There are limits to how far you can push somebody, even a pope.
Pope Francis surprised a lot of people when, during a plane trip returning from South Korea, he endorsed the use of force to stop Islamists in Iraq who have been killing Christians by the thousands.
Responding to a question about supposed U.S. airstrikes against ISIS, Francis said the world, not just one country, must stop ISIS, the Islamic caliphate.
“In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor,” Francis said. “I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’ And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated.”
This has sent the usual suspects into a tizzy, with Muslims claiming that Francis has called for a new Crusade. His remarks make it clear that he hasn’t, although frankly he would be justified in doing so, as the Muslims of ISIS have embraced their religion’s bloody history by taking Christian towns, crucifying and beheading “infidels” who didn’t convert or flee quickly enough, and kidnapping and raping Christian women.
But Francis urged caution, noting that such excuses have fueled unjustified aggression and wars of conquest in the past.
“One nation alone cannot judge how you stop this, how you stop an unjust aggressor,” he said. “After World War II, the idea of the United Nations came about. It’s there that you must discuss ‘Is there an unjust aggression? It seems so. How should we stop it?’ Just this. Nothing more.”
ISIS, naturally, is not so restrained in its calls for war with everybody and their grandmas.
In a video posted online, ISIS threatened to fight the United States “in any place” if their people are hit by U.S. airstrikes, which have so far mostly been aimed at gun emplacements and other large targets threatening Kurdish territory where U.S. personnel are located.
With typical Muslim bluster, ISIS threatened that “we will drown all of you in blood.”
Francis said he was considering going to northern Iraq to show solidarity with Christians there, despite the threat of ISIS attacks in the region.
You can see why the pope’s staff all have white hair.
Regardless of whether Francis does visit the region, the change in tone from the Vatican is welcome at a time when the United States is seriously lacking in moral leadership.