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Monday, September 18, 2006

Why did you say it? 

So was this just a case of "Open mouth. Insert foot"? Or was Pope Benedict actually trying to muscle himself onto the world stage by promoting George Bush's religious war meme?
I'm not sure. But I do find it odd that the Pope's remarks came in the same week as Bush started talking about the "confrontation between good and evil" and the Third Awakening.
In a Saturday Globe article Michaek Valpy describes what Pope Benedict actually said:
The Pope, quoting a 15th-century Byzantine emperor, told his audience at the University of Regensburg: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." He used the words to illustrate that violence is contrary to the nature of God . . . The prevailing theory among scholarly Vatican observers is that the Pope, rather an unworldly scholar, simply goofed and used the wrong example from religious history to make his point that violence is contrary to God's nature and therefore unreasonable.
So aren't there plenty of examples in the history of Christianity which illustrate this point even better? Why, yes, yes there are:
He could have referred to Christian authorities forcibly converting Jews in the Middle Ages, or to the Crusaders savagely sacking Constantinople in 1204 . . . Instead, because he apparently had just finished reading a scholarly treatise on a religious dialogue between "an educated Persian" and the 15th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaeologus, he cited the emperor's words about "evil" Islam spreading faith "by the sword" without indicating whether he thought the emperor was right or wrong.
Could the Pope really be so clumsy? I don't think Valpy believes it:
An alternative to the goof theory is the explanation that Benedict intended, and has intended for some time, to make a tough, provocative statement on fundamentalist Islamic terrorism and violence.
Vatican scholars and bureaucrats interviewed in April on the first anniversary of Benedict's papacy thought he was showing signs of taking a harder position on Islamic violence than John Paul II.
Frightened by the violence against Catholics, Benedict is now trying to sort-of withdraw his remarks:
Pope Benedict said Sunday that he was 'deeply sorry' about the angry reaction to his recent remarks about Islam, which he said came from a text that he insisted did not reflect his personal opinion.
So why did you say it, then? As Geraldine would say, Did the devil make you do it?

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