It’s important to know who your friends are. This is especially true in times of crisis. And when we face a real catastrophe, it can be surprising who we come to see as friends and enemies. To some of the suffering Christians of the Middle East, the brutal dictator Assad looks like a pretty great guy to have around, despite the pious indignance of many in the liberal West. The conservative Sen. Ted Cruz was disgusted to discover that, to Syrian Christians, the anti-Semitic thugs of Hezbullah look like a host of rescuing angels when the alternative is the “moderate” (and White-House-funded) Syrian opposition that’s been making life a living Hell for Christians since long before the formation of the Islamic State. And now that ISIS has arrived on the Middle Eastern scene to finish the job of annihilating all the “infidels”—hell, even Vladimir Putin starts to look friendly.
But before we Americans look down our noses at Christians’ choice of friends in the Middle East, we should take a look at just how unfriendly the Christian leaders of the West turn out to be.
Within days of receiving the news of the obliteration of Christianity in Iraq, Bishop Denis Madden, who chairs the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, chided Christians in a blogpost, condemning the “Islamophobia” that is “on the rise” among us, and admonishing us to show “respect and affection for our Muslim brothers and sisters.” On the eve of Sept. 11th, 2014, when America’s Islamist-inflicted wounds smart most, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who long oversaw our nation’s Capital as Bishop of Washington, joined a gathering of Muslims and emphasized that “Islam is a religion which helps people, not kills them.” As ill-timed as these statements were, they are in keeping with the almost ten-year-old joint declaration by the Islamic Society of North America and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which concluded:
No one doubts that there are Muslims who reject the tenets of their faith that are acted upon by Jihadists. It insults our intelligence and wastes our time to spell the fact out to us. But with literally millions of Middle Eastern Christian victims in need of care and advocacy, making moderate American Muslims the primary objects of sympathy shows an insensitivity I haven’t seen since clerics downplayed the Catholic sex-abuse crisis by blasting the “anti-Catholic” media who exposed it. I am the last to deny that the vast majority of priests aren't capable of any of the atrocious abuses that occurred before the scandal was uncovered. But I’m glad that most of our Bishops didn’t react to growing distrust of clergy by publishing warnings against “Clericophobia,” and pointing to innocent priests as more worthy of our urgent concern than the thousands of innocent victims.
I've referred here to examples of bishops saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. To be fair, most of them say nothing. I'm not sure which is worse. This combination of silence and wrongheaded outspokenness is also reminiscent of the days of the sex abuse crisis, when two-thirds of American Bishops were documented to have said nothing to warn parents of priests whom those bishops knew to be predators. In today's crisis of Islamic violence, all too many bishops are showing just how little they've learned.
Any intelligent, patriotic American worth his salt can make a distinction between loyalty to his country and loyalty to its often wrongheaded leaders. It’s time for Catholics to show the same intelligence about their Church. Most of us know that to stand with Christians we may be required at times to stand against our media and our president. That we may be required to stand against our bishops is a harder lesson, but one we’ve got to learn.
Remember, in dark times like these, it's important to know who your friends are.
FROM THE CANDID BLOG: