May 09
Lorraine Berry lives in the Fingerlakes region of New York, although it's her transplanted home. On weekends, she can be heard throughout the area, cheering on her beloved Manchester City F.C. When not writing at Does This Make Sense? or Talking Writing, she can be found hiking with her two dogs, hanging out with her two daughters, eating what her beloved Rob has cooked for her, or teaching creative writing at a small college in the area.


Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 26, 2009 11:16AM

Onward Christian Soldiers: Did I Just Wake Up in 1096???

Rate: 36 Flag




It's funny how events are open to interpretation. Actually, it's a good thing that events are open to interpretation, or most of us in academia, journalism, and the blogosphere would have nothing to talk about.

Take, for example, another stellar column from the New York Times' resident nematode: Ross Douthat.

Douthat's topic today is Pope Benedict's invitation for Anglicans to forget all that Henry VIII bad blood, Spanish Armada, GunPowder Plot, Civil War crap and come on back home, back into the loving arms of Mother Church.

Those of us who have been watching the Anglican Church, led by its Archibishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who has, in recent years, expressed support both for ordaining gays and women, view this as a (en)cynical move.

The Pope, who, at this point, won't even allow believing Catholics to wear condoms to prevent HIV infection, is sticking his fingers where they're not wanted. He is, in effect, offering to those who have been offended by their Church's decision to elevate gays and women to full personhood, to leave and enjoy the benefit(ce)s of Catholicism.

In yesterday's Guardian, several members of the St. Augustine's Anglican Parish expressed their "bi-curiosity" to perhaps go back to being Catholics. (Or would they be converting at this point? At what point does a schism become a new religion?)

Anyway, to hear them tell it:

And the impact of the announcement is beginning to dawn on rank and file members of the Church of England. "I've been a member of this congregation for years and this is exciting news, it's really hopeful for us," said Rachel Graham, a parishioner at St Augustine's in Kilburn. "We appreciate that we are able to have worshipful integrity here. When this church was built there was a hope for unity with Rome. We're not here by mistake."

It was too early to make a decision about the pope's decree – which would allow Anglicans to move to the Catholic church, but keep their own liturgy and married priests – she said. The Vatican has released no further details about the decree, an apostolic constitution, but its very existence has given Graham and other parishioners plenty to think about."We hope we can all come together and be looked after by the bishop of Rome." Graham, a mother of five, is not in a minority at Saint Augustine's. Before the general synod meeting in July 2008 – "when it all went wrong", she said, and the Church of England's governing body threw out all concession to traditionalists – a petition was circulated among the parish's female members objecting to the introduction of women bishops. Only four did not sign.

"My problem with women [clergy] is that they don't understand it's not about discrimination, but the church," Graham said. "They take offence at being seen as not good enough, but there's no tradition of women in the priesthood. There's nothing in scripture. It's not reasonable that women stand as priests." There were many other roles that women could play in the life of the church, she added.

Her friend and fellow parishioner Cecilia Anim also spoke of her support for the pope's initiative. "It reaffirms our belief that the holy father is putting us in the direction we want to go in to keep the sacrament sacred."

"We're sending man to the moon, but you can't change God's word or the Bible. Jesus chose 12 men as his apostles."

But Douthat, who wouldn't recognize homophobia or misogyny if it tugged on his beard, has an entirely different interpretation. For him, Pope Benedict is Churchill.

Which makes Rowan Williams Neville Chamberlain.

(Can the Right please get some new whipping boys? Hasn't Neville been kicked around enough?)


But in making the opening to Anglicanism, Benedict also may have a deeper conflict in mind — not the parochial Western struggle between conservative and liberal believers, but Christianity’s global encounter with a resurgent Islam.Here Catholicism and Anglicanism share two fronts. In Europe, both are weakened players, caught between a secular majority and an expanding Muslim population. In Africa, increasingly the real heart of the Anglican Communion, both are facing an entrenched Islamic presence across a fault line running from Nigeria to Sudan. Where the European encounter is concerned, Pope Benedict has opted for public confrontation. In a controversial 2006 address in Regensburg, Germany, he explicitly challenged Islam’s compatibility with the Western way of reason — and sparked, as if in vindication of his point, a wave of Muslim riots around the world.


By contrast, the Church of England’s leadership has opted for conciliation (some would say appeasement), with the Archbishop of Canterbury going so far as to speculate about the inevitability of some kind of sharia law in Britain.

There are an awful lot of Anglicans, in England and Africa alike, who would prefer a leader who takes Benedict’s approach to the Islamic challenge. Now they can have one, if they want him.

See, we don't need no stinkin' conciliation with one of the world's great religions. What we need is ... a Crusade. That's the ticket. (That, and for white European women to stop using birth control and start making babies. Soon, Europe will be ... to use Berlusconi's word, "tan.")

The Crusades worked so well hundreds of years ago. All that marching off to Jerusalem to secure the city for Christianity, take it back from the Islamic horde, and, on the way, slaughter as many Jews as the Crusaders could find.

Methinks Pope Benedict sees himself blessing the troops as they march off to destroy Islam.

And Ross Douthat? Why wouldn't he be a cheerleader for that?

Douthat knows who America's enemy is. It's those swarthy Muslims and their crazed minions, who slaughter the innocents in the name of Islam.

Hell, Christians never did that. Ever.

And even if someone could categorically prove to Douthat that the violence perpetrated by Muslims is a small minority of a great faith, he's not interested. Douthat has invested the Muslims with as much evil-doing as we once thought the Eastern Bloc was capable of.

Douthat sees this moment in history as one where we will look back and see the Anglican and Catholic Churches reuniting to take back Europe from Muslims. But some of us wonder if this isn't 1096 all over again.


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I apologize to those who tried to read the first version. While trying to clean up some runaway HTML code, I deleted entire sentences. Even I couldn't make sense out of my disputation. I hope it's better now.
this is an absolutely amazing analysis - and your tags deserve their own rating
I'm wondering if it's acceptable to the the Mother Church if I move from being a lapsed Episcopalian to being a lapsed Catholic?

The sad thing is that people like my in-laws (lay ministers in the Catholic Church) don't even have this idiocity on their radars. There are so many good people trying to do good work within churches while the leaders ride their political and financial hobby horses over their heads.

What a shame that church is a business.

(thumbified for, as Nikki said, an amazing analysis)
Thanks for reading this as it was meant to be read: not as a slam against members of either Church, but a slam against the leadership. The Guardian shows that it has been several high-ranking prelates who've been asking the Pope to rescue them. I don't think this is a 'from the bottom up" movement.
I really am not allowed to post my blog posts until I've had a third cup of decaf. I found another paragraph I accidentally snipped. It's back in there, too.
Here is a link to the pope's address in Regensburg:

If you would be so kind, please point out exactly where the pope blesses the troops as they march off to destroy Islam, or calls for a crusade, in an address that is largely about the "dehellenization" of Christianity in recent centuries.
Do you mean the Regensburg where Jews were slaughtered by members of the First Crusade? I'll go check out your link. There's a Bull to go with the Second Crusade. More in a minute.
Spirit is of God. Religion is of man. That's the problem.

Also, I have to say that if Robin Williams was the head of my church, I might go more often.
You misunderstand me. Douthat is the one who sees the Pope as being the one challenging Islam to duke it out. I didn't say anything about the Pope wanting to lead a Crusade. Douthat would like the Pope, armed with converts from the English Church, to take on Islam, as opposed to the Archbishop of Canterbury's conciliatory gestures. (As Douthat calls them, "appeasement.")
So, your argument is with Douthat.
It's ironic that you mentioned Regensburg, because it was the site a
"ritual murder" accusation that is quite well known among historians. So, when you said Regensburg, I thought you were referring to the medieval popes.
I wondered who would take this on because there are so many dimensions to this that it's hard to know where to start.

I had only seen the surface of this---and smelled the rotting meat underneath--you brought it out into the light. Lining up against Islam.

Nice job on a tough subject!
To quote Douthat's last paragraph in its entirety:
This could be the real significance of last week’s invitation. What’s being interpreted, for now, as an intra-Christian skirmish may eventually be remembered as the first step toward a united Anglican-Catholic front — not against liberalism or atheism, but against Christianity’s most enduring and impressive foe.

If you term another religion as your "foe," what possible relationship do you hope to achieve with it by creating an "Anglican-Catholic front"?
Wonderful piece.

We have a thing in my family - I don't know when it started - but, when we would take trips and go exploring, my dad would call it crusading. Mind you, this was Mexico, Paris, Taos or East Texas. We never thought anything about it. Recently, my dad had his 60th b-day and it coincided with Father's Day. My sister sent the itinerary (yes, she's a nerd and we made fun of her the whole time) and there was time blocked out for crusading. Paul read it and was like, "We're going to kill people in the name of God?" "At a Bed & Breakfast?" Sadly, I had never even thought about it before. I told my sister and she said the same thing. Then she thanked Paul for tainting the trip to the vineyard. But, it's true. All in the name of God.

To me, I find, that's what most wars are really about. My religion is better than yours.

Interesting and thought-provoking. Thanks.
Your great, passionate take on something absurd. Enlightening, as usual.
One last thing. The source you sent me sent me to FIRST THINGS, a Catholic journal that is quite conservative. (Justice Scalia publishes there frequently.) The source I went to was this one, and contains the argument that Douthat is referring to. By going back 500 years, to argue that Islam is incompatible with reason, Pope Benedict was making a judgment about the religion. The rest of the speech seems to be about how Christians have moved beyond this argument.
Why, if Pope Benedict wanted to extend the Dove of Peace to Muslims, would he have not quoted from more recent writings? For me, it would like having someone quote Martin Luther (we should burn all the synagogues) as a means of proving to me that all Christians are anti-semitic. He made that argument in 1523.
Pope Benedict is a very smart man. I doubt he chose his example accidentally.
Thanks for all the time and thought in putting this together. My brother is an openly gay member of the Episcopalian clergy - I'm sending this on to him.
Too much to think about to respond properly - and I have to read through a few more times!
But - thank you, so much, for posting this.
Impressive analysis amids so much passion! WEll done!
rated, dug and redditt
FLW, as always I am in awe of your ability to take a news event and reach out to explain the consequences. It's a great slap in the face for the leadership of both organizations to see it laid out like this. Thanks for the great morning read.
Thanks for tackling such a difficult topic.

Hopefully the Anglicans will stay where they are - they seem to be more in tune with the spirit of Christ than HMC.
IMO, HMC is doing the work of the devil ( if in deed, such a being exists). Forbidding the use of condoms in this day and age is arguably a crime against humanity ( the AIDS epidemic) and the planet as high birthrates are responsible in a large part for global warming.
Well presented. If some Anglican congregations decide to align with the Pope, how long until some of the Catholic clergy begin to take issue with the married Anglican priests or with Mother Church for acknowledging the married priests as legitimate priests, but not allowing all Catholic priests the option to marry? Some papal edict stating that these married priests get a special dispensation? Deliver your congregation and we'll let you keep your wife.
I'll never understand why people follow organized religion when so much of it goes against the overall good of the masses.
One of the most interesting features of Benedict's action is that it seems, at least on the surface, to misrepresent two realities. One is that the Roman church overall is and should be a conservative organization. Another is that the ordination of gays and lesbians is now the primary difference between Anglicans and Catholics, so those Anglicans who disagree with ordaining such persons have no theological disputes with Rome.

That may be true of some, and I am, in general, a supporter of ecumenism. But let's not forget that the Protestant Reformation (which some of us commemorated just yesterday) was about more than Henry VIII's marriages. Protestants do stand for something as well as in opposition to something else.

As for Rowan Williams as Neville Chamberlain, I can see some truth in that characterization, although I see him appeasing in a different direction.
(pushed "send" too soon")

For those who see this moving Rome toward ordaining even women (and I choke on that "even"), I am not optimistic. For all that Benedict *seems* to be opening the door to some people, he is still fencing out a great number, and as the parts of the world where conservative Anglicanism become more developed, more will feel fenced out. I don't see this benefiting Rome nearly as much as, in the end, it benefits Canterbury.
The Christian Right is the west's answer to the Taliban.
Protestant ,Catholic, Muslims, Jews, Crusades, Holy Wars, Inquisitions; odd that you never read in the news, "two hundred killed today when atheist rebels took heavy shelling from the agnostic stronghold in the north."
As a former member of ECUSA who then went into the continuing Anglican church and is now at an Anglican use parish of the RCC I think you, and many, have missed why this makes theological sense, depending on why a member of the Anglican church (any of its current flavours) might be drawn to the RCC. Anglican onverts to Catholicism are hardly new- John Henry Newman comes to mind - and the Anglican communities failure to address the concerns of its conservative members left the door wide open for the Pope to offer an easier conversion.
I'm amazed at the number of people who don't have a dog in this fight who seemingly misinterpret what it means to the faithful on both sides of the Tiber, or who simply want to use this as another scourge on their favorite whipping boy, the Roman Catholic church. If you aren't Catholic or Anglican, what's your beef? I can't imagine being concerned with what any other denomination or religious/spiritual group was doing in terms of their membership, short of human sacrifice or the like.
Excellent analysis of an interesting/scary development.
In a related aside... I was amazed the other morning on NPR, when a representative of the Roman Church responding to the question of how "native" Catholics would react to having married (former) Anglican clergy among them, when their own clergy are not permitted marriage. He said that the priesthood was a marriage to Christ and that if (Catholic) clergy were permitted to marry, it would be tantamount to bigamy. Hmmm, I thought. So, Catholic clergy (all male) are married to Jesus Christ (also a male). Does that mean that Roman Catholicism has been practicing "same-sex" marriage for all these decades? Worth a few moments of theological rumination, I'd say!
I can't foresee many Episcopalians going back to Catholicism, and no matter what they do, change is knocking (loudly) on all doors.
I'd like to address a couple of comments. (I'm really restricted on usage at home. Some of you may have heard that my puppy chewed through my Mac power cord, and now I'm awaiting delivery of a new one, so am using as little battery power as I can).
But, to the question of why do I have a dog in this fight since I'm neither Anglican nor Catholic?
Well, first, I should clarify that while I present the most schematic view of the Tudor break with the Church, I'm well aware of a number of doctrinal issues: transubstantiation, consubstantiation, to start with. Hell, by the time of the English Civil War, the Non-Conformists were accusing the Anglicans of being Papists because the priests wore vestments and preached from behind an altar, so believe me, I know how important these issues can be.

But. I do have a dog in this fight. As long as the Catholic League exerts as much political influence in Congress as it does (and on presidential candidates. How long did it take John Edwards to fire Amanda Marcotte when Bill O'Donohue accused her of being anti-Catholic?) As long as reproductive decisions are being passed into law by lawmakers who declare themselves a particular sect of Christian--Catholic or not--then I do have a dog in this fight. My dog is humanity, and quite frankly, while I admire the hell out of liberation theology and taking care of the indigent poor, I cannot support a religion that tells people using condoms to prevent AIDS is evil and a sin. Nor rightwing Christians that tell women her job is to repopulate the earth with believing Christians--to have a quiver full of kids.
I do believe that Douthat is wrong. He ascribes to Benedict motives that I don't think he has, although for a moment, I can playfully imagine Benedict blessing the troops as they go off to fight.
But didn't George Bush say that we were engaged in a holy war? Didn't he call it a crusade? Are we not engaged in a crusade now? That wasn't playful at all.

Anyway, I'm getting way off track here. All I want to say is that I still think that Benedict was reaching out to disaffected Anglicans who can't stomach the idea of a gay or woman priest. The Muslim issue remains separate, for the moment. Not for Douthat--he has made that clear--but for the time being, I think Benedict is happy to throw theological Molotov cocktails, but not to take up arms himself. (Julius II was the Warrior Pope, so fighting popes are not without precedent.)
High Lonesome--out of curiosity, what do you think of Willliams?
I've updated the sentence about Benedict sending troops off to a crusade. I had intended to take it out--it was a bit of snark--and I forgot. So I apologize for that because I didn't intend it. I do think that Douthat wants that. And I conflated the two.

And Mary--I assume you're using snark, too. The English Reformation may have gone down in history as being about Henry VIII's desire for a son, but countless numbers died in the cause of religion. And Martin Luther's 1517 Theses eventually led to the Thirty Years War. Certainly not a matter for cabbages and kings.
First he calls for a new world this.

As a recovering Catholic, I say if the petulant Anglican "traditionalists" really want to flee into the arms of a regressive, homophobic, anti-female church because they're askeered all the queer and wimmin cooties might rub off on them...let 'em.

It's funny how, through the ENTIRE COURSE of human history, the "traditionalists" are always, always, ALWAYS on the wrong side of issues. And yet they continue trying to cling to regressive ideas and traditions simply because they're OLD.

religious war bites
we shouldn't feel we need them
peace will come, some day
(Insert me screaming here.)

My husband was raised Catholic and I was raised Super Christian with a dad who thought Catholics were going to hell. My husband was taught that he needed to bring Protestants back into the arms of God. We were wayward children.

The divisions in Christianity are hilarious. Semantics, really. It's kind of funny.

This new pope is horrible. At least Pope John Paul was trying to bring peace between the major religions. Pope Benedict is taking the religion back to the Dark Ages.

It makes me so angry that the health and well being of mothers, children, and families are being threatened by a religion because they don't encourage the practice of safe sex and planned parenthood.

Sigh. I could go on.

Lorraine, thanks for this brilliant post.
I always find it amusing when the wingnuts use Chamberlain as their whipping boy, considering he was pretty much a wingnut himself.
I'm grateful to you for this post.

Every living organism on earth goes through one of two stages: evolution or entropy.

The Catholic Church at one time seemed like it might be trying to evolve - Vatican II is one example, finally admitting Galilleo was right after 50o years is another.

Now it seems as though the Church has chosen stagnation and entropy. Women and gays will eventually reach equality. Families will learn that it doesn't make sense to have more children than they can support and people will demand access to condoms in place of being ravaged by AIDS. For that matter, they should eventually realize the part they have played in the plague of pedophilia which has their ranks.

The Vatican has taken the wrong stance on every one of these issues, with the current pope having once stated that pedophile priests should keep being relocated until their victims are past the age to prosecute. If they only appeal to the most conservative people, those who have more compassion will simply move on.

As someone who comes from a family which is half Catholic and whose mother converted to the Anglican Church, I have been reading this news with much interest. Thank you for sharing.
Constantine's 4th Century Harlot is not and has never been anything other than a (large) instrument of power. The Godly hippies of 4 centuries earlier very under-represented since then. The largest and oldest corporation in the world knows just a few things about M & A! Close examination shows catholicism often acknowledges much of the Bible is silly and accepts evolution as fact pure and simple. Angels and Demons was silly but this IS one big scary baby-factory they still run. They are essentially trying to breed humans like livestock today in Africa and Latin America ... trying to play god, unsurprisingly.

I agree that what goes on internally with the Catholic church and the Anglicans/Episcopalians is not just their concern. These are big influential organizations whose activities have ramifications for people other than 'their own'.

Any big Catholic program to counter the influence of Islam would certainly impact on the rest of us.

It's all kind nutz. The Catholic church (and the Anglicans) are both losing adherents in Europe and America/Canada. (The largest, oldest, etc. Catholic cathedral in Ottawa is up for sale because the congregation any more is only 10 or 20 old people and the upkeep is expensive. Italy, Spain and Quebec, former heavy-duty Catholic areas, have the lowest birth rates in the world... A friend of mine who visits Italy and is into architecture says you can have the church buildings all to yourself to look at - there's nobody in them.) (The enthusiastic Catholics and Anglicans are in Africa, and they're a few generations behind, so very homophobic and hard-line. Makes sense - to them - to join forces...)

In the end, it looks as if Cath & Ang are a dying breed. If there's a Christian resurgence, it would seem to be in far-out Protestantism, as with the Pents, who I have read are making big in-roads in South America. Also the 7th Day and Mormons are growing in the 'second' and 'third' world countries...

Benny may well be the last pope...or second-last...
fingerlake writes: "I've updated the sentence about Benedict sending troops off to a crusade. I had intended to take it out--it was a bit of snark--and I forgot. So I apologize for that because I didn't intend it. I do think that Douthat wants that. And I conflated the two."

I'm glad you updated it. I found the post a bit confusing. It seemed you were interpreting Benedict through Douthat. I think it would be interesting to have a discussion on OS about what the pope actually said in the address, rather than a discussion about an interpretation of what he might have meant by the address.

As I recall, the pope later said that he regretted the controversial quotation, and that he did not intend it to be a slam against Islam.

But it does raise an interesting issue. I have noticed on OS that quite a few people ridicule traditional Christianity and Christians on a regular basis. Some of those posts have even made it to the cover. But when someone such as the pope makes any slight comment that could be interpreted as critical of Islam, then that's considered controversial. So Christianity gets ridiculed around here, while at the same time Christians are supposed to be "conciliatory" about Islam.

While Islam is said to be a "religion of peace" everyone knows that when you hear about a bombing somewhere in the world, about 95 percent of the time it's done by Islamic radicals.

And I remember a few years ago there was an Islamic conference in the U.S. during which Islamic clergy issued a "fatwa" stating that it was wrong to kill innocent people. I don't know about you, but I kind of had that figured out without the fatwa. But apparently the faithful of the "religion of peace" needed to hear that.

I think there's a huge difference between Christianity and Islam. Of course the Open Salon secular "faithful" will bring up Christian atrocities from hundreds of years ago, in order to prove some kind of moral equivalence between Christianity and Islam. The problem is that the Christians of today aren't bombing people or flying planes into buildings.

And if anyone is concerned about the "homophobia" or "misogyny" of conservative Christians, check out the fundamentalist Muslims on those issues. Conservative Christians don't think that gays should be allowed to get married. Fundamentalist Muslims don't think gays should be allowed to live. There is a difference.
"Can the Right please get some new whipping boys? Hasn't Neville been kicked around enough?"

Could anti-Catholics update their house of horrors? Haven't the Crusades and the Inqusitions been kicked around long enough? Has Pope Benedict XVI advocated armed conflict against Islam and its adherents? I don't think so. Far from being warmongers, urging "Onward, Christian Soldiers," both this pope and his immediate predecessor opposed the war of aggression waged by the United States, the United Kingdom and others in Iraq.

As for not allowing Catholics to wear condoms, people who are faithful in monogamous relationships don't need condoms to avoid either giving or receiving the HIV infection. Apparently Fingerlakeswanderer assumes that promiscuous sex is a necessity of human life.

Finally, the argument that the Church to denies full personhood to women by restricting the sacramental priesthood to men will hardly stand a moment's reflection. That might a moment more than Fingerlakeswanderer gave it before writing it. To be consistent, he or she would have to maintain that Our Lord himself denied personhood to women, including his own Blessed Mother, when He founded the sacramental priesthood upon the 12 Apostles, all of whom were male. As is usually the case, we may see in this screed more evidence that those expound most vociferously against the Catholic Church are really at war with her divine Founder.
Marvelous post. But I must curse you as well. Onward Christian Soldiers is now embedded in my brain and the damned thing keeps playing over and over.
Again, great post.
I was very disappointed in this article. The Pope hasn't sent any troops anywhere. From the title, I thought it might be about Obama's military crusades across the world (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Columbia, Phillipines), and his now favorite preacher, a gungho Marine with an explicit Crusader theology. But no. Just more Catholic bashing, while the lead story gives our Crusader President high marks. I'm disgusted. Could Salon consider giving us some real reportage?
Mishima and Jack seem to have a problem with their short term memories. Catholics (and other Christians) are initiators of current (and very recent) violence. The house of horrors is quite up to date.

When the Catholic and Orthodox forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina put aside their differences long enough to initiate an ethnic cleansing of their Muslim neighbors it was a new and fresh atrocity but oddly reminiscent of their combined historical persecution of the Krstjani (other Christians but hated anyways).

Ireland has at least seen a reduction in violence if not hatred, but those memories linger with the occasional refresher.

Sorry boys but the recent track record is nothing to be proud or defensive about. Ignoring their violent history seems to have doomed the Christians to repeat it. Can denying current events somehow result in a different future path? I doubt it.
SNIP~~"The Pope is sticking his fingers where they're not wanted."

Sounds like the typical priest with the women & children in his flocking of his flock.

It's a religiomatic ponzi scheme and ALWAYS has been.
Excellent post. I've been trying to ignore this whole thing as a) Ratzinger annoyed me when he was the right-wing head of the Inquisition and b) I regard the RCC as being arrogant to the point of insanity due to all the scandals of recent years.
A lot of these twits are High Church of England and frankly they're hypocrites amd morons, the lot of them. Grrrrrr.
Mark, one might even add that there is a modern Christian crusade (almost spelled out as such by Bush & Co.) in Iraq and Afghanistan - which has killed more Muslims (and Americans) than the original instigating event did.
I don't know why I even looked at this piece. Christianity is just total crap. I converted to Buddhism years ago.
I'm always amazed that when anyone utters a word about Catholicism, it's taken to be Catholic bashing. Of course, there are those non-Catholic Christians who swear they're the persecuted minority in America, so I just suppose it depends on where you're standing.

My argument here is with Douthat, and then with Benedict. Again. It is Douthat who is arguing that the Pope is trying to line up the Anglicans in order to go after Islam, whose adherents are increasing in Europe. Douthat seems to want a crusade. In order to provide historical context, I talk about the Crusades, begun in 1096 to take back the "Holy Land" from the Infidel. The Crusades were a disaster, and the "fall of Constantinople" in 1486 was seen as one of those eschatological moments.

If you have a problem with the argument, write to Douthat. I think he can't see the forest for the trees. The Anglicans are splitting right now over issues of basic human rights: whether women and gays have as much access to God as heterosexual men do. The Pope has extended a hand to these disaffected Anglicans because he agrees that gays and women are not worthy of the priesthood. I do not think Benedict is getting ready to lead a crusade, although Douthat would like him to.
Excellent post and even better conversation in the comments! Having rejected all Christian variants as hypocritical and intolerant when I was in high school, and finding no real value in most organized religion ongoingly, I should have no dog in this fight. BUT, it seems nearly every Christian and Catholic leader wants the political power to impose his medieval dogma on my life, and the lives of millions who don't believe in that, excuse the expression, supernatural crap. Until the church is firmly separated from the state all over the globe - and that includes Muslim countries - I find that all religious leaders who are picking fights are my concern. If you all would just keep it in the church, mosque, synagogue, etc, then maybe we can get along.
I don't understand why anyone is ever surprised at any rotten, backwards, meanspirited, power hoarding thing Ratzinger does. If there was ever any doubt in my mind about the RCC & especially the papacy being entirely political it evaporated with his election.

This has nothing at all to do with theology (cominghome et al.) it's all politics and because the church is rich and powerful and has politically powerful adherents in the US, because the press falls all over itself to give Bill Donohue a platform and tie themselves in knots analyzing whatever he spews forth as if he were actually sane, it is an issue that affects all of us.

As bit of an aside, Douthat - does anyone know how that name is pronounced? Does it sound like "doubt-that"? Because that's the way I say it.
Mark writes: "The house of horrors is quite up to date."

You say it's up to date, and then mention an ethnic cleansing that ended around 14 years ago. Yes, these things can happen, and my guess is that as long as there are Christians there will be isolated things like that occurring, but they are the exception that proves the norm. But when we talk about Islamic violence we don't have to talk about what happened 14 years ago. We can talk about what happened last week, or yesterday.

Mark: "Ireland has at least seen a reduction in violence if not hatred, but those memories linger with the occasional refresher."

Yes, let's talk about Ireland. From what I've read, during the initial civil war around 4000 people were killed. During the 30-year period of the "troubles," around 3500 people were killed, or around 12o per year.

In Iraq alone, Muslims can kill Muslims at a rate far in excess of 120 per DAY.

This is how Dan Gillerman put it: "When Christians kill Muslims, it's the Crusades. When Jews kill Muslims it's murder. And when Muslims kill Muslims, it's like talking about the weather."

Frankly, when Muslims kill non-Muslims it's also like talking about the weather. In fact, liberals routinely excuse Muslim violence as being caused by "oppression," or some real or imagined slight. No matter how many people are killed by Muslims, Islam is always "a religion of peace."
While I agree with you that that sometimes inexcusable behaviour is excused on the basis of "cultural differences," I must take exception with the idea that Islam is not a religion of peace while Christianity is. I would argue that when it comes to FUNDAMENTALISM, that is, the belief that the word of one's holy scriptures is literally true, and cannot therefore be interpreted for modern times, that's when both Islam and Christianity turn into religions of intolerance, hatred, and yes, violence.
Look at the killing of the gynecologist this summer committed by a Christian who did it as his religious duty.
Look at the KKK, which identified itself as a Christian organization and persecuted African Americans, Jews, and Catholics.
Look at the Atlanta Olympics bombing, committed by a man who had also blown up abortion clinics.
Look at Rwanda, where Christian clergymen actively participated in the genocide, with some of them luring parishioners to church, and then watching as they were locked in and burnt alive.
Yes. The radical, fundamentalist Muslims are a threat to us all. But so are radical, fundamentalist Christians. And fundamentalist Jews have created a road block to peace in Israel because of a literal reading of scripture that tells them what piece of real estate is theirs. (And no, I'm not denying Israel's right to exist. There is an active peace movement among Israeli Jews who want the violence to stop.)

When you get to a point when you are willing to die for your beliefs, some people go one step farther and believe that they are justified in killing for their beliefs. And it's there that I break with any religion that advocates violence.

I believe that Jesus was a great teacher. I just don't happen to believe that he was the Messiah.

I don't think there is a Messiah. I think we need to save and redeem ourselves. Here. Now.
fingerlake writes: "The Anglicans are splitting right now over issues of basic human rights: whether women and gays have as much access to God as heterosexual men do. The Pope has extended a hand to these disaffected Anglicans because he agrees that gays and women are not worthy of the priesthood."

Look, people have been leaving the Episcopal church for years. Or as they would put it, they didn't leave the church; the church left them.

The church is made up of what could be called "Anglo-Catholics" and "Anglo-Evangelicals." Those of the more evangelical orientation have been joining protestant churches, and we rarely hear about them. That's because you can just show up in most protestant churches and instantly be a full member in good standing.

Anglo-Catholics have been leaving the church and joining the Anglican Church in America, part of the worldwide Traditional Anglican Communion. The ACA was created around 18 years ago. And then there's the Anglican Catholic Church that was created around 30 years ago. Neither the ACA nor the ACC are very large; together they have, I don't know, maybe 200 churches around the country. But my point is that people leaving the Episcopal church over matters of theology is not a new development.

What is new is that there will now be an official framework for clergy and laity seeking to enter the Catholic church, whether as individuals or as entire churches or even dioceses, and, as I understand it, that they can keep the Anglican rite. I suspect that most of the people who want to leave the Episcopal church have already done so, so the main effect of the new process may actually be on the ACA and ACC churches. Interestingly, I haven't heard very much talk about that.

fingerlake: " . . . whether women and gays have as much access to God as heterosexual men do . . . "

Not the issue at all. It's about who can hold specific positions in the church. The snarky re-interpretation really is not helpful.
Both Catholicism (and Christianity) and Islam are total jokes, neither would know peace if a golden harp hit them upside the head.

Islam is pathetic- schisem'd right from the outset. Many actual interested parties attribute a lot of the violent tendancies to some ingrained habits in the raising of children in large families during developmental stages under ridicules outdated nonsense- open your eyes and realize the type of things that upset young men (and women). this requires actual thought, though.

No true man of god would ever have joined the Hitler Youth, even under penalty of death. The Pope is a Nazi. Period.

Christians not violent as of recent times? Doctor Tiller was killed when?

Bottom line, when Catholics and Christians aren't out starting wars and trying to LORD over others, they are, worse, at home commiting attrocities of the worst kind on our own children.

Anyone in denial about this ought to have their head examined.
Great post and great conclusions.

Just one obvious error: The Pope is not only scared shetless of Islam, but he is even more afraid of all women as well as all of The Gays.
Okay, I wasn't going to comment on this until you equated the Catholic Church with the KKK and splattered the church with your prejudice dung.
In your post only Islam is depicted as a "Great Religion,". Really? "Great?" How does Islam feel about homosexuals, women and abortion? Why no condemnation there? Why must the RCC "evolve" and not Islam?
I think that the dog you have in this fight is simply to depict anything RCC as evil.
There's little skill needed to bash something as large and as old as the RCC especially when you're preaching (pardon the expression) to your own choir.
You've gotten a huge halleluiah from those who already oppose anything Christian. Seeing as how it was the point of your rant, anyway, you could have just said "all followers of Jesus suck" and gotten the same response instead of wasting all that time doing selective research.
John Walker--It's a blog post, not a dissertation.
You could also read through my other work--I have condemned fundamentalist Muslims, too. And fundamentalist non-Catholic Christians. And fundamentalist judges. I have this thing about language. I do not believe that words are unchanging. Human culture changes and evolves, so its understanding of words change and evolve, too. Fundamentalist Muslims who practice terrorism are a threat. Fundamentalist Muslims who misinterpret the Qu'ran and mutilate their daughters' genitalia are monsters, in my eyes. And if you had read the fucking quotation about the KKK, you would have actually noticed that I pointed out that the KKK PERSECUTED CATHOLICS--or did you not know that? In NO WAY did I equate Catholics with the KKK.
My point to Mishima was that all religions have within them adherents who will use their religious views to justify their violence.
Are you saying Catholicism is perfect, and thus, not subject to any critique?
Even the Pope could be criticized until the 19th century, when he was declared infallible. That's pretty amazing hubris, if you ask me: to declare that one person is infallible.
Me? My favorite four words in the English language: "I could be wrong."
Yes, Fingerlakes, I did know that the KKK hates Catholics and that Catholis were also persecuted by the Nazi. Again, though, you mispresent the facts. The infalliblilty of the Pope is such not that every word he speaks is infallible. In fact, there have been only three infallible papal statements in the history of the Church. So you are either unaware of that or, like so many others, use the infallibility of the Pope to misrepresent the faith.
No, I do not view the RCC as perfect nor, however, do I believe that criticism from one who says that Jesus is not the Messiah and does it for no other reason than for criticisms sake and who does it in a way that involves false scholarship is warranted
Lastly, I submit that in this statement "Look at the KKK, which identified itself as a Christian organization and persecuted African Americans, Jews, and Catholics. " coupled with your post and other comments as a whole, you did equate Catholics and the RCC as being of the same ilk as the KKK.
Cui bono? As with any divorce, who gets the property? Although the US has stayed out of church property disputes since the 1918 schism in the Russian Orthodox Church, there is still a question of ownership. All these ex-Episcopal Parishes which become Catholic, are they new Catholic corporations, or do they stay with the original vestrymen and their successors? Are the Traditional Anglicans going to contest the succession? Will Canon Law ber invoked and whose?
When I was a boy, my dad was Episcopal and my mom was Catholic. They taught about the same thing, except the language. The joke used to be that Episcopal priests were fellows who liked girls and hated Latin. In the last fifty years, the Episcopals became a "believe what you want" church and the Romans were the ones with the book full of rules. (A similar schism occurred with the Mormons...the LDS church has a traditional view while the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and is now the Community of Christ and you believe what you want....which most people do anyway.) Unfortunately, my mother was more persuasive than my dad, so I got stuck with the church with all the rules. As Deep Throat, rest his soul, said, "Follow the Money!"
I find that I have to agree with Shakespeare (albeit edited a bit): A plague a'all your houses! (Romeo And Juliet Act 3, scene 1, 91). But would the world be any more peaceful without these overgrown religions or would the fighting be just more localized?

I don't have any sources to quote on this, but when you take into account putting down heretics, sectarian clashes, witch hunts, inquisitions and other miscellaneous violence throughout the ages, more Christians have been persecuted and killed by other Christians than by members of any other religion. I'm just thankful (in my own non-Christian way) that they don't get along. If all those wackos started working to a common purpose, rational people everywhere would be in for a hard time. Christians should ask themselves if their god is more interested in spiritual fruit or religious nuts.
I don´t give a "damn" about Benedict... he joined the Hitler Jugend at free will... it´s in his "system"... He licks heels for profit..
Papa Aleman as the Canarios call him is no Papa Polaka and no Juan BengtiTré (John XXIII) by any measure.....
But to all of you feeling charmed... it´s your type of religion and your decision to do whatever you think is right.....
Me... I was out at age 7... being brought up in both Christian religions as a choice.... I am still a total non-believer at 90 minus 3 and I still claim Relif¡gion of any kind is the root of all "elend"....
Thank you mr Eric Arthur Blair.... Par Ardua ad Astra.... Donah //
I do think Ramesh has a huge point. Much of the Crusades had to do with commerce and conquest, aside from religion...or at least with it as only a propaganda tool. All this gobblegygook about religion just muddies the waters. The Crusades were largely an effort by a series of Popes seeking temporal power in a Europe beset by power struggles. The battle of "Church" v. "State" (Kings v. Popes for temporal primacy) saw its beginning with Charlemagne seeking the patronage of the pope at his crowning. It continued through the squabbles of the Plantagenets over the appointment and allegiance of bishops. (Becket and Henry II).

Henry VIII and his divorce of Catherine and break from Catholicism were also matters of expedience, greed and power, not doctrinal battles as in the case of Luther. He'd just been named a "defender of the faith" just 7 years earlier for attacking the reforms of Luther and supporting the idea of "sacramental marriage" among other ironies. This was just one of the continuing moves in a waltz that goes on and on.

The crusades began with the call for assistance/alliance from the Byzantine emperor Alexius I to Pope Urban II. The Seljuk Turks had reached as far as Nicea and threatened his power. There are many reasons for the initial excursion, but the "recruitment propaganda" of promoting it as a "holy war" with full forgiveness of sins (plenary indulgence) was a matter of expediency that had a far greater effect than Urban might have imagined. He may have hoped to heal the Great Schism with Orthodoxy and held this as a further goal.

Eventually, the 4th Crusade, funded by the Doge of Venice, served as the catalyst for the downfall of the Byzantine Empire, and the Eastern and Western "christians" were hardly of a type.

Convenient as the metaphor may be, I cringe at the idea of this move by the pope as being one. There are many motivations, but none involve the wholesale slaughter of non-Catholic Christians. Douthat, rather than the Pope seems to see that angle, and I'd imagine THAT may be a commonality between the Crusades and the "new" moves within Catholicism. The "bull" runs away from the Pope inevitably.

As for the scattered defenses of Pope John Paul II, it would behoove all who praise him to recall who it was that appointed "God's Rottweiler" as head of the "Holy Office for the Doctrine of the Faith" (formerly the "Inquisition" of course). The "saintly" JPII has managed to slither into near beatification, despite nursing this viper in his breast.

As a disclaimer, my point of view is that of a rather disgruntled and irritated cradle Catholic, who looks at the distant past of Vatican II with some wistfulness at a reform movement killed in its infancy.

By the way, much of this uproar in the Anglican church also centers on African Anglicans, who are, by in large, much more conservative and unwilling to follow Canterbury's lead. I, as a Catholic with a desire to see the church liberalized, can only hope that the embrace of Anglican priests...WHO MAY REMAIN MARRIED...will start a move toward allowing at least THIS reform to move forward with the rest of our clergy.

Sorry for the lengthy ramble...good post!
If someone is going to convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism because of the ordination of homosexuals, then their Anglicanism was pretty superficial to begin with. There are a lot more doctrinal differences between Catholicism and Anglicanism than that one issue.
Great post, FLW. Should be said... and said very well! Hugs.


Now... (*ahem*)

Mishima666 wrote: "I have noticed on OS that quite a few people ridicule traditional Christianity and Christians on a regular basis. Some of those posts have even made it to the cover. But when someone such as the pope makes any slight comment that could be interpreted as critical of Islam, then that's considered controversial."

ummmm, sweetie.... TAKE YOUR FREAK'IN MEDS, DUDE!!!!

If I say (and I do, often) that "the Catholic religion sucks and that I hope all of the pedophile/molesting preists get HIV and die" it is ME saying it.

When the Pope says "Islam sucks [and, yes, this is a paraphrase.... :eyerolls:] he's got a bunch more street creds than I do.

Last I checked, I don't head a religion that has already killed millions and millions of people; whose Inquisition tourtured hundreds of thousands of innocent people; who sat on their big fat pompous asses while Hitler murdered millions more; wrote their own rule book and them KILLED people who didn't agree that it was the word of god.

No, doll, I don't think he's controversial... I think he is the head of the biggest bunch of mass murders in the history of the world. Hell yeah, I listen to each and every word... one word from him and another million people could die!
flw: Sorry for the delay. We have flu at our office, so I'm wearing many hats.

About Williams, I have two thoughts. First, somewhat like Obama, he cannot accomplish what anyone wants him to do. To be the Anglican prelate is to be a politician, and what is needed now is a prophet. Williams is not unaware of that conflict.

Because he cannot, by any conventional definition, "succeed," he does have a certain amount of freedom to shape his own failure. My own bias is to see him hold Canterbury for the progressive wing of the church and let the conservatives (who are, it must be said, a large, powerful majority) be the ones to depart. I have wanted to hear him say, like Luther, "Here I stand; I can do no other."

Clerics are called to tell the truth in love, regardless of how difficult that truth is for others to stomach. I believe that intentionally continuing to hold some people/groups at a distance from the communion is unrepentant sin. I suspect Williams believes something similar. He needs to affirm the calling of female priests and bishops, and to differentiate clearly between homosexuals living in fidelity to both their partners and their vocation and people whose behavior (as opposed to identity) is inconsistent with the values of the church.

Can he do that and accomplish much? I doubt it, but he cannot accomplish anything by not doing so.

Somewhat unrelated note: If your comment above about the roots of the Reformation referred to my first comment, please know that I was disputing not your characterization but several other recent commentaries in the news. It is, however, interesting to me that Benedict thinks that individual conservative Anglicans will flee to the other side of the Reformation schism rather than aligning themselves with conservative evangelicals, with whom they appear to have a great deal more in common, or even to the more conservative individual congregations of other mainline Protestant denominations. The extent to which they do not would seem to cast doubt on the depth of their theological identity, and it also says something interesting about the positioning of the Anglican communion as both the closest denomination to the Roman church and, in much of the developed world, as a community not incidentally made up largely of upper-class and upper-middle- class intellectuals who tend to be more socially progressive than the population as a whole.
"As for not allowing Catholics to wear condoms, people who are faithful in monogamous relationships don't need condoms to avoid either giving or receiving the HIV infection. Apparently Fingerlakeswanderer assumes that promiscuous sex is a necessity of human life."

Apparently Jack Kenny assumes that HIV infected persons cannot marry, and that no married person can contract HIV other than by extramarital sex. Try telling that to the nurse who was infected by a needle stick or to the blood product recipient infected by the very thing that saved or prolonged his life. You may get your halo rearranged.
Yekdeli summarized it best.
This is why he is best identified as DER PAPST!