Sunday, September 17, 2006

postal scrotum: Islam redux

The ever-awesome Jelly writes:

Hi, Kevin!

I was watching CNN last night and they were talking about the Pope's Comments. It was interesesting - the report, and they had a very brief talk with some big Catholic dude and another big Muslim. (Actually, as I recall - it was so brief each of those guys said one thing before they moved on to another bit of news.)

Both CNN and the Catholic dude noted that the Pope's speech which caused the furor was delivered to professors at a unversity where he himself used to teach theology classes. He was talking about the way religion and reason have split. From what I've read online, Muslims have absolutely ignored what was the overall meaning of the Pope's lecture.

"It was an invitation to dialogue between religions and the pope expressedly spoke in favour of this dialogue ... What Benedict XVI emphasised was a decisive and uncompromising renunciation of all forms of violence in the name of religion," [said] German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Seriously, I don't understand what all the Muslims are freaking out about. The Pope's "apology" (being "deeply sorry" for the reaction to his comments) is kind of clever. He ain't saying he's sorry for quoting someone else in a lecture meant to deliver a much larger message than calling Muslims a bunch of violent over-reactionaries. It wasn't even HIM who made the statement!

Again, I'm not really understanding what the big fuckin deal is. Anyhow, I wanted to direct you to this post: (the 2nd most recent one, titled "Those touchy Muslims are at it again") The Pope should deflect some of the screaming protests against himself by inviting the Muslims to go read Tharp's thoughts. Then they can really freak the fuck out, eh?

I have to admit to a deep dislike of Ratzinger/Benedict. I've actually been somewhat surprised at the defenses that have so quickly sprung up around him. I understand why knee-jerk Muslim anger is being denigrated, and I share the "intolerance of Muslim intolerance"; I also agree that some (or maybe most) angry Muslims need to take a sedative or get laid. But Ratzinger has never made things easy in terms of dialogue, and many defenders aren't taking Ratzinger's history into consideration.

JP2's virtue was that, growing up among Jews in Poland, he had a natural affinity for Jews and a real empathy toward their plight. This attitude extended, during his papacy, to other religions as well, and although he, too, failed to step over the inclusivist line to become a pluralist, I applaud the efforts he personally made to foster dialogue.

When the Dominus Iesus document was promulgated in 2000 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Ratzinger was the main force behind it and JP2, who at the time was probably only lucid 3 hours out of the day, had to sign off on it. This makes JP2 responsible, to some degree, for the hurt the Jews suffered when that document entered the public realm. But there was no doubt that JP2's heart had always been in the right place, and I can't say I truly blame him for a work in which he had very little involvement. JP2 was himself hurt by the Jewish reaction to that document-- I can only hope he learned a lesson from that experience.

Benedict, on the other hand, has to go a long way to convince me of his willingness to dialogue deeply and meaningfully. I certainly don't want the Pontiff to renounce his Catholicism, and I don't expect him to drop the use of Catholic/Christian idiom in his discourse, but I have to say I'm unsurprised that something like this might have happened on his watch.

Having met many Catholic priests at CUA who are downright gleeful at the prospect of interreligious dialogue, I can say with confidence that some men of the cloth are better at this holy endeavor than others. Benedict doesn't have much of a reputation as a diplomat: witness the 1980s-era disciplining of liberation theologians in Latin America during Ratzinger's tenure at the CDF (early 1980s to 2005). While a hundred times more articulate than the likes of George Bush, Benedict shares some of the same bluntness and somehow manages to be shocked that his bluntness doesn't go over well with the masses (Bush at least has the virtue of betraying no shock).

I realize I may be focusing on Benedict to the exclusion of the obvious injustice of the Muslim reaction to his speech. I'm not letting such Muslims off the hook; I'm just reminding people that this pope has a track record, and you can probably expect more blunders like this during the rest of his tenure.

[NB: Wikipedia has a nicely sanitized entry on the current pope, here. Interestingly, there is currently a tag atop that entry noting that people have attempted to vandalize it. Out of monkey curiosity, I skipped over to the entry on the current US president and was unsurprised to see the same tag-- evidence in favor of my "they're not diplomats" thesis. Heh.]


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