Horror on my own doorstep!

Update: the attackers are confirmed to have been Daesh terrorists.

* * *

I was horrified to hear about the hostage situation in the church of Saint Etienne de Rouvray near Rouen, about an hour’s drive from my home. By now, there will be news articles all over the internet. Two attackers seriously wounded members of the tiny congregation at the weekday Mass and barbarously killed the 84-year old priest celebrating the Mass. The two attackers were then shot dead by the police.

I can hear the radio as I write, and there is no confirmation yet about the motive, but a religious motive is preferred over the acts of people with mental problems (there is a psychiatric hospital next to the church).

Such a barbarous attack leaves me without words, whether committed by persons with motives of revenge or Islamist ideology. I suppose the police had no alternative to killing the two attackers, otherwise some information could have been extracted in a soundproof cell with the judicious use of a carving knife and a pair of pliers! They took the priest and tiny congregation as hostages, so logically would have tried to obtain something.

What do we do? Support political movements which would advocate a tough line like Le Pen or Trump? Turn the other cheek, which is usually a euphemism for cowardice? As a priest, I feel awkward with the usual platitudes of churchmen. We need to look within ourselves, not so much to make ourselves feel guilty, but to know ourselves, be ourselves and ascertain the quality of our own commitment to Christ both in his sacramental mystery and the way of life he taught us in the Gospel.

That is about all I can say in a time when we are troubled by atrocity after atrocity and the duplicity of politicians and world leaders.

At this stage, as it becomes clearer that this was an Islamist attack, my feelings are presently not very Christian and perhaps not very edifying. I am not of the political extreme-right in terms of ideology, but rather more socialist in the 19th century meaning of this idea – but Nationalism now seems to be the only way: a realistic degree of repression of any radical form of Islam, including the use of torture to obtain the information needed to destroy organisations like Daesh. I am in no way motivated by racial hatred, but, at the same time, had Churchill lived in our times, he would have vowed to “fight them in the trenches…”. It is clear that these atrocities are designed to provoke this feeling in us all – until the day when terrorists will curse their mother for giving birth to them.

As a French bishop has just said on the radio, we have to go on living and not let terrorism win in terms of maintaining us in fear for our own lives. It is easy to act tough and run a mile if actually faced with terrorists intending to kill us.

BBC News on the situation.

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13 Responses to Horror on my own doorstep!

  1. J.D. says:

    I would suggest a kristallnacht is in order, but against muslims. Turning the other cheek at these times is indeed cowardice. The West needs to start fighting fire with fire before they are outnumbered.

    This business of simply going on living seems like cowardice. These animals need to be brutally put down and driven out of Europe.

  2. Timothy Graham says:

    We do not yet know who these people are, but it might be worthwhile asking the following. Have we seen any evidence in any of the attacks so far that they are coordinated or carried out by either (1) devout Muslims, or (2) people closely linked with some kind of IS command control in a bunker in Iraq? They are all, so far as I can see, small groups of petty criminals on drugs who latch onto the hate propaganda from IS and don’t practice their supposed religion either morally or ritually.

    There is (was) a case for preventing cultural take-over etc. by restricting immigration, I fully agree, something that we have failed to do. But these attackers are not part of an immigrant Islamic movement and to say so flies in the face of the evidence. Ergo, deciding to forcibly remove millions won’t prevent it.

    I might be blown to bits in London today on my way home from work; I could have been blown to bits in Belfast where I grew up. It seems to me that the bravest thing that we can do is get on with things normally. One cannot “beat” sporadic terrorism without central organisation and a weapons supply chain… nor can it be “beaten” by politicians offering platitudes or humourless policemen with machine guns outside parliament… the only way to win is not to be terrorised & to read one’s novel on the train as usual.

    • I would agree. The only alternative is to adopt the ideology of Darwin, Nietzsche and the Nazi crank “philosophers” and proceed with a pogrom against all the easily identified Muslims. Where will it end? Germany in the spring of 1945, the only difference being that the bombs would be nukes. What strikes me is that these loonies want us to declare war against them. Those two men shot by the police were looking for martyrdom. What they deserved was a lifetime in a prison cell in total darkness and silence wallowing in pig excrement!

      The tendency is towards keeping convicted terrorists indefinitely in prison, and there will have to be laws allowing the arrest of those known to be members of radical organisations even if they haven’t committed anything and their being confined in maximum security prisons. It spells the end of certain human rights, but this would be the price of a war against terrorism.

      These men may well have been drug-crazed “independents”, though the police confirmed that one of the two was known to them. From today’s The Guardian (British intellectual left wing newspaper):

      Hollande described the incident as “an ignoble terrorist attack” by two supporters of Isis. The group, which claimed responsibility for the attack via its affiliated Amaq news agency, “has declared war on us”, Hollande said, adding that it was a war France would have to fight by remaining united.

      According to the French channel BFMTV, one of the two killers, as yet unnamed, lived in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray and had tried to travel to fight in Syria in 2015 but had been sent back by Turkish border authorities and jailed in France. He was released in March this year despite the protests of prosecutors, had an electronic tag that allowed authorities to monitor his movements, and was only allowed out of his house between 8.30am and 12.30pm.

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      I heard recently from someone who has access to such things, that ISIS in their glossy English-language magazine ( (I think it was there: it was certainly ISIS) was recruiting young women to become human bombs because as such a ‘martyr’ that be in an effectively saviour-like position to intercede successfully for up to 70 loved ones on the dread day of judgement. Presumably some such ‘golden opportunity’ might well also appeal to “petty criminals on drugs who […] don’t practice their […] religion either morally or ritually”, even on a parody of a ‘wager of Pascal’ grounds.

      “It is easy to act tough and run a mile if actually faced with terrorists intending to kill us.” A lot of rigorous and vigorous unarmed combat-style self-defense training is basically aimed at giving its practitioner a better chance of escape – including simply running away.

      I can’t help thinking one would be better off combining reading one’s novel with improved ‘situational awareness’ (like Housman – wasn’t it? – editing Latin classics in the trenches during the Great War) – and a concealed weapon whose use one had mastered by much practice. (I once prevented a robber escaping from Sainsbury’s with his booty by wielding my sabre (I was on the way back from fencing practice) – but that involved more surprise on his part than mastery on mine!)

  3. Patrick Sheridan says:

    Two things:

    The worst thing about this seems to be that the attackers invariably get shot by police, or commit suicide. Now, if they were brought to justice and we had a swift, efficient and just criminal justice system, with Capital Punishment, rather than the flaccid, inefficient, evicerated and totally corrupt system we now have, then things might be very different. I don’t know what, other than illegal narcotics and ideology, motivates these people but if they died ignominiously at the command of the State, rather than at their own will, then the incentive to carry on murdering innocent people might disappear, or take away the delusion of a thousand willing virgins waiting on the other side. What justice is there in the attackers being shot by police? Or being locked away for the rest of their lives, in relative comfort and at great expense to the taxpayer?

    Also, I agree with the Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens when he says that there ought to be a thorough inquiry into the relationship between mind-altering drugs and atrocities like this. Many people who have committed such atrocities have been found to have taken amphetamines, anti-depressants, steroids, anti-psychotic medication, cannabis, &c. They’re also known to have committed petty crimes, and to have had previous encounters with the law. Until such an inquiry takes place, and we seriously reconsider…well there isn’t one issue…then not one of us is going to be safe, anywhere.

    Lord, have mercy!

    • Those men would welcome being executed as much as committing suicide or getting shot by the police. Perhaps they could be executed by a woman executioner. Better: put them in an American style supermax prison in dark cells without windows, far underground. Perhaps they could be “persuaded” to eat pork!

      The drug hypothesis seems likely.

      Anyone the least bit suspected of sympathy with terrorism and Daesh should be arrested and put in a Guantanamo style military prison camp. That would take the pressure off ordinary Muslims who are not violent, like the Tunisians and Moroccans. We have to be careful to avoid reacting and supporting Nazi-like solutions!

  4. Neil Hailstone says:

    My first reaction to this horrific attack by Daesh terrorists was to pray for the soul of Fr Jacques and for the other person attending Holy Mass, so far unnamed , who was severely injured. I also offered prayers for the Christians of France.
    Like many other people I feel angry and stunned by what has happened.

    Despite often having my patience sorely tried I still believe we must continue to support democratic government whilst advocating serious reform to reflect the needs of ordinary people.
    This accords with OED dictionary of ‘populism’ as opposed to the use of the word by the European and British elite political establishment who use the term to denote Far Right political parties and movements.

    Platitudes from the usual sources will no longer suffice in dealing with this situation. No more processions with placards Je Suis this, that or the other. I want to see some proper action to improve public safety. I advocate the creation of armed Police Reserves or the recreation of local County militias to assist the present forces of law enforcement. Acting within the law which if Emergency Powers are in force are enough for the threat we are dealing with.Available especially for protecting communities and places of worship. It would be very important to offer membership to men and women from local communities.

    I also believe, and here I only have knowledge relevant to the United Kingdom, that our Liberal Secular governments should pull back from what they describe as Counter Extremism policies which are in effect very counter productive. You have the ludicrous situation where police officers, teachers,other public agencies and the Educational agency OFSTED
    running around investigating people, including children for expressing mainstream faith opinions.
    This upsets the two main faith communities in this country. A proper balance is needed.

    What all of us in every community need to be doing is taking care of each other by vigilance, sensible observation and reporting anything suspicious.We cannot go on as we are. If we do I can envisage a lucrative future for the manufacturers of a certain type of polished black boot.

  5. Dear Fr. Chadwick,

    I am deeply sorry for the martyred priest who was killed near to where you live. I am praying, and will continue to pray, for his soul. You, your wife, and your church community are in my prayers as well.

    It gives me no satisfaction whatsoever to point out that last year, I had predicted that such events were likely to occur this summer. I point this out now because this is not the end of the troubles. Rather, it is only the beginning. More are likely to follow.

    I write now to repeat my earlier suggestion that you take such steps as are necessary to protect yourself, your wife, and your community. There is a saying in America that when seconds count, the police will arrive hours later. I have no doubt that it is much the same thing with les flics.

    I write to point out that this will not only be the case because of Ayrab immigrants. Just last year, my little church of St. Andrew’s was very nearly torched while eight members of my community were inside praying Matins that morning. It was only quick thinking and fast work with a nearby garden hose that prevented a fire that otherwise would have consumed the building within minutes, and killed the people inside. As it was, there was substantial smoke and fire damage in the sanctuary. The attempted arsonist was found to be a confused woman who, when she was put back on her meds, deeply apologized to my priest and the community.

    Again, I would urge you to protect your family and your community. Negotium perambulans in tenebris, et in luce solis…

  6. Are you really in favour of torture, Father? Is that not just something that is evil and wrong?

    • Ordinarily, I consider torture as diabolical. In this kind of case, I think it would be justified if it saves other lives by providing information.

      • I don’t think its a settled question as to whether torture can provide useful intelligence. I think in the countries where torture is used, it is not used to get useful informtion, but simply to terrify the opponents of the ruling regimes.

        I am terrified at the thought that our service men and women could be asked to carry out acts of torture. I think that would dehumanize them as well as their prisoners. I think you are playing with fire in advocating such a measure.

      • You could well be right, and the slope is slippery. Our weakness in the west is our Christian culture, tolerance, democracy and our belief in human rights. I am uncertain about the question in view of the kind of situation we are talking about.

  7. David Marriott says:

    During the IRA crisis in the UK, I was working in Northern Britain, and soon came to understand that the only way to defy fear of terror was to maintain your regular daily routine: which is the very thing the terrorist wants to deny you. So, my contribution is to once again board a flight to the south of France for my holidays in 2016……&, one hopes for years to come…

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