Of Popes and Apologies

The world listens carefully to the words of any pope. And it is tragic and dangerous when one sows pain, either deliberately or carelessly. He needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology, demonstrating that words can heal. — New York Times editorial 9/16/06 

To be sure, there are few things more pathetic than moderns taking umbrage at words uttered by any pope. And a good laugh is guaranteed whenever theology, philosophy, or even history is tackled by the geniuses comprising big media today. But can anything be more fatuous than the The New York Times awakening to talk from the pope and counseling him on the need for healing words?

Benedict's faux pas the other day is both a glorious accident and a wondrous illumination. Can we discuss religion now? And faith? And truth?  And my, my, our Muslim brethren do seem to have thin skins.

'He needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology...'

Yes, it must be both deep, and, because the Times is very suspicious of Benedict's sincerity, persuasive. Imagine the glee with which this was written.

Can we admit now that the history of Christianity is nothing more than a catalogue of wars, inquisitions, and crusades? the guarantor of oppression, slavery, and ignorance? And naturally, the Catholic Church has always been public enemy number one, the scourge of enlightenment and freedom. Why, you know, we've been instructed that Hitler even had his own pope!

As for the reaction in Muslim circles, what matter? Are we talking about reasonable people of good will callously insulted by a deranged, hate—filled, demagogue? The street is in an uproar! The mob calling for bloody revenge! 

What's new? These are the same characters that celebrate beheadings and plane crashes. Let us not worry about the tender feelings of these savages.

But what an irresistible opportunity for pope bashing!

The editorial begins ominously,

'There is more than enough religious anger in the world. So it is particularly disturbing that Pope Benedict XVI has insulted Muslims...'
Such choice words from the editors, condescension dripping from the editorial page, not only is it disturbing, but it is particularly disturbing.

And the Times is not alone. This weekend there will emerge countless opinion pieces offering criticisms and counsel  to the beleaguered pontiff. And the usual litany of fanciful hate crimes and historical wrongs trotted before the ignorant public in each article before the offer of consoling words and encouragement for the pope to finally get with it.

In my view, popes rarely get things wrong. When they speak ex cathedra (and only then) believers consider them infallible through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But the recent morbid habit of apologizing for past sins, though sincere and offered with the best intentions, has been a mistake. It too often is taken as an admission of institutional guilt when it is not, and inevitably fuels the fire of distortion and calumny set by people who have no understanding of forgiveness and a burning desire to eradicate the Church.

Let it be clearly understood. There was nothing in the pope's speech that was offensive to any honest and reasonable person of any faith or background. The ensuing uproar is an example of competing ideologies using a papal utterance to further ongoing agendas.

Muslim extremists are having their usual fun with ancient hatreds paraded in the streets like a surreal pep rally. Secular antagonists are enjoying chastising and instructing that dumb pope in the ways of modern semantic diplomacy.

In any case it is good to see Pope Benedict back in the news. Perhaps his next speech, say about love, commitment, compassion, or perhaps the re—conversion of Europe, the modern culture of death, the need for social justice, maybe that speech will grab a headline or two.

'The world listens carefully to the words of any pope' says the Times.

If only that were true.

Andrew Sumereau is a frequent contributor

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