Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The pope's grand strategy?

Here is a fascinating, and I think very plausible, explanation of the pope's comments on faith, reason and violence that so stirred up certain peace-loving adherents of Islam.

Biretta tip to Sacramentum Vitae.

Meanwhile, Dennis Prager scores a direct hit on the pope's critics: Pius attacked for not confronting evil, Benedict attacked for confronting evil.

Biretta tip: Domenico Bettinelli.


Father Barry said...

Thanks for this Ochlophobist link, Father!

There have been many things written about what the Holy Father said (including a fair amount of misrepresentation by the MSM).

And there have been many things written about the consequences of his speech.

But this is definitely the most thorough (and compelling) account I've seen yet of "why" he said what he did.

Unlike Canada's Michael HIGGINS, this guy knows the Pope is too intellegent to have been completely blind-sided by the events that occured after his speech. Only the Pope would be able to say for sure, but this guy is mighty convincing...

Mark Anthony said...

Like some, but not all, bloggers, Ochlophobist seems a bit too clever for his own good and leans a tad bit to the conspiratorial side. Why is it so difficult to believe that a highly intelligent man like the Pope, who is making a scholarly speech to an audience of intellectuals, might not include a quote, with which he does not agree, to make a point? For a man used to scholarly and civil debate, the reaction might well have been unforeseen.

Despite the glee expressed by some conservatives after the story broke, previous statements by the Pope as well as a long line of Church pronouncements, make it clear that he does not subscribe to Islam as the new Evil Empire,no matter how much some are laboring to make it so. It seems quite likely to me that the Pope would have assumed that no one of good will and reasonable intelligence would think such belligerent views were his own.

Ochlophobist would have use think the whole affair was a planned and rather callous effort by the Pope to ignite intentinally violence within the radical Muslim world so as to use the resultant fear in the West and Orthodox Christianity to drive those communities closer to Rome.

I cannot accept such Machiavellian intentions drive the actions of the Pope. To accept such as even remotely possible is to ascribe real evil to the Holy Father and lay at his feet the death of the nun in Africa - unthinkable.

Can you imagine what the Holy Father would think of having such immoral intentions attributed to him by one of his fellow Catholics?

Father Barry said...

Mark Anthony:

I think you're right about the conspiratorial leanings of many bloggers. (I know I suffer from that at times myself.) But I'm not sure you're being quite fair to Ochlophobist here.

I don't see it suggested anywhere in the post that the Pope suspected violence would result from his statements. I'm pretty sure he uses the notion of "incivility." Is it not possible to imagine that he expected some reaction to his comments, but not this one?

How else should we deal with this comment? "The text he read was one from a previous work of his with one major change - the offensive quote was added."

That's a real stumbling block for me.

And at no point does Ochlophobist suggest that the Pope intended to use "the resultant fear in the West and Orthodox Christianity to drive those communities closer to Rome." He suggests that the speech was designed to remind the Western and Orthodox Churches of their common ground. There is a lot of non-fear-driven common ground.

There is also a great deal of space between being "as wise as serpents" and being Machiavellian. I have absolutely no problem attributing the former to our Holy Father, while stopping far short of the latter.

Father Martin Fox said...

I admit I didn't read the Ochlophobist link closely; I posted it, based on what I did read at Sacramentum Vitae.

The way I read that excerpt, the pope wasn't being cynical or callous, or in any way immoral. I.e., I don't see the pope "intentionally igniting violence," but not letting what he could foresee, but could not avoid (unless he remained mute), hold him back.

He did what sometimes must be done: he said there was an elephant in the room.

It seems very reasonable, and moral, for Christians to say to secularists: you may lump us in with the Islamists who are coming after us, but they're coming after you, too -- and you might consider that you're better off with the Christians, than with them.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see the pope as culpable for the violence done by his haters. That kind of thinking paralyzes and silences him. It makes sense to me that he'd say,

"Sooner or later, the fanatics are going to go ga-ga over something I say -- they tried to kill John Paul; they burned embassies over editorial cartoons -- I have to decide when, and how, to confront this rising peril."

What he actually said was, to me, entirely reasonable, in no way unfair or "insensitive." And the response fully bears out the pertinence of the violence critique!

When one knows a battle is coming, one tries to choose the best ground. Whether this is the best ground, I don't know; but I think that's a reasonable calculation for the pope to make.

joeh said...

I think it was an attempt to talk to the moderate muslims if they are out there and give them a chance to step forward in dialog that is sadly missing. Like the secularist who are trying to end the connection of faith and reason, he also sees evil when religion is connected to terror because in doing so it takes faith and reason away for a one true God. I still encourage those who have not heard the take on this at First Things by Father Neuman to do so because I think he is very close to this Pope for many years and he gets it.

Mark Anthony said...

Of course the Holy Father should speak out against the "violence inherent in the system" of radical Islam, and emphasize the need for an application of reason in theologies of all varieties. Speaking candidly about the historic and current uses of violence in the name of religion is a role neither he nor we can ignore.

My point simply was that Ochlophobist's proposition implies that that the Pope intentionally sought to poke the radical Islamists with a stick in order to get a reaction from sundry groups. It is that point with which I disagree. I cannot imagine the Pope choosing to create discord (even if only "incivility") by increasing the very violence he is speaking out to oppose.

Part of such theories as that raised by Ochlophobist might well represent the lingering hope that Pope Benedict would be God's Rottweiler on the Throne of St. Peter. After Deus Caritas Est, it is clear that he has no intention for taking up that role. The disappointment that this fact brings to some may make some see confrontation where none is intended or exists.

Dad29 said...

George Friedman (a geo-political/intelligence analyst in Texas) wrote a column which proposes:

1)The Pope knew exactly what he was saying, and anticipated some sort of reaction;

2)He did it to indirectly support the US' "war on terror," without supporting the war in Iraq;

3)He also had the intention of unifying Europe on a path back towards Christianity.

While I suspect that Friedman's take was "worldly," it is interesting.

UKBlogger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
UKBlogger said...

In response to this blog, I can only agree with the symbolic depiction of the decapitated Jesus and Mohammed, a performance recently banned due to the murderous threats of Muslim Extremists, that religion too often leads to war and suffering. The struggle of the rational Western world against the growing problem of Extremist Islam is difficult enough without the Holy Father exacerbating the problem with such comments.

The report recently recognised by President Bush citing an increase in Extremism due to the Iraq war only confirms my belief that the Western world needs to rise above this threat, tackling it from a higher moral standpoint in terms of a peaceful and measured ideological intervention.

Maybe the Catholic faith should question why it is losing its followers and why it is being forced, with disastrous consequences, to forbid contraceptive use by its flock, arguably to increase its numbers.

I am convinced of a hostile reception to this blog, but nevertheless feel that it is time for all faiths to abandon their more medieval beliefs and modify them to recognise the strife of modern society. Surely the Lord our God could not disagree with this and, if He did, how can He be regarded as truly loving His children?

Fr. Larry Gearhart said...


Claiming that religion, per se, leads to war and suffering is to misunderstand both religion and human nature. People will use any excuse whatever to vent anger. Whether or not they cite religion as their excuse is entirely coincidental.

A religion, like Christianity, that preaches very clearly, "Love your enemies." and "Pray for those who persecute you." does not deserve to be tarnished with this brush. Pope Benedict's reference to the elephant in the tent did nothing to put the elephant in the tent.

That said, I am in agreement about the folly of the Iraq war, and the excuse it has given radicals everywhere to see it as a rallying point for a new generation of extremists.

Even our strategy in Afghanistan seems singularly lacking in wit. Instead of making the place safe for democracy, we've managed to make it safe for heroin production.

I am, furthermore, in complete agreement with your principal thesis, "Western world needs to rise above this threat, tackling it from a higher moral standpoint in terms of a peaceful and measured ideological intervention." Unfortunately, the West is ill-equipped to do so, due to its ongoing moral confusion. It is this that the Holy Father's efforts are ultimately designed to correct.

The West's valuing of the artificial control of fertility is a major part of this moral confusion, being inextricably linked with a devaluing of the human person as material only. Neither the view that people are material only (secular humanism), nor the view that people are God's playthings (Islamism), can lift humanity above that which can be manipulated at whim. As a consequence, both neo-Westernism and Islamism subscribe to the dictum, "The ends justify the means." By contrast, genuine Catholicism recognizes the irreducible transcendent value of every human person.