|I'll say it out loud: I love this Pope. I have long had enormous respect for his intellect, his literacy, his lyrical writing (or, perhaps. that of his translators). And I expect good things on the ecumenical front from him.|
That's why I am stunned and confounded by the furor he created with his remarks in the "Aula Magna" of the University of Regensburg. What on earth was the point of his scandalous repeat of a scurrilous claim by a fourteenth-century Byzantine emperor to the effect that nothing good came from Mohammed? Oh, I recognize that somewhere in there is his desire to discountenance "forced conversion" or "spreading the faith through violence" (Benedict's words) because it is "unreasonable." But why the quote? Why this most inflammatory quote? Why this quote that does injustice to the good that has been fostered by and under Muslim rule in various lands?
He knew what he was doing: Benedict is way too smart to include something this harsh "by accident." And he must have known that it would cause incredible offense -- and, I add, not just to Muslims, because it is slanderous. And if it is, as he has suggested in his follow-up statements and semi-apology, a surprise that anyone would take take personal umbrage from his remarks in the context of an academic lecture, then I am forced to wonder whether he is way too naive to serve as the voice and spiritual head of a huge block of Christians.
And I think his advisers (and here I am, advising the Pope's legions!) had better look to the effects of his example. Already, the Catholic blogs -- including the Pontificator's usually admirable blog -- are filling with vile anti-Muslim and anti-Arab vituperation. Here's a sample from a response to one blog that echoed the ancient emperor's claim that Muslims have contributed anything to society:
Well, as a (formerly) non-extremist Catholic I can honestly tell you, the
(This was copied directly from the blog; the errors in grammar are original and the cute stars are, too.) Lamentably, Pontificator linked to the originial blog that inspired this reaction (the point of which was to agree with the orginal post), and that's how I came to read it.
I have heard (thanks to Vatican commentators in print and on TV) that this pope does not favor interreligious dialogue. I have no idea what that means. And I know that he intends to distinguish his approach vis-a-vis Islam from his predecessor's (which, apparently, he considered too lenient). And I can understand the need for honest confrontation with the thorny issues involving the interweaving of Koran and terrorism. (I think, too, that there is plenty of room for self-examination on the same issue regarding the Bible. There's a certain matter of Crusades, for example.)
But none of that requires or justifies the insertion into an otherwise rather rational paper (I think he'd appreciate the pun there) of a gratutitous and alarmingly simplistic (that is to say, unreasonable) slam against an enormously popular religion.
I hope someone can help me to see the reason -- which the Pope was touting in his lecture -- in all of this!