“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”. The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. “God”, he says, “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…
failing_angel's first question was this: Was the Pope right to include that section of text in his speech? . I think he was. I think it was, in many ways, a masterstroke. By making that statement he addressed the antagonism to other faiths that lies at the heart of every major religion. The multiculturalist's refusal to acknowledge this anatagonism is the key reason the multiculturalist project is doomed to failure. He has been the first western leader I have heard to actually confront the violence at the heart of the Islamic creed (or at least at the heart of a number of current and popular interpretations of it).
He did this ostensibly by using history and scholarship and the words of a man long dead. Thus he has avoided the charge that these inflammatory statements are his when that charge been levelled at him by the press and an ever-increasing assortment of commentators. I don't think he cares about these commentators. I think he cares about his organisation's diminishing influence and income. He would be a very poor chief executive if he didn't. Many members of his European and North American congregations will have been delighted to hear him make a direct and clear assault on Islam, without the careful distinctions between extremists and ordinary muslims, between east and west, that other western leaders are always at such pains to make. Catholics in other parts of the world, particularly in Africa where the different brands of islam and christianity battle for souls and salaries will have heard a clear and impassioned statement that their view is the right view. It is hardly surprising that in the same speech he was at pains to distinguish between the catholic and protestant world views.
The brilliance of this seemingly gently attack is that it is, superficially at least, also an attack on the use of violence for religious ends. He must have known - how could he not? - that the reaction of many muslims, schooled as they are in the language of polarities and absolutes would respond to the insult and not the seemingly pacifist argument attached to it, and would respond with violence. And when catholics die as a result of that violence it vindicates the statement he has made and demonstrates all too clearly that islam is an innately violent, an 'evil and inhuman' force.
Islamic violence will, of course, make martyrs of the 'reasonable souls' of those catholics who have been killed by it. Well-intentioned commentators like Prince Charles, who has declared his desire to become not the Defender of the(Anglican) Faith, but Defender of Faiths, often remark that the major religions have a lot to learn form one another. Perhaps the ayatollahs have, if not taught, then at least reminded the cardinals of the media and mass market power of martyrdom, with all its glamour and pathos.
failing_angel also asks if Pope Benedict's subsequent publicly voiced concern for the reactions his words have provoked amount to an apology. They haven't and they shouldn't. By refusing to retract his words he reinforces, to those who choose to agree with him, his rectitude and moral courage. He offers clarity and consistency where most western leaders offer only obfuscation and contardictiion. In his own faith he has no serious competitors. The Anglican Communion is being shattered by doctrinal arguments. In his Easter address the Archbishop of Canterbury chose not to address those arguments, nor any of the other significant political or material issues facing his congregations, but complained instead about the number of people who believe in the conspiracy theories in The Da Vinci Code - which is primarily critical of the Catholic Church in any case. Anglicanism is a spent force. The world has a new Catholic Prince and one who is prepared to offer not peace, but a sword.