by David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch
I. THE SYNOD ON THE FAMILY AND THE CRISIS IN CONSERVATIVE CATHOLICISM
A working English translation from the original Italian (by Bishop Michael G. Campbell, OSA of the Catholic Diocese of Lancaster, England, on 7 November 2015) Bishops' document ('Relatio') for the October 2015 Synod on the Family.
No ifs, ands, or buts. Read the Document of the Synod. Marriage is between a male and female. It is indissoluble and that characteristic is a gift from Christ Himself as part of His great mercy which brings us back to "the beginning" and the natural order of things. The mercy of God is not just a characteristic in relation to our sins. Creation itself is an act of mercy. The male-female indissoluble capacity for lifetime unity and love is a delightful feature of God's favorite creature. The natural distinction of male and female is an essential fact in nature -- an ecological truth in the lexicon of Pope Francis. This truth about the created order is proclaimed by the fraternity of bishops acting as a synod. The Devil can twist Scripture and he can twist this document. As St. Peter said about the writings of Paul: "There are certain passages in them...the ignorant and the unstable distort them (just as they do with Scriptures) to their own ruin." When the Deceiver or his minions turn one phrase this way and twist another that way, faithful sons of the Church should not serve as a megaphone for distortion and distrust. We will see if this bracing teaching of the Synod receives a fraction of the CATHOLIC press that the skeptical splicing of 3 or 4 quickly translated secondary paragraphs did.
A talk on Crisis in Conservative Catholicism by Ross Douthat of the New York Times. This 35-minute talk is a masterpiece of Catholic erudition, good sense, good humor, and explanatory power. The author is witty, humble, intelligent, and faithful. He is so articulate in making his case that he deserves a serious extended response. He is quite right about a) conservative miscalculations about the "resiliency" of the progressive project -- especially their control of a huge job and patronage system and the land and buildings of wealthy institutions; b) the conservative tendency toward "papalotry" during the reign of the conservatives' good pontiffs, John Paul II and Benedict XVI; c) the failure to respond adequately to "the hierarchy of truths" objection to conservative apologetic and moral emphases, and d) the collapse of the "reform by biology" scheme whereby corrupted clergy and religious who needed exposure, metanoia, and punishment were going to fade away and be allowed to die out in retirement.
Mr. Douthat is quite wrong, however, in a) his "conservative" narrative of what the Council was about; b) his own ranking of a hierarchy of truths in which the restrictions at the communion rail are inviolate but the ordination of females to the diaconate is a possibility; c) the notion another Council may have to clean up the essential "failure of Vatican II"; d) his hyper-attentiveness to the Walter Kaspers of the Synod and his seeming blind eye to the Robert Sarahs.
Mr. Douthat gave an entertaining talk. He demonstrates the shortcomings of emphasis and perspective in conservative Catholicism which Pope Francis seeks to transcend. A faithful bishop, priest, or seminarian should answer Mr. Douthat and show him that the global fraternity ignited at Vatican II is just starting to pick up the wind of the Holy Spirit in the synods. One answer to the concerns of Mr. Douthat and many other Catholic conservatives is a more theocentric, spiritual, and episcopal reading of Vatican II. There was a Pentecostal event for the Fathers as the successor of the Apostles from across the globe prayed to God in front of a world that was growing farther away from the Lord of Heaven. The Council was first an act of apostolic prayer and liturgy centered on the Living God who is present to humanity in the Person of Jesus Christ. The documents and debates came later. Getting the news out is still going on. There is a very different view of the Council found in the Pope's biography (The Great Reformer) and Cardinal Sarah's God or Nothing. The Spirit of the Council is still at work, and He is not an agent of conspiracy nor a hijacker of doctrine. Let's hope First Things magazine counters the Council of the Media, even if this time it was delivered by a good Catholic conservative who works at the New York Times.
II. THE FIGHT AGAINST SALAFIST ISLAM
THREE SUNNI STATES SUPPORTING SALAFIST SUNNIS: It is done in different ways in different theaters. In Turkey it is a double-dealing including very open borders for ISIS and a military campaign against effective enemies - the Kurds. In Saudi Arabia it is financing the ideology worldwide while keeping a familial dynasty free of revolution at home. In Pakistan there is a state within a state with the intelligence and military institutions in the Salafist camp. The Salfist Sunnis in Pakistan are associated with Deobandi Islam. They are manifested by the Muslim movement against Kashmir, bombings in India, and the support of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California is Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Asia, and Emerging Threats. He calls for new strategy in defining friends and enemies in the Mideast. Forget Assad and Russia - go after ISIS.
TURKEY - DOES A SUNNI ISLAMIC POLITICAL CULTURE HAVE TO BE SALAFIST?: The slow, long religious revival in Turkey's public life against the oppressive but effective secularization national policies of Kemal Ataturk (President 1923-1938) has been led by the Justice and Development Party (AKP). This has been most successful in a well-organized effort to build education on Islam. Turkish AKP men like Recep Erdogan, the President of Turkey, and Abdullah Gull desire that their cultures be neither secular nor Salafist. It is not clear what middle road they can forge. What is clear is that Turkey does not consider their neighbor -- ISIS which is opposed to Shiite Iraq, Shiite Iran and the independent Kurds -- as an enemy to their own national interests. Erdogan once said. "Islam is Islam. To speak of a moderate Islam is very ugly. It is offensive and it is an insult to our religion." Or as St Augustine put it: "Be moderate in all things but your love of God." We are looking for an Islam that is radical in its love of God while being ready to create and live in the fraternity of civilizations in which all men are not Muslims.
CHINA JOINS THE WAR ON ISIS: Here is why they declared war on ISIS. China has a domestic Islamic threat in the western province of Xinxiang. Its foreign policy is built on extensive infrastructure projects abroad. The men killed in the Mali attack in Africa were railroad executives. China understands that Islam in South Asia is centered in Pakistan and is trying to buttress the most stable elements of Pakistan through massive infrastructure investments. This is called a foreign policy.
DEMOCRATIC OFFICIALS AND REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES AND A STRATEGIC IMPASSE: Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, in a short interview with NBC, outlined a strategy to fight ISIS which he says worked in Libya. He proposes a NATO alliance (treating the Paris killings as an act of war against the whole alliance) and Arab allies. He doesn't trust Iran or Russia but is more open to Russia. He calls Assad an international criminal. He says we must use ground forces to take territory from ISIS. Who will help us along with NATO? Panetta answers: "OUR MODERATE ALLIES - led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE." This thinking demonstrates the confusion which has caused our strategic problem. It is shared by most Republican candidates as well as Leon Panetta and Hillary Clinton.
III. SALAFIST TERRORISM - FROM PARIS TO AFRICA
PARIS BOMBING - A SACRED STRATEGY OR THE NIHILISM OF A DEATH CULT: An Anglican minister corrects the religious illiteracy of European elites. Scott Atran at the Guardian has a good description of ISIS strategy and there is nothing nihilist about it. The ISIS recruiters know that young people want a religion that has meaning not moderation. A lot of secular European Union globalists haven't got the memo. The empathy gap between American reactions to the bombing in Lebanon and the killing in Paris is understandable. What is dangerously inexcusable is the strategic gap in failing to see that the front line facing ISIS are the "Shiite apostates" -- Muslims being killed for their religion.
BOKO HARAM - THE AFRICAN FRONT OF A WORLD-WIDE RELIGIOUS WAR: No terrorist group killed more people in 2015 than Boko Haram.