There is much in the news this morning about a speech the Pope gave and some comments he allegedly made about Islam.
Apparently, he decries Islam as being inherently evil.
But, I have to ask, did anyone reporting on the speech actually listen to what he said? These people who are decrying the Pope's statements and begging him to apologize to all of Islam, do they know what he said?
Catholic World News has the full text of the speech, which I strongly encourage everyone to read before jumping to the same erroneous conclusions that most of the press has. The offensive passage is supposedly this:
Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.
I can see how someone might be offended by this. However, it is critical to examine the full context of the statement. Backing up a paragraph or two...
I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (MÃ¼nster) of part of the dialogue carried on-- perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara-- by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. It was probably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than the responses of the learned Persian.
Ah. So, this is a portion of a conversation between Manuel II and an unnamed educated Persian. They are discussing the differences between Christianity and Islam. In particular, The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship of the three Laws: the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Qur'an. With regards to theactuallyy quote taken from the discussion, the Pope says [the point is] rather marginal to the dialogue itself-- which, in the context of the issue of faith and reason, I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.
So, the quote is only marginal to the recorded conversation. However, an important question is asked on the nature, more particularly the rightness, of violent conversion. In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: There is no compulsion in religion. It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat.
But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war.
We then have a line or two more, and then the infamous quote... or rather, misquote, since without a context the paragraph could mean something entirely different. The Pope then summarizes some more of the conversation and then provides another quote.
God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...
From these quote, the Pope briefly discusses violent conversion and then moves on to other behaviours seen in the world. He poses the question Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? It is this question that is the focal point of his speech, and not the nature of Islam. The Pope discusses the secularization of the world and the forced separation of reason and religion. He talks about the recent aversion of the West to questioning things, particularly cultural and religious things. He rightly points out that this will only do harm.
The great Western liberal "mind" now begs the Pope to "apologize" to Islam. No one understood the true point of his message: that this aversion to dialogue, the bending over backwards for nothing, is EXACTLY the problem. No one listened to what he said and I doubt very many have actually read his speech. Instead, everyone is tripping over themselves, trying to cover up some non-existent offence.
I should also point out that those who are violently protesting the Pope's speech are doing so while claiming to be a "people of peace." Irony at its finest. You can't make this stuff up.