July 2021 Print

The Last Word

Fr. David Sherry
District Superior of Canada

The year: 1095. The place: Clermont. The speaker: Eudes de Châtillon, otherwise known as Urban II. The topic: Crusade.

Christian warriors, who continually and vainly seek pretexts for war, rejoice, for you have today found a true pretext! Men of God, men chosen and blessed among all, combine your forces! Take the road to the Holy Sepulchre assured of the imperishable glory that awaits you in God’s kingdom. To the Christian, every place is exile because in every place, he is far from heaven, and every place is home because in every place he finds God. If you are conquered, you will have the glory of dying in the very same place as Jesus Christ, and God will never forget that he found you in the holy battalions. Let each one deny himself and take the Cross!

Then, in the great crowd, was heard like the sound of a river growing in volume and strength the cry “Dieu li volt! Dieu le veut!”—“God wills it!”

And so started the great enterprise of… “the pursuit of mines of treasures, of gold and diamonds, of palaces of marble and jasper” according to Edward Gibbon. Or to quote Voltaire, “an epidemic of fury which was always marked by every cruelty, every perfidy, every debauchery and every folly of which human nature is capable.” We could go on. Everyone knows how the crusades were simply a colonial takeover, the imposition of a “colonial religion,” the source of the Muslim world’s suspicion of the west. Or were they?1

After Mohammed’s raiding of Christian territory, Jerusalem was taken by Muslim forces in 638 AD. From then on, the Muslims more or less treated the Christians with tolerance and the holy places with relative respect. But in the new millennium, everything changed. The Seljuk Turks, recent converts to Islam, took over. No more tolerance. There is no God but Allah! Death to the infidel! And thus, they began to persecute the Christians, to maltreat and kill them, and to desecrate the holy places. In other words, when the Christians in the East were attacked, they called on their brethren in the West to defend them: their lives, their rights and the holy places. No war of conquest then, “epidemic of fury” indeed; the Crusades fulfill the classic definition of a just war: the vindication of trampled-upon rights.


Fr. David Sherry



1 In “Bearing False Witness,” (2016) professor of history—and agnostic—Rodney Stark debunks this and many another chestnut of anti-Catholic anti-history.