Today we are taking a break from Friday Potpourri to answer a great comment post by an anonymous reader. It kept me thinking all day and was a topic of discussion last night with some friends in the rectory. Here is the comment if you missed it:
“So I have been scouring your blog this week in hopes there’d be conversation on Syria. Did I miss it? Or is it too new for comment? Are Catholics obliged to follow the Pope’s stance? Should we be fasting on Saturday? Do you have a position? I am still contemplating as you may imagine.”
Truth be told anonymous, I am still contemplating also though that does not keep me from having a strong opinion of my own - though you may be disappointed by it. There is a saying that goes, “Americans are informed just enough to be violent.” It is sad but true that we only know what is going on in Syria through what has been told to us. What the government has released and what the news media has been able to glean and consequently deem newsworthy enough is all we know. I fully believe that a gas attack has taken place, but do I really know anything else? Yet American citizens have serious positions on the matter – but I ask the question: Based on what? Are you willing to stake your soul on your position from the information that you have?
Russia (and Syria) have asked that whatever military action we take, we first demonstrate proof that we are using forces against those who truly deserve it. Pope Francis pleads, “lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution.” So who is right?
There are two things to consider here: The first is that punishment of this kind rarely works. We may subdue an enemy for a spell but he merely goes and licks his wounds and then comes back after he has regained his strength. Similarly when someone has a complaint against the parish and they come at me with both guns blazing the thought that immediately goes through my head is not, “Oh my gosh! I need to change my position!” That someone believes they can win someone over to their side by being mean amazes me.
Secondly, in contrast, sometimes people need to be kicked in their cabooty. “We can tolerate this far and we can tolerate no further. If you try this again this is a warning that we will be back. You may not treat human beings this way.”
So there is the ground world of MHO: As civilians we don’t really know anything. Violence to counter violence does not tend to work well. Yet sometimes it is the only resort. So, since we can’t know, we have to have some amount of trust in those who think they do know. But what I do know, and what I have control over, is holding my government accountable for what they do. If an attack is declared in my name as a citizen of the United States and a Catholic, you best have all your ducks in a row, have demonstrated that you have listened to those calling for caution, and have tried every other means first or answer for it.
So, should we fast on Saturday? Absolutely. We should not cease praying for peace, for those who will die if we attack, for those who have already died, for our leaders and the leaders of all nations that the most effective solution to the problem will be found. And then pay attention. Don’t let this fade from your thoughts a week after it is over. Was our president correct in his assessment? If yes, praise him. If not, hold him accountable.