Probably not. But at least we'll a wrap-up a bunch of commentary in one place. It's a lot.
This is not an invitation to the usual feel-good interfaith round-tables. It is a request for dialogue with one condition--that everyone at the table reject the irrationality of religiously motivated violence. The pope isn't condemning Islam; he is inviting it to join rather than reject the modern world.
Fr. James Schall, S.J.: "Thinking Rightly About God and Men:" ***An (unsurprisingly) excellent summary. Good for passing along to the curious.
It is not without profound interest that the pope chose precisely a university in which to deliver this lecture. It is not an encyclical. It is not a "doctrinal" statement. It is not a homily. It is a lecture to a university faculty and to its students -- and not just to those in Regensburg sitting before him. In this sense it strikes at the very heart of the intellectual acaedia, to the intellectual sloth, of our time, to the refusal to think about the important thing with the tools that we have been given. What we know as universities in the modern world originated in the Church, in a space in which the whole could be talked about. Benedict knows that all disorders in politics and morals originate in the minds of the learned. It is there that we must begin to address our public issues, including that of Islam, but also questions of life, of morality, and of what we are about.
The Holy Father had already made clear in Deus Caritas Est that love of our neighbor is not primarily a government project, that justice is not enough, and often is not even a beginning. We simply cannot just talk of "faith" and "justice" without beginning and ending in charity and the reasons for it. The Christian suspicion is not that we must first be just and then we can be loving and charitable, but that we will, in all likelihood, only be just if we first find caritas. And this realization often means the Cross and suffering, just as Christ taught.
But with this lecture we are in heady academic surroundings. All is genteel. All is formal. All is, yes, "intellectual." But it is here where the real battles lie hidden. What we see in Regensburg are, after Deus Caritas Est, the second shots of the new pope at the heart of what is wrong in our world and its mind. These "shots," however, are designed to do what all good intellectual battle does, namely, to make it possible for us to see again what is true and to live
It needs to be clear to all of us that dialogue between Christianity and Islam is not only possible. It is also real. There are elements of Christianity which mistrust Islam. But, there are also elements of Islam that not only mistrust Christianity but repress it. For example, the Pope has reaffirmed today that he will be going to Turkey as planned—in spite of his concerns about Turkey wanting to join the European Union. We need to take stock of the fact that while the practice of Christianity is allowed in Turkey, worship cannot be public. The fact that a building is used as a church cannot be evident from its exterior. Its identity must be concealed from public view. In other Islamic countries, the practice of Christianity—public or private—is forbidden. In still other Islamic countries, Christians are persecuted in a variety of ways—including harassment, prosecution, and destruction of property, including attacks on churches.
While this person may have been speaking for herself, I ponder a recent news photograph that was taken in London at a demonstration against the Pope: this picture shows a woman was holding a sign that reads “Islam Will Conquer Rome.” Keeping in mind what the Emperor Nero purportedly did when this city was ablaze, I wonder what the New York Times will do should this ever happen. Will it speak out? Will it fiddle? Or, will it simply do nothing?
have had the opportunity of many extended conversations with Ratzinger-Benedict over the years, and he is a man of great gentleness and deliberation and extremely careful to say what he means. What he said at Regensburg he has said many times before. Contrary to many reports, he has not apologized or retracted his argument. He has indicated sincere regret that many Muslims have reacted to his statement as they have. The response of those who are properly called jihadists is, “If you don’t stop saying we’re violent, we’re going to bomb more churches, kill more nuns and priests, and get the pope too.” In short, the reaction has powerfully confirmed the problem to which Benedict called our attention.
My Protestant brothers should be aware that Benedict has long enjoyed a very close relationship with Lutheran scholars in Germany, and has said that Catholics and Lutherans have learned a great deal from one another, and must continue to do so. What he says about the loss of trust in reason was true of many popular authors and movements in the Catholic church in the century or so before the Reformation (Thomas a Kempis; The Brethren of the Common Life; Richard Rolle; The Cloud of Unknowing). That's why he names Duns Scotus (ca. 1300) as a saintly culprit, ushering in to the west the idea of a voluntarist God, whose will takes precedence even over the divine reason. Since the divine reason is the Logos, Benedict concludes that voluntarism ultimately severs God from Himself, or the Father from the Son, which is impossible.
In any case, we in the West should beware. We are seeing the explosive confluence of two trends that reject reason or cordon it off from the most important questions about human life: what Benedict calls (in a brilliant yet understated insight) the Platonic-Cartesian (which posits mathematical objects as the ultimate reality, and, having reduced all things to mathematical and empirical data, uses the techniques of mathematics to master the physical world) and the Islamic. That Islam rejects the deep coherence of faith and reason is not to be doubted. The devout Avicenna was the last Muslim to try to harmonize the Koran with the truths of philosophy; the heretic Averroes scoffed at him for supplanting philosophy with religion; and the theologian Al-Ghazzali denounced them both, and the whole enterprise. That was a long, long time ago. Now at last secularism and Islam meet.
Actually, I am not sure that the Holy Father is the ideal person to grade other religions with regard to their violent habits. After all, the Church of St. Peter doesn't exactly have a splendid record on this matter itself. And as late as the 14th Century, from which Benedict adduced an acerbic statement about Islam from among the last Byzantine Christian emperors, was not yet an era when the Crusader had been spent. The Church had stopped killing Jews, however, on account of faith. It was killing them for their responsibility for the Black Death. But Muslims were still putting to the sword in wars of religion against the Turks. Moreover, "evil and inhuman" are not words one should use glibly--even between quotations marks--against a textured religion. Didn't Moses also do some things that were evil and inhuman? Still, if what the Pope says about Islam is not entirely true, it is also not simply false.
Since we are all talking about the present, moreover, we do not have to quibble over history. Now, Rome has said that Benedict is sorry that so many Muslims have taken so much offense. Prelates close to him in the Holy See also insist that his critics are taking his remarks out of context and away from his intentions. And even he has given his mea culpa and made something of a tactical retreat. If he were to crumble, however, he'd be giving yet another victory to the jihad, which, despite the blather about it being a spiritual quest, is for our time more like relentless murder. Islam is still mired in a vortex of sordid, vengeful, and brutal habits affecting others, as anyone can tell simply by reading the newspapers. That there are many, even millions upon millions of peaceful Muslims is self-evident. It's just that these faithful don't count for very much in Islamic politics, where Muslims have power or want power. For starters, just contemplate the relentless hatred between Shia and Sunni Islam wherever the two meet.
I would expect an intelligent and informed Muslim to consider me a blasphemer (because I introduce multiplicity into the one God) and an idolator (because I worship as God a man named Jesus). Should I be offended if he says so publicly? Should I not rather be offended if he conceals his position for the alleged purpose of fostering dialogue?
The question of respect is entirely distinct. Benedict is clearly aware of this distinction as evidenced in the official Vatican statement subsequent to Benedict's lecture, where the Secretary of State refers to his "respect and esteem for those who profess Islam". That is, one can and should respect Muslims (those who profess Islam) as persons with inherent dignity; but where there are incompatible truth claims, they cannot be simultaneously true. One cannot hold one as true without holding the other as false. Any religious dialogue should begin by examining the evidence for the incompatible claims.
It's worth noting, however, that while consistent Christians and Muslims in fact hold the position of the other to be erroneous in important ways, the Christian is not obliged by his faith to subject the Muslim to dhimmitude nor to deny him his religious freedom. There is a serious asymmetry here, which Benedict has criticized before. The Saudis can build a multi-million dollar mosque in Rome; but Christians can be arrested in Saudi Arabia for possessing a Bible.
Certainly, it may sound provocative to make the claim the Emperor did. But why (since Christians believe that God's full and definitive revelation has come with Christ, who brings all prophecy to an end) isn't it just as provocative for a Muslim to proclaim that Mohammed is a new prophet, bringing new revelation that corrects and supplements that of Christ?
Is it really offensive to say that Christians and Muslims disagree profoundly about this? Is not this the necessary starting point that must be recognized before any religious dialogue can even begin?
Some think that Benedict was not as judicious as he might have been in quoting a medieval emperor of the East who, faced by Islamic conquest that succeeded in turning Christian Constantinople into Islamic Istanbul, declared that Islam has produced only inhumanity and evil. That is arguable. Benedict did say at Regensburg that the emperor’s words were excessively “brusque.” But the citation was also a way of reminding everybody that this conflict with Islam bent upon conversion by the sword is very long-standing.
If we are ever to defeat the global jihad against free societies, it is vital to tell that truth — that it is the West that is under attack. It is in that context that the Pope’s remarks must be seen — defending Christianity and western civilisation from an onslaught that has not just snuffed out many innocent lives, but seeks to snuff out freedom and truth itself.
Sandra Miesel passes this link along from a history-oriented blog:
Perhaps we need more leaders to speak like professors, especially since academics are not exactly in the best position to resist violent intimidation. Professor Adel Theodor Khoury, the editor of the edition of Manuel II Palaeologos cited by Benedict, has recently been quoted as wishing the Pope had done a bit more in his address to clarify the difference between Manuel's opinions and his own. But would this really have changed the Muslim reaction? As Khoury also notes about Manuel, "Er redet so, wie alle Menschen im Mittelalter geredet haben" ("that was the way he spoke, as everyone in the Middle Ages spoke").
Given that it is also the way many Muslim teachers still speak about Christians and Jews, maybe Benedict felt a bit of balance was in order. Americans often find fault with their fellow citizens for lack of historical perspective, but what happens when two groups face off, both acutely aware of their respective pasts? For anyone sharing that awareness -- alas, not including most journalists or their editors -- Benedict's barb was only tit for tat of the most restrained kind. And though most commentators have focused on Benedict's condemnation of conversion by force as a condemnation of violent jihad, he surely must equally have been thinking of the recent forced conversion of the Fox News reporters taken hostage -- and the subsequent failure of Muslim leaders to condemn or disavow the act.
How are we missing the relevance of these words for Western Christians who have put forward military might as a tool in "spreading freedom?" Certainly no one is saying the War on Terror is religious, but to hear the rhetoric and to see the ecclesial supporters, the whole enterprise has a kind of religious feel to it. And besides, if religious doctrine is no rational basis for war, is politics somehow okay?
George Weigel and Richard John Neuhaus seem increasingly perplexed by the growing pacifism of the Holy See. First they tried to dismiss John Paul the Great as a kindly old man who, of course, wants peace but really should stick to religion and let the U.S. exercise "prudential" warcraft. But now comes along Benedict, the one who in a May 2, 2003 Zenit interview said that "we should be asking whether it is still licit to speak of the very existence of a 'just war'."
And again in last week's Regensburg speech, the pope rejects the very basis for violence. It is not rational. One way of putting the pope's point is that the authentic commands of God are reasonable, even if faith is needed to penetrate their depths. And, of course, to see what the Father commands, we turn to the Son who shows us the face of the Father. In that turn, to Jesus Christ, we have full clarity. Christ offers a way of nonviolent, sacrificial love of friends and enemies. Period. No wiggle room for building nukes—whether it is Muslim Iran or Christian America-—or using violence to further principles.
Finally (?!), Fr. Richard Hermes, S.J. of Immaculate Conception Parish in New Orleans, sends along the letter that he'll have in this coming week's bulletin:
The address as a whole is itself quite remarkable and well worth reading. It is an incisive, provocative analysis of the relationship between faith and reason. In the address, the Pope repeatedly defends the truth that God’s will is not arbitrary but is reasonable. We obey God not out of blind obedience to His will but because we know (through faith and reason) that God’s will is Wisdom itself, the Wisdom behind all things, and therefore always “reasonable.” At the basis of the correct understanding of God is the idea of Reason (Logos). As the Gospel of John puts it, “In the beginning was the Word (Logos) and the Word (Logos) was with God and the Word (Logos) was God.”
This is not a new emphasis for the theologian, Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict. The idea that Christianity is a religion of “Logos” because God is Logos figures prominently in Introduction to Christianity, a famous book that he wrote nearly 40 years. In the Regensburg address, the Pope emphasized what he believed the 14th century Emperor was trying to make clear, albet it in a “brusque” way, namely, that “Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul."
But all that said, it is important to know that the greater part of the Pope’s talk was not against a false view of God but against a false view of reason. Pope Benedict’s penetrating intellect was trained mostly on criticizing the limited view of reason that leaves no room for knowledge of God, the mystery of God, or the public practice of religion. This is a view most likely endorsed by many academics present at the papal address that day. The Pope worries that the West, if it remains enamored of this limited view of reason, will be unable to enter into dialogue with the great cultures of the world, which are, without exception, deeply religious.
Near the end of the address at Regensburg, Benedict affirmed that what is “so urgently needed today” is a “genuine dialogue of cultures and reason.” Or as he had put it a few years ago in a collection of essays called Truth and Tolerance, “[I]n a free society truth can find no other way to prevail, and should seek no other way, than simply by power of persuasion; yet persuasion can only be achieved with difficulty amid the multitude of pressures and demands to which people are subjected.”
This is indeed a Pope of great faith but also a reasonable Pope. He is a Pope of dialogue. That is why he said in Vatican City last Sunday that he was “shocked” by the reaction to his speech. What is clear, according to an official Vatican statement, “is the Holy Father's desire to cultivate an attitude of respect and dialogue toward other religions and cultures, including, of course, Islam.”
Let us pray that the voices of irrationality and the “multitude of pressures and demands” do not prevail in this present controversy. Let us pray also for Pope Benedict, that he will continue to be fearless in defending the true image of God against religious distortions and tireless in challenging the secular elites of our culture to open their reason to Reason (Logos) itself and, ultimately, therefore to God and belief in God.
And please note - four Jesuits in that mix there. God bless them!