Friday, September 22, 2006

Pope Benedict and the Islam statement thing

I haven't read the text of the infamous lecture. Nontheless, I feel sufficiently informed enough to pass judgment without educating myself. I simply fail to see what is gained by giving a talk on Islam and the Jihad. Nothing good, it seems, could have come from this.

Secondly, I am baffled to no end that the Pope would quote a medieval individual on a current issue. There is no shortage of positive contemporary material to use, the type that reflects current sensibilities, including the voluminous writings of his predecessor. So why such an obscure persona unless there is a message in the context of that persons life and history?

If there is concern of the lack of fairness, legitimately so, about the unequal treatments received by Christians in many Islamic countries, treatment that reflects a 180 degree difference from what muslim experience in "Christian" coutries, and other issues, etc, etc, etc, there are many ways to touch on these issues.

One would be to remind everyone of the positive contacts between the two faiths, for instance the fact that much of medieval scholasticism is influenced by the philosophical and theological traditions of medieval Arab theologians, including the two most popular ones Averoes and Avicenna (I guess, latinized versions of their names). Then talk about praying for a renaissance of fruitful culture contacts, blah, blah , blah . . . it can be done and fairly easily.

It is not convincing that an uproar was not anticipated. The question is what is the Pope really up to? He did want to stir the hornets nest,the question is to what end?

My take is this. This Popes exclusive goal is the restoration of Europe to Catholic glory (other non-European parts of the faith are incidental to the primacy of this goal). One easy way to stir up feelings for identit is to create a sense of attack on that identity. For Europe, he may feel that if he can invoke a sense of the violent conflicts between the two faiths that characterized European life in the late middle ages, then he can make headway in igniting passion for the latent catholic identity of many Europeans.

Who knows. His Holiness works in mysterious ways.