This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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The rise of terrorist activity on a global scale has made the maintenance of just military a difficult one indeed, for not only are terrorist organizations not often governmental organizations, but they also claim to be acting on behalf of the religious beliefs of large groups. Nonetheless, terrorism has been addressed directly and in no uncertain terms by the Magisterium, summarized in paragraphs 513-515 of the Compendium, in addition to forming a main point of comment in various World Peace Day  addresses which the popes are accustomed to delivering.

First, because terrorist groups have claimed religious, rather than ideological, motivations, terrorism has fueled the long-standing myth that religion itself is an inherently violent phenomenon. This myth has been fashionable in the West for several centuries, and serves to affirm the prejudices of secular regimes, reinforcing the notion that the more “contained” and excluded are religions from the public sphere, particularly politics, the better off the world will be. The popes are careful to reject this notion in particular, saying that “hatred, fanaticism and terrorism profane the name of God and disfigure the true image of man.”[1] “It is a profanation and a blasphemy to declare oneself a terrorist in God’s name.”[2]

Moreover, the Church has attempted to separate violence done in the name of religion from the religion itself, reminding the world that criminal responsibility is always personal, and it is a minority group of individuals who commit these atrocities.[3]

The problem itself has also been viewed by the Church as a call to more than just military action and manhunts. It has been said that this problem calls also for understanding and reflection:

[T]he fight against terrorism cannot be limited solely to repressive and punitive operations. It is essential that the use of force, even when necessary, be accompanied by a courageous and lucid analysis of the reasons behind terrorist attacks. The fight against terrorism must be conducted also on the political and educational levels…by eliminating the underlying causes of situations of injustice which frequently drive people to more desperate and violent acts…[4]

For many people it is difficult to accept that the idea atrocities committed by terrorists may be in some degree caused by the actions of the groups they attack; to merely suggest such a thing smacks of injustice, and seems to suggest that we are exonerating the men who have brutalized our civilian populations. But this is not the case: the Church does not attempt to remove blame from the terrorists, but wishes us to view every chain of events with open eyes. It is easy to cry “They hate our freedoms,” and then leave things at that, but such slogans are usually childish attempts to avoid having to search out real causes for concrete events, which are always much more complicated and occasionally unpleasant for us to grapple with.

Lastly, the popes call men to avoid the temptation which has grown up with terrorism, and which represents in fact one of terrorism’s greatest victories, which is the urge to discard traditional norms and procedures, and to ignore respect due to human life on the grounds that the terrorists have done so themselves. Far from being led down this road of self-degradation and anarchy, the Church teaches that such situations demand new cooperation among nations, and not a rejection but a re-affirmation of the value of human life, international norms, and cooperative procedures in order to help fight this plague.[5]

St. John Paul II summarizes the evil, saying: “Those who kill by acts of terrorism actually despair of humanity, of life, of the future. In their view, everything is to be hated and destroyed.”[6]

And Benedict XVI points to the path necessary to solve this problem, which is not the abandoning of law and human dignity, adopting the methods of terror, torture, and injustice ourselves, but rather it calls for a greater proclamation of the Christian message than ever before:

“In view of the risks which humanity is facing in our time, all Catholics in every part of the world have a duty to proclaim and embody ever more fully the ”Gospel of Peace”, and to show that acknowledgment of the full truth of God is the first, indispensable condition for consolidating the truth of peace.”[7]

And a final warning from one of the Church’s most recent canonized saints, which is that there can be,

No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness: I shall not tire of repeating this warning to those who, for one reason or another, nourish feelings of hatred, a desire for revenge or the will to destroy.”

[1] St. John Paul II, Address to Representatives from the World of Culture, Art and Science (24 September 2001), 5.

[2] CSDC, 515.

[3] CSDC, 514.

[4] St. John Paul II, Message for the 2004 World Day of Peace, 8.

[5] Benedict XVI, Message for the 2007 World Day of Peace, 14; St. John Paul II, Message for the 2004 World Day of Peace, 8.

[6] St. John Paul II, Message for the 2002 World Day of Peace, 6.

[7] Benedict XVI, Message for the 2006 World Day of Peace, 11.

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