Jun 27, 2022
Your quality known among your enemies
War and Catholicism. On today’s episode we’ll hear from a Catholic Bishop and a former member of the British armed forces talk about how our duties as Christians, striving to walk the path to Heaven, square with the hell of war? Our conversation is driven by a powerful scene in the movie Kingdom of Heaven. This episode features Bishop Neal Buckon of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, and Catholic and military veteran Rebecca Clemenz.
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This is a big topic, with many twists and turns, so we’ll attempt a somewhat narrow conversation today driven by a single line of movie dialogue: “Your quality will be known among your enemies, before ever you meet them.”
For me there is so much packed into this line from a movie called Kingdom of Heaven. A newly-minted Christian knight during the Crusades named Balian—played by Orlando Bloom—had just released a Saracen, Muslim fighter on account of his quality, when the man, Imad ad-Din al-Isfahani delivers this line.
Balian had inherited his estranged father’s nobility as Baron of Ibelin, and was shipwrecked while journeying to Jerusalem. A lone surviving horse from the wreck runs to an oasis on a desert plot of land owned by what we’re told is al-Isfahani’s master. Balian refuses to give up the horse, and al-Isfahani’s master fights for it…and loses. Balian spares al-Isfahani’s life, and orders him to take him to Jerusalem, and once there he releases him and gives him the horse.
Al-Isfahani is stunned, saying Balian could have made him his slave, which Balian rejects—he had been near to a slave in his life and would never hold someone in bondage. And then we hear it: “Your quality will be known among your enemies, before ever you meet them.”
A Catholic military perspective on quality, honor, and war—on this episode of Faith Full.
As I record this, we’re still seeing the devastation of the war in Ukraine, just as we’ve seen devastation in Afghanistan, Iraq, Ethiopia, Yemen, the list is as long as the existence of humanity. But really where is humanity in war? What about mercy? Honor? Nobility? This topic is huge, and I want to say at the outset I can’t cover it all. St. Augustine’s thoughts on Just War, and the Catholic Church’s teachings on self defense and preservation of life and peace, cannot be discussed comprehensively, at least by me, in a single session. I’m also not a veteran, but I’ve interviewed many in my years as a journalist, and have friends and family in the service.
You may remember talking through some of these issues in our episode with Fr. Cirilo Nacorda who was held hostage by terrorists in the Philippines at one time, and later began carrying a gun and working to help villagers defend themselves. I’ve always struggled with this tension between being called to love our enemies, and having the armed forces needing to face our enemies.