From Cain to Isis

The radical Islamic movement ISIS is more radical than Islamic. It is true, of course, that this group’s vision of a restored caliphate in the Middle East, like its other ambitions, only makes sense in an Islamic context. But its methods—ruthless violence and criminality, grandiose goals framed in world-historical terms, leadership cadres regularly purged to ensure purity, and bloody public spectacles—are familiar elements of the modern European experience of radical politics. Continue Reading »

Silence and Solidarity

Many colleges and universities open the new academic year with a special assembly or convocation that is generally an upbeat occasion of welcome and new beginnings. The Catholic University of America held such an event several days ago, and it included, appropriately enough, a beautiful mass led by Washington’s Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl. The music was sublime and the liturgy well ordered. Dr. John Garvey, the president of CUA, was presented with an award by the Archdiocese of Washington. It was an altogether appropriate and uplifting event. But just before the dismissal, the tone was changed as Cardinal Wuerl, speaking without notes, delivered this admonition with a sense of urgency: Continue Reading »

Mary's Most Loyal Children

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a solemn feast day and a holy day of obligation that we celebrate each year on August 15th, is the Church’s most ancient Marian feast. Christians living in Jerusalem celebrated the “dormition of Mary” (Mary’s going to sleep) from at least the third century—gathering in Palestine to remember the Mother of God, and to honor her as queen of heaven and earth. Continue Reading »

Forgetting the Christians

This past weekend, the United States began to intervene in the humanitarian crisis unfolding in northern Iraq. The Islamist group ISIS has made a lightning conquest of much of the region, persecuting religious minorities, and even some Sunni Muslims, everywhere it goes. Continue Reading »

A Line Crossed in the Middle East

Say goodbye to one of the most ancient Christian communities in the world. Last week, members of ISIS—the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” a Sunni Islamist group that recently has captured parts of Iraq and declared a new caliphate—began going through the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and marking the homes of Christians with the Arabic letter “Nun.” “Nun” stands for “Nasara,” from “Nazarenes,” a word that refers to Christians. The implications were clear. Mosul’s Christians faced the same fate the Christians of Raqqa, Syria, had when ISIS captured their city last spring. “We offer them three choices,” ISIS announced: “Islam; the dhimma contract—involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword.” Continue Reading »