Gasp! Horror! The Pope said something controversial!
Wait, haven’t we gone through this at least once a month since he was elected? And didn’t 99% of that proven to be obviously different from what was reported, if not an outright lie on the part of the media?
So much Strawpope, so little time . . . but this one is so over-the-top that I just had to take some of my busy time to address it. I can’t do it in detail, but we’ll cover the three accusations given in this Infowars article.
Oh, and fair warning: the Asymmetrical Bullshit Rule applies here.
Accusation #1: The Pope said the Gospels call for war too! ISIS is just like Jesus!
Oh, right, we can’t let self-evident responses handle arguments anymore. We can’t let the actions of Muhammad and Jesus speak for themselves. We can’t just say “Okay, you’re comparing the guy who let himself be horribly executed rather than risk a single one of his followers to the guy who ordered his followers to fight to the death to let him retreat.” We can’t note that one guy told his followers that when the people rejected them, they should move on, while the other guy ordered that the women and children of enemies should be taken as slaves and any boys with pubic hair or who lacked foreskins should be put to death. We can’t look at that and think “Oh, really? You expect us to believe that, after the last hundred times you attempted this?”
And Infowars does such a blatant job of it, too. Even though they link to the original article, in English, they think they can get away with saying something completely different.
Original text from Infowars:
In a shocking interview, Pope Francis likened Jesus Christ to ISIS [. . .]
“Today, I don’t think that there is a fear of Islam as such but of ISIS and its war of conquest, which is partly drawn from Islam,” he told French newspaper La Croix. “It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam, however, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest.”
Original text from La Coix:
– The fear of accepting migrants is partly based on a fear of Islam. In your view, is the fear that this religion sparks in Europe justified?
Pope Francis: Today, I don’t think that there is a fear of Islam as such but of ISIS and its war of conquest, which is partly drawn from Islam. It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam. However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest.
In the face of Islamic terrorism, it would therefore be better to question ourselves about the way in an overly Western model of democracy has been exported to countries such as Iraq, where a strong government previously existed. Or in Libya, where a tribal structure exists. We cannot advance without taking these cultures into account. As a Libyan said recently, “We used to have one Gaddafi, now we have fifty.”
Well, look at that. He wants people to look at the results, not the rhetoric.
See, I disagree with the Pope that Islam is being misinterpreted here; it’s clear from both the historical record and the Islamic writings themselves that Muhammad preached war more than he preached peace. However, the Pope is also right about how Muslims can be peaceful. Their religion is not inherently violent. There are traditionally two major sects of Islam; if there were a strong leader behind it, we would see a third one today, one where Muslims really don’t want to go out and kill people for being of a different religion.
The problem is that there have been polls that note that a very large number of Muslims think it’s okay to kill unbelievers, and it’s hard to identify them. Therefore you have to look not at their words, but rather their actions. You know, I think there’s a line in the Bible about that sort of thing; something about knowing them by their fruits?
So the Pope wants us to look at the immediate causes here, rather than simply saying “Oh, they’re Muslim, therefore they’re just like that,” as if Muslims are somehow a different species or otherwise can’t be reasoned with. Instead, he notes that the current instability in Arab-culture countries that has allowed ISIS to take hold is a result of Western meddling. This is entirely true.
Oh, yes, it’s true. Many of us are conditioned to believe that our way of life is the best one, because it works for us. The problem is that even though we’re all human, and we all suffer the same faults, we don’t interpret things the same way. We have different cultures, which color the same event or idea to create vastly different conclusions.
I once once speaking with someone in a semi-private conversation, talking about history. I’d mentioned (quoting an author) that there were two points in history where a political situation was resolved with near-perfect means. The first was the constitution of Athens, and the second was the US Constitution. Someone who hadn’t heard the context (which was historical, not political) decided to break off his own conversation and leap into ours, demanding to know why, if that’s true, then most governments in the world weren’t copies of ours.
I mostly ignored him, attempting to continue my conversation, and only stopped to repeat to him each time he interrupted that he hadn’t heard the context, and that I wasn’t talking about Iraq, so please go away. That conversation took place five years ago to the month, and I still think about it frequently — because this guy thought every culture in the world was the same. It’s a mistake that is distressingly common among those who celebrate multiculturalism as its own goal, because they seem to think culture is about your food, your clothing, your language, but not your thinking.
Outward trappings like that don’t matter; if I could wave a magic wand and make English the native language all over the world, it wouldn’t change cultures in any appreciable way. Chinese professors would still be extremely reluctant to admit they don’t know the answer to a question. Indian businessmen would still have difficulty understanding an Englishman’s idea of the primacy of a prior appointment. Nigerian children would still find it strange that their American counterparts want to know who’s better at something. Culture is not something outside yourself. Culture is how you act, what priorities you place on actions, how you judge the value of a person, a moment in time, a word here or there, or even whether morality is an absolute or in the eye of the beholder. If you don’t understand someone’s culture, you’ll never understand them.
And whether or not we agree that a certain dictator must go, the fact remains that simply toppling a dictator will not prepare a society to be like England or the United States. There is only one nation, one people, that has ever independently developed the concept of freedom. No society untouched by the Greeks has ever advanced further to that idea than privilege; that is, that you are only allowed to do the things the government says you can do. That is why the late and great Dr. J. Rufus Fears opened his famous History of Freedom lecture series (available from the Great Courses; if you listen to only one of their series, make it that one) with a stirring account of the Battle of Marathon, quoting John Stuart Mill’s conclusion that this battle was more important to English history than the Battle of Hastings. If the Athenians had lost that battle, the very concept of personal freedom would likely have been crushed forever.
The force that attacked the Athenians was Persia, a name that came from a Roman corruption of the name of the Farsi language (effectively meaning “land of those who speak Farsi”). That is effectively, if not actually, Iran today. The whole region is vastly different from Greece and all those nations which intellectually, politically, or spiritually descend from it. Tribal connections are more than just kin groups; the closest Western analogy I have to offer is to basically imagine entire nations made up of Godfather-style groups. Even that, however, is only an approximation. Dr. David Livermore, in another excellent Great Courses series, Customs of the World, defines the world in terms of ten loose “cultural clusters,” and notes that the Arabic and Anglo clusters are the ones closest to being polar opposite, out of any other combination on the list. It’s just not something you can describe in terms of our own culture; you have to understand them in their own context.
To put it in a geekier analogy, the first time I tried learning a gaming system other than D&D was a headache, because I kept trying to understand it as a reskinned version of the game I knew better. What was this system? Shadowrun. Exactly. Those of you who have experienced both understand what a blunder this was. They’re two very different systems, and the similarities only serve to trip you up if you try clinging to them.
This is a lot more detail than I intended to go into, but it’s important to understand nonetheless. I’ve had an almost unique vantage point with which to observe US government policy across three eight-year administrations, and I’ve come to the conclusion that DC bureaucrats just don’t grasp this point. The Godfather analogy suffices for now: imaging killing off the top mafia dons and saying “The polls are now open!” You don’t have a group saying they’ll democratically rule themselves; they look for the next strongman, because that’s what they’re used to. I thought briefly that it might work, that I was wrong, but eventually we got the current result.
(“Wait, are you saying Muslims are like criminals?” No, just that Arabic culture, whether Islamic or not, is built around similar lines to movie-style mafia groups. And like I said earlier, the analogy only goes so far anyway. Try looking back in Crusade or British records and you’ll find the same cross-cultural problems cropping up again and again. It only starts working when leaders in both cultures strive to understand each other. This is true all around the world; the differences are just more stark here.)
So Pope Francis is just saying what I’ve been saying for years: You can’t treat everyone like they came from the same cookie-cutter, and you can’t expect the Middle East to turn into Middle America overnight. And further, the problem is not whether the Koran calls for war, but that without understanding the reason why so many Arabs prefer ISIS, we’ll never defeat the barbarians.
Accusation #2: The Pope said he dreads hearing about the Christian roots of Europe! We must breed with Muslims!
You know, if the most prominent Christian in the world says Christianity is somehow bad, it’s a pretty safe bet that the media is making %#(% up!
In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that my back is hurting so much, I might actually be assuming the pose shown in that above picture.
Original text from Infowars:
In a shocking interview, Pope Francis likened Jesus Christ to ISIS and said Muslim migrants must breed with Europeans to counter “declining birth rates.”
The Pope also said he “dreaded” hearing about the “Christian roots of Europe” because, to him, they take on “colonialist overtones” and he called on European nations to “integrate” Muslim migrants into the continent.
“This integration is all the more necessary today since, as a result of a selfish search for well-being, Europe is experiencing the grave problem of a declining birth rate,” he stated. “A demographic emptiness is developing.”
His opinions are stunningly similar to those of top Iman Sheikh Muhammad Ayed, who said Muslims should exploit the migrant crisis to breed with Europeans and “conquer their countries.”
“Europe has become old and decrepit and needs human reinforcement… they are not motivated by compassion for the Levant, its people and its refugees… soon, we will trample them underfoot, Allah willing,” he stated. “Throughout Europe, all the hearts are enthused with hatred toward Muslims. They wish that we were dead, but they have lost their fertility, so they look for fertility in our midst.”
“We will give them fertility! We will breed children with them, because we shall conquer their countries!”
So we have an opening statement that the Pope says one thing, but then goes on to admit that a Muslim leader said that, but try to insist that the Pope’s mention of declining birthrates makes him sound like that imam.
You know, it’s rather similar to how when I say that taxation isn’t inherently theft, it proves that I’m a socialist.
Really, it’s the same old tune. A person who puts his politics in place of religion sees that the Church teaches something he disagrees with, and assumes that therefore she must be politically opposed. But like I’ve said before, the Church is not a political party. The Church will never be a political party. The Church prepares you for a nation that is not located around here.
So yes, Francis mentioned birthrates, and that means he must agree with these words you put in his mouth. Because it’s not like the Catholic Church has been pointing out the dangers of declining birth rates on society and economics and morals for, oh, decades.
Let’s see what he actually said, shall we?
Original text from La Croix:
On April 16, you made a powerful gesture by bringing back the refugees from Lesbos to Rome. However, does Europe have the capacity to accept so many migrants ?
[snipped text that I’ll get to in a moment]
Coming back to the migrant issue, the worst form of welcome is to ‘ghettoize’them. On the contrary, it’s necessary to integrate them. In Brussels, the terrorists were Belgians, children of migrants, but they grew up in a ghetto. In London, the new mayor (Editor: Sadiq Khan, the son of Muslim Pakistanis) took his oath of office in a cathedral and will undoubtedly meet the queen. This illustrates the need for Europe to rediscover its capacity to integrate.
I am thinking here of Pope Gregory the Great (Editor: Pope from 590 – 604), who negotiated with the people known as barbarians, who were subsequently integrated. This integration is all the more necessary today since, as a result of a selfish search for well-being, Europe is experiencing the grave problem of a declining birth rate. A demographic emptiness is developing. In France, at least, this trend is less marked because of family-oriented policies.
It seems to me that “we must not encourage balkanization” is a far cry from “Go have lots of Muslim babies,” even if you consider the latter to be an inherently bad thing.
And yes, balkanization is a bad thing. We can’t have two different cultures living side by side, even ones more closely related than the ones involved here, and pretend that they’re somehow one unit. If the refugees are to be accepted, then they must be accepted, and not shoved off to the side. That only breeds resentment and fuels strife. (The question of whether they should be accepted, much less whether ISIS is using the refugees as cover, while both very important discussions, is nonetheless immaterial to the point the Pope is making. It doesn’t take more than half a wit to see that, but sadly there are many halfwits on the Internet.)
But what about the claim that he dislikes the Christian roots of Europe?
In your speeches in Europe, you refer to the “roots” of the continent without ever describing them as Christian. Rather, you define “European identity” as “dynamic and multicultural.” In your view, is the expression “Christian roots” inappropriate for Europe ?
Pope Francis : We need to speak of roots in the plural because there are so many. In this sense, when I hear talk of the Christian roots of Europe, I sometimes dread the tone, which can seem triumphalist or even vengeful. It then takes on colonialist overtones. John Paul II, however, spoke about it in a tranquil manner.
Yes, Europe has Christian roots and it is Christianity’s responsibility to water those roots. But this must be done in a spirit of service as in the washing of the feet. Christianity’s duty to Europe is one of service. As Erich Przywara, the great master of Romano Guardini and Hans Urs von Balthasar, teaches us, Christianity’s contribution to a culture is that of Christ in the washing of the feet. In other words, service and the gift of life. It must not become a colonial enterprise.
So confirming that Europe has Christian roots that must be encouraged, and noting that he only objects to the self-righteous better-than-others tone it has sometimes become, somehow equals “Pope doesn’t like Christianity!”
Now, there are a lot of arguments for and against colonialism. Many point to the good that has come of it; many point to the bad. Others point to the Church’s involvement in encouraging it, with Pope Alexander IV “dividing” the world between Spain and Portugal (somehow without actually using the language of ownership, and totally not some sort of attempt to forestall wars between then-superpowers or to encourage them to act in a peaceful and dignified manner . . .). The fact remains that whether or not good things might have come out of them, colonialism (note the -ism, not merely “possessing colonies”) almost always proceeds from a mindset of “We know better than you, so we’re going to run your society now and/or kick you out.”
The Church has always insisted on freedom of choice; “All men . . . have the ability to save themselves or condemn [damn] themselves,” in the words of one document written by a Spanish clergyman attempting to forestall Spanish colonialism. (I’m quoting from memory. It’s a text I translated myself almost a decade ago, and it stuck with me. It reads like a Catholic version of parts of the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence rolled into one.) It’s only in recent centuries that European society managed to figure out that freedom of choice applies equally in both spiritual and political circumstances, and even then it took Europeans in former British colonies to codify it. Almost two and a half centuries later, a lot of them are still trying to figure out if it means anything.
And that brings us to this point:
Accusation #3: The Pope is a socialist!
Do I even have to go through this one again? I’ve already covered the “dung of the devil” thing, fisked Andrew Napolitano insisting that the Pope is an avowed Peronist and Marxist, and got a few laughs out of Pope Francis’ first look at a hammer-and-sickle crucifix. Do we really need more?
Sigh. I guess I might as well hit the high points.
Original text from Infowars:
Pope Francis also promoted socialism during the interview.
“A completely free market does not work,” he claimed. “Markets in themselves are good but they also require a fulcrum, a third party, or a state to monitor and balance them.”
“In other words, [what is needed is] a social market economy.”
It’s been estimated that in the 20th century alone, socialism and communism resulted in the deaths of at least 130 million people.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone other than an anarchist, even someone who describes himself as a free-market capitalist, saying that there should never be any regulations on economic transactions. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the most prominent Catholic in the world espouses Catholic teachings on economic transactions. Namely, there must always be an authority to appeal to, who must be neutral.
It’s really as simple as that. The social market theory of economics, whether you agree with it or not, is not the same as socialism or even its thinly-disguised cousin social democracy. It also only makes sense as a separate system from capitalism when you define the latter as something other than American-style free-market capitalism.
Remember what I said about communicating across cultures? The Pope is speaking to the entire world (well, specifically to a French newspaper here, but the point stands), and not just to Americans. Terms like “conservative,” “capitalism,” and even “left/right-wing” mean different things in most of the world compared to the United States. Always define your terms. If you insist on the Pope using American terms for everything, you might as well insist that he speak English as his native language.
Once again, I’m going to share the definition of the word “capitalism” that is used by the majority of non-American Catholics, namely that of G. K. Chesterton, as written in his Outline of Sanity:
When I say “Capitalism,” I commonly mean something that may be stated thus: “That economic condition in which there is a class of capitalists, roughly recognizable and relatively small, in whose possession so much of the capital is concentrated as to necessitate a very large majority of the citizens serving those capitalists for a wage.” This particular state of things can and does exist, and we must have some word for it, and some way of discussing it. But this is undoubtedly a very bad word, because it is used by other people to mean quite other things. Some people seem to mean merely private property. Others suppose that capitalism must mean anything involving the use of capital. But if that use is too literal, it is also too loose and even too large. If the use of capital is capitalism, then everything is capitalism. […] In that case, the word is useless. My use of it may be arbitrary, but it is not useless. If capitalism means private property, I am capitalist. If capitalism means capital, everybody is capitalist. But if capitalism means this particular condition of capital, only paid out to the mass in the form of wages, then it does mean something, even if it ought to mean something else.
You can find the rest of this passage excerpted here (I highly encourage reading at least the next paragraph); or you can purchase the full book here (as it is one of the rare Chesterton tomes still under copyright in the United States, specifically until 2022).
I have used this passage to refute two groups, that is, Catholics and non-Catholics alike who might both say the Church is anti-capitalist. It depends on how you define the word. We have as many definitions of the word as we have theories on economics. After all, it was invented as a strawman argument by socialists; how can we expect that anything less would have happened? It is as if I tried to define everything that was non-Catholic as Nullism, and insisted that Protestants, Mormons, Buddhists, and more to try to come up with arguments to defend my attack on Nullism.
There’s some argument over what exactly a “social market” economy would look like; but in Catholic circles, it’s become a shorthand for what an American capitalist might describe as “free-market capitalism with a grassroots moral imperative.” The only thing that such a hypothetical capitalist might disagree with is the social market theory’s acceptance of welfare systems; but even there, there is much dispute among the American right over whether all welfare is wrong, or if one can have a welfare “safety net” without having a welfare state. The Church, historically, has been much more open to the idea of welfare than one might expect based on her adherence to the Biblical commandment that those who do not work do not eat; but once again, it means something a bit more different (to aid those who genuinely cannot help themselves, and fueled by voluntary charity encouraged by government) from the more commonly used term in the US and around the world (a massive series of programs forced upon society and taking the place of voluntary associations).
So, once again, the media narrative ignores what the Pope actually said, changes what he said, attacks (or sometimes praises) what he didn’t say, and attempts to blanket the narrative before people find out the truth. I just wrote four thousand words to refute these lies, and all it really boils down to is check your facts and remember that the Pope is not from the United States and the United States is not the world.
It’s the same story, over and over. I don’t know why people keep falling for it, even those desperate for something to confirm their own biases.
I would, however, like to commend La Croix for putting out an English translation along with the original French. I was going to try translating it myself, but it’s almost like they knew this sort of thing keeps happening.