Should Islamist victim Father Hamel be on the fast track to canonization?
FRANCE, August 18, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen reportedly wants to promote murdered parish priest Father Jacques Hamel as a martyr, thus “fast tracking” his path to sainthood, but there is opposition both inside and outside the Catholic Church.
Almost immediately after Father Hamel was savagely murdered by two Muslim locals, an Italian politician appealed for his quick canonization as a martyr, and the hashtag #santosubito appeared on Twitter to promote the cause. It means “saint immediately.”
Now his own archbishop has offered his support, saying last week at a memorial Mass for Father Hamel and other recent victims of Muslim violence that he wanted the process of canonization to begin immediately rather than wait the customary five years after a candidate’s death, Normandie 76 Actu reported.
Lebrun noted that the usual requirement for at least one miracle attributed to the candidate can be waived for martyrs. “For martyrs, their adherence to the faith in the face of death takes the place of the miracle. The death of Father Jacques Hamel is the ultimate testimony of his faith in Jesus Christ, which he affirmed to the end.”
But that is not enough to meet the Church’s strict standards, advises Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers. To be recognized as a martyr, Akin said, there are two criteria, but Father Hamel’s case meets only one of them, that he was murdered out of odium fidei, or “hatred of the faith.”
Less clear, Akin said, is whether Father Hamel was totally accepting of martyrdom, the second criterion, in the sense that, presumably, every person who volunteers for the armed forces in time of war accepts willingly the certain risk of violent death, but not necessarily every priest who is ordained.
British writer Paul Vallely used The New York Times to argue against canonization on geopolitical grounds: It will make the Jihadists angry and they will hurt us, he reasoned. “The impulse to canonize Father Hamel, however sincere and well intentioned, feeds the idea of retaliation — our martyr for yours — that gives the jihadists the war of religions they seek.”
This looks like pop psychology: If you make a big deal about little Tommy throwing his food on the floor, it will encourage him to throw it in your face. Or how about this variant? If you let Hitler occupy Czechoslovakia, he will probably stop there.
On the neo-conservative side, Federalist columnist Maureen Mullarkey opposes canonization for an entirely different reason: She thinks Hamel died because he was stupid. The title of her blog on the issue says it all: “Was Jacques Hamel a martyr to the Faith or to his illusions about Islam?”
Mullarkey indeed makes a strong case that someone was stupid. But was it Hamel? Most of the naivete that she notes was not Hamel’s at all: “Hamel served in a parish,” she writes, whose nuns taught Muslim children to read, that turned over the parish hall to the local Muslims for Ramadan, whose very land was sold out from under it by the Archdiocese to the Muslims for their mosque — the mosque Hamel’s murderers attended. But Hamel “served in a parish” where he was assistant priest, not the decision maker.
Against Hamel personally, however, Mullarkey relates the priest's own plea for the local Catholic and Muslim communities to “accept each other as they are.” Christians are supposed to convert the heathen, she argues, not give them the family farm.
Accepting Muslims as individuals, she writes, “does not cancel the necessity to know Islam’s history, its millenarian ambitions, and its enduring theological imperative towards violence.”
But she argued herself into a corner; for her, the true targets are the rulers of Europe who have opened its borders to millions of unsettled Muslim men; Pope Francis, who says he thinks all religions are peaceful; and Archbishop Lebrun, who sold church land for a mosque and also said the assassins were victims.
Hamel did none of those things, and he is the one who was killed. He is the prospective martyr, not Angela Merkel or Lebrun. All he did was to call for local Muslims to be met “as they are.” His Christian calling in that situation was to love his neighbor whether Muslim or Jew or Gentile or Samaritan. What Hamel’s parish did was provide Mass to the faithful and, I bet, confession to the sinners, land to the landless, and instruction to the illiterate. This was not being foolish any more than Canada’s Jesuit martyrs were fools to plunge into Canada’s wilderness to preach to the tribesmen of Huronia and end up instructing them in farming and irrigation.
Influential professor and traditionalist Roberto de Mattei, writing recently in Rorate Caeli, supports Father Hamel’s cause.
“If Pope Francis announced the start of the process for Father Hamel’s beatification, he would give the world a peaceful but strong and eloquent sign of the will of the Church to defend its identity,” de Mattei wrote. “If, on the other hand, he continues to be under the illusion about a possible ecumenical agreement with Islam, he will repeat the same errors of those wretched politics which sacrificed the victims of the Communist persecution on the altars of Ostpolitik. However, the altar of politics is different from the holy altar in which the unbloody Sacrifice of Christ is celebrated. Father Jacques Hamel received the grace of uniting himself to this sacrifice, offering his own blood, on July 26th.”
Father Hamel may or may not turn out to have been ready for martyrdom in the sense required. But do the troops, the ordinary Catholic faithful celebrating the Mass in dwindling congregations across Europe and North America, need the reminder that people are being killed for the faith around the world, as a martyr to Islamic violence would provide? You betcha.
If Father Hamel is made a martyr, the Church should take his murder as a call to admit at last that we are indeed in a war of religions. If Father Hamel is not made a martyr, the Church should take his murder as a call to admit at last that we are indeed in a war of religions. Either way, we can trust God to take care of Father Hamel. Can we trust the Church to take care of us?