I wrote last month about the Catholic experience of watching the resurgence of violent Islam—in the knowledge that we adhere to the only institution on earth that stood successfully against previous tides of Islamic conquest. The claim of universality was severely tested in the schism between East and West, to an even greater degree than during the Reformation. I have very deep respect for our brother Christians in the East and no interest in denying their apostolic claims. Nor in any sense could the Eastern Churches be rendered invalid because the Christian lands they tended fell successively under the sword of Islam, any more than the persecutions of Diocletian proved Christianity unavailing.
But one thing was demonstrated in the laboratory of time. The Catholic defense—which necessarily included efforts to reclaim lost Christian territory in Crusades and Reconquistas—prevented the engulfment of all of Europe. Every Christian in the world today would be living under the dhimmi status—like those Christians in the Middle East and North Africa—had Catholics, led by a few robust popes, not drawn lines in the sand.
The fashion of apologizing for these grand actions of Christian self-defense has not yet ceased. It is true that our Crusaders were often more loyal to Christ than to His teachings—that they were made of the same flesh as Adam. What postmodernity overlooks is the actual history, the cause and effect.
From the first Muslim raids on the northern shores of the Mediterranean, as civil authorities disintegrated, the popes were left to patch together very worldly defenses. Over many later centuries, they dealt with challenges to which no civil authority could rise. The separation of Church and state, enjoined in Christ’s “give unto Caesar,” has been acknowledged with surprising consistency over the centuries. But there are times when the state dissolves and the Church is left to assume its responsibilities.
It is not impossible that the civil authorities who have protected us may also melt away. One begins to see this in Europe, where a refusal to come to terms with the actual consequences of “multiculturalism” portends the doom of the European state. In England, France, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Holland, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and elsewhere, a first generation of Muslim “economic migrants” has been succeeded by second and third generations that are ghettoized by religious affiliation and radicalized in foreign-financed mosques. Increasingly, they turn to the project of destroying the civilization of their hosts. Against them, a continent that has mostly lost its own Christian faith retains no memory of what it is defending.
There is still time for Europe to recover, though a cold view of demography shows time running perilously short. There is more time for America to learn from Europe’s catastrophic mistakes. Yet it is to the Church, not to any state, that we must turn for a renewal of the civilization that is defined by Christian principles and aspirations. At most, the thick skin of the secular state can attempt holding actions against specific security threats; but it is the Christian heart that must pump blood to the arteries.
I look squarely at what has happened recently to Egypt’s Coptic Christians. Scattered acts of violence against them occur all over the country—on the pretext that as Christians they are accountable for cartoons of Islam’s prophet published in a Danish newspaper. Terrorist bombings in the Sinai were (as our media failed to notice) directed at resorts where Copts were celebrating their Easter holidays. The victims turn haplessly to the Egyptian state to find its police indifferent to their plight, or siding with their persecutors. Theirs is not the fate we should wish upon ourselves.