(May 5) The sainted Pope John Paul II, almost at the cost of his own life, spoke with great moral clarity and courage against Russian hegemonic aims; Pope Francis, unfortunately, lacks the clarity to speak in such a manner. Alas, it means he is currently giving aid and comfort to an immoral aggressor.

When one is both the spiritual vicar and guide for 1.2 billion people and also the head of a nation-state, one should be much more careful than Francis has been in his commentary on Russia’s war against Ukraine. 

Unfortunately, much of what he has said on the subject so far has been both remarkably blinkered and an abomination of (mis-)applied ethics. Because of his prominence and his justly earned status as a man of deep love ordinarily worthy of great respect, a few words are in order to correct misimpressions he has spread about the state of geopolitics.

The pope carelessly mused in an interview with an Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, over how much responsibility NATO had in starting the war.

As reported in the Daily Beast, the pope told an Italian newspaper that “the real ‘scandal’ of Putin’s war is ‘NATO barking at Russia’s door,’ which he said caused the Kremlin to ‘react badly and unleash the conflict.’”

This is an alternative-universe level of wrongness, on multiple levels. The most basic and obvious reason this is wrong is because NATO has never, not once, threatened aggressive action against Russia, instead making clear through seven decades of existence that it is a purely defensive alliance. NATO never barked at Russia, but retains its power and alertness because Russia so regularly barks and threatens the territorial integrity or very existence of other sovereign nations.

Specifically with regard to Ukraine, that nation’s potential accession to NATO essentially was a dead letter until Russia invaded and then stole Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and spent eight years fomenting rebellion in Ukraine’s remaining eastern provinces. Even then, NATO did not include Ukraine in its membership (against Russia’s illegitimate wishes that Ukraine stay out), but merely re-invited it in 2021 to commence a multi-step, multi-condition process that might lead to membership…..

[That wasn’t all the Pope said that was regrettable. For my full column, please follow this link.]


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