Political hijinks at the Vatican this week
Two conferences with disturbing political overtones have taken place at the Vatican this week.
1. The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in cooperation with Pax Christi, has held a conference on non-violence. Or perhaps, in light of the report issued at the conclusion of the meeting it would be more accurate to say that the conference was about just-war theory, with participants coming down heavily in opposition to the Church’s traditional teaching that the use of deadly force against an aggressor can be morally justifiable.
The Catholic Church has a long, proud tradition of resisting violence, promoting alternatives to warfare, and demanding moral restraints on military strategies. But at this point in history, with hundreds of thousands of Christians facing the prospect of death at the hands of unusually brutal aggressors, is this the time to counsel pacifism? Unless we intend to stand by and watch the slaughter of our fellow Christians in the Middle East—and perhaps in Europe, too, and who knows where else—we must give some thought to the best ways of defending those who cannot defend themselves. If we plan to do that by moral means, then we will be consulting the norms of the just-war tradition.
The alternatives facing us, realistically, are not likely to be war and peace. More likely we will face a choice among three options: just war, unjust war, and massacre.
2. During a presidential election season, the leading candidates do virtually nothing but eat, sleep, and campaign. So when a leading American candidate decides to take a quick trip abroad just before a critical primary vote, it’s reasonable to assume that he thinks the trip will serve his political interests. Senator Bernie Sanders is evidently still angling for a meeting with the Pope: a photo-op that could be worth tens of thousands of votes. But even if he does not manage to pull off that meeting (which, Vatican officials assure us, is not on the papal schedule), he will gain something by his participation in an otherwise remarkable conference organized by the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences.
So you might ask yourself: How did Sanders—whose political views are radically at odds with Catholic teachings—wangle an invitation to a Vatican conference? And the answer comes back: Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo.
This is not the first time that Bishop Sanchez Sorondo has used his position as chancellor of the Pontifical Academy to advance leftist political views. He is not subtle in his dealings; he once loosed a disgraceful rant against critics who called attention to his partisan dealings. So although the president of the Pontifical Academy thinks it is “monumental discourtesy” for Sanders to use a Vatican conference as a campaign publicity stunt, don’t put it past the Argentine bishop to try to arrange that photo op with the Pope.
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