I’m not the guy who goes after other bloggers. Some people’s blogs should be renamed, “what’s wrong with everyone else” but that is not this blog. Many times I have been tempted to discuss the shortcomings of others, but regulation of the Catholic side of the internet is not my job.
There was however, an article written recently at the NC Register, in which the Senior Editor, Joan Desmond, asked the question, “Did James Foley Die a Muslim Convert or a Catholic Martyr?” That’s the actual title.
The title was provocative. I like that, so long as it’s not “click-bait.” This article was certainly no click-bait, but it didn’t quite answer it’s own question either.
In the article, Desmond briefly outlines the story line of James Foley’s capture, the reports of those near him in captivity, and the evidence as to whether or not he converted to Islam, or died a Catholic martyr. Do I even have to say how despicable of a topic this is to write about? If you’re going to write anything about it, you should journal it, and then take that up in prayer for his soul, for the faith and safety of his family, for the comfort of those who knew him, and for the future of those who are still and will be held captive. For the millions who might read the article from the Register, they should have steered clear of this.
Anyone who has been paying any amount of attention to the news surrounding the stories of the men who were beheaded heard rumors of conversion. My point is this: until you’re God, which you will never be, don’t pontificate on rumors. We’ve all wondered if it is true but few have explored the topic in public. The reason is: they shouldn’t.
This man is not up for a cause for sainthood. We shouldn’t be publicly debating the merits or demerits of his choices in his final moments. It’s very simple to address these topics from the safety of our keyboards, but the truth is, when people are tortured, they lose their proper mental state, and their rational faculties are dimmed. If you’ve ever read extensively on those who have tortured Christians, it doesn’t take a lot to examine one’s own conscience and come to the conclusion that we must hope that we can endure that sort of treatment. Electric batons to the mouth and genitals, sexual and psychological games about family and loved ones, are but the tip of what I’ve read. Honestly, from my cushy lifestyle and sitting behind my keyboard, I can’t be sure I have what it takes.
The teaching on suicide that the Catechism provides on suicide is not unrelated:
2282 – “…Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.”
A conversion under the forces of torture do not constitute a willful act of the soul. Those who are pushed to the limit of human endurance of torture are well within God’s mercy. The acts of torture are truly intolerable for many, which the Catechism lucidly aids in understanding: “Kidnapping and hostage taking bring on a reign of terror; by means of threats they subject their victims to intolerable pressures.” (ccc 2297)
It’s not a cop-out to say Foley, and others in his situation, are not fully responsible; it’s a fact.
If we are to think that someone like James Foley, moments after his death, met God, and God condemned him, we are wrong. We believe in a God who understands our nature, fights for those who are afflicted and trust in him, and He is faithful.
What is most concerning about the article from the NC Register, a Catholic apostolate that I truly value and love, is the question in the first place. Desmond is a very well-respected writer and I’m a fan, but she should not have published this. If you’re going to educate, then educate. Desmond didn’t even leave us with a conclusion. Don’t leave impressionable readers with doubts. When the NC Register explores these questions without tight control and clarification, they encourage others to ask the question about others. It’s never right to judge the eternal reward or damnation of others. Given the elements contributing to the death and final moments of Foley, we shouldn’t even speculate. As Desmond righly said, we ought to pray for their souls – but leave it there.
Writing articles about the salvation of those who are tortured, based on rumors, shouldn’t be tolerated. I doubt he converted.