Pope Francis Blames the West for Putin’s War
Neutrality in the face of blatant injustice is not a virtue, and the pope should know better.
Pope Francis recently weighed in on the war in Ukraine, and amidst expressing his desire to see the war come to a quick end and for peace to be restored, Francis appeared to be reading off of Vladimir Putin’s sheet music. Francis suggested that the West was at fault for Putin’s invasion as he blamed “NATO barking at Russia’s gate.” He added, “I have no way of telling whether his rage has been provoked, but I suspect it was maybe facilitated by the West’s attitude.”
To make matters crystal clear, it was Putin who, unprovoked, invaded Ukraine. It is a war, though Putin still refuses to acknowledge it, preferring to euphemistically refer to it as a “special operation.” Putin has sought to justify his war with manufactured and false claims of seeking to “denazify” the Ukrainian government. The obvious reality is that Putin wants to set up his own puppet government in Ukraine to force Ukrainians to serve his own geopolitical interests, which center on the restoration of Russian glory.
But here we have the head of the Roman Catholic Church essentially spouting Russian propaganda, even as the world is still uncovering the extent of the war crimes Putin’s military has meted out upon Ukrainian civilians. Perhaps Francis has been talking to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The cognitive dissonance apparently present in Francis’s comments is reminiscent of his blundering misattribution of a quote last year following Joe Biden’s disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal. “It is necessary to put an end to the irresponsible policy of intervening from outside and building democracy in other countries, ignoring the traditions of the people,” Francis stated in a quote he attributed to Germany’s former chancellor, Angela Merkel. The problem was Merkel never made that comment; the statement was made by Putin.
It may be that Francis wants to maintain a stance of neutrality, holding out the hope that doing so will give him a chance to meet with Putin with the outside possibility of convincing him to end the war. Then again, Francis is “very pessimistic” about that, he admits. “However, it is our duty to do all we can to stop the war.” Then, in a strange statement that seemingly concedes defeat, he added, “But in the end, I am just a priest, what can I possibly achieve? I’ll do what I can. If Putin decided to leave the door open.”
It’s fine to hold a neutral position, especially when it comes to the various nuances of certain geopolitical issues. However, holding a neutral position for neutrality’s sake is not a virtue. It tends to lead to the embracing of false equivalency, as Francis evidently has with Putin’s war in Ukraine.
On a final note, Francis’s stance is a stark contrast to that of another pope. John Paul II was instrumental in standing with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher to bring down the Soviet Union. We don’t have to wonder what the pro-Liberty, anti-Marxist John Paul would say about the weak-kneed Marxism and Russian sycophancy of his successor.
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