The pope thinks the real problem is income inequality, that if these young men just had jobs they wouldn’t join ISIS. This denies the very words and confessed motivations of the terrorists themselves, and is a particularly odd position for a religious leader to take. One would think that the pope, of all people, would understand the power of religious convictions, however misguided. But by ignoring these things, he joins a chorus of liberals in the West who can’t believe anyone would be so moved by their faith that they would give their life for it.
He also denies the traditional power of religion to influence all people, including the poor, to restrain their passions by refusing to excuse or explain away evil choices. Stealing or murdering is wrong, no matter how little money you have. Francis’s church and faith have always taught this.
Pope Francis claims to “know how they think,” referring to Muslims—quite a feat for any man. But here, he makes the common mistake of looking at Islam as a monolithic religion. This logical fallacy forces a false choice between saying that Islam as a whole either is or isn’t violent. No one can make either claim, given that there are millions of Muslims in the world who neither practice violence nor endorse it. And of course there are millions who do.
The leader of the Catholic Church shouldn’t defame or insult other religions in general or without cause. However, we should expect Francis to defend his own religion where appropriate, and to distinguish it from a religion that has a chronic problem with violence.