I just got done reading the Papal Lecture and urge all Philippine Commentary readers to do the same. It's quite a deep and complex meditation on a number of important topics, including his remarks on Islamic jihad and the use of violence to compel obedience or conversion to religion. Here is the offending passage that has gotten all the screaming headlines and sound bites from the above Lecture in which Pope Benedict discusses the conversations of Byzantine Emperor Manuel Paleologus II in the 14th Century with an unnamed "Persian interlocutor:"
POPE BENEDICT: The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached". The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably (F×< 8`(T) is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...".The Pope's upcoming visit to Turkey may be imperilled as today there are riots over his recent statements. His effigy already burns in various places in Pakistan as strident demands for apology swell from Muslim clerics and the leaders of Islamic nations. It feels like the early days of Jyllands Postens Danish cartoon controversy. I wonder how long before we see photographs like this ?
Although the Vatican was at great pains to deny any intention to insult Islam or Muslims, the riots, vituperative statements and growing violence of the reported reactions around the world, will unavoidably recall the Mohammed Cartoon controversy that erupted last year.
Moreover, not only is Pope Benedict quite a bit more significant than the Jyllands Postens cartoonists, his statements were not graphic renditions of, but direct statements about the Prophet Mohammed and his most essential teachings. I suspect the Pope is already being condemned as an infidel blasphemer and fatwas for his execution, along with cars and money as bounty rewards, will soon be offered by flamboyant radical clerics advertising their madrassahs and mosques.
CHRISTIANITY AND CULTURAL PLURALISM There is far more, actually to the Benedict Lecture than what has so far been reported on jihad. The rest of the Lecture is a contemplation upon the relationship between Reason and Faith as seen in the historical encounter between Christian faith and Greek philosophical inquiry.
POPE BENEDICT: This 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 - it is an event which concerns us even today. Given this convergence, it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. We can also express this the other way around: this convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe.Mourning a "dehellenization" process he espies in the modern age, the Pope stands by the idea that Reason is a part of Faith and the religious experience. He rejects the idea of a God not accountable to Himself...
POPE BENEDICT: In the light of our experience with cultural pluralism, it is often said nowadays that the synthesis with Hellenism achieved in the early Church was a preliminary inculturation which ought not to be binding on other cultures. The latter are said to have the right to return to the simple message of the New Testament prior to that inculturation, in order to inculturate it anew in their own particular milieux. This thesis is not only false; it is coarse and lacking in precision. The New Testament was written in Greek and bears the imprint of the Greek spirit, which had already come to maturity as the Old Testament developed. True, there are elements in the evolution of the early Church which do not have to be integrated into all cultures. Nonetheless, the fundamental decisions made about the relationship between faith and the use of human reason are part of the faith itself; they are developments consonant with the nature of faith itself.In so doing Pope Benedict has now enraged the Muslim world and those who proclaim that Islam--unlike Christianity--does not accept the right of Unbelievers to continue to Disbelieve. The Pope rejects the notion that the Christian Faith would countenance murderous intolerance in the name of culture or religion. I find in the Regensberg Lecture a continuation of many ideas the Pope expounded upon in his Inaugural Encyclical Deus Caritas Est in which he strongly affirms democratic principles of religious freedom, the separation of the Church and State and toleration among all faiths.