Sunday, August 24, 2014
REHABILIATATING THE CATHOLIC CRUSADES IN LIGHT OF MILITANT, RADICAL ISLAM
Many people were shocked when Pope Francis indicated that concerted military action coordinated by the United Nations (not any one country) might be necessary to stop the genocide by ISIS in Iraq and Syria. This was shocking because many had incorrectly read Pope Francis as leading the Catholic Church into pacifism.
To me it sounded like a call by the pope to a new type of crusade to protect not only the Middle East and by way of extension the Holy Land but especially to protect Christian and other religious minorities.
Usually when one reads the history of the Crusades of the High Middle Ages, the Catholic Church is vilified. Yet we know what happens when Muslims radicalized by Islam come to power. They suppress other religions be it Judaism or Catholicism. For example although Saudi Arabia is friendly towards other countries and has a diversity in their populations, Christians have no churches and Jews have no synagogues and a Christian can't even wear a cross around their neck publicly. This in a so-called "liberal" Muslim state.
So I think the paranoia of the Catholic Church in the High Middle Ages was justified. Just look what ISIS has in store for Christians by their savagery and barbarianism. And just as we are willing to cut some slack to the brutality of the Old Testament in terms of wars and slaughter based upon the times, so too should we cut some slack to the excesses of some Catholics during the crusades. It is only right and just.
Here's a brief history of the crusades by Wikipedia:
The Crusades were military campaigns sanctioned by the Latin Roman Catholic Church during the High Middle Ages and Late Middle Ages. In 1095 Pope Urban II proclaimed the First Crusade with the stated goal of restoring Christian access to holy places in and near Jerusalem. Many historians and some of those involved at the time, like Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, give equal precedence to other papal-sanctioned military campaigns undertaken for a variety of religious, economic, and political reasons, such as the Albigensian Crusade, the Aragonese Crusade, the Reconquista, and the Northern Crusades. Following the First Crusade there was an intermittent 200-year struggle for control of the Holy Land, with six more major crusades and numerous minor ones. In 1291, the conflict ended in failure with the fall of the last Christian stronghold in the Holy Land at Acre, after which Roman Catholic Europe mounted no further coherent response in the east.
Some historians see the Crusades as part of a purely defensive war against the expansion of Islam in the near east; some see them as part of long-running conflict at the frontiers of Europe; and others see them as confident, aggressive, papal-led expansion attempts by Western Christendom. Crusading attracted men and women of all classes. The massacres involved were mainly attributed as being caused by disorder, an epidemic of ergotism and economic distress. The Byzantine Empire was unable to recover territory lost during the initial Muslim conquests under the expansionist Rashidun and Umayyad caliphs in the Arab–Byzantine Wars and the Byzantine–Seljuq Wars; these conquests culminated in the loss of fertile farmlands and vast grazing areas of Anatolia in 1071, after a sound victory by the occupying armies of Seljuk Turks at the Battle of Manzikert. Urban II sought to reunite the Christian church under his leadership by providing Emperor Alexios I with military support.
Several hundred thousand Roman Catholic Christians became crusaders by taking a public vow and receiving plenary indulgences from the Vatican. The Crusaders came from various feudal kingdoms of Western Europe, whose very customs turned every attempt to form a unified central command to lead the crusaders into failure. With hundreds of aristocrats and noblemen among the crusaders, each vying for personal fame, wealth, and glory, the very idea of a feudal lord giving up personal command over loyal men-at-arms to a single commander, a nobleman and competitor for position at court, was an unthinkable and insulting proposition to even consider. This lack of a central command resulted in frequent quarrels between feudal noblemen, church leaders, and courtiers, leading to intra-faith political factions and shifting alliances as hundreds of capricious feudal lords jostled for political advantage and influence within the Crusade, which at times led to rather bizarre situations, including an instance when the crusaders joined forces with the army of the Islamic Sultanate of Rûm during the Fifth Crusade.
The impact of the crusades was profound, and judgment of the conduct of crusaders has varied widely from laudatory to highly critical. Jonathan Riley-Smith identifies the independent states established, such as the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Crusader States, as the first experiments in "Europe Overseas". These ventures reopened the Mediterranean to trade and travel, enabling Genoa and Venice to flourish. Crusading armies would engage in commerce with the local populations while on the march, with Orthodox Byzantine emperors often organizing markets for Crusader forces moving through their territory. The crusading movement consolidated the collective identity of the Latin Church under the Pope’s leadership and was the source of heroism, chivalry, and medieval piety. This in turn spawned medieval romance, philosophy, and literature. However, the crusades reinforced the connection between Western Christendom, feudalism, and militarism that ran counter to the Peace and Truce of God that Urban had promoted.
The crusaders often pillaged the countries through which they travelled in the typical medieval manner of supplying an army on the move. Nobles often retained much of the territory gained rather than returning it to the Byzantines as they had sworn to do. The Peoples' Crusade prompted Rhineland massacres and the murder of thousands of Jews. In the late 19th century this episode was used by Jewish historians to support Zionism. The Fourth Crusade resulted in the sack of Constantinople by the Roman Catholics, effectively ending the chance of reuniting the Christian church by reconciling the East–West Schism and leading to the weakening and eventual fall of the Byzantine Empire to the Ottomans. Nevertheless, some crusaders were merely poor people trying to escape the hardships of medieval life in an armed pilgrimage leading to Apotheosis at Jerusalem.