Speaking of John Allen, I’m left puzzled by his “All Things Catholic” column from this past Friday in which he asks “Who will say No to Benedict XVI?” The premise is based on Regensburg but has wider application.
Allen says that Vatican officials he’s spoken to say that no one is willing to tell Pope Benedict he’s wrong.
The point Benedict made in Regensburg about reason and faith needing each other is an urgent one, and he was both right and courageous to flag it as a special challenge for Islam today. Extreme reactions in some parts of the Islamic world actually confirmed his argument. In the end, the tumult at least put the question on the table. Nevertheless, Benedict’s citation of a Byzantine emperor’s polemical remarks about Mohammad could have been more nuanced. Had it been, some of the violence that resulted—including attacks against Christian churches and, perhaps, the slaying of an Italian nun in Somalia—might have been avoided.
One senior Vatican official put it to me this way: “Had he just inserted a single phrase, saying clearly, ‘This does not reflect my personal opinion,’ it would have been a different story.”
Except, he did in fact insert a phrase saying it did not reflect his personal opinion. Right there in the same speech, he says of Emperor Manuel: “[H]e addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness that we find unacceptable …” What more could he have said? In fact, any attempt by the Pope to address the use of violence by Muslims to spread the religion and their influence would have resulted in similar acts of violence. It’s exactly what the Pope was talking about. This second-guessing and casting aspersions based on false recollections.
Allen says that at least eight people saw the Pope’s speech before he gave it and whether any of them said anything or not, the reference was not changed. In fact, perhaps it was to include the qualification. Perhaps the qualification was already there.
I’m not sure what Allen’s point is. That the Pope doesn’t have trusted confidantes? That he;s a lone wolf prone to going it alone? Hmm. Regardless, since the first reference is so obviously incorrect, the whole premise is suspect.