Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Does Pope Francis want a Muslim Europe?

Pope Francis has chosen as his first papal visit the island of Lampedusa. This is an island belonging to Italy but close to the African coastline. It is where Muslim Africans seeking to enter Europe illegally head for.

In a sermon on Lampedusa, Pope Francis made it clear that he supports the migration of Muslims into Europe "on their voyage toward something better". He said,
I give a thought, too, to the dear Muslim immigrants that are beginning the fast of Ramadan, with best wishes for abundant spiritual fruits. The Church is near to you in the search for a more dignified life for yourselves and for your families. I say to you “O’ scia’!” [trans.: a friendly greeting in the local dialect].

This doesn't bode well for the Church under Pope Francis. First, it means that the Church is committing itself to a false and unorthodox understanding of solidarity. Second, it means that the Church is orienting itself toward fitting in with secular liberal modernity rather than standing against it.

I knew immediately when I first read about the Pope's visit (hat tip: Laura Wood) that this was an expression of a certain understanding of solidarity. And, sure enough, in the Pope's sermon he takes solidarity as his theme. For instance, he says in reference to those Muslim African immigrants who drowned chancing the voyage to Lampedusa:
These our brothers and sisters seek to leave difficult situations in order to find a little serenity and peace, they seek a better place for themselves and for their families – but they found death. How many times do those who seek this not find understanding, do not find welcome, do not find solidarity!

Why call this a false understanding of solidarity? It is false because it is part of the tendency to redefine solidarity as meaning compassion for the "suffering other". Who could be more "other" to Europeans than Muslim Africans? Therefore, it is with them that we are to find solidarity.

There is a disastrous logic to this understanding of solidarity. If we are to welcome and find solidarity precisely with those most different to us, then we will necessarily dissolve our own existence. If solidarity requires Europe to welcome African Muslims, then the long-term result will be the dissolution of a European Christianity. Pope Francis is following a policy that will ultimately dissolve his own church.

In truth, solidarity is based on relatedness, and the particular loves and duties which flow from these forms of relatedness. Therefore, I am commanded to honour my father and mother, because of the close and particular relationship I have with them. I am to provide for and protect my wife and children as part of my duties as a husband and father. I am not to shame my family name, nor to be disloyal to my ethnic kin. And, yes, it is true that I am also to be hospitable to the stranger, as I do have a degree of relatedness to him as someone made, like me, in the image of God. But my duty, and my compassion, toward the stranger, does not oblige me to do harm to those I am more closely connected to.

That is why the Catholic Church developed the ordo caritatis:
The exercise of charity would soon become injudicious and inoperative unless there be in this, as in all the moral virtues, a well-defined order...

The precedence is plain enough...Regarding the persons alone, the order is somewhat as follows: self, wife, children, parents, brothers and sisters, friends, domestics, neighbours, fellow-countrymen, and all others.

That is the orthodox Catholic position. So why are so many churchmen reversing the order of charity?

Unfortunately, I think it has to do with an ongoing dispute in the Church about how the Church should relate to the secular liberal world around it.

The last pope, Pope Benedict, early in his life supported Vatican II, which was supposed to lead to the Church being more open to the secular world. But over time he saw how the principles of liberal modernity clashed with those of the Church and he took the view that the Church would have to resist, rather than join in with, the trends within the larger society.

Pope Benedict was very skilled in describing the principles of liberal modernity and how they could not be reconciled with those of Christianity. In particular, this is true of his writings on gender and the family (see here and here). But even on issues of communal identity he was critical of trends within secular liberalism. For instance he said:
This case illustrates a peculiar Western self-hatred that is nothing short of pathological. It is commendable that the West is trying to be more open, to be more understanding of the values of outsiders, but it has lost all capacity for self-love. All that it sees in its own history is the despicable and the destructive; it is no longer able to perceive what is great and pure. What Europe needs is a new self-acceptance, a self-acceptance that is critical and humble, if it truly wishes to survive.

Multiculturalism, which is so passionately promoted, can sometimes amount to an abandonment and denial, a flight from one's own things

He also opposed the idea of Turkish admission to the European Union on these grounds:
In the course of history, Turkey has always represented a different continent, in permanent contrast to Europe. Making the two continents identical would be a mistake. It would mean a loss of richness, the disappearance of the cultural to the benefit of economics.

But there is a significant section of the Church which wishes to reconcile itself with liberal modernity. And one way that this can be achieved is for the Church to emphasise the theme of "solidarity with the stranger" because that fits in well with the liberal belief in "solidarity with the other".

Where do liberals get this belief in solidarity with the other?  I think it has to do with the way that liberal morality has developed over time. Liberals believe in autonomy as the overriding good. Therefore, they believe that what matters is that we are unimpeded in freely choosing what we do, i.e. what matters is the free choice, rather than what we choose.

However, this requires us to not infringe on other people making free choices. Therefore, a liberal morality will also emphasise qualities of non-interference, such as openness, diversity, tolerance and non-discrimination. So these become the liberal equivalents to positive virtues. And how then do you show that you are the most virtuous? You have to be the one who is most open and tolerant and non-discriminating and welcoming of diversity.

And how do you show this? You show this by identifying with (and being in solidarity with) the people who are most "other" to your own society. Hence the liberal cult of the other.

So can you be a good Catholic and also a good liberal? Not really, given that liberals don't generally believe in objective forms of morality and, as Pope Benedict pointed out, the liberal pursuit of autonomous freedom is incompatible with the Christian tradition. But those Catholics who want to approach liberal modernity can do so by emphasising the idea of "solidarity with the other". That's where a point of crossover can be constructed.

Further reading on this issue:

Upholding the four relationships

Losing the particular


  1. I'm a bit worried about Francis.

    On the one hand I liked his comments about the gay mafia in the Church and his desire to deal with that issue -- probably easier said than done, but worth trying anyway.

    On the other, I am quite worried about his move in a clearly left/social-justice direction on other issues. He admits that he isn't a great theologian. It shows. And that's unfortunate. Big mistakes can be made by someone thinking he is doing the right thing who does not see the big picture in theological and philosophical terms like Benedict and JPII did (each in different ways).

    Benedict's problem was that he was no pastoral leader. He was/is a professor and is most comfortable with books and ideas. He wasn't a great choice for Pope after JPII because now people expect a very charismatic, pastoral pope, and Benedict just isn't that - it wasn't fair to expect him to be, but those are the expectations of the office. I fear that Francis is more pastoral but is a theological lightweight, and that could actually cause a lot of damage in the long run.

    From the EO perspective, we don't expect too much from Francis (he is not really very familiar with us as compared to the two prior popes), but some of us are worried about the damage he could unwittingly cause.

  2. There are two types of Muslim African. Arab and Asian descended North African Muslims. Sub-Saharan Negroid black Africans. Both should be rejected and both are dangerous.

    Another problem is that there is a huge myth that somehow the Mediterranean (Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Romania) are mixed with African sub-Saharan blacks thanks to the Islamic Moors.

    When I went to an American/British international school they showed the play Othello as a black sub-Saharan African. Lies, atop of lies.

    In reality, the Islamic Moors were not black African. It just isn't possible. That would mean that Mediterranean are somehow mulattos or quadroons. Their societies, their culture, their facial features and physical appearance, show almost zero black African feature.

    On the other hand, the Islamic Moors were Arab and Asian and before the Reconquista, there was a lot of Arab Muslims (Middle East) and Asian Muslims, of there was any admixture whatsoever, it was with Asians and Middle Easterners.

  3. That is the orthodox Catholic position. So why are so many churchmen reversing the order of charity?

    American Catholic influence? The USA government, NGOs, corporations and such is intervening in Central-South American countries and trying their best to disrupt them. An effect of this is that they become ever more anti-American.

  4. On another note, I don't believe that most Mediterranean are mixed since the Islamic Moors weren't brutal and horrifying. But if they did miscegenation, it was in small quantities (5% to 20%) and it was most likely with Caucasians (aka Arab and Asian).

    Weren't the Islamic Moors Turkish? Turks don't strike me as Arab-looking (they seem like half white/half-Arab).

  5. Apologies, I meant were brutal and horrifying.

  6. The left's policies constitute reckless altruism. Multiculturalism is "national schizophrenia".

  7. "In truth, solidarity is based on relatedness, and the particular loves and duties which flow from these forms of relatedness. "

    Solidarity also implies reciprocity. Most of these Muslim immigrants have no intention of reciprocating the consideration the Church is trying to show them.

    If solidarity is a social good, and I think it is, we should have policies that exclude those who will most likely not reciprocate respect. Exclusion here can be a virtue which helps build solidarity.

    And of course the leftists who promote immigration actively undermine any attempts at mutual respect, because leftism teaches that Western civilization is uniquely sinister and undeserving of respect.

    "Therefore, a liberal morality will also emphasise qualities of non-interference, such as openness, diversity, tolerance and non-discrimination. So these become the liberal equivalents to positive virtues. And how then do you show that you are the most virtuous? You have to be the one who is most open and tolerant and non-discriminating and welcoming of diversity.

    And how do you show this? You show this by identifying with (and being in solidarity with) the people who are most "other" to your own society. Hence the liberal cult of the other."

    This is insightful, especially as far as the Pope is concerned.

    I think there are other things at work, which explain where these ideas originally came from. Historically, one of the main barriers to the total success of leftism is people's attachment to their cultural heritage. Marxist thinkers like Gramsci saw culture as the main obstacle that prevented the proletariat from embracing revolution and communism.

    So it became a major project for the left to find ways of alienating ordinary people from their cultural heritage.

    One of the ways to do this is to portray that heritage in the worst light, emphasizing the worst elements while ignoring the good. In Australia I believe the term is the black armband view of history.

    Another way of doing it is by promoting and "celebrating" social practices that are incompatible with that heritage, such as single motherhood, pornography, promiscuity, drug use, or homosexuality.

    And another way to do it is through multiculturalism and immigration. Once there is a foreign element in your society that causes conflict (like blacks in the US or Muslims in Europe), then every instance of conflict can be blamed on the host society and its sinister "exclusionary" cultural heritage (Auster's First Law, the worse a minority behaves, the more the majority is blamed.) While "inclusion" is held up as a virtue and panacea which will solve these social problems (even when it is the liberal immigration policies that intensified these problems to begin with.)

    Obviously the Pope isn't a communist revolutionary, so your specific diagnosis is a better diagnosis in his personal case. But it all fits into a larger picture.

  8. "That is the orthodox Catholic position. So why are so many churchmen reversing the order of charity?"

    Because leftist "social justice" politics is just the secularized version of (relatively) modern Catholic "social justice" teaching/dogma.

    To put it another way: there are serious flaws in Catholicsm, and this is one of them.

  9. Conservative Language Institute of AmericaSaturday 13 July 2013 at 12:25:00 GMT+10

    The West has historically had a built-in passion to describe itself to itself. Part of this was based on the belief that honest self-criticism leads to correction, improvement, and advancement. However, that once honest pursuit somehow took a wrong turn to become thoroughly jaded.

    The enormous quantity of self-description that was generated, gradually led to a degradation in quality. It long ago became banal and passe to glorify any aspect of Western Civilization, and instead hyperbolic encomium was bestowed by the elites on anyone who could find a new way to criticize it. That has gathered such momentum that it is now unacceptable to do anything but trash the entirety of traditional Western values. We are living with the bitter fruits, an unstoppable feedback loop of corruption, defilement, and societal suicide.

  10. CLIA: "[concerning hyper-ctiticism]"

    True criticism aims at finding the truth. The hyper-criticism -- perhaps better called 'fault-finding' -- aims for anything but the truth.