Month: September 2006

Pope Benedict Roundup!

But surely there must be something other to talk about than Islam’s love-hate relationship with the Roman Pontiff — here, then, is a roundup of a few articles you might have missed over the past month in all the commotion and controversy. . . .

  • Behind Benedict’s Vatican Overhaul, by Jeff Israely. Time Sept. 11, 2006:

    So while the Pope enjoys his homecoming this week (Monday he traveled to the small Bavarian town of Marktl am Inn where he was born), Vatican insiders say the beginning of the Benedict era back at the Roman Curia begins in earnest this fall. Some, in fact, predict that Bertone — a longtime trusted confidante of the former Cardinal Ratzinger — was handpicked to be Secretary of State in order to usher in a virtual revolution in the way Catholic Church headquarters operates. Through an effort that will be part downsizing, part priority overhaul, the theologian pontiff is said to want Church headquarters to be both a more holy and a more efficient entity.

    Though the changing of the guards has been more deliberate than some had wanted — especially those critical of the power that Sodano had amassed in the last years of John Paul’s papacy — the new Pope has nonetheless already made some notable personnel moves, with others sure to come. Here are five key changes that have taken place since Benedict took over in April 2005, and five more shifts that may be on the horizon. . . .

    See also ” The Pontificate Begins”, by Jeffrey Tucker (New Liturgical Movement).

  • September 8, 2006. In his Ad Limina meeting with the Bishops of Ontario, Canada, Pope Benedict once again touched on the perils of relativism:

    Today, the impediments to the spread of Christ’s Kingdom are experienced most dramatically in the split between the Gospel and culture, with the exclusion of God from the public sphere. Canada has a well-earned reputation for a generous and practical commitment to justice and peace, and there is an enticing sense of vibrancy and opportunity in your multicultural cities. At the same time, however, certain values detached from their moral roots and full significance found in Christ have evolved in the most disturbing of ways. In the name of ‘tolerance’ your country has had to endure the folly of the redefinition of spouse, and in the name of ‘freedom of choice’ it is confronted with the daily destruction of unborn children. When the Creator’s divine plan is ignored the truth of human nature is lost.

    False dichotomies are not unknown within the Christian community itself. They are particularly damaging when Christian civic leaders sacrifice the unity of faith and sanction the disintegration of reason and the principles of natural ethics, by yielding to ephemeral social trends and the spurious demands of opinion polls. Democracy succeeds only to the extent that it is based on truth and a correct understanding of the human person. Catholic involvement in political life cannot compromise on this principle; otherwise Christian witness to the splendour of truth in the public sphere would be silenced and an autonomy from morality proclaimed (cf. Doctrinal Note The Participation of Catholics in Political Life, 2-3; 6). In your discussions with politicians and civic leaders I encourage you to demonstrate that our Christian faith, far from being an impediment to dialogue, is a bridge, precisely because it brings together reason and culture. . . .

    A particularly insidious obstacle to education today, which your own reports attest, is the marked presence in society of that relativism which, recognizing nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. Within such a relativistic horizon an eclipse of the sublime goals of life occurs with a lowering of the standards of excellence, a timidity before the category of the good, and a relentless but senseless pursuit of novelty parading as the realization of freedom. Such detrimental trends point to the particular urgency of the apostolate of ‘intellectual charity’ which upholds the essential unity of knowledge, guides the young towards the sublime satisfaction of exercising their freedom in relation to truth, and articulates the relationship between faith and all aspects of family and civic life. Introduced to a love of truth, I am confident that young Canadians will relish exploring the house of the Lord who “enlightens every person who comes into the world (Jn 1:9) and satisfies every desire of humanity.

    (Hat tip: Rocco Palmo @ Whispers in the Loggia).

  • September 5 was the memorial of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, recognized as a model of Christian love in the Pope’s first encyclical — two of the three times in connection with the mention of saints. Teresa Polk has the references.
  • Generation Benedikt – The PRF (Papa Ratzinger Forum) reports that

    A group of 12 young Catholics from Germany, France, Italy, Mexico and the USA decided to start on the first anniversary of WYD in Köln an international platform for young people identifying themselves with the message of Pope Benedict XVI. The inauguration took place 26/08 in the Archdiocese of Köln. [website: Generation Benedikt].

  • In our July 2006 roundup we linked to Pope or Heretic? An Evaluation of Pope Benedict XVI, LumenGentleman Apologetics‘ examination of “radtrad heresy hunters” who are plumbing the writings of then-Joseph Ratzinger, just as they did with his predecessor. In The Hunt for Heresy: Dr. Droleskey vs. Cardinal Ratzinger, LumenGentleman Apologetics‘ Jacob Michael revisits the topic, addressing a new attack on the Pope by Dr. Droleseky:

    Lately, Dr. Droleskey has gotten cozy with the Sedevacantist position, which appears to have emboldened him to step up the harsh invective against the Roman Pontiff. His August 21, 2006 article, “A New Theology for a New Religion”, tops out at some 75 pages of single-spaced text, 50 pages of which are filled with interminably long quotes from other writers.

    The weakness of Dr. Droleskey, one he shares with many critics of the Pope, is that “he does not understand what he is reading in Ratzinger”:

    Whatever suspicion might remain that Droleskey just “doesn’t get it” is confirmed by the few words of commentary that he does interject. The article purports to be a kind of analysis of Ratzinger’s book, Principles of Catholic Theology, but in reality it is little more than a collection of lengthy quotes from Ratzinger’s work, juxtaposed against equally lengthy quotes from 19th-20th century popes, with a few of Droleskey’s own words of righteous indignation serving as a shaky bridge between the two. . . . READ MORE

    Droleskey was profiled in a recent e-letter by Catholic apologist Karl Keating, asking:

    Once he was able to get the attention of a third of New York’s Republican voters. Now he struggles to get anyone’s attention. It is not likely that many of those voters would recognize the candidate of 1998 in the itinerant essayist of 2006. What happened?

    Dr. Droleskey: a warning to those who presume themselves to be “more Catholic than the Pope.”

  • Benedict, The Peace Pope. National Catholic Register Sept. 3-9, 2006. Angelo Matera (editor of Godspy.com), takes a look at Pope Benedict’s response to the August-2006 conflict between Israel and Hezbollah/Lebanon and takes a swipe at “Catholic “hawks” in the United States.” (Discussion of the article at Amy Welborn’s).
  • The Pope Rewrites the Handbook of the Good Pastor, by Sandro Magister. http://www.Chiesa. Sept. 5, 2006:

    Fielding questions in public and responding spontaneously is one of the hallmarks of pope Joseph Ratzinger’s communication style.

    He used this method on October 15, 2005, with the children who had received their first communion that year crowded into Saint Peter’s Square. And he did so on April 6 of this year, again in Saint Peter’s Square, with the young people preparing for World Youth Day.

    Each time, the pope seeks to adapt his responses to the audience in front of him.

    To the priests of the diocese of Albano, in fact, he delivered what almost amounted to a handbook on good pastoral ministry: how to celebrate Mass, how to recite the breviary, how to administer the sacraments, how to draw near those “far away,” how to be faithful to the duty of chastity, how to show to married couples the beauty of matrimony, and to young people the conversion of a Saint Francis. . . .

    According to Magister, the complete transcript of his conversation with the priests of Albano numbers a good 6,000 words in length, was released by the Vatican press office the following day, and appeared in the September 2 edition of L’Osservatore Romano in Italian only. Magister produces about a third of the exchange; Teresa @ the Papa Ratzinger Forum has another transcript, and here is the complete Italian text of the exchange from the Vatican Website. (Hat tip, Amy Welborn).

    Previous transcripts of spontaneous “Q&A’s” with the Holy Father are archived here @ the Pope Benedict XVI Fan Club.

  • Dissident Kueng criticises pope during German visit Deutsche Presse Agentur. Sept. 13, 2006. Speaking at his home in Tuebingen, Germany, disgruntled theologian Hans Keung berated the Pope for being an old fuddy-duddy and neglecting the path of reform:

    [Kung] slammed Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday for not offering dialogue during a six-day visit to Germany. There had not been “a single future-oriented signal” from the pope, nor were there any suggestions of reforms on the way, Kueng told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in an interview.

    Kueng, who was invited to a long lunch and talk with Benedict in Italy last year, said the visit had made a contradictory impression.

    “He didn’t fulfil any of the hopes of reform-oriented Catholics. . . .

    I find that it’s easier to understand Kung if you understand his reference to “dialogue” as a keyword for “capitulation”. For instance:

    [Kung] said Benedict had been “tactically smart to stay silent about the rule of celibacy for priests, or the ban on contraceptives and other uncomfortable Roman rules.

    “He was always stressing the nice side of faith and the church and leaving the harsh church rules that still exist unmentioned.”

    Kueng added, “I don’t see dialogue in practice.”

    And to think it was only last September and in the first year of his pontificate that Pope Benedict had invited his former academic colleague for a friendly four-hour-long chat over dinner, culminating in the Swiss theologian’s praise of the invitation as a “sign of hope for many in the church with the same vision as mine.”

    Past articles on the Ratzinger-Kung relationship, see The Effluence of Kung, The Brevity of Ratzinger Against The Grain January 5, 2005; “Kung’s Gripe” (in which he accused Cardinal Ratzinger with “manipulating the papal conclave with a campaign to have Pope John Paul made a saint”) and the Sept. 27, 2005 Pope Benedict Roundup on the Benedict-Kung meeting.

On a Lighter Note . . .

  • Recollections from Pope’s former housekeeper Independent Catholic News Sept. 21, 2006. Sister Agapita, of the Sisters of Mercy convent in Munich, was a housekeeper to Cardinal Ratzinger, before he became Pope Benedict XVI. She was one of 50 people who received Communion from the Pope during his recent Mass at Munich-Riem. Sr Agapita reminisced with journalist Tess Crebbin:

    “We spent many joyful moments together,” she said by phone. “It was much more than just your average housekeeper-Cardinal relationship, because he really involved us in his daily life and we also used to pray together.” […]

    Sister Agapita related how, when the Pope John Paul II was shot, Cardinal Ratzinger immediately ” gathered all of us around to say the rosary together with him for the Pope’s recovery. I thought it was really significant that he had asked his staff to join him in prayer, fostering among us the feeling of community and union.”

  • Also interviewed this month by the Catholic News Agency is Thaddäus Kühnel, the Pope’s “courier,” chauffuer, friend, and confidant Munich, Sep. 07, 2006 (CNA):

    Kühnel, who is Director of the Bank of Munich, met then Cardinal Ratzinger in 1978 at the home of the Sisters of Mercy at Bad Adelholzen. In an interview with German television, Kühnel explained that he is known as the “Pope’s courier” because when Cardinal Ratzinger was called to work in the Roman curia, he offered to bring “Bavarian things” to him in Rome, which he did and still does to this day.

    “The first thing I brought to Rome, in my car, was a paschal candle, as well as some fruit from Adelholzen and mineral water. For Christmas I brought him his Advent wreath, as they can’t be easily found in Italy. Up to now I have brought some 40 different objects,” Kühnel explained. “He likes the Christmas cookies that women from Bavarian parishes bake at home as well as those made at certain monasteries. He also likes the chocolates made in Aachen”, he added.

    Kühnel said he’s also acted as Cardinal Ratzinger’s chauffuer and that he often picked him up at the airport and “brought him to Pentling or Ratisbona to his brother’s home. Sometimes I drove the whole family—the cardinal, his brother Georg and their sister Maria. The little trips we took to Mallersdorf, Brixen, Linz, Klagenfurt, and Bad Hofgastein—most of the time with the entire family—were very beautiful,” Kühnel said. . . .

    According to Tess Crebbin of the Catholic News Service, Kühnel was invited to spend the night in the Regensburg seminary with the pontiff during his Sept. 9-14 trip to Germany:

    “I was very surprised and honored when I received a letter stating that I am to stay overnight at Regensburg,” Thaddaeus Kuehnel, director of the Hauck and Aufhauser private bank in Munich, told Catholic News Service. “The request came from the Regensburg seminary, by letter.”

    Kuehnel said he did not know why he received an invitation when so many of the pope’s other friends remain uncertain if they will have a chance to meet with him.

    “It may have something to do with the fact that our friendship goes back some 30-odd years,” Kuehnel said. “Long before he became pope, when he faced controversy at home and abroad, I always spoke out for him, and I think he never forgot this.

  • The Associated Press tried to downplay Benedict’s homecoming with some pre-emptive liberal spin, claiming that “Many Germans [are] still skeptical about native son Pope Benedict XVI” (International Herald Tribune Sept. 8, 2006):

    “I think he’s a man of the past, and he’s trying to cement these conservative tendencies in place,” said Rupert Kreuzpaintner, a churchgoing Catholic from Landshut in Benedict’s home region of Bavaria who sees the pope as too authoritarian within the church.

    Although he is critical of Benedict, “my faith is not affected by that,” said Kreuzpaintner, 45. “But for me it is a revolting thing, that a Godlike cult is made around such a person who stands for exactly the opposite of what the message should be.”

    Prompting some readers to wonder just which parish the “churchgoing Catholic” Kreuzpaintner has been attending? — The article goes on to note that “Munich police expect at least 500,000 visitors in the Bavarian capital.”

    On the other hand, Germany is “Finding Religion” (TheTrumpet.com Sept. 21, 2006):

    Germans’ warm reception to Pope Benedict’s visit to his native Bavaria last week, coupled with the broader trend toward recognizing the religious underpinnings of Europe, are signs that the secularism of Europe is on the way out.

  • Benedetto, der Leuchtturm” [“Benedict the Light House”] Der Spiegel Sept. 9, 2006. Gerald Augustinus (Closed Cafeteria) provides us with a english translation. After describing the Catholic Church as having been “the boogeyman in the eyes of the average progressive German, the incarnation of a spirit hostile to enlightenment, the head of the worst reactionary bigotry, representative of the Middle Ages, holding on stubbornly”, Der Spiegel observes a “sea change” in the relationship between church and society, “the motor of which”, suprisingly, was the Catholic Church:

    n 2005, the year of the change of Popes and World Youth Day in Cologne centuries-old abilities of Catholicism coincided with new styles of expression fo the media and event society. In contrast to the liturgically, spiritually and ritualistically rather stuffy Protestantism, Catholicism has always been a religion of senses, theater and demonstrative stagings. With the Pope as its hea it could and can personalize its message worldwide.

    This potential to produce images, to create a charismatic aura, to move masses of people to pilgrimages has been fully used by Catholicism in its nature of a robust, global, organized and experienced institution – and the media hungrily bought it. The pictures of the Polish Pope went around the world – his folksy approach to the faithful, dignified blessings and his increasing suffering that he defied like a grand martyr, who even and especially in his dying electrified the Catholic masses.

    World Youth Day became an image-rich spectacle, where the charismatic cult of the Pope with its vivacious waves of hundreds of thousands of young people even captivated the cool intellectual Joseph Ratzinger. “We are Pope” the Bild newspaper famously headlined – and the young crowds chanted “Benedetto, Benedetto.”

    As one reader notes, “It looks as if one typical stereotype is still prominant. Nothing is said about the Church’s intellectual appeal.”

    Still, Gerard observes about another Spiegel article on the Pope’s visit:

    [Der Spiegel is] definitely friendlier since Pope John Paul II. died. It used to be the magazine for all the whiners – Kueng, Drewermann, Ranke-Heinemann etc. The latter two have since left the Church. Rebellion suddenly isn’t that cool anymore but rather something very old-fashioned. Heck, the article’s even called “Joseph’s Return” and misses the usual snarky remarks.

  • Coming to us by way of Jimmy Akin), New Zealand website OddStuff relays the story that Pope Benedict’s father met his mother by advertising for a wife in a local Roman Catholic newspaper:

    Bild am Sonntag (BamS) said 43-year-old Joseph Ratzinger senior placed an advertisement as a “low-level civil servant” seeking “a good Catholic girl, who can cook and sew a bit … to marry as soon as possible, preferably with a picture,” in a Bavarian paper in March 1920.

    Four months later – by now a “mid-ranking civil servant” – he posted a similar notice in the same paper, and this time received a reply from Maria Peintner, the Pope’s future mother, BamS reported, citing documents from Bavarian state archives.

    Joseph Ratzinger senior and Maria Peintner were married in November 1920.

    Click here for the original article from Bild am Sonntag, with photos of Joseph’s parents and a shot of “baby Ratzinger.”

  • “Benedictwiser, the Pope of Beers”, by Curt Jester / Photo via Greg Krehbiel:

    This beer has a real great head and talk about theology on tap. Plus it is not weak like those heretical dissident beers. You know the ones that are all watered down. Pope Benedict Beer is fine with fish, meat, biblical exegesis, Magisterial documents, and spiritual reading. Great also for preparing to talk with dissidents or anyone you know you will be at lagerheads with.

Pope Benedict and "Regensburg Rage" – The Islamic Reaction (Pt. III)

It has been over week since Pope Benedict gave his now-infamous Regensburg address on “Faith, Reason and the University”. Muslims are marching, pundits are pontificating, and by now everybody and their next door neighbor and their neighbor’s dog has weighed in on the Pope’s reference to 14th century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaiologos’ commentary on “spreading the faith by the sword.”

Benedict has been nothing if not gracious, devoting devoting a portion of his Wednesday General Audience to clarifying the nature of his speech:

It was a profound reflection, as he did last Sunday before the Angelus prayer, Benedict XVI reiterated the substance of what he had already said: everything took place in an athenaeum, and hence in language that would be employed for a university lecture. In the text of the address, there is a note that the pope intended to add footnotes. Further, the controversial phrase was a quote referring to Muhammad “in a way that is incomprehensible and brusque for us” and which served to “introduce the drama and actuality of the topic.” The pope said that “in no way did I wish to make my own the negative words of the emperor”, that he has “profound respect for world religions and for Muslims, who worship the one God and with whom we promote peace, liberty, social justice.”

Benedict XVI also expressed the hope that “after the initial reaction”, his words may “constitute a push towards positive, even self-critical, dialogue between religions and between modern reason and Christian faith.”

In addition, Benedict “invited Muslim envoys to meet with him at his summer residence, for what the Holy See says is urgently needed dialogue” (AP, Sept. 20, 2006). Turkey and Iran accepted his offer, but apparently not everybody is satisfied.

Continuing Muslim Reactions

  • Waving Hamas banners at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City, Palestinians have denounced the Pope as a coward and a Jew.
  • In Tripoli, a son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi urged the Pope to “embrace” Islam and “learn the truth” (Reuters, Sept. 20, 2006)
  • In Hamas-controlled Gaza, Muslims have formed an ad hoc terrorist group promising to attack Christian targets (Arutz Sheva Israel National Times Sept. 19, 2006):

    The group, which calls itself the “Army of guidance,” sent an announcement to news agencies based in Gaza saying that “every place relevant to Christians will be a target until the cursed infidel – the Vatican – apologizes to Muslims.”

  • In Pakistan, 1,000 Muslim clerics and religious scholars demanded pope’s removal (Associated Press. Sept. 21, 2006):

    Benedict “should be removed from his position immediately for encouraging war and fanning hostility between various faiths” and “making insulting remarks” against Islam, said a joint statement issued by the clerics and scholars at the end of their one-day convention.

    Needless to say, the Vatican is not likely comply with their demand.

  • The Anti-Defamation League has chronicled continuing Allegations of Jewish Conspiracy Behind Pope’s Comments in the Arab/Muslim media, together with some outrageous anti-semitic political cartoons:

    ADL also found a growing trend in editorials and opinion-pieces in the Arab/Muslim media that claim the Pope’s statements should not surprise anyone, since they are the long-lasting natural discourse of international Zionism against Islam. Some maintain that after September 11 a new Rome was erected, one that aims at converting Christianity and God to Judaism under the watchful eyes of the evil American-Israeli alliance that was established by the international Zionism, which eventually seeks to enflame a full confrontation between Islam and Christianity.

    (Hat tip: Bill Cork, who wonders “Where’s the Outcry” over this by the US Media?).

However, not all the reactions from the international Muslim community to Benedict’s Regensburg speech have been negative:

  • Asia News reports that the Sunni Grand Mufti of Syria has said that “The clarifications supplied by the Pope are more than sufficient”:

    “The clarifications supplied by the Pope are more than sufficient, although I would ask for, if possible, more explanation.” With these words, the Sunni Grand Mufti of the Arab republic of Syria, Ahmad Badr El Din El Hassoun summed up a meeting yesterday – Tuesday – with the Apostolic Nuncio of Syria, Mgr Giovanni Morandini. In a statement to AsiaNews, he added: “The disapproval of Pope Benedict XVI and his bitterness after the recent reactions are more than an ‘apology’ for us and a great sign of respect towards the Islamic world.” El Hassoun called on “all to respect this great personality, Pope Benedict XVI.”

  • In an editorial for the Washington Times (Sept. 21, 2006), Farid N. Ghadry, President of the Reform Party of Syria, insists “The words of Pope Benedict should not be examined with scorn but with scrutiny”:

    As a moderate Muslim living amongst Muslims, Christians, and Jews, I am asking myself what have we, Muslims, brought forth to today’s civilizations that would appeal to other religions and prompt them to imitate us or praise us? We have but TV beheadings and barbaric killings of innocent people in the name of our great religion. Are we then surprised to hear other religious people with followers all around the world ask us, through factual history, why we are so violent?

  • “Irresponsible Comments; Abhorrent Response” Arab News Sept. 22, 2006. Lubna Hussein is critical of the Pope, but equally (if not more) repulsed by the response of her fellow believers:

    It is tragic that we lose our power to reason and allow emotions to dictate our response whenever a situation like this arises. Instead of referring to the teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet (peace be upon him) a few deviants take it upon themselves to perform atrocities and injustices in the name of Islam.

    Since when has the desecration of churches and threats against Christians been acceptable in our religion? . . .

    [It is] nothing short of pathetic to watch the mob mentality of some Muslims who, instead of extending this message of peace to the outside world, show a very ugly face when they burn effigies of the pope and attack the lives and property of innocents. Who can blame those who have no understanding of Islam if they cannot see the beauty of the religion through this shameful veneer inspired by hatred and intolerance?

  • It is also reported by Asia News that Pakistanese Christians and Muslims met to study the Pope’s speech together:

    The meeting, which took place at the Bishop’s residence, is the initiative of the local bishop, Mgr Joseph Coutts, and Fr Aftab James Paul, director of Interfaith Dialogue and Ecumenism for the diocese of Faisalabad. A committee was formed that includes Bishop Coutts himself, two Catholic priests, four ulemas and another Muslim, Pir Muhammad Ibrahim.

    In opening the meeting, Mgr Coutts expressed his “joy” to see Muslims and Christians together, but at the same time “sadness” for the overall misunderstanding of what the Pope said in Germany. . . .

    The article goes on to note the positive response of some Pakistanese Muslims:

    Members of the Muslim community said they appreciated the initiative of the local Church.

    For Rana Khalid Mehmood it is necessary to release Mgr Coutts’s remarks to the Pakistani press so that “people can understand the real situation”.

    Pir Muhammad Ibrahim is convinced that it is urgent to proceed logically. First, find the real issue; then, if there are problems clarify them through dialogue with our Christian brothers.”

    “We have decided to translate the original speech into Urdu so that Muslim clerics can study and better understand it,” he added.

    Perhaps all Catholic bishops experiencing similar unrest in their diocese’ should issue a similar invitation to dialogue?

Reactions from the Christian community


Moving on to some commentaries of the week . . .

  • “Should Vatican aides have warned the Pope?, asks Malcolm Moore of the Telegraph UK (Sept. 19, 2006). Pointing to the recent departures in the papal curia, Moore has the audacity to suggest that an incompetent Benedict might have been kept in line by those well-versed in Islamic etiquette:

    Since the exile of Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald to be the papal envoy to Egypt, there are few high-ranking Islamic experts close to the Pope. Yesterday, Archbishop Fitzgerald declined to comment on the row, saying that he was “on retreat” in France.

    Robert Mickens, the Vatican correspondent of the Tablet, the Catholic newspaper, said the biggest problem was a lack of checks and balances within the Roman Curia under Benedict.

    He said that the Pope was surrounded by a cabal of “yes-men” who “hold him in such high regard that they are unlikely to challenge him”.

    John Paul II was regularly guided either by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the former secretary of state who resigned this month, or by Joaquin Navarro Valls, the Vatican’s press secretary, who served 22 years before retiring earlier this year.

    Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus responds in “The Pope and His Cultured Advisers” (First Things‘ “On the Square” Sept. 22, 2006):

    You recall those awful years of John Paul II’s authoritarian and repressive pontificate when the ailing pontiff, taking advice only from a cabal of right-wing intimates and yes men, turned the Catholic Church into a one-man show.

    Surely you remember. . . . But now the story line has turned on a dime. After the imbroglio over the Regensburg lecture, we are told that “the authoritarian nature of Pope Benedict’s papacy” [he means pontificate] can be attributed to the fact that he, unlike John Paul, is surrounded by people who are not “brave enough to tell the pope that he has made a mistake.”

    Over at Insight Scoop, Carl Olson takes on similar criticisms by Rev. Thomas J. Reese, SJ in the Baltimore Sun (The Usual Suspects with the Usual Suspect Stuff Sept. 20, 2006), and in The Pope’s Censor (Open Book ), readers respond to the suggestion by Jesuit Father Tom Michel, who served on the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, that this whole mess could have been averted “had the Pope’s talk been reviewed and controlled by any competent staff person.”

  • The Pope, Faith, and Reason – In the hands of the press, it was more like Will and Grace. National Review‘s Denis Boyles takes aim at the characteristically-incompetent digestion of papal documents by the mainstream media:

    Part of the problem journalists face when they have to report on complicated, somewhat obscure topics, such as Roman Catholic dogmatic theology, is that graduate journalism courses like JOM926 may stress spelling & grammar, but completely at the expense of “faith & reason.” So maybe it’s not fair to blame journalists for the inanities in the week’s reporting of what was a very complex discussion by a scholarly pope concerning faith and reason in Christianity and in Islam. . . . Within hours, the BBC World Service had started skipping the complicated bits and simply reported that “the Pope described Islam as evil and inhuman” making the story a much simpler one to report.

    Boyles examines the disappointing trend in supermarket tabloid-esque reporting on the story by the New York Times, the London Times, the Guardian, the Telegraph, Le Figaro and the Daily Mail.

  • For Robert Moynihan, Benedict’s speech has been misinterpreted by almost everyone — by those who condemn him, but also by his defenders (“Reaping the Whirlwind” Inside the Vatican October 2006):

    [Benedict’s] address is not a “bashing” or “blasting” or “indictment” of Islam but rather a profound reflection on the need for the West to return to religious faith.

    Benedict’s main point — and few have noted this — is that the West, unless it recovers a vision of God, cannot engage in a fruitful dialogue with the other great cultures of the world, which have a basic religious conviction about reality. Among these great cultures, of course, is Islam.

    His entire talk is focused on this point.

    He attempts to persuade his academic audience that giving theology a voice in the modern Western university would be of immense benefit to Western society, because it would lead to a rational dialogue on the central meaning of human existence; namely, an investigation of the nature of God. Such an inquiry, he says, would counter Europe’s destructive denial of its own origins.

  • “The Pope was Right!”, agrees George Weigel. (L.A. Times Sept. 20, 2006):

    CAN ISLAM BE self-critical? Can its leaders condemn and marginalize its extremists, or are Muslims condemned to be held hostage to the passions of those who consider the murder of innocents to be pleasing to God? Can the West recover its commitment to reason and thus help support Islamic reformers? These are the large questions that Pope Benedict XVI has put on the world’s agenda. Men and women of reason and goodwill should be very glad that he has done so.

  • “Benedict the Brave” Wall Street Journal Sept. 19, 2006:

    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.

    By their reaction to the pope’s speech, some Muslim leaders showed again that Islam has a problem with modernity that is going to have to be solved by a debate within Islam. The day Muslims condemn Islamic terror with the same vehemence they condemn those who criticize Islam, an attempt at dialogue–and at improving relations between the Western and Islamic worlds–can begin.

    See also Pope Provocateur, by Brett Stephens (Wall Street Journal Sept. 20, 2006), insisting that “That speech deserves to be read in its totality, and not simply as the spark that set fire to churches across the West Bank because some Muslim fanatics object to the suggestion that there is too much violence in their religion.”

  • Der Spegiel publishes a lengthy interview with Cardinal Kasper on the Vatican’s relations with Muslims and the furor over the pope’s recent remarks, conducted by Peter Wensierski and translated from German by Christopher Sultan. Sept. 19, 2006.
  • Putting the Pope’s Remarks on Islam in ContextNational Public Radio Sept. 19, 206. The fallout continues from Pope Benedict XVI’s recent speech addressing Islam, and the Pope’s subsequent apology. The Pope’s approach to Islam is rooted both in the history of the church, and in the world’s modern realities. Lynn Neary talks to author James Reston and reporter John Allen about the Pope’s remarks.
  • “A Challenge, Not a Crusade”, by John Allen Jr. New York Times Sept. 19, 2006:

    The new pope is tougher both on terrorism and on what the Vatican calls “reciprocity” – the demand that Islamic states grant the same rights and freedoms to Christians and other religious minorities that Muslims receive in the West. When Benedict said in his apology on Sunday that he wants a “frank and sincere dialogue,” the word “frank” was not an accident. He wants dialogue with teeth.

  • Michael Novak invites us to “Tune out the static and hear Pope’s challenge to us all”: “People are missing the point, Pop,” Novak imagines himself saying to his father. “The Pope just pulled off a triple play and they are still arguing about a single pitch early in the inning.” In keeping with Novak’s analogy, those interested in the remainder of the game can turn to our central post on the Regensburg address.

Catholic Londoner relays a stirring tribute to Sister Leonella Sgorbati, of the Institute of Consolata Missionaries from the African Catholic Information Service:

She was born in 1940.

She entered the religious order in 1963.

She worked training nurses at a children’s hospital in Mogadishu.

Men gunned her down outside the hospital this Sunday.

Her last words before dying: “I forgive, I forgive.”

For more roundups on “Regensburg Rage,” see After Friday’s “Day of Rage” then what? and Popes, Dopes and General Prattle from The Anchoress.

John Allen Jr. provides substantial commentary on the Fall out from Benedict’s comments on Islam; What’s next for Christian-Muslim relations? “All Things Catholic” (National Catholic Reporter Sept. 22, 2006) and Why Benedict XVI Did not Want to Fall Silent or Backpedal, by Sandro Magister. (www.Chiesa) Sept. 22, 2006.

On a Lighter Note . . .

Pope Benedict’s Regensburg Address and the Muslim Reaction (Part II)

Entering the week after the Pope’s Regensburg address and the media-spawned controversy over his statements on Islam, and the fires of outrage are still going strong. Effigies of the Pope were burnt in Basra, Iraq (Reuters); protests practically shut down the Kashmir Valley, paralyzing “educational institutions, government offices, banks, markets and transport”; Muslims in the Gaza strip told the pope he must “accept Islam”, and the Mujahideen Shura Council, an umbrella group led by Iraq’s branch of al Qaeda, vowed “jihad”:

“We shall break the cross and spill the wine. … God will (help) Muslims to conquer Rome. … God enable us to slit their throats, and make their money and descendants the bounty of the mujahideen,” said the statement.

It was posted on Sunday on an Internet site often used by al Qaeda and other militant groups.

Also today, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel conveyed her support — a lone voice in the wilderness of European heads-of-state?

And now, another roundup of commentary on the ongoing controversy:

  • Islam’s Unreasonable War Against Benedict XVI, by Sandro Magister (www.Chiesa Sept. 18, 2006):

    Anyone who is an expert in the art of diplomacy and a proponent of “realism” in international relations would certainly have censured as inopportune and dangerous many passages of the homilies and speeches delivered by Benedict XVI in Germany.

    But this is not a pope who submits himself to such censorship or self-censorship, which he sees as being inopportune and dangerous indeed when it concerns the pillars of his preaching. His goal on his trip to Germany was to illuminate before modern man – whether Christian, agnostic, or of another faith; from Europe, Africa, or Asia – that simple and supreme truth that is the other side of the truth to which he dedicated the encyclical “Deus Caritas Est.” God is love, but he is also reason, he is the “Logos.” And so when reason separates itself from God, it closes in upon itself. And likewise, faith in an “irrational” God, an absolute, unbridled will, can become the seed of violence. Every religion, culture, and civilization is exposed to this twofold error – not only Islam, but also Christianity, toward which the pope directed almost the entirety of his preaching.

  • From Fr. Fessio of Ignatius Press (and one of the Pope’s former students), offers his reflections on the Regensberg address, asking Is Dialogue wit Islam Possible? Ignatius Insight Sept. 18, 2006:

    Yet there is a crucial underlying principle that needs to be enunciated. Christianity and Islam make incompatible truth claims. Despite the difficulty in determining who can speak authoritatively for Christianity or for Islam, there are elements of belief common to all Christians which are incompatible with elements of belief common to all Muslims. The two most obvious and most fundamental are the Trinity and the Incarnation.

    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?

  • On the blog of Domenico Bettinelli, Jr., the question is raised: Who Will Stand with the Pope?:

    It’s been 5 days and still no official statement from the USCCBureaucracy. Has anyone’s individual bishop spoken out?

    Some of his readers respond with mentions of recognition and prayer at Mass in their parishes. Another mentioned these words from Cardinal Pell of Sydney, Australia.

    Bill Cork (Built on a Rock) posts a link to Audio of yesterday’s homily by the Rev. Stephen B. Reynolds on “the latest Papal-Muslim bru-ha-ha.”. Reynolds is pastor of St. Theresa’s Church in Sugar Land, TX. A clear exposition of the Holy Father’s Regensburg address. Well worth listening to (and more priests like this, please!)

    Also mentioned, this statement from Fr. Julián Carrón, President of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation (The CL Press Office Milan, September 15, 2006):

    “Concerning the accusations against Benedict XVI, three things are evident: 1) The Pope certainly did not want to offend Islamic believers, but to call everyone to a correct use of reason; 2) the Pope has a clear awareness of some extreme aspects of the vicissitudes of Islam, which are truths of history before the eyes of all; and 3) there is an intolerance of peaceful criticism that is intolerable, both in terms of the preconceived positions of certain Islamic exponents, and in terms of the indifference and superficiality of many Western commentators.

    “We stand by the Pope. In affirming that “not acting according to reason is against the nature of God,” Benedict XVI said a true thing that holds for anyone, beginning with we Christians.

    “This position of the Pope saves the possibility for an authentic religious experience for every man, and permits an encounter in peace. It is not a question of a clash of civilizations, but the elementary experience of the “poor of spirit” of every religion: those who live a reasonable relationship with God, beginning from the needs for truth, beauty, justice, and happiness that are in the heart of every man, and precisely for this cannot follow the violent degenerations of those who, in the name of an ideology, reject reason for a power, be they in the West or anywhere else.”

  • Father Peregrinator (Canterbury Tales) draws our attention to The Man of the Hour: Manuel II Paleologos.
  • From Amy Welborn, another survey of mixed reactions from the Arab press.
  • From Muslim author believes “Pope should not have apologized CBSNews.com Sept. 18, 2006. (Via Rod Dreher @ CrunchyCon):

    As a faithful Muslim, I do not believe the pope should have apologized. I’ve read what’s been described as his inflammatory speech. Actually, he called for dialogue with the Muslim world. To ignore that larger context and to focus on a mere few words of the speech is like reducing the Koran, Islam’s holy book, to its most bloodthirsty passages. We Muslims hate it when people do that. The hypocrisy of doing this to the pope stinks to high heaven.

    Irshad Manji is a Muslim, a feminist, and a best-selling author of The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith (St. Martins, 2005). She is based at Yale University as a Visiting Fellow with the International Security Studies program.

    Amy Welborn is rounding up reactions from clear-headed, fair-minded Muslims who are challenging those who have embarassed their faith and tradition.

  • First ThingsFr. Richard J. Neuhaus weighs in (he, too, was reminded if Benedict’s Cologne 2005 address to the Muslim community. On Benedict’s choice of Manuel II Paleologos as an illustration:

    I 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.

    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.

    And his conclusion:

    Benedict’s responsibility is to set forth clearly and uncompromisingly the Christian understanding. At Regensburg he said: “God acts with logos. Logos means both reason and word— reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John [the Evangelist] thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God . . . In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God.”

    As history is turning out, this theological truth is at the very core of what is likely the greatest political and cultural struggle of this century, and maybe beyond.

    But was it a “Papal Blunder”?” — That is the question, as presented by the media, and up for discussion by readers at Amy Welborn’s Open Book.

    Among those affirming the judgement that yes, a blunder was made:

    • Mark Shea:

      The bishop, and supremely the Universal Pastor, has responsibility for the care of *all* the souls in his jurisdiction–including the Muslim ones. Benedict said nothing untrue–which is why he has not apologized for what he said, nor should he. But he is trying very hard to counter the bad effects of what he need not have said, but did. If he did not think those ill effects of his words were, in some sense, his responsibility, he would not be saying anything. The last thing Benedict wants is to destroy the Church’s ability to speak to both East and West. He may already be too late, but only time will tell.

    • Jimmy Akin:

      in the process of taking a detour to say something meant to help break the link between religion and violence, he happened to quote a particularly inflammatory line from 600 years ago that could and has stirred up the potential for religious violence. And the line isn’t even necessary to his speech!

    • Robert Miller of First Things:

      Given the exquisite sensitivity that European politicians generally show for Muslim sensibilities, when a pope, speaking in public and before television cameras, quotes a text embodying a statement that will predictably result in explosive anger in the Muslim world, does so without needing to quote the specific language to make his point, does not expressly disavow the offending statement when quoting it, and even endorses a larger point that the author of the quotation is making, a decent respect for the intelligence of the man on the Throne of St. Peter demands that we conclude that he quoted the text intentionally, knowing what the consequences would be, and did so for a reason.

      See also Pope Benedict Clarifies – Jimmy Akin unpacks the Pope’s words in his Sunday remarks on the Regensburg speech, and concludes: “From the original speech itself and from the way the Vatican has handled this matter, it is clear that the present situation was unexpected and that the Holy Father did not foresee this reaction to his speech.”

  • Meanwhile, Turkish bishops confirm trip of Benedict XVI will go ahead, by Mavi Zambak. Asianews.it September 18, 2006:

    Istanbul (AsiaNews) – The bishops of Turkey today followed Ankara’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Abdullah Gul, in confirming that the visit of Benedict XVI will take place as planned, from 28 November to 1 December, according to the set itinerary. . . .

    And this morning, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Turkey, as planned, met in Istanbul to discuss details of the trip’s itinerary. They were joined by Mgr Piero Marini, head of the Office of Papal Liturgical Celebrations. They share the view that at this point, there is no reason to call off the visit . . .

    But according to John Allen Jr., Some are justifiably anxious about the Pope’s visit to Turkey:

    A potboiler novel currently on bestseller lists in Turkey titled Papa’ya suikast (“Attack on the Pope”) predicts that Benedict will be assassinated.

    Written by novelist Yücel Kaya, the book is subtitled, Who will kill Benedict XVI in Istanbul?

    In a little more than 300 pages, Kaya manages to weave the Turkish Secret Service, the infamous Masonic lodge P2, and (of course) Opus Dei into his plot line. Inevitably, Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981, also makes an appearance.

    All this might seem comical were it not for the fact that in the last seven months, three Catholic priests have been attacked in Turkey, beginning with the murder of Italian missionary Fr. Andrea Santoro on February 5. Bishop Luigi Padovese, a 58-year-old Capuchin from Milan who serves as the region’s apostolic vicar, and who was Santoro’s superior, has warned of a “rising tide” of anti-Christian propaganda in Turkey.

    Pray for our Holy Father.

So what DOES Pope Benedict XVI think about Islam?

Benodette, from the RatzingerForum, reminded all of us today of a much-overlooked address by Benedict to representatives of some Muslim communities, whom he met while visiting Cologne for World Youth Day on Saturday, August 20, 2005. A portion of the address is printed below. You can find the full text on the Vatican website.

In light of everything that has happened in the past several days, the words of our Holy Father appear all the more striking and relevant for us today.

Dear Muslim Friends,

It gives me great joy to be able to be with you and to offer you my heartfelt greetings. . . .

I am certain that I echo your own thoughts when I bring up one of our concerns as we notice the spread of terrorism. I know that many of you have firmly rejected, also publicly, in particular any connection between your faith and terrorism and have condemned it. I am grateful to you for this, for it contributes to the climate of trust that we need. […]

If together we can succeed in eliminating from hearts any trace of rancour, in resisting every form of intolerance and in opposing every manifestation of violence, we will turn back the wave of cruel fanaticism that endangers the lives of so many people and hinders progress towards world peace.

The task is difficult but not impossible. The believer – and all of us, as Christians and Muslims, are believers – knows that, despite his weakness, he can count on the spiritual power of prayer.

Dear friends, I am profoundly convinced that we must not yield to the negative pressures in our midst, but must affirm the values of mutual respect, solidarity and peace. The life of every human being is sacred, both for Christians and for Muslims. There is plenty of scope for us to act together in the service of fundamental moral values. […]

Only through recognition of the centrality of the person can a common basis for understanding be found, one which enables us to move beyond cultural conflicts and which neutralizes the disruptive power of ideologies. […]

Past experience teaches us that, unfortunately, relations between Christians and Muslims have not always been marked by mutual respect and understanding. How many pages of history record battles and wars that have been waged, with both sides invoking the Name of God, as if fighting and killing, the enemy could be pleasing to him. The recollection of these sad events should fill us with shame, for we know only too well what atrocities have been committed in the name of religion.

The lessons of the past must help us to avoid repeating the same mistakes. We must seek paths of reconciliation and learn to live with respect for each other’s identity. The defence of religious freedom, in this sense, is a permanent imperative, and respect for minorities is a clear sign of true civilization. In this regard, it is always right to recall what the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council said about relations with Muslims.

The Church looks upon Muslims with respect. They worship the one God living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to humanity and to whose decrees, even the hidden ones, they seek to submit themselves whole-heartedly, just as Abraham, to whom the Islamic faith readily relates itself, submitted to God…. Although considerable dissensions and enmities between Christians and Muslims may have arisen in the course of the centuries, the Council urges all parties that, forgetting past things, they train themselves towards sincere mutual understanding and together maintain and promote social justice and moral values as well as peace and freedom for all people” (Declaration Nostra Aetate, n. 3).

For us, these words of the Second Vatican Council remain the Magna Carta of the dialogue with you, dear Muslim friends, and I am glad that you have spoken to us in the same spirit and have confirmed these intentions.

You, my esteemed friends, represent some Muslim communities from this Country where I was born, where I studied and where I lived for a good part of my life. That is why I wanted to meet you. You guide Muslim believers and train them in the Islamic faith. […]

Christians and Muslims, we must face together the many challenges of our time. There is no room for apathy and disengagement, and even less for partiality and sectarianism. We must not yield to fear or pessimism. Rather, we must cultivate optimism and hope.

Interreligious and intercultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is in fact a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends. […]

I pray with all my heart, dear and esteemed Muslim friends, that the merciful and compassionate God may protect you, bless you and enlighten you always.

May the God of peace lift up our hearts, nourish our hope and guide our steps on the paths of the world.

Pope Benedict XVI on "Faith, Reason and the University" (Regensburg, 2006)

In 1969, following a tense period at the University of Tübingen (see The difficult years, by Gianni Valente 30 Giorni May 2006), Joseph Ratzinger received the invitation to teach at the University of Regensburg in Bavaria.

Having turned down the initial invitation in 1967, he remarks in Milestones that “I was still dean [of the faculty of theology at Tübingen], but the exhausting controveries I experienced during academic meetings had changed my attitude”. So it was with understandable relief that he accepted the invitation. Ratzinger would later reflect on his years as “a time of fruitful theological work” and of “acquiring a theological vision that was ever more clearly my own” (Milestones p. 149/150).

The website of the University of Regensburg proudly features a section devoted to Pope Benedict’s years at Regensburg, where he was appointed in 1969 as a professor of dogmatic theology. For B16 history buffs, the website posts a number of wonderful artifacts, including a newspaper announcement and certificate of his appointment, along with his later appointment to the International Papal Theological Commission.

On September 12, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI was again welcomed to the university, to give an address to students and faculty. His lecture was titled “Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections”, the text of which is available at the Vatican website.* While I’ll highlight a few points, I recommend a reading of the full text — it is “vintage Benedict”: at once stimulating and provocative.

The Pope spoke about his days teaching at the University of Bonn, of the dialogue between departments, “working in everything on the basis of a single rationality with its various aspects and sharing responsibility for the right use of reason.” By way of illustration he mentions an exchange “by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both, and proceeds to mention one point, “itself rather marginal to the dialogue as a whole,” as a starting point for his reflections on the relationship between faith and reason:

In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: “There is no compulsion in religion”. According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: “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”. The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. “God”, he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…”.

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practise idolatry.

At this point, as far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we are faced with an unavoidable dilemma. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God’s nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true?

In answer to this question, Benedict contends that there exists “the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God,” pointing to the Christian understanding that “God acts with logos. Logos means both reason and word – a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason.”

Benedict goes on to discuss the significance of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament — the Septuagint — which fosters this encounter between biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry (“From the very heart of Christian faith and, at the same time, the heart of Greek thought now joined to faith, Manuel II was able to say: Not to act ‘with logos’ is contrary to God’s nature.”)

According to Benedict, this integration of faith and reason is at the heart of the Christian conception of God. He notes that there arose in the history of Christianity itself schools of thought which have endangered this very conception, and which, when taken to their logical conclusion, are found to be profoundly incompatible. I personally found the following passage one of the more provocative and stimulating:

In all honesty, one must observe that in the late Middle Ages we find trends in theology which would sunder this synthesis between the Greek spirit and the Christian spirit. In contrast with the so-called intellectualism of Augustine and Thomas, there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which ultimately led to the claim that we can only know God’s voluntas ordinata. Beyond this is the realm of God’s freedom, in virtue of which he could have done the opposite of everything he has actually done. This gives rise to positions which clearly approach those of Ibn Hazn and might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness. God’s transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God, whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind his actual decisions. As opposed to this, the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy, in which unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness, yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language (cf. Lateran IV). God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf. Certainly, love transcends knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Eph 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is logos. Consequently, Christian worship is λογικὴ λατρεία – worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason (cf. Rom 12:1).

According to Benedict, this “inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry” is not only at the very heart of Christianity, but in the historical origins of Europe as well: “this convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe.”

In the latter half of his lecture, Benedict voices his concerns with the call for the “dehellenization” of Christianity — of severing Christianity from its Greek heritage. He observes three stages of this program of dehellenization:

  1. the fundamental postulates of the Reformation in the sixteenth century, countering what they perfecived to be a philosophically-conditioned and corrupted Christianity with a wholesale reliance upon sola scriptura — “faith in its pure, primordial form, as originally found in the biblical Word”;
  2. the “liberal theology of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries”, with Adolf von Harnack as its outstanding representative. — Harnack positing a “return simply to the man Jesus and to his simple message underneath the accretions of theology,” thereby bringing Christianity back into harmony with modern reason through the purging of its theological elements (the divinity of Christ and the Trinity). This is in accord with what Benedict describes as the “modern self-limitation of reason,” which confines itself to that which is scientifically (mathematically and emperically) verifiable — thereby dismissing as irrelevant (subjective) “the specifically human questions about our origin and destiny, the questions raised by religion and ethics.”
  3. the proposition of “inculturation” — that, in light of experience with cultural pluralism, “the synthesis with Hellenism achieved in the early Church was a preliminary inculturation which ought not to be binding on other cultures . . . [who] have the right to return to the simple message of the New Testament prior to that inculturation, in order to inculturate it anew in their own particular milieux.” To this Benedict responds:

    The New Testament was written in Greek and bears the imprint of the Greek spirit, which had already come to maturity as the Old Testament developed. True, there are elements in the evolution of the early Church which do not have to be integrated into all cultures. Nonetheless, the fundamental decisions made about the relationship between faith and the use of human reason are part of the faith itself; they are developments consonant with the nature of faith itself.

Against this program of dehellenization, Benedict does not propose a rollback of the Enlightenment. He acknowledges “the positive aspects of modernity”, pointing out that the scientific ethos is itself “the will to be obedient to the truth, and, as such, embodies an attitude which reflects one of the basic tenets of Christianity”).

Rather, what is called for is a “broadening of our concept of reason and its applications,” overcoming “the self-imposed limitation of reason” to that which is emperically verifiable, and a true restoration of theology to its place in the university, in genuine dialogue with the sciences — “not merely as a historical discipline and one of the human sciences, but precisely as theology, as inquiry into the rationality of faith.” Only then, says Benedict, “do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today.”

In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures. . . .

The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby. The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur – this is the programme with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time. “Not to act reasonably (with logos) is contrary to the nature of God”, said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures. To rediscover it constantly is the great task of the university.

The subject of this lecture is certainly a familiar one to Benedict. Shortly after his election, Zenit News featured an interview with Timothy O’Donnell, president of Christendom College, who spoke on Benedict XVI’s Commitment to Faith and Reason in Universities. O’Donnell predicted that the Holy Father’s experience as a university professor would have an influence over his pontificate, and that he would carry on Pope John Paul II’s legacy “by stressing the synthesis of faith and reason in the Catholic intellectual tradition.”

. . . I think that our current Holy Father will continue the good work initiated by Pope John Paul II in his apostolic constitutions “Sapienta Christiana” and “Ex Corde Ecclesiae.”

I think he will find it particularly important to continue to speak to the vital role that must be played by Catholic institutions of higher learning in an effort to once again re-engage the culture and communicate effectively to the world the great synthesis of the Catholic intellectual tradition, which unites both faith and reason and recognizes in both of them a common source in Almighty God.

Responses to the 2006 Regensburg Address

  • Mark Scott (Rome of the West) ignores the tangential sound-byte approach of the media and gets to the heart of the address in his post, Holy Father’s Speech on De-Hellenization of Religion:

    This is the critical question: “Is acting according to reason also acting according to the Will of God?

  • Prof. Stephen Bainbridge comes to the point:

    Pope Benedict XVI’s speech at the University of Regensburg is a challenging read – it’s dense and, in a way, highly technical. Yet, it rewards close scrutiny. . . .

    [T]he Pope is staking out a set of claims about the relationship of man and God that stand in opposition not only to the Islam of Ibn Hazn, but also that of the Protestant Reformers, the Jesus of History crowd, and (an area of particular concern for this pope) post-Christian Europe. The Pope is also renewing the claims of the Church Universal to have a truth that is transcendent, rather than culturally-bound.

  • Oswald Sobrino (Catholic Analysis) has also been taking a look at the speech in its entirety — part 1 examines the Pope’s opening remarks on the use of coercion to spread religion; part two tackles Benedict’s critique of the loss of reason in the West:

    . . . the major part of the speech is not about Islam at all but about a wider trend: the abandonment of reason in the modern world. Fanatical religious violence is but one manifestation of that trend. To judge by the number of paragraphs in his speech, what concerns the Pope more is the abandonment of the fullness of reason in the West. The Pope begins his discussion in the fifth paragraph by posing the question: “Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God’s nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always intrinsically true?” For the Pope, the idea that acting unreasonably contradicts God’s nature is an intrinsically true idea that is a perennial contribution of ancient Greek culture for all the world, whether Western or not.

    Thanks in large part to the irresponsibility of the media, the Vatican is preoccupied in a public relations venture to safeguard the lives of Christians. But this — the loss of reason in the West; the integration of biblical faith and philosophical reason at the heart of Christianity, at (according to B16) the very foundation of Europe itself, the question of “dehellenization” — is what we should be talking about, and I hope what many will be returning to this topic, once the fires of controversy have subsided. (Update 9/18/06) – Here is Part III on Oswald Sobrino’s reflection on the Pope’s address.

  • The Regensburg Lecture: Thinking Rightly About God and Man, by Fr. James V. Schall. Ignatius Insight September 15, 2006:

    . . . 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.

    The Regensburg Address, I suspect, will go down as one of those seminal and incisive analyses that tell us who we are and where we are. It will remind us of what we are by teaching us again to think about the God that the skeptics, the dons, the theological faculties, including Muslim faculties, have too often obscured for us. Civilization depends also on thinking rightly about God and man — all civilization, not just European or Muslim. Such is the reach of this lecture.

Update! 9-23-06


* In reading Benedict’s speech I was relying on, and quoting from, the Provisional Text of the Regensberg address, on the website of Vatican Radio. In comparing it to that which is posted on the Vatican website, I see there are some minor variations in translation but I trust the meaning is essentially the same.

The Controversy over Pope Benedict’s Remarks on Islam

On the tangential matter that seems to be occupying everybody’s attention, veteran Catholic reporter John Allen Jr. weighs in on Benedict’ “jihad remark”:

I have written before that Benedict XVI is not a PC pope. By that, I don’t mean that he sets out to give offense; on the contrary, he’s one of the most gracious figures ever to step on the world stage. Instead, he simply does not allow his thinking to be channeled by the taboos and fashions of ordinary public discourse.

For example, any PR consultant would have told the pope that if he wanted to make a point about the relationship between faith and reason, he shouldn’t open up with a comparison between Islam and Christianity that would be widely understood as a criticism of Islam, suggesting that it’s irrational and prone to violence. Yet that is precisely what Benedict did in his address to 1,500 students and faculty at the University of Regensburg on Wednesday, citing a 14th century dialogue between the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and a learned Persian. . . .

It comes as no suprise that Benedict’s remarks and citation of the quote has been met with furious and violent reaction — first by Muslim protestors (proclaiming themselves at once the “religion of peace” and managing to fulfill all descriptions to the contrary) and the media, who are playing up the controversy for all that it’s worth:

  • American Papist has a Roundup of the Islamofascist rage against Pope Benedict’s comments (Sept. 15, 2006).
  • Milking the controversy, the pompous New York Times demands an apology. Amy Welborn (“More Pontificating”) and Rod Dreher both respond (“The despicable New York Times September 16, 2006).
  • Muslim Leaders Assail Pope’s Speech on Islam, by Ian Fisher. New York Times September 14, 2006 — on the Islamic reaction, including those from Ali Bardakoglu of the Turkish government’s directorate of religious affairs (“I do not think any good will come from the visit to the Muslim world of a person who has such ideas about Islam’s prophet. [Benedict] should first of all replace the grudge in his heart with moral values and respect for the other.”) and a demand for “all Arab and Islamic states to recall their ambassadors from the Vatican and expel those from the Vatican until the pope says he is sorry” by Haken al-Mutairi of Kuwait’s Islamic Nation Party.

  • “Pope enjoys private time after slamming Islam”, – Agence France-Presse’ choice of headline betrays their ignorance. Hat tip to Amy Welborn.

  • Needed: A sense of irony and a clue – Amy Welborn notes that burning the Pope in effigy “is not an effective way to argue against someone who has questioned your religion’s relationship to violence.”
  • The Pope’s speech: lending Islam a helping hand to avoid a downward spiral, by Samir Khalil Samir, SJ (AsiaNews.It Sept. 15, 2006):

    It is necessary to keep in mind that what the Pope did was prepare and deliver a speech as an academic, a philosopher, a top theologian whose arguments and fine points may not be easily grasped.

    The media—which should indulge in some self-criticism of its own—picked out those remarks from the speech that it could immediately use and superimposed them on the current international political context, on the ongoing confrontation between the West and the Muslim world, taking a step back into what Samuel Huntington called a ‘Clash of civilisations’. In reality, in his speech the Pope outlined a path that runs contrary to this view. The goal he has in mind is actually to engage others in a dialogue and of the most beautiful kind. . . .

    Comments made by Western Muslims were superficial and fed the circus-like criticism. In a phone-in programme on al-Jazeera yesterday, many viewers called in to criticise the Pope but no one knew about what. These were just emotional outbursts in response to hearsay concerning the Pope talking about jihad and criticising Islam, when in fact all that is false. Let me say why. . . .

  • Indian Catholic relays the complete text of the Vatican statement on Pope’s remarks on Islam:

    Concerning the reaction of Muslim leaders to certain passages of the Holy Father’s address at the University of Regensburg, it should be noted that what the Holy Father has at heart — and which emerges from an attentive reading of the text — is a clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation for violence.

    It was certainly not the intention of the Holy Father to undertake a comprehensive study of the jihad and of Muslim ideas on the subject, still less to offend the sensibilities of Muslim faithful.

    Quite the contrary, what emerges clearly from the Holy Father’s discourses is a warning, addressed to Western culture, to avoid “the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom” (homily, Sept. 10). A just consideration of the religious dimension is, in fact, an essential premise for fruitful dialogue with the great cultures and religions of the world.

    And indeed, in concluding his address in Regensburg, Benedict XVI affirmed how “the world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion to the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures.”

    What is clear then, is the Holy Father’s desire to cultivate an attitude of respect and dialogue toward other religions and cultures, including, of course, Islam.

  • From the Vatican website, additional comments from Cardinal Bertone. And from the American Papist:

    Actually, I’m fairly impressed with Bertone’s choice of words. It’s no surprise, after all, that Pope Benedict would be “extremely upset” that “some portions of his speech were able to sound offensive” to Muslims – their response being, of course, completely unreasonable. I’d be upset too.

  • From a Reuters report (Pope sorry his Islam speech found offensive, by Stephen Brown. Sept. 16, 2006), further notes on the Muslim reaction:

    “How can (the Pope) imply that Muslims are the creators of terrorism in the world while it is the followers of Christianity who have aggressed against every country of the Islamic world?” prominent Saudi cleric Salman al-Odeh said. “Who attacked Afghanistan and who invaded Iraq?”

    In Libya, the General Instance of Religious Affairs said the “insult … pushes us back to the era of crusades against Muslims led by Western political and religious leaders”.

    Turkish paper Vatan quoted a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party saying Benedict “will go down in history in the same category as leaders like Hitler and Mussolini”.

  • Teófilo de Jesús (Vivificat) wonders where was the enlightened voice of Muslim protest when Ayman al Zawahiri and Adam Gadahn issued an “invitation to Islam”, denigrating the Christian faith as a “hollow shell of a religion, whose followers cling to an empty faith and a false conviction of their inevitable salvation”?
  • Don’t Know Nothin’ ‘Bout HistoryPostWatch examines the reactions, and the comments of the Pope, in light of the history of Muslim-Christian relations.

  • Two West Bank Churches Hit by Firebombs Over Pope Comments, reports Ali Daraghmeh
    (AP) The Washington Post Sept. 16, 2006.

  • Pope Rage on the Internet; church bombings in Gaza, another roundup of the Muslim reaction by Michelle Malkin.
  • A hardline cleric linked to Somalia’s powerful Islamist movement has called for Muslims to “hunt down” and kill Pope Benedict XVI, reports Agence France-Presse (The Age Sept. 17, 2006):

    Sheikh Abubukar Hassan Malin urged Muslims to find the pontiff and punish him for insulting the Prophet Mohammed and Allah in a speech that he said was as offensive as author Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses.

    “We urge you Muslims wherever you are to hunt down the Pope for his barbaric statements as you have pursued Salman Rushdie, the enemy of Allah who offended our religion,” he said in Friday evening prayers.

    “Whoever offends our Prophet Mohammed should be killed on the spot by the nearest Muslim,” Malin, a prominent cleric in the Somali capital, told worshippers at a mosque in southern Mogadishu.

    We are awaiting Muslim repudiations of Sheikh Abubukar Hassan Malin, which we expect will be as furvent as their repudiation of Benedict XVI.

  • An apt assessment from Amy Welborn, who is tired of Muslim rage:

    The Pope held up an interesting question for us to contemplate: Who is God? How can we talk about God? What does God’s existence and nature then imply about the way human beings are to live together on this planet? When true reason is abandoned as an attribute and expression of God, what hope is there for dialogue and peace?

    The “Muslim” response to the Pope ironically and unwittingly answers his question, don’t you think?

Update (9/17/06)

  • This hardly comes as a suprise: Israeli-US plot behind pope’s remarks: Iran hardline press Agence-France Press:

    Iranian hardline newspapers said there were signs of an Israeli-US plot behind remarks by Pope Benedict XVI that linked Islam to violence and created a wave of anger across the Muslim world.

    The daily Jomhuri Islami said Israel and the United States — the Islamic republic’s two arch-enemies — could have dictated the comments to distract attention from the resistance of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah to Israel’s offensive on Lebanon.

    Of course we know it’s a Zionist conspiracy.

  • Reuters reports that The killing of an Italian Catholic nun in Mogadishu on Sunday may well be linked to anger among Muslims about Pope Benedict’s recent remarks (Washington Post Sunday, September 17, 2006). (Extensive coverage on the murder of Sister Leonella Sgorbati by Michelle Malkin. And this just in Sister Leonella asked forgiveness for killers as she lay dying:

    Sister Leonella, a nun who devoted her life to helping the sick in volatile regions of Africa, used to joke that there was a bullet with her name engraved on it in Somalia. When the bullet came, she used her last breaths to forgive those responsible.

    “I forgive, I forgive,” she whispered in her native Italian just before she died, the Rev. Maloba Wesonga told The Associated Press at the nun’s memorial mass in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on Monday.

  • Amy Welborn provides a helpful roundup of coverage from all perspectives — Opining and analyzing in the UK (from the UK Observer; the Guardian and the Telegraph); from the Italian Avvenire, of the Italian bishops’ conference; Muslim editorials and opinions and an article from Der Spegiel:

    The attacks against the Roman pontifex are especially grotesque. The harsh criticism, which often is accompanied by threats of violence, of Benedict’s speech in Regensburg is not only an attack on the head of the Catholic Church. The malicious misinterpretation of his words and the absurd suppositions of Islamic representatives are a head-on attack on free religious discourse. That more and more people in the Islamic world can be induced to follow these protests shows how much influence Islamic groups have gained there. The political intention is clear: A discussion between Christianity and Islam should only take place within the framework determined by political Islamism.

    We can do without this. Whoever agrees to this kind of “dialogue” relinquishes his right to free opinion. . . .

  • And from the Vatican today: Pope Benedict Apologizes in Person for Causing Muslims Offense, by Andrew Frye (Bloomberg.com):

    Pope Benedict XVI apologized in person today for causing offense to Muslims with a university lecture last week implicitly linking Islam to violence.

    “I am truly sorry for the reactions caused by a brief passage of my speech,” the pope said from his Castel Gandolfo summer retreat in Italy. “These were quotations from a medieval text that do not express in any way my personal opinion.”

    Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement saying the pope’s apology is “sufficient,” Sky News reported. The head of the Cairo-based group, Mohammad Mahdi Akef, had previously said the pope “aroused the anger of the whole Islamic world.”

    But again, while the media is playing this up (and the New York Times might crow in victory), see the linguistic analysis of the phrasing of this “apology” from Fr. John Zuhlsdorf: Benedict did not grovel during his Angelus address:

    . . . It is true that he distanced himself from that text. He said that Paleologus’s words were not his sentiments. You can say that this was an apology if you add all the elements together, but …. there it is. It won’t be enough, of course, for many (for the “thick”). It can be interpreted as an apology and, in a sense, it MUST be. There are in Islamic countries Christian communities in grave peril. Had the Pope not said something like this, those people would be in even greater danger. He had to apologize without apologizing while keeping his agenda on the table. . . .

    The upshot of today’s address was: “Read the whole text and then let’s have a real discussion based on what I really said, not based on a brief citation I used in the speech.”

Update (9/18/06)

  • “Joee Blogs – a Catholic Londoner” got a rude suprise when he attended Sunday Mass at Westminster Cathedral:

    Holy Mass on a Sunday is the very source and summit of the Catholic week, so my family decided this Sunday to make the trip to Westminster Cathedral together. As we came out about 100 Islamists were chanting slogans such as “Pope Benedict go to Hell” “Pope Benedict you will pay, the Muja Hadeen are coming your way” “Pope Benedict watch your back” and other hateful things. I’ll post more pictures of it when I get more free time. It was a pretty nasty demonstration. . . .

  • From The American Thinker, The Pope, Jihad, and “Dialogue” (Sept. 17, 2006) an excellent article by Dr. Andrew Bostom — who, as author of The Legacy of Jihad (Prometheus Books, 2005), probably knows a tad something about the history of Islamic expansion).

    Bostom provides some rich and unsettling detail behind the now infamous exchange between “the late 14th century ‘Dialogue Held With A Certain Persian, the Worthy Mouterizes, in Anakara of Galatia’ between the Byzantine ruler Manuel II Paleologus, and a well-educated Muslim interlocutor.” It’s a must-read. And if that perks your interest, here is a RedState interview with the author.

  • From the RatzingerForum (courtesy of Rcesq), an interview with emeritus theologian Adel-Theodore Khoury (Frankfurter Allgemeine Sept. 17, 2006), whose book the Pope cited in his Regensburg lecture. [Translated into English]:
    Professor Khoury, what kind of day did you have yesterday?

    The media called all day. Television was here. I’ve never experienced anything like this before.

    Did you ever expect that your book would cause such an uproar?

    An edition of Byzantine sources in French that appeared in 1966? Please.

    Can you tell us something about the context of the quotation?

    The Emperor and the Persion scholar met in a Muslim military camp outside Constantinople. There in an open atmosphere and highly polemically, they discussed each other’s religion. Both sides presented critical formulations to the other side, neither spared the other. The Pope did not use this quotation, however, to say something about Islam. That was not his theme at all. He used it only as a bridge to his next thoughts. The crucial sentence appears somewhat later: not to act reasonably is against God’s nature. He was concerned about the question of God’s will. That is moreover also a significant topic of discussion in Islamic theology.

    You are a scholar of Islam. Do you believe that this quotation correctly characterized Islam?

    Once again: that was not what the Pope was talking about in this lecture. Otherwise, one would have to add a few more remarks, because the quotation does not present the thought of the Koran precisely. It is not about conversion by the sword, but rather about the conquest and rule by the sword with simultaneous religious tolerance, at least for religions of the Book. If the Pope had been concerned about Islam, he would have had to point out entirely different streams of thought, which also demonstrate the reasonableness of God’s actions. Furthermore, you can find passages in the Koran where conversion by argument and just action is valued.

    How do you explain the great rage in the Muslim world?

    see it in the context of the great tensions of the present day. Every one is so sensitive that misunderstandings arise. Many wanted from the Pope some words of differentiation, a categorization, an: “I, Benedict XVI, do not see Islam in this way.”

    Would you have advised the Pope to make such a comment?

    I might have. He could have clarified that he was referring only to a radical minority of Muslim, the Islamists prepared for violence. That is how the Turkish Hurriyet understood it, and I believe, correctly: Emperor Manuel’s statement only applies to a minority of Muslims today.

  • Syrian blogger Ammar Abdulhamid gets it:

    Have all leaders, religious and political, in the so-called Muslim World, become illiterate all of a sudden? Or are they intent on using every little opportunity that presents itself to prove in deed what they continue to deny in words, namely: that Islamic civilization and culture are dead, and that Muslims are adamant on continuing their head-long descent into barbarity?

    Ammar Abdulhamid lives in Silver Spring, Maryland. He left Damascus, Syria, due to his increasing and vocal criticism of the ruling regime and its president. Read his post. It’s really too bad this couldn’t come from, say, a blogger in the Middle East — but clear-headed thinking nonetheless.

Pope Benedict XVI on “Faith, Reason and the University” (Regensburg, 2006)

In 1969, following a tense period at the University of Tübingen (see The difficult years, by Gianni Valente 30 Giorni May 2006), Joseph Ratzinger received the invitation to teach at the University of Regensburg in Bavaria.

Having turned down the initial invitation in 1967, he remarks in Milestones that “I was still dean [of the faculty of theology at Tübingen], but the exhausting controveries I experienced during academic meetings had changed my attitude”. So it was with understandable relief that he accepted the invitation. Ratzinger would later reflect on his years as “a time of fruitful theological work” and of “acquiring a theological vision that was ever more clearly my own” (Milestones p. 149/150).

The website of the University of Regensburg proudly features a section devoted to Pope Benedict’s years at Regensburg, where he was appointed in 1969 as a professor of dogmatic theology. For B16 history buffs, the website posts a number of wonderful artifacts, including a newspaper announcement and certificate of his appointment, along with his later appointment to the International Papal Theological Commission.

On September 12, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI was again welcomed to the university, to give an address to students and faculty. His lecture was titled “Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections”, the text of which is available at the Vatican website.* While I’ll highlight a few points, I recommend a reading of the full text — it is “vintage Benedict”: at once stimulating and provocative.

The Pope spoke about his days teaching at the University of Bonn, of the dialogue between departments, “working in everything on the basis of a single rationality with its various aspects and sharing responsibility for the right use of reason.” By way of illustration he mentions an exchange “by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both, and proceeds to mention one point, “itself rather marginal to the dialogue as a whole,” as a starting point for his reflections on the relationship between faith and reason:

In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: “There is no compulsion in religion”. According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: “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”. The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. “God”, he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…”.

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practise idolatry.

At this point, as far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we are faced with an unavoidable dilemma. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God’s nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true?

In answer to this question, Benedict contends that there exists “the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God,” pointing to the Christian understanding that “God acts with logos. Logos means both reason and word – a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason.”

Benedict goes on to discuss the significance of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament — the Septuagint — which fosters this encounter between biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry (“From the very heart of Christian faith and, at the same time, the heart of Greek thought now joined to faith, Manuel II was able to say: Not to act ‘with logos’ is contrary to God’s nature.”)

According to Benedict, this integration of faith and reason is at the heart of the Christian conception of God. He notes that there arose in the history of Christianity itself schools of thought which have endangered this very conception, and which, when taken to their logical conclusion, are found to be profoundly incompatible. I personally found the following passage one of the more provocative and stimulating:

In all honesty, one must observe that in the late Middle Ages we find trends in theology which would sunder this synthesis between the Greek spirit and the Christian spirit. In contrast with the so-called intellectualism of Augustine and Thomas, there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which ultimately led to the claim that we can only know God’s voluntas ordinata. Beyond this is the realm of God’s freedom, in virtue of which he could have done the opposite of everything he has actually done. This gives rise to positions which clearly approach those of Ibn Hazn and might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness. God’s transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God, whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind his actual decisions. As opposed to this, the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy, in which unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness, yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language (cf. Lateran IV). God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf. Certainly, love transcends knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Eph 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is logos. Consequently, Christian worship is λογικὴ λατρεία – worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason (cf. Rom 12:1).

According to Benedict, this “inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry” is not only at the very heart of Christianity, but in the historical origins of Europe as well: “this convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe.”

In the latter half of his lecture, Benedict voices his concerns with the call for the “dehellenization” of Christianity — of severing Christianity from its Greek heritage. He observes three stages of this program of dehellenization:

  1. the fundamental postulates of the Reformation in the sixteenth century, countering what they perfecived to be a philosophically-conditioned and corrupted Christianity with a wholesale reliance upon sola scriptura — “faith in its pure, primordial form, as originally found in the biblical Word”;
  2. the “liberal theology of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries”, with Adolf von Harnack as its outstanding representative. — Harnack positing a “return simply to the man Jesus and to his simple message underneath the accretions of theology,” thereby bringing Christianity back into harmony with modern reason through the purging of its theological elements (the divinity of Christ and the Trinity). This is in accord with what Benedict describes as the “modern self-limitation of reason,” which confines itself to that which is scientifically (mathematically and emperically) verifiable — thereby dismissing as irrelevant (subjective) “the specifically human questions about our origin and destiny, the questions raised by religion and ethics.”
  3. the proposition of “inculturation” — that, in light of experience with cultural pluralism, “the synthesis with Hellenism achieved in the early Church was a preliminary inculturation which ought not to be binding on other cultures . . . [who] have the right to return to the simple message of the New Testament prior to that inculturation, in order to inculturate it anew in their own particular milieux.” To this Benedict responds:

    The New Testament was written in Greek and bears the imprint of the Greek spirit, which had already come to maturity as the Old Testament developed. True, there are elements in the evolution of the early Church which do not have to be integrated into all cultures. Nonetheless, the fundamental decisions made about the relationship between faith and the use of human reason are part of the faith itself; they are developments consonant with the nature of faith itself.

Against this program of dehellenization, Benedict does not propose a rollback of the Enlightenment. He acknowledges “the positive aspects of modernity”, pointing out that the scientific ethos is itself “the will to be obedient to the truth, and, as such, embodies an attitude which reflects one of the basic tenets of Christianity”).

Rather, what is called for is a “broadening of our concept of reason and its applications,” overcoming “the self-imposed limitation of reason” to that which is emperically verifiable, and a true restoration of theology to its place in the university, in genuine dialogue with the sciences — “not merely as a historical discipline and one of the human sciences, but precisely as theology, as inquiry into the rationality of faith.” Only then, says Benedict, “do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today.”

In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures. . . .

The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby. The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur – this is the programme with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time. “Not to act reasonably (with logos) is contrary to the nature of God”, said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures. To rediscover it constantly is the great task of the university.

The subject of this lecture is certainly a familiar one to Benedict. Shortly after his election, Zenit News featured an interview with Timothy O’Donnell, president of Christendom College, who spoke on Benedict XVI’s Commitment to Faith and Reason in Universities. O’Donnell predicted that the Holy Father’s experience as a university professor would have an influence over his pontificate, and that he would carry on Pope John Paul II’s legacy “by stressing the synthesis of faith and reason in the Catholic intellectual tradition.”

. . . I think that our current Holy Father will continue the good work initiated by Pope John Paul II in his apostolic constitutions “Sapienta Christiana” and “Ex Corde Ecclesiae.”

I think he will find it particularly important to continue to speak to the vital role that must be played by Catholic institutions of higher learning in an effort to once again re-engage the culture and communicate effectively to the world the great synthesis of the Catholic intellectual tradition, which unites both faith and reason and recognizes in both of them a common source in Almighty God.

Responses to the 2006 Regensburg Address

  • Mark Scott (Rome of the West) ignores the tangential sound-byte approach of the media and gets to the heart of the address in his post, Holy Father’s Speech on De-Hellenization of Religion:

    This is the critical question: “Is acting according to reason also acting according to the Will of God?

  • Prof. Stephen Bainbridge comes to the point:

    Pope Benedict XVI’s speech at the University of Regensburg is a challenging read – it’s dense and, in a way, highly technical. Yet, it rewards close scrutiny. . . .

    [T]he Pope is staking out a set of claims about the relationship of man and God that stand in opposition not only to the Islam of Ibn Hazn, but also that of the Protestant Reformers, the Jesus of History crowd, and (an area of particular concern for this pope) post-Christian Europe. The Pope is also renewing the claims of the Church Universal to have a truth that is transcendent, rather than culturally-bound.

  • Oswald Sobrino (Catholic Analysis) has also been taking a look at the speech in its entirety — part 1 examines the Pope’s opening remarks on the use of coercion to spread religion; part two tackles Benedict’s critique of the loss of reason in the West:

    . . . the major part of the speech is not about Islam at all but about a wider trend: the abandonment of reason in the modern world. Fanatical religious violence is but one manifestation of that trend. To judge by the number of paragraphs in his speech, what concerns the Pope more is the abandonment of the fullness of reason in the West. The Pope begins his discussion in the fifth paragraph by posing the question: “Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God’s nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always intrinsically true?” For the Pope, the idea that acting unreasonably contradicts God’s nature is an intrinsically true idea that is a perennial contribution of ancient Greek culture for all the world, whether Western or not.

    Thanks in large part to the irresponsibility of the media, the Vatican is preoccupied in a public relations venture to safeguard the lives of Christians. But this — the loss of reason in the West; the integration of biblical faith and philosophical reason at the heart of Christianity, at (according to B16) the very foundation of Europe itself, the question of “dehellenization” — is what we should be talking about, and I hope what many will be returning to this topic, once the fires of controversy have subsided. (Update 9/18/06) – Here is Part III on Oswald Sobrino’s reflection on the Pope’s address.

  • The Regensburg Lecture: Thinking Rightly About God and Man, by Fr. James V. Schall. Ignatius Insight September 15, 2006:

    . . . 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.

    The Regensburg Address, I suspect, will go down as one of those seminal and incisive analyses that tell us who we are and where we are. It will remind us of what we are by teaching us again to think about the God that the skeptics, the dons, the theological faculties, including Muslim faculties, have too often obscured for us. Civilization depends also on thinking rightly about God and man — all civilization, not just European or Muslim. Such is the reach of this lecture.

Update! 9-23-06


* In reading Benedict’s speech I was relying on, and quoting from, the Provisional Text of the Regensberg address, on the website of Vatican Radio. In comparing it to that which is posted on the Vatican website, I see there are some minor variations in translation but I trust the meaning is essentially the same.