When Catholics Support Israel against the Holy See and the Rights of Palestinians

Two days ago, Dr. Jules Gomes penned an article article on the Church Militant site clearly taking the side of the Israeli Foreign Minister, Eli Cohen, in his denunciation of the Holy See for expressing concern for the fate of innocent Palestinian civilians.

The article quotes the anti-Palestian author, Robert Spencer, accusing the Pope of “willful ignorance” and “moral myopia.” Very sadly, Spencer is a former Catholic who has returned to the Eastern Schism, he says, “as the result of personal reflection and historical study.”

Dr. Gomes then quotes the Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See, Raphael Schutz, excoriating the statement of the Catholic and Orthodox Patriarchs.

He concludes the article with further criticisms of the Holy See from an English Ordinariate priest, Benedict Kiely.

The article is unabashedly biased, unbalanced, and one-sided. It does not even offer the original papal and patriarchal statements, only the Israeli and pro-Israeli criticisms. Of the five persons quoted, four are explicitly hostile to the Vatican’s position, while the fifth is presented as implicitly critical.

Are we to believe that Dr. Jules Gomes could not find anyone willing to defend the longstanding Vatican position of neutrality in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict or the traditional, indeed immemorial, concern of the Apostolic See for the welfare of civilians on both sides in wartime?

Of the thirty-two paragraphs in the piece, only one, two-line, single sentence paragraph provides the position of the Holy See. Of the eight links in the piece, only one presents the Vatican’s position.

If the New York Times or the Boston Globe published this, it would rightly be derided as an anti-Catholic hit piece.

In contrast to the lopsidedly pro-Israel foreign policy of the United States, the Holy See has been consistent in seeking to uphold the rights of Palestinians in their historic homeland. Pope John Paul II, who first established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel, also consistently advocated for the rights of Palestinians, even meeting with Yasser Arafat. His successor, pope Benedict XVI, approved a 2010 statement by the Synod of Bishops which spoke of “the necessary legal steps to put an end to the occupation of the different Arab territories”, further adding that, “Recourse to theological and biblical positions which use the word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable.” This statement, not surprisingly, brought criticism from Israel upon the Synod.

But many conservative American Catholics are tainted by the non-Catholic (and historically even non-Protestant) thinking of Christian Zionism. This colors their outlook  on matters of justice, war, and peace in the Middle East.

Lamentably, in these days, it needs to be pointed out that defending the natural rights of Palestinians, a number of whom are Christian, is in no way to favor the false religion of Islam or terrorism (which is not an Islamic monopoly). For that matter, the targeting of innocent civilians is detestable no matter who does it, Israel, Hamas — or the United States.

There is, certainly, nothing un-Catholic in criticizing the ongoing and worsening scandals of the current pontificate. It is completely unwarranted, however, to denounce the Holy See for upholding Catholic just war doctrine, for calling attention to the innocent victims of war, and for adhering to a diplomatic posture it has held, consistently, for the last seventy-six years.

Do some people detest Pope Francis so much that they take the side of the Church’s adversaries when the Holy Father does the right thing?