9.16.2006

Some thoughts on Benedict's speech

So now Cardinal Bertone is saying that the pope "had absolutely no intention" of implying that he shared Emperor Manuel's opinion about Islam. My question, then, is why did he quote him? Why quote someone else's opinion if you don't share it? If you don't distinguish between that opinion and your own, aren't people quite justified in taking offense?

If the pope wanted an example of religiously motivated violence to condemn, and if he was going to use an example from the distant past, why pick on Muhammed (as interpreted by a Byzantine emperor)? He couldn't have found something in his own church's history? Perhaps one of his predecessors, like Innocent III?

This is not to say that Islamic violence is not a problem. And contrary to the well-meaning assertions of the PC crowd, the problem is not confined to a tiny fringe of the Islamic population. The violence over the Danish cartoons a few months ago, and the violence against Christian churches in the last few days, are indications that the need to 'lighten up' is pretty widespread in the Islamic world. Actual physical violence may be perpetrated by a small minority, but the rage that gives rise to such violence and the values that allow it to arise, are much more widespread.

Obviously the pope knows this. But knowing this, he must also know that one must choose one's words carefully in addressing it. Especially if you're the pope.

The Bertone quotation is from this Reuters article.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Constance Reader said...

"This is not to say that Islamic violence is not a problem. And contrary to the well-meaning assertions of the PC crowd, the problem is not confined to a tiny fringe of the Islamic population."

I must take issue with this statement, as a stand-alone. The same could be said of anti-gay or anti-abortion fundamental Christians in the U.S., or anti-Arabs Jews in Israel, or the Hindu/Buddhist riots in India, or any of a dozen other examples. The important point to make here is that most if not all humans who have the psychological and/or emotional makeup which attracts them to fundamental and overzealous religious movements (and which make them attractive to such movements) are easily swept up in the herd mentality that leads to mob violence. It is not even a purely religious phenomenon. KKK/neo-nazi/white supremacist rallies particularly come to mind. Which is why the Pope's remarks are potentially so destructive; as you say, of all the quotes he had to choose from, why did he choose this one?

But I do appreciate your point that the Catholic Church holds no particular moral high ground here. How easily we forget the Inquisition and The Crusades, how the Vatican "turned the other cheek" to the Holocaust for so long (in spite of great acts of courage by individual Catholics and religious orders).

11:53 a.m.  
Blogger BrianK said...

B16 strikes me sometimes as a scholar who does not understand that when he speaks and writes he will be judged not as a scholar (who might even be a bit provocative as a matter of tactics) but as a world leader. Maybe this is too kind to him, but he is an old dog and it may take him a little while to pick up the PR tricks at which his predecessor was so gifted.

6:55 p.m.  

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