Moral equivalence in Vatican

Ever since Augustine taught that war must be condoned if it’s just and condemned it if it’s not, Christian doctrine has frowned on indiscriminate pacifism.

However, the present Pope has revived it to justify his implicit support for Russia’s aggression against the Ukraine and his explicit hostility to the West.

After all, any influential person who claims that aggressor and victim are equally to blame for bloodshed is effectively working for the aggressor. This, no matter how many bien pensant shibboleths he lays as a smokescreen.

Alas, the pontiff is barely visible through the billowing smoke of his empty words full of moral equivalence (which is an oxymoron if I’ve ever seen one). For example, this is what he had to say last Wednesday about Russia’s aggression in general and the death of Darya Dugina in particular [the emphases are mine]:

“I think of the children, of the many dead, of the numerous refugees – many of them here in Italy – of the multitudes of the wounded and the multitudes of the orphaned children, Ukrainian and Russian. Orphanhood has no nationality, they have lost a father or a mother – Russian or Ukrainian… I think of that poor girl killed in Moscow by a bomb exploding under her car seat. It’s the innocent, the blameless who are paying for the war. Let’s ponder this reality and say to one another: war is madness. And those who profit from the war and arms trade are criminals murdering mankind.”

I’m not aware of any, or at least many, Russian mothers killed in the current war, which is fought exclusively on Ukrainian territory. It’s not Russian cities, hospitals, schools, churches, theatres and residential areas that are being indiscriminately bombed – only the Ukrainian ones. Nor do I think the invading Russian army has in its ranks many women with children.

Russian fathers are indeed dying, but only because they’ve come to conquer, murder, rape and loot their peaceful neighbours. Their demise is tragic for their children, but it takes moral blindness to equate their plight with that of the Ukrainian children left orphaned in their thousands and homeless in their millions by a savage aggressor.

Saying under such circumstances that “orphanhood has no nationality” is crass to the point of being cynical, an effect multiplied by the munificent cant. And “that poor girl” Darya was far from “innocent” and “blameless”.

Whatever we may think of the manner of her passing, she and her father (who probably was the intended target of that car bomb) have agitated for war over the past decade at least. To quote from the book His Holiness must be familiar with, they have sown the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind.

Any Christian is duty-bound to pray for the salvation of Darya’s soul, but that’s a far cry from mentioning her in the same breath with those orphaned Ukrainian children. They are the ones who are truly blameless and, if we disregard original sin for a moment, innocent.

The statement that “war is madness” is factually incorrect, intellectually shallow and morally suspect. Considering that there has hardly been a year in history without a war raging somewhere in (or all over) the world, I’d say war is the norm rather than a psychiatric deviation from it.

But lumping all wars together means that His Holiness doesn’t differentiate between, to use a random example, Argentina attacking sovereign British territory and Britain defending it. Or, closer to the matter in hand, between Russia’s bandit raid on the Ukraine and the Ukraine’s heroic resistance to it.

Such indiscriminate, blanket humanism is in fact moral relativism masquerading as moral absolutism. One expects better from the Vicar of Christ.

As for the last sentence in the pontiff’s soliloquy, this, I’m afraid, is his recurrent theme. Its overtones are unmistakable.

Since Russia is using arms of her own manufacture, it’s Western countries who have to be the criminals profiteering from selling arms to the Ukraine. But, unless His Holiness possesses information denied to us poor mortals, we are giving arms to the Ukraine, not selling them.

That makes it an act of charity rather than a commercial transaction, and this charity costs the West a lot, both directly, in the face value of the supplies, and indirectly, in the skyrocketing cost of some commodities. If the West has selfish motives, they certainly aren’t commercial in nature.

And how is that “murdering mankind”? Those weapons are targeting Russian invaders only and, contrary to the claims made by Putin’s propagandists, the world isn’t exactly co-extensive with Russia.

The theme is indeed recurrent, but at times His Holiness improvises some variations. Asked a few months ago how he felt about Western supplies of arms to the Ukraine, the Pope said he didn’t really know because the Ukraine is “too far”.

One would have expected his moral judgement to leap over the 800 miles separating the Vatican from the Ukraine, but the Pope did know one thing for certain: “What’s clear is that the country is used as an arms testing site. Wars are fought to test the weapons we have created.”

Right. So the Hundred Years’ War was fought for the sole purpose of testing swords, lances and longbows. One wonders how widely His Holiness has studied such matters, how deeply he has thought about them  – and how well he is familiar with the true reasons for the on-going conflict.

Yet West-baiting comes from the soul, not the mind. Hence the Pope once vouchsafed to Corriere della Sera his view that Russia’s attack on the Ukraine was caused by “Nato barking at Russia’s doorstep”. His Holiness wasn’t sure that “Putin’s wrath was provoked”, but he had no doubt that it was “facilitated”. The difference is too subtly nuanced for my understanding.

Christians, especially Catholics and most especially Ukrainian Catholics, rely on the Pope for moral and spiritual guidance. In view of his comments on Russia’s bandit raid, I’m not sure how long this reliance will last.    

8 thoughts on “Moral equivalence in Vatican”

  1. It will be no surprise, Mr Boot, to know that I see this issue as a reflection of a universal of human development, the near-inevitability of religion. Throughout history, and probably before it started to be recorded, religious movements of one kind or another have arisen, most lasting for very long periods of time (like Christianity and Judaism) because they are pre-adapted to persist, and their memes equally persist for long periods in the individual minds of their followers. But persistence is no guarantee of reliability and reasonableness. As you know (and have said, I believe) to be a believer is to accept the illogical. Thus the leaders of all religions are not constrained by hard facts but are free to accept nonsense as true and to declare it to their followers (as the Pope does in the piece you quote). How you, who are otherwise supremely rational, can be a believer I cannot understand. But you should know that it it detracts severely from your value as a commentator, alas!

      1. The replacement for Christianity (and other religions) is not a system of thought that has yet to be found but those that make up science and other rational procedures for gaining understanding of the universe, including ourselves. Nothing more is needed except their further development; they are, and ever will be, works in progress.

    1. Bernie, Christianity has addressed, most successfully, the three BIG questions concerning existence i.e. 1. where does all this come from, (the universe and its details)? ; 2. How should we live, (what are the best guidelines)? 3. What happens after our last breath?
      Christianity explains that God is outside of creation as creator, therefore; 1.God is not subject to the ‘laws of Science’, thus Jesus can turn water to wine, walk on water and come back from the dead. Therefore, he can call the universe into existence. 2. The Magna Carter and other law systems derived from the New Covenant far outweigh other government systems when it comes to individual rights. 3. Eternity for the faithful.
      Whereas science, 1. does have its evolving set of theories, (Steady-steady changes to Big Bang which will change to another theory) to explain existence. 2. Has various law systems, (examples of the ones that broke from Christian principles being Communism and Fascism). 3. Life is just one big meaningless fluke that formed from chaos, so its all meaningless.

  2. “Christian doctrine has frowned on indiscriminate pacifism.”
    Indeed. JESUS told his apostles to go out and BUY swords to protect themselves when he leaves the earth. Not swords in any sort of figurative sense but BUYING with MONEY a real sword and use [but only in self defense].

    I suppose Pope Francis and the hierarchy too is trying to prevent a repeat of the criticism of the Vatican for not being forceful enough before and while WW2 was being fought. Pius is often called Hitler’s Pope quite unfairly.

  3. Seeing the title made me wonder, “Oh, no! Now what?” It seems that most of what Pope Francis says has to be taken from the viewpoint of his fondness for South American dictators, not his fondness for Jesus Christ. Imagine living in a time without phones or television or even radio or telegraph. For much of its history, most members of the Catholic Church did not even know the name of the pope. Now we are subjected to his every thought. With every syllable he utters made available to the whole world, there will be some things Pope Francis may wish hadn’t been said. Put to the same scrutiny, who among us could claim other wise? But the ratio of outrageous to truly Christian is becoming overwhelming.

    And Pope Francis does not consider himself “The Vicar of Christ”. That says volumes.

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