're probably quite sincere: and certainly willing to kill anyone who doesn't agree with them.

Victims of their zeal include  Shia Muslims, Druze, Mandeans, Shabaks, Yazidis, and Christians. You'll find more about ISIS at "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant." (Wikipedia)

Folks being unhappy about change isn't a uniquely Muslim experience.

I run into Catholics who seem convinced that we should return to the 'good old days' — as they remember them. Catholics who yearn for yesteryear occasionally get together and form their own little micro-church, but don't seem inclined to kill outsiders.

I'd say 'Christians are better than that:' but realize that now and then some of us go rogue.

The nearest thing America has had to ISIS are groups like the Ku Klux Klan: folks who seem convinced that they're 'protecting' America from 'foreigners' and our 'evil' ways.

Happily, America is nowhere near as WASPish as it was in my youth: but a burning cross does show up occasionally, expressing disapproval of 'un-American' people. (January 6, 2013; April 7, 2011); January 22, 2010)

Terrorism and Options


Kidnapping, terrorism, and torture, aren't just unpleasant. Subjecting others to that sort of pressure is wrong. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2297)

You've probably heard that 'Christian' rulers sometimes indulged in this sort of thing. That's true. Sadly, Catholic pastors sometimes did not protest these actions: and sometimes committed the same crimes. It's still wrong. (Catechism, 2297-2298)

I suppose one could argue that if a nation's ruler does something, it can't be a crime: but "legal" and "right" aren't the same thing.

I'm savvy enough to realize that some things, like which side of the road we drive on, have no universal "right" or "wrong." But I also recognize that natural law, ethical principles woven into the universe, are as real as physical laws: and that's another topic. (October 6, 2013)

Sadly, sometimes people are killed because they don't worship the 'right' way. When that happens, there are decisions. Should folks who are targeted head for the hills, let themselves be killed, start worshiping the 'right' way and hope for the best, or try to stop the attack?

Here's what Pope Francis said about stopping an unjust aggressor —

Stopping an Unjust Aggressor

"...Alan Holdren:

"Your Holiness, my name is Alan Holdren, I work for Catholic News Agency, ACI Prensa in Lima, Peru, and EWTN. As you know, United States military forces have just begun to bomb terrorists in Iraq in order to prevent a genocide, to protect the future of minorities – I'm also thinking of the Catholics in your care. Do you approve of this American bombing?

"Pope Francis:

"Thank you for your very clear question. In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I emphasize the word: 'stop'. I'm not saying drop bombs, make war, but stop the aggressor. The means used to stop him would have to be evaluated. Stopping an unjust aggressor is licit. But we also need to remember! How many times, with this excuse of stopping an unjust aggressor, the powers have taken over peoples and carried on an actual war of conquest! One nation alone cannot determine how to stop an unjust aggressor. After the Second World War, there was the idea of the United Nations: that is where discussion was to take place, to say: Is this an unjust aggressor? It would seem so. How do we stop him?' This alone, nothing else. Second, minorities. Thanks for using that word. Because people say to me: 'the Christians, the poor Christians…' And it is true, they are suffering, and martyrs, yes, there are many martyrs. But there are also men and women, religious minorities, not all Christians, and all are equal before God. To stop an unjust aggressor is a right of humanity, but it is also a right of the aggressor to be stopped in order not to do evil...."
(In-flight press conference)
We live in a world that has seen Mohandas Gandhi and Adolph Hitler, Mother Teresa and Osama bin Laden. If polite requests would stop the Hitlers and bin Ladens of this world from arranging the deaths of others, we would have no need for military force.

Unhappily, there are folks who are not nice: at all. Since being alive is preferable to being dead, we are allowed to defend ourselves. This principle, applied to outfits like nations, is called just war. (Catechism, 2307-2309)

Basically, using military force is acceptable if — the damage inflicted by the aggressor is "lasting, grave, and certain;" all other alternatives are "impractical or ineffective;" there is a reasonable chance for success; and using arms will not "produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated." (Catechism, 2309)

International Authority and Working With What We've Got


I don't trust the United Nations any more than I trust the American Congress. Flawed as they are, though, these are institutions we must deal with.

I hope that humanity will eventually cobble together an international authority "with the necessary competence and power" to end war and settle disputes with justice and mercy. (Catechism, 2308; "Gaudium et Spes," 79)

That won't happen in my lifetime, or my children's. My guess is that creating a close equivalent of Tennyson's "Federation of the world" will take generations. Centuries. And that's yet another topic. (May 26, 2014)

I'm quite sure that folks targeted by ISIS don't have time to wait for a perfect world. We must work with what we have.

Loving Neighbors: No Matter What


I think that Pope Francis is right, that "...it is also a right of the aggressor to be stopped in order not to do evil...."

The rules are simple: love God, love my neighbor, see everyone as my neighbor. (Matthew 5:43-44; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-30; Catechism, 1825)

Sometimes that means trying to stop my neighbor from doing something wrong, like driving drunk: or killing folks who don't worship the 'right' way.

By the way, even if I had the power to make others agree with me about my faith: I wouldn't be allowed to use it.

As a Catholic, I must support religious freedom: for everyone. And that's yet again another topic. (Catechism, 1738, 2104-2109)

More of what I think about living in a big world:
Background:
News and views:

1 Excerpt from News and views:
"Journalist Foley's parents, after call with pope, call for prayer and action"
Reuters Africa (August 22, 2014)

"Slain journalist James Foley on praying the rosary in captivity UPDATED"
Catherine Harmon, The CWR Blog, The Catholic World Report)

"The news broke late yesterday that Islamic State jihadists executed freelance journalist James Foley and posted a video of his beheading. Foley, 40, had been missing for two years while covering the conflict in Syria. I am not going to link to the video or include screen shots from it, but I will share another link that has been circulating since the news of Foley's brutal death: an article he wrote for the alumni magazine of Marquette University, his alma mater. The piece is about the time Foley spent imprisoned in Libya in 2011:
"I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. 
I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused.

"Clare and I prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone. …
"Update 8/22: The Vatican confirmed Thursday that Pope Francis telephoned Foley's family and offered his condolences:
"Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the pope phoned relatives of the late James Foley on Aug. 21 to console them for their loss and assure them of his prayers.

"The call to the Foley family in Rochester, New Hampshire, came in the afternoon New Hampshire time. Father Lombardi released no additional details. …

"President Obama called Foley's parents, John and Diane Foley, Aug. 20 before addressing the nation about their son's death and told them: 'We are all heartbroken.'

"When the president was making his televised remarks about James Foley's death, his parents spoke to reporters on the front yard of their home.

"'We thank God for the gift of Jim. We are so, so proud of him,' said Diane Foley.

"She added that he was 'a courageous, fearless journalist -- the best of America.'

"John Foley told reporters: 'We think his strength came from God,' and his wife interjected: 'We know it did.' "

"Journalist Foley's parents, after call with pope, call for prayer and action"
Reuters Africa (August 22, 2014)

"The parents of James Foley, the American journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Iraq, on Friday called for prayer and support to free the remaining captives held by Islamic State fighters.

" 'We do pray, we beg the international community to help the remaining hostages,' his mother, Diane Foley, said in an interview with her husband, John, on MSNBC. 'We just pray that they will be set free.'

"Their plea comes after a long conversation with Pope Francis, who the Vatican said called the couple on Thursday afternoon to offer his condolences and support....

"...The United States has opened a criminal investigation into Foley's death and said the Islamic State is an imminent threat to U.S. interests. President Barack Obama also has called for a united international front to combat the group, which is still holding other hostages.

"Foley's parents said they drew "huge comfort" from their conversation with the pope, who himself was grieving the loss of relatives who died earlier this week in a car crash in Argentina....

"...As Islamic State fighters have swept through northern Iraq, Pope Francis has repeatedly spoken out against the violence that has seen thousands of Christians and others, including Shia Muslims and members of the Yazidi sect, killed or driven from their homes.

"He said this week that Western countries would be justified in acting to stop the 'unjust' aggression.

" 'Pope Francis, like Jesus, loves, like Jim. He understood Jim's heart,' Diane Foley said of her son, who 'was able to draw strength from prayer' during his capture...."

"In-Flight Press Conference of His Holiness Pope Francis from Korea to Rome"
Apostolic Journey of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Republic of Korea on the Occasion of the 6th Asian Youth Day (13-18 August 2014), Papal Flight (August 18, 2014)
(From c.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2014/august/documents/papa-francesco_20140818_corea-conferenza-stampa.html (August 23, 2014))

"Sung Jin Park:

"...you spoke first of all to the families of the victims of the Se Wol ferry disaster and comforted them. I have two questions. First, what were your feelings when you met them? Second, aren't you concerned that your gesture might be misunderstood politically?

"Pope Francis:

"Whenever you find yourself facing human suffering, you have to do what your heart tells you to. Then people will say: 'He did it for this or that political reason'; let them say what they want. But when you think of these men and woman, these fathers and mothers who have lost their children, their brothers and sisters, of the immense pain of such a disaster, I don’t know, my heart.. I am a priest and I feel the need to draw near! That's how I feel; that is the first thing. I know that the comfort that any word of mine might give is no cure, it doesn't bring the dead back to life, but human closeness at these times gives us strength, there is solidarity… I remember that as Archbishop of Buenos Aires I experienced two catastrophes like this one: a fire in a dance hall, where a pop music concert was being held, and 193 persons died. Another time, a trains disaster – I believe 120 people died. At the time, I felt the same way: a need to draw close. Human suffering is powerful, and if at these sad times we draw closer, we help one another greatly. As for that final question, I would like to add something. I took this (holding up a ribbon). After I carried it for half a day – I took it for solidarity with them – somebody came up to me and said: It’s better to take that off… You should be neutral …' 'But listen, where human suffering is involved, you can't be neutral'. That was my answer; that's how I feel...."

"...Alan Holdren:

"Your Holiness, my name is Alan Holdren, I work for Catholic News Agency, ACI Prensa in Lima, Peru, and EWTN. As you know, United States military forces have just begun to bomb terrorists in Iraq in order to prevent a genocide, to protect the future of minorities – I'm also thinking of the Catholics in your care. Do you approve of this American bombing?

"Pope Francis:

"Thank you for your very clear question. In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I emphasize the word: 'stop'. I'm not saying drop bombs, make war, but stop the aggressor. The means used to stop him would have to be evaluated. Stopping an unjust aggressor is licit. But we also need to remember! How many times, with this excuse of stopping an unjust aggressor, the powers have taken over peoples and carried on an actual war of conquest! One nation alone cannot determine how to stop an unjust aggressor. After the Second World War, there was the idea of the United Nations: that is where discussion was to take place, to say: Is this an unjust aggressor? It would seem so. How do we stop him?' This alone, nothing else. Second, minorities. Thanks for using that word. Because people say to me: 'the Christians, the poor Christians…' And it is true, they are suffering, and martyrs, yes, there are many martyrs. But there are also men and women, religious minorities, not all Christians, and all are equal before God. To stop an unjust aggressor is a right of humanity, but it is also a right of the aggressor to be stopped in order not to do evil....

"...Paloma García Ovejero:

"But afterwards: Mexico, Philadelphia?

"Pope Francis:

"No, I'll tell you why. This year, Albania was planned, that is true. There are those who say that the Pope tends to start everything from the periphery. But no, Why am I going to Albania? For two important reasons. First, because they have managed to form a government – we think of the Balkans! – a government of national unity between Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics, with an interreligious Council which is very helpful and balanced. And this is working well, it's harmonious. The Pope's presence is a way of saying to everyone: 'We can all work together!' I felt it would be a real help to that noble people. And another thing: If we think of the history of Albania, it was, in terms of religion, the one communist country whose Constitution enshrined practical atheism. If you went to Mass, it was a violation of the Constitution. One of the ministers told me that at the time – here I want to be precise in the figures – 1,820 churches were torn down. Torn down! Orthodox churches, Catholic churches… And other churches were turned into cinemas, theaters, dance halls… I felt I should go: It is close by, it can be done in a day… Then next year, I would like to go to Philadelphia..."

5 comments:

Diana said...

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Jackie Parkes said...

Just found your blog from ACWB - love it!

JohnL said...

Thank you Brian for your thoughtful articles. I am "older' catholic, I have my faults but I passionately believe in the Love of God and the pain that Christ must feel at man's inhumanity towards his fellow man.

Brian Gill said...

Diana, Amen.

Jackie Parks, thank you!

Brian Gill said...

JohnL, agreed. I've got a fair amount of spiritual sludge left in me, too.

My Lord's been helping, though, at shoveling the stuff out. ;)

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.