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Considering how much emphasis modern churchmen put on trust, it’s worth noting that the Bible does not have much to say about trusting others.
Of course, the Bible tells us to trust in God, but there is no corresponding command to trust our fellow men. Of the six references to “trust” in the RSV Reader’s Concordance, five have to do with trusting God, and the sixth tells us to “put not your trust in princes.”
Likewise, although we are told to “love your neighbor as yourself,” we are not told to “trust your neighbor as yourself.” Most of us know that we can’t always trust ourselves. Consequently, we should exercise caution about placing too much trust in others—especially those we don’t know well. The reason we need to be careful about trusting ourselves and others is original sin—man’s inborn tendency to choose evil over good. As has often been noted, original sin is the most readily verifiable Christian doctrine. Just read the history books or watch the evening news.
By modern therapeutic standards, Christ himself would appear to be insufficiently trusting. Despite his great love for mankind, he had no illusions about fallen human nature. He referred to Herod as “that fox,” he called the scribes and Pharisees a “brood of vipers,” and he knew that Peter would betray him.
Today’s Church authorities seem positively Pollyannaish in comparison. Their rosy view of human nature seems based, not so much on the Bible as on Jean Jacques Rousseau—Rousseau and other advocates of natural goodness such as psychologists Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers.
How else to explain the willingness of Church leaders to put their trust in an assortment of rogue dictators, apocalyptic ayatollahs, wanabee caliphs, and oppressive communist regimes?
In an article “On the Vatican’s reported capitulation to Beijing,” George Weigel discusses the probability that the Church will give in to demands that the communist government be given a role in the appointment of Catholic bishops. Weigel says that “prudence and caution would seem to be the order of the day in Vatican negotiations with the totalitarians in charge in Beijing,” but prudence doesn’t seen to be a high priority for Vatican officials. Rather, the Vatican seems to be trusting in the power of dialogue and the good will of the Chinese government.
But, as Weigel points out, the Church has good reason not to trust totalitarian regimes. He cites a number of Church agreements with communist governments that didn’t work to the Church’s advantage. Among them:
The Catholic hierarchy in Hungary became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Hungarian Communist Party.
In what was then Czechoslovakia, regime-friendly Catholics became prominent in the Church while the underground Czechoslovak Church of faithful Catholics struggled to survive…
In addition to communist China, the Vatican also seems to be placing a good deal of unwarranted trust in various totalitarian Islamic regimes. The Vatican endorsed the deceptive and highly problematic Iran deal, and overlooked the oppressive crackdown on the recent protests across Iran. Christians lead a precarious existence in Iran, and a woman can be jailed for failing to wear a hijab, but, according to an article in Crux, “recent months have brought clear signs of alignment between Rome and Tehran on matters large and small.”
The Vatican is also on good terms with Turkish president Recep Erdogan despite Erdogan’s increasingly dictatorial behavior. On Erdogan’s recent visit to the Vatican, Pope Francis gave him an “angel of peace” medallion while, outside, hundreds of demonstrators protested Turkey’s assault on Kurdish forces in Syria. In July, 2016, after a failed coup attempt in Turkey, Erdogan launched a brutal crackdown which included the arrest of over 50,000 people. Critics charge that Erdogan himself manufactured the coup in order to provide an excuse to purge the government and media of political opponents.
In addition, Erdogan, who has dreams of restoring the Ottoman caliphate, has just about completed the re-Islamization of Turkey, and he is one of the key players in the ongoing Islamization of Europe. Nevertheless, during their “cordial” meeting, the two leaders found several areas of agreement including opposition to moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and the need to fight “Islamophobia” in the West.
Erdogan asked Pope Francis to help lead a concerted, international effort to battle “Islamophobia,” but he need hardly have bothered, since Francis is already one of the chief defenders of Islam against its critics. At a July meeting in Egypt, Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, thanked the Pope for his “defense of Islam against the accusation of violence and terrorism.”
The Vatican’s trusting attitude toward Islam can also be seen in its promotion of Muslim migration into Europe, and its harsh criticism of Christians who fail to muster a sufficiently welcoming attitude. Considering that mass Muslim migration has already led to unprecedented levels of crime, chaos, and terrorism, the Vatican’s continued encouragement of it would seem to require an unusual degree of trust. It almost seems that some Church leaders have forgotten about original sin, or else have convinced themselves that by some sort of mysterious “immaculate conception,” third-worlders are born without it.
The dictionary provides many synonyms for the term, “trusting soul,” and none of them are complimentary. A “trusting soul” is a “gullible person,” an “innocent,” “a babe-in-the-woods,” “a credulous person,” and a “greenhorn.” The bishop’s primary role is that of shepherd. That’s what the crook they carry symbolizes. But shepherds can’t afford to be overly trusting. They need to be on the lookout for wolves and other threats to the flock.
It sometimes seems that many of today’s bishops are unaware of the existence of wolves. Take this trusting passage from the USCCB’s statement on “Dialogue with Muslims”:
Perhaps most importantly, our work together has forged true bonds of friendship that are supported by mutual esteem and an ever-growing trust that enables us to speak candidly with one another in an atmosphere of respect. Through dialogue we have been able to work through and overcome much of our mutual ignorance, habitual distrust, and debilitating fear.
For those who remember that Chamberlain trusted Hitler, and Roosevelt trusted “Uncle” Joe Stalin, it’s not necessarily reassuring to hear that Catholic dialoguers have developed an “ever-growing trust” in their Muslim counterparts. The trouble is that they risk losing the trust and confidence of their fellow Catholics if they continue on their trusting spree with people of dubious connections. Most of the people they are dialoguing with are members of Muslim Brotherhood-linked organizations such as the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). To a doubter like myself, all the various Islamic activist organizations could be lumped under a single acronym. Let’s call it ISAW—short for “I See A Wolf.”
Doubting souls may be forgiven if they suspect that the bishops are being “played” by their counterparts into accepting the Muslim victimhood narrative while ignoring the Muslim victimization of Christians. How else to explain that Church leaders seem more interested in fighting “Islamophobia” than in protecting persecuted Christians? Groups such as the Knights of Columbus have done far more to call attention to the plight of Christians in Muslim lands than have the American bishops.
Among the more unflattering synonyms for “trusting soul” are “fall guy,” “stooge” and “dupe.” It’s beginning to look as though the bishops of the West, along with the Bishop of Rome have been duped into acting as apologists for, and enablers of Islam. In their anxiousness to accommodate, they have made the Islamist agenda their own.
We are well-advised to put our trust in God, but we are ill-advised to trust in people and governments who haven’t earned it. We are also ill-advised to place our trust in those Christian leaders who seem to believe that trust is one of the seven virtues.
Trust is not one of the seven, but prudence is. And unless Church leaders develop a spirit of prudence in their approach to totalitarian governments and totalitarian ideologies, they risk betraying the trust of the faithful.
Put not your trust in trustful souls.
(Photo credit: CNS photo/Alessandro Di Meo via Reuters)