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11 November 2014
His Holiness, Pope Francis
00120 Vatican City
I read of your coming visit to Turkey with grave concern. Your itinerary, in particular your visit with Recep Tayyip ErdoÄan, is fraught with hazardous implications for you and for the Holy See. I fear this meeting may prove most dangerous to the prestige and moral authority of the Vatican. Your visit to ErdoÄan's illegally constructed "palace," grossly fascist in its garish enormity, speaks to the sordidly violent reputation of the man, himself. You will understand this upon first sight.
ErdoÄan is the man who has destroyed the legitimacy of the Turkish justice system. He ignored the court decision that prohibited this massive rape of protected forest preserve. You will see, firsthand, the effect of the slaughter of 13,000 trees. Erdogan's response to the court was "Let them demolish it if they have enough power." Such a contemptuous response is reminiscent of Stalin's response to Winston Churchill's concern about the Vatican and the fate of Catholic Poland under post-war Soviet repression. "The Pope?" asked Stalin, "How many divisions does he have?"
I need not remind you of ErdoÄan's violence during the Gezi Park demonstrations last year--the outrageous gassings, the beatings, the murders of innocent young people, the taunting and name-calling by the prime minister, his insults to the grieving families of the dead, his encouragement of wanton police violence, the shame of it all.
I need not remind you of the same man's performance during the Soma coalmine disaster where 301 miners died due to governmental supervisory negligence. "It was their destiny," blithely opined ErdoÄan at a press conference on the day of the mass funeral. He then proceeded to walk among the grieving people, insulting and pummeling those he could reach behind his protective cordon of thugs.
I need not remind you of this man's performance when a massive corruption scandal erupted last year. When he, his family and his collaborators were caught red-handed, he fired all the investigators and related police. Then he preposterously blamed a conspiracy of his religious-monger ally, Fethullah Gulen, and assorted other imagined foreign powers and agents. The money in question was vast, billions of dollars in shoe and candy boxes, billions of dollars in gold ingots. The man's puppet court dismissed all charges against the criminal cabal. There is no judicial independence in Turkey.
Finally, perhaps I do need to remind you that ErdoÄan has been the primary instigator and enabler of the violence in Syria, now spread throughout the region, even to his own country, Turkey. Your overwhelming concern about this horrendous violence is warranted. And through the irony of international statesmanship you have planned a cordial visit with the one man most responsible for this carnage.
Your Holiness, such warmongering has not gone unrecognized and he and his collaborating agents have already been referred to the International Criminal Court at The Hague in criminal complaints. This is the manner of the man you will meet, a man whose life is littered with dark deeds. The opportunities for the Vatican to suffer profound embarrassment and, indeed, humiliation loom dangerously possible.
My concern for the Catholic Church's potential embarrassment arises from my roots. Educated in Catholic schools through high school in the Archdiocese of New York, I learned to do my best for God and Country. Progressing to university study at the United States Military Academy at West Point, reinforced these watchwords by stressing the importance of Duty and, most importantly, Honor. It is my concern about the potential debasement of the Catholic Church and the Papacy that sparks this letter. Your Holiness, I implore you and your staff to consider limiting your exposure to such an unsavory, controversial character.
I have lived in Turkey for thirteen years. I have witnessed the destruction of most of the nation's democratic institutions. And the prime mover for this destruction has been the man you are scheduled to meet at his illegal "palace" on 28 November 2014.
Your Holiness, holy oil has consecrated your hands to be the bodily agents to transubstantiate bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Through this act, we become one with God. It is the great mystery of the Catholic faith, a mystery that surpasses all earthly understanding.
In like manner, it surpasses my earthly understanding how these same consecrated hands, your hands, could risk contamination by shaking hands with the likes of Recep Tayyip ErdoÄan.