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September 20, 2006

Comments

Ignacio

All I can say is that I'm sure glad that papal text are no longer vetted by bureaucrats such as Fr. Michel.

Bender

"Had the Pope's talk been reviewed and controlled by any competent staff person, . . ."

What arrogance. What hubris. Controlled? Competent? Staff person??? Thankfully, he is no longer there.

Now, I'm sure that some observers will say "Father Michel did not intend to offend the Pope or Catholics," but it is beside the point. Most of the time when we offend others, we do not intend to do so. Rather, we do so because of ignorance or lack of sensitivity. In such cases, an apology is required.

For this reason, it is also proper for Father Michel to ask forgiveness for his offensive remarks, even though, as I believe, he did not intend to offend.

Bender

And as for the Byzantine emperor not being "a Christian theologian, nor a scholar knowledgeable on Islamic matters, nor a peacemaker," perhaps he was too busy looking out his window seeing Muslim armies attacking and laying seige to his city. Perhaps he was too busy dealing first-hand with the practical violent and deadly reality of Islam, rather than pointy-head theoretical concerns from the comfort of some modern office.

Tim F.

Father Michel appears to be playing the part of the good Dhimmi over their in Indonesia.

t mahoney

I agree that Fr. Michel's remark that "Had the Pope's talk been reviewed and controlled by any competent staff person, . . ." was wrong. However, he seems correct on the larger point: if someone looks at the talks ahead of time and discusses them with the Pope, then such a blow up like this is much less likely to happen. And, by the way, "The Pope's Censor" headline is misleading: someone in Fr. Michel's former position merely proposes, the Pope decides.

Veronica

All I can say is that I'm thankful that our dearest pope Benedict doesn't have spineless PC 'advisors' like Father Michel around. Good for him!

B. Schulz

Is it correct to presume that a member of the staff did NOT review this talk?

TF

t mahoney, you say:

"However, he seems correct on the larger point: if someone looks at the talks ahead of time and discusses them with the Pope, then such a blow up like this is much less likely to happen."

You seem to be assuming that such blowups are always bad things. I think that what the Pope has done is lanced a boil, which in this case is a very good thing.

Simon

We are already starting to see this story morph into the Pope supposedly making a gaffe and how it might have been prevented.

Pathetic.

The ONLY news story here is the ease with which so many Muslims -- including prominent Muslim leaders -- resort to violence and threats of violence in response to imagined or exaggerated insults. They are beyond reason, and beyond parody.

It does no one any good to focus (as so many cowards in the West would prefer to do) on the supposed "provocation." Six months ago it was Denmark; today it is the Pope. And we all know perfectly well that within the next 6 months there will be Days of Rage against some other unwitting Western "provacateur."

The problem here is on the Muslim side. Entirely. Honesty requires that that fact be acknowledged.


Christine

Meanwhile Rod Dreher reports that three Christian farmers are to be executed in Indonesia for their supposed role in the deaths of "scores" of Muslims. Of course, there won't be any objective outsiders investigating whether the charges are true or not.

The arrogance of Fr. Michel is appalling.

tt

All right, so the argument here is basically that "I, a staff member at the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue used to check JPII's speeches to muslims for potential offenses. This line never would have slipped through then. So the problem is obviously the recent changes at that Pontifical Council under the current Pope, notably Abp. Fitzgerald's reassignment."

But the Regensburg address was a speech to academics, not to Muslims, and it wasn't primarily a talk about ecumenism. So it's unlikely that the Pontifical Commission on Interreligious Dialogue would have ever been handed the speech regardless of who was on staff.

It seems unlikely that the speech was not reviewed beforehand by someone from the Secretariat of State. Does the fact that the line made it through intact mean that the possible problem was brought up, and the Pope went ahead anyway? Or was it missed? in the latter event, does this have anything to do with diplomacy intentionally being given a lower priority in this papacy, as indicated by the installation of non-diplomat Bertone? The coincidence of this occurring just after Bertone's installation makes the inner conspiract theorist wonder whether Sodano loyalists who still staff the Secretariat of State let the remark slip through their proofreading on purpose, having an inkling about what would happen, in order to demonstrate why diplomacy is important.

Randy

The fact is that 26 years of JPII's warm fuzzy treatment has yielded very bad fruit. Persecution of Christians in almost every moslem country has gotten worse. Acts of violence by moslem radicals have become common. Why not declare the old policy a failure and try something new. John Paul was a great man but he could well have made a tactical error in refusing to discuss problems. BXVI's method might be less pleasant but it at least doesn't deny the huge problems that are there.

Christine

I agree, Randy. I think JPII was overly optimistic in his views of the Muslim world and Pope Benedict is seeing things through glasses that are a little less rose-colored. I hope the Holy Father doesn't allow Muslim stridency to bully him into backing down from his view that there must be reciprocity between Muslims and Christians, especially in those Muslim countries where Christians are not permitted to openly practice their faith.

stunted

Ah, another 'if only Fitz was still around' fellow. Fr. Thomas Reese has been quoted as indicating the assignment of Archbishop Fitzgerald to Egypt was the "worst mistake" of Benedict's papacy. Fr. Reese and Fr. Michel should take a lesson from their hero, who, tracked down by the industrious press indicated that he was 'on retreat in France' (must...resist...temptation...of uncharitable...sarcasm) and had nothing to say on the matter.

Jay Anderson

On the small number of occasions that Father Michel detected problems in papal texts, "the Pope always corrected those questionable phrases before delivering the talk." As a result, "there was never a controversy like we are experiencing today."

While "every pope has his own style," John Paul II "was always ready to make good use of his Vatican staff," Father Michel said. "My feeling is that a mistake of the order we saw last week in Regensburg would not have been possible with that pope," he added.

***
"Had the Pope's talk been reviewed and controlled by any competent staff person, they would immediately have told the Pope that the citation of Manuel II Paleologus, which was in fact marginal to the Pope's main point, should not be included in the speech," the Jesuit scholar stated.

What an arrogant, self-serving load of crap!

tony

Please, please, please don't kill anymore nuns or burn anymore churches, and we will try to be more sensitive in the future. We promise not to mention the beheadings, the tortures, the genital mutilations, the homicide bombings of women and children, the hatred of Jews and Christians, the enslavement of Africans, the debasement of women, oops, sorry.

Dan Crawford

Three cheers for Benedict XVI for speaking the truth, but I live in fear that some Islamic thug inflamed by his great world religion will find a way of assassinating the Pope to gain access to the 75 virgins.

Ray from MN

It is amazing that people analyzing the lecture of a man as brilliant as Pope Benedict do not consider the fact that he knew very well what he was saying and what its probable effect would be.

The Stratfor Geopolitical Intelligence Report, said yesterday:

"...Thus, there are at least two ways to view Benedict's speech politically.

One view derives from the fact that the pope is watching the U.S.-jihadist war....This perspective would explain the timing of the pope's statement, but the general thrust of his remarks has more to do with Europe.

There is an intensifying tension in Europe over the powerful wave of Muslim immigration...."

In effect, the Pope was siding with the U.S. and the E.U. against Islam as long as it continues to endorse violence as opposed to reason.

Read the entire report: http://northlandcatholicii.blogspot.com/2006/09/practical-political-analysis-of.html

Mary Alexander

"However, he seems correct on the larger point: if someone looks at the talks ahead of time and discusses them with the Pope, then such a blow up like this is much less likely to happen."

If only the likes of Fr. Michel had been around think of how the martyrs of the Coliseum could have been spared!

The bottom line is that the only way to appease Muslims is the apostatize. I pray that that never happens.

Dennis

Fr. Michel and his ilk represent exactly the Dhimmi mindset we need to get away from. The Pope's job is to bear witness to the Truth, not kowtow to Muslim sensibilities.

Also, contary to what Michel says, Manuel II was known by many in his time as a very scholarly man - and was deemed by some to be the embodiment of Plato's "Philosopher King". Add to that the fact that he was facing very real practical threats (and had for a time been a prisoner of the Sultan) and defending Christendom from Islamic imperialism, and his opinions are very relevant indeed to the world situation today. The quote itself may not have been central to the Pope's argument, but it highlighted in unequivocal terms the issues that Pope was raising about the consonance of Faith and Reason, and was a necessary challenge not only to Western secularists, but also to the Muslim conception of God as pure abstract Will unalligned with Reason.

Tom K.

It seems to me that either the Pope wanted there to be a blowup, or he wanted there to be no blowup, or he didn't care one way or the other.

If he didn't care one way or the other, he's gavely imprudent.

If he wanted there to be a blowup, then his subsequent disavowal of the quotation was mighty weaselly.

If he wanted there to be no blowup, then Fr. Michel is pretty much correct.

Julia

"access to the 75 virgins"

In a thread last week there was a link to a great article on the various mistranslations in the Koran due to the fact that the original was written by Assyrian Christian scribes in Aramaic. It wasn't until years later that it was put into the brand-new written Arabic language. By that time, folks had forgotten what some Aramaic words, turns of phrases and sayings actually meant. [Remember the phrase "kick the bucket" that was in a recent Curial translation of a papal speech into English.] In addition there's the problem of diacritical marks, using a different vowel than the original,homophones with different meanings, etc.

"Virgins" - it is highly likely that it is lots of "raisins" that are awaiting Muslims in heaven and not virgins. Heaven to these desert-dwellers was like the garden of Eden with grapes and various kinds of fruits and vegetation. To this day, there are more variants (considering its smaller size) in the translations of the Koran than in our Bible.

- - - - - - -
William F Buckley also chastizes the Pope's gaffe in a recent column. Some of his recent columns get me to think he's getting senile.

L White

I think recent events offer us a good opportunity to reflect on the criticisms made against Pius XII by the author of Hitler's Pope, i.e., the proctologically challenged John Cornwell.

Should the Pope speak out against an evil even if many innocent persons will be killed in retaliation for your words?

And at some point down the road, an Islamic fundamentalist may have political control of a country and be both able and willing to harm those not of his persuasion. In such a case, should the Pope speak out when every indication is that such a ruler would retaliate by harming the innocent?

Marc

Fr. Michel and the over sensitive secularists will only feel safe and assured if the U.N. gives it's approval.

Veronica

""Virgins" - it is highly likely that it is lots of "raisins" that are awaiting Muslims in heaven and not virgins. Heaven to these desert-dwellers was like the garden of Eden with grapes and various kinds of fruits and vegetation."

I can't help but to chuckle at the idea of a moslem going to heaven expecting to find lots of virgins to satisfy his desires and finding only raisins instead. Bummer! :)

"Should the Pope speak out against an evil even if many innocent persons will be killed in retaliation for your words?"

I think comparing Pious XII and Benedict is pointless, as they faced very different situations. Pious XII was in the middle of an open war, in a continent already in the hands of the enemy. Speaking out against the goverment was not the wisest thing to do at that moment in history. That's not Benedict's case.

Despite the muslim threats, we are not in an open war against them, so there's still time to speak out against them to avoid being 'assimilated'. This seems to be what Benedict is doing, and it doesn't mean that Pious was wrong for doing something different.

Rick Lugari

If he didn't care one way or the other, he's gavely imprudent.?

Tom, I don't believe imprudence necessarily follows that sort of indifference. There is something to be said for thinking I will state the truth and for he who hath ears, let him hear; and those who hear not will go on there way or demonstrate the point.

Jay Anderson

"If he wanted there to be no blowup, then Fr. Michel is pretty much correct."

Even if true (and I'm not conceding the point), being "correct" doesn't make Fr. Michel's comments any less arrogant and self-serving.

Jack Bennett

Will there be no end to the appeasement and the apologies? Where are all these people when the tenets of Christianity are questioned - such as just recently in a blockbuster Summer movie. Would they have made such a film about Islam?

I'm sure Manuel II who was a captive of the Ottomans and spent his entire life trying to hold off the fall of the Christian East knew more about Islam than those who now dismiss him.

Ferde Rombola

The Pope did not disavow the quotation. He said he was sorry for the reaction.

To put it in terms I'm more comfortable with, he said he's sorry these illiterate thugs can't read and chose instead to validate the quote by their mindless reaction to their mullah's typically hostile and bigoted agitation.

I'm praying he'll say something like that before he goes to bed tonight.

Nerina

The tone of Fr. Michel's commentary comes off as petulant and of one who has been scorned. As others have pointed out, this was an address to academics, not intended for general consumption and certainly not meant to be a comprehensive talk on ecumenism. I am confident our Holy Father can play the diplomat as well as anyone, but didn't see the need to do so for this address. Obviously he will look more closely at each speaking venue from now on.

Chris Sullivan

I think Fr Michael is exactly right. The Pope's speech ought to have been properly scrutinised by someone who understands Islam deeply and could advise the Holy Father if there was anything in it which would unintentionally cause offense.

Pope John Paul II would never have said anything like this in a speech. He made some gaffes early on in his pontificate, as Benedict has made, but he larnt from them and grew in faith, understanding and humility.

The Holy Father will learn from this and he will take the necessary measures to obtain skilled advice on how future speeches might be misinterpreted.

The Pope's comments still fall short of an apology and he needs to stand up and make a proper apology. The lack of proper input into how his speeches might be misinterpreted by Muslims is his own fault because he sent away those most able to advise him. God gave him the advisers he needed but he wouldn't listen to them. God is therefore sending Benedict a strong corrective message.

God Bless

Blind Squirrel

Chris! Oy!

Did God have Sister Leonella and her bodyguard shot in the back to "send the Pope a message"?

Chris Sullivan

Blind Squirrel,

There doesn't appear to be any evidence Sister Leonella was shot in consequence of Regensburg.

One needs to remember that Somalia is a failed state with no proper authority and run by gangs of thugs.

The Catholic World News reported that one of the nuns had been kidnapped last week- BEFORE the Pope's address.

See http://amywelborn.typepad.com/openbook/2006/09/sr_leonella.html#comments for more details and note well Amy's comment :-

But the question is for the media - which isn't covering this murder much anyway, but when it gets around to it - will it place the murder in the total context - as in the plight of Christians in Muslim countries, period?

But as the facts don't seem to fit your eagerness to tar the Muslim reaction to Regensburg with her murder, then perhaps you'll go on being blind to them, Blind Squirrel.

To answer your question, no, her murder is not attributable to God because, as the Holy Father explained at Regensburg :-

Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.

God Bless

Blind Squirrel

Hmm. If not from the violence and threats, I'm not too sure where the "strong corrective message" is coming from, then. Can you ask God about it, and get back to me?

Chris Sullivan

Blind Squirrel,

The message he got was that he needed to more clearly reject Paleologus' view in his Regensburg speech.

The Holy Father has already got the message, rejected Paleologus' wrong and mistaken view of Islam and will act to have his speeches more carefully checked in future.

Benedict doesn't respond to violence and threats but he is humble enough to learn from his innocent mistakes.

God Bless

Venerable Aussie

'He [Fr Tom Michel SJ] recalled that "Pope John Paul II was very conscientious lest he accidentally say something offensive or disrespectful to Muslims or to the followers of other religions." '

Chris Sullivan (like Fr Michel) is offering no proof that Pope Benedict's remarks were anything other than 100% intentional, with full understanding of what he was saying and why.

Fr Michel (who by the way is actually an American, and why coincidentally I met in 1980 when he was a seminary professor at Kentungan, Yogyakarta, Indonesia) should understand that Pope Bendict is at the helm, and is charting a very important course for us Catholics. Praise be to God!

t mahoney

Did the Pope disavow the quotation? Here is what the Pope said about the quotation from the Emperor: "Unfortunately, this quotation has given room to a misunderstanding....For the careful reader of my text, it is clear that I did not wish at any time to make my own the negative words uttered by the medieval emperor in this dialogue and that its controversial content does not express my personal conviction." (Reported by Zenit 20 September, http://www.zenit.org/english/.)

As far as I can see, he does disavow the quote: "its controversial content does not express my personal conviction." Actually, the Pope claims that, even without his explicit statement, the "careful reader" would have understood that the quotation does not express his own opinion. So let me ask you all: how would the careful reader of the speech come to that conclusion?

Andrea Harris

Wow. Benedict is sure lucky to have a guy like Chris Sullivan around to help him know what God is doing!

Rivendell

Boy, they’re really coming out of the woodwork now. How eagerly they are lining up to get their licks in on the Pope. The door cracked open and Benedict’s faultfinders immediately rushed in. It reminds me of that funny scene in the comedy spoof “Airplane” where a line of onboard passengers armed with guns, clubs and knives step up to take their turn in beating up a hysterical female passenger to shut her up. Except that there is nothing funny about what has been happening these past days. The New York Times, this Fr. Michel and many others have been having their fun lately at papal expense. How many are his enemies! Cardinal Ratzinger’s problem days as head of CDF were nothing compared to this. I can imagine Benedict sadly shaking his head at the whole uproar and probably dialing up his big brother Georg at night for some sibling comfort. But in the meantime, God is quietly taking note of everything everyone is thinking, saying and printing. It is in precisely these times to pray for God’s mercy, for the willingness to inflict such pain on those who are trying to fulfill their God-given tasks here in earth.

Tom K.

There is something to be said for thinking I will state the truth and for he who hath ears, let him hear; and those who hear not will go on there way or demonstrate the point.

But does the Pope believe the quotation states the truth? The answer seems to be that "its controversial content does not express [his] personal conviction."

In which case, I don't see how what can be said for speaking the truth indifferent to the consequences can be said for the Pope's use of that quotation.

Rick Lugari

Tom, perhaps there is a matter of perspective here. I am viewing that quote as being part of an overall message, which is what I believe the Holy Father intended it as. There is a context for the use of that quote and it serves the purpose. His message is his message and people are free to accept or reject it.

Upon re-reading your initial comment I think I can identify where our perspectives are quite different. I don't want to put words in your mouth, so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems that you perceive the inclusion of (or decision to retain) that quote as intending to have some effect of it's own - to solicite a reaction of some sort for whatever purpose. I don't believe that is what happened at all. It seems more likely that the pope expressed what he desired to - which was truthful and good - and upon any re-consideration of the use of those particular words he viewed them in their proper context [the speech] and found nothing offensive to a reasonable person.

Matteo

Doesn't anyone understand that the number one job of the Vicar of Christ, as given by The Lord Himself, is to not make waves? The Pope's job is certainly not to say anything provocative that will get people to think and discuss matters of religious import. No, everything the Pope says is supposed to be relegated to the back pages of obscure theological journals. Doesn't the Pope understand his place in global society? To be a kindly, harmless old man that would never offend anybody? That's what Jesus wants, right?

Tom K.

It seems more likely that the pope expressed what he desired to - which was truthful and good - and upon any re-consideration of the use of those particular words he viewed them in their proper context [the speech] and found nothing offensive to a reasonable person.

That sounds right to me.

What I think Fr. Michel was getting at (questions of tone aside) is that there should be someone to say, "Yes, Holy Father, but this will be extremely offensive to very many unreasonable persons."

Jay Anderson

What I think Fr. Michel was getting at (questions of tone aside) is that there should be someone to say, "Yes, Holy Father, but this will be extremely offensive to very many unreasonable persons."

To which the response should be "Who cares what unreasonable people think? Truth is not determined by the lowest common denominator."

Tom K.

"Who cares what unreasonable people think?"

If the Pope doesn't care, he's a fool.

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