Sunday, August 24, 2014


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.[1] 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.[2] 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[3] and vast grazing areas of Anatolia[4] 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.[5][6] 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.[7] 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.[8][9] 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.[10] 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.[11]


Pater Ignotus said...

"Cutting some slack" to the excesses of some Catholics during the Crusades is to give tacit approval to murder, rape, and thievery.

There are no circumstances - none - when such sins can be whitewashed, approved, or understood as a Godly response to savagery and barbarism.

To suggest that it is acceptable, under certain circumstances, to act in ways directly contrary to the will of God and the teaching of the Church is completely wrong.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Who suggested this savagery and barbarianism was acceptable, I didn't but of course you imply, more than imply it, which is savagery itself.

I said we have to take into account the mentality of the people of that age just as we do with Old Testament savagery that appears from a cursory reading to be motivated and sanctioned by God, by-the-way.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

BTW the barbarian jhadists think they are doing the will of God by slaughtering the "infidels" and there is no way to sugar coat the prayer that the Imam on Vatican ground in front of the Supreme Pontiff prayed at an interfaith gathering for peace in terms of the "infidels" gathered before this particular Imam at the Vatican and at the request of His Holiness.

Pater Ignotus said...

Good Father - Then for what behavior(s) are you saying that we should cut them some slack? Which "excesses" of some Catholics fall into this category?

Robert Kumpel said...

Some time ago, I read a piece in the Southern Cross in which a priest of this diocese seemed ashamed of the Crusades. Sadly, I fear too many drive-by Catholics lap that sort of thing up.

I am not ashamed of the Crusades. We seem to have forgotten that innocent Christians (which meant Catholics back in the good old days) were being killed and enslaved by Muslims.

Now of course, some may conclude that I am sanctioning rape and pillage--which I am not. Unfortunately, too many of us today judge the behavior of those who came before us by today's popular standards and norms. Regardless, the behavior of the Crusaders was heroic and noble in many instances and embarrassing in others. That's not even the issue, however. The issue is that the Church had a right to defend Herself against unjust aggressors. It is also unfair to blame some of the failures and foibles of later Crusades on the Church, because many Crusades were not even sanctioned by the Church. Anyone who buys the PC legends of "evil" Crusaders being the majority of those who set off for Jerusalem probably believes all the nonsense about Galileo being "persecuted" by the Church. The slanders that color Church history are largely lies and misrepresentations. But then, we live in an age when the Father of Lies holds sway.

Unlike the time of the Crusades, too many people today don't seem to understand that the growing Muslim worldview separates humanity into two spheres: The House of Islam and the House of War. We fit into the second house and we must either convert or be wiped out in their view. The bishop of Mosul has warned us. Is anyone listening?

Anonymous said...

Nice miniatures Father. Are they yours?

People do not understand the evil and threat Islam is to the world. Islam destroyed the Christian centers/cities of Alexandria, Jerusalem, the Christian Byzantine Empire. Destroyed the Christian cities and churches in North Africa, the land of Augustine. Sicily from the 800's to 1300's under Islam rule. Naples attacked with Ragusa, Taranto etc taken. Rome itself was attacked in 843, 846, 849.

Spain conquered in 711. Then 781 years of the Reconquista which ended in 1492, in time for Columbus to sail to the New World.

France invaded with Southern France and parts of Northern Italy conquered. The Muslims were stopped at the Battle of Tours in Oct 732 by the Frankish King Charles Martel (the Hammer).

The First Crusade was called after years of Emperor Alexios appeal to the west for help. The muslims over ran the Holy Land and established their "Holy Sites" on Jewish and Christian sites.

After the Byzantine Empire fell, and the Balkans over run, to include Greece, Austria was attacked. Vienna was attacked in 1485, 1529, and the last attack was 1685 when the Polish King Jan III Sobieski destroyed the muslim army.

Russia has been fighting the muslims even before they became Russia, when they were the Rus (800's) and Russian is still fighting them in the 21st Century.

The United States was attacked by Islam to such a degree, President Thomas Jefferson ordered the US Navy and Marines to attack them. The first line in the Marines hymn is "From the Hall of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli" Tripoli refers to the battle of Derna 1805 where Lt O'Bannon (USMC) lead a unit of Marines and Greek/Arab mercs to over throw the caliph of Tripoli. USMC officers carry the Marmaluke sword to commemorate the event. Mine is in my closet.

Pope Francis, as was earlier Popes, are correct to call on political nation states to attack and defeat "radical islam". As the Church prays for their conversion to Christ, pray for the safety of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, Africa and Asia suffering under Islam, we must also pray for our leaders to see clearly the evil and act appropriately. Evil must be confronted and destroyed, as best it can. We all know evil will be here till Christ returns.

Our parents and grandparents rose up and destroyed the evil of the fascists and nazis. Islam is our evil we have let fester for material gain. We buy their oil, they fund the so called terrorist.

Now to evil done in war. Yes it happens. It is silly and immature to hold 11th century people to 21st century ideals. Especially American ideals. What was natural to Joshua to destroy the evil cities of Canaan, Richard the Lion Heart or Barbarossa is wrong today.

Now do mistakes happen on the battlefield? YEs. Friendly fire, surrendering troops killed before it is realized they are surrendering, civilians accidently killed etc.

Also understand, to the tribal mentality of the 11th century, children were expected to avenge the tribe, clan, nation for past wrongs hence warfare was such that every who could be found was killed. In the west we have moved beyond that. Islam has not. Part of the problem Europeans had with Indians, was the tribal mindset. Europeans punished the wrong doer, the tribes would punish anyone who was European even if they were innocent. The Creek Indians have a parable about it concerning a rattlesnake.

I am pleasantly surprised by Pope Francis in this instance. Too many western leaders are spine less. We must pray for God to lift up a leader to guide us. IF not Pope Francis, some one and soon. None of the western leaders I am familiar with are capable of leading a "johnnie detail".

The Anglican Priest

Rood Screen said...


First, I agree with you that our understanding of the Crusades is enhanced by present circumstances.

Second, I think when these new forces conquer the Holy Land, charging Christians and Jews to visit the holy sites, when bits of Europe are conquered by similar forces, and when global piracy by these same forces enslaves thousands of Christians, then we'll fully understand the circumstance that led to the Crusades.

Finally, I would advise you to delete your comment and repost it without using your email address as your handle. There are spammers lurking everywhere.

John Nolan said...

Although present-day Islamists make much of the Cruaades, aided by breast-beating on the part of western liberals who know little of history, the Franks were never a serious threat to Muslim power in the Levant. They were simply another factor in the power struggles and economic rivalries which characterized the Near East in the Middle Ages and involved Latins, Greeks, Armenians and Muslims of various stripes who were often at odds with each other. The Frankish states established after the First Crusade (1095-1099) lasted less than a hundred years.

By far the greatest threat to Islam came from the east in the form of the Mongol invasions. The destruction of Baghdad and the Abbasid caliphate in 1258 marked the end of the 'golden age' of Islamic civilization. It was said that the river Tigris ran black with the ink of the priceless manuscripts destroyed by the invaders and red with the blood of the scholars and philosophers who were summarily put to the sword. The irrigation system which had lasted from classical times was destroyed and Mesopotamia was so depopulated that it could not be rebuilt.

The Crusades were ultimately a failure. Sir Steven Runciman, who wrote his famous three-volume History of the Crusades in the 1950s, maintained that their results were largely negative. Launched in 1095 to aid the Byzantine Empire in its struggle with the Seljuq Turks, the sack of Constantinople in 1204 at the instigation of the Venetians dealt that bastion of Christianity a blow from which it never really recovered, although it managed to hold on until 1453.

The Albigensian Crusade of the early 13th century where military force was supplemented by the preaching and example of the Dominicans was successful in suppressing that extreme and dangerous heresy. The Pope had attempted a diplomatic solution but the reaction of the Cathars was to murder the papal legate, Peter de Castelnau. I'm not trying to justify the indiscriminate massacre at Beziers, but one does not condemn the Second World War because of Dresden or Hiroshima where women and children were also indiscriminately slaughtered.

Pater Ignotus said...

Anglican - You state, "Now to evil done in war. Yes it happens. It is silly and immature to hold 11th century people to 21st century ideals. Especially American ideals. What was natural to Joshua to destroy the evil cities of Canaan, Richard the Lion Heart or Barbarossa is wrong today."

The standards for murder, rape, thievery have not changed between the 11th and 21st centuries. The evil done by Muslim hordes AND Christian hordes was evil then and it is evil now.

It is neither silly nor immature to call the evil of both the 11th and 21st (and any other) century what it is.

Anonymous 2 said...

Father McDonald:

I have been unable to check the Blog for the last couple of days and so come late to this discussion. One statement in your post caught my particular attention and that is your characterization of Saudi Arabia as a “so-called liberal state.” This surprised me as I have never considered Saudi Arabia, or the form of Islam it espouses (which ISIS also espouses) to be “liberal.” That form of Islam is Wahabism, which is a version of the Hanbali school of Sunni Islam. I would be interested to know why some people think Saudi Arabia is “liberal.” Perhaps it has to do with commerce, regarding which the Hanbali school may be actually quite liberal compared to the other schools (but not, I think, in other respects). In the meantime here is Wikipedia article on Saudi Arabia (also discussing a bit about Wahabism):

And here is more on Wahabism:

It doesn’t sound too “liberal” to me.

Under other schools, Jews and Christians are not “suppressed,” although in classical Islam they may have been subjected to “Dhimmi” status, which for its time was a very progressive policy, albeit rather regressive when compared with modern Western liberal norms.

Gene will probably again call me an apologist for Islam. No, I am just trying to further our understanding, although I stand to be corrected myself as well, as always.

Anonymous 2 said...

John Nolan:

I appreciate, and applaud, your obvious desire to promote a better understanding of the historical record. I share that desire, although I am not as expert an historian as you are. I only hope and pray that people will be interested enough to learn from history or else, as we know, we may be destined to repeat it.

Anonymous 2 said...

Someone needs to explain to me why we are willing to cut Christian armies of the past slack because they were just creatures of their times, but not Muslim armies. Somehow the Muslims’ violent transgressions are all due to their religion, not the culture of the times. Doubtless someone will point to various verses in the Qur’an and hadith of the Prophet Muhammad that justify these transgressions. But the Bible too has such belligerence in it and can be invoked to justify aggressive violence. And I wonder what verses a group like The Lord’s resistance Army in Uganda and the Sudan invokes when they commit their atrocities.

Texts are interpreted and how they are interpreted depends largely on what we bring to the interpretation.