Deal Hudson is all agog because Pope Francis had the temerity to condemn international arms dealers who are providing the weapons that enable groups such as Boko Haram and ISIS to engage in their mass slaughter.
Mr Hudson doesn’t understand why the pope didn’t slam sex traffickers in this same speech. He’s even more flummoxed because the Holy Father has famously said “who am I to judge” about homosexuals who are repentant and doing their best to follow Christ.
Mr Hudson has a long political past, and I believe that he was speaking from that political viewpoint when he wrote his article. He was “outreach adviser” to the Catholic Church for President George W Bush’s presidential campaigns. What this means is that his job was helping the president gain votes from Catholic voters.
According to Wikipedia, “Since 2000, Hudson’s chief political activity has been to help organize the Catholic vote in support of conservative and Republican candidates.”
I think that’s relevant in terms of Mr Hudson’s reaction to Pope Francis’ remarks. Mr Hudson has a public history of viewing the teachings given to us by the popes in light of how they will “play” in electoral battles for power. It was his job to assess the Church as a political power base and come up with ways to use its teachings to craft political spin that would gain votes for one particular political viewpoint.
What that means is that he has a background of ignoring the moral implications of the teachings of the Church and analyzing them in terms of how this or that teaching can be used to gain votes. In order to do his job as a campaign adviser, he had to turn off the moral reflection on what these teachings meant to him as a Catholic and look at them through the absolutely amoral prism of power politics.
I do not say that as a condemnation of Mr Hudson. It is simply the nature of what his job was. He was a political operative.
I view Mr Hudson’s comments about Pope Francis’ condemnation of arms dealers in light of that understanding. In other words, I think they are politically motivated. Mr Hudson is not alone in this. He’s been joined by other defenders of the weapons manufacturing industry, all of them kicking the pope for saying the obvious.
I haven’t been able to find the text of Pope Francis’ remarks (Public Catholic reader JoAnna gave me a link to the speech. You can read it here.) so I’m forced to do as Mr Hudson does with his article and extrapolate from secondary sources. That’s always risky business.
For that reason, I went back and looked at earlier statements Pope Francis has made on this same subject. It turns out that his comments about arms dealers are not a new direction in his thinking. He has condemned arms dealers several times in the past two years, particularly those who sell arms to the likes of Boko Haram. He said this a year ago:
Apparently reacting to current acts of terrorism being perpetrated by the Boko Haram sects in north-eastern parts of Nigeria, Pope Francis early Thursday condemned all acts of terrorism, kidnapping and arms proliferation.
The Pope described the menace as “absurd contradiction” between the international community’s calls for peace, the proliferation of the global arms trade and the lack of attention to the suffering of refugees.
“Everyone talks about peace, everyone says they want it but unfortunately the proliferation of all types of arms is leading us in the opposite direction,” Francis told a group of new ambassadors to the Holy See.
At another time, he decried the power of the weapons’ industry’s lobbyists in government and the largesse they use to buy influence and coddle those who do their bidding, saying,
“And if you want,” he continued, “think of the great dining halls, of the parties thrown by the bosses of the weapons industry that makes the arms that wind up (in those camps). A sick child, starving, in a refugee camp — and the great parties, the fine life for those who manufacture weapons.”
Each of these previous comments were made in the context of the on-going bloodbath in the Middle East. The Holy Father made his comments yesterday in that same context. He made them as he was preparing to leave for a dangerous trip to that region of world.
Does that mean that Pope Francis intends for his condemnation of war profiteers to be limited to this one conflict in that one region of the world? No. When he says that these people are “so-called Christians,” that’s an obvious statement of moral teaching from a man who is the moral teacher for 1.2 billion Catholics .Frankly, my reaction to his statement is … duh.
Does anyone seriously expect that the Vicar of Christ is going to support arms dealing and war profiteering? Are you going to jump in there and join with those attacking the Pope and defend arms dealing and war profiteering yourself?
It’s easier to understand the Pope’s point if we consider another set of comments he made. At some point — I’m not able to figure out if this was all in one homily or at two different times — he also condemned the Allied bombing runs in World War II for not bombing the train tracks over which people were taken to the Nazi death camps. This is the quote:
He spoke of the Armenian genocide in the early 20th century – though he did not use the word – and of the failure of the Allied forces to stop the Nazi genocide programme. “The great powers had photographs of the railways that brought trains to concentration camps, to Auschwitz, to kill Jews, Christians, Gypsies, homosexuals.
“But tell me, why didn’t they bomb them?” he asked. “The great powers, they divided Europe like a cake.”
Now, how does that jibe with his condemnation of arms dealers?
I think it simply means this: Weapons are objects. They are things. They have no souls. They do not think. They are tools we make. They can be used for self-defense, to hunt for food, for recreational target practice and for cold blooded murder of innocents.
The failure to bomb those tracks was a failure to use the weapons of war to save lives.
That does not, as Mr Hudson implies, smear the men and women in uniform who give their lives to fight these wars. We pray the Centurion’s prayer at mass. Jesus did not condemn this soldier. He praised him for his faith.
It would seem to me that this conflating of these two things — a condemnation of the refusal to use arms to save lives, and a condemnation of international arms traders — tells the story.
The people who are fighting ISIS are also using weapons. But they are using them in self-defense. The war against the Nazis was a war to save civilization. I think the war against ISIS is also a war to save civilization.
That is a vast oversimplification, I know. There is a danger in trying to judge between wars and labeling one side moral and the other amoral. The danger is that we all tend to see “our side” as the moral one. That can lead to justification of any war, any where, against anybody.
There are also a number of great dangers in an economy that is built on arms manufacturing, as the American economy has become. But that is beyond the scope of this post.
Finally, Pope Francis evidently also encouraged his audience to not place their trust in politicians.
Again, I say … duh.
Here is what he said:
“One day everything comes to an end and they will be held accountable to God,” he said.
In his Turin address to young people he also warned against putting too much trust in politicians, saying: “In Europe there is war, in Africa there is war, in Asia there is war. But can I have trust in a world like this? Can I trust the world’s managers?
“When I go to give my vote for a candidate, can I trust that they will not bring my country to war? If you put trust only in people, you lose.”
It’s no wonder that Mr Hudson is so upset with Pope Francis. The Holy Father is challenging Catholics to follow Christ instead of politics. He is directly opposing the political heresy that Mr Hudson served so ably during his time in politics.
Not only that, but he’s going against the biggest pork barrel around: The arms industry. He’s calling foul on the practice of selling weapons of war to mass murderers. He’s saying that you can’t serve both God and mammon.
Somebody else said that a couple of thousand of years ago and He got in big trouble for it.
Pope Francis is cracking apart the political heresy. Those who make their livings by it are responding by calling him everything but the Vicar of Christ.
Who’s going to win this argument?
The Catholic Church has been attacked by governments, powers, armies, and now pundits, for 2,000 years. It has suffered loss and peril. But it has always prevailed.