Monday, November 16, 2015

Paris: Struggling With It All

Monday morning greetings on this day when we are all still reeling from Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris. This is an unusually long post. But bear with me. On Saturday, I gave a mini-mission to a fine group of Catholics at Saint Maria Goretti parish in Madison, Wisconsin.

Here is a picture of the church's interior.

Frankly, I found myself struggling as I made my various presentations, because they were all colored by the recent experience of the terrorist attacks in Paris. When I got to the point of talking about the eucharist through the lens of "the table of reconciliation," I found myself deeply questioning what reconciliation and mercy really mean in a world marked by senseless acts of terrorism aimed at murdering innocent people, all in the name of religion.

At Mass at Old Saint Pat's yesterday, the children's choir led us all in singing Let There Be Peace on Earth after communion. The last time I recall singing that song at Mass was on the Sunday following September 11, 2001. "And let it begin with me."

I have always strongly held on to Blessed Pope Paul VI's remarks to the United Nations on October 4, 1965:

"Here our message reaches its culmination and we will speak first of all negatively. These are the words you are looking for us to say and the words we cannot utter without feeling aware of their seriousness and solemnity: never again one against the other, never, never again!
Was this not the very end for which the United Nations came into existence: to be against war and for peace? Listen to the clear words of a great man who is no longer with us, John Kennedy, who proclaimed four years ago: 'Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.' There is no need for a long talk to proclaim the main purpose of your Institution. It is enough to recall the blood of millions, countless unheard-of sufferings, useless massacres and frightening ruins have sanctioned the agreement that unites you with an oath that ought to change the future history of the world: never again war, never again war! It is peace, peace, that has to guide the destiny of the nations of all mankind."

"Never again war!" I find myself caught between this admonition and the justified anger I feel against those who perpetrate the kind of violence and hatred that was wrought against innocent people in Paris and in so many more places, all in the name of God. When we talk about mercy and reconciliation, are we to reach a point where we believe that God's mercy reaches into the hearts of those who would pick up automatic weapons and mow down innocent people; reaches those who would strap explosives to themselves and in an inconceivable act of suicide, murder all those around them who are simply living their day-to-day lives?

I saw this on Facebook on Saturday morning:

How are we to react when the Lord's clear command was to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us? Where do we turn?

Well. this morning, I sought out the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Paragraph 2303 has this to say:
"Deliberate hatred is contrary to charity. Hatred of the neighbor is a sin when one deliberately wishes him evil. Hatred of the neighbor is a grave sin when one deliberately desires him grave harm. 'But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:44-45).

Paragraphs 2307-2309 go on:
"However, 'as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed.' [Cf. Vatican II Gaudium et spes 79, 4]
The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave , and certain;
- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
- there must be serious prospects of success;
- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily on evaluating this condition.
These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the 'just war' doctrine. The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good."

It is so difficult to try to apply the "just war" doctrine to the contemporary context. This is not like bygone days when countries waged war on other countries. This "war" is all about religious ideology and extremism. Who is the nation here that is the "aggressor?" We hear various terms to describe these aggressors, yet their whereabouts and motives are so hard for me to comprehend. Surely, the damage they are inflicting is "lasting, grave, and certain." Whether or not "all other means of putting an end to it must be shown to be impractical or ineffective" remains open to question because this is not a traditional kind of war being waged. How do we even sit down and try to settle this as a political issue when the kind of religious extremism that motivates the aggressor is something that most human persons cannot even comprehend as a legitimate starting point? Do those who are bombing places targeting these aggressors have "serious prospects of success?" This is probably the most frightening aspect of all. If something like this could happen in Paris, or in Ankara, or in New York, or in Washington, or in Shanksville, one wonders where and when the next eruption will take place. What kind of prospects of success exist, if they do at all?

Pope Francis, speaking about the killings in Paris, had this to say:
"I am moved, and I am saddened. I do not understand--these things are hard to understand.
He went on to say: "War is madness. Even today, after a second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war, one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction."
Pope Francis called the attacks "inhumane" saying "There is no religious or human justification" for the violence.

Friends, I harbor hatred in my heart for those who killed my sisters and brothers in Paris. And for this I am not yet repentant. I am praying hard to believe that God's love and mercy is bigger than anything my limited brain can comprehend. The words of Pope Frances are my own on this Monday. "War is madness. I am moved, I am saddened. I do not understand." But I am trying. And struggling mightily.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

1 comment:

Kate Watkiss said...

ISIS will not be defeated with further violence. Look where they came from. the result of our intervention thinking we had all the answers. Each time we bomb them they have more recruits- from where..... the West. Ask why?