Fundamentalism is intellectual suicide


The recent comment by the Roman Catholic pontiff, Pope Francis, following the barbaric beheading of an elderly French priest, while serving mass, betrayed a sad response response to an event that was a replay of what Christians have experience for hundreds of years, at the hands of fundamentalist Moslems. Pope Francis compared this evil slaughter of 85-year-old Jacques Hamel, by declaring to the world, “I don’t like to speak of Islamic violence, because every day, when I browse the newspapers, I see violence, here in Italy. This one who has murdered his girlfriend, another who has murdered the mother-in-law, and these are baptized Catholics! There are violent Catholics! If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence . . .”.

This statement is particularly shocking when compared to the response of His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt. Following the beheaded in cold blood of 21 Coptic men, only because they are Christians and refused to deny Christ, Pope Tawadros II granted them instantaneous recognition as martyrs. Following the ancient tradition that anyone who dies shedding their blood for Christ, martyrs go straight to heaven, regardless of their personal sins.

Had Pope Francis granted this priest, a victim of Islamic terrorism, the title “LE-ISA-SHAHID,” which means “Jesus Martyr” in Arabic, he would have effectively counteracted the heretical (for Islam) support for suicide bombers, who are called in Arabic “ISTA-SHAHID,” or self-martyred.

The experience of Orthodox Christians over the last 1400 years (not to mention that of Hindus, Buddhists, animists in various places, Baha’is, etc.), offers ample and consistent proof of the real demonic spirit of violence, destruction and death, inherent in the beheading of this elderly priest. It is interesting to note that Father Hamel’s final words were “get away from me Satan”.

Something terrible happened to Islam back in the twelfth century, with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. They burned their own great library at Cordoba, because the Koran was all that was needed! They sent out assassins to kill philosophers, poets and others whom they viewed as enemies of Islam. The Muslim world has been collapsing internally ever since.

Something analogous is happening with the spread of modern fundamentalism, and are not all the religions in danger of falling into the same pit? Yes, there are now Christian fundamentalists, Jewish fundamentalists, Hindu fundamentalists, and even atheistic fundamentalists. The Vatican pronounced in a 1993 document, “fundamentalism is intellectual suicide.” And I would suggest it is also religious, cultural, social, political, military and sometimes even physical suicide. Any religion overtaken by fundamentalism is no longer a religion with a world view.

We should never give in to a litany of mercy, excusing religious fundamentalists simply because we desire dialogue and peace between religions. Mercy must always be a balance between law AND gospel, otherwise it becomes nothing but a trivialization of the evil that comes about when people give themselves over to fundamentalism. Pope Francis, in his desire to promote Islamic-Christian peace, has failed to recognize the martyric death of this French priest, relegating it, instead, to a simple act of violence, not unlike the murdering of one’s wife.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Coptic Martyrs

Friday August 12, 2016 / July 30, 2016
8th Week after Pentecost. Tone six.
Fast. By Monastic Charter: Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)

Apostles Silas and Silvanus of the Seventy and those with them: Crescens, Epenetus, and Andronicus (1st c.).
Martyr John the Soldier at Constantinople (4th c.).
New Hiero-confessor Anatole II (Potapov, the “Younger”) of Optina (1922).
New Hieromartyr John deacon (1918).
Uncovering of the relics (1484) of Venerable Herman of Solovki (1479).
Hieromartyr Polychronius, bishop of Babylon (251), and Martyrs Parmenius, Helimenas (Elimas), and Chrysoteluspresbyters, Luke and Mocius deacons, and Abdon, Sennen, Maximus, and Olympius.
Hieromartyr Valentine, bishop of Interamna (Terni) in Italy (273), and Martyrs Proculus, Ephebus, Apollonius, and Abundius, youths.
“Okonsk” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos.
St. Angelina (Brancovich), despotina (princess) of Serbia (16th c.) (Serbia).
St. Stephen (Vladislav) of Serbia (1243) (Serbia).
Prince Tsotne Dadiani, the Confessor of Mingrelia (13th c.) (Georgia).

Scripture Readings

1 Corinthians 11:8-22

8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man. 9 Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. 10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, even so man also comesthrough woman; but all things are from God.

13 Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.

Conduct at the Lord’s Supper

17 Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. 20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.

Matthew 17:10-18

10 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”

11 Jesus answered and said to them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. 12 But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.

A Boy Is Healed

14 And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.”

17 Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon is Igumen of All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington. Situated in the heart of a beautiful forest, surrounded by the Salish Sea, the monastery is reached by ferry from either Seattle, or Tacoma, Washington.


  1. In one non-traditional ROCOR parish, some clergy express alarm at Orthodox Christian “fundamentalism.” They attribute it to know-nothing converts. “Fundamentalism,” sounds like what loving, traditional Russian Orthodoxy in many ROCOR parishes practice. Watering things down and being informal is believed will draw more people in.

  2. Having been brought up Roman Catholic, the Roman communion does tend to go overboard in being solicitous. Like Islam, it is an 800 lb gorilla in the religious sphere. Unlike Islam, it is sheepish about its once greater and now less hegemonic role in the world, hence statements like Pope Francis’s.

  3. Think you Father for speaking out.
    I was deeply saddened by the events you relate and Pope Francis response.

    1. I do not believe my essay was anti-Catholic. Many Roman Catholics responded with the very same thoughts. I have a great deal of respect for Pope Francis, but in this instance, I disagreed with his stance.

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