Saturday: Holy Week–a Dangerous Memory

Guest article by Fr Emmanuel Mccarthy


“Viewing the mutilated body of the beloved is the most grief-ridden experience of human existence. It is incontrovertible evidence that evil rules. It is an unambiguous testament that in the end it is not the gentle, the nonviolent and the meek who inherit the earth but the cruel, the violent and the tough. Death and the dark side of reality are always the final victors.

The dead body of Christ lying wide-eyed and open-mouthed upon the ground seems to be not only incontestable testimony that all this is true, but also the most conclusive evidence that the cross of nonviolent love does not save—that the Sermon on the Mount is at best clearly wrong, and at worst, a socially irresponsible misleading of people into paths of total destruction.

It is all over! Period. The person is placed in the grave never to be seen nor to see again, never to speak nor to be spoken to again, never to love nor to be loved again. Never! Never! Never! He or she won’t be back. In the end those who choose the way of the of nonviolent suffering love end up like all others—food for worms. Their molecules randomly are irretrievably spread throughout an infinite and indifferent ocean of time and space. Hope of being again is pointless. Personal existence is lost forever.

One last moment. One last touch. One final kiss. A whispered, “I love you— Good-bye forever,” and then the rock is placed over the tomb. Nonviolent Love, like hedonism, Aristotelianism, stoicism and all other philosophies, is ultimately an illusion without real power to save, a faith without any eternal potential or possibilities.

An occupied sepulcher is no more a symbol of hope than a Nazi crematory. The dead body of Jesus, the Jew from Nazareth, is a stark and irrefutable statement and memory of what violence and enmity do to a life, and that a life of Nonviolent Love is not the Way to overcome violence and enmity, evil and death. There is no more to be said and no more that can be done. There is only memory and unbearable suffering to be endured.

(Excerpt from The Stations of the Cross of Nonviolent Love)

The following video, viewer discretion is advised, contains disturbing and graphic images of real casualties of war.

Guest Article – FrECM on “Who is the aggressor?”

by Fr Emmanuel Charles McCarthy


Here is a letter to the editor by a friend,  Ben Jimenez, S.J., to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 3. Plus a brief commentary by me.


Marine should quit the fight


I express my sympathy for brother alumnus Kevin Midgley and his parents. Despite our best efforts at St. Ignatius High School to teach Gospel values, some insist on picking up the gun and delivering ”a high volume of firepower” (”Former St. Ignatius football player on duty as a Marine in Afghanistan,” Sept. 11, Cleveland Plain Dealer). Instead of imitating the gentle and meek Lamb of God, our brother has joined the wolf pack.


Pope Francis recently said, ”Where there’s an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just stop.”


Brother Kevin, and all brothers and sisters in the military, remember you are under no obligation whatsoever to obey an order contrary to the laws of God. I urge you to put your weapons down and use your considerable talents to promote life rather than destroy it.


Ben Jimenez, S.J.


Excellent letter!

Of course we always have to first make an accurate determination with the highest degree of moral certainty regarding who exactly is the aggressor*. For example, if the U.S., in a divide and conquer middle east strategy aimed at procuring de facto sovereignty over the land, water, oil and people of that region, were supplying ISIS with the money and weapons to kill and maim  ( who would be the aggressor?** Does one have to consider the level of order and stability this region knew before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 in order to determine who the aggressor is? Does one send the child abuser to rectify a situation of child abuse which he is responsible for and which he is perpetuating? Who is the aggressor is?*** I would submit it is all but impossible to honestly and truthfully determine, even with a low degree of moral probability, who is the aggressor in the activities in which nation-state are involved, that are pathologically deceitful and have such organizations as the CIA, NSA, the Moussad, MI6, etc. clandestinely interfering in the life of any nation they want to use or conquer for their purposes. I think this would be an important question to ask your fellow Jesuit, Pope Francis: “How can one determine with the necessary moral certainty required where homicide is involved, who is the aggressor before deciding who is to be “stopped?”.

Think of the poor misguided, or U.S. Government stooge, Catholic Archbishop of Atlanta, Georgia, who led his Catholic flock into war, death and murder in 2003 by telling them that they do no have to wait to invade Iraq and to kill, and maim the people of Iraq, until Catholics in his diocese wake up some morning and see a mushroom cloud in their backyard! In a society with a long history of the government, the military and the mass media chronically lying whenever it serves their interests to do so, in order to deceive the public by saturation propaganda, it is either stupidity, gross negligence or chosen complicity with evil to even suggest that in matters of homicide the government, the military and the mass media be given even the slightest presumption of truth, regarding who is at fault or who is the aggressor in homicidal activity. Of course, this issue is mute if a Christian is following the Nonviolent Jesus of the Gospels and His Way of Nonviolent of Love of friends and enemies, who is the only Jesus there is to follow. But, “Who is the aggressor?” is an axial moral issue where any application of Christian Just War Theory is the moral validation for a Christian participating in a war. Personally, I am still waiting to hear how it is possible, if—as is universally known—truth is the first casualty of war, the presumption of truth can be given to any king, queen, dictator, president, prime minister. parliment or government once war is on the horizon. They all lie with abandon, saying whatever is necessary to get innocent young Christians, whose brains are not even fully developed yet, like Kevin Midgley, to kill, to die and to be maimed for them. If you are not killing the aggressor in a war, you are engaged in in unjust war and hence the unjustified killing of human beings. he proper name in Catholic moral theology for the evil of the intentional unjustified killing of another human being in war or in the womb is the same: murder. I can only assume that the Jesuits at St. Ignatius High School thoroughly apprise their students of the level of evil they are entering into if they participate in an unjustified war by Catholic Just War Standards. If they have not, then they themselves are engaged in grave evil.

Keep up your good work for the Good News, Ben.





Today, in the Christian Churches throughout the world, an ever-expanding smorgasbord of programs, groups, congregations, committees, and commission focus on the Christian family. This is as it should be. Indeed, in October of 2014 Pope Francis is convening an Extraordinary Synod of Catholic Bishops and in October of 2015 an Ordinary Synod of Bishops to focus explicitly on the Christian family.

You might think that—before planning programs or giving advice on how to fix the Christian family—wisdom and logic would dictate that one ask the question: “What is the ultimate objective of a Christian family?” To be clear, I am not speaking about non-Christian families here. The question that is the focus here is this one: “What is the supreme objective that the mother and father and children of a Christian family should have before them?” “What is the supreme objective the Church should lavishly expend its resources on to assist families in accomplishing?

In the secular domain, there are as many answers to the question about the ultimate objective of the family as there are secular philosophies. In the domain where the Gospel reigns, there is only one answer. The ultimate goal of the Christian family is that each and every member of the family becomes a saint. This is the supreme objective of the Christian family because it is the supreme objective of Christ and the Church, within which each Christian and Christian family exists. The final canon of the Catholic Code of Canon Law (No. 1752), placed there to emphasize its all-encompassing nature, reads: “The salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law of the Church, is to be kept before one’s eyes.

This fact brings us directly to St. Marcellus (d. AD 298), whose relics, by the design of God and by the decision and work of Edward Sorin, C.S.C. (1814 –1893), the founder of the University of Notre Dame, have since 1888 prophetically rested, here, beneath the high altar of Notre Dame’s Sacred Heart Basilica. St. Marcellus was a human being like us. He was a husband and a father. He was a centurion in the Roman military. He was a Christian who, in the name of Jesus, lay down his sword and shield. He was a conscientious objector, the price of whose conscientious objection was his earthly life, his Christian wife’s earthly life, and his Christian children’s earthly lives. He was a martyr. He was one of the overseers of a domestic Church who kept before his eyes the eternal salvation of his wife, his children, and himself.

St. Marcellus is an authentic Christian family-values witness. Indeed, he should be formally installed as the Patron Saint of the Christian Family as well as the Christian Family Movement. Pope Francis should declare him the offi  cial intercessor, guide, and guardian of the upcoming October Synods of Bishops on the Family. As overseer of his domestic Church, Marcellus in Christ-like service to his family kept his eyes on the prize, the only prize worth receiving, eternal salvation.

Today, the Christian family is widely used as a pretext for not following Jesus. How many times have we said to ourselves or heard rationalizations of infi delity to Jesus that sound something like this? Look, I would rather not be working for a company that makes weapons to destroy other human beings, but I have a family to raise and this is the only good-paying job I can get. Or, I would like to be faithful to Jesus and His Way. I do not want my children—or myself—to ignore or support or participate in enmity and homicidal violence of any sort. But if I do not let my son and daughter join the ROTC and get their entire college tuitions paid for by the US military, we will not be able to afford to send them to college, etc.

Jesus foresaw the possibility that those He had chosen would be seriously tempted to exempt themselves on the basis of such family-centered concerns from following the will of God as He revealed it. He responded to that possibility in this way: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:37-39; Lk 14: 26-27). Surely this could be the motto of the Christian Family Movement and the banner of these Synods on the Family! Would either dare use this teaching of Jesus as its publicly professed standard to designate the proper spirit that should reside within a Christian family? For those who think such a motto would be “out of place,” “unrealistic,” or “just crazy,” remember who spoke those words and what seeing them as an embarrassing absurdity implies, especially in terms of raising Christian children. Jesus uses father, mother, son or daughter because if anything could override faithfully following Jesus these relationships would be it. And if these do not take priority over following Jesus certainly nothing else can, e.g., love of country, love of one’s ethnic group, love of comfort, love of a human institution including religious institutions, desire for a college education, etc.

All political and economic tyrants, in every age, use threats of earthly suff ering and/or death to members of the family or to the entire family as a power to control the adult population. The horrific deaths of members of Christian families in the Colosseum were a recurring piece of savagery-as-entertainment-with-a-calculated-political-purpose throughout Christianity’s first three hundred years. Yet, into the Colosseum (actually the Circus Maximus) Christian families chose to walk rather than betray Jesus and His teaching. Since these families were like us in all things, it is highly probable that many, if not most, stepped into the stadium of their via dolorosa with fear and trembling over the ordeal that awaited them. But they also stepped forward with a courage born of the supreme conviction of their faith, “Christ is risen.”

Such also must have been the faith of Marcellus and his Christian family. If Marcellus is dead and gone forever, and if all that is left of him are a few bones under the altar at the University of Notre Dame, then we who are here tonight, and all Christians for the last two thousand years, are, as St. Paul says, “the most pitiable of all people”: our witness is false, our preaching is hollow, and our Christian faith is only empty babble to divert our attention from the drop into extinction that awaits us and our loved ones, and all. For, as Saint Paul phrases it, “If Christ has not risen, our faith is in vain, and those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (1 Cor 15:17-18), e.g., Marcellus and his family.

But if Christ is risen, then the Way He teaches by word and deed as the Way of God, the Way of Eternal Life, is true. Marcellus and his family, along with three centuries of Christian Colosseum families, believed as Peter did when he says to Jesus, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68). When Marcellus chose to follow Jesus and his Way even unto death, he was not thinking, “With the grave, existence for my family ends forever.” Surely he was thinking, “Eternal life with Christ-God is the future for my family.”

So, in choosing the Way of Christ’s Nonviolent Cross for himself and his family, Marcellus chose life, not death. He chose to act rationally rather than irrationally, by refusing to choose temporal life over eternal life. He chose for himself and his family to follow the Way of the Lamb who conquers evil and death in all their manifestations and who “reigns forever and ever” as “the Lord of lords, the King of kings” (Rev 17:14).

Could those who voice their concern over the present state of decomposition of the Christian family do better than to have St. Marcellus as their patron, model and advocate? By word and deed he taught his children that it is infinitely better to put up the sword and die in the Way of Christ, than to take out the sword and live in the way of Satan? Could the mother and father of a Christian family do better than to instruct their children by word and deed that it is honorable and noble, holy and heroic to be a Christian conscientious objector? Could they do better than to teach their children to refuse to pledge allegiance to any person or institution—political, military, economic, educational, religious or social—demanding, under threat of penalty, that they act in a way that is contrary to the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels, for example, that they pick up a gun and use it to kill a human being whom someone, that they know only through media sound bites, designates as “the enemy?”

And, if Catholic and Christian educational institutions, from pre-school to Ph.D., stand spiritually in loco parentis for the Catholic and Christian youngsters who come to them, must they not also do the same?

This, again, brings us to exactly where we are this evening, the Sacred Heart Basilica at the University of Notre Dame and to St. Marcellus, whose relics reside here under the high altar. This church is a fine example of what it means for a Catholic or Christian educational institution to teach secular knowledge within a Christian environment. Why? The altar, which is the architectural centerpiece of the church is the place where Jesus is daily re-presented in His passion and death—rejecting violence, loving enemies, praying for persecutors—obeying, in word and in deed, in the face of suffering and death, the will of the Father. It is from the altar that young Christian boys and girls, men and women, receive the Bread of Life, Jesus, in order “to become what they receive.” It is therefore most fi tting and right that the relics of St. Marcellus lie beneath the altar, for he also obeyed the will of the Father as revealed by Jesus and, like Jesus, he was murdered by the state for “obeying God rather than human beings” (Acts 5:29). It is also fi tting and right that high above the main altar a statue of the victorious Lamb of God permanently stands—and not a statue of the victorious bird of prey, the imperial eagle with its claws bared.

But what about that stained glass window to the left of the high altar? Does it communicate the truth that Jesus taught, the Way of Jesus, the will of the Father for which Jesus and Marcellus died? Does a stained glass window in a church, let alone a basilica, that pictures Christians slaughtering Muslims during the Crusades, and also Christians bludgeoning Muslims to death at the Battle of Lepanto, proclaim the truth that is communicated by Jesus at the high altar daily and by the relics of St. Marcellus beneath the high altar and by the Lamb above the altar? It does not!

It contradicts the truth of Jesus. Such a stained glass window has no place in any Christian church, for it bears false witness. It communicates to all who see it, that the opposite of what Jesus taught is the truth of Jesus. Not a scintilla of Jesus’ command to “love your enemies” is depicted in it. Indeed, the entire image oozes hate and viciousness, the very opposite of all that Jesus said and did, lived and died for. And to make matters more grotesque, these same stained glass windows contain representations of the Mother of Jesus, Notre Dame, as a supporter and spiritual validator of the Catholic homicidal violence pictured—Mary, whose very last words in the Gospel are “Do whatever He tells you.” Is enmity-driven homicidal violence depicted in these windows what Jesus tells his disciples to do when He says, “Follow me,” and “obey all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19)? If not, what is this stained glass image doing in Notre Dame’s Sacred Heart Basilica? And what are similar stained glass windows and/or art doing in Christian Churches of every denomination throughout the world? Do they foster in children or in parents an understanding of the Way to eternal life as taught by Jesus in the Gospels? They do not!

Christian parents, or an institution standing in loco parentis spiritually for them, are under a divine mandate not to deceive those in their spiritual care in matters regarding the truth that Jesus taught concerning eternal life and the Way of God to it. Stationing permanently a stained glass window of Catholics slaughtering Muslims a few feet away from the high altar in a basilica is a most effective method for making it appear that what Jesus taught as evil is in fact good. Any and every icon or artifact in a Christian Church should reflect what takes place on the altar. A symbol in a Church that is in direct logical contradiction with Jesus and His teachings in the Gospels may produce the earthly ends those who placed it in the Church desire. But, as far as helping children and parents adhere to the supreme law of the Church and keep before their eyes the salvation of souls and the Way to that end such a symbol is a terrible disservice carrying within it the seeds of the most terrible of consequences, for those who view it.

There you have it: The blinding clash between the relics beneath the high altar and the stained glass window to its left, between the Gospels and the ROTCs in Christian high schools and colleges, between the family of St. Marcellus and the Christian family in which parents permit their children to be nurtured in the tinsel “glory,” “honor,” and “holiness” of being a heroic homicider for a state or a religion. In a nutshell, the radical difference between St. Marcellus and his family and most Christian families today is that for the former, martyrdom is what one accepts rather than betray Jesus and His “new commandment”: “Love one another as I have loved you,” while for the latter, martyrdom is what one accepts only after one runs out of ammunition and other means of loving the enemy while killing him.

In light of the daily, heavy-duty assault on Christian children’s minds, an insidious and rampant form of child abuse, by highly paid expert propagandists employed by governments and the militaries—in light of the near absolute non-response of Churches and Church leaders and Church families to this assault on the minds of their children, whose brains are nowhere near being fully developed and capable of evaluating what is being presented to them—in light of the massiveness of past and present justification of participation in human slaughter by Christians, and finally—in light of Christian children immersed in a cultural atmosphere saturated with all the paraphernalia and trappings of militarism, is there a more important problem for the Christian family to confront and solve than this? There is not, unless Christian parents and the Church think that having the mind of Rambo hardwired into their children’s brains is a way of putting on the mind of Christ, unless Christian parents and the Church think the means of war are the means of Christ, unless Christian parents and the Church think the goals of war are the goals of Christ, unless Christian parents and the Church think that being killed while trying to kill another beloved son or daughter of the “Father of all” on the say-so of the local Grand Pooh Bah is a way to save one’s soul or a way to save the souls of others. Or, unless Christian educational institutions that stand in loco parentis, thinks all this, and much more of the generous funding they receive yearly, directly and indirectly, from the military and government to orchestrate this militarized metanoia of a young Christian’s mind under the auspices of Jesus—and even of Mary, his mother!

The witness of St. Marcellus is grounded in the choice of Jesus’ Way of Eternal Life over the choice of the way of adding a cubit more earthly time for himself and his family. This is the reason why St. Marcellus is the ultimate “family-values” saint. It is also exactly why St. Marcellus should be the patron saint of Christian families, the exemplar and model for all Christian family movements, and the offi  cial guide and guardian of the coming October Synods of Bishops in Rome on the Christian Family. The root of everything destructive of the Christian family lies in the choice of the perishable over the imperishable, the corruptible over the incorruptible, death over life, the idol over God. It is this type of anti-Gospel decision that in the Christian family and in the institutional Church often deceitfully operates under the auspices of Christian symbols. Until this hardwiring of children’s brains into an anti-Gospel metanoia is acknowledged and openly addressed and corrected, all the techniques, methodologies, exercises, programs, Synod documents and Papal encyclicals that focus on rehabilitating the Christian family will be nothing more than the “baptism” of supporting structures for that which can neither save nor be saved. Much will be gained by many people in high places for making sure that this critical issue is systematically kept off  the table when discussing the ongoing decomposition of the Christian family. To which it can only be said, “What profit is there for a person to gain the whole world [or some totally perishable speck thereof] and forfeit his or her eternal life?” (Mk 8:35-36; Mt 10:37-39; Lk 9:24; Jn 12:25)

Until the decision of the Christian family (and of those who stand in loco parentis for the children of this family) is to put all its eggs in one Easter basket—that is, saying and meaning, Jesus, I Trust in You, and then risking everything on “He is risen” (Mt 28:6; Mk 16:6; Lk 24:6; Jn 20:16), on His Way of Nonviolent Love of all under all circumstances being the Way to Eternal Life and the Way to conquer evil and death—no substantive restoration of the Christian family can take place. The Christian family will just keep hopping from one foot to another, desperately trying to make things go well for it in this world, as if it doesn’t matter whether Christ is risen or is not risen, whether what He teaches is God’s Will and the Way of Eternal Life or is not. Such a family is not a Christian family living according to the Gospel of Life. It is, rather, a Christian family not in its right Christian mind, whose willingness to choose the utterly corruptible over the eternal is causing it to suffocate in the atmosphere of finite when it could be breathing in the atmosphere of the Infinite.

It really is not that diffi cult for a Christian to become a saint or to help other people become saints. One might say, as many have, Jesus makes it too simple. But, all that is necessary for any of us to become a saint is to live as if the truth that Jesus teaches is true. Then, regardless of the earthly consequences of that choice, we—who for reasons known only to God—must live through this vale of tears, can wait peacefully until oneself and one’s family, as well as the entire family of God, wakes as if from a dream into eternal light when the Son of God shines in our night.

I would submit that if the two Synods of Bishops on the Family taking place in Rome in October 2014 and in October 2015 desires to be an instrument to turn Christians, the Christian family, the Church and humanity more to Jesus and His Way, then it should request of Pope Francis that the following Promise by parents become part of the Catholic liturgy for the Baptism of children—and that Pope Francis, as the Successor of Peter, ask all other Christian Churches to include it as part of their Baptismal ritual. An honest implementations of it in a world where the horror of homicidal violence is normalized, glorified, honored, ennobled and sanctified would require a tremendous eff ort and application of resources by the domestic, parish, diocesan and universal Church. The only alternative to this at any place on earth is to the leave the nurturing of the Baptized innocent child’s mind to the all-permeating and all-pervading atmosphere created by and ruled by the Snake, who was a liar and a murder from the beginning (Jn 8:44).

I will not raise my precious child to kill your precious child. And if it is within my power, I will not hand over my beloved child to others to kill your beloved child, or to learn how to kill the one you cherish. Saint Marcellus, pray for our family.

—Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

* Based on and excerpted from a reflection delivered at the Sacred Heart Basilica at the University of Notre Dame on the Feast Day of St. Marcellus by Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy.

Pope Francis and Protecting People from “Unjust Aggression” – part four

Pope Francis and Protecting People from “Unjust Aggression”

(Part Four)

Ambiguous signq

I had not intended to begin Part Four with the following story but it segues perfectly from what was communicated in Part Three. Two days after I sent out Part Three I received an email from a woman who did not have my reflections on Pope Francis’ words on intervention against “unjust aggressors.” I thought she might be going to ask me what the Pope’s statement meant in terms of stopping the ‘unjust aggression’ of Russia against the Ukraine. Instead, she informed me that she was part of a Catholic adult continuing religious education fellowship. Her problem was that everyone in the gathering is “convinced that the Pope has said stop ISIS regardless.” As one member emailed her, “I think the Pope is addressing airstikes by the US alone as unwise, but I do not think he is against stopping ISIS by whatever means the international community (U.N.) evaluates as acceptable. I find nowhere that the Pope has stated that we must “stop” but not kill…I have read several articles from several different sources (including what I consider to be some objective sources), and they all indicate the same thing.”

This woman, obviously a sincere and serious Catholic, is not wrong. She cannot be wrong. As noted in Part Three, the planned ambiguity of the Pope’s statement makes it a Rorschach statement in which everyone can see what he or she wants to see. The Boston Globe had this as the headline over an article by its religion columnist: “Pope offers cautious yellow light for US airstrikes in Iraq.” He is not wrong, because in the world of planned ambiguity, no one is wrong and no one is right. The headline could have said with equal certainty of not being inaccurate, “Pope puts red light on US airstrikes.”

The Petrine Ministry exists to be the Rock of faith for Christians by having and proclaiming a rock-solid faith in Jesus and His Way.  Jesus, however, tells Peter in the most severe language imaginable—and by extension tells all Peter’s legitimate successors—not to think as the world thinks and that when Peter does this he is “an obstacle” to Jesus. “You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do”(Mt 16:23). Therefore, the servant of Jesus in the Petrine Ministry, if he is to be a good and faithful servant, must stand firm in his acceptance of and compliance with Jesus’ farewell command and commission to Peter and to all the Apostles, “teach them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19).

How sorrowful, that in relation to Christians confronting human violence, all that the Petrine ministry has again been able to say, as its “message that goes out through all the earth,” is another moral bromide of planned ambiguity. The history of the Petrine Ministry and the institutional Church’s administering of worldly moral bromides of planned ambiguity is that it always results in thousands or millions of human beings on all sides trying to kill each other and sharing—instead of Christlike love and the fruits of Christlike love—sharing of only a charnel house. And, those Christians on all sides who killed but are not killed spend their Christian lives offering the Nazi Nuremburg self-exculpatory defense to themselves and to others: “I did nothing wrong. I was following the moral law of my Church leaders. I find nowhere that they said I must not kill and maim in this situation. I realize there are 500,000 human beings now dead and maimed, but I was just following the moral orders given to me as the will of God by my Church’s bishops, priests and ministers. I am not responsible!”

Every Pope, except St. Peter, entered into his ministry in a Church that already had a history. So also, was the case when Pope Francis began his fifteen minutes of earthly notoriety as the Successor of Peter. And, such was the case on the day that he made his ambiguous statement on intervention against “unjust aggressors” to an international press corps. He knew and his advisers would have to have known, that his statement would be interpreted by most people according to whatever consciousness, cognitive and affective, they had hardwired into their brains from their Christian cradle days on forward. All connected with composing the Pope statement would have been well aware that Catholics and people in general would necessarily be evaluating the his statement through the intentionally blurred lenses of that always referred to, never taught and never implemented, moral blank check called the Christian Just War Theory.

How blurred are the lenses of the CJWT, how morally wide-open is the CJWT through which most Christians would be interpreting Francis’ words on intervention against “unjust aggressors?” The following is an excerpt from a Commencement address given in May 2014 at Thomas Aquinas College, a Catholic college in California, by Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, a former Catholic military chaplain and the former Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of the US Military for ten years before being named a Cardinal.

One of my greatest challenges and responsibilities was persuading 19-year-old Catholics, who instinctively feel that there is some conflict between the Catholic faith and bearing arms, that they need not feel that way. I use the example of the Good Samaritan. The story is of a fellow who is beaten half to death, left dying. Two pass by, and they are big shots in the religious organizations of the time, and the third is a stranger, a Samaritan, who stops and pours oil on and bandages the wounded man. We all know the story well. Well, I say, ‘What would have happened a half hour before, if that Samaritan saw that this man was being pummeled half to death’? Would he have a right to step back and say, ‘I will become a Samaritan about a half hour after this is over,’ or would he not have a right and obligation to step in and do what he had to do—and only what had to be done—to bring about justice there? That is what the military is.

Military service is a Christian vocation, if only our people were conscious of the potential to adopt it as a Christian vocation. That is the role of the Church, to remind them that there need be no conflict, and that the Church considers—and always has considered—military service to be a lofty call: an act of love. Christ defined Himself as one who came to serve and not to be served. ‘No greater love than this, to give one’s life for a friend.’ Our kids are giving their lives for perfect strangers. Peace I leave you.”

Now, whatever one may think of Cardinal O’Brien’s statement of the truth of the Gospel, this is what he has been presenting for over forty years as the truth of the Gospel, as a US Catholic military chaplain in Vietnam, as a chaplain at West Point, as a Rector of the premier Catholic seminary in the world, the North American College in Rome, as a Rector of the major seminary of the Diocese of New York, as Archbishop of the US Military Diocese, as Archbishop of the Diocese of Baltimore. All this was well known before he was honoured by the power players within the institutional Catholic Church with the red hat (zucchetto and biretta) of a Cardinal.

So to be clear, Cardinal O’Brien is not the problem. He is only a little contemporary symbol and witness to a problem as immense as the institutional Church that has legions of symbols and witnesses such as he is, that go back 1700 years. He did not make himself a priest, bishop or cardinal. Those who understand the Church to be the birth place and incubator of a never ending supply of violent Rambo “Good Samaritans” made Edwin O’Brien what he is today, and what over a billion and a half other Catholics are today and for 1700 years of yesterdays.

Edwin O’Brien, however, is a master at creating and spouting, via the institutional Catholic Church’s channels of communication, the needed Orwellianization of the teachings of Jesus to keep the Catholic kids (his word) from acting on their Christian instinct (his word) that is telling them that “there is some conflict between the Catholic faith and bearing arms.” He thereby enables and empowers Catholic kids to come with religious zeal to join the US Military and be Johnson’s, Ford’s, Reagan’s, Bush’s, Clinton’s, Bush’s and Obama’s “Good Samaritans” to the world—a world in which 150 of the 196 countries on the planet have the US military deployed in them.

Half of the propaganda battle in convincing people that untruth is truth, that evil is good, is to get them to ask the wrong questions and thereby get them to fight the wrong fight. The secondary question that O’Brien artificially presents as the primary one in order to persuade the kids to join the US military and not be worried about the instinctive religious conflict they feel in becoming paid, competent killer for those who control governments is not what some, many or most members of the institutional Catholic Church say non-infallibly e.g., slavery is in conformity with the teaching of the Catholic Church, burning Jews and heretics at the stake is in conformity with the teaching of the Catholic faith, Crusades against Muslim to recapture the Holy Land are in conformity with the Catholic Church, torture is in conformity with the Catholic Church. The primary question is what Jesus—who is the Incarnation of God, who does not lie and who can only communicate infallible truth—says. The question is whether the non-infallible teaching of the Church is in logical conformity with the infallible teaching, communicated by the words and deeds of Jesus in the Gospels. By all means detour the kids away from considering this question as the primary one when they are trying to resolve an instinctive moral conflict within themselves whether they as Christians can become agents of homicide for any one or any group. Manipulate the kids or the adults so that they ask the wrong question and they will fight the wrong fight.

So, is the institutional Catholic Church’s profession of faith—indeed is the profession of faith of most of Christians and most Churches of Christianity—of a Rambo Good Samaritan Jesus? Is a violent Good Samaritan as a Way of following the Jesus of the Gospels a truth or a falsehood, a leading of people into good or into evil? Is Pope Francis’ planned and ambiguous statement on intervention against “unjust aggressors”—which is wide open to supporting Cardinal O’Brien theology—and which was spoken to a Constantinian Church rife with a history, past and present, of Catholics, and Christians in general, participating in and supporting violence on all sides of every issue from abortion to atomic war, worthy of the Successor of Peter? A different question, however, is this, “Why was Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio elected to the office?

Let me conclude Part Four of this reflection on Pope Francis’ statement on intervention against “unjust aggressors” with a thought from a fellow Jesuit, who was ordained the year Jorge Bergoglio was born, the late Bernard Lonergan, S.J., Generally speaking, Lonergan was a philosopher and theologian of consciousness. His magna opera are Insight: A Study in Human Understanding and Method in Theology. TIME magazine wrote that he was “considered by many intellectuals to be the finest philosophic thinker of the Twentieth Century.” In Insight he says, “When human activity settles down into routines of partial, vague or ambiguous truths, unconcerned with concrete specifics, then initiative becomes the privilege of violence.” Quite an indictment of planned ambiguity and its most destructive Christian offspring, the 1700-year-old vague and ambiguous Christian Just War Theory and its recent expansion.

—Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

Videos on Catholic Just War Theory, Christian non-violence and much more

Below are a set of seventeen (17) powerful 10-minute videos recorded by Fr Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

1. Resurrection

2. The Gift of Nonviolence

3. Putting On The Mind Of Christ

4. Nonviolence and The Right To Life

5. Trust In Nonviolence

6. Nonviolence and Hope

7. Gratitude

8. Nonviolence/Resurrection Ethics

9. History And Conscience

10. The Church And War

11. Post Constantinian Christianity

12. Just/Unjust War

13. The Ripple Effect of Nonviolence

14. Truth

15. Self Deception

16. Culpable Conscience

17. The Mystery of Jesus And His Way

Pope Francis and Protecting People from “Unjust Aggression” – part three

Pope Francis and Protecting People from “Unjust Aggression”

(Part Three)

Christians and people in general who justify homicidal violence as the way to stop “unjust aggression”—whatever that is, e.g., the unjust aggression of the US against the people of El Salvador or an abortionist against a child in utero—are forever running to the analogy that “if there is a fire the first job is to throw water on it to extinguish the fire and save what is being destroyed, and then later fire prevention systems can be discussed and put into place.” How does one argue against such a self-evident and reasonable common sense truth such as this? One doesn’t! It would be irrational and callous to sit in Antium and fiddle around with esoteric ideas on the nature of fire while Rome is burning. “Start throwing water on the fire now,” would be the only reasonable, as well as compassionate, course of action. Wouldn’t it?

No! It would not! Throwing water on a fire can extinguish a fire, but throwing water on a fire can also exacerbate a fire. Water is a fuel for some types of fire. Used on many categories of fires it can produce a ferocious eruption of heat and flame, and in many instances leave smouldering beneath the ashes for extensive periods of time residue that has the potential to cause further destruction. One has to know the content that initiated and sustains the fire before one is in a position to stop the fire from spreading its destruction.

Pope Francis recognizes this and therefore concludes his statement on stopping “unjust aggressors” by saying, “And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated.”

‘Means’ are always evaluated in terms of ends desired and norms that transcend or exist prior to the immediate situation, e.g., God’s will, the maintenance of power and wealth, the Pythagorean Theorem if one is a carpenter who plans to build a set of stairs, etc. Means that cannot achieve the ends they were chosen to achieve are illusionary means. They may achieve other ends, but if they cannot achieve the ends they were chosen for they are fanciful means.

To stone a chronically disobedient teenager boy to death as a way of disciplining him so he will be obedient is obviously the choice of illusionary means, since the boy is no longer around to obey. To kill the evil one to stop evil is equally a choice of fanciful means. Jesus made this quite clear: “How can Satan drive out Satan?” (Mk 23:4 ff; MT 9:34, 12:24: Lk 11:15) Or, as Mahatma Gandhi stated it, “The means are the ends in embryo. As you choose your means, you get your ends. That is the iron law of the moral universe.” Or, as W.H. Auden wrote in his poem, September 1, 1939, which has been so often quoted in relation to the Twin Towers’ tragedy, “I and the public know/What all schoolchildren learn, /Those to whom evil is done/Do evil in return.” Evil perpetuates itself by deceiving people into choosing evil to stop evil.

Many, perhaps, most people who have ever lived, including most moral theologians, regardless of religion, ignore or reject what Jesus and Gandhi are communicating as truth here. For example, such Twentieth Century theological notables as Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., obsessed with his quixotic view of the nobility of the military man and glories of battle, and Martin Buber, obsessed with a desire for a piece of geography, publicly rejected Jesus and Gandhi teaching on the consequences of choosing evil to drive out evil. Indeed most of those whom people consider “the greats” of history, Christian or otherwise, have utterly rejected, perhaps more accurately ignored, this truth by which Jesus and Gandhi lived and for which and in which they gave their lives.

Previously in Part Two of this series on Pope Francis’ words to journalist on intervention, when I was speaking about his nebulous, non-defined term “unjust aggressor,” in his statement, I wrote, “Ambiguity here reduces this statement to a banal platitude. Francis’ statement on intervention is a Rorschach answer into which each person or group can project anything it wants to see or put anything into it that it wants to do, and do it all under a Papal or Church moral canopy. His statement functions in the human condition exactly as the perfidious Christian Just War Theory does. Its ambiguity serves as a moral carte blanche for doing what Jesus taught must not be done.” Well, so also is this the case with Francis’ sentence, “And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated.”

Again, who can disagree with the need to evaluate means in any area of endeavour, including intervention to stop “unjust aggression?”  But, evaluate by whose standard, by what value system? Jesus’?; The Project for a New American Century’s?; The EU’s?; The Arab League’s?; or by the value system of the “Gang of 192,” the United Nations? All serious discussion of whose system of right and wrong, whose standard of good and evil is to be employed to evaluate the means that can be used to stop ‘unjust aggressors” and why it is to be chosen is left in the moral twilight zone of ambiguity. Francis’ statement reminds one of the piece of oratory with which Dwight Eisenhower, knowing that voting Americans are big on God, often closed many of his speeches during his campaign for the Presidency: “I don’t care what God you believe in, just so long as you believe in God!”

When it comes to God, His way and His will nothing sells in the public domain of politics and mass media, and nothing bring more peace of mind in the salons of the political, military and ecclesiastical power elites, as does ambiguity. Just think, Christian rulers and Christians on both sides of every European war and every American war, north and south, for over 1700 years have declared themselves to be conducting a just war against unjustified enemy violence. And moreover, no national hierarchy has ever told the Christians of its Church that the war in which their nation is presently involved is unjust and that they may not participate in this mass murder operation. The Christian Just War Theory (CJWT), which is open to an indefinite number of interpretations of each and every aspect of its content, which is ambiguous in each and every aspect of its content, is nothing but a Christian license to engage in mass murder with impunity—and with a clear conscience. Nothing in the history of Christianity has poured more evil into the hearts of Christians and into the operation of their various institutional Churches as CJWT.

The king’s bishops, priests, ministers and theologians with chameleon dexterity color CJWT one way and then another in order to wrongly reassure the local Christians that if they kill for the local Grand Poobah in this particular situation they will be living in conformity with the teaching of the Church, and need not feel conflicted about whether they are living in conformity with the teaching of Jesus.

Pope Francis’ brief equivoque to a world press on stopping “unjust aggression” by means yet to be decided upon by the power elites of nations—power elites who make every decision as if the Incarnation never occurred—is a misuse, if not an outright abuse, of the Petrine Ministry as instituted by Jesus. He could have proclaimed the Gospel but chose instead to dabble, while in Papal robes, in realpolitik in the strict sense, and I would add, that in the perception of a large part of the non-Western world in power politics in the pejorative sense. When the Pope enters the world of realpolitik and power politics with anything other than the teaching of Jesus and with anything other than the salvation of souls as his primary objective, he is then only speaking as a man among other human beings voicing his opinion on who is the unjust aggressor and who should decide the means to stop that unjust aggressor. He is functioning as a philosopher and as a partisan politician, two commissions never given by Jesus to Peter or to Peter’s successors.

Basically, what Frances and what his two alter ego Cardinals have done with his statement is misuse the Petrine Ministry to designated one unkempt and brutalized Mafia gang an unjust aggressor while designating the other well attired Mafia gangs—who have killed a thousand time more children and innocent human beings than the now “unjust aggressor’ and who are responsible for the brutalization of the people in the other Mafia gang —as agents of peace to use their power, which is not the power of Christlike love, to stop the newly designated “unjust aggressor” gang. This is morally bizarre, to say the least. But if this is how Francis wishes to spend his time on earth, that is his decision. What I vigorously object to is his using the Petrine Ministry of the Church, the Church in which I have an eternal stake, to give a Christian flavour to Western power politics, with its insatiable and savage self-interest, by sprinkling it with Papal anodynes, whose possible serpentine interpretations are left wide open for the Snake to access and publicizes as only the Snake can do.

As noted in Part One, in 1983 the US Catholic Bishops voted overwhelmingly for a Pastoral addressing the issues of war and peace that had as one of its guiding composition points planned ambiguity. And, the fruits of that Pastoral and its planned ambiguity over the last thirty years have been what? US Catholics at every level of the Church and society, minus a few Catholic peace and justice groups, have totally ignored it and run off by the tens of millions to follow and support the murderous US political and media pied piper of the day—and, while in the process of following someone other than Jesus, killing and maiming tens of millions of men women and children across the globe. US Catholic military chaplains being always on duty and on call to assure Catholics so engaged that this is morally AOK with the Church and therefore with Jesus.

And so also is this already taking place with Pope Francis’ calculated off-the-cuff statement on intervention by other nations with its inherent planned ambiguity. The power elites of the US for the last two weeks have been bombing the bejesus out of Muslims in Iraq whom they say are ISIS members. US Catholics are now supporting the bombings and US Catholic prelates are answering all objections by quoting the Pope and two Cardinals, as if they were quoting Jesus Himself.

US Catholics of every ilk and rank now believe that the US and they have a duty to intervene militarily in Iraq today (and who knows where tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow) because the Pope says Catholics “can” (the two talking Cardinals say “must”) intervene, but left the means of intervention ambiguous and wide open. So if intervention requires the military to engage in the” humanitarian killing” of more Iraqis and Muslims to put out the fire, to stop the “unjust aggression de jour, so be it. Deus vult. “It’s God will.” The Church says so. Where have we heard that before.

The planned ambiguity of this statement on intervention against “unjust aggressors” is as insidious and destructive as the planned ambiguity of that mirage of Christian morality of which it is but an extension, namely, the nefarious CJWT. It will be employed by Catholics, and those who want Catholics as their canon fodder, exactly as CJWT has been employed for the last 1700 years, as a moral sound bite without Gospel content that will operationally result in giving the political and economic power mongers of the world free rein to pre-emptively drone, to assassinate, to sabotage, to invade, to kill people in any nation anywhere on the planet at any time self interest dictates.

For the good of the Church, for the good of humanity and for the salvation of souls, Pope Francis has to unequivocally and publicly retract his statement on intervention against “unjust aggressors,” not because those in need of help should not be helped, they must be. He must renounce it because his statement in its planned ambiguity is not an extinguishing agent that can help quench the immediate fire but is rather an agent that will fuel the present fire and in the hands of the wicked will fuel untold numbers of infernos long into the future.

-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

Pope Francis and Protecting People from “Unjust Aggression” – part two

Pope Francis and Protecting People from “Unjust Aggression”

(Part two)

Toward the end of the process that resulted in the US Catholic Bishops publishing their 1983 Pastoral, The Challenge of Peace, a Bishop requested to the conference of Bishops that an alteration to particular paragraph be undertaken in order to make more palpable the non-violence of Jesus and of the original Christian community. Cardinal Joseph Bernadine, the chair of the committee chosen to compose the pastoral on which the Bishops’ Conference would vote, responded by asking the gathering of Bishops to reject the requested change because “it would undermine the planned ambiguity of the document.”

One of the practical difficulties of the Petrine ministry as it presently is structured and administered is that it is very often impossible to determine if the Successor to Peter is speaking to Catholics or to Christians in general or to humanity as a whole. It is very often equally difficult to determine if he is speaking as the Pope, as a Catholic or Christian or as a human being with a point of view. I am not referring here to an infallible proclamation, which must always be unequivocally and explicitly declared by the Pope to be such. There can be no ambiguity about a statement or writing being an ex cathedra infallible dogma in the area of faith or morals, e.g., the Dogmas of the Immaculate Conception (Pope Pius IX, 1854) and Assumption (Pope Pius XII, 1950). An ambiguity about whether a declaration by a Pope is infallible means it is not infallible. So infallible Papal statements are not the concern here.

The concern here is the thousand upon thousands of other ideas a Pope expresses publicly. From what principles is he speaking? To what audience is he speaking? What degree of spiritual, theological or moral authority, short of infallibility, do his utterances carry beyond that of any reasonable person—and for whom?

If the Pope is saying something simply as a reasonable person to other people, that carries no more authority than the self-evident truth-quality of his premises, the accuracy of his logic and the consistency of his conclusions with his premises and logic will permit. This is precisely the situation that exists for every human being who honestly communicates with another human being about some matter. The problem enters in when it cannot be ascertained whether the Pope is speaking from self-evident premises that can be known and validated or invalidated by any human being as self-evidently true. Or, whether he is speaking from premises that are derived from the authority of His faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, God and Saviour, which he is logically applying to some aspect or another of the human condition. If the latter is the case, the self-evident truth of these faith-based premises is not self-evident to someone outside the Pope’s faith consciousness, and therefore norms of behaviour that can be logically derived from them are not universally true for all people, and hence no person or group outside of the Pope’s faith is or can be expected to follow them—let alone be coerced into following them.

With the above in mind, examine Pope Francis’ statement to reporters on his flight back to Rome from Korea. “In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb’stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’ And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated.” Is Francis speaking here as just one human being communicating his reasonable understanding of what should be done to other human beings? Or, is he speaking here out of his faith in Jesus Christ as his Lord, God and Saviour, and as the definitive revealer of God and God’s will to humanity?

If it is the former I would suggest there would be no shortage of human beings who would have one or more bones to pick with him over the reasonableness of his statement in its premises and application. Depending on whose ox is being gored and what information people are allowed to know, they may see ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Israel, Hamas, the US, Britain or France as an unjust aggressor. However, within these groups they and their supporters see themselves as justified employers of violence. So by what reasonable standard is “unjust aggression” determine? If a group is firing a guns at people today, who have been firing guns at them for decades, does that mean that a violent response to such a history is unjust aggression? If a group is fighting to get back land it had lived on for the thousands of years and that was stolen by murderous violence from them, is that unjust aggression? If a group is trying to protect by violence its people from those who hate them and have killed them in the past, or if a religious faith is trying to preserve itself from having the perversities of those who don’t belong to it imposed upon them, is that unjust aggression?  If massive financial investments that a group has made in a geographical area are on the verge of being taken or destroyed, is that groups violence unjust aggression?  If a religious group is being decimated by another religious group who is sending hundreds of thousands of adherents thousands of miles to cross borders and kill and maim millions of the first groups people, is the first religious group’s violence unjust aggression? As a reasonable man making a reasonable proposal on stopping unjust aggression Francis cannot leave the term ‘unjust aggressor’ hanging out there without telling people what this term reasonably means to him. Without a definition of  “unjust aggression,” how does one reasonably know whom to stop? Ambiguity here reduces such a statement to a banal platitude. Is voicing banal, reasonable platitudes what the Petrine Ministry was instituted by Jesus for?

Beyond this, why isn’t bombing and making war on unjust aggressors the right way of reasonably stopping them? And by what reasonable moral standard does one evaluate what are the moral means to stop an unjust aggression. Assuming Francis is speaking here as one reasonable person to another, if he were asked the question in a college class that the reporters on the plane asked him regarding cross border intervention, and he answered it the way he responded to reporters, I think he might be given an ‘F,’ because his reasonable answer is so full of reasonable loopholes that it amounts to a non-answer. It is a highly ambiguous Rorschach answer into which each person or group can project anything it wants to see into it or put anything it wants to do under its moral canopy. It functions in the human condition exactly as the perfidious Christian Just War Theory does. Its ambiguity serves as a moral carte blanche for doing what Jesus taught must not be done.

Therein lies the difficulty with the planned ambiguity that results in not knowing whether the Vicar of Christ and Vicar of St. Peter is only speaking as an intelligent, well meaning, reasonable human being, or is speaking as the Rock of faith, the Rock of the Church, adhering to the commission he and the other Apostles were explicitly given by Jesus, after His resurrection:“Teach them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19).