Just before the recent presumed coup safest election in American presidential history, Archbishop Vigano expressed his opinion that President Trump was (however improbably) the last remaining katechon. If he was correct, then we can expect to see things deteriorate rather rapidly. For myself I can’t help feeling that both Queen Elizabeth II and ex-Pope Benedict XVI exercise some katechontic influence, however weak. But at 94 and 93 respectively, how much longer can they last? When they’re gone, they’re gone.

Cardinal Burke reassures us that the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium is not part of the Papal Magisterium. Even if it were I suspect it would be merely ‘authentic’ teaching. No doctrinal judgement is proposed as binding on the faithful and therefore the guarantee of infallibility is not invoked. This is a relief as a number of things contained therein are, ahem, troubling. One very strange remark concerns Islam. The Holy Father tells us that,

“Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalisations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”

Now I have heard that Islam classically does not licence freelance military action apart from the Caliphate and so cannot be blamed for terrorism (although the abolition of the Caliphate was presumably not anticipated and so presumably what to do in that eventuality was presumably not anticipated either). It seems though that Muslims have traditionally held it was their duty to strive for the conquest of the entire world and the enforced conversion of all non-Christians and non-Jews to Islam and the oppression of the Christians and Jews that remain. That seems violent to me. The Holy Father however alleges that Islam is “opposed to every form of violence”. Tony Blair seemed to think that ‘real’ Islam was a form of Anglicanism. Pope Francis seems to be presenting ‘real’ Islam as a kind of Quakerism. I have never seen Islam presented as pacifist before and I am confused.

Father Zuhlsdorf  promises on his blog to read ‘Francis through Benedict’. I am not sure about the propriety of this method. Certainly we ought to assume the Holy Father teaches us the truth but this presumption only gives way to certainty when as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church. To labour excessively to reconcile the lesser teachings of successive pontiffs can give scandal by creating the impression that a Catholic ought to hold that they cannot contradict each other or err. Nevertheless, there is a famous pronouncement of Pope Benedict XVI that might help us to understand how Islam could be said to reject every form of violence. I am thinking of the Regensburg address of 2006 which was the occasion of so much controversy. Here Pope Benedict remarks,

“Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. ‘God’, he [the Emperor Manuel II] says, ‘is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…’. The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazm went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practise idolatry.”

For a ‘real’ Muslim therefore (according to Benedict XVI) violence does not really exist. There is no eternal reason only will and power and so unnatural and involuntary motion strictly does not exist for all corresponds with the will of Allah there is no violence of any kind for there is no nature, no freedom and no truth. Just as Socialism rejects poverty and oppression in every form (despite causing a great deal of it) so Islam as Pope Francis rightly teaches is opposed to every form of violence.

There seems to be an idea around that St Bernard said that we needn’t seek to evangelise the Jews because they will only be converted at the end of the world. The pope emeritus, writing in his private capacity, seems to have give credence to this idea in the second volume of his trilogy Jesus of Nazareth. It’s worth looking at the relevant passage in De Consideratione, where he is writing to Pope Eugenius III about the duty of evangelisation:-

We perceive then that you must strive to the utmost that they who have not faith may be turned to faith, that they who have turned may not turn aside, that they who have thus turned may turn back; moreover, you must see that the perverse ones be set in the paths of uprightness, and the subverted recalled to truth ; that the subverters of men’s souls may be convinced by invincible reason, so that they themselves if possible, may either be cured of their errors, or, if that may not be, they may lose their authority, and the power of subverting other men. You must certainly not allow yourself to be imposed upon by the worst sort of foolish men, I mean heretics and schismatics ; for these are they who are subverted, and subvert ; they are dogs to tear, foxes to deceive. Men, I say, of this sort must be corrected with special care lest they perish, or must be restrained that they may not do damage. As regards the Jews, I grant time may be your excuse {esto, de Iudaeis excusat te tempus}; they have their fixed limit, which cannot be anticipated. The fullness of the Gentiles must first come in. But as regards the Gentiles themselves, what answer do you make ? Nay rather, what is the verdict of your consideration on this long delay? Why did the fathers resolve to set bounds to the Gospel, and to check the word of faith, while men’s hearts are hardening in unbelief? Why, do we suppose, the word running very swiftly suddenly stopped ? Who was the first to forbid its life-giving progress ? Some unknown cause perhaps hindered them; perhaps necessity compelled them.

Clearly, there is no suggestion here of a general policy of refusing to evangelise Jews, but simply a recognition that there can be an ‘excuse’ if evangelisation is not generally successful in their regard; namely that it has been divinely foretold that the ‘fullness’ of the Jews will only come in when the times of the Gentiles have been fulfilled.