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Tuesday, March 18, 2003

This is one of those times when it is difficult to be Catholic.

Archbishop Renato Martino assails my nation with rhetoric rarely employed against Nazi Germany:

"If a son asks you for bread, you do not give him a stone," and added: "To a people who for 12 years have been begging for bread, preparations are being made to drop 3,000 bombs on them!"

"It is a crime against peace that cries out vengeance before God," the archbishop said. "Let us pray so that the Pharaoh's heart will not be hardened and the biblical plagues of a terrible war will not fall on humanity."

Consider that carefully. According to a high member of the Curia, we're Pharoah and our actions deserve God's vengeance. Really, your Eminence?

Weigh that Old Testament invective against the thunderous silence employed by the Vatican regarding the monstrous brutality of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, as reported by Welsh Labour MP Ann Clywd:

“There was a machine designed for shredding plastic. Men were dropped into it and we were again made to watch. Sometimes they went in head first and died quickly. Sometimes they went in feet first and died screaming. It was horrible. I saw 30 people die like this. Their remains would be placed in plastic bags and we were told they would be used as fish food . . . on one occasion, I saw Qusay [President Saddam Hussein’s youngest son] personally supervise these murders.”

* * *

Another witness told us about practices of the security services towards women: “Women were suspended by their hair as their families watched; men were forced to watch as their wives were raped . . . women were suspended by their legs while they were menstruating until their periods were over, a procedure designed to cause humiliation.”

* * *

For more than 20 years, senior Iraqi officials have committed genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. This list includes far more than the gassing of 5,000 in Halabja and other villages in 1988. It includes serial war crimes during the Iran-Iraq war; the genocidal Anfal campaign against the Iraqi Kurds in 1987-88; the invasion of Kuwait and the killing of more than 1,000 Kuwaiti civilians; the violent suppression, which I witnessed, of the 1991 Kurdish uprising that led to 30,000 or more civilian deaths; the draining of the Southern Marshes during the 1990s, which ethnically cleansed thousands of Shias; and the summary executions of thousands of political opponents.

Given the one-sidedness of the rhetorical fury employed by the Archbishop, apparently the Lord is just fine with Iraqi atrocities and development of weapons of mass destruction. He only gets exercised when someone tries to put paid to the tyranny. Riiight.

When I converted to Catholicism in 1999, the Holy Spirit pushed me on to a path involving an enormous amount of study and prayer. It was not easy, but more about that later (possibly). It still isn't. Slanted moral sermonizing like this makes it even harder. Still, from my studies on all things Catholic, I have to admit that I came across mention of a figure in Catholic theology who would be sanguine about a hellish tyranny but outraged by its end.

Oddly, though, I've never seen this creature called "God."

This unending, biased stream of Eurospeak out of the Vatican, coming from almost exclusively from European curial prelates and dressed with Catholic tinsel, ensures that it will be very difficult for me to ever again take seriously Rome's pronouncements on foreign policy issues.

And, God forbid, should America suffer a hideous WMD attack during the war with Iraq, I guess we know where we can file the prayerful solicitude of Archbishop Martino.

After all, such would be "God's vengeance" in His Eminence's book.

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