The death of 16 nuns and the allure of terrorism (COMMENTARY)

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The company of "Dialogues of the Carmelites." Photo by Scott Suchman, courtesy of Washington National Opera

The company of "Dialogues of the Carmelites." Photo by Scott Suchman, courtesy of Washington National Opera

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WASHINGTON (RNS) The "Dialogues of the Carmelites" shows the price that is paid when truth is not spoken to power and a sense of injustice makes unholy acts seem somehow noble.

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  • James Carr

    I’m not sure of the article’s intent, but the nuns martyred at Compiegne, France are true martyrs, as opposed to anyone that intentionally puts themselves in the line for martyrdom. The nuns were asked to revoke their Faith under threat of death, and they simply refused to compromise what they know is Truth. To become a ” martyr” for a cause intentionally ( suicide bombers ) is not an act of courage, especially if innocents die in the process. This sacrifice is attention for oneself, it is moot, and brings no glory to the cause one has died for. True martyrdom can only be realized when the option to believe in God is paramount to the option of one’s own safety or life.

  • Thanks for the comment. I certainly did not mean to make any comparison about martyrdom. The nuns were innocent and courageous victims & true martyrs.

  • Tom Downs

    You missed the point. The Church was closely aligned with an unjust government. Anger at the unjust government was transferred to the Church. This allowed those seeking to address the injustice to feel their ignoble acts were somehow just. I see this as a cautionary tale for churches that think it wise to align themselves with any government.

  • Nate Craddock

    It’s worth noting that the 1931 hagiography-cum-novella that inspired this opera, _Die Letzte am Schaffot_ by Gertrud von le Fort, was written with the ascendancy of the Nazi regime in mind. Of her work, the author says, “The point of departure for my creation was not primarily the destiny of the sixteen Carmelites of Compiegne but the figure of the young Blanche. . . . Born in the profound horror of a time darkened by the signs of destiny, this figure arose before me in some way as the embodiment of the mortal agony of an era going totally to its ruin.” The connections almost draw themselves.

    At any rate, as far as the opera is concerned, Poulenc’s treatment of the story focuses more on the psychological struggle of someone (in this case, the main character Blanche de la Force) faced with making the decision to follow the path of integrity to its inevitable conclusion.

    Also, a point of clarification: the revolution depicted in _Les Misérables_ and its ensuing adaptations was not the French Revolution, but rather the Paris Uprising of 1832 (the June Rebellion).

  • James Carr

    Terrorism today, and I speak of the Islamic brand worldwide, seems to continue because it wants to. I’ve lost track of their grievances since the arrival of Ayatollah Khomeni back in 1979, but it seems to always center around their hatred of the “West”, and their crusade to instill Muslim law world-wide.
    They use every western invention daily, and their religion is 2nd in numbers after Christianity…….so, where’s the beef? They use vile tactics and threats that are not justified in a world that DOES accommodate Islam. I can think of nothing that will satisfy them.

    Unlike any revolution in the past, there is no discernable goal that they can rationally
    attain. The West needs to squeeze them with any means available, and shelve its politically correct hypocrisy of diplomacy. They do not grasp civilized behavior as we do.

  • clasqm

    Les Miserables is not set in the French Revolution of 1794, but in the Paris uprising of 1832.

  • It’s rather rum to refer to the salad that was French government in 1786 as if it was a unitary corporation.

    That aside, for better or for worse, the National Assembly was founded in 1789 by the 3d Estate, 1/2 the 1st Estate, and 1/6 of the 2d Estate under the leadership of Mirabeau (a man of the 2d Estate). So, who was allied with whom. The King and the clergy did not adopt an antagonistic stance to the bourgeois politicians until the enactment of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy in 1790, a genuinely unjust piece of legislation.

    The Terror required, among other things, the abrogation of France’s spanking-new constitution and among those chewed up in it were not only the royal family, those of the nobility they could catch, the clergy, the peasants of the Vendee, but competing factions to the Jacobin club and, eventually, officers within in it (e.g. Danton).

  • so, where’s the beef?

    That they’ve been humiliated by their reversals of fortune, among them politico-military losses to the west, loss of position vis a vis the West in the first instance, then the Far East, and now India; and bloody noses from the Jews, who they conceive of as a naturally subaltern population.

    Of course, if we were all savvy like Ron Paul, we’d think it was because ‘we’re over there’. Or something like that.