Saddam Hussein’s execution reminded us that some crimes are so heinous that no society can tolerate them, and that when you murder more than one million people, then even traditional opponents of the death penalty might just applaud when you hang.
It is a lesson that the Catholic Church would do well to contemplate. Last week, the church broke ranks with nearly every moral voice and came out publicly against Saddam’s execution. But if that weren’t enough, Pope Benedict XVI granted a private audience to a delegation of Iranian officials led by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, whose ministry sponsored the recent Holocaust denial conference in Tehran.
The pope is the foremost spiritual leader on earth. It shocks every moral sensibility that he would choose to legitimize a wretch like this. More troubling yet, the pope conveyed warm greetings to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad through the delegation. Warm greetings? Ahmadinejad is calling virtually every week for Israel’s annihilation. Does the pope have anything to share with this man aside from his contempt?
Pope Benedict was once in the Hitler Youth, which is in itself an astonishing fact. But no one holds that against him because he had little choice in the matter. But one would hope that a pope who witnessed the Holocaust and the destruction of the Jewish people would exert extra caution before hanging out with those who wish to renew Hitler’s efforts. Let’s not finesse this. Ahmadinejad is an international abomination and can lay strong claim to being the single most hate-filled man alive. The pope can find more worthy recipients of his time and graciousness.
These actions continue an unfortunate pattern of the Vatican that was started with Pope Pius XII who, in the six years of the Holocaust, never once condemned the Nazi extermination of European Jewry. Worse yet, Pope Pius was an eyewitness, from his window at the Vatican, to the roundup for deportation of the Jews of Rome on Oct 16, 1943, and did nothing to protest the fact that approximately 1,000 Jews were shipped to Auschwitz and gassed just a few days later. To be the foremost spiritual authority on earth and to watch human beings herded up for slaughter and to remain silent constitutes unforgivable complicity with evil.
Unlike Pius XII, who displayed moral cowardice throughout war, Pope John Paul II was a man of great courage who helped to challenge and defeat communism. Yet even he made the repeated mistake of legitimizing terrorists, repeatedly meeting with Yasser Arafat. But if one might excuse those meetings on the grounds that other world leaders did the same, the pope’s actions at the time of Arafat’s death are truly jarring and incomprehensible. He praised Arafat as "a leader of great charisma who loved his people and sought to lead them towards national independence. May God welcome in His mercy the soul of the illustrious deceased and give peace to the Holy Land."
Does anyone seriously believe that God was going to welcome Arafat into heaven rather than placing this baby-killer on a roasting spit in hell?
Now why would virtuous and righteous men like John Paul and Benedict make such outrageous mistakes? The Catholic Church seems to spend a great deal of time upholding what it considers sexual morality, like condemning gay unions and contraception, and comparatively little time condemning the tyrants and dictators who slaughter the children whose lives the church declares to be holy. So why the omission?
This bespeaks an unfortunate and continuing pattern on behalf of our Christian brethren to refuse to hate evil. Many of my Christian brothers and sisters mistakenly believe that God forbids hatred. They quote Jesus’ teaching to turn the other cheek and his admonishment to love your enemies as proof that we dare never hate. As a radio host, many evangelical Christians called to tell me that in God’s eyes we are all sinners, and thus from a heavenly perspective Osama bin Laden and the average housewife from Kansas are equal. Osama must indeed face justice for his crimes, but we dare not hate him seeing that Jesus still loves him.
But this is a travesty of Jesus’ teachings and would make this great Hebrew personality into someone who had contempt for his victims as he extended love to their murderers. Jesus advocated turning the other cheek to petty slights and affronts to our honor, not to mass graves and torture chambers. Likewise, while Jesus taught that we ought to love our own enemies, this did not apply to God’s enemies. Our enemies are people who take our parking spot or who are our rivals for a promotion at work. God’s enemies are those who slaughter his children.
Let not any Christian think that Jesus’ sympathy was for anyone other than the oppressed and the poor. True, the Bible commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves, but the man who kills children is not our neighbor. Having cast off the image of God, he has lost his divine spark and is condemned to eternal oblivion from which not even a belief in salvation will rescue him. He who murders God’s children has been lost to God forever and has abandoned all entitlement to love, earning eternal derision in its stead.
Amid my deep and abiding respect for the Christian faith, I state unequivocally that to love the terrorist who flies a civilian plane into a civilian building or a white supremacist who drags a black man three miles while tied to the back of a car is not just inane, it is deeply sinful. To send warm greetings to an Iranian president who just hosted a former "imperial wizard" of the Ku Klux Klan is an affront to blacks throughout the world just as much as it is to Jews.
To love evil is itself evil and constitutes a passive form of complicity.
We are all known by the company we keep. Far be it from me to lecture a pope, but if Ahmadinejad of Iran called for the extermination of all the world’s Catholics, the pope might think twice before meeting his representatives. He ought to accord the same respect to his Jewish brethren.