Papal Controversy


I wrote a lengthy post on Monday about the Pope's Regensburg lecture that ignited way too much controversy, but I lost it. Aaaaargh. I'll sum up here.

The German Pope, speaking to a German audience of scholars and scientists, quoted the scholarly work of a renowned German scholar who had recently translated the work of Manuel II Paleologus, a Byzantine Emperor from 6 centuries ago. This emperor, when he wasn't fighting off usurping relatves, spent much of his rule defending his empire from Muslim Turks, so he had a particular hard spot in his heart for Mohammed. The Pope took pains to make clear that the emperor's words were not his own, the German original shows an even greater effort on the part of the Holy Father to separate himself from those actual remarks. The remark about Islam bringing things "evil and inhuman" was a tiny bit of the quote from Manuel. The Pope further quoted an eloquent passage from Manuel concerning reason and faith. This was the basis for using the quote.

Indeed, the Holy Father had this to say yesterday:

Unfortunately, this quotation has given room to a misunderstanding. For the careful reader of my text it is clear that I did not wish at any time to make my own the negative words uttered by the medieval emperor in this dialogue and that its controversial content does not express my personal conviction. My intention was very different: Based on what Manuel II affirms afterward in a very positive way, with very beautiful words, about rationality in the transmission of the faith, I wished to explain that religion is not united to violence, but to reason.

He further quoted Muslim scholars who seemed to be saying that God cannot be described as necessarily reasonable.

The mention of Islam was the launching pad for a discussion of reason and faith, during which Islam was not mentioned. If Benedict's lecture could be seen as slamming anybody, it would be not Islam, but rather:

  1. liberal Protestant and Catholic theologians who wish to divorce Catholic faith from the hellenistic thought into which it was born and which had already been in dialogue with Judaism centuries before Christianity came about,

  2. secular scholars and scientists who pretend that empirical research alone can get to the truth of who we are and why we exist,

  3. believers of all stripes who use violence or any irrational means to promote their religion.

That said, given the fact that anything the Pope says to any audience gets worldwide amplification, he should have been more careful in his wording. It's true, that as the Holy Father said, "a careful reading" of the text shows he was not agreeing that Islam has only brought evil, but with the nature of the soundbyte information age, and the fact that he was speaking over the heads of most of the world, an explicit statement that he did not agree with the statements was appropriate to not cause offence to Muslims. "Careful" readers are few and far between among those with the largest megaphones.

This does not in any way make the Pope responsble for violence, rioting and murder. But as a representative of Catholics and Christians living in Muslim countries that are quick to violent oppression, he has a responsibility towards them. Again, this doesn't make the Pope responsible for the actions of those who need only an excuse to persecute Christians.

Finally, it was disappointing to see so many commentators and fellow Catholic bloggers agree with the Pope's remarks when they thought he really meant the Islam has only brought things inhuman and evil.

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This page contains a single entry by Papa-Lu published on September 21, 2006 8:23 AM.

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