Question about the Crusades and the Popegreenspun.com : LUSENET : Catholic : One Thread
I was talking with a Protestant who said that during the Crusades, the Pope declared the salvation of all those who fought for Christianity. This does not seem right to me. Could someone explain this?
Thanks and God bless,
-- Emily (email@example.com), May 09, 2004
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 09, 2004.
To understand the crusades you have to understand a bit of history. In 636 (or thereabouts, my memory is hazzy) Muslim armies destroyed the imperial (Bzyantine) armies guarding the holy land and took control of Jerusalem and as far north as Lebanon.
Now if you recall, the Roman Empire was divided into West (based in Rome and then Ravenna) and East (based on Constantinople). The Western empire fell in 476 AD. Spain, Gaul (France) parts of Germany, the Balkans and Italy were invaded by waves of barbarian (pagan) peoples. Vandals and Visigoths swept through the West from 410 onwards, destroying classical civilization (and people) as they went.
The imperial forces were undermined by internal turmoil: Arianism was very much alive and had basically supplanted high-paganism as the chief threat to Christianity. The people were Catholic, the politicians and army were Arian. In the 500's the conquering Germanic tribes became Arians... it took 100 years or more for Catholics to regain control of the West by a mixture of factors including conversion and conquest (Bzyantine armies liberated Rome).
Now with renewed imperial control and new Kingdoms came onerous financial taxation and centralized control... Europe was in the early 600's awash in people who weren't satisfied with the status quo: arians, semi-arians, pagans, sects, and Catholic Christians mixed between the Latin and Greek rites (and half a dozen other rites).
And so, by the time Islam exploded on the scene, the Catholic Christianity was already weakened and compromised by economic hardship, cultural turmoil, etc.
The Islamic forces of that first generation did two things: they made it clear that they were not going to force conversions on people, and though they would charge unbelievers taxes, their tax system wasn't nearly as expensive as the Bzyantine one! (Thus it made economic sense for people to root for Islam over the Bzyantines and/or convert to Islam). The second thing they did was continue to allow Christian pilgrims to freely and mostly unmolestedly go visit Jerusalem - which had the main shrines and churches of the Christian world: Calvary, the way of the Cross, the ruins of the temple mount, the place where the Last Supper was held, the garden of olives, etc.
So even while Muslim forces were invading Spain and France, raiding the coasts of Italy and constantly assaulting Asia Minor, they always let unarmed Christian pilgrims go up to Jerusalem....until about 1090AD.
Meanwhile in Europe, the Church was facing throughout the 600's to 800's waves of pagan Vikings and others from the East, and Muslim pirates to the south... and strained relations with the Bzyantine empire to the East....(Most Protestants don't appreciate how many times the Church has been ALMOST wiped out or ALMOST buried...or how many times the "institution" such as bishops and local clergy were saved by individuals who like St Paul came out of the blue to serve Christ by saving and building his Church).
But eventually most of the northern tribes were converted to Catholic Christianity such that in the early 1000's the Church was finally able to proclaim the "Peace of God", in effect, outlawing war! You see, since everyone were Christians, it was simply immoral to resort to armed violence to settle disputes...thus warfare was outlawed....but it didn't quite work out since heretics rose, individual nobles or even petty kings fell into sin and harmed their neighbor and something had to be done to stop the mayhem...
so the Church, responding to the reality of the situation preached the "Truce of God" wherein, if war was necessary as a last resort to evil, it had to be waged within reasonable and charitable limits - because combatants are still Christians and morality exists even in warfare (a novel idea by the way for that time).
So they taught that it was illegal to fight on Sundays (the Lord's day) and on Saturday (dedicated to Our Lady) and on Friday (Our Lord died on Good Friday.) They also taught the begining of chivalry: unarmed women and children had to be spared, and any soldier who surrendered had to be given safe passage. Truces or halts in fighting had to be given to remove the wounded or bury the dead...
And that seemed to work. Peace was nearly at hand on the frontiers and definately within borders.
But as Europe grew more peaceful and the newly converted pagans (1st and 2nd generation Christians with plenty of still rough edges and old cultural habits) such as the Normans and others began to become part of the scene, world affairs intruded.
For 400 years Catholic morality and theology respected the human experience of sin and salvation: namely, that bad habits can be broken but require opposing good habits and grace! Thus from time immemorial (including the time of St Paul) Christians made pilgrimages to holy sites (such as Jerusalem) to fulfill vows, and change their lives. So for example: you are aware of sin in your life, you accept the Gospel and "join the kingdom" by baptism and accept Jesus as your king, taking on all the responsibilities this entails...but you still struggle with sin. What to do? Catholics would of course pray daily, to good works, strive to behave... but some sins require more than prayer and fasting...some require a change of life-style, a change of pace.
So it became the OBVIOUS and completely natural thing for European Catholics to go on pilgrimages - taking 6 to 12 months of time in which they did penance, spent their time in prayer, reading or listening to the Gospel stories, growing in their faith, doing good works along the way, acquiring good habits of reflection, prayer, sacrifice, selfcontrol, etc. and then, at the holy site, have their life-changing metanoia aware that here was the place that God became man, here was the place their King, Jesus carried his cross...here the place he was buried and rose! It all made such a profound inpact on them that they were more often than not changed for life!
So pilgrimages were totally civil, peaceful affairs....until a new form of Muslim came to power in the Holy Land (turkomans) who changed the 400 year custom and began robbing, raping, and even killing unarmed pilgrims from Europe. They also broke a 50 year old truce with the Bzyantine empire...
All this was a PROFOUND shock to the newly catechised and converted Christians of Europe as well as to the older, more civilized ones. It was a 9/11 for them when stunned and wounded pilgrims finally returned from "the levant" with horror stories about what happened.
Completely unprovoked aggession against women, children, and unarmed men whose only reason for going on such a trek was personal spiritual growth... it was just so terrible - so shocking, that everyone was united in outrage.
Thus Pope Innocent the 3rd preached a homily in France (he was French) about this and how the Bzyantine emperor had pleaded for reinforcements from the West (even though the schism happened in 1054 in 1095 when this all occured, there was still a sense of brotherhood and "neighborlyness" going on between the West and East).
The Pope suggested that Europe essentially mount two things: a relief mission, an "armed pilgrimage" to win back the holy places from this new Muslim threat, so that pilgrims can go there again without the worry of "terror" and in the meanwhile, the West should help the East - bound by common faith and other bonds of friendship even while being estranged as it were over some disputes of jurisdiction and obedience. (The Catholics did not regard the Orthodox as Protestants regard Catholics..the level of animosity in 1095 wasn't as profound as it became after the 4th crusade in the 1200's.)
Now in this context: a concerted, orderly, civilization wide campaign supported by kings and led by volunteer nobles, whose goal was the liberate Jerusalem and whose men "took the cross" on their shields and uniforms (actually, this was a rebirth in the idea of army-wide uniforms), those involved considered themselves pilgrims - armed pilgrims. They were thus, men who sought holiness of life! They weren't savages (though they were tough hombres!). They sought neither gold nor conquest for its own sake but the liberation of Jerusalem... aiding their Christian brethren there and elsewhere.
Thus, since their goal was just and moral, and the means they used was also moral - no genocide, no war for the sake of war, no thought of pillage, rape, and murder... it was thought that any man who picked up the cross and died enroute would be saved.
But this isn't remarkable. (except that people tend to get confused by refusing to see this in context). If you or I were told that a family member was held by Muslim extremists in Uzbekistan, and that we were to go pay the ransom or spring them from captivity...and we went in there with the intention of doing so but died enroute trying to help save our brother....wouldn't we too go to heaven?
The Pope wasn't saying "this is a license to kill" or "salvation is found in warfare". Catholics don't believe in holy war. We don't win salvation or 72 virgins by killing someone else. But if in the pursuit of saving someone we are killed...then, yeah, how could God not save us? If you die fighting to protect your wife or children from unjust aggression...giving your life for theirs...how could you not expect to be welcomed into heaven? God is both just and merciful.
I could go on and on...but suffice to say, just as American soldiers in Afganistan or Iraq aren't there for bloodlust (or at least 99.5% of them aren't and those who are, are also condemned by the army itself)...so the Crusaders of the 1st Crusade - which was the only successful one - weren't motivated by ill intent.
Other crusades degenerated into messes and whole crusader armies were excommunicated for their offenses...It is for these abuses which happened HUNDREDS of years after that first crusade, that the Church repudiated the concept of "crusade" because by then it had indeed degenerated...but in the first, it wasn't a bad or immoral or crazy idea.
I could go on and on about this facinating history: for example the idea of a hospital is a Catholic invention, as is the university! As were professional soldiers (i.e. military orders such as the Knights Templar, the Hospitaliers, the Knights of St John, and of Malta, etc.) During the high middle ages Europeans were united by a single faith - that transcended local differences, and language.
Today we might think that "interracial marriage" is a new and brave "progressive" novelty...not so! In the middle ages it wasn't rare for people to marry different races - provided they shared the same faith! The whole maddness of racism is a relatively modern heresy that didn't affect the Christians of that era. They didn't see Muslims as less human just as non-Christians...
Finally a note on Islam...Mohammed learned something about Christianity from Nestorian and Arian traders...and thus his new religion is based in large part on these heretics' METAPHYSICAL presuppositions that set up their THEOLOGICAL HERESIES.
So a modern day Baptist or other Protestant who doesn't understand Trinitarian and Christological theology and metaphysics (as in, why it's sane that God can be 1 nature with 3 persons), won't be able to convert Muslims who think it's simply impossible for God to "have a son" or to become human. Being as impossible for them as a round square is to us, they simply won't accept any of our "scripture- based" arguments to the contrary.
The Crusaders weren't missionaries. They were armed pilgrims. Today the Church would tend to look back on those times and suggest that perhaps what was needed was more saintly missionaries and bishops who could have preached and converted Muslims both philosophically and theologically than simply waged war with them.
My personal view is that sometimes you have to fight a war against unjust aggressors - and the world of Islam has alot of these...but you also must absolutely do so in a moral way, and above and beyond this, you have to engage them on the metaphysical and theological and charitable levels. Our Good News is good! War in and of itself only offers a nation or group breathing room to do something else - such as preach the way, truth, and life.
You can reach me at the above for more info and links.
-- Joe (email@example.com), May 10, 2004.
Did your friend give the name of the pope or the Crusade or year? Did the friend provide the name of a declaration or document?
I think some popes might have declared indulgences with the usual requirement to be in a state of grace and free from sin. More details might be helpful in order to provide a thorough reply.
-- Andy S ("firstname.lastname@example.org"), May 10, 2004.
Joe might have already answered your question. I posted right after he did. We must have been typing at the same time.
-- Andy S ("email@example.com"), May 10, 2004.
There is a certain biblical basis for hoping that a soldier's death for the faith would lead him to salvation. Jesus Christ said, ''He who loses his life for my sake will find it.'' (Matt 10 :39).
-- eugene c. chavez (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 10, 2004.
Joe- Awesome. Just awesome.
-- mark advent (email@example.com), May 10, 2004.
Surely if it were considered 'just', the Pope wouldn't have described it as "violence committed in the service of truth"? Is he not therefore condemning violence, as opposed to legitimising the crusades? Fair play, he didn't say he disagreed with the politics, but doesn't what he did say imply a stance that is fundamentally opposed to violence at all costs, regardless of nothing?
-- Kid (Kidder@yahoo.com), May 12, 2004.
I won't go so far as to say the Crusades were unprovoked, but neither side is completely blameless.
I'm a huge history buff, and this time period really interests me. Is anybody else here into alternate history? I always thought it was kind of interesting to consider how things would have turned out if the Latin kingdoms had survived.
-- Anti-bush (Comrade_bleh@hotmail.com), May 12, 2004.
I agree about both sides not being blameless. Not into alternate history though, so cannot comment on the latter part of the post.
-- Bill Nelson (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 12, 2004.