September 18, 2006


Pope 'Sorry' About Reaction to Islam Remark (Alan Cooperman, 9/18/06, Washington Post)

Finally, Benedict addressed the controversy yesterday. Speaking to pilgrims at Castelgandolfo, his summer estate, he said he is "deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address . . . which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims. These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought."

If you're serious, you apologize for your own actions, not for how others react to them. If you aren't sorry, it's better to say nothing and accept the consequences.

Understanding Benedict (DANIEL JOHNSON, September 18, 2006, NY Sun)

Günter Grass, in his memoirs, recalls an encounter with the young Joseph Ratzinger while both were held in an American prisoner-of-war camp in 1945. The young Grass, a Nazi who had been proud to serve in the Waffen-SS, was taken aback by this soft-spoken, gentle young Catholic. Unlike God, the future pope played dice, quoting St. Augustine in the original while he did so; he even dreamt in Latin. His only desire was to return to the seminary from which he had been drafted. "I said, there are many truths," wrote Grass. "He said, there is only one."

Sixty years later, just before the conclave that elected him pope, Ratzinger proved that he had never changed. The then prefect of the Congregation of the Faith — in effect, the church's theological backstop — preached a sermon to the assembled cardinals in which he denounced the "dictatorship of relativism." From that moment on, there was no other serious candidate. [...]

So what was the pope really saying in that lecture he gave in Regensburg, his old stamping ground in Bavaria? It was a rich and elegant reflection on the rationality of faith, couched in the erudite language of a very German philosophical discourse.

But the message was, at heart, a straightforward one. The Jewish or Christian God acts in accordance with reason: In the beginning was the Word, the Logos. Benedict emphasizes that this new, logocentric understanding of God is already present in the Hebrew Bible, long before the fusion of Jerusalem and Athens in the New Testament. Our knowledge of God — the God of Israel or the God of Christianity — emerges in the unfolding of the encounter between faith and reason.

The contribution of Hellenic thought to this gradual enlightenment is, for Benedict, essential. He laments the "dehellenization" of Christianity since the Reformation. Its effect, he thinks, has been to "relegate religion to the realm of subcultures" and to treat scientific rationality as if it had nothing whatever to do with faith. "The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality," he warns. If the West ignores this theological perspective, it "can only suffer great harm."

But the Pope was saying that there is an alternative to the Jewish or Christian God: the God of medieval Islam. Allah is "absolutely transcendent," above even rationality. Benedict cites a Muslim authority to the effect that "God is not bound even by his own word."

It is in this context that the pope invokes the Emperor Manuel II Paleologus, who recorded his dialogue with a learned Persian Muslim about the year 1400. Byzantium would finally succumb to Turkish conquest only half a century later, and Manuel wants to know how the doctrine of jihad can be justified, given that it is incompatible with God as Logos. For this Hellenic Christian, Muhammad's command to spread Islam by the sword must indeed be "evil and inhuman."

Yesterday, the pope insisted that he did not agree with Manuel. But it is clear that he sympathized with this monarch of a doomed Christian civilization enough to use him as a mouthpiece through which he could pose his own implicit questions to Islam. Does the Muslim understanding of Allah allow rational debate about the morality of violence, given that the doctrine of jihad is a central pillar of Islam? If Allah is above reason, might violent jihad, including terrorism, be not merely justifiable but obligatory, as many Muslim scholars argue?

Islam’s Unreasonable War Against Benedict XVI: In Regensburg, the pope offered as terrain for dialogue between Christians and Muslims 
“acting according to reason.” But the Islamic world has attacked him, distorting his thought, confirming by this that the rejection of reason brings intolerance and violence along with it. The uncertainties about the trip to Turkey (Sandro Magister, 9/18/06, Chiesa)
[A]t the Angelus on Sunday the 17th, Benedict XVI himself made this clarification:

“I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims. These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text which do not in any way express my personal thought. Yesterday, the cardinal secretary of state published a statement in this regard in which he explained the true meaning of my words. I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect.”

This does not alter the fact that the lecture by Benedict XVI in Regensburg – reissued in its entirety by www.chiesa, in Italian and English, an hour after it was delivered – was truly and audaciously impolitic.

The pope took as his point of departure a dialogue that took place in 1391 between the emperor of Constantinople, Manuel II Paleologus, and a Muslim scholar from Persia on the irrationality of spreading the faith through violence.

Was the Pope Wrong? (Timothy R. Furnish, History News Network)
As for the numerous statements by Muslims spokesmen that the pope is “ignorant” of Islam and Islamic history—well, the reality is that they simply can’t handle the truth.

First, Muhammad was not just a man claiming that God spoke through him; he was also a political and military leader. Driven out of Mecca and taking the reins of power in Medina, Muhammad and the Muslims spread their faith not just via da`is (missionaries), but by the sword; in fact, Jews in Medina who refused to accept Muhammad’s prophethood (and who, to be accurate, were accused of plotting against King Muhammad) were killed or enslaved. The conquest of Mecca in 630 CE was accomplished at swordpoint, not by persuasion. The creation of a huge Islamic Empire by the first four caliphs, the Umayyads and the Abbasids (between 632 and the end of the first millennium CE) was carried out via conquest—not by handing out brochures. Granted, Jews and Christians within the Muslim-ruled territories from the Pyrenees to the Indus were not all forced to convert—but the relegation to second-class status known as dhimmah led, eventually, to the majority of people in North Africa and the Middle East converting to Islam.

The initial phase of Islamic conquests resulted in about half the territory of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire switching hands. For several centuries the borders stabilized and the Byzantines ruled a state pushed back into Anatolia and the Balkan Peninsula. But in the 14th century CE a new wave of Muslim jihadists, the Ottoman Turks, were again moving on Byzantine lands. This was the situation facing Manuel II, and no doubt his view of Islam as “evil and inhuman” was in no small measure influenced by watching what was left of his empire disintegrating.

After all, they'd shed a lot of blood to win that Empire...
Did the Pope Apologize? (Father Jonathan Morris, September 18, 2006, Fox News)
Contrary to many media reports, Pope Benedict XVI did not apologize on Sunday for his September 12 discourse at the University of Regensburg. He did not retract his words, and did not say he regretted his speech.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 18, 2006 8:21 AM

God's corgi.

Posted by: Peter B at September 18, 2006 8:39 AM

Nonsense. Many mistaken descriptions of his statements were circulated in the Muslim world, including by the BBC, CNN, etc. He has to correct those mis-statements of his position. This is the best way to clarify. If he had said the things he was reported to say, he would be sorry, but he's not sorry for the things he did say. Instead he's sorry that he was mis-heard.

Posted by: pj at September 18, 2006 9:14 AM


Yes, if he doesn't understand how inane his distinction between peace loving Christianity and warlike Islam was then he should not apologize at all, rather than blame the hearers for his statements.

Posted by: oj at September 18, 2006 9:39 AM

--"deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address .--

That's the spoken, the unspoken is you've proven my point.

Posted by: Sandy P at September 18, 2006 10:29 AM

After all, they'd shed a lot of blood to win that Empire...

Huh? Manuel or the Ottomans? Manuel was heir to lands conquered before the Caesars and held for two millenia, and the Ottomans don't even have the excuse that they were liberating their own lands from tyrrany, since they were from farther north and east. Asia Minor was Greek when the barbarian Ottomans took it over, and they only finished the job of conquest (and de-Hellenization) in the 1920s.

Why do you persist in giving Islam and Muslims a pass for behavior not tolerated in any other group or religion? When did you convert, or are you the Islamist equivalent of those 50s fellow travelers who expected favorable treatment when the inevitable Communist victory occurred?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 18, 2006 11:45 AM

Islam is too a religion of peace, and if anyone says otherwise, we'll cut their heads off!

Posted by: Ralph Phelan at September 18, 2006 11:52 AM

We tolerate it when we do it, indeed, celebrate it, as we should. The Crusade is too important to be left to reason alone.

Where are you typing from?

Posted by: oj at September 18, 2006 11:52 AM

There was a very interesting and underreported statement made by John Howard's multicultural spokesman, Andrew Robb within a day or two of Benedict's Regensburg speech; Robb was addressing an audience of 100 imams who control Australia's mosques. Here is a excerpt of his remarks:

"We live in a world of terrorism where evil acts are being regularly perpetrated in the name of your faith.

"And because it is your faith that is being invoked as justification for these evil acts, it is your problem.

"You can't wish it away, or ignore it, just because it has been caused by others.

"Instead, speak up and condemn terrorism, defend your role in the way of life that we all share here in Australia."


Mr. Robb called on the imams to shun a victim mentality that branded any criticism as discrimination.

OJ has argued that Benedict's was an absurd point, badly made, and that he should apologize and move on. He considers the "un-apology" to have been bungled.

I think these new speeches (news events) are forcing into the public discourse the central question that many people have been wondering about for several years (probably related to the "name this war" conundrum). Are we at war with a minority ideology that has hijacked a noble faith, or with an intolerant religion that is incapable of reforming itself? We know where OJ stands on this issue (moderate Shia Islam is the West's and Judeo-Christendom's peaceful ally; we've essentially already won the war, for the enemy's ideology is simply unappealing.) But there is still much disagreement (one need only read Steyn or Hanson regularly to find cogent expression of concerns over the reformability of Islam and the apparent inability of moderate Muslims among us to raise their voices in defense of the tolerant civilization that has welcomed them (as well as to denounce these acts in the name of Islam).

OJ is an admirable and imaginative defender of the idea of a reasonable Islam -- she exists, she will prevail, and we have a higher duty -- a very solemn one -- with her. I am very open to his arguments (look forward to his writing and publishing in depth on them) and find myself praying that he is right. This is the central question of our time. There is disagreement; the argument has yet to be settled, less truly confronted, publically, as a matter of national or even civilizational clarity. I get the impression that this week, the countenancing of this vastly serious question has now become an "official" public matter; there is a new impetus and I suspect that thoughtful Muslims will now more vigorously join the discussion, for to stay out of it at this point would be, well, unwise.


Posted by: Qiao Yang at September 18, 2006 12:05 PM

"If you're serious, you apologize for your own actions, not for how others react to them. If you aren't sorry, it's better to say nothing and accept the consequences."

If you think you did not say something wrong, consider your antagonists are incorrect in their view of your speech and you desire to defend your actions, you can do so via the second meaning of apologize. That you might apologize, in that second sense, in a less forthright manner than your original speech and, moreso, focus on your antagonists feelings towards your speech rather than the initial subject, per se, is what might be called observing, ambiguously, that your antagonist has lost the argument.

Just because you don't like Benedict's particular move in this long chess match, Orrin, doesn't mean it was a wrong one. In Lombardi-esque fashion, winning isn't everything, it's the only thing and playing for draws are sometimes part of the process.

Posted by: Dusty at September 18, 2006 1:41 PM

Exactly, his statement was, as you put it, not forthright. He's just practicing taqiyya.

Posted by: oj at September 18, 2006 2:52 PM

Well, Taqiyya appears to deal strictly with concealing your faith, Orrin. The Pope hasn't done that.

I'm sure that with your much broader vocabulary you can apply a more accurate word.

Posted by: Dusty at September 18, 2006 5:35 PM

Those foolish islamists spray hatred worse than hitler did. Killing people, burning flags and defaming other beliefs for apparently no good reason.
And therefore they actually prove the Pope's quote to be true.. think about it..

I wonder why we send them $$ and humanity care every time their earth shakes, a vulcano explodes or they get flushed by another flood.

Well maybe these disaster happen from coincidence and hit the good ppl only..who knows

Posted by: AUniqueName at September 18, 2006 5:55 PM

They've ample reason.

Posted by: oj at September 18, 2006 6:50 PM


Yes, the Pope has not been forthright about the faith.

Posted by: oj at September 18, 2006 6:52 PM

"his distinction between peace loving Christianity and warlike Islam"

Huh? How do you get that? Talk about twisting the Pope's words. Slap a black turban on you and there's a position in some Islamist gvt for you oj.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at September 18, 2006 7:42 PM

"... forthright about the faith."

Is it correct for me to infer "Muslim" in that, Orrin?

Posted by: Dusty at September 19, 2006 9:41 AM

No, it's Christianity that he has wrong.

Posted by: oj at September 19, 2006 11:19 AM