Friday, September 15, 2006
# Posted 7:45 AM by Patrick Belton
Also controversial was a speech given by the Pope in Bavaria on Tuesday (or, if you want to see it misquoted, read it in the NYT instead). A pope who bears an uncanny resemblance to Palpatine, conservative religious attacks upon a major religion which don't even have the advantage of involving a cartoon, leiderhosen - this had it all, at least all the ingredients for either tragedy or farce. The response has been predictably subdued and scholarly. The head of Turkey's IRP party has already compared Benedict XVI to Hitler and Mussolini (not fair! he was only in the anti-aircraft corps...*), the pope has been denounced by Pakistan's parliament and foreign office, and undoubtedly later this afternoon the head of the BNP will become a Catholic. It's a far cry from his predecessor's rock concerts and pope on a rope. We do live in fallen times. And this blog did after all endorse Cardinal Martini.
But to back up a second. I'd hope, on grounds of decency, to be among the first to stand up against attacks upon my Muslim neighbours, friends and messy flatmate, and upon their faith. I sat down, in fact, expecting to write a post rather critical of the Pope. But in reading the actual transcribed text when I'd dug it up online, my initial response was that it was politically inelegant in its ability to be quoted extracontextually for effect, but not substantively repugnant to Islam.
To look more closely at the text, the Pope is simply setting up the Euthyphro dilemma, and contrasting a view of natural concordance between the divine will and rationality which he finds in John, against the divine command view of the theologian Said ibn al-Musayyib ibn Hazn, or indeed, the Binding of Isaac.
It is a moving experience for me to stand and give a lecture at this university podium once again. I think back to those years when, after a pleasant period at the Freisinger Hochschule, I began teaching at the University of Bonn. This was in 1959, in the days of the old university made up of ordinary professors. The various chairs had neither assistants nor secretaries, but in recompense there was much direct contact with students and in particular among the professors themselves. We would meet before and after lessons in the rooms of the teaching staff. There was a lively exchange with historians, philosophers, philologists and, naturally, between the two theological faculties. Once a semester there was a dies academicus, when professors from every faculty appeared before the students of the entire university, making possible a genuine experience of universitas: the reality that despite our specializations which at times make it difficult to communicate with each other, we made up a whole, working in everything on the basis of a single rationality with its various aspects and sharing responsibility for the right use of reason - this reality became a lived experience. The university was also very proud of its two theological faculties. It was clear that, by inquiring about the reasonableness of faith, they too carried out a work which is necessarily part of the "whole" of the universitas scientiarum, even if not everyone could share the faith which theologians seek to correlate with reason as a whole. This profound sense of coherence within the universe of reason was not troubled, even when it was once reported that a colleague had said there was something odd about our university: it had two faculties devoted to something that did not exist: God. That even in the face of such radical scepticism it is still necessary and reasonable to raise the question of God through the use of reason, and to do so in the context of the tradition of the Christian faith: this, within the university as a whole, was accepted without question.There are two things going on here, it seems to me. There is on the one hand a colouring of Islam with irrationality and compulsion, not directly but by mere proximity of quotation, and unfortunate citing of the emperor's 'evil and inhuman' remark from what is otherwise constructed as a respectful dialogue between accomplished intellectuals. On this, public response has seized. But there is something else also; the emperor's 'evil and inhuman' derision is qualified by the Pope as 'brusque'. And setting aside the note of religious violence which is introduced but not pursued, the Pope returns to relating faith to rationality, a point where theological traditions, including here ones within religions, differ (c.f. Kierkegaard v Aquinas). A bit ham-handed perhaps, but one might even have argued that in the second aspect here we have a respectful pope attempting in a somewhat bumbling manner, and without the political grace of his predecessor, to engage theologically with the Islamic tradition and its contemplation of God - just the sort of engagement between West and East people of good will ought applaud. It seems to me in this second regard the pope is attempting a dies academicus between religious traditions, which is something much more clever and respectful than the saccharine anodyne of most interreligious activity as it tends to be conducted. It's at any rate in a different register of intellect and intention to 'islamic fascism', altogether.
So mixed reviews, but I'll step in for partial defence of the pope, to note what he was doing was a bit more complex than slathering the Qur'an in pork fat.
*More chillingly, a Ratzinger cousin was killed for eugenic reasons because of his Down's syndrome, in 1941. (13) opinions -- Add your opinion
Leather pants are "lederhosen". "Leiderhosen" translates roughly as "pants of misfortune". May you never have those.
"*More chillingly, a Ratzinger cousin was killed for eugenic reasons because of his Down's syndrome, in 1941." Why is that especially chilling - don't we abort for that reason routinely? I mean, amniocentesis is performed for eugenic reasons, isn't it?
t's at any rate in a different register of intellect and intention to 'islamic fascism', altogether.
'Islamic fascism' refers to a species of totalitarianism advocated by Muslims on the grounds of its fidelity to Islam, which has for both those reasons obtained no small amount of support in the Muslim world. What is wrong with that label, besides the fear that it will anger the 'moderate Muslisms' into remaining just as quiet as ever rather than denouncing their coreligionists?
i mean the above does.
Considering the emperor's city was under siege by Muslims, the whole conversation ought to have an edge.Post a Comment
That would be reasonable. What is unreasonable is to find anything offensive about a potential victim claiming his tormentor lacks certain of what are generally considered the gentler virtues.