The papacy of Pope Francis has been widely portrayed in social media as a radical break with Vatican and papal attitudes of the past. Indeed, Pope Francis himself has signalled his intention to “lend an ear to the debates of our time and perceive the fragrance of the men of this age.” In 2014, Francis offered his central tip for a happy life to be “live and let live.” Certainly, secular and Vatican media have continued to characterize Francis as the most indulgent and individual-freedom loving pope in Catholic history.
In addition to this “live and let live” philosophy surrounding personal freedom and morality, Francis has also unwaveringly praised Protestants, atheists, and other religious traditions—particularly Islam, which he has been quick to bolster and defend. To the dismay of Catholics and other Christians living under intense Islamic persecution, the pope repeatedly calls Islam “A religion of peace, that is opposed to every form of violence” (Evangelii Gaudium).
In a 2016 interview for the French newspaper La Croix, the pope noted, “It is true the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam. However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest” (Matthew 28).
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The Islamic persecution of Christians throughout the Middle East is an issue Francis has consistently failed to address. Unfortunately, this deliberate and conscious “ignorance” calls into question the moral compass of Pope Francis himself.
In 2014, 276 female students were kidnapped from the Christian town of Chibok in Nigeria by Boko Haram Islamic extremists. Pope Francis remained silent on the issue and offered no pastoral care or resources to any of the traumatized families.
Also in 2014, the arrest of Sudanese mother Mariam Ibrahim for alleged apostacy highlighted the wider problem of persecution of Christians in Sudan. Ibrahim, who has been a lifelong Christian, was prosecuted and sentenced to death for allegedly abandoning the faith of her father, a Muslim. It was the government of the United States that advocated and negotiated for her release. She was freed in July 2014.
The Vatican made no comment on the issue, leaving Amnesty International to note, “The fact that a woman has been sentenced to death for religious choice and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion is appalling and offensive.”
The indifference of Pope Francis to Christians suffering under Islamic Sharia Law has become shameful in the eyes of an increasing number of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. After the Islamic terrorist attack on the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, the pope chose not to defend the victims, free speech, or Western civilization.
Rather, he defended Islamic terrorism when he noted, “You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.” People should expect a punch, he said, if they offend others.
In July of 2016, again in France, an Islamic Jihadist cut off the head of a Catholic priest within his own church. The pope refused to attribute these actions to Islamic violence but rather noted, “the true terrorism is found in Capitalism. As long as the god of money is at the center of the global economy and not the human person, this is the first terrorism.” The reality on the ground for Christians in Islamic states is that appeasement of Islam has not made Christians safer but more persecuted than they have been for centuries.
The attitudes and actions of Pope Francis have failed to challenge distorted views of God and distorted views of moral duty. If the pope cannot declare the murder of innocents in terrorist acts to be fundamentally against the will and nature of God, then what real possibility of dialogue with Islam could ensue? If the pope, on behalf of Western civilization, cannot give reasons for the importance of human rights, free speech, and the rule of law, then how can others see the values of Western civilization as being important for all humanity, particularly those that suffer unjustly?
No doubt Pope Francis seems a fine fellow to many in the media, but this is not enough. The Vatican and the papacy must more vigorously support democratic regimes throughout the world and help democracies everywhere throw off dictatorial, communist, or rabidly Islamic regimes. The appalling behavior of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in the Gaza strip are fundamental challenges to all freedom-loving people in the world. The Vatican’s failure to call out the atrocities of such regimes to their own people, to Christians and their neighbors, is quickly suggesting a Vatican and papacy that aids evil through silence and indifference.
[Photo Credit: Vatican Media]