PopeWatch: Urban II






PopeWatch assumes that one day there may be a grand debate between Pope Francis and Pope Urban II in Heaven.  If PopeWatch should manage to defy the odds and become an attorney who enters Heaven, he hopes to have a ring side seat!


In a trip to Albania Pope Francis said:

‘Let no one consider themselves to be the armour of God while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression,’ the pontiff said in speech at the presidential palace in Tirana in front of Albania’s leaders.

‘May no one use religion as a pretext for actions against human dignity and against fundamental rights,’ he said. ‘To kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege. To discriminate in the name of God is inhuman.’

Go here to read the rest.  If Pope Francis is restricting his statement to those who slay in the name of God to oppress others, then there is no contradiction with what Pope Urban II preached long ago.  If the Pope is saying that it is always wrong to kill in God’s name, there appears to be a contradiction between the popes.


One of the versions of the speech given by Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont in 1095:


“If among the churches scattered about over the whole world some, because of persons or location, deserve reverence above others (for persons, I say, since greater privileges are accorded to apostolic sees; for places, indeed, since the same dignity which is accorded to persons is also shown to regal cities, such as Constantinople), we owe most to that church from which we received the grace of redemption and the source of all Christianity. If what the Lord saysnamely, ‘Salvation is from the Jews,’ accords with the truth, and it is true that the Lord has left us Sabaoth as seed, that we may not become like Sodom and Gomorrah, and our seed is Christ, in whom is the salvation and benediction of all peoples, then, indeed, the very land and city in which He dwelt and suffered is, by witnesses of the Scriptures, holy. If this land is spoken of in the sacred writings of the prophets as the inheritance and the holy temple of God before ever the Lord walked about in it, or was revealed, what sanctity, what reverence has it not acquired since God in His majesty was there clothed in the flesh, nourished, grew up, and in bodily form there walked about, or was carried about; and, to compress in fitting brevity all that might be told in a long series of words, since there the blood of the Son of God, more holy than heaven and earth, was poured forth, and His body, its quivering members dead, rested in the tomb. What veneration do we think it deserves? If, when the Lord had but just been crucified and the city was still held by the Jews, it was called holy by the evangelist when he says, ‘Many bodies of the saints that had fallen asleep were raised; and coming forth out of the tombs after His resurrection, they entered into the holy city and appeared unto many,’ and by the prophet Isaiah when be says, ‘It shall be His glorious sepulchre,’ then, surely, with this sanctity placed upon it by God the Sanctifier Himself, no evil that may befall it can destroy it, and in the same way glory is indivisibly fixed to His Sepulchre. Most beloved brethren, if you reverence the source of that holiness and I . you cherish these shrines which are the marks of His footprints on earth, if you seek (the way), God leading you, God fighting in your behalf, you should strive with your utmost efforts to cleanse the Holy City and the glory of the Sepulchre, now polluted by the concourse of the Gentiles, as much as is in their power.

“If in olden times the Maccabees attained to the highest praise of piety because they fought for the ceremonies and the Temple, it is also justly granted you, Christian soldiers, to defend their liberty of your country by armed endeavor. If you, likewise, consider that the abode of the holy apostles and any other saints should be striven for with such effort, why do you refuse to rescue the Cross, the Blood, the Tomb? Why do you refuse to visit them, to spend the price of your lives in rescuing them? You have thus far waged unjust wars, at one time and another; you have brandished mad weapons to your mutual destruction, for no other reason than covetousness and pride, as a result of which you have deserved eternal death and sure damnation. We now hold out to you wars which contain the glorious reward of martyrdom, which will retain that title of praise now and forever.

“Let us suppose, for the moment, that Christ was not dead and buried, and had never lived any length of time in Jerusalem. Surely, if all this were lacking, this fact alone ought still to arouse you to go to the aid of the land and city — the fact that ‘Out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem!’ If all that there is of Christian preaching has flowed from the fountain of Jerusalem, its streams, whithersoever spread out over the whole world, encircle the hearts of the Catholic multitude, that they may consider wisely what they owe such a well-watered fountain. If rivers return to the place whence they have issued only to flow forth again, according to the saying of Solomon, it ought to seem glorious to you to be able to apply a new cleansing to this place, whence it is certain that you received the cleansing of baptism and the witness of your faith.

“And you ought, furthermore, to consider with the utmost deliberation, if by your labors, God working through you, it should occur that the Mother of churches should flourish anew to the worship of Christianity, whether, perchance, He may not wish other regions of the East to be restored to the faith against the approaching time of the Antichrist. For it is clear that Antichrist is to do battle not with the Jews, not with the Gentiles; but, according to the etymology of his name, He will attack Christians. And if Antichrist finds there no Christians (just as at present when scarcely any dwell there), no one will be there to oppose him, or whom he may rightly overcome. According to Daniel and Jerome, the interpreter of Daniel, he is to fix his tents on the Mount of Olives; and it is certain, for the apostle teaches it, that he will sit at Jerusalem in the Temple of the Lord, as though he were God. And according to the same prophet, he will first kill three kings of Egypt, Africa, and Ethiopia, without doubt for their Christian faith: This, indeed, could not at all be done unless Christianity was established where now is paganism. If, therefore, you are zealous in the practice of holy battles, in order that, just as you have received the seed of knowledge of God from Jerusalem, you may in the same way restore the borrowed grace, so that through you the Catholic name may be advanced to oppose the perfidy of the Antichrist and the Antichristians then, who can not conjecture that God, who has exceeded the hope of all, will consume, in the abundance of your courage and through you as the spark, such a thicket of paganism as to include within His law Egypt, Africa, and Ethiopia, which have withdrawn from the communion of our belief? And the man of sin, the son of perdition, will find some to oppose him. Behold, the Gospel cries out, ‘Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.’ ‘Times of the Gentiles’ can be understood in two ways: Either that they have ruled over the Christians at their pleasure, and have gladly frequented the sloughs of all baseness for the satisfaction of their lusts, and in all this have had no obstacle (for they who have everything according to their wish are said to have their time; there is that saying: ‘My time is not yet come, but your time is always ready,’ whence the lustful are wont to say ‘you are having your time’). Or, again, ‘the times of the Gentiles’ are the fulness of time for those Gentiles who shall have entered secretly before Israel shall be saved. These times, most beloved brothers, will now, forsooth, be fulfilled, provided the might of the pagans be repulsed through You, with the cooperation of God. With the end of the world already near, even though the Gentiles fail to be converted t the Lord (since according to the apostle there must be a withdrawal from the faith), it is first necessary, according to their prophecy, that the Christian sway be renewed in those regions either through you, or others, whom it shall please God to send before the coming of Antichrist, so that the head of all evil, who is to occupy there the throne of the kingdom, shall find some support of the faith to fight against him.

“Consider, therefore, that the Almighty has provided you, perhaps, for this purpose, that through you He may restore Jerusalem from such debasement. Ponder, I beg you, how full of joy and delight our hearts will be when we shall see the Holy City restored with your little help, and the prophet’s, nay divine, words fulfilled in our times. Let your memory be moved by what the Lord Himself says to the Church: ‘I will bring thy seed from the East and gather thee from the West.’ God has already brought our, seed from the East, since in a double way that region of the East has given the first beginnings of the Church to us. But from the West He will also gather it, provided He repairs the wrongs of 1 Jerusalem through those who have begun the witness of the final faith, that is the people of the West. With God’s assistance, we think this can be done through you.

“If neither the words of the Scriptures arouse you, nor our admonitions penetrate your minds, at least let the great suffering of those who desired to go to the holy places stir you up. Think of those who made the pilgrimage across the sea! Even if they were more wealthy, consider what taxes, what violence they underwent, since they were forced to make payments and tributes almost every mile, to purchase release at every gate of the city, at the entrance of the churches and temples, at every side journey from place to place: also, if any accusation whatsoever were made against them, they were compelled to purchase their release; but if they refused to pay money, the prefects of the Gentiles, according to their custom, urged them fiercely with blows. What shall we say of those who took up the journey without anything more than trust in their barren poverty, since they seemed to have nothing except their bodies to lose? They not only demanded money of them, which is not an unendurable punishment, but also examined the callouses of their heels, cutting them open and folding the skin back, lest, perchance, they had sewed something there. Their unspeakable cruelty was carried on even to the point of giving them scammony to drink until they vomited, or even burst their bowels, because they thought the wretches had swallowed gold or silver; or, horrible to say, they cut their bowels open with a sword and, spreading out the folds of the intestines, with frightful mutilation disclosed whatever nature held there in secret. Remember, I pray, the thousands who have perished vile deaths, and strive for the holy places from which the beginnings of your faith have come. Before you engage in His battles, believe without question that Christ will be your standard-bearer and inseparable forerunner.”


Crusades, at least military ones, are not in fashion these days, and near pacifism is, certainly at the Vatican.  The historical context of what Urban II and Francis I said have to be taken into consideration, but it would be useful for some skilled theologian to attempt to bridge the gap between the way the Church viewed military force from the time of Constantine to 1870, and the current position of modern Popes that is usually adamantly against the use of force, at least since Pius XII.  Too often popes make statements without making any effort to fit them into the long history of the Church.  Especially when it comes to the use of military force, an effort to reconcile, if it is possible, the statements of popes over the centuries regarding the use of military force would be a useful exercise to aid Catholics making their way through a frequently violent fallen world.


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  1. Donald,

    I believe you and I agree that more work needs to be done by serious and faithful theologians to bring the two distinct strands together. The problem however precedes the Lord Jesus Christ and the Church however. In the Maccabees tradition we see a ‘call to arms’ so to speak, in response to the cultural hegemony and oppression of the Hellenistic (Greek and ‘world-wide’) culture of the time following Alexander the Great. Yet at the same period of time another counter tradition, found in the Book of Daniel came forward within Judaism which placed not its hopes in the call to arms but in the coming of the Kingdom of the Son of Man.

    At the time of the Lord Jesus, there was the Zealot option, faithful to the Maccabee tradition. The Zealots were Hasidic Jews who called for and participated in ‘holy war’. As we know from the Gospel, the Lord definitely did not follow their lead: “blessed are the peacemakers….he who lives by the sword dies by the sword…”. The Zealots eventually took over the consciousness of the Jewish People who rose up in rebellion three times between 70 AD and 135 AD, The Church, following Christ and His Gospel literally fled to the hills and did not participate in this massive cultural suicide.

    This does not mean, however, as many think, that the early Church was totally pacifist. That simply is not so. We have too many ‘Roman soldiers’ who became martyrs to tell us otherwise. Now certainly some could and did convert as soldiers, but not all of them. However, that does go against the idealized and yes, ideological vision of the early Church [just as their is today].

    Pope Francis, as Pope Benedict and St Pope John Paul before him was condemning the ideology/belief of those who claim ‘jihad’ in God’s Name. While we do (and still do) have our Just War principles [St John Paul actually added one principle during his ministry], ‘making war’ is not and has never been an element of the Catholic Faith. We do not have Catholic jihads, no matter how justified a war, battle or crusade was/is.

  2. I am sorry if I am misunderstanding an implication there Botolph: are you thinking the Crusades were a Jihad?
    Is a defensive war fought by Christians against someone from another religion, who are attacking and oppressing in the name of their religion, a jihad?

  3. “Jihad” is an Arab word used in Islam. Since Islam is a seventh century heresy and an ideology more than a religion, I disregard the use of the word in a Catholic context.

    Numerous times the Catholic world has taken up arms against its enemies. Charles Martel (no perfect Catholic he, but a supreme warrior), the entire Reconquest, the Crusades, Lepanto, virtually all of the wars the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth engaged in against Lutheran heretics, Russian schismatics, Islamic heretics, Communists, etc., the Cristeros…..

    Pope Francis only wants to confront the FFI and embarrass Cardinal Burke.

  4. At first glance, what is the history of doctrine but “pope against pope and council against council” and “Some fathers against others, the same fathers against themselves; a consensus of fathers of one age against a consensus of fathers of another age; the church of one age against the church of another age.”
    As Bl John Henry Newman wrote in a letter to an enquirer, “in a very large system you necessarily must have great apparent anomalies – as in Scripture (a parallel which might effectively be worked out) and that you must begin by expecting this and making allowances for it – that some things perhaps must ever be difficulties (as there are insoluble difficulties in Scripture) but that on the whole and as persons come nearer to the system, there is a growing evidence of consistency.” He famously confessed that his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine was “undoubtedly an hypothesis to account for a difficulty.”
    Cardinal Manning sought to resolve it by demanding, “Do you or do you not believe that there is a Divine Person teaching now, as in the beginning, with a divine and therefore infallible voice; and that the Church of this hour is the organ through which He speaks to the world?” In other words, he rejects the notion that the teaching of the Church is something to be searched for in the records of the past rather than something to be heard and accepted in the living present (and so would Bl John Henry Newman).

  5. “and that the Church of this hour is the organ through which He speaks to the world?””

    Which of course would mean that God changes what He wishes the Church to teach based upon shifting affairs in the tides of humanity. An interesting concept; I doubt very much that it is a true one. The problem of course is that throughout the history of the Church the latest “bright new idea”, Arianism, Protestantism, Modernism, and the list could go on for a very long time, has seized the imagininations of huge amounts of clergy and laity and turned out to be nothing but arrant heresy. Newman’s “development of doctrine” is a useful intellectual tool when looking at the history of the Church, it is most certainly not an infallible guide.

  6. Donald R McClarey wrote, “Newman’s “development of doctrine” is a useful intellectual tool when looking at the history of the Church, it is most certainly not an infallible guide.”

    No one suggests that it is. There is, however one infallible test, propounded by Mgr Ronald Knox: the faithful “be they many or few, be their doctrine apparently traditional or apparently innovatory, be their champions honest or unscrupulous, are simply those who are in visible communion with the see of Rome. No doubt, in the long run this means the people who are so orthodox that Rome has seen no reason to excommunicate them, so that unity and orthodoxy still react upon one another… And in fact there can be little doubt that, in the West, our labelling of this party as orthodox and that as heterodox in early Church history comes down to us from authors who were applying this test of orthodoxy and no other.”

  7. “are simply those who are in visible communion with the see of Rome.”

    Something often hard to determine during the actual periods of controversy. The Arian fight was just such an example as Pope Liberius, who condemned Saint Athanasius, would no doubt agree.

  8. Liberius was not a free agent. St Athanasius understood this well enough, when he wrote, “Liberius, having been exiled, gave in after two years, and, in fear of the death with which he was threatened, signed”

    A clearer example of facility and circumvention it would be hard to imagine.

  9. Anzlyne,

    Sorry about getting back to you so late. No, I was not describing etc the Crusades as “Catholic jihad’. I was placing them within the context of the Church’s Just War principles. I have written on this site before, I consider the Crusades to be a defensive war begun by a particularly virulent form of Islamic jihad. It actually originated with the request of the Byzantine emperor to Pope Urban II because Urban was the most influential leader in Europe as well as the Bishop of Rome to raise up armies of the West to defend the holy sites in Jerusalem

    As for the use of the phrase “Catholic jihad”, I am sorry if anyone was annoyed or worse by my use of the phrase, but I simply meant that nowhere in the Gospels, or doctrines and dogmas of the Church will one find ‘the call to military war’-unlike in many sentences of the Quran

  10. Botolph

    There is, of course, a vast exegetical and theological literature around the “Heilige Kreig” or “Holy War” in the OT, particularly focusing on the Book of Joshua, as well as on related passages in the Pentateuch, the historical books and the Psalms.

    You are rightt hat there is nothing at all corresponding to it in the NT, not even in a symbolical or allegorical sense, which, when one comes to think of it, is remarkable enough.

  11. MPS,

    And Holy War is ultimately carried on by the Lord God in Joshua etc. There are those exegetes who point out that this ‘holy war’ against the Canaanites was actually reflective of the last editing-interpretive process which took place when the Jews returned from Exile and under the Ezra-Nehemiah reform, the expulsion of the Gentiles who had taken over their lands etc and the prohibition of Jews marrying Gentiles. In other words it was a theological, interpretive ‘call’ and not a literal call to wage all out war.

    One only has to read Judges, 1and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings to note that the Canaanites were certainly not destroyed, that many cities, villages etc of them continued, even prospering with Israelite occupation. There were definitely defensive wars for example against the Amalekites, Midianites, and most especially the Philistines, However, we also need to see throughout the Torah but especially Genesis the fundamental call of Israel to be a ‘blessing for the nations’-which in turn led to Jesus’ own statement “salvation is from the Jews” in John 4.

    It is so important to take in all that the Scriptures as well as Tradition say and not simply this or that quote etc.

  12. Interesting fact: Sigurd “Jarsalafar” (Jerusalem-farer) was the king of Norway, and the first king to go on a crusade. He sailed with 60 long ships and fought at the capture of Sidon. The Norse had only recently been converted and many persisted in their warrior ethos, which was in degrees true for all W. Europeans of the knightly class. We see this reflected in the various military orders, which enjoyed Papal approval and also the Templars were actively approved of by St. Bernard de Clairvaux, see his letter endorsing the Knights Templars.

    Of course, the Crusades were in reaction to 300 years of muhammadan conquests, invasions, massacres, rapine, etc.

  13. In all of these considerations, the fundamental principle is self-defense or self-preservation.

    The Church is a living thing. At one time, she commanded Christendom. Christendom is no more. She now finds herself between the post-Catholic, abortion-loving, West and Islamofascism. Fun times. Owing to the weight of history, Holy Mother Church will lean towards the West even though it hates her. Its a mother and prodigal daughter thing.

    The Church has always taught that self-defense is legitimate. How that works out on the ground is open to various licit interpretations.

    Nevertheless, the individual has a right to self-defense owing to the good of human life (cf. the catechism folks).

    The polis as a “self” has a legitimate right to self-defense owing to the good of – and goods found in – social life.

    It is important to note, too, that Urban II is actually Blessed Urban. Leo XIII beatified the man.

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