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I really meant no moral smugness. I spoke only as a priest who is canonically prevented from bearing arms against my fellow man. I do not understand the doctrines of Western warfare sufficiently to criticize them fairly, so I will not speak to the problem of mace-bearing bishops and ecclesiastical princes.

I regret the Crusades. I do not condemn the Crusaders or the Pope who inspired them, or even St. Bernard. I regret the Byzantine machinations that helped draw the Crusades, unfortunately, to the Golden Horde and to the events of 1204 and the subsequent evacuations to Nicaea and Epirus.

I regret many of the actions of Serbia and most of Russia. I regret any priestly blessing of guns, and of that there is more than some.

I wonder if there may have been a time when the Orthodox or Roman could have marched off confidently to war against the Sassanid or the Muslim, whether there was or is a just war. I do not think there is any such thing, anymore: as there is no Christian state, or anointed king, there can be no just war. The existing canons are silent about the modern state.

I regret and do not condemn. Nevertheless, I am ignorant, arrogant and hypocritical, and I regret that, too.

Pax, Carol?

Father, you've never said anything to annoy me, until now. But this business of people knocking the Crusades drives me nuts. Especially when it's Orthodox who're doing the knocking.

I mean, okay, the bloody Franks took Constantinople in 1206, and then held it it for a while. That was awful, unconscionable, and probably did far more to cement the Schism than the excommunications 150 yrs before did.

But I still refuse to see any of it apart from the wider context, namely that of the Islamic assault on Europe from both ends. Muslim armies were in France and Spain. Their corsairs were roaming the Mediterranean. And - lest we forget - they were inexorably eating up what was left of Eastern Christendom. In this context, the Crusades were feints in a wider campaign of self-defense, fought in territory that was still largely inhabited by Christians at the time. And Pope Urban launched them partly at the behest of the Greeks, by the way.

And as for the Orthodox not crusading, well.. That’s one of those assertions of exceptionality that really, really gets my goat. I love Orthodoxy. I love the Orthodox. But such smugness is revolting.

The Greeks and Serbs (in particular) both engaged the Muslims with great ferocity, and justified their actions with propaganda very similar to that of the Crusaders in Palestine in Spain. It is true (as far as I know) that there were no bishops wielding maces amongst them, or plenary indulgences being bestowed by the Oecumenical Patriarch. But while I acknowledge the greater theological propriety of the Orthodox, I cannot grant them any sort of moral superiority here.

Nor do the Orthodox come off any better today. In fact, they come off somewhat worse, I’d say. The 'shenanigans' of the Serbs against the Muslims & Croats, as well as what has happened in Chechnya (I have a friend who has been to what is left of Grozny) are pretty horrifying. Not very much in keeping with the Beatitudes. Putin is avowedly Orthodox Christian, as are most of his soldiers..

But then again, they're just simple barbarous Rus. Or so the thinking goes. (NYT editorial board probably thinks “Crude, brutal, childish people, morally retarded – like the Turks, they’re just expected to be brutal.”) Whatever. Not much of a testament to 1300 years of Orthodoxy.

Let's put it like this: I think the Crusaders had far more moral justification for their violence then, than we do now, for ours in Iraq. And like I say, if people didn’t have such low expectations of the Slavs, and weren’t so damned ignorant of all things historical & Eastern, there would be.. a lot of things would be different. People would likely be less harsh on crusaders and more critical of neo-cons, for starters.

Anyway, I’m sick of the Black Legend, I’m sick of the Gregorian Reform & Great Schism, and I’m just sick of historical ignorance, moral arrogance and hypocrisy.

Just had to get that off my chest.


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