ON THE MASSACRE IN THE VENDEE
How frequently do we hear that religion is a source of violence and derision in the world! Anti-religionists will often point to events such as the Crusades (http://www.catholic.com/encyclopedia/crusades), the Thirty Years War (http://www.catholic.com/encyclopedia/thirty-years-war), and the Spanish Inquisition (http://www.catholic.com/blog/jon-sorensen/the-myth-of-the-spanish-inquisition). Often, the Catholic Church bears the brunt of the attack. There is some merit to this perspective, as the “Church” has utilized violence and divisiveness at certain points in her long lifetime. Nevertheless, our contemporary age must come to terms with the limitations of this secularizing viewpoint. We must recognize that violence is a condition of the fallen nature of humanity, not a condition of religion in and of itself.
To offer a counter-example to the modern myth, I’d like to share the story of the Massacre in the French Vendée. During the French Revolution, the national army (influenced largely by republican and atheistic ideologies) slaughtered tens of thousands of civilians, including young children. The people of the Vendée faced persecution largely because of their Catholic beliefs. Priests and nuns were the first to die. Women and children who attempted to attend mass also perished at the hands of the oppressors. The total number of casualties ranges from 100,000 to 600,000. Some historians have called the event an example of anti-religious genocide.
Therefore, let us refrain from claiming that Catholicism is the sole culprit. In fact, statistics demonstrate that the Christian centuries were far more peaceful than the post-Enlightenment centuries (https://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/NOTE6.HTM).
Given recent affronts to religious freedom in the Middle East and elsewhere around the world, I pray that God would grant us a spirit of respect so that we may protect all human life, regardless of religious or political affiliation.
David JW Inczauskis, nSJ