Some comments on his words to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera

The statements by Pope Francis on the Russian invasion and the Spanish Civil War

Today there has been controversy, as has happened other times, with an interview granted by Pope Francis to an Italian media outlet.

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Pope Francis says he asked Ukraine and Russia to "stop"

This time the medium in question the Corriere della Sera. The original text of the interview in Italian can be read here. In turn, VaticanNews has published a version in Spanish, but to my surprise, some parts of both do not coincide with each other. And it is, in addition, important changes in some cases. What they agree on, for example, is that Pope Francis asked Ukraine and Russia to "stop", referring to the fighting.

I guess the Pope realizes that if Russia stops its weapons, the invasion ends, but if Ukraine stops its weapons and gives up defending itself, it is Ukraine that ends. You cannot ask the invader and the invaded the same thing, because by doing so you equate them, and it is not morally comparable to invade a country as Russia has done, than to defend your country from an invasion as Ukraine does.

He claims Putin reacted to "NATO barking at Russia's door"

On the other hand, in the text of the Corriere, the Pope says:

Pope Francis's concern is that Putin, for the moment, does not stop. He also tries to think about the roots of this behavior, the reasons that push him to such a brutal war. Perhaps "NATO's barking at Russia's door" led the Kremlin chief to react badly and trigger a conflict. "An anger that I cannot say if it was provoked - he wonders - but perhaps it was facilitated, yes."

VaticanNews agrees on this point. Thus, the Vatican news portal acknowledges that the Pope attributed the fact that Putin has invaded Ukraine to "NATO barking". Francisco does not explain at any time what "barks" he refers to, but we cannot ignore the amazing resemblance between that statement and those that the Kremlin and its propagandists have been making. The reality is that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has only one person responsible: Vladimir Putin. It was Russia that, at his order and for months, dedicated itself to amassing troops along the Ukrainian border. And logically, NATO warned of what that meant, and in the end it turned out to be right.

Francisco's statement is like blaming the act of a criminal on the "barking" of a policeman who warned him not to do it. It is a way of excusing Putin's decision on this invasion, saying that they provoked him. The old miniskirt argument. I find it regrettable to see a Pope making such a statement. Francis has become accustomed to speaking like a politician, using his role as Pope to make statements inappropriate for his position. And the quoted is not the only one that he does in said interview.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Spanish Civil War, caused by arms trafficking?

In the text published by Corriere, the interviewer also alludes to the shipment of weapons from NATO countries to Ukraine. "An issue on which not everyone agrees, which divides the Catholic and the pacifist world," Luciano Fontana, the interviewer, says. The Italian newspaper quotes these words of Francis in this regard:

I cannot answer, I am too far, to the question of whether it is correct to supply the Ukrainians -he reasons-. What is clear is that weapons are being tested on that land. The Russians now know that tanks are of little use and are thinking about other things. Wars are fought for this: to test the weapons we have produced. This was the case in the Spanish Civil War before World War II. The arms trade is a scandal, few oppose it.

I already spoke here in 2020 about this recurring theme in Francis' speech, which consists of blaming wars, as he does again in that interview, on the instruments used in them, and not on those who provoke them. It is as debatable as saying that the knife makers are to blame for knife heists. Actually the robbers have it. And since we are talking about robberies, we must remember that weapons serve, among other things, to defend us from those who threaten our lives. That is why they are carried by armies and police forces, including the Pontifical Swiss Guard and the Vatican Gendarmerie (I have already indicated here the firearms they use).

Obviously, in a world where all the people were good, weapons would only be needed for hunting. Although it is worth wondering if Francisco also condemns the manufacture of weapons for these purposes, because it is another of the uses they have. Obviously, we do not live in a perfect world due to original sin, as the Bible itself points out. This means that "as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed." These are not my words, but what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says (point 2308).

What happened in the moments before the Spanish Civil War

About the Spanish Civil War, the Pope's opinion is as debatable as his words about NATO. In 1936 there was a far-left government in Spain made up of politicians who had provoked a coup in 1934 and who were tolerating serious disorder and crime at the hands of their supporters. The situation reached its extreme with the assassination of one of the opposition leaders, José Calvo Sotelo, an event that many historians consider to be one of the triggers of that Civil War. During it, the Republican side became in fact something very similar to a Soviet dictatorship, and perpetrated a brutal religious persecution with thousands of Catholics murdered for their faith.

I wonder if we are supposed to ignore all these facts to simply state that the Spanish Civil War was caused by weapons manufacturers, simply because that is the idea that Pope Francis repeats over and over again, even in a war like that of the Ukraine, in which the Russians are using obsolete tanks, planes and ships.

The problem when the Pope speaks like a politician

Of course, I am not saying that he is right. My opinions on the issues we have just seen are as debatable as those expressed by Francisco. Obviously, what I think about any subject matters little or nothing to practically all of humanity. This is not the case with Francis. The Pope is a religious reference for many millions of Catholics, and he should not speak so lightly. And if he does, he will have to assume that many of us Catholics show our disagreement and, in cases like this, even our discontent.

The problem is that some Catholics -and now also many anti-Catholic atheists- are not able to distinguish between the Pope's debatable statements and those that sit on the chair, and any discrepancy of the debatable things that Pope Francis says they take as something reprehensible, as if one were a bad Catholic and were questioning the very authority of the Pope on religious matters. It is like those who do not know how to distinguish between a decree approved by the Council of Ministers and Pedro Sánchez's opinion on a football match. Finally, there they are.

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