By now you’ve heard the story. Two jihadists having pledged loyalty to ISIS walked into a Catholic parish in a small French town and murdered an 85-year-old priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel as he celebrated Mass.
The two were known to the police. One, arrested on his way to join ISIS in Syria, wore a tracking device and was confined to his home—except in the morning when he was free to do as he pleased. The other, they believed, was somewhere in Turkey.
The church — St. Stephen’s, named for the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:54-60) — had apparently been on a hit list for some time. That last part took me by surprise. Why St. Stephen’s and not the cathedral down the road at Rouen?
On the one hand, I suppose we’ll never know. On the other hand, it seems the particular parish didn’t matter as long they could kill a priest during Mass.
In a short essay at First Things, Jean Duchesne, a special adviser to the Archbishop of Paris wrote, “The target of this revenge was not the West in general, nor its complacent and egotistical prosperity, which can seem insulting to the penniless inhabitants of the world beyond. The target of this revenge was the root of the West, the West’s living source, even when it is unremembered — namely Christianity, in the time and the place where, tacitly but invincibly, it becomes most explicitly and intensely real: the celebration of the Mass.”
That Christianity is “the root of the West, the West’s living source” is at best unremembered. It is more accurate to say that it is remembered, but also hated and rejected. The West — Europe and North America — knows its roots perfectly well and that Christianity is still undeniably a source of life. The West knows and is doing its very best to live it down.
With the murder of Fr. Hamel, Duchesne asks, “Will many proclaim ‘Je suis Jacques Hamel,’ just as all (or nearly) insisted ‘Je suis Charlie’ [after the terrorist attack on the magazine Charlie Hebdo]? Or will most think it sufficient to point out that it is not good to murder anyone, and perhaps go on from there to defend freedom of conscience and even of worship?”
The answer came from Obama White House. In the “Statement by NSC Spokesperson Ned Price” after the expected condemnation of people murdering people and condolences to friends and family of Fr. Hamel, came: “France and the United States share a commitment to protecting religious liberty for those of all faiths, and today’s violence will not shake that commitment.”
Not exactly “Je suis Jacques Hamel.”
And why would we expect otherwise when the Left — including the Obama administration — while not using violence, is as hostile to “the root of the West, the West’s living source” as Fr. Jacques’ killers.
The so-called “HHS mandate,” insisting that employee insurance programs include free birth control, abortifacient, and sterilization, is an assault on Christian morality and thus an attack on Christianity. Even after the administration lost the Hobby Lobby case at the Supreme Court, they refused to make adjustments in their regulations to allow religious schools, hospitals, nuns and nonprofits relief from their unnecessary and unnecessarily divisive demands.
Similarly HHS recently issued new regulations for insurers and healthcare professionals under “Obamacare” requiring coverage and performance of all gender identity transition services, including hormones therapy and surgery. So if a gynecologist performs hysterectomies on women with ovarian cancer or some other medical condition, he or she must perform hysterectomies on healthy women because they want to become men. And, as we’ve come to expect from the Obama administration, there are no exemptions for religious insurers, employers, hospitals, or practitioners.
Beyond Washington, in California, a bill with the Orwellian title “The Equity in Higher Education Act” (SB 1146) if passed would impose the current anything-goes understanding of marriage, sexuality and gender on all religious colleges and universities. (That is, anything goes except the view of those pesky adherents to “the root of the West, the West’s living source.”)
In a sermon after Fr. Jacques’ murder, Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, Australia said, “And the terrorists underlined the meaning of their act by engaging in a ritual sacrifice of the priest before the altar and a mock homily. So their act was not just murder but also sacrilege, desecration, blasphemy. Their motive not just revenge for the policies of the secular French government, but hatred for the Church and its priests and religious and faithful.”
That hatred of Christianity, “the root of the West, the West’s living source” in its various forms will, I believe, be with us for a long time.
This post originally appeared on The Stream.