No more apologies from Pope Benedict

No more apologies from Pope Benedict

Those who were seeking yet another apology from Pope Benedict today at his Wednesday general audience will be unhappy. Various radical Islamic groups and religious leaders demanded a fuller apology from the pope than the one he gave on Sunday, which I contend wasn’t an apology for what he said so much as regret at how his inoffensive words were received and misunderstood. (And who really believes that any apology, no matter how sincere, would mollify his extremist critics?)

In any case, such an apology was not forthcoming in today’s general audience. The Holy Father devoted the audience to reflecting on his recent trip to Bavaria, a poignant homecoming sadly now overshadowed by the Regensburg lecture. The totality of his remarks on the lecture are as follows:

“I chose the theme,” he said, “of the relationship between faith and reason. In order to introduce my audience to the dramatic nature and current importance of the subject, I quoted some words from a Christian-Muslim dialogue from the 14th century in which the Christian - the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus - presented to his Muslim interlocutor, in a manner we find incomprehensibly brusque, the problem of the relationship between faith and violence.

“This quotation, unfortunately, has lent itself to misunderstandings. However, to an attentive reader of my text it is clear that in no way did I wish to make my own the negative words pronounced by the medieval emperor, and that their polemical content does not express my personal convictions. My intentions were quite otherwise: on the basis of what Manuel II subsequently said in a positive sense ... concerning the reason that must guide us in transmitting the faith, I wished to explain that not religion and violence, but religion and reason, go together.

“The theme of my talk was, then, the relationship between faith and reason,” he added. “I wished to call for a dialogue of the Christian faith with the modern world and for dialogue between all cultures and religions. I hope that at various moments of my visit - when, for example, in Munich I underlined how it important it is to respect what is sacred for others - what emerged was my deep respect for all the great religions, and in particular for Muslims who ‘worship the one God,’ and with whom we are committed to promoting ‘peace, liberty, social justice and moral values for the benefit of all humanity.’

“I trust, therefore, that following the initial reactions, my words at the University of Regensburg may constitute an impulse and encouragement towards positive, even self-critical, dialogue both among religions and between modern reason and Christian faith.”

I see no apology there, just an admonition to act like an adult and set aside petty and childish oversensitivity to perceived insults.

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  • Dom—It’s great to see your coverage of this issue.  It’s hard not to think that this is one of the gravest issues of our age—radical Islam’s war against the West.  How the leader of the Catholic Church responds in this situation is of utmost importance!  What is frustrating is that the intelligentsia in the West misunderstands the threat, just like they underestimated the threat of fascism in the 1930s and the threat of communism decade after decade, until it was too late and the death camps and gulags were entrenched, and long, bitter and bloody struggles were necessary to remove them.

  • There is something else I must point out.  For over a week now, the great conservative historian, Michael A. Palmer, has been closely following the Pope’s lecture on Islam and the terrible reaction.  I highly recommend your readers visit his blog, The Real War.  His defense of the Pope begins on 12 September with Pope Benedict XVI and “Violent Conversion”.  He has one or more items on this matter on almost a daily basis.  Yesterday, he made clear how offended he is as a Roman Catholic in Islamic Counterattack against the Pope.  Probably his most trenchant and provocative criticism is in the post Was Paleologos Wrong?  Well worth reading!

  • The text of all his audience remarks is available online. Wednesday’s is here.

    “Worship the one God” is a quotation from the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate, (#3). Here’s the whole thing:

    The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore [worship] the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.