Regardless of Fr. Hamel's official status as martyr or victim, Catholics in the West should now prepare for a renewed threat from Islam
As most Catholics around the world know by now, Father Jacques Hamel was killed at a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray in the Normandy region of France on July 26, 2016 by two perpetrators claiming to represent the Islamic State (or ISIS). According to reports, the assailants took Fr. Hamel, two nuns, and two churchgoers hostage during Mass before slitting Fr. Hamel’s throat. Another hostage also had his throat slit, though he is thankfully expected to survive.
Many Catholics are heralding Fr. Hamel as the first priest-martyr of 21st Century. An official press release from the Society of St. Pius X’s French District Superior, Fr. Christian Bouchacourt, calls attention to the fact that Fr. Hamel was killed out of hatred for the Catholic Faith (odium fidei), a position supported by Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, Australia. Here are the bishop's words.
We cannot ignore the fact that [this was] a targeted attack on our Christian faith. The two terrorists meant to go into a Catholic church. They meant to kill a priest of Jesus Christ. They meant to take nuns and faithful laity as hostages. They were not just looking for any old building with any old people inside."
And the terrorists underlined the meaning of their act by engaging in a ritual sacrifice of the priest before the altar and a mock homily. So their act was not just murder but also sacrilege, desecration, blasphemy. Their motive not just revenge for the policies of the secular French government, but hatred for the Church and its priests and religious and faithful[.]"
The learned moral theologian Dominic Prummer, O.P., defines martyrdom as follows:
Martyrdom is the endurance of bodily death in witness to the Christian religion. Therefore three conditions must be verified for martyrdom: a) actual death; b) the infliction of death by an enemy out of hatred for Christianity; c) the voluntary acceptance of death. — Therefore the following are not genuinely martyrs: those who die by contracting disease in their care of lepers, those who suffer death for natural truths or for heresy, or who [indirectly] bring about their own death to safeguard their person. — The effect of martyrdom is the remission of all sin and punishment, since it is an act of perfect charity."
Although a full investigation by the proper authorities is still underway, it is clear that the first two elements of Christian martyrdom have been satisfied in Fr. Hamel’s case. That alone should send a powerful message to all Christians living in the West that they are not beyond the reach of radical Islamists seeking to destroy the Church. In other words, Muslim violence against Christians—including priests and religious—is not some “faraway problem” confined to the Middle East. Moreover, pure political or socio-economic explanations for Muslim-on-Christian violence cannot suffice. As Christians have known for more than 1,000 years, the diabolical religion of the false prophet Mohammad remains ever-set against the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ. (For more on this, see the July 2015 issue of The Angelus, including the articles “What Is Islam?” and “The Christian East Under Islam.”)
In these distressing times we must look to Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, for protection and strength, especially if the terrible hour should come where we are targeted for the Faith. Send supplications as well to the mighty saints of France, including Hilary of Poitiers, Martin of Tours, and Joan of Arc, for the liberation of their land from the threat of militant Islam.