How the Vatican’s Kidnapping of a Jewish Child in 1858 Started a Controversy in 2018

Jan. 19 2018

In 1858, in the city of Bologna—then ruled directly by the Vatican—a six-year-old Jewish boy was surreptitiously baptized by a domestic servant and then forcibly removed from his parents so that he could be raised as a Catholic. Despite the ensuing international outcry, Pope Pius IX personally ruled that the boy, Edgardo Mortara, not be returned to his family. Last week, Romanus Cessario revived the controversy with an essay justifying the kidnapping, sparking many condemnations and some defenses. To Matthew Franck, even Catholics of a conservative disposition ought to condemn Pius IX’s actions:

Did the Cessario piece jeopardize Catholic relations with Jews? It shouldn’t. . . . But Jewish concerns are perfectly understandable: the Mortara case is better and more painfully remembered in the Jewish community, while many Catholics had never heard of it until now. And, rather shockingly, Cessario’s [essay] made essentially no concessions to the sensibilities of Jews or of anyone else who believes the legal abduction of Edgardo Mortara “offends against the dignity of the family as a natural institution,” in the words of [one Catholic commentator].

[One reason for the controversy] is that inside the Catholic intellectual world another debate is raging today, between the adherents of, respectively, “integralism” and “liberalism,” over the relationship of the church to political power. The terms of this debate are still sorting themselves out, but . . . the integralists are sure about what they’re against: liberalism, a word they use as an epithet to describe not only today’s progressive left but the whole edifice of the modern free society, with its emphasis on individual rights, limited government, and free markets. . . .

But in truth we can discuss the Mortara case, and condemn the pope’s actions in it, without folding the discussion into the integralist-liberal debate at all. Pius IX . . . was wrong in the Mortara case—grievously so—for venerable Catholic reasons he should have understood even in his own day. . . . Even further back than Thomas Aquinas, the church has taught that it is wrong to baptize Jewish children against their parents’ wishes, much less to take them from their parents. . . .

Edgardo’s parents were alive, capable, and non-abusive. Nonetheless Cessario endorses the simple progression from a valid baptism, to the church’s duty to a young Christian, to Pius’s forcible seizure of Edgardo. [His argument] rests on an erroneous view of the legitimate reach of state power. Pius wore two hats, the spiritual and the temporal, and, led astray by his sense of spiritual obligation to a baptized Christian, he wrongly used his temporal authority to snatch Edgardo from his family (and then compounded the injustice by raising the boy himself, without benefit of a married mother and father, as would be normal in a Catholic adoption).

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Catholic Church, Freedom of Religion, History & Ideas, Jewish-Catholic relations, Liberalism

UN Troops in Lebanon Don’t Just Ignore Hizballah. They Protect It

Dec. 18 2018

Two weeks ago, IDF officers showed the commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) the tunnels that Hizballah has dug into Israeli territory. UNIFIL, whose primary mission is to keep Iran-backed jihadist group from using southern Lebanon to attack Israel, responded with a statement that failed even to name Hizballah. Not only is UNIFIL useless at doing its job, writes Evelyn Gordon, but its very presence helps Hizballah, since countries that contribute troops are afraid to put them in harm’s way by aggravating the terrorists they’re meant to contain.

It’s no coincidence that the major contributors to UNIFIL . . . oppose listing Hizballah in its entirety as a terrorist organization. The only EU country that does blacklist the entire organization is Holland, which has exactly one soldier in UNIFIL.

The EU and its other member states blacklist only the [organization’s] military wing, not the political wing. And that’s fine with Hizballah because, as the organization itself admits, any distinction between its political and military wings is purely fictitious. Thus, so long as the political wing is legal, Hizballah can still fundraise and recruit freely in Europe.

A complete ban, however, would genuinely hurt Hizballah. According to a 2017 German intelligence report, Germany alone has [on its soil] some 950 Hizballah operatives actively fundraising and recruiting for the organization. Much of that money is raised through charitable donations, but another significant source is organized crime. An EU report published in August described “a large network of Lebanese nationals offering money-laundering services to organized crime groups in the EU and using a share of the profits to finance terrorism-related activities. . . . An EU ban on Hizballah would thus put a serious crimp in its operations.

UNIFIL, by contrast, hasn’t put the slightest crimp in them. . . . To be fair, expecting UNIFIL to stop Hizballah was never realistic. As a senior Israeli official acknowledged this week, few countries would be willing to contribute troops to a mission that actually involved fighting Hizballah. . . . [Yet] UNIFIL has no problem making accusations against Israel. [A] November report that couldn’t “substantiate” Hizballah’s [illegal] arms transfers declared that UNIFIL had recorded 550 Israeli violations of Lebanon’s airspace and demanded their “immediate cessation.”

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More about: European Union, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Lebanon