NEW YORK (ChurchMilitant.com) - Christians have a "moral duty" to take a stand against Islamic terror.
Responding to news Tuesday of the beheading of French priest Fr. Jacques Hamel by two ISIS militants, New York priest Fr. George Rutler wrote in an opinion piece that pacifism in the face of such violence is wholly immoral and ignores every Christian's duty to protect themselves and others from fervent aggression.
Father Rutler, pastor of St. Michael's Church in Hell's Kitchen, explains that the language of Matthew 5:39, in which Christ exhorts Christians to "turn the other cheek," is grossly misinterpreted by pacifists.
"Turning the other cheek is the counsel Christ gave in the instance of an individual when morally insulted: Humility conquers pride. It has nothing to do with self-defense," he notes. "The Catholic Church has always maintained that the defiance of an evil force is not only a right but an obligation."
The priest cites the Catechism of the Catholic Church's explanation of legitimate self-defense, which describes it as necessarily "not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others."
"The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm," the Catechism states. "For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility."
"A father is culpable if he does not protect his family," Fr. Rutler continues. "A bishop has the same duty as a spiritual father of his sons and daughters in the Church, just as the civil state has as its first responsibility the maintenance of the 'tranquility of order' through self-defense."
Father Rutler adduces Christ's instruction to act with the "shrewdness of serpents and the innocence of doves" when confronted by the world. "To shrink from the moral duty to protect peace by not using force when needed is to be innocent as a serpent and shrewd as a dove," he says. "That is not innocence — it is naïveté."
The priest, a prolific writer and media presence, highlights various points in history when a forceful response to Islamic aggression was required for the preservation of European Christianity, without which "[n]o Western nations as we know them — no universities, no modern science, no human rights — would exist."
"Saint John Capistrano led an army against the Moors in 1456 to protect Belgrade," he explains. "In 1601, St. Lawrence of Brindisi did the same in defense of Hungary. As Franciscans, they carried no sword and charged on horseback into battle carrying a crucifix. They inspired the shrewd generals and soldiers, whom they had assembled through artful diplomacy, with their brave innocence."
Father Rutler continues,
This is not obscure trivia: were it not for Charles Martel at Tours in 732 and Jan Sobieski at the gates of Vienna in 1683 — and most certainly had Pope St. Pius V not enlisted Andrea Doria and Don Juan at Lepanto in 1571 — we would not be here now. ... The dormancy of Islam until recent times, however, has obscured the threat that this poses — especially to a Western civilization that has grown flaccid in virtue and ignorant of its own moral foundations.
In conclusion, Fr. Rutler warns that Fr. Hamel was "not the first to die at the altar — and he will not be the last."
"In his old age, the priest embodied a civilization that has been betrayed by a generation whose hymn was John Lennon's 'Imagine' — that there was neither Heaven nor Hell but 'above us only sky' and 'all the people living for today,'" he asserts.
"When reality intrudes, they can only leave teddy bears and balloons at the site of a carnage they call 'inexplicable.'"
The murder of Fr. Hamel is the most recent attack perpetrated by agents of the Islamic terror force outside of Iraq and Syria, with the number of such occurrences, particularly in Europe, steadily growing in frequency over the past few months. According to a report by InterCenter, author Michael Weiss declares ISIS-inspired attacks outside of the self-described caliphate of Iraq and Syria have occurred at a "rate of one every 84 [hours]" since June 8.