Fr. Dwight Longnecker is one of those fellows who started out evangelical, jumped ship for Anglicanism, and then swam the Tiber. He regularly spouts off Roman propaganda that flies in the face of historic fact and whitewashes the messiness of his own church and gives a false impression of the piety and holiness of his revered institution. Not surprisingly, Longnecker defends his pope’s politics against left and right because, you know, Francis just sat down in the middle of the road and we know the only thing you find there is roadkill (fellow wardog Clearly Mad pointed out yesterday). But the pope is Christ on earth for over a billion Catholics (no small amount of influence there), so when his holiness spouts off silly things, of course Longnecker must follow him into the breach of sophomoric claims about history, politics, and justice.
So it’s of little surprise that Longnecker stuck his neck out too far at Patheos the other day.
4. The Pope is Against War and Killing – Popes are always against war. Aren’t you? If the pope criticizes nations that spend more money on weapons than on health care isn’t that a good thing? We should face it. America is a warrior country. We’re always fighting a war somewhere, and very few of those wars are just according to church teaching. It’s right to defend our country, but it’s also right to be against war and only use violence as a last resort.
This is patently absurd. It’s as if Longnecker has never heard of the Papal States or the famed Julius II, who was known as the “Warrior Pope” because of all the wars he waged in central Italy right before the Reformation. This is the same Julius II that also commissioned the destruction and rebuilding of St. Peter’s and employed Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (where new Popes are elected). Vatican City is dominated by the accomplishments of a warmonger. To accuse America of being a warrior country that violates church teachings while at the same time pretending that the popes have always been peaceful is laughable. Beware the log in your eye.
Further, popes have been either neutral or given moral support to regimes for centuries that don’t live up to the standard of just war or the fair treatment of citizens. Sometimes church officials have been directly complicit in running the affairs of state (ahem, Cardinal Richelieu anyone?). Pope Francis was just in Cuba the other day and instead of having the courage of JPII to denounce the abuses of communism, he bandied out some generic platitudes about suffering that could have been applied to any impoverished nation anywhere in the world. On top of that, whereas JPII denunciations were directed at a regime at the height of its powers, Francis doesn’t have the guts to condemn a regime that is dying before our eyes.
And then there is this silly bit about defense spending and healthcare. Longnecker doesn’t seem to realize those categories aren’t mutually exclusive. Both are necessary for the welfare of the country. First off, let’s have some historical consciousness (he, after all, is making historical claims about the popes): The right to healthcare is a fairly recent development. The right to expect your king to prevent you from being invaded by a rampaging army has been around for a lot longer. That said, he complains about more money being spent on arms than healthcare. You know, you can have the best healthcare in the world, but that doesn’t count for jack if the Germans invade and you don’t have an army to stave them off. Plus, it’s as if Longnecker is also unaware of the fact that major medicinal advances (penicillin for instance) are the result of defense department spending meant to solve a health problem in the midst of a war that ultimately paid huge dividends domestically after the conflict. That isn’t to say that we should always spend more on defense or start wars for the sake of medical advances, but it is to say that we shouldn’t set up false dichotomies between the military and medicine. Both are necessary for the health of the nation and treating them in the abstract, as if medicine is ALWAYS more important than arms, misses the situational complexity of balancing a countries internal security with external threats. You simply can’t put defense spending and healthcare into an abstract equation where if you spend more on defense you’re always wrong. Fortunately for Belgium, they’re under America’s security blanket, so it makes sense they’d spend more on healthcare. Vietnam, on the other hand, doesn’t have that luxury when addressing a rising China with no American patron.
When one begins with conclusions (the infallible awesomeness of the pope), one is liable to badly maul the facts.