Los Papas re: Iraq

Matthew brought my attention to this piece by Michael Novak in the National Review concerning the Pope’s trip to America and what he may say on Iraq publicly.

Matthew tags it as:  “Pope in general rightly against the war.”

In general and I would say on this war specifically as well.

As is well known Benedict XVI like his predecessor John Paul II was opposed to the War in Iraq (and still is).  Novak may be trying to head off at the pass American Catholic conservatives (or Christians generally) who feel torn between the Pope’s anti-war message and their own views on the matter.  Benedict may say some things in his upcoming trip that are directed right at this administration and country on this issue.

Novak makes some decent points:  the Pope should represent peace to the world.  The Pope is not a political player and therefore is not in the same position as say a President/Head of State.  All correct.

But then Novak takes a left and goes down crazy road:

This background is important to grasp, since Pope Benedict XVI will almost certainly judge that he is duty-bound to call for the violence in Iraq to cease. The edge of his words will be felt more sharply here, where he delivers them, than among Al Sadr and his Shia militias, who are now causing so much of the violence in three cities in Iraq. The Shiites militias very much want the Americans will to stop fighting, and to depart.

Yes because the real fruitful comparison is between us and Sadr.  Don’t feel so bad Catholic pro-war NRO conservatives–at least you’re not this guy.  Never mind that Ayatollah-in-training Moqtada would still be playing video games in East Baghdad if it wasn’t for the invasion.  But I digress.

The reason if you didn’t catch it that he singles out al Sadr is that the US has now declared Sadr the real enemy in Iraq and is trying to tie him to Iran as opposed to PM Maliki and his supporters (and therefore the US’) Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council which was trained and funded by Iran.  Yes Mr. Novak is right the Sadr crew does want the US out–hint hint that’s why they are popular and have more power than the Iraqi central government–because they are seen as resisting an occupying army (h/t Juan Cole).

Allright but that aside, you still might think this is a relatively rational/benign-ish piece.  Except for the following.

That is why in 2003 many Americans who believed that the war in Iraq was justified, also believed that it was very good for Pope John Paul II to oppose the war. The pope should not be, and should not even be allowed to seem to be, a proponent of war, especially of a war with so many complex religious tendrils, and with so many centuries of conflicted history…On the record, we are entitled to have confidence in Benedict’s bravery, balance of mind, and concern to do his duty.

Now hold on a second.  I seem to remember….yes hmmm what was it now—oh that’s right:  Michael Novak went to Rome in 2003 to try and persuade then Pope John Paul II to publicly support the WAR!!!  WTF????

Whoever those nameless people who thought the war was a good idea and the Pope not supporting it was as well, whoever they are, don’t count Novak in that crowd.  Does dude believe his own BS?

And I do feel badly (slightly) because other than his intense neoconservatism and attempting to equate neoliberal economics with John Paul’s social encyclicals (along with his wing man Richard Neuhaus), his unjust (imo) slamming of liberation theology in Latin America (and elsewhere), I actually have liked some of the books of his I’ve read very much.  Especially his work on human rights, a culture of ethics and transparency, commitment to the public square as a Christian ethic–and yes when not so ludicrously ideological, progress and prosperity in the world.

But he’s an American boomer who had his conversion from his radical lefty days in the late 60s to conservatism and now he’s gone pretty much all the way in the other direction.  Running from often seems to me as much as running towards.  And always nervous about proving his bona fides to the movement conservative crowd–hence a piece like this one seems to me.

And God Most High am I sick of boomer ideology (left and right).

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Published in: on April 14, 2008 at 4:42 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. “Pope is not a political player and therefore is not in the same position as say a President/Head of State.”

    Well, that’s what Novak likes to tell himself when he disagrees with the pope. If the pope is not a political player, then why did Gorbachev acknowledge that JPII was the one man most responsible for the fall of the USSR?

    The pope is a lot of things. His role in the world is not that simple. He is a pastor, preacher, overseer of the universal church, head of state, diplomat, philosopher, theologian, liturgist, quasi mystic, and more.

    Put him in a box and you will be sorely disappointed when he jumps out and runs all over your neat categories.

  2. Fr. J,

    Thanks for the comment. The Pope as Stalin reminded us hath no divisions to be sure but you are right that JP was a major political force (and technically to be sure an actual Head of State of the Vatican). Benedict is I think a force as well.

    But while I definitely agree with your criticism of Novak, I think there is a way in which the Pope (relative to political issues) is in a similar position to say the Sec. General of the UN. Unless other countries follow the lead or take the initiative, what he says affects worldwide opinion but not necessarily events on the ground.

    I very much like your last line.

    Peace. CJ


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