Month: November 2006

Anticipating Pope Benedict’s Papal Visit to Turkey

On November 28, 2006, Pope Benedict will make an apostolic journey to the predominantly-Muslim country of Turkey. After the Regensburg address and the ensuing controversy, all eyes will be on the Benedict’s visitation with Catholic and Orthodox Christian minority. Following are some background articles and commentary on the Pope’s journey this week.

Supplementary Articles

  • “The Passion of the Pope”, by David Van Biema, Jeff Israely. (Time Nov. 19, 2006):

    when Benedict XVI travels to Turkey next week on his first visit to a Muslim country since becoming Pope last year, he is unlikely to cloak himself in a downy banner of brotherhood, the way his predecessor did 27 years ago. Instead, Benedict, 79, will arrive carrying a different reputation: that of a hard-knuckle intellect with a taste for blunt talk and interreligious confrontation. Just 19 months into his tenure, the Pope has become as much a moral lightning rod as a theologian; suddenly, when he speaks, the whole world listens. And so what takes place over four days in three Turkish cities has the potential to define his papacy–and a good deal more.

    Time provides background to the papal visit by noting the contrast between Benedict’s reaction toward Islam with what is oft-perceived as an overly-congenial approach of his predecessor:

    Unlike John Paul, who had a big-tent approach, Ratzinger has always favored bright theological lines and correspondingly high walls between creeds he regards as unequally meritorious. His long-standing habit is to correct any aide who calls a religion other than Christianity or Judaism a “faith.” . . .

    That approach includes Islam. In Ratzinger’s 1996 interview book Salt of the Earth (with Peter Seewald), he noted that “we must recognize that Islam is not a uniform thing. No one can speak for [it] as a whole. There is a noble Islam, embodied, for example, by the King of Morocco, and there is also the extremist, terrorist Islam, which, again, one must not identify with Islam as a whole, which would do it an injustice.” This sophisticated understanding, however, did not keep Ratzinger from slapping down a bishop who wanted to invite peaceable Muslims to a papal ceremony in Fatima, Portugal, or, in 2004, from objecting to Turkish E.U. entry on grounds that it has always been “in permanent contrast to Europe,” a contrast his other writings made clear had much to do with religion.

    Islam played a particular role–as both a threat and a model–in the drama that probably lies closest to Benedict’s heart: the secularization of Christian Europe. In the same 1996 book, he wrote that “the Islamic soul reawakened” in reaction to the erosion of the West’s moral stature during the 1960s. Ratzinger paraphrased that soul’s new song: “We know who we are; our religion is holding its ground; you don’t have one any longer. We have a moral message that has existed without interruption since the prophets, and we will tell the world how to live it, where the Christians certainly can’t.”

    While Time emphasizes one side of Benedict’s response, it is certainly not the only one. Benedict’s August 2005 address to Muslim community in Cologne, Germany and his recent reception and dialogue with Islamic scholars (responding to the Regensberg address) reveals a side much more akin to that of his predecessor.

    Time‘s feature on the Pope also contains a brief point / counterpoint — “What the Pope Gets Right”, by Fr. Richard John Neuhaus:

    It is noteworthy, however, that the Pope has not retreated from his challenge to Islam. Moreover, under his leadership, the Vatican has taken a much stronger line in insisting on “reciprocity” in relations with Islam. Mosques proliferate throughout cities in the West, while any expression of non-Islamic religion is strictly forbidden in many Muslim countries. In the Vatican and elsewhere, the feeling has been growing that the way of tolerance, dialogue and multicultural sensitivity can no longer be a one-way street. In fact, that shift predates Benedict’s papacy. In his 1994 book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, John Paul II said complimentary things about the piety of Muslims. But John Paul concluded his discussion of Islam with this: “For [these reasons] not only the theology but also the anthropology of Islam is very distant from Christianity.”

    and from Tariq Ramadan, on “Where [Benedict XVI] is Still In the Dark”:

    this profoundly European Pope is inviting the people of his continent to become aware of the central, inescapable character of Christianity within their identity, or risk losing it. That may be a legitimate goal, but Benedict’s narrow definition of European identity is deeply troubling and potentially dangerous. This is what Muslims must respond to: the tendency of Westerners to ignore the critical role that Muslims played in the development of Western thought. . . .

    What the West needs most today is not so much a dialogue with other civilizations but an honest dialogue with itself–one that acknowledges those traditions within Western civilization that are almost never recognized. Europe, in particular, must learn to reconcile itself with the diversity of its past in order to master the coming pluralism of its future.

    The Pope’s visit to Turkey presents an opportunity to put forward the true terms of the debate over the relationship between Islam and the West.

    Time identifies the author of the latter article as “a research fellow at Oxford,” and was elsewhere hailed by Time as part of “the next wave” of spiritual leaders and innovators.

    A discussion of Ramadan may be tangential to this roundup, but some bloggers couldn’t help but note his status as the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. On September 20, 2006, he was denied a visa on grounds of his contribution to a charity-front for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which followed the 2004 revocation of his visa to live and work in the U.S. (See “The State Dept. was Right Weekly Standard Oct. 16, 2006).

    The Italian journalist Sandro Magister profiled Ramadan (“Tariq Ramadan’s Two-Faced Islam. The West Is the Land of Conquest” http://www.Chiesa January 19, 2004).

  • Turkey’s unique history a challenge for this academic pope National Catholic Reporter Nov. 17, 2006. John Allen, Jr. provides some helpful background, addressing the Pope’s demand for “reciprocity” — “meaning the demand that religious minorities in Islamic states should receive the same rights and freedoms as Muslims in the West”:

    Reciprocity is a core element of Benedict’s challenge to Muslims — inviting them to embrace reason with respect to religious affairs — and the dismal conditions facing Turkey’s small Christian population, including the tiny flock of the Patriarch of Constantinople, offers a classic case in point.

    Benedict will have to choose his words carefully, however, because there’s a unique history in Turkey that could easily make such a challenge sound like a threat. Over the centuries, European powers repeatedly intervened in Turkey to demand special privileges for Christians, a process that many Turks associate with the slow undermining of the Ottoman Empire. If the pope is to avoid awakening those historical ghosts, he’ll have to find a vocabulary that makes it clear he’s talking about a matter of universal human dignity, not about special treatment for Christians.

Signs of Trouble

  • Ali Bardakoglu, President of Religious Affairs in Turkey, is hardly enamored with Benedict’s approach to Islam, denouncing his Regensburg address as “An Attack on the Pillars of Islam”. Der Spiegel interviewed the dignitary on the Regensburg controversy and the Pope’s impending visit:

    SPIEGEL: It’s been 27 years since since a pope last visited Turkey, a Muslim country. What does the visit mean for your country?

    Bardakoglu: Whenever a religious leader visits other countries, it means that religious leader is ready to engage in dialogue. That’s important. If we want to get a grip on the world’s problems, we have to speak to each other. Our problems don’t originate in the religions themselves. The leaders can help ensure that people from various cultures develop an understanding for one another.

    Unfortunately, the notion of religiously-motivated violence is not an issue for Bardakoglu:

    SPIEGEL: What was wrong with the speech?

    Bardakoglu: It was an attack, strongly colored by prejudice, on the three pillars of Islam: faith, the Koran and the prophet Muhammad — without any reference to a specific event from the history of Islam. Whoever portrays the Koran and the prophet as the causes of the problems hasn’t understood Islam.

    SPIEGEL: You spoke of the Pope having “hatred in his heart” and accused him of cultivating a way of thinking that resembles that of the crusaders.

    Bardakoglu: A person who says the prophet is the source of violence, and that the Koran is the cause of the aberrations, isn’t formulating criticism but rather condemning and insulting Islam. The fact that the speaker is merely repeating a quotation does not diminish the mistake.

    See also: Reconstruction of a Global Crisis: How the Pope Angered the Muslim World Der Spiegel Nov. 24, 2006.

  • Sales of Pope Murder Book Soar Ahead of Benedict XVI’s Visit (Adnkronos International (AKI) Nov. 22, 2006). As reported in one of our earlier roundups, sales of a Turkish novel fantasizing about the murder of the Holy Father are increasing in anticipation of the papal visit:

    The Plot Against The Pope is a highly speculative potboiler narrating how the conservative Roman Catholic society Opus Dei, a subversive masonic lodge and the CIA collude to make the pontiff’s murder a pretext for a US attack against Iran.

    Yuvel Kaya’s book, which features Benedict XVI in front of a burning cross with a bearded gunman aiming a rocket launcher at him, is on sale at major Turkish bookstores such as D&R, Kabalci, Pandora.

    Despite the absence of any promotional campaign – no billboards, posters or pamphlets at bookstores – sales are rapidly picking up, according to Lale Yilmaz from Kabalci, one the country’s biggest book stores. However she told Adnkronos International (AKI) exact sales figures could not be released to the public.

    “More copies of the book have been bought over the last 10 days than any other time,” Zeynep Yaman an employee with Alfa Dagitim, one of the six companies distributing the books, told AKI.

    Robert Duncan (News Editor for Spero News) is skeptical: Turkey: Pope murder book not what it seems?:

    No matter how distasteful the subject of this book may be – not to mention that it is getting free press and distracting attention away from the positive message of this historic visit – we should question if there isn’t journalistic hype at play.

    Interestingly enough, people seem to be missing one point.

    At least from what I have read the book doesn’t argue that Muslims will kill the Pope. Instead, according to Kaya’s novel, the Pope is being targeted by, get this, Catholics.

    And not just any Catholics, but by Dan Brown’s favorite nemesis – Opus Dei.

  • Shouting “Allahu akbar,” Muslim protestors occuppied the Hagia Sophia in Instanbul on Wednesday, to protest the Pope’s visit (Protesters occupying building detained” – a rather innocuous title?):

    The protesters belong to the Great Unity Party, a far right-wing group that has previously staged demonstrations against the planned Nov. 28-Dec. 1 visit.

    They entered the 6th century former Byzantine church and mosque, shouting “Allahu akbar!” — “God is great!” — and then knelt to perform Islamic prayers.

    They also shouted a warning to Benedict: “Pope, don’t make a mistake, don’t wear out our patience.”

    A group leader read a statement saying Benedict had offended Muslims with his comments linking violence and Islam, but the reading was interrupted by police. . . . Benedict is scheduled to tour the Haghia Sophia, which is a source of religious sensitivity in Turkey. It was one of the world’s greatest churches for more than 1,000 years, but was converted into a mosque after the conquest of Istanbul by Ottoman Turks in 1453. Today, the Haghia Sophia is a museum, and public religious ceremonies inside are forbidden.

    Responding to the incident, Cardinal Raffaele Martino dismissed the protest:

    “One shouldn’t accord to much importance to this episode,” Cardinal Raffaele Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace said in a statement.

    “Some things are just isolated events and don’t reflect the views of the entire population.”

    39 of the Hagia Sophia protestors — 14 of them under the age of 18 — were detained and later released, according to the Turkish newspaper Zaman.

    The Catholic Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia, Luigi Padovese claimed the Hagia Sophia protest was organised by ultranationalist militants “for political, not religious ends”, and that “The purpose of such protests is to keep Europe as far away as possible from Turkey,” (Adnkronos International (AKI) Nov. 22, 2006).

  • Indifference, antipathy and scarce approval as Turkey awaits Pope, by Mavi Zambak. AsiaNews.It Nov. 24, 2006:

    The latest surveys carried in Turkey’s main newspapers with nationwide coverage, reveal that only 10% of Turks approve the pope’s visit, 38% are decidedly against while another 38% are indifferent. And 14% preferred not to express their opinion.

    However, even if they may not declare themselves to be hostile to the pope, people admit they are afraid something could happen. Despite constant assurances from police and security officials, many are not so sure that everything will go smoothly, and they fear unexpected hazards. Mehmet Ali Solak, an Alevite, director of the “Guvey Ruzgari” (southern wind) magazine, admitted to fears that someone may seek to attempt to assassinate the Pope, or even just to create unrest to discredit Turkey, and to shift the blame onto the Turks. Acknowledging that this was one reason why many would prefer Benedict XVI to stay at home, Solak echoed the views of a good part of the Turkish population (especially religious and ethnic minorities and also some Christians).

    But there are also those who expect strong words of support from the Pope with regard to authentic freedom and democracy, against the Islamization that increasingly threatens to destroy the true secularism of the country. Thus, the daily Sabah, an extreme right Kemalist, summed up its thinking in a front page cartoon depicting a blurred crowd of people appealing to the figure of the Pope, saying “You save us”.

Christian Anticipation of the Papal Visit

  • Interview with Father Justo Lacunza Balda of the Missionaries of Africa, a professor of the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies of Rome (PISAI):

    Q: The Pope is going to Turkey in a few days on a trip that has aroused high expectations. Why is it a difficult trip?

    Father Lacunza: Turkey is a lay, democratic and secular republic. The state has no official religion, but we must not forget that the majority of the population in Turkey is Muslim.

    Therefore, the relations of the Catholic Church come into play with a country of Muslim majority, and this is difficult from the point of view of Christian minorities, religious liberty and pastoral activities.

    It is a difficult trip because at stake in this crucial moment is Turkey’s entrance into the European Community.

    Personally, I don’t see why Turkey should be part of the European Union. Suffice it to see its geographic situation to realize this. Have we forgotten that Turkey has borders with Iran, Iraq and Syria?

    Readers might recall that, in August 2004, then-Cardinal Ratzinger caused a bit of a stir by challenging Turkey’s bid to join the European Union:

    “In the course of history, Turkey has always represented a different continent, in permanent contrast to Europe,” Ratzinger told the magazine, noting that the history of Ottoman Empire, which once invaded Europe as far as Vienna. “Making the two continents identical would be a mistake,” he said. “It would mean a loss of richness, the disappearance of the cultural to the benefit of economics.” The born cardinal said Turkey “could try to set up a cultural continent with neighboring Arab countries and become the leading figure of a culture with its own identity.”

    According to Zenit News Service, “about 99% of Turkey’s 70 million inhabitants are Muslim, the majority Sunni. Catholics represent 0.04% of the population.”

  • Conventual Franciscan Friar Martin Kmetec describes Benedict XVI’s forthcoming visit to Turkey as a “courageous gesture” – In an interview with ZENIT, Father Kmetec, a Slovenian missionary in Turkey, paints a picture of the nation the Pope will visit next week and explains that Catholics there are preparing for this event with hope. (Zenit News Service. Nov. 11, 2006):

    Q: What is the Catholic reality in Turkey? How are Catholics preparing for this visit and what do they expect from the Pope?

    Father Kmetec: Catholics in Turkey, those who are established, are close to 30,000. They are preparing spiritually for this visit with prayer.

    An attempt is made in Sunday Masses to underline that Christians urgently need a spiritual renewal of life, according to the principles of the Gospel. This must be the fruit of the Pope’s visit among us.

    For this occasion, Bishop Luigi Padovese, apostolic vicar of Anatolia, addressed a letter to his faithful on the topic of hope, which is essential not only for the Church of Anatolia but for all Turkey’s Christians.

    Our communities must face daily not a few difficulties of an economic order; above all, however, they must be able to react to an inferiority complex in the face of an oppressive Muslim majority, which makes them feel oppressed and can make them think that they are the “infidels.”

    Q: Given the latest events, is there concern over security, or are only some isolated cases of intolerants to be feared?

    Father Kmetec: I am sure that there are no problems in regard to the safety of the person of the Supreme Pontiff. The Turkish state will do everything possible so that this visit will unfold without major incidents.

    One cannot exclude, however, some small demonstration or some isolated case of reaction, but certainly not in the course of the papal itinerary.

  • Providing an illustration to the challenges faced by Christians in Turkey, Two men who converted to Christianity went on trial Thursday for allegedly insulting “Turkishness” and inciting religious hatred against Islam (Associated Press, Nov. 23, 2006):

    Hakan Tastan, 37, and Turan Topal, 46, are accused of making the insults and of inciting hate while allegedly trying to convert other Turks to Christianity. If convicted, the two Turkish men could face up to nine years in prison.

    The men were charged under Turkey’s Article 301, which has been used to bring charges against dozens of intellectuals — including Nobel Prize-winner Orhan Pamuk.

    The law has widely been condemned for severely limiting free expression and European officials have demanded Turkey change it as part of reforms to join the EU.

    They also are charged under a law against inciting hatred based on religion.

  • Update!25,000 Protest Pope’s Visit to Turkey Associated Press Nov. 26, 2006:

    More than 25,000 people joined demonstrations Sunday against Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming visit, police said.

    The demonstration was the largest anti-pope protest so far ahead of Benedict’s arrival Tuesday for a four-day visit, his first as pope to a predominantly Muslim country. Some 4,000 police backed by riot trucks, armored vehicles and helicopters monitored the protest as the crowds grew.

    The protest was organized by a pro-Islamic political party called Felicity whose leaders have said they were offended by Benedict’s comments in September linking violence and Islam.

    (Further coverage of this on American Papist).

  • Mossad in Turkey to Assist Pope’s SecurityZaman Nov. 26, 2006:

    The Italian daily La Republica has reported that Mossad agents and Italian and Vatican security and intelligence officers have arrived in Turkey to help Turkish security units.

    La Republica also reported that security units in Istanbul arrested a group in preparation for an attack on the pope a few weeks ago in Istanbul.

    However, no detailed information was given on the identity and nationality of the suspects.

  • Pope death threats put Turkey on high alert, by Malcolm Moore in Rome, Sunday Telegraph Nov. 26, 2006 :

    An army of snipers, riot police, secret agents and bomb disposal experts has been mobilised for the Pope’s four-day visit to Turkey. Naval units will patrol the Bosphorus armed with machine guns after warnings to police and security services that the life of Benedict XVI may be threatened by Islamic extremists after he arrives on Tuesday.

    Celalettin Cerrah, the police chief in Istanbul, said that the city would have maximum security and warned that he would “call for reinforcements from nearby cities” if needed. Fears within the Vatican, which has been making preparations on the ground for the past month, were heightened when a man lunged at Archbishop Pierluigi Celata, the former papal ambassador to Turkey, who was on a advance scouting mission in his Catholic robes.

    The archbishop said he hoped the attack was an “isolated case” and that the Pope would be met with the “hospitality that is typical of the Turkish and Muslim people”.

  • Writing for the Turkish Daily News, Mustafa Aykol introduces us to “The Turkish Side of Things”: How Turks see the Pope (Nov. 25 / 26, 2006) — a two-part series covering Turkish opposition to the papal visit:

    Thanks to the reports of the international fine print, many must have been informed that the fiercest opponents of the pope’s visit are Turkish nationalists. But these folks do not form a homogenous crowd. They may fit into one of three broad categories: the pure nationalists, the Islamic nationalists and the secular nationalists (aka Kemalists) . . .

    Part II of Aykol’s series on How Turks see the Pope (Part II) covers the historical motivation of the purely secular nationalists:

    Among those Turkish nationalists who do not welcome Pope Benedict XVI, the third category would be secular nationalists, who are in line with the anti-EU forces in Turkey’s civil and military bureaucracy. They see the whole West as an imperialist enemy dying to carve Turkey into pieces by re-implementing the infamous Treaty of Sèvres — a 1920 document that only a handful of non-Turkish historians but the whole Turkish nation remembers. For them Pope Benedict XVI is simply the religious face of “Western imperialism.” His effort to consolidate Christianity is interpreted as the preparation for a new Crusade. . . .

Supplementary Links

Turkish Media

  • – Includes daily aggregated news and Turkish media review compiled by the Office of the Prime Minister.
  • Zaman – Turkey’s first online daily.
  • Turkish Daily News – Turkey’s largest circulation English daily newspaper.

Additional Resources

  • An Interactive History of Turkey, courtesy of The Guardian (UK).
  • “Pope Benedict is scheduled to make a “touristic” visit to the Haghia Sophia – the Church of Divine Wisdom – when he visits Istanbul. This enormous and enormously influential Byzantine-era structure is certainly a must-see. Erected during the reign of the Roman emperor Justinian, it was completed in just 6 years by 10,000 workmen and inaugurated in 537. In a wise move, Ataturk made it a museum in 1934.” Posting to The Pope Benedict Forum, Rcesq recently visited Instanbul and has generously provided us with A Look Inside the Haghia Sophia.
  • The Ecumenical Patriarchate is the highest see and holiest center of the Orthodox Christian Church throughout the world. It is an institution with a history spanning seventeen centuries, during which it retained its see in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul). It constitutes the center of all the local Orthodox Churches, heading these not by administration but by virtue of its primacy in the ministry of pan-Orthodox unity and the coordination of the activity of the whole of Orthodoxy. The website of the Ecumenical Patriarchate already features biography of Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople and our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. The official online photo gallery which will showcase photos from the events of the Papal Visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    In the latest issue of Newsweek (Dec. 4, 2006 issue), George Weigel draws attention to the Turkish government’s oppression of the Ecumenical Patriarchate:

    [I]t is Turkish law, not the canons of the Orthodox Church, that determines who is eligible to be elected ecumenical patriarch, and Turkish law limits the pool of possible candidates to Turkish citizens living in Turkey. As a recent memorandum from the Ecumenical Patriarchate put it, “the result of these restrictions is that in the not so distant future the Ecumenical Patriarchate may not be able to elect a Patriarch.”

    The Turkish government closed the patriarchate’s seminary, the Theological School of Halki, in 1971, and has refused, despite numerous requests, to reopen it.

  • An Itinerary of Benedict XVI’s Trip to Turkey has been published by the Vatican.
  • By way of Blog by the Sea:

    The Knights of Columbus has organized a spiritual pilgrimage to accompany the Pope in prayer as he journeys to Turkey, beginning tomorrow with the Solemnity of Christ the King. Printable (.pdf) versions of the prayer can be downloaded from the K of C site.


Thoughts about St. Blog’s Debate over the "Border Fence"

This past week witnessed a debate between Michael & Katrina over at Evangelical Catholicism, Thomas N. Peters @ American Papist and Gerald Augustinus of The Cafeteria is Closed, over news that

“A senior Vatican cardinal on Tuesday condemned the building of walls between countries to keep out immigrants and said Washington’s plan to build a fence on the U.S.-Mexican border was part of an “inhuman program”.

Cardinal Renato Martino made his comments at a news conference presenting Pope Benedict’s message for the Roman Catholic Church’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees, in which the Pope called for more laws to help immigrants integrate.”

SOURCE: Vatican cardinal says U.S.-Mexico fence “inhuman” Reuters. Nov. 14, 2006.

Tom’s post — “Oh, hush up, Cardinal Martino!” American Papist Nov. 14, 2006 — seems to have been the provocation for the debate, with Michael and Katrina taking issue with his disrespectful tone. (Truth to tell, Martino is one Cardinal with a long-standing reputation for trying tempers. Even Jimmy Akin and the otherwise-gracious Amy Welborn couldn’t restrain herself in responding “what an idiot!”, responding to his typical inanities over the death penalty).

In any case, Evangelical Catholicism let fly with “The Problem with American Papist (Nov. 15, 2006), which prompted the ensuing debate:

I’m not particularly interested in inserting myself into this debate, except to say that there is one aspect that is not really being discussed and which cannot be easily dismissed. Whatever decision is made about the border, national security is a relevant factor. Consider the following sampling of stories and information on this issue:

  • Unholy Border Alliance, by Erick Stakelbeck January 3, 2005:

    Roughly 60,000 illegal immigrants designated as ‘other-than-Mexican,’ or OTMs, were detained last year along the U.S.-Mexico border, including a sizable number from Arab and Muslim countries. And if recent reports are any indication, they may be getting some troubling new help in their efforts to enter the United States.

    In a December 4 incident that received scant media attention, a Bangladeshi Muslim man named Fakhrul Islam was among a group of 13 illegal aliens arrested near Brownsville, Texas, just across the border from Mexico. Border Patrol agents have said that one of the men detained along with Islam was a member of Mara Salvatrucha, a violent Salvadoran criminal gang with more than 300,000 members across Central and North America, including powerful enterprises in several major U.S. cities.

    Mara Salvatrucha, also commonly known as ‘MS-13′ due to its members’ proclivity for sporting tattoos of the number 13, is involved in a smorgasbord of illegal activity, including the smuggling of drugs, weapons and people across the Mexican border. The gang controls many of the smuggling routes from Mexico into the U.S., a fact that has not escaped Al-Qaeda operatives eager to carry out attacks on American soil.

    In July, Adnan El-Shukrijumah, a high-ranking Al-Qaeda leader and one of the most wanted terrorists in the world, was spotted in Honduras meeting with members of MS-13. Attorney General John Ashcroft has said that El-Shukrijumah, who he has described as a ‘clear and present danger to America,’ is seeking ways to infiltrate the U.S. via the Mexican border, and is willing to pay top dollar in order to do so.

  • A restaurateur in Tijuana, Mexico, ran another business smuggling Lebanese compatriots into the United States, some with connections to Hezbollah:

    They would come, sometimes dozens a month over a three-year period, to find Salim Boughader Mucharrafille (search) — the cafe owner who drove a Mercedes and catered to some of Tijuana’s more affluent denizens, including workers at the U.S. consulate only a short stroll away. His American customers were unaware that the savvy boss of La Libanesa cafe ran a less reputable business on the side.

    Until his arrest in December 2002, Boughader smuggled about 200 Lebanese compatriots into the United States, including sympathizers of Hezbollah, designated a terrorist organization by U.S. authorities. One client, Boughader said, worked for a Hezbollah-owned television network, which glorifies suicide bombers and is itself on an American terror watch list.

  • See also: Terror Threat On Southern Border – There Are Already Cases To Prove It, by Bill West. CounterTerrorism Blog June 2, 2006:

    On June 15, 2005, Mahmoud Youssef Kourani, a Lebanese citizen and illegal alien, was sentenced in Detroit to 54 months imprisonment after he pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy to provide material support to Hezbollah. The investigation leading to Kourani’s prosecution and conviction, that was conducted by ICE and the FBI, revealed that Kourani’s brother was the chief of security for Hezbollah in Lebanon. The investigation also revealed that Kourani sponsored Hezbollah fundraising meetings in his Dearborn, Michigan home.

    The Kourani investigation identified that he, too, was smuggled into the United States from Mexico.

  • Rio Grande: Gateway to Terrorism, by Julian Coman London Telegraph August 16, 2004:

    More than 1.2 million people attempt to cross US borders illegally each year. The vast majority are Mexicans who are immediately repatriated. But under existing laws, which take account limited detention facilities, many non-Mexican illegal immigrants are released prior to a hearing with an immigration judge, which most fail to attend. Almost 22,000 non-Mexican immigrants have been released pending a hearing since last October. Once released, they are free to travel on their own throughout the United States. According to one Texas immigration official, those who slip through the net come “from all over the world”.

If that’s not enough, you can read “Outgunned and Outmanned: Local Law Enforcement Confronts Violence along the Southern Border – a congressional hearing on this very issue, with some very unnerving testimony from those who patrol our borders, or the more recent “A line in the Sand. Confronting the Threat at the Southwest Border” – A Nov. 1, 2006 report by the Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Homeland Security issues this interim report summarizing its findings regarding the criminal activity and violence taking place along the Southwest border of the United States between Texas and Mexico. According to the report:

During 2005, Border Patrol apprehended approximately 1.2 million illegal aliens; of those 165,000 were from countries other than Mexico. Of the non-Mexican aliens, approximately 650 were from special interest countries.

Evangelical Catholicism asserts:

Benedict’s message on the World Day for Migrants and Refugees called for laws that aided immigrants in the name of their dignity as persons. Building a wall is not in harmony with Benedict’s desire. The Mexican and United States bishops have declared the building of the wall as a violation of human dignity. Cardinal Martino, at an official news conference at the Vatican where he was representing Benedict XVI, speaking as a Curia official and not as a private spectator, repeated their concerns calling the project “inhumane”.

Now, I don’t expect Cardinal Martino to take this kind of reporting seriously, but I think Michael and Katrina at Evangelical Catholicism will acknowledge that — independently of the growing concern over rising drug-gang violence and threats to U.S. citizens alone — the United States post-9/11 should police our borders for this kind of activity and to take potential infiltration by non-immigrants seriously.

The Catholic Bishops have protested against the wall, asserting that they “believe it could lead to the deaths of migrants attempting to enter the United States and increased smuggling-related violence along our border. We also believe it would send the wrong signal to our peaceful neighbor to the south, Mexico, as well as the international community.” They go on to assert as well that “As the world’s greatest democracy and lone superpower, our nation should be able to address the issue of illegal immigration without resorting to the construction of fences and barriers.”

But one searches in vain for a proposal and recommendation that addresses the increasing violence committed by illegal aliens against U.S. citizens and the threat from those crossing the border with interests other than seeking employment and providing food for their families.

* * *

I don’t plan on pursuing this topic further — actually, I intend on taking a break from blogging, resuming when Benedict begins his visit to Turkey on Nov. 28th. However, I did want to address what I felt was a little-discussed aspect of last week’s debate over immigration.

  • See also: Illegal Immigration: Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Mahony, by Greg Mockeridge. Cooperatores Veritatis May 11, 2006:

    One of the ways this can be helped along is for Church and civil authorities to seek to better understand each other’s aims and concerns. As Cardinal Mahony’s attack on HR 4437 clearly illustrates, such misunderstandings are rampant. To make matters worse, Cardinal Mahony never contacted any of the sponsors of HR 4437 to ensure that his understanding of what the bill said was correct. According to HR 4437 co-sponsor Peter King, not one bishop, priest, or Church official contacted him inquiring about the bill’s content. This is inexcusable in my view.

    In difficult situations like that created by illegal immigration, the temptation to place inordinate blame on the illegal aliens themselves is great. The Pope warns against this danger: ” It is necessary to guard against the rise of new forms of racism or xenophobic behavior, which attempt to make these brothers and sisters of ours scapegoats for what may be difficult local situations.(n.4)” Despite the widely publicized claims of of so-called pro immigration groups, there is absolutely no evidence that opponents of illegal immigration are motivated by racism or xonephobia. The accusations along these lines leveled at groups like the Minutemen border watchers are not only without merit, but are downright slanderous. The motivation here on the part of groups like the Minutement is nothing more than a legitimate concern for our own security and the integrity of our laws and sovereignty. . . .

Mark Shea, Jimmy Akin, Fr. Harrison and the "Torture Debate"

In my last post (What do I think about torture?) I tried to lay out my thoughts on the subject and my own opinions on various issues discussed in the previous roundups. Mark responded by stating:

My assessment of what you wrote, Chris, is pretty much the same as M.Z.’s and Zippy’s.

I’m going to ask Mark to humor me one more time, as I’ll endeavor to illustrate a source of much confusion and disappointment.

When I read Fr. Harrison (circa Sept. 2005):

[T]here remains the question […] of torture inflicted not for any of the above purposes, but for extracting life-saving information from, say, a captured terrorist known to be participating in an attack that may take thousands of lives (the now-famous ?ticking bomb? scenario). As we have noted above, this possible use of torture is not mentioned in the Catechism.. . . My understanding would be that, given the present status question is, the moral legitimacy of torture under the aforesaid desperate circumstances, while certainly not affirmed by the magisterium, remains open at present to legitimate discussion by Catholic theologians.

His speculations on this matter ring no different to me than those of Jimmy Akin (circa June 2004):

The Catechism’s discussion of torture (CCC 2298) focuses significantly on the motive that is being pursued in different acts of torture. If it means us to understand that having a particular motive is necessary for an act to count as torture then it might turn out that some acts commonly described as torture are in fact not torture . . .

For example, the Catechism‘s list of motives for torture does not mention the use of physical pressure to obtain information needed to save innocent lives. It thus might turn out that it is not torture to twist a terrorist’s arm behind him and demand that he tell you where he planted a bomb so that it can be defused and innocents can be saved. Certainly the kind of things that Jack Bauer may do on 24 are very different morally from the kinds of things that happened in Soviet prisons.

I would be disinclined to go the route of saying that torture is not always wrong. I think that the Church is pretty clearly indicating in its recent documents that it wants the word “torture” used in such a way that torture is always wrong. However, I don’t think that the Magisterium has yet thoroughly worked out all the kinds of “hard case” situations one can imagine and whether they count as torture.

As Dave Armstrong suspected after his brief stint in the debate, the problem is semantics:

I’ve come to the conclusion that the debate on this comes down to mostly semantics and personal hostilities. I saw that early on when I realized that folks (including myself at first) were sloppy in differentiating the terms “torture” and “coercion” in various contexts, thus leading to further confusion (within the framework of cynicism and suspicion on both sides).

Fr. Harrison equates “torture” with “the infliction of severe pain.” This leads him to conclude that “the moral legitimacy of torture under the aforesaid desperate circumstances, while certainly not affirmed by the magisterium, remains open at present to legitimate discussion” — something which is incoherent, if torture is understood to be something that is intrinsically evil. (I’m well aware what “intrinsic” means and what it implies).

For Jimmy Akin, there are cases of torture (intrinsically evil). But there are also cases where coercion — even coercion by “the infliction of severe pain” — might be legitimate: “the use of physical pressure to obtain information needed to save innocent lives.” Thus for Jimmy, “Certainly the kind of things that Jack Bauer may do on 24 are very different morally from the kinds of things that happened in Soviet prisons,” and “it might turn out that some acts commonly described as torture are in fact not torture.”

I suppose if you posed the question to Fr. Harrison, he might agree with Jimmy Akin that there are acts which are “commonly described as torture” which are not, in fact, such. Jimmy Akin and Fr. Harrison may differ in their labeling, but they both seem to agree that in some cases (the “24” or “ticking bomb” scenario), coercion by physical force (to some degree) to obtain information for the purpose of saving innocent lives might be legitimate. Both appear to be mutually agreed that this remains an open topic of discussion among Catholic moral theologians (and Catholic apologists and bloggers to boot).

Now — Mark / Zippy — here is where I am confused:

1) You (Zippy) see Jimmy Akin’s stance as problematic. At least I have that hunch, given your insistence:

At some point, no doubt at a different point for each individual, it is going to dawn on people that “torture is intrinsically evil” and “under these different circumstances the same act isn’t torture and is therefore permissable” are mutually contradictory statements.

2)You (Mark), obviously see Fr. Harrison’s position as problematic, yet refrain from confronting Jimmy Akin, and likewise insist “I agree with Zippy.”

The confusion is compounded by the fact that the speculations of Tom McKenna — with respect to the Catechism — are hardly distinguishable from Jimmy’s.

Jimmy’s speculation that

“if [the Catechism] means us to understand that having a particular motive is necessary for an act to count as torture then it might turn out that some acts commonly described as torture are in fact not torture” . . . Certainly the kind of things that Jack Bauer may do on 24 are very different morally from the kinds of things that happened in Soviet prisons.

sounds much akin to these ears to Tom McKenna’s speculation that:

. . . the Catechism, by its plain language, it is directed at the motivation of the conduct, not the content of the conduct. Hence it rejects torture intended to produce confessions, punish the guilty, etc. But the methods we use against our enemies (which again, are not “torture” under civil law) are not engaged in to induce confessions. We use these methods to secure actionable intelligence about our enemies. What Lyndie England did might arguably fall under this definition, since she was motivated by hatred or some other illegitimate motive. What a trained interrogator might uncover through controlled, judicious use of such methods is clearly not encompassed by this definition.

(Indeed, as deplorable as those abuses which occurred at Abu Ghraib were, what is put on display by the Fox Network in the television show 24 could be said to be far worse. However, I do not intend to spark a specific discussion of the precise acts used under “desparate circumstances” — only the similarities of the arguments).

Here, again, I think Zippy would find both the reasoning of Jimmy and McKenna problematic. Yet Mark maintains a certain silence with respect to Jimmy, tears into McKenna, and insists to me that he “agrees with Zippy.”

But consider what Mark has to say, for instance, about the use of the ’24 scenario’:

The particular guy I cite achieves his sleight of hand defense of torture by quoting the Catechism and attempting to say that what the Church *really* means is that torture which is not committed for a good purpose is bad, but that *good* torture (done by decent folk for a good end such as saving Keifer Sutherland in the Real World of “24”) is okay.

The “particular guy” Mark cites is not Jimmy Akin but rather Tom McKenna — who, if you follow the link, didn’t even mention the television show.

Q: Would Mark’s criticism of the “24 scenario” apply to Jimmy Akin?

* * *

In February 2006, Jimmy Akin offered the following clarification of his earlier remarks on torture in Mark’s combox:

I believe that the Church has exercised its authentic magisterium in condemning the use of torture, and this cannot be safely ignored. The problem is that the Magisterium has not yet provided us with a precise description of what counts as torture, and thus it is presently a matter of debate whether particular practices are or are not torture.

I also would hold that, whatever torture is (when properly defined), it is intrinsically evil and thus cannot be justified by circumstances. The question is whether all things that are regarded by some as torture actually are torture. It may turn out that some things that some individuals call “torture” are not actually torture, just as some things that are commonly regarded as the sin of theft are not actually the sin of theft (e.g., taking food from a person who has plenty when you are starving and he will not sell it to you).

Again, I think Jimmy’s argument fails to elude Zippy’s criticism. If there are mitigating circumstances that would lead one to conclude that what appears as theft ISN’T theft, there might also be mitigating circumstances where “some things that some individuals call “torture” are not actually torture.”

I don’t think this kind of talk would wash with Zippy, whether it came from Akin or Harrison or Victor Morton or Tom McKenna. And to these ears, it all sounds pretty much the same.

Which is why I am puzzled by Mark’s reluctance to offer any further response to Jimmy Akin than:

Thanks, Jimmy. That’s pretty much what I took you to mean.”

Proceeding to spend the rest of this year, in post after post, laying into Fr. Harrison, Victor Morton, Tom McKenna, Chris Fotos, et al. in his usual vitriolic style — and insisting that his assessment of this position “is pretty much the same as Zippy’s.”

In a nutshell, this inconsistency in Mark’s approach is a cause of much consternation by those who have been on the receiving end of Mark’s deprecation at Catholic & Enjoying It.

* * *
Jimmy Akin, you come late into this debate and I won’t put upon you to read the reams of comments and heated exchanges between all of us. However, in your last post on the subject, you had mentioned “if folks are interested, I can try to offer further thoughts in the future.”

Sorry to put you on the spot here, but I would be most appreciative were you to follow up with your own analysis of Fr. Harrison’s two-part survey and conclusions drawn — and perhaps clarify your own position on the topic: under what criteria would actions “commonly described as torture” not, in fact, be such?.

If I’ve mistakenly interpreted your remarks on this subject, let me know and I’ll stand corrected. (Likewise to everybody else).

* * *

I’m going to cease blogging on this matter in pursuit of other topics (collective sigh of relief from the combox). There isn’t much more I can add at this point. I do thank Zippy and company at Enchiridion Militis for engaging my comment, and I’ll be following that discussion, as well as the other exchanges noted here.

So what do I think about Torture?

In what has become the characteristic approach of Catholic and Enjoying It, Mark dismisses a post by Tom McKenna by saying that he was “orgasmic at the idea of hanging Saddam,” that his “blog is more or less devoted to obsessing over how to execute as many people as humanly possible,” and that he had an “insatiable hunger and thirst for death, death, death, and more death.”

Responding with what has likewise become my characteristic rejection of Mark’s approach (played out over the course of a three-part series on Mark’s treatment of the ‘neocons’ in August 2006 and a four-part series on “the torture debate” in October 2006), Mark expresses his frustration with my “fair and balanced act.”

ZippyCatholic likewise issues a challenge:

“It is all well and good to link to a lot of what other people say and think, though of course any “roundup” is going to have biases built into it (if for no other reason than that not every opinion has the merit to be put on an equal platform with every other opinion, as evidenced by Christopher’s failure to publish the opinions of Catholics for a Free Choice with the same noncommital dispassion as he publishes the opinions of the Coalition).

But what do you think is true, Christopher? Do you actually have any opinions of your own, or do we have to glean them implicitly by reading the tea leaves in what you do and do not choose to publish in your “roundups”? Can’t we all agree that someone must be wrong? . . .

These things aren’t OK. Christopher presents some of them as if they are OK. If his point is “Mark is right in substance on these issues, but I wish he was different in how he approached them rhetorically” then Christopher is more than capable of just saying that outright. I suspect he doesn’t say that because that isn’t his position in fact. And I would have more respect for his position if he would just come out and say what it is outright, come out and own it rather than posting endless roundups and leaving us to guess from his editorial decisions where he is coming from himself

Jeff comes to my defense in Shea’s combox, followed by Victor Morton in a post to his own blog (here and here).

Nonetheless, I think it fair to provide Zippy with a summary of where I stand on various issues in the past several roundups on torture.

Read more!

On Torture, “Aggressive Interrogation” and The Military Commissions Act of 2006 Against The Grain October 2, 2006.

  • I began this post by citing approvingly Jonah Goldberg’s criticism of how the “torture debate” has progressed so far:

    It steals a base to say that the Bush Administration wants to legalize torture because you first have to demonstrate that what they want to do is torture. I think it is a perfectly defensible and honorable position to claim that waterboarding, sleep deprivation etc. amount to torture. I don’t think I agree with that view. But I certainly believe it is made in good faith. But the good faith ends when the same people then issue blanket and sweeping assertions that the people who want to legalize those actions are simply pro-torture. If the legalizers were simply pro-torture they would favor hot pokers, iron maidens, finger-nail-yanking and the rest.

    I’m not sure if Jonah reads Catholic & Enjoying It, but it is a good assessment nonetheless of why a good number of fellow Catholic bloggers I know have either vacated that blog or remained only to point out why this approach doesn’t work.

  • I also agree with Evan’s comment on the need for “better definition of if/when tactics like sleep deprevation, etc. can be used so that guards/soliders can’t be brought to trial for simply doing things they felt were acceptable”. As I stated myself:

    in order to condemn an action, you have to be in a position to recognize and define what it is. Especially when defining and implementing legal regulations pertaining to “the laws of war” and prisoner interrogation, I don’t see how you can go about formulating such criteria without discussing the range of actions taken.

    To concur with Fr. Neuhaus: “The task is to draw as bright a line as possible between coercion and torture, and to forbid the latter absolutely.”

  • In my first post, I had offered from the Catechism what at first read seemed a cut-and-dry rebuttal to the “But didn’t the Church use Torture?” argument. However, the introduction of the two-part history by Fr. Harrison (which I was unaware of at the time of my initial writing) has since persuaded me that JPII and the Catechism‘s cursory paragraph-long treatment of this issue is insufficient, and I am largely appreciative of Harrison’s contribution to this debate. (I will elaborate on this in a bit).
  • In the section, “Does Torture Ever “Work”?”, I pointed to two historical cases demonstrating that torture did, indeed, “work” — one of which was Oplan Bojinka, involving the interrogation of Hakim Murad — co-conspirator of 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef — who was caught by the Philippine police in 1995 and revealed plots to crash 11 commercial airliners into the Pacific Ocean. To divert attention from the airline bombings, there was a concurrent plot to kill Pope John Paul II when he visited the Philippines during the World Youth Day 1995 celebrations.

    In a subsequent discussion with Victor Morton on this subject, I learned what “tactical interrogative” techniques were used by the Manila police to obtain this information and foil Al Qaeda’s plans. I do not approve of the measures taken, but at the same time, I think it is certainly legitimate to inquire what techniques should be employed in instances where a terrorist is captured with concrete evidence of a plot and reasonable suspicion exists (in the case of Bojinka, plans for the attack were discovered on a laptop, after police investigated a fire in Yousef’s apartment). This should put to rest Mark’s assertion that “24 scenarios” simply don’t exist. If it happened once, there is a good expectation that our military and intelligence operatives will encounter such a situation again.

  • Just for the record, I have asserted my opposition to waterboarding. I also rejected the argument from one milblogger I read that, since our own government employs waterboarding in the training of our special forces, it would be acceptable to inflict it on our enemies. Training our troops to endure such practices (with the expectation that they would be subjected to them by the enemy) does not necessarily legitimize our use of them.

    On that note, I might as well add that I consider “Palestinian hanging” and “cold cells” (involving the deliberate attempt to induce hypothermia) to be torture and morally indefensible as well.

What do I think about The Military Commissions Act?

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) was the primary subject of my first roundup and my motivation for rounding up resources, responses and commentary. If I recall, it was the legislation that sparked Mark’s accusations that the Bush administration “wanted more Abu Ghraibs.”

I highlighted passages in Byron York’s article (“The Detainee Deal: The White House Won — and So Did McCain” National Review Sept. 22, 2006) that appeared positive, as well as indications of concern (“the status of the most notorious of those techniques, waterboarding, is not quite clear”).

I also posted a link to the actual text of the legislation, because — silly me — I assumed that if we were discussing it, we might want to read it ourselves.

I am not a legal scholar, so when it comes to forming my own judgement on the MCA I try to find and examine the informed criticism from both sides. For this reason I’ve linked to a roundup by legal scholars like John M. Balkin, as well as some counter responses — The New Detainee Law Does Not Deny Habeas Corpus, by Andrew C. McCarthy (National Review October 3, 2006; The Constitution, Writ or Wrong, by Adam J. White (Weekly Standard October 5, 2006) — that question, for instance, Sen. Arlen Spectre’s assertion that the MCA “take[s] our civilization back 900 years,” to before the adoption of the writ of habeas corpus in medieval England.

I have not yet concluded on the legislation, but given the liberties the CIA has taken with interrogation in the past decades, I think an open discussion and some attempt at regulation is a positive thing. The full implications of the MCA won’t be known until it is put into practice — Stephen Rickard believes it may actually have an opposite effect than what its critics are claiming (“Interrogators Beware” Washington Post Oct. 17th). Time will tell and I’ll likely be looking more at this in the future.

While I think people should have given it more attention, the focus of ‘the Catholic blogosphere’ was on the interpretation of magisterial documents on the subject, which was the subject of subsequent roundups.

* * *

My subsequent roundups cover similar aspects of the debate as I tried to tie together various discussions in the Catholic blogosphere.

In my second post I disagreed with the proposal that raising questions about the validity of certain interrogation procedures and whether they constitute torture is tantamount to deceitfully asking “how close can I come to committing torture without actually doing so,” — which Mark Shea thought was comparable to asking how close can one get before committing adultery. Suffice to say I think fellow Catholics asking such questions do not harbor this intent. To quote Rich Leonardi:

Detention and interrogation are legitimate; cruelty and torture are not. Determining at what point the former crosses over into the latter is essential. Characterizing those who are making that determination as either legalists or near-torturers isn’t helpful.

What do I think about Abu Ghraib?

I disagreed with Mark’s display of photos of Abu Ghraib as a debating tactic and the assertion that Abu Ghraib is what the Bush administration wants, indeed, “fighting tooth and nail” to achieve, and that “People were prosecuted and sent to jail for [Abu Ghraib] because it would have been political suicide not to do so.”

I am not inclined to believe that the only reason our government was involved in bringing the abusers of Abu Ghraib to justice was for reasons of political expediency, and that they are incapable of remorse or moral repulsion. (The way Mark describes Bush, you’d think he would be happily applying electrodes to the captive’s testacles). So I examined the topic for myself and came across some articles which challenged Mark’s characterization (The ‘Torture Narrative’ Unravels”, by Robert Pollack Wall Street Journal Oct. 2, 2005; Military Justice at Abu Ghraib Jurist Sept. 28, 2005).

I noted that the Defense Department Directive for Detainee Programs and the Army Field Manual for Human Intelligence Collector Operations were developed in part as a response to the abuses.

At the same time, I shared with my readers what I believe to be a persistent problem of civilian contractors who played an instrumental role in Abu Ghraib (as described in “The Unaccountables” American Prospect September 2006). Falling outside the military’s jurisdiction, such individuals have eluded legal prosecution.

I continued to examine this aspect of the abuses at Abu Ghraib in my third roundup of the “torture debate”, when I uncovered an exclusive interview Army Reserve Brigadier General Janis Karpinski that supported the thesis that the chief problem at Abu Ghraib was not the CIA (about whom she praises as “the consumate professionals”, and not prone to endangering the health or life of their charges) but rather civilian contractors, placed in positions of responsibility for interrogation and who operate without supervision, accountability or under the jurisdiction of the army. As a article asserted, “The use of civilian contractors is key to understanding Abu Ghraib” (“Contract to torture“, by Osha Gray. August 9, 2004).

As I stated then and will reiterate:

In short, while the DoD’s response to the Abu Ghraib scandal and other incidents of detainee abuse is commendable — according to the American Prospect, more than 250 officers and soldiers have been held accountable — the process for taking legal action against contractors and those not directly under the jurisdiction of the military presents a grave impediment to justice, as evidence by the fact that “none of the civilian workers from Abu Ghraib have even been put on trial.”

We can agree that this remains a problem to be rectified. Nevertheless, as regrettable as it is, it does not remotely warrant the suggestion that the Bush administration is not concerned about detainee abuse, or that the only reason disciplinary actions have been taken is “because it would have been political suicide not to do so.

* * *
What do I think about Fr. Harrison?

In subsequent roundups of “the torture debate”, I linked to others who were engaged in similar discussions, howebeit in a less polemical manner and perhaps for that reason seemed to bear more fruit. Many of these conversations centered on the treatment of Fr. Brian Harrison’s two-part examination, “[following] the classical procedure of examining in turn the witness of Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium.”

Fr. Harrison’s survey of torture is troubling. He finds “Christian witness on [torture] . . . not only sparse, but is also, on the whole, disappointing. What we see is an instance of the familiar scenario in which a pendulum drawn too far in one direction swings rapidly to the opposite extreme when suddenly released.”

In examining Gaudium Et Spes (and John Paul II’s later use in quoting the passage in Veritatis Splendor #80), his key interest is in discerning exactly what is being referred to in the Council’s condemnation. What is not attempted is a precise definition of torture; rather, in light of its pastoral nature, what it refers to are those kinds of torture which have actually been going on in the 20th century:

By the 1960s probably not a single country was left on earth whose penal code still openly and shamelessly provided for torture, with corresponding legislation regulating its application. At the same time, however, 20th-century Communist and Nazi regimes, along with many other petty dictatorships, especially in Latin America, Asia and Africa – not to mention any number of proscribed terrorist and criminal organizations – had been clandestinely refining, and ruthlessly applying, any number of new and horrendous torture techniques.

That, I suggest, is essentially the kind of torture contemplated and condemned by Vatican II, and then subsequently branded by John Paul II, as one example of “intrinsically evil” practices among others, when he quotes the Council word for word in Veritatis Splendor #80. I do not think we can conclude much more than this about the morality of pain infliction from these two magisterial texts alone. For that would be trying to make them provide answers to questions they did not set out to address.

The ensuing analysis from Harrison has been the subject of much discussion in the comboxes:

The Council itself, as we have pointed out, is contemplating, and roundly condemning, the currently existing phenomenon of torture, which happens to include this gravely aggravating factor of uncontrolled, clandestine arbitrariness. But also in the case of John Paul II’s encyclical, the Pope’s primary purpose in #80 is not to pass a considered judgment on torture as such – a question of ‘special’ moral theology. Rather, he is concerned to assert a much more general truth pertaining to ‘fundamental’ moral theology, namely, the falsity of recent ‘proportionalist’ theories, according to which practically any specific kind of human action could be justified under certain conditions. What the Pope wants to insist on here, in opposition to such theories, is simply that there do really exist classes of actions which are intrinsically morally evil, and which, therefore, can never be justified under any circumstances. And Gaudium et Spes #27 simply happens to furnish the Pope with a convenient, ready-made set of examples to help him illustrate his point. But even here, while the first examples given by Vatican II (murder, genocide, abortion, etc.) certainly serve the Pope’s purpose, not all of those further down the list do so – at least, not without further definition, amplification or clarification. . . .

Like “deportation” and “subhuman living conditions”, Fr. Harrison asserts that “a hasty and strictly literal interpretation of what this passage says about torture would not accurately reflect the mind and intention of John Paul II. That is, VS #80 cannot legitimately be read as containing a formal judgment on the part of the Pope to the effect that the voluntary infliction of severe pain is, as such, ‘intrinsically evil’.”

Fr. Harrison points out three practices that do merit the description of “intrinsically unjust” according to Catholic doctrine:

  1. “Torture for extracting confessions of a crime of which one is accused”
  2. “Torture carried out on those not even accused formally of any crime or offence, simply in order ‘to frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred'”
  3. “Torture, or indeed, mutilation or any other kind of physical or psychological violence against the person, carried out not by public authority in accordance with a norm of law, but by those acting arbitrarily and clandestinely, without any legal authority (even if they should happen to be heads of state, secret police, etc.).” According to Fr. Harrison, the majority of those acts of torture presently occuring in the world fall into this category.

However, he goes on to consider a fourth scenario: the infliction of pain in the effort to obtain information for the saving of lives (the possible rationale for torture not mentioned in the Catechism).

. . . there remains the question – nowadays a very practical and much-discussed one – of torture inflicted not for any of the above purposes, but for extracting life-saving information from, say, a captured terrorist known to be participating in an attack that may take thousands of lives (the now-famous ‘ticking bomb’ scenario). As we have noted above, this possible use of torture is not mentioned in the Catechism. If, as I have argued, the infliction of severe pain is not intrinsically evil, its use in that type of scenario would not seem to be excluded by the arguments and authorities we have considered so far. (John Paul II’s statement about the “intrinsic evil” of a list of ugly things including torture in VS #80 does not seem to me decisive, even at the level of authentic, non-infallible, magisterium . . . My understanding would be that, given the present status question is, the moral legitimacy of torture under the aforesaid desperate circumstances, while certainly not affirmed by the magisterium, remains open at present to legitimate discussion by Catholic theologians.

Jimmy Akin & Fr. Harrison

While Harrison’s study is more substantial, it is worth noting that in his two musings on the subject, one of Mark’s fellow Catholic apologists, Jimmy Akin, registers opinions that are similiar, to Fr. Harrison’s own:

From Doubts About Torture (October 26, 2006):

There have been a number of statements in Magisterial and semi-Magisterial documents condemning torture, but these do not offer technical definitions of what torture is, and having a good definition is a precondition for formulating a solid response to finely posed moral questions on the topic. . . .

At this point we don’t have a good definition for torture–one that will allow it to be distinguished from other uses of the infliction of pain (mental or physical) to ensure compliance with various goals–and so at present moral theologians have the liberty to hash out the question until the issue matures to the point that, should it be warranted, an official response would make sense.

From What About Torture? (June 28, 2004):

The Catechism’s discussion of torture (CCC 2298) focuses significantly on the motive that is being pursued in different acts of torture. If it means us to understand that having a particular motive is necessary for an act to count as torture then it might turn out that some acts commonly described as torture are in fact not torture–just as some acts commonly described as stealing are not actually the sin of stealing, such as taking food to feed one’s family during a time of starvation when the person who initially had the food has plenty. The same might turn out to be true of torture (i.e., not everything that looks like torture would be the sin of torture).

For example, the Catechism‘s list of motives for torture does not mention the use of physical pressure to obtain information needed to save innocent lives. It thus might turn out that it is not torture to twist a terrorist’s arm behind him and demand that he tell you where he planted a bomb so that it can be defused and innocents can be saved. Certainly the kind of things that Jack Bauer may do on 24 are very different morally from the kinds of things that happened in Soviet prisons.

I would be disinclined to go the route of saying that torture is not always wrong. I think that the Church is pretty clearly indicating in its recent documents that it wants the word “torture” used in such a way that torture is always wrong. However, I don’t think that the Magisterium has yet thoroughly worked out all the kinds of “hard case” situations one can imagine and whether they count as torture.

If I am not mistaken, Dave Armstrong comes to similar conclusions in his deliberation of the subject, when he claims: “Certain clearly specified, morally acceptable forms of coercion in limited amounts for extremely important strategic and preventive purposes is no worse than warfare itself, which the Church has never condemned in toto.”

For Fr. Harrison, Jimmy Akin, and Dave Armstrong, there are actions which count as torture and which are understood to be intrinsically evil. Nevertheless, all three also acknowledge desperate circumstances where the “deliberate infliction of intense pain” would be permitted — such circumstances involving the need to obtain information (or what some refer to as “actionable intelligence”) and which involve the welfare of innocent lives.

Likewise, they appear to be of the opinion that the Magisterial texts and the Catechism are not particularly helpful either in providing a definition of torture or the criteria to evaluate these “hard case” situations. As Jimmy Akin puts it:

If Rush Limbaugh were commenting on the situation, he might–in his own characteristic idiom–refer to such brief condemnations as acts of “drive-by Magisterium” that condemn torture in a brief manner that does not pause to explain in technical detail what torture is or allow finely-tuned moral questions to be answered about it.

In any event, it seems to me that Jimmy Akin and Dave Armstrong would both consider a valid use of coercion in such situations as something other than torture.

I imagine Fr. Harrison would do so as well, although his interchangeable use of the term “torture” and the “deliberate infliction of intense pain” presents an obstacle and source of confusion. For example, his conclusion that “the moral legitimacy of torture under the aforesaid desperate circumstances, while certainly not affirmed by the magisterium, remains open at present to legitimate discussion” — while similar in substance to Akin and Armstrong, will nonetheless rankle the ears of certain critics.

I confess at this point that I am unable to distinguish between the positions of Harrison, Akin and Armstrong and those of Victor Morton or “Torquemada” of the cheekily titled Coalition for Fog — neither of whom could be characterized as gung-ho “torture-apologists”. If Mark registers his offense at the fact that they’ve called him names, it sounds like a case of “tit for tat.” I don’t approve of it, but I understand how those who are on the receiving end of a daily stream of vitriol are tempted to respond in kind.

Here I agree with David Armstrong’s assessment of “the torture debate”:

I’ve come to the conclusion that the debate on this comes down to mostly semantics and personal hostilities. I saw that early on when I realized that folks (including myself at first) were sloppy in differentiating the terms “torture” and “coercion” in various contexts, thus leading to further confusion (within the framework of cynicism and suspicion on both sides).

Thus, when Mark sees someone like Jimmy Akin (and to a lesser extent, myself) – fellow apologists whom he knows – rendering an opinion unidentical with his own, he is capable of granting that they do it in good faith, whereas if someone he doesn’t know or if someone he is personally hostile to (the dreaded “coalition for fog”) renders an opinion unidentical with his own, then it is open season for mocking, caricature, and the most cynical interpretation imaginable.

For the record, I’m inclined to agree with Fr. Harrison, Jimmy Akin and Dave Armstrong. Perhaps this makes me an intellectual lightweight, in simply rounding up and voicing my sympathies with those I find persuasive, rather than voicing my own opinions. Then again, I readily concede that these are people who’ve studied this subject far more thoroughly and have more to offer — especially Fr. Harrison, who has done us all a favor in researching and compiling what Catholic tradition has to offer in those two very informative pieces.

I’ve been a Catholic for only a decade and spent most of my years prior to that either Protestant or agnostic. I am not nearly as well-read as you suspect in matters Catholic — for which reason I decline to blog on certain issues others feel comfortable expounding upon. (When I read Pontifications, for instance, I’m inclined to hang up my keyboard in shame and admit what a hack I truly am.

Part of my motivation for doing these roundups is selfish: when I study a topic, I like to cull together the best articles and commentary I can find and work my way through it — it’s for my own benefit as much as my readers. So if I don’t assert an opinion outright it may very well be because I’m still in the process of thinking things through — reading articles, weighing arguments, assessing positions, in what spare time I have.

Is this “Cafeteria Catholicism of the Right” (Zippy), or “a fair and balanced act (Mark Shea)? You decide. To those who I’ve disappointed, perhaps someday I’ll rise to your expectations.

P.S. I owe Tom McKenna a response. However, I’d like to read some of the articles I’ve compiled before responding to the assertion that JPII instituted not a development but a break from Catholic tradition on capital punishment. This will obviously take more time than I have available tonight, so perhaps later this week.

Consecration of the United States to the Immaculate Conception

WASHINGTON (Catholic Online) – The United States consecration to the protection of its patroness, the Immaculate Conception, will be renewed at liturgical ceremonies at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception here.

Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Holy See nuncio to the United States, will officiate at the Nov. 11 renewal of the country’s consecration, at which bishops from around the country will participate. The Mass is scheduled for 12 p.m.

This consecration of the nation adds the special mention of the immaculate and sorrowful heart of Mary, the mission of the World Apostolate of Fatima. The prayer for the consecration used for the Nov. 11 event is the same one that was composed by the U.S. bishops in 1959 for the dedication ceremony of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and the consecration of the United States to the Immaculate Conception. . . .

The following is the prayer for renewal of consecration of the United States to its patroness, the Immaculate Conception:

“Most holy trinity: Our father in heaven, who chose Mary as the fairest of your daughters; Holy Spirit, who chose Mary as your spouse; God the son, who chose Mary as your mother; in union with Mary, we adore your majesty and acknowledge Your supreme, eternal dominion and authority.

“Most holy trinity, we put the United States of America into the hands of Mary immaculate in order that she may present the country to you. Through her we wish to thank you for the great resources of this land and for the freedom, which has been its heritage. Through the intercession of Mary, have mercy on the Catholic Church in America. Grant us peace. Have mercy on our president and on all the officers of our government. Grant us a fruitful economy born of justice and charity. Have mercy on capital and industry and labor. Protect the family life of the nation. Guard the precious gift of many religious vocations. Through the intercession of our mother, have mercy on the sick, the poor, the tempted, sinners – on all who are in need.

“Mary, immaculate virgin, our mother, patroness of our land, we praise you and honor you and give our country and ourselves to your sorrowful and immaculate heart. O’ sorrowful and immaculate heart of Mary pierced by the sword of sorrow prophesized by Simeon save us from degeneration, disaster and war. Protect us from all harm. O’ sorrowful and immaculate heart of Mary, you who bore the sufferings of your son in the depths of your heart be our advocate. Pray for us, that acting always according to your will and the will of your divine son, we may live and die pleasing to God. Amen.”

Source: U.S. Catholic bishops to renew consecration of nation to Immaculate Conception Nov. 9, 2006. Catholic Online (

Pope Benedict Roundup!

Pope Benedict XVI and Christian-Muslim Dialogue

Among the interpretations of Benedict’s Regensberg address are those which see a historical relevance to Benedict’s citation of Manuel II Paleologus — but an earlier stage of the “clash of civilizations” and the Islamic threat which now threatens the West.

In “Paleologus and Us: What Benedict Really Said” (The New Republic Post date: 09.28.06 / Issue date: 10.09.06), David Nirenberg’s poses the question:

[W]hy in our troubled times did Benedict choose to bring the world’s attention to the unoriginal words of this Byzantine emperor?

One answer is that Turkey has long been on the pontiff’s mind. Readers may recall then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s interview with Le Figaro in 2004 in which he commented that Turkey should not be admitted to the European Union “on the grounds that it is a Muslim nation” and historically has always been contrary to Europe. Courtesy Bibliotheque NationaleLike Ratzinger, Manuel II Paleologus also worried about keeping the Turks out of Europe. As the antepenultimate emperor of Byzantium and the last effective one (he ruled from 1391 to 1425; Byzantium fell in 1453), he spent his life fighting–sometimes in the Muslim armies, but mostly against them–in the final great effort to keep Constantinople from becoming Istanbul.

Andrew G. Bostom, author of The Legacy of Jihad, makes a similar judgement in The Pope, Jihad, and “Dialogue” (American Thinker Sept. 17th, 2006):

When Manuel II composed the Dialogue (which Pope Benedict excerpted), the Byzantine ruler was little more than a glorified dhimmi vassal of the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid, forced to accompany the latter on a campaign through Anatolia. . . .

During the campaign he was conscripted to join, Manuel II witnessed with understandable melancholy the great metamorphosis—ethnic and toponymic—of formerly Byzantine Asia Minor. The devastation, and depopulation of these once flourishing regions was so extensive that often, Manuel could no longer tell where he was. The still recognizable Greek cities whose very names had been changed into something foreign became a source of particular grief. It was during this unhappy sojourn that Manuel II’s putative encounter with a Muslim theologian occurred, ostensibly in Ankara.

Whether intended by the Pope himself or not, the historical context of Paleologus’ ‘debate’ are worthy of consideration, and in themselves pose something of a challenge to the assertion that Islam has forever and always been a “religion of peace.”

At the same time, there are some who go too far in their speculation that Benedict’s remarks were intended only to accentuate the division between Islam and the West, to deliberately provoke a confrontation. That, unlike his predecessor, Benedict is not genuinely concerned with advancing Christian-Muslim relations and dialogue between the two. David Nirenberg closes his essay with just such a conclusion, asserting:

What we cannot accept without contradiction or hypocrisy is the pope’s presentation of the speech as an invitation to dialogue. It is true that the talk concludes with an invitation: “It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures.” But it also concludes with the claim that “only through [rationality of faith] do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today.” The bulk of “Faith, Reason, and the University” is explicitly dedicated to the thesis that European Catholicism has effectively mixed faith and reason in the logos, and that other religions, specifically Islam, have not. Forget for a moment the historical inaccuracies (not just about Islam, but about other religions as well) in such a statement, and focus only on the logic. What kind of invitation begins by denying its guests the qualifications for attendance at the party? The pope’s “invitation” at Regensburg was not to a “dialogue of cultures” at all. What he was advocating was a kind of conversion, or at least a convergence of all religions and cultures toward a logos that is explicitly characterized as Catholic and European.

Just like Manuel’s medieval “dialogos” with a Muslim (the Greek title of the emperor’s treatise means “controversy” or “debate” rather than “dialogue” in our modern sense), Benedict’s lecture was a polemic posing as a dialogue.

As pointed out by Prof. Robert Aurujo in his Preliminary Response to Professor Nirenberg, such an assertion is made either in ignorance or exclusion of the many invitations that Benedict has made to the contrary.

Likewise, the Vatican has published the final draft of the Regensberg address, together with footnotes. Referencing the quote from Paleologus, Benedict observes:

In the Muslim world, this quotation [from Paleologus] has unfortunately been taken as an expression of my personal position, thus arousing understandable indignation. I hope that the reader of my text can see immediately that this sentence does not express my personal view of the Qur’an, for which I have the respect due to the holy book of a great religion. In quoting the text of the Emperor Manuel II, I intended solely to draw out the essential relationship between faith and reason. On this point I am in agreement with Manuel II, but without endorsing his polemic.

Significant events in October provide illustration for Pope Benedict’s genuine commitment to Christian-Muslim dialogue:

  • On September 25, Pope Benedict met with Muslim clerics and ambassadors from 21 predominantly Muslim countries at Castelgandolfo. According to the Catholic News Agency:

    The Pontiff, who invited the Muslim representatives to his residence at Castelgandolfo to reaffirm his respect and esteem for their religion and people, told the leaders that the 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.”

    Benedict clearly indicated his desire to forge ahead with interfaith talks, barely mentioning the comments which have caused an uproar in the Muslim world. “The circumstances which have given rise to our gathering are well known,” Benedict commented, reminding them that he has already offered his regrets that offence had been taken and his assurances that the views of emperor Manuel II in no way reflect his own.

    In a substantial analysis, Holy Challenge: A new chapter in Christian-Muslim relations? (National Review Sept. 29, 2006), John F. Cullinan examines Benedict’s remarks on Sept. 25 and finds that they are “fully intelligible only in the light of the four ecclesial texts he cites or quotes from,” and from which we can discern “his very precise bottom line for future dialogue with the Muslim world.”

    1. Jews and Muslims occupy wholly separate categories in Catholic thought. Lacking a “common spiritual heritage” such as shared between Christians and Jews, purely theological dialogue is counterproductive and should be subordinated to an examination of how to exist peacefully in a pluralistic world. That’s the meaning of Benedict’s September 25 exhortation in favor of “sincere and respectful dialogue, based on ever more authentic reciprocal knowledge which, with joy, recognizes the religious values we have in common and, with loyalty, respects the differences.”

      Likewise, the assignment of responsibility for past conflicts (such as the Crusades) is not so important as — citing an April 2005 address — “[the] imperative to engage in authentic and sincere dialogue, built on respect for the dignity of every human person, created, as we Christians firmly believe, in the image and likeness of God.”

    2. As indicated in his Cologne 2005 address to Christian & Muslim leaders, Benedict believes that “religiously-motivated violence [is] an urgent agenda item” in Christian-Muslim dialogue. In contrast to the Christian traditions of just war or pacifism, “Jihad — in the sense of armed conflict for religious reasons — remains a living element of Islamic thought and life.”
    3. Benedict identifies religious freedom as perhaps the most urgent single issue for Christian/Muslim dialogue. Benedict cites a 1985 address of his predecessor, John Paul II: “Respect and dialogue require reciprocity in all spheres, especially in that which concerns basic freedoms, more particularly religious freedom.” The plight (and in some cases outright persecution) of Christian minorities in Muslim states remains a persistent concern.
    4. Benedict quite delicately raises the pressing question of who exactly speaks for Islam. Lacking a papal counterpart in the Islamic world or a Muslim equivalent to the ecclesial hierarchy, the Vatican has opted in favor

    From the Vatican, here is the complete text of Pope Benedict’s Sept. 25 address to Muslim clerics and ambassadors. American Papist has a roundup of coverage.

  • In the Sept. 29 edition of National Catholic Reporter‘s “All Things Catholic”, John Allen, Jr. commented on “Pope Benedict’s damage control”:

    The encounter was carried live both on CNN and its counterpart in the Arab world, Al-Jazeerah.

    It seems to have been partially successful. The ambassadors applauded as the pope entered the room, and beamed as he moved down the reception line afterwards. Later, several Muslim participants told the media that they believe the dialogue is “back on track.”

    “Today begins a new phase,” said Abdellah Redouane, secretary general of the Islamic Cultural Center of Rome.

    “We overcame the tensions of recent days, and now we must intensify initiatives, on the part of both Christians and Muslims, that favor dialogue among the two great religions, which is important for the serenity of the entire world,” Redouane said.

    Not everyone, of course, was ready to forgive and forget.

    Just 24 hours later, the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference, meeting in New York on the margins of a session of the United Nations, adopted a resolution calling upon Benedict “to retract or to correct” his Sept. 12 comments. In Egypt, officials of the Al-Azhar mosque and university threw cold water upon the idea of inviting Benedict XVI to deliver a lecture, and a spokesperson told Italian media that the pope’s comments to date “are not the clear apology that Al-Azhar has requested, but merely a way of placating [Muslim] anger.”

    Nevertheless, the wide popular outrage across the Muslim world seems to be ebbing, and many commentators have said it’s time to move on. The question now is, move on to what?

  • Commonweal magazine invited Kevin Madigan, SJ, president of the Institute for the Study of Religions and Cultures at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, to comment on the meeting as well (The Pope & Islam Sept. 25, 2006). Pointing out that Christian scriptures contain their fair share of violent passages, Madigan asserted that “It is nonsensical to say to someone who claims that Islam is a peaceful religion that he may not believe such a thing because the Qur’an says such-and-such.” He went on to reject the idea of “reciprocity” in dialogue — the curious notion put forth by John Paul II that “”Respect and dialogue require reciprocity in all spheres, especially in that which concerns basic freedoms, more particularly religious freedom” — as counter to the spirit of dialogue and the gospel itself:

    There is a world of difference between reciprocity as a condition for dialogue, and reciprocity as a hoped-for outcome of dialogue. However, that distinction tends to be blurred, not only in press reports of Vatican policy, but also among some theologians. Reciprocity is not a Christian value. Gratuity is. The teaching of Jesus (Matt. 5:39-47) could not be more explicit on this subject: we give without hope of return, and we open our tables especially to those who will not repay our hospitality (Lk 14:12-14).

  • At Castelgandolfo, Benedict also remarked on the Christian witness of Sr. Leonella Sgorbati, who was killed along with her bodyguard in Mogadishu, Somalia. Benedict praised Sr. Leonella Sgorbati for pardoning her killers (Catholic News Agency Sept. 25, 2006):

    “Some are asked to give the supreme testimony of blood, just as … Sr. Leonella Sgorbati, who fell victim to violence,” the pontiff said.

    “This sister, who for many years served the poor and the children in Somalia, died pronouncing the word ‘forgive,'” the Pope said. “This is the most authentic Christian testimony, a peaceful sign of contradiction which shows the victory of love over hatred and evil.”

Further Commentary to the “Regensburg Address”

  • On October 3, 2006, Zenit News Service interviewed Father James V. Schall, on Benedict’s address and the world’s reaction:

    My own opinion is that Benedict was not surprised by these reactions. Indeed, I suspect it is precisely this unreasoned reaction that has made his point so clearly that no sane mind can deny it. It was a point that had to be made.

    It could not have been made by the politicians, who in fact did not make it even when they needed it. Politicians talked about “terrorists,” as if a more fundamental theological problem was not at issue. Until this deeper issue was spelled out, which is what the Regensburg lecture was about, we were doomed.

    This address is probably one of the most liberating addresses ever given by a Pope or anyone else. As its import sinks in, those who were unwilling to consider what it was about will find themselves either embarrassed — if they are honest — or more violent, if they refuse the challenge of reason.

    Make no mistake about it: This address illuminated, more than anything that we know, the problems with a modernity based on an explicit or implicit voluntarism that postulated that we could change the world, our nature, our God according to our own wills.

  • Benedict at Regensburg: Islam, War, Death, Apostasy, Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Poverello, by Michael D. O’Brien. October 4, 2006 Feast of St. Francis of Assisi:

    I believe that the Pope’s brilliant, spiritually discerning talk was perfectly timely and potentially quite fruitful. Whether or not the Pope was aware of the furor that would ensue from his talk, the Holy Spirit was guiding it and divine providence is working it to the good. Above all, Benedict is a man of charity and of truth, and rarer still, he is a man who has integrated both within his life and teaching. In a sense he is like St. Francis of Assisi, who in 1219, during the Crusades, walked into the midst of the Saracen camp and preached for days, and eventually spoke with the Sultan of Egypt in the hope of converting him. . . . He was a sign of contradiction to all parties in the wars. He was unarmed. He was a presence of Christ to the major adversary of Christian civilization in those times.

    So, too, Pope Benedict continues to be a sign of contradiction. He has crossed the lines of our normal categories of thought regarding the world situation. He has made possible a dialogue with Islam. He is unarmed. He speaks the truth in a spirit of love. He calls all mankind to turn to the only true source of peace, to Jesus Christ himself. He is not naïve about the nature of radical Islamics, and indeed his Regensburg speech has been the catalyst of clearer vision about the nature of militant Islamism — its irrationality, its spirit of relentless hatred and contempt for human dignity. Yet we must remember that neither is the Pope naïve about the other beast — the one that is killing us from within the parameters of our civilization, the secular humanism of Late Western Man. Neither is he naïve about that most subtle and corrosive beast, the spirit which would compromise the Church from within, the legion of people who betray Christ in the name of Christ.

  • On October 5, the The Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica charged that Muslim fundamentalists distorted the meaning of Pope Benedict’s speech in Regensburg “to stir up Islamic peoples against the Pope and Christians.”
  • On October 9, Chaldean priest Fr. Paulos Iskander (Paul Alexander) was kidnapped. Among the demands, that “signs be posted once again on his church apologizing for the Pope’s remarks as a condition for negotiations to begin.” The priest was later beheaded. (Report: Another victim of Pope Rage, by Michelle Malkin. October 13, 2006).
  • Two significant Muslim responses to Benedict’s address have been published. According to Sandro Magister,

    The first was published on September 13 in the most important liberal Italian newspaper, “la Repubblica.” Its author is Khaled Fouad Allam, an Algerian-born Italian resident, professor of Islamic studies at the universities of Trieste and Urbino, and widely read and listened to in Catholic circles.

    The date of this commentary should be noted. The article was published the morning after the pope’s address in Regensburg, when much of the Muslim world had not yet unleashed the onslaught of invective and violent acts that would fill the newscasts of the following days, and force the Islamic voices not in agreement to be silent.

    The central thesis of Allam’s commentary is that Benedict XVI has legitimately brought up “an immense problem concerning the real position of the Qur’an toward the question of violence”; that on this question the Qur’an “can be read according to opposite interpretations”; and that therefore “it is necessary to break the terrible chain of fundamentalism” that ignores the Qur’an’s condemnation of violence and “proclaims itself the only bearer of the truth.”

    The second response is by Arab theologian and philosopher, Aref Ali Nayed, also introduced by Magister:

    Nayed is also known and listened to within the Catholic Church. Born in Libya, he is currently the managing director of a technology company headquartered in the United Arab Emirates. He studied hermeneutics and the philosophy of science in the United States and Canada, has taken courses at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and has given lectures at the Pontifical Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies. He is a consultant for the Interfaith Program of the University of Cambridge. He is a devout Sunni Muslim, and describes himself as a “theologian of the Asharite school, Maliki in jurisprudential tendency, and Shadhili-Rifai in spiritual leanings.”

    Here is the full text of A Muslim’s Commentary on Benedict XVI’s “Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections”, by Aref Ali Nayed.

    But that isn’t all. According to Sandro Magister (A Sprig of Dialogue Has Sprouted in Regensburg (www.Chiesa Oct. 30, 2006):

    . . . Some of the passages of Aref Ali Nayed’s exposition received a reply from an Italian Catholic scholar who is an expert in medieval philosophy and theology, Alessandro Martinetti, from Ghemme in the province of Novara. Martinetti insisted in particular upon the relationship between God and reason, and on the radical difference in this relationship as seen by Islam and by Catholic doctrine. . . .

    Aref Ali Nayed, in turn, replied to Martinetti’s theses. And this extensive reply is also presented in its entirety on this page, in its original English version. Aref Ali Nayed’s counter-thesis is that it is wrong to oppose a “God-as-pure will” in Islam against a “God-as-Logos” in Christianity. In his view, the theology of Thomas Aquinas himself on the relationship between God and reason “is very close to Ibn Hazm and Asha’rite Muslim theologians.”

    Magister’s article publishes both the comments of Aref Ali Nayed and Alessandro Martinetti. These are in turn followed by the quasi-unpublished remarks of Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. The complete text of Bertone’s is due for formal publication in 30 Giorni‘s issue devoted to the Regensburg address.

  • On October 12, 2006, an Open Letter to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI was conveyed by 38 leading Muslim religious scholars and leaders around the world to the Pope:

    All the eight schools of thought and jurisprudence in Islam are represented by the signatories, including a woman scholar. In this respect the letter is unique in the history of interfaith relations.

    The letter was sent, in a spirit of goodwill, to respond to some of the remarks made by the Pope during his lecture at the University of Regensburg on Sept. 12, 2006. The letter tackles the main substantive issues raised in his treatment of a debate between the medieval Emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an “educated Persian”, including reason and faith; forced conversion; “jihad” vs. “holy war”; and the relationship between Christianity and Islam. They engage the Pope on an intellectual level concerning these crucial topics—which go well beyond the controversial quotation of the emperor—pointing out what they see as mistakes and oversimplifications in the Pope’s own remarks about Islamic belief and practice.

    The online text of the letter can be found here, courtesy of Islamica magazine.

  • Stratford Caldecott heralds the Open Letter to Benedict XVI as a positive sign in the Dialogue with Islam ( October 24, 2006):

    I have suggested that the suppression of Sufism and the whole ihsani dimension of Islam (leaving only Creed and Law) in recent times represents the corruption of the religion as a whole by ideologies of resentment and violence. Unfortunately Islam has no infallible center of authority, as Catholicism does, to preserve it against error on this scale. The solution, if there is one, is therefore up to individual Muslims and Muslim leaders. What Christians can do is avoid making matters worse. We need to be realistic about the scale of persecution Christians are currently experiencing in Islamic countries, and the danger of growing Muslim fanaticism in our midst, but we must encourage and assist moderate Muslims to raise their voices and speak on behalf of Islamic traditions that may be more “rational” than we suppose. Neither Islam nor Christianity is going away, so we need to find ways of speaking together. The Open Letter recently addressed to the Pope may demonstrate that a moderate and rational consensus is beginning to emerge. At any rate, the Pope’s speech has created an opportunity to take the debate concerning religious and cultural diversity to a much deeper level.

    Caldecott is editor of Second Spring and a member of the editorial board of Communio, and European Director of the Chesterton Institute for Faith and Culture. For more of Caldecott’s writing on Islam and interreligious dialogue, see His Seed Like Stars: The Dialogue Between Christians, Jews and Muslims Second Spring Spring 2002 and “The Mystery of Islam: Further Reflections”, in which he speculates provocatively on “the providential role or “participated mediation” of Islam.”

  • The Regensberg address has been “widely discussed, but far less widely understood,” says Lee Harris. In Socrates or Muhammad? Joseph Ratzinger on the destiny of reason (Weekly Standard ), he focuses not on Benedict’s encounter with Islam but rather the lessons Benedict can teach Western academia, likening the Holy Father’s role to that of Socrates (“not to preach or sermonize, but to challenge with questions”) or St. Clement of Alexandria:

    St. Clement argued that Greek philosophy had been given by God to mankind as a second source of truth, comparable to the Hebrew revelation. For St. Clement, Socrates and Plato were not pagan thinkers; they prefigured Christianity. Contrary to what Tertullian believed, Christianity needed more than just Jerusalem: It needed Athens too. Pope Benedict in his address makes a strikingly similar claim: “The encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance.” This encounter, for Benedict, was providential, just as it had been for St. Clement. Furthermore, Benedict argues that the “inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history.” For Benedict, however, this event is not mere ancient history. It is a legacy that we in the West are all duty-bound to keep alive–yet it is a legacy that is under attack, both from those who do not share it, namely Islam, and from those who are its beneficiaries and do not understand it, namely, Western intellectuals.

  • And, from Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus’ “The Public Square” (First Things 167. November 2006): 59-76): “The Regensberg Moment”:

    In the Vatican and in the Catholic journalistic world, there were voices that joined in the tut-tutting of an uncouth and unlearned pope who had disrupted the dialogue with a “religion of peace.” The nitpicking pedantry of some Catholic experts on Islam was given prominent display in the world’s press. But, from Catholic and other Christian leaders, along with Jews and some secular intellectuals, there was also an outpouring of support for what the pope had the wisdom and courage to say. They recognized that momentous issues of long-term consequence had at last been joined in a way that made possible and imperative continuing debate.

    Regrettably, the official response of the Catholic bishops conference in this country, issued by Bishop William Skylstad, the conference president, was not helpful. The tone was condescending and patronizing, almost apologizing for the pope’s inept disturbance of our wonderfully dialogical relationship with our Muslim brothers and sisters. We are assured that, despite his unfortunate statements, he really does want peaceful dialogue. I paraphrase, of course, but the statement was anything but a firm defense of the pope, never mind an effort to explain what he actually said. It might have been written by a public relations firm engaged in damage control, and possibly was.

    But for many others, the words spoken on September 12, 2006, and the responses, both violent and reasonable, to those words may, five or twenty years from now, be referred to as “The Regensburg Moment,” meaning a moment of truth. As I say, it is by no means certain, but it is more than just possible.

In Other News . . .

  • After Verona: How to “Restore Full Citizenship to the Christian Faith”, by Sandro Magister. http://www.Chiesa Oct. 26, 2006:

    From October 16-20, the Italian Church gathered in Verona the full spectrum of its members: bishops, priests, and faithful. And the German pope placed his bet precisely on what distinguishes Christian Italy: its being, not a minority Church, but a Church of the people, “a very lively reality, which retains a grassroots presence among people of every age and condition.”

    For Benedict XVI, Italy’s uniqueness is not residual, but the forerunner of the Christian rebirth of the West, for which he hopes intensely. He assigned a very demanding project to Italian Catholics. “If we are able to do this,” he said, “the Church in Italy will render a great service not only to this nation, but also to Europe and to the world.”

    But in the meantime, broad sections of the apparatus of this same Italian Church are looking at Benedict XVI’s program with fear and amazement. . . .

    For context, see also A Church of the People or a Church of the Elite? Verona’s Dilemma, by Sandro Magister. Oct. 13, 2006; and Pope Benedict’s address “On the Occasion of the Fourth National Ecclesial Convention” Oct. 19, 2006.

  • “B16 On The 12”, by Jimmy Akin:

    Pope Benedict recently completed a series of audiences on the Twelve apostles. I thought these were particularly interesting and well done. He covers what we know about them, what is speculated about them, what their writings contain, and what their example says to us today.

    Now that the whole series is finished, I thought I’d provide links to the audiences so that you can read through them as a group if you wish. . . .

  • “It is unfortunate,” says Teresa Polk (Blog by the Sea), “that, amid the tumult of the past couple of weeks, the important messages of the Holy Father’s week in München have prompted less reflection than otherwise might have been the case. After yesterday’s meeting with envoys from Muslim countries, now that the controversy seems to be passing, I want to do a series of posts that reflect back on some of the addresses other than the lecture at Regensburg.” A very fruitful project and well worth reading:

  • Rumors abound that Pope Benedict XVI has signed a universal indult allowing celebration of the Mass according to the 1962 Missal (i.e., the Tridentine rite) by any priest in the Church. Click the link for a roundup by the American Papist of news and reactions from St. Blog’s parish; also Amy Welborn’s “Old/Classical/Tridentine Mass/Rite Roundup” (Open Book Oct. 19, 2006).

    In Liturgical Reform, Latin, LeFebvrists, and the French and U.S. Bishops (Blog by the Sea Oct. 29, 2006), Teresa Polk takes a look at “the potential wider use of the Latin Tridentine Mass as well as concern over the new Institute of the Good Shepherd, which was organized in September for Le Febvrists returning to the Catholic Church.”

    Teófilo (Vivificat Oct. 31, 2006) examines The prospects of the Tridentine Mass in the light of the impending new indult, and its potential as an aid for reunion with Eastern Orthodoxy (as asserted both by Archbishop Raymond Burke and Bishop Fernando Rifan of Brazil (Teófilo disagrees).

    According to Fr. Z (What Does Prayer Really Say), an expansion of the Tridentine Mass “would be the right thing to do.”

    Responding to concerns, Rorate Caeli asks: Can the existence of two rites fracture unity? — Drawing from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s remarks at the Conference on the Tenth Anniversary of the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei, the answer is no. (Stay tuned to Rorate Caeli for regular, substantial coverage of this issue).

    Also of relevance: Ignatius Insight‘s republication of How Should We Worship?, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s preface to The Organic Development of the Liturgy, by Alcuin Reid, O.S.B. Appended to the article is an excellent compilation of resources on the subject.

  • Intellectual Charity: On Benedict XVI and the Canadian Bishops, by Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. Ignatius Insight Oct. 2, 2006 — a substantial explication of Pope Benedict’s Ad Limina message to the Canadian Bishops:

    One has to say that Benedict XVI chooses his targets very carefully. This time, in what might be an otherwise little noted short lecture, he speaks to the Canadian bishops from Ontario. They will, I hope, long ponder the notion of intellectual charity and its relation to their own polity and academic heritage. As in Regensburg, this address can and will, hopefully, be read by many. Its thesis is that religious minds also have to think correctly. It is an act of charity, as I think Aquinas said, to teach, or even to point out, the truth to another. This pointing out is where we begin, now at the University of Regensburg, now in the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo to about twenty bishops from Ontario in Canada.

  • The Story of Joseph Ratzinger 1969-1977: “It seemed the end of the line. And instead …”, by Gianni Valente. 30 Giorni [30 Days] August 2006:

    Former students tell of Ratzinger’s last period of teaching at the recently opened Bavarian University. Surrounded by the respect of the students and the affection of colleagues, the professor of Dogmatic Theology believed he had achieved an ideal situation. But Paul VI was to upset his plans.

  • Coming soon from Ignatius Press: The Way of Love: Reflections on Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est :

    In response to Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies and Marriage and Family reflects, together with the Holy Father, on love. From the very beginning, the fundamental work of the Institute has been pursuing a deeper understanding of God’s plan for marriage and family. In these twenty-five years various generations of students and professors, following the legacy of John Paul II, have been able to discover and communicate the beauty of the vocation for which all men have been created: the call to love. ‘ Twenty-six professors from the Institute’s various sessions express what in their understanding are the main themes of the document, approaching the topics raised by the Holy Father with different theological and philosophical perspectives; by so doing they have highlighted the significance and fecundity of the lines of thought suggested by the Pope. This book is offered as a path towards a fuller understanding of the profundity and richness of the love with which God fills us and wants us to communicate in our turn.

  • Pope Warns Theologians to Not Seek Applause ( Oct. 6, 2006):

    A theologian prostitutes himself when he subjects himself to the “dictatorship of common opinions,” Benedict XVI told members of the International Theological Commission. […]

    “To speak to meet with applause, to speak oriented to what men want to hear, to speak obeying the dictatorship of common opinions, is considered a sort of prostitution of the word and of the soul,” said the Holy Father quoting the First Letter of St. Peter.

    The theologian needs a form of “chastity,” which implies “not to be subjected to such standards, not to seek applause, but to seek obedience to the truth,” the Pontiff said.

    Benedict XVI continued: “And I believe this is the fundamental virtue of the theologian, this discipline, even hard, of obedience to the truth, which makes us collaborators of the truth, a mouth of truth, so that we will not speak in this river of words of today, but that we are really purified and chaste through obedience to the truth, so that truth may speak in us.”

  • On October 17th, the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff published Benedict XVI’s calendar for the remainder of 2006, which includes two trips — one in Italy and one to Turkey (Nov. 28, to Friday, Dec. 1) — and a full Christmas agenda.

    Speaking on the Holy Father’s intentions for his trip to Turkey, Bishop Luigi Padovese asserted the Pope’s focus on dialogue:

    “The Pope is not coming to missionize, as the Turkish press claims, but to speak with Muslims, the Turkish government, and obviously with Catholics, but especially with Orthodox Christians.”

    On November 2nd, Police detained a man who fired shots into the air outside the Italian consulate yesterday in protest against the Pope’s impending visit (Source: The Herald Nov. 3, 2006):

    The suspect later told a reporter he wanted to murder the Pope.

    “I don’t want him here, if he was here now I would strangle him with my bare hands,” said Ibrahim Ak, 26.

    “I fired the shots for God,” Ak said as he sat handcuffed inside a police van. “God willing, he will not come. If he comes, he will see what will happen to him.”

    Turkish online paper Zaman reports that Benedict will get “Bush-Like” Protection on his visit:

    Strict security measures will be taken during Pope Benedict XVI’s official visit to Turkey scheduled for November 28 to December 1, 2006.

    The Security General Directorate, in cooperation with the National Intelligence Agency (MIT) and the Gendarmerie, is working on security plans in an effort to prevent any provocations or even assassination attempts against the Pope.

    Preparing us for the coming trip with his column, Benedict’s gamble with Islam National Catholic Reporter Oct. 12, 2006:

    Pope Benedict XVI heads to Turkey next month, his first visit to a majority Muslim state. Of all the question marks surrounding the trip, perhaps the most consequential is this: Which Benedict will show up?

    Will it be the Benedict of Regensburg, challenging his Muslim hosts to embrace rationality, hence to renounce violence and to respect religious freedom? Or will it be the post-Regensburg Benedict, seemingly determined to project a “kinder, gentler” face to Islam, missing no opportunity to send signals of reconciliation?

    Can he, in some fashion, be both?

    Please pray for our Holy Father this November.

On a Lighter Note . . .

  • Does the BBC enjoy being so far behind the fact curve? asks Edward N. Peters (), taking on a manifestation of the media’s anti-Catholic hysteria:

    Apparently the BBC thinks that if the Vatican publishes a document in 2001, (which the Catholic press reported on in early 2002), but the BBC only notices it five years later, the document must have been a deep dark Vatican secret till then. Quick, what’s British English for “Get real”?

    Britain’s Evening Standard reports that the BBC just aired a “Panorama” story about how Pope Benedict XVI, as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, sent a “secret Vatican edict” to bishops around the world (right, like that’s a group that could keep a secret if it tried), an edict so secret “that bishops had to keep it locked in a safe at all times”, which ordered a massive cover-up of clergy sexual misconduct. . . .

  • “More than two and a half million people have met Benedict XVI in Rome or at Castel Gandolfo since the beginning of the year,” reports AsiaNews (Nov. 1, 2006):

    According to statistics of the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household, which organizes the audiences, the number of faithful who have met the pope in the first 10 months of the year was exactly 2,674,820.

    Specifically, 938,500 took part in the Wednesday general audiences; 349,120 took part in particular audiences; 502,200 were present at liturgical celebrations, which took place in Rome. Meanwhile, 885,000 listened to the Angelus in Rome and Castel Gandolfo.

  • Italian journalist praised Benedict XVI for having made the Church “the greatest bulwark of reason” (Catholic News Agency Oct. 27, 2006):

    In an article published by the Spanish daily “La Razon,” Messori said the “intellectual prestige” of Benedict XVI, “which was not lacking in his predecessors,” seems to be the unique characteristic of the current Pontificate.

    Messori said that the idea of Pope “as professor” seems to prevail in the minds of the people. This is evident during each of his public appearances in which “the masses of the faithful” do not come to get emotionally charged up, “but rather to learn, almost to attend the lecture of a wise and at the same time generous professor, who breaks down and offers his knowledge to those who do not have it.”

    Vittorio Messori is known for the first publication of a book-length interview with a pope (Crossing the Threshhold of Hope, 1994, with John Paul II), as well as a book-length interview with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (The Ratzinger Report, 1985).

  • The Vatican mission at UN headquarters in New York is organizing a conference on Pope Benedict’s critique of contemporary relativism, to be held Nov. 20, 2006. The event, co-sponsored by Ignatius Press and the Path to Peace Foundation, will include presentations by George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and Marcello Pera, a member of the Italian senate. (Catholic World News Nov. 2, 2006).

    On a related note, here is a positive review Fr. John Jay Hughes of Without Roots: Europe, Islam and the West — and from the National Catholic Reporter, no less. Thank God for small miracles.

Special Recognition and Personal Thanks to two bloggers for their daily and/or regular coverage of Pope Benedict XVI, and which I made particular use of in compiling this roundup: The Papa Ratzi Post (Michael S. Rose); Argent by the Tiber.