Joseph D’Hippolito recaps the recent furor over Cardinal Renato Martino’s remarks pitying Saddam Hussein, and their larger meaing, in the Jerusalem Post:
“Why would a Roman Catholic cardinal who leads a papal commission express public sympathy for a murderous, sadistic tyrant?
“Cardinal Renato Martino unintentionally motivated thoughtful people to ask that question after his remarks following the capture of Saddam Hussein by American troops December 12.
“Martino, president of the Pontifical Commission on Peace and Justice, told a press conference that he ‘had a sense of compassion for him’ after watching the video confirming Saddam’s capture. ‘I feel pity to see this man destroyed, being treated like a cow as they checked his teeth,’ Martino said.
“Many Catholics, such as American conservative Michael Novak, say Martino was not speaking for Pope John Paul II or for the Catholic Church. Regardless, Martino’s comments reflect the Vatican’s position of appeasing Arab dictators and Islam to satisfy its own geopolitical agenda.
“That agenda regarding Israel involves seeking balance between Israeli and Palestinian claims, writes Vittorio Emanuele Parsi, professor of international relations at the Catholic University of Milan. ‘The Vatican’s political stance remains directed by a cornerstone and long-held principle within Church tradition: Attention must be given to peoples and not their governments,’ Parsi writes in the October-December edition of the Italian magazine, Diritto e Liberta.
“Tragically, that approach explains the pope’s inability or refusal to go beyond pro-forma condemnations of terrorism and publicly denounce the ‘culture of death’ within Palestinian society.
“The Vatican’s geopolitical agenda includes creating a more peaceful world through inter-religious dialogue. The pope hopes he can keep Islam from hardening into a permanent fundamentalism that would ‘lead to the clash of civilizations that (he) considers ominous for the fate of humanity,’ Renzo Guolo, professor of the sociology of religion at the University of Trieste and a specialist in Muslim fundamentalism writes in his book, Xenophobes and Xenophiles: Italians and Islam.
“But the emphasis on dialogue is so extreme that Rome seems willing to ignore former Muslims who face isolation and persistent threats as the result of converting to Catholicism. ‘We feel abandoned,’ a woman named Nura told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera. ‘After our conversion, we have no one to support us. We ask the Church and Italy: Protect us, defend us.’
“Those bishops who oppose the papal approach remembered how the pope, ‘who ordinarily speaks about all topics, had spread a veil of silence over the persecution of Christians in Muslim countries,’ Guolo writes.
“The Pope’s goals, while noble, reflect a simplistic, almost naive world view.
‘For Karol Wojtyla, religious dialogue is necessary – to foster the common good of humanity,’ Guolo writes. ‘This dialogue is sustained by the awareness (of) common values across cultures, because these values are rooted in human nature. He seems to believe that only the prophetic message, the utopian perspective, the mystical leap powered by an intense spirituality, can achieve this objective.’
“Papal objectives aside, Martino’s comments also reflect pervasive, virulent anti-Israeli and anti-Western sentiment within the Church’s upper echelons. L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s official newspaper, published the following on its front page during the siege at the Church of the Nativity: ‘Rarely has history been so rudely forced and pushed backward by a clear intention to offend the dignity of a people. The land of the Risen One is profaned with iron and fire, and is the victim of an aggression that amounts to extermination.’
“Two years earlier, Archbishop Hilarion Capucci, the head of a Vatican delegation to Baghdad, called his visit ‘one of solidarity with the Iraqi people in the face of the international embargo against their country’ and ‘thanked Iraq for its moral and material support for the Palestinian cause.’ . . .
“Yet things in Rome seem to be changing. Civilita Cattolica, the official magazine of the Vatican secretary of state, published in October an article decrying Islam’s ‘warlike and conquering face’ throughout history and criticizing the ‘perpetual discrimination’ Christians face in Muslim countries.
“Given Rome’s internal rivalries, however, it remains an open question whether a pope and his Vatican that behaved like Winston Churchill in the face of communism will continue to behave like Neville Chamberlain in the face of jihadism and Islam.”