Of Benedict, Islam, and Regrets

So as Pope Benedict's quotations from Manuel II Palaeologus are circulating around the world and causing deep unrest in many Muslim countries, it's time to talk about what Benedict's up to. That's right. Not "accidentally did," but is up to.

It is conceivable, as John Allen and even Rocco seem to suggest, that this is a reminder of how non-PC and/or slightly naive with regard to public relations Benedict might be; in the mainstream media, this is being presented as the "goofy ivory-tower professor quoted something interesting he read in his study and was foolish enough to say it out loud" trope. And it is possible that Benedict expected everyone to read his text in full and not draw the conclusions that they are currently drawing in the Muslim world. (One might point out that he is apologizing that his remarks were misunderstood and/or taken out of context, not that he made them.)

But this is a pope who is nothing if not careful and deliberate in what he chooses to say and when he chooses to say it. And the fact that this is one of his earliest forays into the world of international politics after the end of the summer vacations and just a few days before his new Secretary of State took on the job seems a little too well-timed to be simply coincidental. Tarcisio Bertone and Ratzinger were close colleagues for many years at the CDF, and, by all accounts, are substantially of one mind on many theological and political issues. So while I may be wrong, I have to think that this is the beginning of a larger shift within the Vatican, rather than a simple media gaffe. (They say that studying the Vatican's tea leaves is a good preparation for a career in Sinology...)

What I'm far less sure about is what the nature of such a shift, or what Benedict's plan in doing all of this. Was this a test balloon to see how blunt he could be in dialogue with the Muslim world? An attempt to push towards confrontation, at some intellectual level at least, between Christianity and Islam? An intentional provocation designed to confirm the pope's own notions (prejudices?) vis-a-vis Islam? Another aspect that we Americans often forget is the European angle; with Benedict's longtime concerns over the deChristianization of Europe, is this directed primarily at the European community, an attempt to induce Europeans to "choose sides" in some way with regard to their large Muslim populations?

I honestly can't see the rationale clearly yet, and there are more possibilites I no doubt haven't thought of. But having been a student of Ratzinger's theology and practice for a while before he became pope, the one thing I'd be willing to bet on is that this is the start of a program, not a flash in the pan.


Gashwin said...

My dear friend ... Just one question: do you think that the reaction that happened in the Muslim world is justified? And, related question, that the fault is entirely with the Pope?

[Oh, on my grand tour of the northest, I'll be in Boston ... we should meet up! Even if it seems our paths seem to have lead us down very divergent paths. Or rather, the way we think. Whateva ... :)]

BaptizedPagan said...

Oh, I don't think the reaction in the Muslim world is justified in any way, let me be clear. I think that the violence of the response supports the point that, as far I can tell, the pope was trying to make: that there's a need for a dialogue that's both frank and non-violent. I think he may be trying to carve out a space for a "third way" (apologies to my Anglican sisters and brothers): we have lots of dialogues, religious and otherwise, that are frank and violent, and lots that are wishy-washy and non-violent...what's difficult is finding one which is frank and non-violent...this would be good not just for Christian-Muslim dialogue, but for, say, American political discourse or intraCatholic dialogue...

Fault with the Pope...hmm, tougher. Obviously, it's not the pope's fault that people are reacting so violently to his words. But one has to wonder how he thought this would be a good way to begin such a dialogue, and how much he could have reasonably expected a reaction like this to occur. So there's some responsibility which is his, arising from what seems like a misjudgment, a lack of prudence...

religion of pieces said...

Twenty facts about Islam every infidel should know.

Islam ...

1) Is a mind-control and information-control cult founded by a murderer, torturer, brigand, rapist and pedophile called Mohammed. The mind-control and information-control aspects require that all criticism be silenced.

2) Is Mohammed's personality cult. Has no foundations other than Mo's murderous rantings (Koran and Hadith). The Koran consists of two conflicting parts - Meccan and Medinan (peaceful and violent respectively). The Medinan stuff supersedes ('abrogates') the Meccan stuff. Muslims act Medinan, but quote Meccan verses to the gullible infidels.

3) Claims to worship the same God as Christians and Jews, but in fact worships Allah - a demonic channelling through Mohammed's psychopathic ego. The Death Cult mixes garbled versions of Christian and Jewish scriptures with pagan practices such as moon and meteorite-worship, and cut-throat blood sacrifice of animals and non-believers.

4) Has no rational, philosophical nor theological basis, and the whole belief-system is contradicted by science, philosophy, commonsense, human decency and internal inconsistency.

5) Cannot withstand rational criticism. Can only spread and maintain itself by ignorance, illiteracy, war, terrorism, and intimidation. Islam has bloody borders and cannot co-exist peacefully with other belief systems. Winston Churchill said that Islam in a man is as dangerous as hydrophobia (rabies) in a dog.

6) Has a superstitious dread of images of pigs, crosses, Buddhas, Saint George (and his flag) and of course Motoons.

7) Regards Islamic women as semihuman. Wife-beating, incest and child abuse (including mufa’khathat or 'thighing' - the ritual abuse of infants) are encouraged.

8) Regards all unbelievers (Kaffirs, Kuffar, Kufrs, Kafirs) as ritually unclean subhumans to be killed, subjugated, enslaved, exploited or parasitised. Kafirs are described by the Arabic word 'najis' - literally 'filth'. That's why Muslim hatred of Kafirs is intrinsic to their 'religion'. A Kafir doesn't need to DO anything to offend a Muslim, his very existence is enough of an affront.

9) The ethical system applies only to Muslims. Allah encourages rape, pillage, extortion and enslavement of non-Muslims. Morality does not extend beyond the global gang (ummah). Muslim ethics are the ethics of the Mafia.

10) Allah's followers are motivated by hatred, greed and lust. There is no love, mercy or compassion. Allah is vindictive, unpredictable, capricious and devious - "Allah leads astray whom he pleases".

11) The only religion NOT founded on The Golden Rule. Morality is based on Mohammed's example. If Mohammed did it then it's OK for all Muslims. Hence the encouragement of rape, pillage, subjugation and murder of non-believers and the institutionalised pedophilia prevalent throughout Muslim society (justified by Mohammed's activities with Ayesha, his child sex-slave - see and listen to http://islamcomicbook.com/lyrics1.htm).

12) All human relations are defined by Dominance/Subjugation. Muslims have schizoid inferiority/superiority complexes. (A well-balanced Muslim is one with a chip on each shoulder). They respect strength but despise compromise as weakness. Appeasement invites more aggression. The only political system which has been strong enough to subjugate Islam is Stalinism.

13) Polygamy ensures alpha-males get extra women, leading to a shortage of women for the betas. Beta-males must either jerk off (a sin leading to hell), or form dog-packs and rape or capture kafir women as booty in a razzia, or else self-destruct in the presence of infidels then they can screw 72 mythical virgins in Allah's bordello in the sky (see and listen to http://islamcomicbook.com/lyrics3.htm). Beta-males are often encouraged by their relatives to become suicide bombers because of the belief that such murderous 'martyrs' will be able to intercede with Allah to take 70 of their relatives to paradise with them.

14) Lying and deception of infidels (taqiyya) is encouraged. This may take many forms, including outright lies, feigned moderation, and condemnation of terrorist attacks to the Kaffir while rejoicing with fellow Muslims. All Muslims need to regard themselves as victims of some group of Kafirs so they can harbor grudges against them and against Kafirs in general. Individuals may appear law-abiding and reasonable, but they are part of a totalitarian movement, and must be considered potential killers who can flip in an instant (SJS -'Sudden Jihad Syndrome').

15) Muslims are forbidden to befriend Kaffirs except for purposes of deceit or where conversion may be possible.

16) The Koran is Allah's final word and cannot be changed or challenged. To do so is punishable by death. Consequently, the Death Cult can never change or be reformed. The instructions to murder and rape infidels are just as valid now as the day they were written. Since Islam cannot be modernised, the Muslims are attempting to Islamise modernity. This requires spreading Islam in the West and simultaneously preventing any criticism of the cult by intimidation and PC legislation to curtail freedom of expression.

17) Treaties and agreements with Kaffirs are made to be broken (Hudna). The word of a Muslim to a Kafir counts for nothing in the eyes of Allah. Allah is The Father Of Lies.

18) The world is divided between Dar-al-Islam and Dar-al-Harb (the domain of war, the Kufr lands). Muslims living in Dar-al-Harb must work to disrupt their host nations until these can be brought into Dar-al-Islam.

19) Muslims have no obligation to their host nations and in fact are encouraged to parasitise them. Welfare fraud, identity theft, forgery etc are endemic in Western Muslim populations, and serious crime against Kaffirs is regarded as normal and justified. Extortion rackets against Kafirs are mandated by the Koran ('jizya' is the Arabic term for 'protection money' payable by Jews and Christians to Muslims).

20) The attack on the host nation isn't just against its religion and economy, but is aimed at its very cultural identity. Islam is a complete system, including a culture, which Muslims regard as superior (despite all evidence to the contrary) to other cultures. Muslims are therefore required to destroy the symbols of 'Jahiliya' (sometimes sp. Jahiliyya) - non-Muslim culture. In the East this has included destruction of Hindu temples and Christian churches and replacement with mosques, and destruction of Buddhist artwork and universities and replacement with heaps of rubble. This process of cultural replacement is now beginning in the West..

BaptizedPagan said...

Religion of Pieces, I initially considered deleted your comment entirely, but I'm going to leave it there as a witness that violence and ignorance isn't a problem only within the Muslim world.

This misrepresents Islam in a number of (sociologically fascinating) ways, and seems less rooted in a rational investigation of Islam and a willingness to let Muslims tell non-Muslims who they are and what they believe, and more in an attempt to justify an anti-Muslim attitude than to seriously respond to the claims and theology of Muslims.

Referring to Allah as a "demon" is particularly insipid, since my Arabic-speaking Christian sisters and brothers also pray to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jesus as Allah.

As a Roman Catholic Christian, my hopes that Christianity and Islam might enter into fruitful dialogue are rooted in the teachings of the bishops of my church. The bishops of Vatican II in the declaration Nostra Aetate said this on the question:
"The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom."

And the Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting from Lumen Gentium 16, states, "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."

Further resources for Catholic-Muslim relations are available from the U.S. Bishops at www.usccb.org.

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