Pope Francis recently made some ostensibly refreshing remarks. During an early morning Mass in memory of Fr. Jacques Hamel—the 85-year-old priest who was slaughtered by Muslims while conducting mass in his church in France—Pope Francis said:
This cruelty that asks for apostasy, let’s say the word, is satanic… Today in the church there are more Christian martyrs than in the first times. Today there are Christians who are assassinated, tortured, jailed, their throats are cut because they don’t deny Jesus Christ…. To the first Christians, apostasy was proposed – that is, say that our god is the true one, not yours. Make a sacrifice to our god, or our gods. And when they didn’t do this, when they refused apostasy, they were killed. This is repeated today. How much we would like that all of the religions would say that killing in the name of God is satanic.
He concluded by saying we should pray to have “the courage to say the truth: To kill in the name of God is Satanic.”
The Pope is to be applauded for these statements, for they are certainly true. Indeed, “there are more Christian martyrs [today] than in the first times” and “killing in the name of God is satanic.”
But his assertions are somewhat compromised in that they are incomplete and thus vague. Listening to him, one might conclude that all sorts of people are coercing Christians to accept “our god, or our gods” or else the sword; that all sorts of people are “killing in the name of God.”
In reality, there is only one group of people today—Muslims—that is forcing Christians to choose between their god and death.
Yet Francis does not merely omit mentioning the religious identity of those “killing in the name of God”; even when he is asked point blank he wavers. Thus when a journalist asked the pope if Fr. Jacques was “killed in the name of Islam,” Francis adamantly disagreed; he argued that he hears of Christians committing violence every day in Italy: “this one who has murdered his girlfriend, another who has murdered the mother-in-law… and these are baptized Catholics! There are violent Catholics! If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence.”
Apparently for Pope Francis, violence done in accordance with Allah’s commandments is no more troubling than violence done in contradiction of the Judeo-Christian God’s commandments. By this perverse logic, if we hold Islam accountable, so must we hold Christianity accountable—regardless of the fact that Islam does justify violence while Christianity condemns it.
The reality is that Francis wants to say just enough to satisfy those calling on him to acknowledge reality—that Muslims everywhere are persecuting Christians—without jeopardizing his true project: “dialogue.” This is why he only speaks about Christian persecution during unremarkable church gatherings with little media attention; but when he has the world by its ears—through encyclicals or when speaking for an hour in front of the UN—there is no talk of Christian martyrs.
Thus ten days after denouncing the “satanic” attack on Fr. Jacques during a memorial service with little media coverage, Francis met with the grieving relatives and survivors of France’s Bastille Day attack—another Islamic attack that claimed the lives of 86 and injured hundreds. He told them: “We need to start a sincere dialogue and have fraternal relations between everybody, especially those who believe in a sole God who is merciful,” a reference to monotheistic Muslims. He added that this was “an urgent priority…. We can only respond to the Devil’s attacks with God’s works which are forgiveness, love and respect for the other, even if they are different.”
And there it is: Francis offers strong (but vague and little heard) words to placate those outraged at the nonstop Islamic attacks on Christians; but he never mentions—worse, he covers for—the ideology that fuels these nonstop attacks.
Yet how can one solve a problem without first identifying its source? To this, Francis replies: “We can only respond to the Devil’s attacks with God’s works which are forgiveness, love and respect for the other, even if they are different.” This is certainly a different approach than that of his courageous namesake.
Needless to say, Francis’ passive behavior is futile vis-a-vis Islam and will only be taken advantage of. How does one have “fraternal relations” with adherents of a religion that calls on them to hate all non-Muslims, including family members and wives? Or as the Koran puts it: “There has already been for you [Muslims] an excellent example in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people… ‘We have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred forever until you believe in Allah alone’” (60:4).
Why not “respond to the Devil’s attacks” with forthrightness and truth—in this case, by calling Islam out as a creed that does teach “killing in the name of God,” the way countless popes and other Christian leaders since the seventh century—when Islam burst onto the scene slaughtering Christians and burning churches—have done?
It appears Pope Francis must continue to pray for, in his own words, “the courage to say the [whole] truth” about who or what is behind the tremendous rise of Christian persecution in the modern era.