In the wake of the brutal beheading of a Catholic priest in France this week, Father George William Rutler says Catholics must wake up to the fact that “turning the other cheek” doesn’t mean doing nothing in the face of evil.
In a hard-hitting oped published on LifeZette, Father Rutler condemned the murder of Father Jacques Hamel who was beheadedin France on Tuesday morning while celebrating Mass. This answer to this kind of crime is not to “do nothing.”
“As racism distorts race and sexism corrupts sex — so does pacifism affront peace,” he says.
“Turning the other cheek is the counsel Christ gave in the instance of an individual when morally insulted: Humility conquers pride. It has nothing to do with self-defense. The Catholic Church has always maintained that the defiance of an evil force is not only a right but an obligation.”
The Catechism quotes St. Thomas Aquinas who teaches that: “Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life, the common good of the family or of the State” (No. 2265).
A father is culpable if he does not protect his family just as much as a bishop and authorities in the civil state have, as a first responsibility, the maintenance of “tranquility of order” through self-defense.
“Christ warned the apostles, as shepherds, to beware of wolves. This requires both the ‘shrewdness of serpents and the innocence of doves.’ To shrink from the moral duty to protect peace by not using force when needed is to be innocent as a serpent and shrewd as a dove. That is not innocence — it is naiveté.”
Father Rutler goes on to describe the many famous battles of Christians against the encroachment of Islam, such as how St. John Capistrano led an army against the Moors in 1456 and St. Lawrence of Brindisi fought against the same enemy in Hungary in 1601.
“This is not obscure trivia,” he writes. “Were it not for Charles Martel at Tours in 732 and Jan Sobieski at the gates of Vienna in 1683 — and most certainly had Pope Saint Pius V not enlisted Andrea Doria and Don Juan at Lepanto in 1571 — we would not be here now. No Western nations as we know them — no universities, no modern science, no human rights — would exist.”
Many saints fought against the concept of Islam which requires submission rather than co-existence, and the same battle must be fought today.
“The dormancy of Islam until recent times, however, has obscured the threat that this poses — especially to a Western civilization that has grown flaccid in virtue and ignorant of its own moral foundations. The shortcut to handling the crisis is to deny that it exists.”
He goes on to mention how, on the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, there were over 60 speeches and not a single one mentioned ISIS.
“Vice has destroyed countless individual souls, but in the decline of civilizations, weakness has done more harm than vice,” he said.
Although many are unaware of it, Hilaire Belloc, who knew Normandy and all of Europe well, said as long ago as 1929: “We shall almost certainly have to reckon with Islam in the near future. Perhaps, if we lose our faith, it will rise. . . .”
The priest in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvrary in Normandy, France, was not the first to die at the altar — and he will not be the last, Father Rutler warns.
“In his old age, the priest embodied a civilization that has been betrayed by a generation whose hymn was John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ — that there was neither heaven nor hell but ‘above us only sky’ and ‘all the people living for today’. When reality intrudes, they can only leave teddy bears and balloons at the site of a carnage they call ‘inexplicable’.”
Fr. George William Rutler is the pastor of the Church of St. Michael in Manhattan.
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