For what was the Pope apologizing?; and the media’s responsibility

For what was the Pope apologizing?; and the media’s responsibility

Most of the world’s media is reporting that Pope Benedict apologized on Sunday for his remarks on Islam last week during a speech in Regensburg, Germany. But that’s not exactly the whole story. In fact, the Pope said he was sorry for “the reactions” toward his words which “were considered offensive.”

That’s not exactly, “I’m sorry because I was wrong.” It’s more like, “I’m sorry because of your overreaction or misunderstanding.” The Pope is not backing down from his speech because he has nothing to apologize for. He simply quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor who was under siege by a Muslim army and was saying that Islam should not be spread by violence. That the Muslim world reacted in a fit of violence only proves the point.

What I think Pope Benedict is really sorry about is that his words have been used as a pretext to firebomb two West Bank churches and to kill an Italian nun in Somalia. I have a hunch that he doesn’t fear the effects on himself so much as the effects on innocents who will be punished as proxies for rage against him.

The author of the first article linked above, Ian Fisher of the New York Times also misconstrues the entire point of Benedict’s speech in Regensburg, either deliberately or through an egregious mistake. After recounting the citations that caused the Muslim outrage, Fisher writes:

At the same time, without mentioning Islam specifically, he suggested reason as the basis for “that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today.”

The reason Benedict did not “cite Islam specifically” was because Benedict’s major thrust in the speech was the problem of Western secularism, which elevates reason above all other considerations. But most media outlets, when discussing the speech, leave out that which was the bulk of its content to only focus on the few passages about Islam.

In that they are very similar to the Muslim extremists now protesting and fanning the flames of violence. In fact, might we be able to say that if it were not for the Western media’s caricature of the Pope’s speech and those few sentences, there might not have been this conflagration of emotions? Does the media covering that speech bear any responsibility for the resulting violence because of the slanted coverage given to it?

Update: A commenter notes this post at Rorate Caeli which says the media’s reaction to the Pope’s comments yesterday were inaccurate because his statement was inaccurately translated. He did not say he was “deeply sorry” as the official Vatican statement . What he actually said to the crowd was vivamente rammaricato or “greatly distressed.” In other words, as I said above, he wasn’t apologizing. This is just further confirmation.

Technorati Tags:, , , , , ,

1 comment
  • Consider this: (from

    Update: the Vatican official translation is presented below, with this substantial mistranslation: “greatly” or “vigorously distressed” or “embittered” (vivamente rammaricato), which the Pontiff said very clearly in the live address, is translated as “deeply sorry”. This would not make sense: how would the Pope be “sorry” for the reactions of others!? He could have said he was “sorry” for what he said (which is not what happened); or he could say he is upset, or distressed, or feels personal bitterness for the reactions the “small passage” of his lecture caused; but he would not (and, in fact, did not) say that he is “sorry for the reactions”…