Even as Glenn Reynolds, Supreme Pontiff of the Blogosphere and hater of all things Catholic, was demanding an apology from Pope John Paul II for opposing the “liberation” of Iraq, rumors were rife that the Vatican was threatened by a possible terrorist attack launched by Al Qaeda. All the bad guys, no matter what branch of evil they adhere to, hate the Holy Father because he represents the one force with international stature that stands against them.
On the eve of the Iraq invasion, the Vatican carried out a full-scale diplomatic, political, and theological assault on the War Party. The Pope sent his representative to Baghdad, and tried to arrange a peaceful settlement: the Iraqis, as we now know, were amenable. But this effort was disdainfully rejected by Washington and viciously attacked by the neoconservatives, who initiated a round of anti-Papist demagoguery not seen since the 1880s, when the Republican party rallied the nation against “rum, Romanism, and rebellion.”
As millions mobilized in the streets, the Pope sent a message to Catholic military chaplains endorsing the antiwar movement in rather explicit terms: this showed, he said, that a “large part of humanity” has rejected war, except in self-defense against an aggressor, and, he added, the peace movement gave him a great deal of “comfort and hope.”
In his 2002 Christmas message, John Paul had called on the governments of the world to make an urgent effort “in the Middle East, to extinguish the ominous smoldering of a conflict which, with the joint efforts of all, can be avoided.” This year, with resistance to the American occupation growing, and domestic antiwar sentiment persisting, the War Party was nervously anticipating his annual “Urbi et Orbi” (the City and the World) message, and he did not disappoint:
“Save us from the great evils which rend humanity in these first years of the third millennium. Save us from the wars and armed conflicts which lay waste whole areas of the world, from the scourge of terrorism and from the many forms of violence which assail the weak and the vulnerable. Save us from discouragement as we face the paths to peace, difficult paths indeed, yet possible and therefore necessary; paths which are always and everywhere urgent, especially in the Land where You were born, the Prince of Peace.”
God save us from George W. Bush. Save us from his neocon advisors, who would rather plunge us into what they call World War IV than ask Ariel Sharon to give an inch of ground. Save us from a Vice President who sends out a creepy Christmas card citing Benjamin Franklin’s remark to the Constitutional Convention:
“And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?’
The Church stands foursquare against the hubris of earthly kings who delude themselves into thinking they can act like gods. It is the main organized obstacle to any nation with pretensions of universal hegemony, and the papacy of John Paul II has exemplified the role of the Church as the protector of humanity against the depredations of the State. What is astonishing to see is the sheer superhuman strength of this man, whose suffering is a modern-day reenactment of the Stations of the Cross.
Here we have an 83-year-old burdened by a series of physical ailments that would have any ordinary human being curled up in a fetal position, yet he has just finished up a grueling years-long schedule of trips that took him to at least three continents. This Pope is the peace party’s Gandalf: no matter how battered, incapacitated, and beaten down he may seem, he always comes back at Sauron.
If John Paul is Gandalf, then Michael Novak, the neocons’ pet “theologian,” is Saruman, the liar and deceiver. Novak and a delegation including William Bennett and Andrew Sullivan, two of the biggest sinners in the Western world were sent to Rome by the U.S. State Department to convince the Vatican to support the war: or, at least, to neutralize Catholic opposition. During the course of a two-hour symposium attended by some 150 invited guests, including lower-level Vatican officials, Novak made the transparently spurious argument that the war was not a preemptive one, but rather a war for self-defense:
“On one side, Iraq maintains weapons of mass destruction, and on the other, international terrorists are seeking to procure them.
“‘All that is lacking between these two incendiary elements is a spark of contact,’ Novak said.”
“‘Given Saddam’s proven record in the use of such weapons, and given his recognized contempt for international law, only an imprudent or even foolhardy statesman could trust that these two forces will stay apart forever. At any time they could combine, in secret, to murder tens of thousands of innocent and unsuspecting citizens,’ he said.”
Only U.S. government officials, he argued, have the inside knowledge about Saddam’s possession of such weapons, and we must trust in them and not in the Pope to make these decisions. That these officials were lying, and their case for war a web a deceit, does not have Novak begging the Holy Father’s forgiveness. Novak and his cohorts, far from repentant, are walking arguments in favor of the Pope’s power to excommunicate heretics.
Although I was raised a Catholic, I am not a believer. But I must recognize the moral stature of a man like John Paul II, who stood up to the Communist would-be hegemon and is now standing up to another. As he said in a speech to the Vatican diplomatic corps:
“What are we to say of the threat of a war that could strike the people of Iraq, the land of the prophets, a people already sorely tried by more than 12 years of embargo? War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations. As the Charter of the United Nations Organization and international law itself remind us, war cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military operations.”
Even the most hardcore militant atheists in the antiwar movement must recognize and salute the moral authority of the Church, whose foreign minister, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, expressed the view of those of us in the U.S. who resist the rise of an American empire:
“A single member of the international community cannot decide: ‘I’m doing this and you others can either help me or stay home.’ If that were the case, the entire system of international rules would collapse. We’d risk the jungle.”
Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Peace and Justice Commission known as the Donald Rumsfeld of the Vatican because of his tough-as-nails approach to promulgating the Pope’s mission of peace put it succinctly and well:
“We cannot think that there is a universal policeman who takes it upon himself to punish those who act badly…. The United States, being part of the international assembly, has to adapt to the exigencies of others.”
There is no universal policeman and ruler of mortal mien worthy of the task, and any scheme to set one up is necessarily Satanic.
This may come as news to militantly secular antiwar lefties, and nasty left-libertarians willfully ignorant of all things theological, but the institutional power of the Vatican and the Roman Catholic hierarchy has been a mighty weapon in the arsenal of peace.
Pope John Paul II, a giant among men, who has single-handedly taken on the power of the War Party and who towers so far above his critics that the distance can only be measured in light years is our Man of the Year.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
My continuing campaign to get loudmouth warmonger Neal Boortz booted from the podium of the Libertarian Party’s upcoming national convention has suffered a setback. The Libertarian National Committee recently voted to affirm their invitation to the noted Bush shill: the vote was 9 to 6. Here is the text of the resolution they passed:
“The LNC supports our Convention Committee’s invitation to Neal Boortz to speak at our national convention in Atlanta in May 2004. We do not condition participation at our convention on membership in the LP or on 100% compliance with the national party platform. We welcome the continued efforts of Mr. Boortz and many others to further the freedom movement in whatever way they choose.”
What hypocrites! If Boortz opposed the legalization of, say, marijuana, cloning, or any of the other favored left-libertarian hobby-horses, we all know he wouldn’t be able to get within a country mile of the speakers’ platform in Atlanta. Leave it to the politically clueless “leadership” of the LP to consign the party’s opposition to the war the one platform plank with potentially broad appeal this election year to the junk heap. No wonder they’ve begun to limit their pathetic electoral efforts to getting elected to local county water board and community college and sewer districts. The LP doesn’t care about the bad public relations this decision is already generating they stupidly believe that any publicity is good publicity. What a way to commit suicide.
Oh well, don’t get mad get even! There’s just one way to register your disapproval of the LP NatCom’s decision: if you’re planning to contribute to the Libertarian Party, to renew your membership, or vote for their generally dumb-ass candidates, don’t do it.
And let them know why.
Send email to the convention coordinator, Nancy Neale (who just happens to be the wife of the current National Chairman), at email@example.com.
Or call the National Libertarian Party, at: (2) 333-0008, or contact members of the Libertarian Party National Committee.