The pope's condemnation of violence against Christians is a welcome alarm. In sounding the protest, however, he asserts that such cruelties belong under the same umbrella when, on closer inspection,they result from different causes and circumstances.
Benedict treats them all as displays of a conspiracy against the Christian faith. Thus, he lumps the ancient tensions between Egyptian Muslims and Christian Copts, a sore spot that has, like Northern Ireland, become as much cultural and political as religious, with what he perceives as a secular offensive against European Christians.
The absence of historical memory and geo-political discernment therefore weakens the credibility of his prophetic call for and end to the brutality that does face Christians in many parts of the world.
Much of the conflict that kills Christians takes place roughly along the fault line between Christians and Muslims. To assume that Christians bear no responsibility for the strife is unreasonable. Both sides have fought a long struggle for the allegiance of Nigerians, for example.
A military coalition widely viewed as Christian has brought war to Pakistan. Is that not provocative and death-delivering?
The violence is terrible on all sides; the point is that there is usually more than one side and the pope doesn't acknowledge that fact.
Neither does he mention the history of Christian aggression against people of many cultures through a long period of time from the Crusades to the New World conquest bent on stamping out of Native Americans and their religion.
Then there are the bloody battlefields of World Wars I and II where Christians killed Christians by the hundreds of thousands.
In decrying current attacks on Christians, even a mention of that sordid past would convey assurance that the pope understood that anti-religious guilt belongs, too, to Catholicism. That would help give standing to his appeal.
Likewise, the pope's allusions to a conspiracy against Christians has, so far as I can see, no backing. Europe clearly doesn't fit. In that case, the pope's distress sounds like special pleading and self-pity from having lost the argument,not unlike his attempt to pin much of the blame for priest sex abuse on the amorphous "secular" culture rather than on the governing apparatus of the church.
Popes have a tough time being candid about the church's sometimes unseemly role in the course of human events, acting as if the church were an exception to those events. With that commonly goes the conviction that the church inherently occupies the moral high ground, suffering slights rather than inflicting them. The wounds it incurs warrant special attention.
Thus, in his speech to the to church diplomats, Benedict portrayed the church as victim: violence against Christians tends to be "considered less grave and less worthy of attention on the part of governments and public opinion."
I'm willing to believe that but need proof. At this time,I see no evidence of a connecting plot. Meanwhile, I hope Benedict's call for an end of violence saves many lives.
Looking for comments?
We've suspended comments on NCRonline.org for a while. If you missed that announcement, learn more about our decision here.