Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Does Bill O'Reilly know any Catholics?

I gave up on Bill O'Reilly during the Dan Rather Memogate fiasco when Bill defended Dan Rather's actions in memogate. But, in general, Fox news has had the best coverage on the recent death of the Pope (I was disappointed that EWTN didn't interrupt their scheduled broadcasting to cover the event, but they are a smaller operation) and I just happened to turn on the when O'Reilly was on.

The April 4th episode was teased as "Will the pope's death reinvigorate spirituality in America? Pope John Paul II extended his love to the people of America but he wasn't always pleased with our country and its culture. Will the next pontiff feel the same way? The pope confronted the evil of communism and was a tireless advocate for the culture of life, speaking out against the death penalty, war and abortion. So how did Pope John Paul II urge his followers to combat terrorism?"

In the event, the guests were asked to defend the Pope's opposition to the war in Iraq. So you'd think that at least one of the guests would be Catholic or at least know Catholic theology, right? Not on the O'Reilly Factor. What we got was a liberal theology professor,
Sally Vance-Trembath from the University of San Francisco and right-wing Methodist Reverend Donald Sensing.

(In the Reverend's defence, he gives a very balanced and reasoned view of Pope John Paul's approach to the war on terror here. But then on the Reverend's blog, Bill O'Reilly couldn't interrupt every sentence, which is Bill's only debate tactic.)

My point is that no one on the program gave an accurate view of the Catholic approach to "just war." An explanation that Bill O'Reilly desperately needs. Instead, the conversation goes like this:

"O'REILLY: All right, what is that -- what kind of guidance did you get from the pope vis-a-vis Al Qaeda and the other killers?

VANCE-TREMBATH: Well, he's advanced the Catholic teaching on "just war," which is that you have to avoid violence. And you have to, in particular, work on development in the underdeveloped world.

Because we have to get at the heart of what is driving the Islamic fundamentalists. And that is poverty, lack of opportunity. I mean, that's what's behind what you're characterizing as evil.

And I don't minimize that the attacks on us were evil. They surely were evil acts. But Pope John Paul II himself advanced the notion that if you want justice, if you want freedom, if you want harmony among the human community, you work to distribute the world's goods."
"Distribute the world's goods?" Keep in mind, this is a theology professor claiming to describe "just war." What planet is she from? Oh that's right - San Francisco where, in addition to a lack of oxygen there are apparently no Catechisms.

Just for record - what does the Catechism actually say are the conditions for a just war?

2309 The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
  • the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
  • all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
  • there must be serious prospects of success;
  • the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.
  • The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the "just war" doctrine. The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have rsponsibility for the common good.

Hmmm - nothing about developing the third world, tackling poverty, lack of opportunity or distributing the worlds goods. That's not to say that these are unworthy goals - indeed not. But that wasn't Bill's question. He was asking how the Church addressed evil in the world and the response he got was a load of liberal bay-area talking points. Bill, good Catholic that he theoretically is, should have recognized the difference and didn't or couldn't.

Finally the arrogance of O'Reilly is truly infuriating. At one point Bill says:
Is the Holy Father OK with a million people in the grave because of a dictator like Saddam? Is he OK with Pol Pot? How about Adolf Hitler? How about Stalin? These people killed millions and millions of human beings, yet the Holy See does not advocate preemptive action against them
Leave aside the fact that all of the people Bill names are either in custody or dead. He could ask this question of Karol Wojtyla? A man how lived under Nazi occupation? Who was arrested by the Gestapo? Who practiced his faith under communist rule? What incredible preening arrogance!

Not that O'Reilly will ever read this, but, here's some free advice:

Bill, Next time you're going to discuss a Catholic subject, consider having a Catholic on your panel - someone who actually (and accurately) represents the Catholic view - not some strawman for your Quixote-like charges.

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