Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ratzinger was sound!

This time Ratzinger is sound, those who criticized him misunderstood him (at times willingly). Ratzinger may be a conservative pope (I for one do not share his conservative values), but he is not a bully or a shallow thinker. He's an intellectual who expressed very complex thought and has been misunderstood by extremists in Islam and by liberals in the western world.

With his speech he wanted to stress various points, many of those were sensible; in particular the idea that the holy war is against the will of god.

Perhaps, misunderstanding was inavoidable --some people say in Europe. Their argument is that we are dealing with too sensitive topics to make deep quasi-academic comments. These ideas are bound to be misunderstood --they say.

I personally believe that some extremist people desperately want to misunderstand the message given by spiritual and political authority in the west. This gives them the necessary legitimacy to motivate people who do not have direct access, or enough education to understand the message sent from America or Europe.

There's hardly something Ratzinger can do about it. There's hardly something we can do about it. We are desperate to engage in a serious conversation with the Islam, but there are some extremists who want to prevent this from happening. They want to raise the voice and prevent the dialogue as they know that the point in all this is not to communicate with us; instead they want to provoke us into splitting into two or more factions, just for the sake of weakening our positions.

We don't have to fall prey to this strategy. We should refrain from condemning Ratzinger for taking a position and arguing in favour of it. We should try and understand what he says and engage in a further conversation with him and with the Islam in oder to further a more stable world.


Justin Borg Barthet said...

Whether the Pope was sound or otherwise, misunderstood or otherwise, the point here is that there is a danger that extremists are impinging upon our values through violence and threats thereof.

I will express a diametrically opposed extreme here: if the Pope chooses to be offensive and insulting, he is fully at liberty to do so. It might be wrong and irresponsible, but might it not be worse to allow bigots to impose totalitarian principles on us all?

I do realise that this is an ideal in a far from ideal world, but we must strike a balance that does not subject us all to totalitarianism.

Justin BB

Lorenzo Zucca said...
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Lorenzo Zucca said...
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Lorenzo Zucca said...

The Pope certainly has the right to say whatever he wants, this is fair enough. But he also has to be responsible for what he says.

If he says something stupid and people rebel against him, that is fair as well. The pope in that case should be rightly asked to apologise.

But this time is different. This time he is basically right, and the sentence attacked is not a description of his thought but a quotation from a muslim writer. If you read the text as a whole, you can see that the pope is saying things with are sound, so I believe (for once, I rarely agree with Papa Ratzi).

He has been unfairly attacked for what he has said.

Paolo said...

Although I think that the this issue raises an enormous number of question, it seems to me that the central question is that of the dialogue. If we look attentively to Rtzingewr's word we can see that this he's not doing any significant step toword the dialogue between Islam and Christianism. On the other hand he's brutally lacking of an understanding of the complex socio-historical situation, which should be the context of his 'illuminated' words. He should have this undersgtanding if he wanted to appear as an academic intellectual as he wants to do.

What he makes is to link Christianism with the Hellenic tradition, thereffore religion and reason go hand-in-hand. So should do everyone, of everyfaith, in order to reasonably dialogue. That is his wonderful lesson!! But as he says the reason to which he refers is the Greek logos, upon which European cultures had been founded. So he's intrinsically saying to Muslims to adopt our 'way of thinking' in order to speak with us. And there he puts by chance the hot quotation on the holy war and on the relation between violence and religion. To raise the use of reason against the violence has a cultural load that he might not have seen beforehand, and he might not see even now. But it just exacerbates the differences. It's easy to think of the equation reason=progress=good faith and violence=barbism=wrong faith.

On the other hand he avoids completely, wrongly using his academic posture, to mention the many problems caused by the western hand in the Middle East. How can we not see these things? How can we detach the religion from the actual life? If we do that we feed extremisms. If we speak of reason and religion, we must speak of carnal life, because 'man doesn't live of sole bread'. Do you remember that Ratzi?

These are just two reasons that explain why I think that he was not misunderstood, but his discourse and his attitude are leading toward a sophistic narrowing of the Christian values. Let me add, in a moment in which no one needs it.

He's the bad pope in the wrong moment!

nanne said...


I support the pope's freedom to say whatever he wishes (bar directly inciting violence or oppression). But would you mind offering a short explanation of why his comments were sound? As in constituting a valid theological interpretation?

Patrick S. O'Donnell said...

What follows is my contribution to a dialogue I had with a Catholic priest and theologian:

You might be interested in my response to the Pope's recent remarks on Islam as made in comments to a post on same by Roger Alford at Opinio Juris* (a blog on international law and politics). There I note that the Pope's characterization of the role of reason in relation to God within the Islamic tradition was inaccurate and not at all representative of that typically found within its philosophy and theology. I've pasted there several of my entries from a basic glossary guide for Islam that better describe the part played by reason within the Islamic tradition, a role far more generous than that accorded it within the history of Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. What is more, while it was Christians who contributed, through their translation of key texts from Greek into Arabic, to the appropriation of Greek philosophy into Islam, it was in fact Islam that later proved decisive in influencing the role reason would come to play in Catholicism, exemplified most eloquently in the work of Aquinas. For Aquinas was heavily in debt to Islamic philosophy and theology, especially the work of Ibn Sina (Avicenna), and it is hard to imagine the 'rational' character of his theology without this influence. While I find the Pope's narration of a reconciliation between Greek logos and Christian faith to be of some interest, his manner of juxtaposing this story with a misleading portrait of the role of reason in the determination of God's will and the understanding of the nature of God in Islamic philosophy and theology was undeniably tendentious and mistaken and did nothing whatsoever to further the ends of genuine interreligious dialogue.


While I think some Muslims may have taken parts of this speech out of context and misunderstood what the Pope was attempting to say, the aforementioned sections of the speech contain claims from which one can properly conclude that there is sufficient reason to be disappointed and disturbed by the Pope's understanding and characterization of fundamental notions and practices within Islam.

'But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice idolatry.'

It is the first two sentences that are revealing and troubling, as the Pope proceeds to imply that one might find extreme formulations of the meaning of such 'absolute transcendence,' as in the work of Ibn Hazn, although he no where explicitly states he believes these other propositions necessarily follow from such a conception. My point concerns the claim that for Muslims God is 'absolutely transcendent,' a conception Benedict does attribute to Islam, and not to Christianity, in the above passage. If Benedict did not think this summation from the work of Theodore Khoury was an accurate description of the Muslim conception of God, he should have said so, for he invokes it by way of contrast with the claim that 'Not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature.' Why invoke Islam here when all he need do is cite the development of theological voluntarism and Lutheran theology as alternative currents which dislodge or diminish the role of Logos? Indeed, he might easily have used Islamic examples to reinforce his points about the compatibility between Logos and faith (or revelation), but he did not do this. Instead, Islam is only a foil for the larger argument and a tendentious one at that.