Month: July 2006

New Books by Pope Benedict XVI (from Ignatius Press)

Images of Hope: Meditations on Major Feasts

In Images of Hope: Meditations on Major Feasts, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) masterfully weaves together Scripture, history, literature and theology as he reflects on major feasts of the liturgical calendar. In each chapter, he examines works of sacred art that illustrate the hope we celebrate in our most important Christian holy days.

What do the humble ox and ass at the manger of the Christ Child tell us about Christmas? In an icon of Christ’s Ascension, what do the Savior’s hands held in blessing promise us? What is the meaning of the sword held by the great statue of Saint Paul before the Roman church that bears his name?

These and many other questions are explored with depth and sensitivity in this collection of meditations by the man who became Pope Benedict XVI. Several beautiful colored images of the relevant paintings, mosaics and sculptures accompany the rich and detailed text.

What It Means to be a Christian
Ignatius Press (June 20, 2006).

Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, writes eloquently and persuasively about how one can live as a serious Christian in today’s secular world. He talks in depth about the true meaning of faith, hope, and love–the love of God and the love of neighbor. He also discusses at length the crucial importance of a lived faith, for the believer himself as well as being a witness for our age, and striving to bring faith in line with the present age that has veered off into rampant secularism and materialism. He passionately encourages the reader to practice a deep, abiding Christian faith that seeks to be at the service of humanity.

As Joseph Ratzinger mentions in the preface, “the book presents in written form three sermons that the author preached in the Cathedral at Muenster to a congregation from the Catholic Student Chaplaincy, December 13-15, 1964.”

In other words, these are essays derived from sermons preached to college students toward the end of Vatican II. They are remarkable, among other reasons, for their insights into the ongoing Christian struggle to understand and realize in action “what it means to be a Christian”.


The War Against Israel – News and Commentary Pt. III

[A continuation of coverage on Israel’s struggle for survival against Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and Syria; for previous coverage Part I & Part II — CB]

  • On July 20, 2006, Pope Benedict proclaimed Sunday a day of “prayer and penance” for the worsening situation in the Middle East. According to the communiqué issued today by the Vatican press office (available via Zenit News Service):

    The Holy Father is following with great concern the destinies of all the peoples involved and has proclaimed this Sunday, July 23, as a special day of prayer and penance, inviting the pastors and faithful of all the particular Churches, and all believers of the world, to implore from God the precious gift of peace.

    In particular, the Supreme Pontiff hopes that prayers will be raised to the Lord for an immediate cease-fire between the sides, for humanitarian corridors to be opened in order to bring help to the suffering peoples, and for reasonable and responsible negotiations to begin to put an end to objective situations of injustice that exist in that region, as already indicated by Pope Benedict XVI at the Angelus last Sunday, July 16.

    In reality, the Lebanese have the right to see the integrity and sovereignty of their country respected, the Israelis, the right to live in peace in their state, and the Palestinians have the right to have their own free and sovereign homeland.

    At this sorrowful moment, His Holiness also makes an appeal to charitable organizations to help all the people struck by this pitiless conflict.

  • Pope Benedict has also stated that he backs the G8 Summit document condemning Hezbollah. :

    Two days before the statement was released by the Vatican, Pope Benedict endorsed a Group of Eight declaration that criticized Hamas and Hezbollah for fueling an escalation in current hostilities and urged Israel to exercise restraint in its retaliation.

    “I find myself in full agreement with the G-8 communique,” the pope said July 18 during his vacation in the northern Italian Alps. “I have nothing else to add other than the importance of prayer so that God may help us.”

    (Pope calls for immediate cease-fire, negotiations, penance, prayers for peace Catholic Online (Catholic.Org) 7/20/2006.

  • Know Thine Enemy – From Greensboro, NC’s The Rhinoceros Times, Orson Scott Card questions the notion of “Lebanese sovereignty”:

    If Israel sends its troops into southern Lebanon, you can be sure that it will be condemned as a violation of “Lebanese sovereignty.”

    What Lebanese sovereignty?

    Either the Lebanese government controls southern Lebanon or it doesn’t.

    If it is sovereign Lebanese territory, then Lebanon as an entirety is responsible for the terror missile attacks launched against Israeli civilians by the Hezbollah forces that openly rule there. Therefore, Lebanon has committed acts of war against Israel, and Israel is perfectly justified in any military action it takes against the entirety of Lebanon.

    But if the Lebanese government declares that it is not responsible for missiles launched from that region of their nominal territory, then by that admission they confess that it is hot territory for which the Lebanese government claims responsibility. In which case, Hezbollah is the ruler of that territory (which it is), and Israel, regardless of lines on a map, has a right to invade Hezbollah territory and destroy the capacity of that enemy to make war against them.

  • Israel Is Fighting for its Life, but the Vatican “Deplores”http://www.chiesa July 19, 2006. “Departing secretary of state Sodano is one of the prominent proponents of the anti-Israeli camp. But there are some who have a different view on the new war in Lebanon.” A column by professor Vittorio E. Parsi, and an interview with Fr. David Maria Jaeger.
  • The Sodano Code: The Vatican’s stale policy on the Middle East. Weekly Standard Volume 011, Issue 43. Jody Bottom asserts that “since the founding of Israel in 1948, the Vatican has never had a clear idea how to respond to tensions in the area” — the fate of Christians in Islamic countries hanging in the balance, and endangered by the slightest hint of support for the Jews:

    The Vatican was never anti-Israeli, and it certainly never condoned or praised terrorism. But, bit by bit, Rome’s advisers and experts on the Middle East came to be those whose first impulse was to take the Arab, and particularly the Palestinian, side in any dispute with Israel or the United States.

    According to Bottum, the same diplomatic strategy underlied Cardinal Sodano’s statements on the present situation:

    . . . in one sense, Sodano was merely indulging the kind of ritual statement–everybody’s wrong, but Israel most of all–that the Vatican has been issuing for decades. It didn’t mean much in 1973, and it doesn’t mean much now.

    In another sense, however, Sodano’s remarks on Vatican Radio–and similar statements by other Catholic figures, from the custodians of the holy places in Israel to the editorialists in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osserv atore Romano–are most disturbing precisely because of their datedness. The situation in the Middle East is no longer simply a battle between Israelis and Palestinians. With the increasing role of the Iranians, and the refusal of the Arab League to involve itself, the fight doesn’t even really center around the Arabs.

    It is, rather, a war between the Islamists and the West–a proxy fight, in which the totalitarian governments of Syria and Iran have aimed the weapon of terrorism at modern democracies. And, for the Catholic Church, the answer cannot remain the old, ritual statements about the Middle East, dusted off one more time. John Paul II had a vision for confronting totalitarianism–a way of refusing government by the lie and naming things for what they are. It is time for the Vatican to apply that vision to the Middle East.

    Further discussion of Bottum’s article at Amy Welborn’s Open Book.

  • Religious brother details tension in Lebanon Catholic News Agency July 18, 2006. “In e-mails sent to his family members and community, Marist Brother Jose Maria Romero has detailed the growing tension Christians are experiencing in Lebanon amidst the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.” Another report on the refugee situation is provided by Antioch Abouna – “a Lebanese Orthodox Christian of the Patriarchate of Antioch.”
  • Shaken and Stirred, by Josh Manchester. TCS Daily July 21, 2006, arguing that the US invasion of Iraq has destroyed any consensus that might have existed between Arab states, prompting a reconsideration of their roles and support of terrorism:

    Were Saddam still in power, the Arab world would not feel nearly as threatened by Hezbollah, the Frankenstein’s monster of Iran’s creation. Instead, they would have sided with the Syrian foreign minister’s strong support for Hezbollah. Saddam himself might even have offered cash rewards to anyone attempting martyrdom against the Jews.

    Instead, they came to no consensus. The leading Arab League states, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt, call Hezbollah’s actions “inappropriate and irresponsible.” This lessens the urgency of calls from the international community, whether the G8, UN, or EU, for a ceasefire. That lessened urgency creates something very precious indeed: a moment in time and space wherein Israel has the most fleeting of opportunities for decisive action against Hezbollah, an avowed foe, a terrorist organization, and a constant threat to the security of its populace.

  • The Stupid, Isolationist Right. July 21, 2006. Tom Karako of The Claremont Review’s The Remedy pens a rebuttal to Pat Buchanan’s assertion that Israel’s struggle for survival shouldn’t be considered “our war”:

    One does not have to be a democratization zealot, or to say things like “we are all Israelis today,” or to walk around with the purple thumb of Iraqi solidarity, to see that America does indeed have a powerful interest in preventing monsters abroad the freedom to rampage, hurt our allies, and gather strength and organization—before coming to search after us. This is monster-slaying which John Quincy Adams would sanction, indeed require. Buchanan suggests that we have no dog in this fight. When Hezbollah has pushed Israel into the sea, will they then become America’s new ally in the region?

  • Terror Supporters in New York CityLittle Green Footballs comments on the “ridiculously bland” caption by Reuters depicting a “Lebanon protest outside the Israeli consulate in New York”, July 18, 2006. Correct me if I’m wrong, but slogans like “God will send the Mushroom Cloud from the Sky on Israel”, “Allah will destroy the terrorist state of Israel” and “Islam will DOMINATE,” — with a photo of an Islamic flag over the White House — speak to me something more than a mere “support for Lebanon.” But decide for yourself. You can view photographs from the entire Islamic hate-rally against Israel here.

    Ignoring the fact that Israel Sets Up Humanitarian Aid Corridor To Lebanon, protestors scream “genocide!” Meanwhile, Iran has reasserted the duty of Muslims to “wipe out” Israel, and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, declared Sunday that Israel had “pushed the button of its own destruction” by launching its military campaign against the Iranian-backed Hizbullah in Lebanon (Jerusalem Post July 23, 2006).

  • A collection of words from a reluctant war compiled by Loy Mershimer. July 20, 2006.

Understanding Hezbollah

  • Hizballah Activity in North America Brian Hecht of The Investigative Project on Terrorism has prepared a quick reference guide to major Hizballah and Hizballah-linked illegal activity in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

    In Hezbollah and Main Street (The Washington Times July 21, 2006), Diana West raises some concerns as well about the evacuation of “dual nationals” who convey their sympathies for the terrorist organization:

    “In this wide-open question of loyalties we may see the expanding emptiness of the modern nation-state, where basic identification with the nation itself is no longer at the core of citizenship. And that includes the United States, where, for example, a good stretch of Main Street follows the Israeli war on Hezbollah via Al Jazeera.”

  • How Deeply Are Iran And Syria Involved In Lebanon?, asks Captains Quarters. Ynet News reported last night that the IDF had intercepted missile shipments coming from Syria, and the New York Sun‘s Ira Stoll says that “hundreds” of Iranian troops have joined Hezbollah’s missile brigades.
  • Hizbollah’s Iranian War in Lebanon, Counterterrorism Blog July 22, 2006. Walid Phares, Senior Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and author of Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against The West, provides the necessary background history on Hezbollah and Syrian, Iranian involvement. A must-read.
  • Katyusha rockets, ball bearings and bombs, by Donald Sensing. A shredded car provides a graphic illustration to Human Rights Watch’ earlier report of Hezbollah’s deliberate illegal targeting of civilians with missiles containing ball-bearings. The Jerusalem Post has a summary of recent rocket attacks on Israel. Although as Sensing reminds us, there is “plenty of suffering to go around” — Lebanese civilians not having the benefit of Israeli bomb shelters built in response to years of bombardment. The Ouwet Front, a blog expressing the “personal views and opinions of members of the Lebanese military”, rails against Hezbollah’s Dirty Methods.
  • Hostage to Hezbollah – Lesson for Nasrallah: “The violence done to Lebanon shall overwhelm you”, by Foad Ajami:

    Nasrallah’s brazen deed was, in the man’s calculus, an invitation to an exchange of prisoners. Now, the man who triggered this crisis stands exposed as an Iranian proxy, doing the bidding of Tehran and Damascus. He had confidently asserted that “sources” in Israel had confided to Hezbollah that Israel’s government would not strike into Lebanon because Hezbollah held northern Israel hostage to its rockets, and that the demand within Israel for an exchange of prisoners would force Ehud Olmert’s hand. The time of the “warrior class” in Israel had passed, Nasrallah believed, and this new Israeli government, without decorated soldiers and former generals, was likely to capitulate. Now this knowingness has been exposed for the delusion it was.

    There was steel in Israel and determination to be done with Hezbollah’s presence on the border. States can’t–and don’t–share borders with militias. That abnormality on the Lebanese-Israeli border is sure not to survive this crisis. One way or other, the Lebanese army will have to take up its duty on the Lebanon-Israel border. By the time the dust settles, this terrible summer storm will have done what the Lebanese government had been unable to do on its own.

    Worthy reading from the Lebanese-born American university professor.

Information Resources

Previous roundups of news and commentary on the war against Israel: 7/16/06; 7/19/06.

Israel – Hezbollah – Lebanon, "Proportionality" and Just War Theory

The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, the loss of civilian life and the targeting of “civilian infrastructure” compromised by Hezbollah has provoked a discussion of proportionality and just war criteria — for the benefit of our readers, this post will compile the key articles and contributions on this subject.

See also:

The War Against Israel – News and Commentary Pt. II

[A continuation of coverage on Israel’s struggle for survival against Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and Syria; for previous coverage click here — CB]

  • The political cartoonist duo John Cox and Allen Forkum (popularly known as “Cox & Farkum”) published a cartoon depicting the “disporportionate response” toward Israel, including a depiction of the Pope which provokes intense discussion by Amy Welborn’s Open Book. Most Catholic bloggers happen to agree agree on the tastelessness of the cartoon (“Portraying the Holy Father using the tip of his crozier as a spear – inflicting injury on a bound, prostrate Jew is malignant”) but, as expected, disagree with each other over the justness of the Vatican — or, rather, Cardinal Sodano’s — pronouncement on the matter. Protests Christopher Fotos:

    Multiple statements of grave concern do not, with all sincerely due respect, protect Israel from terrorism. The bitter experience of Israel is that after they withdraw from contested areas, whether under international blessing as from Lebanon or unilaterally from Gaza, these areas are then used as operating areas to launch more terror attacks. I don’t expect the Catholic Church to advocate for war. I hope it is not too much to expect some kind of recognition that Israel faces an existential threat.

  • provides Israel Under Fire: “A look at some of the myths and facts following Hezbollah’s attack on Israel” July 16, 2006; MEMRI (Middle East Research Institute) has a 5-part (to date) series chronicling Iran and the Recent Escalation on Israel’s Borders: Reactions in Iran, Lebanon, and Syria
  • Map & graphics courtesy of Kathryn CramerIDF enters Lebanon: A New Buffer Zone? – Bill Roggio examines Israel’s intent in the IDF’s brief entrances into Lebanon “to target Hizbullah bases along the border in order to push the terrorist group out of rocket-firing range” (Jerusalem Post); included is a disturbing graphic by Kathryn Cramer depicting the extent to which Israel falls within the sights of Iranian built missiles possibily in Hezbollah’s arsenal.

    According to London-based, Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, “Teheran has supplied Hezbollah with approximately 11,500 missiles and projectiles” and “more than 3,000 Hezbollah members have undergone training in Iran.” In The Israeli Rocket Blitz (Winds of Change July 17, 2006), we learn that “more than 70 percent of Israel’s population and 80 percent of the country’s idustrial base within Katyusha [rocket] range from hostile borders.”

    Substantial analysis of Israel’s incursion into Lebanon by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross (with help from counterterrorism consultant Daniel Darling) is available from the CounterTerrorism Blog.

  • The Israeli blogger Kishkushim provides real-time updates from Haifa, including the following observation on the nature of civilian casualties in the present conflict:

    So many civilians are dying because this war is being conducted against an enemy who launches missiles from the safety of non-combatant population centers at Israeli cities, towns, and villages with the explicit goal of harming civilians. As much as the equivocators will try to deny this, the IDF does not aim to kill non-combatants. Even if you want to believe that the Israeli army is morally indifferent, you have to concede that civilian deaths cause tremendous harm to the reputation of the country and its ability to operate in the international arena. It is against the IDF’s own strategic interests to harm civilians.

  • Kishkushim’s point is perhaps validated by the diary of this IDF pilot participating in the raids on Lebanon:

    Major E, my formation leader walks into the briefing room, still in his jeans. He’s been called to come ASAP. What’s happening? He asks me. I update him, and we brief for our mission quickly. He is concerned about making mistakes, and bombing the wrong targets. He is experienced, and has been around long enough to see mistakes happen and innocent civilians killed. A friend of his, a helicopter pilot once mistook a letter in a target’s name, and ended up shooting at the wrong target, killing a whole family. Major E does not want the same thing to happen to us. He emphasizes that there is no rush, that we must check and recheck every coordinate we receive, make sure we understand EXACTLY what we are supposed to target.

    We land in the base, and are relieved to learn that we went for a Hizbullah post. Probably unmanned. It’s strange how the focus in these missions is not to succeed, hit the target precisely, but rather – not to make any mistakes. The message is clear all the way from the Squadron commander to the last pilot. One mistake can jeopardize the whole war, like in Kfar-Kana, in one of the last operations in Lebanon, where artillery bombarded a refugee camp, killing over 100 people, which resulted in international pressure that halted the operation. Hitting the target is expected, no misses are acceptable. There aren’t any congratulations for a well-performed mission. Only a hammer on the head if something goes wrong. Personally, I think it’s a healthy attitude; it causes the whole system to be less rash and hot on the trigger.

  • Meanwhile, there is a report from the IDF that Hizbullah preventing civilians from leaving villages in southern Lebanon:

    Roadblocks have been set up outside some of the villages to prevent residents from leaving, while in other villages Hizbullah is preventing UN representatives from entering, who are trying to help residents leave. In two villages, exchanges of fire between residents and Hizbullah have broken out. (Hanan Greenberg)

  • It has likewise been reported that Hezbollah is deliberately targeting civilians with missiles containing ball-bearings. According to the (by no means conservative) organization Human Rights Watch:

    Hezbollah’s attacks in Israel on Sunday and Monday were at best indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas, at worst the deliberate targeting of civilians. Either way, they were serious violations of international humanitarian law and probable war crimes, Human Rights Watch said today. In addition, the warheads used suggest a desire to maximize harm to civilians. Some of the rockets launched against Haifa over the past two days contained hundreds of metal ball bearings that are of limited use against military targets but cause great harm to civilians and civilian property. The ball bearings lodge in the body and cause serious harm

    (Lebanon: Hezbollah Rocket Attacks on Haifa Designed to Kill Civilians Human Rights Watch July 18, 2006).

    Michael Kraft at Counterterrorismblog comments:

    The story was unusual in that it was one of the few that have reported that the terrorist groups attacking Israelis are not using only explosives but also pieces of metal intended to deliberately cause pain and suffering to victims who are not killed outright. The Hamas makers of the suicide bomb belts routinely pack the bombs with nuts and bolts and nails. There also have been reports that the metal fragments are sometimes dipped into a pesticide, in order to maximize the damage to the victims and make it more difficult for doctors to effectively treat their patients. However there has been little public reporting in the western media of this tactic, which causes torture to the victims who survive the original blast and additional agony for their families and friends.

  • Just War for the Sake of Argument – UCLA Law Professor and Catholic blogger Stephen Bainbridge addressese Cardinal Sodano’s criticism that “Israel’s right to self-defense “does not exempt it from respecting the norms of international law, especially as regards the protection of civilian populations,” the rebuttal of fellow blogger (and Catholic) Ed Morrisey (of the popular conservative blog Captain’s Quarters) and Israel’s strategy of targeting the Lebanese civilian instructure which supports Hezbollah:

    In fact, however, Israel clearly is targeting not just Hezbollah, but also Lebanon’s official military, and, most important for our purposes, Lebanon’s basic civilian infrastructure. The Beirut airport has been closed by Israeli attacks. Bridges, ports, roads, and power stations are all being targeted. As this column was being written, more than 100 civilian fatalities — including some citizens of neutral countries, most notably Canada — already had been reported. More surely will have occurred before this column is published.

    In short, even a just war must be waged justly. Israel is entitled to defend itself, but is not entitled to do so disproportionately or to wage war on civilians. Yet, that is precisely what Israel appears to be on the brink of doing.

    Rob Driscoll at The Remedy responds to Prof. Bainbridge on Proportionality in War:

    I’m hardly convinced that Israel’s attacks are disproportionate. When fighting an enemy that consciously blends civilians and military actors in order to disguise themselves and use civilians as human shields, the death of innocents is inevitable. How is it, asks Wretchard, that those who use indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets are considered to have the moral high ground over those who use precision strikes to minimize civilian deaths?

    Further, it is not clear to me that attacking infrastructure is per se disproportionate. Roads and fuel depots are as easily used for rocket attacks on Israeli cities as they are for legitimate civilian ends. If the infrastructure is not a legitimate target, and precision strikes aimed at terrorists who hide amongst women and children are not acceptable, just what may the Israeli military do without violating just war doctrine?

  • In Israel, Right or Wrong? Fr. Martin Fox, pastor of St. Mary and St. Boniface Parishes in Piqua, Ohio, expresses his thoughts on Lebanon’s culpability and complicity in Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel, the proportionality of Israel’s response, and the Vatican’s statement on the matter. There are no easy answers to such questions, but I certainly agree with his conclusion:

    . . . I think it’s abundantly clear Israel operates far more according to values of compassion and human dignity; and who can say that about Hamas, Hizbollah, Iran or Syria, with a straight face?

  • Finally, Judith Sudilovsky of the Catholic News Service reports that U.S. Catholic educators in Israel say rockets give them new outlook (July 18, 2006):

    Some 30 Catholic educators from the United States found themselves in the line of fire in northern Israel as the recent crisis between Israel and Lebanon began, but several said it gave them a new perspective on the Middle East. [. . .] The group was traveling in the north and was to spend the evening of July 14 in Tzfat when word came that Katyusha rockets had fallen on the city . . .

The War Against Israel – News and Commentary

What you need to know about the war in the Middle East, the American Papist provides a good roundup of information and resources on the present eruption of conflict between Israel, Hamas and Hezbollah.

To supplement his post, some further news and commentary culled from the web, which may be of interest to our readers:

  • As Israel Goes for Withdrawal, Its Enemies Go Berserk, by David Brooks. New York Times July 16, 2006 (via American Future). David Brooks explains “Why is this Middle East crisis different from all other Middle East crises?”:

    Because in all other Middle East crises, Israel’s main rivals were the P.L.O., Egypt, Iraq and Syria, but in this crisis the main rivals are the jihadists in Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and, most important, Iran. In all other crises the nutjobs were on the fringes, but now the nutjobs in Hamas and Hezbollah are in governments and lead factions of major parties.

    In all other crises, the Palestinians, thanks to Yasir Arafat’s strenuous efforts, owned their own cause, but now the clerics in Iran are taking control of the Palestinian cause and turning it into a weapon in a much larger struggle.

    In all other crises there was a negotiation process, a set of plans and some hope of reconciliation. But this crisis is different. Iran doesn’t do road maps. The jihadists who are driving this crisis don’t do reconciliation.

    In other words, this crisis is a return to the elemental conflict between Israel and those who seek to destroy it. And you can kiss goodbye, at least for the time being, to some of the features of the recent crises. . . .

    The Weekly Standard‘s editor William Kristol has a similar take (“It’s Our War” Volume 011, Issue 42 ):

    . . . it’s not an Arab-Israeli war. Most of Israel’s traditional Arab enemies have checked out of the current conflict. The governments of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia are, to say the least, indifferent to the fate of Hamas and Hezbollah. The Palestine Liberation Organization (Fatah) isn’t a player. The prime mover behind the terrorist groups who have started this war is a non-Arab state, Iran, which wasn’t involved in any of Israel’s previous wars.

    What’s happening in the Middle East, then, isn’t just another chapter in the Arab-Israeli conflict. What’s happening is an Islamist-Israeli war.

  • The Rogues Strike Back: Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah vs. Israel, by Robert Satloff. Weekly Standard 07/24/2006, Volume 011, Issue 42:

    Iran thumbs its nose at Western diplomats and continues nuclear enrichment. Hamas’s chief, speaking from Damascus, boasts about kidnapping an Israeli soldier. Hezbollah launches a cross-border raid, prompting Israeli retaliation in Beirut and a return volley of rockets on northern Israel. Just another bleak week in the hopeless Middle East? Regrettably, no. This one was different. This was the week the Dark Side went on the offensive.

  • On the Middle East – Amy Welborn’s blog hosts a mostly-civil discussion of the formal response of the Vatican, controversy sparked by Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano’s condemnation of “the attack on Lebanon, a free and sovereign nation.” (A nation which happens to host a vicious terrorist organization — as one reader comments: “‘Lebanon’ is a fiction, not a sovereign state. It is a playpen for Hezbollah”).

    Domenico Bettinelli offers further analysis of the Vatican’s statement: “I haven’t been shy about criticizing certain Vatican diplomats’ past embraces of Palestinian terrorists at the expense of Israel, but I think the criticism may be a bit unwarranted here.”

  • The loss of self, by Josh Tevino. Enchiridion Militis July 16, 2006:

    Deutsche Welle has an interesting little roundup of European press reaction to Israel’s campaign against Hezbollah, most of which appears to condemn the Israeli actions as “disproportionate.” As a corollary, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (of Spanish Flee fame) went on record stating that the results of the Israeli response to the agents of radicalization, fanaticism, conflict and instability will be “radicalization, fanaticism, conflict and instability.” The European reaction is instructive for several reasons: First, because it is indicative of the extent to which nationalism and national feeling has declined — there is simply little understanding of why a state would seek so dramatically to protect its own. Second, because it illustrates the European mindset on Islamism — that it is indestructible, and by implication, that its agents cannot be repelled or thwarted. Third, because it lets us know, again, that the Europeans do not see Israel as one of its own — even though, in the cultural and historical sense, it is — and that they blame Israel in a manner reminiscent of those who would blame a provocatively-dressed woman for her rape.

    European received wisdom is wrong on all counts.

  • War By Proxy In Lebanon, by Mark Gordon. Suicide of the West July 14, 2006:

    The world demanded that Israel leave Lebanon, so in 2000 it did. The world demanded that Israel leave Gaza, so in 2005 it did. Rather than planting date trees, Lebanese extremists turned their country into an outpost of Iranian and Syrian aggression. Rather than plant olive trees, the Palestinians in Gaza planted mortar tubes in the soil and strapped suicide belts on their children. Neither aggression against Israel – Lebanese or Gazan – can possibly be chalked up to Israeli “occupation” because there was no occupation two weeks ago. No, what the present hostilities demonstrate is that the goal of the Islamists – the destruction of Israel – has not changed and cannot change.

  • The Left should be supporting Israel in this war – A British socialist makes the case for the Left.
  • Regular updates on news and commentary From a pro-Israel perspective — Jewish Issues Watchdog – “keeping an eye on Jewish affairs – extracting the essential”.
  • Meanwhile the Situation Worsens Dramatically For Anti-Hezbollah Lebanese, reports Alcibiades @ KesherTalk, with a report by Michael J. Totten, who has close friends in Lebanon.
  • LiveBlogging the War and What You Can Do – a compilation of links to Israeli bloggers from J-Blogosphere; TruthLaidBear: MidEastCrisis offers reporting by Jewish, Palestinian and Lebanese bloggers.

    For a roundup of news on Iran, see Regime Change Iran: A Daily Briefing on Iran.

* * *

So here’s an honest question I posed to some friends recently: When does “anti-Zionism” become “anti-Semitism”? The dilemma was provoked when an author at left-wing blog Daily Kos mused Imagine a world without Israel — which, if you think about it, is more or less the formal policy objective of Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist organizations who would like nothing better than to make that dream a reality.

Hat tip to the conservative-blogging collective Little Green Footballs, who points out that the Daily Kos may be getting their talking points from the “non-profit, non-bias, non-political” — but decidely pro-Islamic and conspiracy-minded — Media Monitors Network (MNN): What If Israel Had Never Been Created?, by William Hughes (Tuesday July 11 2006).

Pope Benedict XVI Roundup

In the News

  • Speaking after a concert given at the Sistine Chapel on Saturday, June 24, Pope Benedict XVI called for an authentic updating of sacred music that takes into account the tradition of the Church (Zenit News):

    “Sacred polyphony,” the Holy Father said Saturday after a concert held in his honor by the Domenico Bartolucci Foundation, “especially the so-called ‘Roman school,’ is a legacy that must be carefully conserved, maintained alive and made known.”

    It will be of “benefit not only to scholars and enthusiasts, but to the ecclesial community as a whole, for which it represents an inestimable spiritual, artistic and cultural heritage,” the Pope said, after the concert in the Sistine Chapel.

    “An authentic updating of sacred music cannot occur except in line with the great tradition of the past, of Gregorian Chant, and of sacred polyphony,” the Pontiff added.

    The members of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas will no doubt be overjoyed at the news.

    For detailed background on the concert and the significance of its conductor, maestro monsignor Domenico Bartolucci, see A Change of Tune in the Vatican – And Not Only in the Secretariat of State, by Sandro Magister. http://www.chiesa June 27, 2006, while Get Religion examines the usual disconnect between what was said and what’s being reported by the mainstream press (Pope demands end to crappy church music June 30, 2006):

    Pope Benedict XVI has harshed on guitars in Mass, according to various media reports. I don’t see why you need the Pope to tell you that if you walk into a sanctuary and see a drum riser where the altar should be that you may want to get the heck out of dodge, but I guess some of us do need a bit of guidance. . . .

    For more on Pope Benedict’s views on music, see Music and Liturgy: Excerpts from The Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, courtesy of Ignatius Press, and Pope Benedict XVI on Sacred Music, additional excerpts compiled by St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Auburn, Alabama.

  • Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, a member of the International Theological Commission, recently presented 8 Keys to Reading Joseph Ratzinger’s Work at the closing the first course of Specialization in Religious Information, organized by the University of the Holy Cross (Zenit News, June 25, 2006).
  • On June 23, 2006, Pope Benedict explained to the archdiocese of Genoa, Italy, reasons for appointing Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. as secretary of State (Catholic News Agency, June 23, 2006):

    During the three years Cardinal Bertone has led the diocese, the Holy Father tells the faithful in his letter, “you have learned to appreciate those gifts and qualities that make him a faithful pastor, especially capable of combining pastoral care and doctrinal wisdom.

    “It is precisely these characteristics, together with the mutual understanding and trust we developed over our years of shared service at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that have induced me to choose him for this exalted and delicate task in the service of the Universal Church at the Holy See.

    “I know that I have asked a great sacrifice of Cardinal Bertone; and I know that the sacrifice of the faithful entrusted to his care in Genoa is no less, but I am certain that his affection and his prayers for your community will be brought ‘ad Petri sedem.’ The history of your diocese demonstrates your generous fidelity to the Vicar of Christ, to which I appeal also by virtue of the name I chose for my own Petrine ministry: the name of the last Genovese Pope, so devoted to the ‘Madonna della Guardia.’ To her I entrust you all in this moment of change, delicate but full of grace, because ‘in everything God works for good with those who love Him.’

    Meanwhile, Richard Owen of the London Times notes some lamentation of the appointment: “Critics said that putting a Ratzinger-Bertone alliance at the top of the Vatican hierarchy meant that the Church would be in the hands of “arch-conservatives” at a time when many Catholics, especially in the Third World, are calling for reform.” (Pope promotes ‘hardliner’ in reshuffle of his top team June 22, 2006).

  • On June 21, 2006, Pope Benedict was made “honorary citizen” of Regensburg, Germany (Source: Zenit News).

  • Pope Benedict will travel to Valencia, Spain next month for the World Meeting of Families. Zenit News Service interviewed Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City on Benedict’s concern for the renewal of the family (Zenit News. June 11, 2006):

    His decision to attend the World Meeting of Families is a public affirmation of the invaluable worth he places on the family. We have already seen in just the year since his election that renewing the family is a priority of his pontificate.

    His first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, gives much attention to the love between a man and a woman, how human love, especially eros, must be connected to divine love and the good of children, and the important role of love in the public life.

    And since the family is the first school of love, we can infer that a healthy family is essential to a healthy society.

  • In late May 2006, Pope Benedict devoted his weekly audience to the topic of the primacy of St. Peter. Teresa Polk (Blog by the Sea) provides us with a roundup of links to B16’s addresses and commentary.

Elsewhere . . .

  • It came as no suprise that, with the death of Pope John Paul II, vociferous critics of the traditionalist right turned their sights on Pope Benedict, with groups like the comical Novus Ordo Watch predicting the worst. Pope or Heretic? An Evaluation of Benedict XVI and “” touting the alleged Heresies of Anti-Pope Benedict XVI.

    In Pope or Heretic? An Evaluation of Benedict XVI, Jacob Michael of LumenGentleman Apologetics, examines some of the quotations from Benedict (whether Pope or Cardinal Ratzinger) which are cited as “proof” of heresy, and finds them wanting. According to Jaconb,:

    . . . the problem lies in the “hermeneutic of suspicion” that so many well-intentioned Catholics fall into; a kind of cynicism that takes a defensive approach to any Church document issued after the reign of Pope Pius XII. Heresy hunting is easy; words by their very nature require interpretation, and most words can be bent, twisted, and taken to conclusions that the speaker or author never intended. As a former Protestant, I am more than well-acquainted with this fact; this “hermeneutic of suspicion” is the grid through which I learned to read the Catholic Church’s teachings. The worst possible motive is always assumed; if something can be interpreted in either a good sense or a bad sense, the bad sense is presumed to be the sense intended, and false conclusions are drawn. . . . It is not difficult to see this principle at work in the way some choose to receive and deal with the council, and especially with papal teachings and actions. . . .

    Concludes Jacob: “I have yet to see a quote that wasn’t ripped from its context, squeezed through the filter of deep suspicion, interpreted in the worst possible light, and isolated from other statements within the body of Benedict XVI’s work.” As it was for John Paul II, so it is for Benedict XVI. Pray for the Pope, and his enemies as well. (Article via Rorate Caeli).

    In Benedict XVI and the “Real Presence”, the blog Hallowed Ground diffuses a charge that Benedict “once taught against the practice of eucharistic adoration and has even promoted heresy with respect to the Real Presence” with further citation from his writings.

  • Series of Reflections on Deus Caritas Est Since early May, L’Osservatore Romano has been running a series of reflections on Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, with contributions by Cardinal Renato Martino, Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, Bishop Rino Fisichella, Cardinal Angelo Scola and Archbishop Paul Cordes. Zenit News Service has a roundup of commentary with the highlights.
  • Orthodoxy and Islam: Benedict XVI Prepares for His Trip to Turkey, by Sandro Magister. http://www.chiesa June 16, 2006.
  • A new volume published in Italian by Libreria Editrice Vaticana gathers key phrases pronounced by Benedict XVI in the first year of his papacy. Pensieri Spirituali (Spiritual Thoughts) gathers phrases chosen from his encyclical, homilies, meetings and audiences, and from moments when he spoke without notes. [Source: Zenit News. June 13, 2006].
  • From the Vol 9:2 — Spring 2006 edition of LOGOS: Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture: The Church and the Secular Establishment: A Philosophical Dialog between Joseph Ratzinger and Jürgen Habermas, by Virgil Nemoianu. [.pdf format]
  • Lajolo and Kasper, Two New Additions to Team Ratzinger http://www.Chiesa June 7, 2006. Sandro Magister profiles archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Secretary for Relations with States (or the Vatican’s foreign minister) and Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, discussing how their thought has developed in relation to “new course charted by pope Ratzinger.”

    Those familiar with the RatzingerFanClub’s archive will remember the frequent intellectual disputes between Ratzinger and Kasper on ecumenism (provoked by the publication of Dominus Iesus) and ecclesiology (see our special compilation on The Ratzinger-Kasper Debate). Consequently, to hear Magister speak of “the new “ratzingerian” course” charted by Kasper and a convergence of thought, particularly on ecumenism, is indeed an occasion for hope. Magister covered this same issue back in March 2005, in which he described an address by Kasper as “a cold shower for the Church’s left wing.” (Kasper and Kolvenbach, Converts to the Neocon Way http://www.Chiesa March 8, 2005).

    Incidentally, the Ratzinger Fan Club, was inspired by the outcry over Dominus Iesus, rallying in defense of the Cardinal against the vehement criticism of Cardinal Ratzinger which followed. Earlier this month, Gerald Augustinus (Closed Cafeteria) reminds us just what was so important about that document).

  • Even the Pope has Rights: The Vatican and Copyright Privileges, by Philip F. Lawler. Ignatius Insight May 2006. The editor of the Catholic World Report provides much-needed clarification on a topic about which there was much confusion and misinformation:

    In January a Vatican correspondent for La Stampa, Marco Tosatti, had received a bill from LEV, demanding payment of 15,000 pounds (at the time, about $18,400) for the use of material by Pope Benedict. Not coincidentally, it was Tosatti who led the editorial charge when La Stampa criticized the Vatican for asserting control of the Pope’s intellectual-property rights.

    But Tosatti’s use of Pope Benedict’s written work was not a matter of a simple quotation or two. The Italian journalist had published a book entitled The Dictionary of Pope Ratzinger, composed almost entirely of the Pope’s spoken and written words. In his preface to the book, Tosatti had assured readers: “Everything you will find here, beyond this introduction, comes from the pen or the voice of Joseph Ratzinger.” In short, Tossati had tried to do precisely what he now charged Vatican officials with doing: make a profit by publishing the Pope’s work.

    Lawler clarifies the nature and demands of the copyright policy of the Libreria Editrice Vaticana (LEV) and its affect on papal press and journalism.

  • Benedict Contra Nietzsche: A Reflection on Deus Caritas Est, by Benjamin D. Wiker. Crisis May 9, 2006:

    Deus Caritas Est is a declaration of war, and it is loaded with ammunition—much of it stealth in design, and of such power that the Church under Benedict XVI will certainly be the Church Militant. For while on the surface Benedict only seems to be offering a theological platitude, that “God is love,” hidden to the hasty eyes of the press, buried in the intricacies of his philosophical and theological analysis, obscured from all but those initiated into Benedict’s inner circle, he really is declaring that God is love.

    It will become clear—as we dig into the encyclical—that a more dangerous and constructive idea for our culture could not be imagined. It’s a brilliant strategy on Benedict’s part to hide so explosive a truth under a simple truism.

  • Meekness and courage of the Pope in Poland: Benedict XVI in the land of Karol Wojtyla, by Marco Tosatti. 30 Giorni [30 Days] May 2006. “Of Benedict XVI’s visit many different images remain in the memory: from the homage to his predecessor to the human warmth of the crowd. From the defense of Tradition to the solicitude of the visit to Auschwitz. An account by the Vatican expert of La Stampa.”

    Also on trip to Poland: Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Journey to Poland (May 25-28, 2006) – Compilation of papal addresses and photo gallery from the Vatican website.

    The American Papist of course offers a magnificent and extensive roundup in The Great Poland Post of 2006, while we took a concentrated look at Pope Benedict XVI, Auschwitz, and the Nature of Anti-Semitism Against The Grain May 30, 2006 (and will likely devote another post to follow-up discussion of the issue).

  • The Story of Joseph Ratzinger: “The difficult years”, by Gianni Valente (in collaboration with Pierluca Azzaro). 30 Giorni [30 Days] May 2006. “Former colleagues and students speak of Professor Ratzinger on the theological campus of Tübingen. Where his unrepentant adhesion to the reforms of the Council was put to the test by clerical triumphalism and middle-class foot-dragging.”

  • Pope to India; India to Pope – Interesting discussion on Amy Welborn’s Open Book on Pope Benedict’s May 18, 2006 address to Amitava Tripathi, India’s new ambassador to the Holy See (in which he noted “the disturbing signs of religious intolerance which have troubled some regions [in India], including the reprehensible attempt to legislate clearly discriminatory restrictions on the fundamental right of religious freedom”); the indignant protest of the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP); and the papal appointment of Cardinal Ivan Dias, formerly the Archbishop of Bombay, to Prefect of Evangelization of Peoples.
    Cardinal Ivan Dias - Source: India Daily

    If Cardinal Dias’ personal opinion of Dominus Iesus is any indication, he is a man after Benedict’s heart and the perfect guy for the job (Source: AmericanCatholic.Org:

    . . . Speaking to reporters in Rome shortly after [Dominus Iesus] was released, the then-archbishop said, “It is a reaffirmation of what we believe and what we think,” namely that “Jesus is the only savior of the world.”

    “We have a right to say who we are, and others can accept it or not,” he said.

    Giving strength to the suspicion that the document was prompted particularly by the interreligious efforts of Asian theologians, and especially those working in India, he said clarity was needed in countries where the vast majority of people are not Christian.

    Sandro Magister has more:

    As the new prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the pope has called an Indian, cardinal Ivan Dias, 70, who has been archbishop of Bombay for ten years, but before that served at the secretariat of state and as a diplomat in many countries, including Albania (his last diplomatic post), and before that South Korea, Ghana, Indonesia, and Sweden, without counting the dozens of countries he followed as a Vatican observer, including Russia, China, Vietnam, and South Africa. He has learned many languages, speaking eighteen fluently having some familiarity with others.

    But even though this skill is very much adapted to his role, it is not the only reason why Benedict XVI chose him as the new prefect of “Propaganda Fide.” Much more influential was the fact that cardinal Dias, who has an excellent understanding of the Eastern religions, has never surrendered to that “relativism” of faiths that Ratzinger condemned in 2000 with the most important of his actions as the cardinal custodian of doctrine, the declaration “Dominus Iesus.”

    As archbishop of Bombay, Dias has on a number of occasions complained of the fact that the Jesuits, excessively enthusiastic supporters of interreligious dialogue, play the master in the seminaries of India. His goal was to evangelize and convert, and each year he administered many baptisms. Before the last conclave he was listed among the candidates for the papacy, but in reality he was one of Ratzinger’s most resolute supporters.

    (The New Curia of Benedict XVI Looks toward Asia. http://www.Chiesa May 26, 2006; via Domenico Bettinelli, Jr.).

  • Pope Benedict, the Holy Grail and El Cid, by Robert Duncan. Spero News July 6, 2006. “Truth is, Benedict has a tough row to how in Valencia. He doesn’t only have to worry about just the Holy Grail, but the whole Cathedral for that matter is fraught with imagery . . .”

    More from Robert on Pope Benedict’s trip: Benedict in Spain: Church-State tensions heat up [reprinted from National Catholic Register July 2-8, 2006]; while in Valencia, Benedict will be visiting the site of a tragic subway accident in Valencia, Spain that claimed the lives of 41 people.

On a Lighter Note . . .

  • Fr. Andrew Greeley:”Give B16 A Break!” – Jimmy Akin wonders, “is it just me or does it seem to anyone else that Fr. Andrew Greeley — priest, novelist, sociologist, Catholic progressive — is mellowing in his old age? A few months ago, he was in the press defending Francis Cardinal George of Chicago against unfounded allegations of apathy on the priest abuse issue; now he’s come out swinging for Pope Benedict XVI.”
  • Just another day at the square with some friends . . . San Peter’s Square, that is, as Pope Benedict XVI leads a liturgy of Vespers on the eve of Pentecost Sunday. June 3, 2006. Argent by the Tiber has some great photographs, both of the Holy Father and the crowd’s reaction.
  • Shouts in the Piazza has a great photo and caption of the Holy Father Outside the Presidential Palace in Warsaw.
  • Baby Benedict gets Letter from Pope “The personalised note on Vatican headed-notepaper arrived on baby Benedict’s doorstep after officials in Rome learned the tot had been named after the Pope, with whom he also shares a birthday.” Lancanshire Evening Post June 28, 2006.
  • That’s One Happy Pope – serene in the peace and love of Christ. Inspiring photos from Closed Cafeteria.
  • Another Pope Forum – Amy Welborn, longtime follower of The Papa Ratzinger Forum, announces her discovery of The Ratzinger Forum — not exactly “run” by yours truly, the forum took on a life of its own with the election of Pope Benedict XVI and pretty much runs itself. Forum participation requires a (free) EzBoard account registration and formal application to the RFC Forum — requiring a bit of patience, but verification measures were instituted due to some extremely perverse attempts at sabotage by those irate over the new Pope.

    Amy also points us to a darling photograph of the Pope’s visit with the Polish president and a great video of the Pope with the Polish president’s family and 3-year old granddaughter. Speaking of kids, Amy has another link to a photo and .mp3 of Jeremy Gabriel – the Canadian boy who sang for the Pope in May 2006.

  • Rocco Palmo on the question of who does the Pope root for in the World Cup?:

    . . . the Pope, together with his trusty secretary, Msgr Georg Ganswein, and the four laywomen of the Memores Domini who assist in the papal apartment, will be spending Tuesday night watching the World Cup semifinal pitting the German pontiff’s native side against the Italians.

    This news comes from no less a source than Ganswein, who told the ADNKronos news agency that, indeed, Germany-Italy “is at the center” of discussion and interest in the papal apartments. A big-screen television is being brought in just for the occasion, to boot.

    But who’s the Ratzi-Bear rooting for? While Ganswein readily admitted to waving the flag for Germany, and the MD contingent are hard-core Italy fans, he made it known that “The Pope is always impartial and will have as great a heart on Tuesday for Germany as for the team of blue,” a reference to the Italian side.

  • And now for the latest bit of sheer idiocy from the “Catholic” fringe: What does Pope Benedict XVI have in common with President George Bush, Prince William, Paul McCartney, Bill Clinton, Metallica, The Beatles, and Spiderman?!? (Source:

    Pope Benedict XVI stands accused by the “Most Holy Family Monastery” of giving [the] El Diablo satanic sign [scroll down]:

    Below we see Benedict XVI giving El Diablo (the devil) sign. This satanic gesture is popular among Satanists and satanic rock groups. Many give this satanic hand gesture without knowing it because they’re taken over by the evil spirit. Some point out that the devil sign is similar to the hand gesture for “I love you” in sign language. That’s true, but that’s probably because the inventor of the deaf signing system, Helen Keller, was herself an occultist . . . Some believe that she designed the “I love you” sign to correspond with the devil sign so that one making it would be saying that he or she loves Satan.

    Regardless, we believe that below Benedict XVI is giving the devil sign – the double devil sign, in fact – and that he knows what he’s doing.


That’s all for this edition, folks. Be sure to check out regular coverage of Pope Benedict XVI by Michael Rose of the Papa Ratzi Post; coverage of Vatican affairs by Whispers in the Loggia and Shouts in the Piazza; John Allen Jr.’s Word from Rome and Sandro Magister (www.Chiesa).

Previous Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI Roundups:
10/26/05; 11/29/05;
3/11/06; 4/18/06 and 5/24/06.