Out of Control

When the Holy Father recently (in fact, immediately before the so-called Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27) rehabilitated and welcomed back into the Roman Catholic Church the confessing holocaust denier Richard Williamson it was only another provocation of the German Pope. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, a well-known hardliner and actually Prefect of the Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei (formerly the Holy Office of the Inquisition), liked and likes to push the limits. One has to remember, for instance, Benedict’s infamous lecture in 2006, when he visited Regensburg University und insulted millions of Muslims by quoting the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos in a discussion with Persian scholar (probably in 1391 CE in a winter camp at Ankara):

 „Zeig mir doch, was Mohammed Neues gebracht hat, und da wirst du nur Schlechtes und Inhumanes finden wie dies, daß er vorgeschrieben hat, den Glauben, den er predigte, durch das Schwert zu verbreiten.“

He later distanced himself from the quotation when he added footnotes to the text of his speech, which had not been there when it was published at the Vatican’s web page. Particularly revealing might be the following:

 „[3]Controverse VII 2c; bei Khoury S. 142/143; Förstel Bd. I, VII. Dialog 1.5  S. 240/241. Dieses Zitat ist in der muslimischen Welt leider als Ausdruck meiner eigenen Position aufgefaßt worden und hat so begreiflicherweise Empörung hervorgerufen. Ich hoffe, daß der Leser meines Textes sofort erkennen kann, daß dieser Satz nicht meine eigene Haltung dem Koran gegenüber ausdrückt, dem gegenüber ich die Ehrfurcht empfinde, die dem heiligen Buch einer großen Religion gebührt. Bei der Zitation des Texts von Kaiser Manuel II. ging es mir einzig darum, auf den wesentlichen Zusammenhang zwischen Glaube und Vernunft hinzuführen. In diesem Punkt stimme ich Manuel zu, ohne mir deshalb seine Polemik zuzueignen.“

This is Pope Benedict’s typical strategy. As a scholar, even Professor in Theology, he certainly knows or should know [1] the potential explosive force of his words and deeds in a world right now struggling in a so-called War on Terror, which in fact is about religion, and, in particular, Islam [2]. It was a purposeful provocation, especially when considering the time he was talking about. In the 14th century, the Byzantine Empire was in agony and the Islamic world had been shaken by the Mongolian conquests. There had been centuries of war in the region. Manuel’s quotation was completely taken out the context. Benedict’s main intention was rather to point to the inevitable connection of Faith and Reason. He wants to make the point that God acts, of course, su logw, with logos, meaning rationality. A bitter irony of Benedict’s argument is that, at that time, Science and Art reached its climax in the Islamic world, not in Christianity, which was still bound in the dark middle ages.

What Pope Benedict XVI thinks when he commits highly symbolic acts, is not really known. I am afraid he is a hypocrite. When he visited Istanbul later in 2006 (annoyingly, he talked about ‘Constantinople’ in the preparation of his visit of senior Muslim, Catholic and Greek Orthodox clerics) he paused at Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the ‘Blue Mosque’) together with Muslim clerics and in fact seemed to pray in the Makkah direction.

Pope Benedict should make very clear that anti-Semitism is not compatible with the message of Christ the crucified Jesus Christ and has no place in any Christian church. The above-mentioned bishop should be brought to justice rather than being welcomed back into the Catholic Church, almost an accolade. Everything else would only very badly reflect on a German Pope who might have not understood his lessons from history well.



[1] Maybe he doesn’t. In his Regensburg speech he refers to verse 2:256 in the Qur’an stating that “[T]here is no compulsion in religion …” was an early verse when the Prophet Muhammad was supposed to be powerless. In fact, the second Surah is one of the latest in the Qur’an, revealed after the hijra (622 CE) in Madinah, at a time when the Muslim state had established itself for the first time.

[2] There were some public protests in the West Bank where Christian churches were set on fire. An Italian nun was killed by Somali gunmen.

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1 Response to Out of Control

  1. Pingback: Pope Benedict « Freelance

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