Denver scholar defends Crusades in light of new film

With renewed attention being given to the Catholic Crusades in light of Ridley Scott’s soon-to-be released film ‘Kingdom of Heaven’, Dr. Jay Reyes is urging faithful to understand their complicated history and not be intimidated by those who use the Crusades to “attack Christian history and obscure the real roots of Christian-Muslim conflict.”

Reyes, President of Denver’s Augustine Institute went so far as to say that on a certain level, Christians should be proud of the Crusades.

“It’s hard for us to understand”, he said, “people who loved the land where the Lord had walked that much.”

He said that his goal for the night was not to “whitewash” the atrocities committed during the Crusades, but rather, to help his audience understand the real circumstances of the time and avoid the “simplistic judgments” that he thinks, pervade modern conversations about them.

The lecture room at the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization overflowed into the hallway as people listened to Reyes who explained that modern culture has difficulty understanding the true intentions behind the Crusades, noting that many who participated in them had “their hearts set afire wanting God’s kingdom to be properly honored.”

He blamed modern misunderstanding, in large part, on the “skepticism of our age”, saying that it has become a foolish idea to fight for “religious superstition.”

Dr. Reyes tackled some of the major myths of the Crusades that paint Christians as “naïve or bloodthirsty…who fought a war for their own gain.”

Pointing out four aspects that constitute an authentic Crusade, namely, that it was a pilgrimage; that it was called by a Pope; that it had a military goal of reclaiming Christian territory and defending Christians being persecuted in those places; and that one could gain an indulgence and remittance of debt, Reyes stressed that “this was an age that actually believed that there were sins that needed to be atoned for.”

While there were many atrocities committed during the Crusades, he went on, which should be apologized for, “it shouldn’t make us apologize for the Crusades themselves.”

From what he knows of the yet to be released ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ movie, Reyes quipped, calling it an “unhistorical, historical model” of the Crusades, citing numerous Middle Age scholars who have grave reservations about the film.

Francis Maier, Chancellor for the Archdiocese added that, “the Crusades have become a useful tool for Muslims to intimidate Christians and make us apologize,” and pointed out that the bloody story of Muslims taking the Holy Land from Christians in the first place is too often glossed over.

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