Defence of the Crusades by Modern Popes?

Blessings, everyone.

I’m debating a Protestant who wants to know whether any Pope or Church official has offered a defence of the Crusades in the last 50 years. Does anyone know if any of the recent Pope’s have?


Crusaders were asked to come to the aid of Christians whose lands had been confiscated by Muslim invaders.

"Myth 7: Pope John Paul II apologized for the Crusades.

This is an odd myth, given that the pope was so roundly criticized for failing to apologize directly for the Crusades when he asked forgiveness from all those that Christians had unjustly harmed. It is true that John Paul recently apologized to the Greeks for the Fourth Crusade’s sack of Constantinople in 1204. But the pope at the time, Innocent III, expressed similar regret. That, too, was a tragic misfire that Innocent had done everything he could to avoid. "

Thomas F. Madden is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of History at Saint Louis University.

He is author of: A Concise History of the Crusades

co-author of : The Fourth Crusade.

I can’t see any modern pope going out of his way to defend the Crucades, knowing what we do about what actually happened.

It was an unmittigated murderous plunder and land grab despite the ostensible intention to free the Holy Land from the Muslims who had invaded it. Nothing that happened during the Crucades are any credit to Christians and the message of the Gospels.

There is a lot of information out on the Crucades and I’m afraid to say that the Muslims come out with a better reputation than the Christians that fought in the Holy Land in terms of mercy and tolerance.

There’s much more misinformation out about the Crusades, than truth.

"During the Middle Ages you could not find a Christian in Europe who did not believe that the Crusades were an act of highest good. Even the Muslims respected the ideals of the Crusades and the piety of the men who fought them.

But that all changed with the Protestant Reformation.

For Martin Luther, who had already jettisoned the Christian doctrines of papal authority and indulgences, the Crusades were nothing more than a ploy by a power-hungry papacy. Indeed, he argued that to fight the Muslims was to fight Christ himself, for it was he who had sent the Turks to punish Christendom for its faithlessness.

When Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his armies began to invade Austria, Luther changed his mind about the need to fight, but he stuck to his condemnation of the Crusades.

During the next two centuries people tended to view the Crusades through a confessional lens: Protestants demonized them, Catholics extolled them. As for Suleiman and his successors, they were just glad to be rid of them."

The Seljuks were slaughtering Christians, did you expect the Pope to sit back and watch it happened? There was very little money to be made in Outremer, many a knight and lord sold land to get there and made nowhere near the money as travel costs.

If the Muslims come out better than the Christians then you need better reading material

Why would a pope have to apologise for the crusades? They were a perfectly reasonable resposne to centuries of muslim agression, including almost conquering the iberian peninsula, sacking Rome itself and even destroying the Holy Sepulchre the holiest site in Christendom. The only thing to wonder about is why a reaction didn;t occur sooner (ie the christian teachings).

As to defending them why defend teh crusades to others when you know they were reasonable and right acts to defend christians and aid byzantium. Defending them would imply that you had something shameful to cover up particularly in the current culture.

I would be more careful about such bold statement.

The Christians owned the Holy Land between 313 and the 7th Century. In the 600’s AD the Holy Land fall into the hand of Muslims, but they admitted freely any pilgrimage. Around 1050 the Seljuk Turks, newcomers to the Islam, occupied the area and denied the access to the Christians.

Every group, including the Church has the natural right to her Holy Places. This right was violated, and the Christians attended to restore the order.

The Crusades failed, but this does not makes their goal unjust. The reasons of the failure were:

  • the disagreement between the Eastern and Western Christians
  • the long distance of Jerusalem from the West
  • the greed related to the ‘travel services’ (typical case where the private ownership should be limited against the interest iof the community).

The Muslims were united, they were present, and they submitted the private interest to the interest of the community.

We can learn from the failure of the crusades. It is not accident that the Adversary want to denigrate it.

Thanks for the help everyone.

For the record, the protestant in question does not believe the Crusades were wrong. He wants to know whether the Church had disowned them, so to speak.

This is an important question, especially with respect to the Knights Templars.

In fact, Bl. Pope John Paul II has approved a small religious Order which is based on a reformed Templar rule (it is a Traditionalist Order, FYI).

A reconciliation between the Church and the Templars wouldn’t be out of order. There aren’t any Templar saints, even though, as in the Battle of Hattin, 80 Templars were beheaded, one by one, as they were forced to approach a Cross that was set up by the Saracens and told to spit on it. They all refused. They are true Martyrs . . .

There was no reason for the violent deaths of Jacques de Molay and Geoffroi de Chancey and other Templars killed by the French Inquisition. A sad page in the history of the Church.

So much nonsense has been written about the Templars, movies and the like, as well as “Templar Orders” that have nothing to do with their original purpose and are even pagan in outlook.

It would be great if the Church could revisit the trial of the Templars with the view to exonerating those murdered/martyred (much like what happened with St Joan of Arc).

There are many Templars, martyred for the Catholic Faith, who deserve the honours of the altar as well.


Well if you really study the Crusades and the purposes for them - you will find that for the most part - the Criticism leveled against the Crusades have been born predominately since the Protestant Revolt. Were there some Crusades that were called that were blatently mismanaged and did things no Catholic should be proud of? Yes - but keep in mind - if we didnt have the Crusades - many more Catholic Pilgrims would have been slaughtered and many Catholic Holy Artifacts lost. Like the Church of the Nativity that the Islamics purposely used as a Stable. I wish more Catholics would take the time to educate themselves about the Crusades instead of simply accepting Protestant false information as fact.

As you can see, there are plenty of folks here that are happy to defend the Crusades; I am not one of them. There is similar movement to redeem the Inquisition. I don’t think the Church is on board with either movement.

To more directly answer your questions, fifty years of Popes covers at least parts of five papacies- Benedict VI, John Paul II, John Paul I, Paul VI and John XXIII. To my knowledge, none of them has defended the crusades. Pope John Paul II did not exactly apologize for the Crusades, per se, but during the millenial celebrations he did apologize for the Church’s past intolerance and use of violence. Most believed that one of the things he was referring to was the Crusades. He also expressed sorrow and regret to the Greek Church for things that happened during the Fourth Crusade.

As for “Church officials,” that is a tough thing to define. There are a lot of bishops and hundreds of Cardinals. Most are good and holy men, but like all men some are prone to foot in mouth disease, so there is a pretty good chance you could find some unfortunate comment from one of them somewhere. But I don’t think that anyone speaking for the Church has tried to defend the Crusades in some time.

What happened during the fourth Crusade had more to do with who went on it than the Church herself. One more misconception. Blaming the Church as a whole for the misdeeds of some of her members. The same thing happens today in regards to the Pedophilia Scandal. Does that mean all Catholic Priests are guilty or the Church is guilty as a whole?

As to the Inquisition - (the Spanish inquisition for example) the part of the story that isnt told is how in Spain - there were subversives who posed as Catholics but were not Catholic in order to infilltrate both the Church and the Spanish Government. The Inquisition was the repsonse to that issue. To attempt to root out the subversives. Tell me the difference between that and the reponse to domestic islamic militants today in this country.


I would not canonize the Templars. They made enormous money for exploiting the pilgrims and putting the result to usury. Without them our history would be different and better. Unfortunately their connections with the Rosecrans - Free Masons - Illuminati etc are not revealed sufficiently.

The problem is that the Church only acts through its members. There is a long history of saying that the bad things in Church history were done by individuals - even when those individuals were commissioned by high-ranking clergy, or even high-ranking clergy themselves. But anything good done by other individuals was the Church’s doing. It’s not possible to have it both ways. The Church was involved in both the Crusades and the Inquisition. We either have to admit that the Church bears some fault for the bad that was done in those events, or we have to say that the Church has never done anything, good or bad, ever. I think we as a Church should own up to the bad things that have been done by the Church or in the Church’s name, understanding that those events are outweighed by the great good also done by the Church and in the Church’s name over the centuries.

So then if that is a fact explain Judas Iscariot. Does what Judas did , diminish in anyway the effots of the other 11 Apostles? Obviously not. From the beginning there have been Catholics who sinned and former Catholics who apostacized - and therein lies the difference. There are always two sides to every story and simply because the Protestants and Non Catholics have been more vocal in voicing their version of historic events , do not be so quick to buy into them. The CHURCH as I define it is the Church Triumphant the Church Militant and the Church Suffering in UNION with the Body of CHRIST at all times. Since the Church as I define it (the way I was Catechised) Cannot be in complicity with SIN. Take for example St. Bernard of Clairvaux who called for the Second Crusade that wound up going terribly wrong and was for all intents and purposes and utter failure. And yet St Bernard of Clairvaux obviously had GOD’s Blessing or he would not have been able to perform the miracles he performed. So the paradox for you would be to explain why that is so.

I find your avatar and comment ironic. You say Christianity looks bad in hisrories eyes, but yet you have a Christian crusader as your avatar :shrug:

I’d like some proof with that Dan Brown…

Sure their connection is revealed… by the pens of atheists wanting to make an easy buck.

Ya, better, Europe would me Moslem.

Exploiting? sources please.

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