Et tu, Benedicte?
By Ben Tanosborn
Journal Contributing Writer
Sep 20, 2006, 00:58
So Benedict XVI
didn�t intend to offend Muslims. But he did! Any pope must realize that outside
the realm of ecclesiastical dogma, his pronouncements, whether casual or formal,
are always taken by people around the world, other than Catholic theologians,
as if made ex cathedra. Sermons, lectures or just casual addresses by
the pontiff log in for all to see where the Church stands on political, social
and economic issues . . . not just religion. And no, they don�t have to come in
the form of an encyclical.
So Benedict XVI is
very upset that the Muslims feel offended by what he said. He shouldn�t be!
Being upset, regardless of quality or quantity of distress, is certainly no
substitute for being sad, sorry or contrite. In fact, at its worst, it suggests
a lack of humility. And one thing expected from the Vicar of Christ is
Here in the United
States we are becoming accustomed to having fundamentalist Christian leaders indulge
in their poisonous tirades, not just against Islam and other religions, but
against their own Christian brethren who fail to adhere to their views. We have
seen Franklin Graham (Billy Graham�s son), Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and
their many televangelical clones stir up the caldron of understanding and
diplomacy with their anti-Islam remarks -- an embarrassment, at the very least,
to their professed creed.
Et tu, Benedicte?
Are you, like your short-sighted Evangelical brothers, letting Western Civilization
down? Whether you like it or not, for better or for worse, you are a key
representative of Western Civilization, its culture and its values, not just
for your flock but for all of us born into this Western society, whether
faithful, heretics or heathen. Are you, Benedict XVI, also letting us down?
emperor, Manuel II Palaiologos, on his references to Muhammad and the issue of
holy war, was totally out of place, out of time and, most importantly, out of
context with the spirit of love and reconciliation that is expected to be the
basis of true Christianity. Quoting a14th century criticism of Islam can be as
insensitive and damaging as pronouncing a 21st century criticism of Islam.
Doing so at Regensburg University is even more significant, given the special
relationship which has existed for almost four decades (Communio).
Bringing forth that
quote was definitely out of step with his own writings (Dominus lesus �
2000) after he, as Cardinal Ratzinger, had explained the position of the
Catholic Church on other religions, and showed the proper way to engage in
ecumenical dialogue. Changing his red biretta for a papal tiara should not have
affected the thinking �below.� And reenacting what was said by Palailogos --
who had meddled in Ottoman affairs against Murad II -- was a faux pas of
Ratzinger was elected pope last year, he said: �I wish to speak why I chose the
name Benedict. Firstly, I remember Pope Benedict XV, that courageous prophet of
peace, who guided the Church through turbulent times of war. In his footsteps I
place my ministry in the service of reconciliation and harmony between peoples.
Additionally, I recall Saint Benedict of Nursia, co-patron of Europe, whose
life evokes the Christian roots of Europe.�
for choosing the name, Benedictus XVI. Placing the pope�s ministry in the
service of reconciliation and harmony at a time when the Middle East is ablaze
-- in great part due to the �crusading� efforts of major powers in the West --
will be extraordinary if it does happen. Unfortunately, this incident in
Bavaria doesn�t seem to follow that line. Nor does the papacy�s restrained
criticism on why peace is not being sought more earnestly for places like
Palestine and Iraq. But perhaps, that would be asking too much in a world where
arrogant men of evil hold devastating temporal power.
But what may not be
asking too much, Pope Benedict, is for you to follow the rule of St. Benedict
of Nursia, which in essence, as you know, proclaims �that no one should follow
what he considers to be good for self, but rather what seems good to another.�
And that entails both love of neighbor and humility.
Don�t be upset
because Muslims are offended . . . for you gave them a reason to so be. Do
something about it and apologize . . . wholeheartedly! Show that all men are
fallible; even if the Roman Catholic Church has determined you to be infallible
on issues where you speak ex cathedra. Humility starts there.
� 2006 Ben Tanosborn
Ben Tanosborn, columnist, poet and writer,
resides in Vancouver, Washington (USA), where he is principal of a business
consulting firm. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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