Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Still More on the Papal Address Outrage

Iraq the Model has weighed in on the Papal Address Outrage with a thoughtful article (Tuesday, September 19 post) focusing on the Islamization of Iraq and attitudes toward 'conversion by the sword.' It's worth reading. I can't remember which of the brothers posted it, but his conclusion spoke to thoughts I have been having as I have reflected on the precarious situation of Christian minorities in Islamic countries right now:

Some accuse the pope of bad timing but I wonder what is going to be the best time to accept criticism and accept questions? Next year? a decade from now? When?

There will be no such time for our clerics who derive their power from this history, and to them, questioning or criticizing this history is a threat to their holiness and power.


The Moderate Voice posted a report that Mohammed Qaddaffi has called for Benedict XVI to convert. (I'd link to full details on this myself, but going to this guy's blog seems to make my computer lock up. Oh, don't worry, lots of things make my computer lock up. It will probably be just fine for everyone else.) Th M.V. quips, more or less:

I could see it happen...right after the President of Iran gets Bar Mitzvahed.

Some of the flap that arose over the Pope's address is directly attributable to media spin; Jimmy Akin has posted some comments on this. It looks like the BBC zeroed in for a 'grabber' headline (or maybe a less savory motive,) and things went downhill from there.

Several sources have now pointed out that a minor variance in translation--the exclusion of one or two short phrases in the English version (which has since been corrected) altered the sense of the Pope's words enough that his comments seemed a good deal harsher initially. Benedict's address actually included the observation that Manuel Paleologus addressed his commentary on Islam "with a brusqueness that astonishes us."

I think that the Holy Father was trying, with his words, to distance his own views from the "brusqueness" of Paleologus in an effort to not inflame the oh-so-easily inflamed passions of the Islamofascists. Perhaps, he hoped to appeal to Islam's better nature: "Look, this is how the rest of the world sees you; you can change this view by changing your actions." Hope springs eternal.

With all due respect to the Papa, Manuel Paleologus' brusqueness doesn't surprise me at all. At the time he made his now-famous remarks, after all, he was either living as a hostage in the Ottoman court (almost certainly resisting proselytism,) or holding off an Ottoman seige from his formerly glorious Constantinople. Give the guy credit: he persevered in his Christianity, protected his people for as long as he could, and eventually died a monk. But perhaps it's a bit much to ask that, given his circumstances in 1391, he get up every single morning feeling like "an Alleluia from head to toe." The Lord knows I don't, and nobody's holding me hostage or trying to make me abandon my faith. If the "Religion of Peace" wasn't exactly giving Manuel the Peace that Passeth Understanding, maybe there was a good reason.

Brusque or not, Paleologus' purpose, like that of the Pope, was to appeal to reason in order to dialogue. If there is to be any peace and justice in the world, Islam is going to have to learn that it's not a dialogue if one side gets to do all the talking, and it's not a dialogue if one side is above scrutiny while the other can be criticized freely. I can't think of any other religion on earth that is so unable to cope rationally with constructive criticism.

I have been profoundly concerned for Christian minorities in Muslim countries since the flap began. Like Paleologus, they are pretty much in a hostage situation. But it's worse, because they are also at the mercy of mobs. One supposedly "moderate" cleric has already declared Friday a Muslim "day of anger;" I'm fearing a repeat of Kristallnacht, or worse.

Still, I am intensely aware that if it hadn't been the Pope last Tuesday, it would have been the Chair of the Southern Baptist convention tomorrow, the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church next week, or the Dalai Lama a fortnight hence (okay, so I exaggerate a bit.) The point, as ITM succinctly put it in my quote above, is that unless we are all prepared to rationally concede that Islam is "pure" and above reproach (a view held by most practicing Muslims, but few other humans of any or no faith.) there is never going to be a "good time" to question or criticize it--and if we don't start asking some hard questions now, that situation is never going to get any better.

Pray for our Brothers and Sisters in Christ who live in Muslim countries, and for all the Dhimmi. I fear it will go hard for them.
Father Stephanos at Me Monk, Me Meander offers his own "Junior High Outline" of the Pope's address, as well as some UNEXPECTED GOOD NEWS that blew me clean out of the water! It appears that Islamic Jihad Militants in a West Bank Village have turned out to protect a Catholic church from vandalism. Much more of this, I may have to give up sarcasm for a day or two. I pray it's true--he has pictures posted!

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Blogger Desmond said...

As you know, I'm living in a third world country (I'm from the Phiippines) where 85% of the population is Christian and of those numbers, about 82% is Catholic. Don't be surprise though that most of the Catholic here didn't react that much about the outrage of our brother muslims regarding the Pope's speech. Why? first local media was not that interested about religion because politics are solely their bread and buter and second Filipinos Catholics, in due course of time and thousands of miles away from Vatican had develope, their own "version" about Catholicism also for the same fact that they almost knew nothing about the personal life or background of Pope Benedict (again, the local media are to blame, who else?) unlike the late Pope John Paul II where he was like a rock star. Ask some people here after attending the church what they knew about the Pope and after 10 or 15 seconds some would come up with the answer, "I think he's from Germany". Why I'm saying this? because I don't think the Pope would get that much of compassion and allies from some Latin American Catholics because they've been clamoring for centuries that it is about time that a Pope with latin American descent should take the highest sit at Vatican. Let us just all pray that this crisis would end sooner than later.

Honestly, it quite surprise me also that there are still many devoted Catholics in that part of the world, in the US? perhaps you are of Latin American descent?

God bless:)

7:50 PM  
Blogger CMinor said...

Hispanic Caribbean on my mother's side; Catholic on both sides. My husband is a convert.

Actually, Catholicism is very much alive here in the U. S., though I don't have the figures. I'm sure there's a website around somewhere with that sort of information. Part of this is due to recent immigration, but in many parts of the country there are many people whose Catholicism goes back several generations. Many Catholics, especially on the East Coast, trace their heritage to the Great Migration of the late 19th century, which brought many Irish and Italian Catholics but also some from other countries.

Perhaps it's just as well there hasn't been much noise about the Pope in the Phillipines; there's been entirely too much here. The news media like nothing better than a good brawl; unfortunately what they ended up orchestrating this time got plain ugly!

9:43 PM  
Blogger CMinor said...

I was thinking about your remark about Latin American Catholics, and remembered that I once heard a priest remark that we always seem to get the Pope we need. I'm sure Latin America would like to have a Pope from home, as would Africa, but I have a feeling that right now, this is the Pope we need. Western Europe is materially rich, but spiritually destitute. Perhaps Benedict will be able to address that problem.

6:01 PM  
Blogger Desmond said...

Can't exactly remember the nationality of the Cardinal somewhere in South America but it was during the heat of the election on who's going to be the next pope just after Pope John Paul II died that it is about time that Catholicism should have a Latin American descent because they can commune more effectively with catholics living in third world countries. As we know, more than half of the total population of the Catholics were from third world countries. But nonetheless, the good thing about devoted Catholics is that they accept Pope Benedict with open heart and no "coup de etat" happens. I guess Pope Benedict is really the chosen one to lead the Catholics. although I have to admit to you cminor that when Pope Benedict became the next Pope, I was saddened by those flying German flag in all four corners of Vatican and Berlin. It saddened many devoted Catholic (there's a wide gap between ordinary Catholics and devoted Catholics. You can't actually be called a devoted catholics here unless you are a "lolo" or "lola") to see that electing a pope turn out to be like winning a final match in World Cup football and all about national pride. What do you think?

10:40 PM  
Blogger CMinor said...

Well, it kind of takes the 'catholic' (universal) out of Catholic, doesn't it? I agree that waving German flags was questionable taste. On the other hand, for hundreds of years we had nothing but Italian popes, so two non-Italians in a row is progress of a sort.

I think a pope from the third world is inevitable, soon. (I half expected Cardinal Arinze to be elected, myself.) The church is strong there, as are vocations. And when one is chosen, I think he will answer some need the church has, as I think Benedict is now.

As far as the World Cup analogy goes, I'm an American. I know we haven't got a prayer, anyway!

10:39 AM  

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