Thursday, September 28, 2006

This inner rapprochement between biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history -- it is an event which concerns us even today. Given this convergence, it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. We can also express this the other way around: This convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe.

The Pope clearly feels that Catholics must engage in a cultural dialogue with non-Catholics. I think it's a good idea so I 'm re-starting this blog with that thought in mind. This time around, I'm going to be giving a greater voice to my own opinions. After all, we'll be talking about culture rather than truth claims.

I'm obviously proud of my culture. I'm an easy target for accusations of Catholic Triumphantism. I simply can't help myself. I love being Catholic, I love the Church and I love feeling this way. I hope you feel the same way about the culture you inhabit. If so, we should have a good time sharing our joy. We might even learn something new from each other.

I'm looking forward to a cultural exchange and I hope that there are others out there who are interested in this conversation.

+ Ad maiorem dei gloriam +

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

This is a really great article and, despite its title, it isn't about Islam. It's about the West
Socrates or Muhammad?

In Germany, Mozart bows to Mohammed
UPDATE: Muslims agree it was wrong to silence Mozart opera

Pope Benedict on ‘doubting Thomases:

"... people must find "the courage to say, 'I don't understand you, Lord. Listen to me. Help me understand.'
Christians have 'the right, so to speak, to ask Jesus for an explanation,' the pope said, and asking for further clarification 'is the true way to pray and speak with Jesus.'
Not only does this show that believers realize their own limited ability to understand God's greater plan, but it also demonstrates their faith in receiving 'enlightenment and strength' from God who can grant them, he said.

Mona Lisa was a new mother

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Public outcry forces church to keep St James the Moor Slayer's statue

Papal Address to Muslim Leaders and Diplomats

After the Pope's unsuccessful attempt at "Irish Diplomacy", perhaps the most sensible response to this tiresome and perpetual complaint is for the Pope to ignor it and for Catholics to start demanding some apologies ourselves.

Next time someone raises this issue with me, I might demand an apology. After all, the Vicar of Christ trumps all of the prophets. Does Mohammed have the power to bind and loose heaven? The Pope does.

Or maybe, I'll just borrow a line from "Charlie and The Chocolate Factory":
"You really shouldn't mutter. I can't hear you when you mutter".

The Pen, the Sword and the Pontiff
"Those who blame the man who speaks the truth as he sees it, instead of the man who commits murder in retaliation, would be wise to ponder well the moral consequences of their own words."

What Aussie Muslims must do for Christian minorities
"I challenged the tiny but loud minority of infantile Muslim protesters to siddown and shuddup or find another religion."

Monday, September 25, 2006

In Iraq, tens of thousands of Muslim men voluntarily stood guard around Christian churches at Christmas in the wake of threats of violence

Palestinian militants stand as protection in front of a Roman Catholic church

Muslim scholars in the United States and Canada plan to release a fatwa, saying Islam condemns terrorism, religious extremism and any violence against civilians, including suicide bombings.

Under the section titled The twofold symbolic weight of the killing of sister Leonella
As seen in the history of the Christian persecutions, this time as well the method was chosen of striking others in the place of the one who was indicated by so many voices in the Muslim world as the main target, namely Benedict XVI, and not only because the Italian religious sister was an easier victim The explanation is found in the memorable pages of the Japanese writer Shusaku Endo, which narrate the persecution of the Christians in Japan in the seventeenth century: some Jesuits, although they were ready to die to bear witness to their faith, were forced to commit apostasy by having the Christian country people subjected to torture before their eyes. A Christian can dispose of his own life, even to the point of martyrdom – and the countless Christian martyrs of the past century demonstrate this – but not of the lives of others: the killing and torture of other Christians paralyzes the real target of the aggressive action, it gags him, it prevents him from saying and doing what would be right for himself, until it impedes him from martyrdom. The Japanese case is the most sensational, but there have been other, similar cases, if one only reads attentively the lives of the missionaries of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: it’s enough to recall the Combonian missionary sisters who were held prisoner by the Mahdi in the Sudan at the end of the nineteenth century.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with my daughter when she was just a small slip of a girl. She kept asking me "do you love me more than..." Each time she asked the question, she raised the stakes until she finally asked if I loved her more than God. I don't think that she was surprised by my answer but a part of her was disappointed.

She pressed the issue and proposed the following scenario: Assumiing someone was going to kill her if I didnt say I loved her more than God, would I say I did or would I let her die. I told her that I'd watch her die. I also told her that, if our positions were reversed, it would be absolutely necessary that she confirm her love of God. I think she understood when I explained that this path was the only way we could be happy together in heaven.

I pray that if the time ever comes, we will have the courage of conviction. The really frightening aspect of martyrdom is that we might fail to be martyrs.

Interesting comments on the Pope's audience with Muslim leaders

The Pope And the Muslims

Pope Benedict speaks to ambassadors of Islam

But About Those Muslim Apologies?

The (False) Tale of Two Popes

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Benedict XVI, Faith, Reason and Islam: the Real Message

Iranian director to summon Castellio and Calvin in response to Pope’s remarks

So let me get this right. The Iranian's response to remarks by the Catholic Pontiff is to take on one of the leaders of the Protestant Rebellion against the Church...

go figure.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

On Inquisitions, Crusades and Apologies

Cross Is Sign of Love's Victory, Says Pope

Pope: Early Christians a Model for Parish Life

Vatican Museums and Catacombs Free for a Day for the Occasion of European Heritage Days.

Europe Must Show Young People Its Roots, Says Pope

Calm Follows Riots Sparked by Executions: Bishops Appeal for Order in Indonesia

Friday, September 22, 2006

Muslims Collect Money to Rebuild Burned Churches

A Must Read: FOCUS ON THE POPE'S SPEECH - A jihad on secularism

Lessons Learned: A Pope Not Just for Catholics

Pope to Meet With Muslim Envoys, Leaders

Pope Benedict has invited representatives of Muslim countries to meet Monday at his summer residence. The pope has been making efforts to open up a new dialogue with Muslim leaders after his words on Islam sparked anger and violence last week.

Swiss Minister Backs Pope

In passing: Morocco returns recalled ambassador to the Vatican

Where is the educated Persian to debate him?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Have we finally found an issue that transcends the Red State-Blue State divide?

Not if the NYT can help it!

EU Rallies Around Pontiff

We Hold the High Ground

"Pope John Paul II was fond of telling the Christian faithful 'Be not afraid' particularly as he wrote in his encyclical 'Splendor of Truth.' He preached about the dignity of human life, human rights, and freedom. He preached about moral courage and standing up for values. He preached accountability. And John Paul II lived that moral courage and held others accountable as he faced totalitarianism and communism.

Pope Benedict has spoken recently of reciprocity in Christian-Muslim relations - which has been refreshing to hear. His speech last week was also refreshing to hear. Muslims seem not to have the slightest concern these days of provoking the West - Christians or Jews. And our perceived fear of them emboldens them. Now is the time for courage, now is the time to stand up for right values, and now is the time for some accountability. Our response to the recent church burnings and the murder of a nun should be 'this is exactly what we are talking about when we preach against Muslim violence.' We preach 'be not afraid.' Now is the time to 'be not afraid' and to speak strongly with the courage of our convictions."

Read it in its entirety

To be honest, I do have a bit of sympathy for the 'Muslim street' reaction to the media reports on the Pope's address.

Here's why:

In one of the initial man-in-the street interviews, there was an incredibly ignorant islamic woman demanding that the Pope grovel before the islamic rage like some whipped 'infidel' cur. I just wanted to bitch-slap the fool and scream the kind of obscenities that pass for dialogue in the islamic world.

Fortunately, I was sitting in my living room and violence was averted. If I had been standing next to that woman, one of us would be dead. I'm not talking hyberbole here. One of us would have been dead.

My autonomic reaction scares the hell out of me. Not because I had that single experience but because I know that it is autonomic. Some beliefs are so viceral that the connection between offense and reaction bypasses the circuitry of the brain. For many, the Muslim belief that Mohammed is a prophet exists at this most visceral level. For many Catholics, such as myself, our belief that the Pope is the "Vicar of Christ Himself On Earth" also exists at this most visceral level. Play at this level and we really are going to be playing with fire.

Since that experience, I've been spending some "alone time", trying to de-sensitize myself to the blasphemous insults that muslims are hurling at my Pope and my Faith and my Culture. After all, the Church does frown on this type of behavior and encourages us... demands of us that we get over our 'bad' selves.

Give me enough time (say maybe twenty years) and I will have made the adjustment. I will be able to speak past the arrogant ignorance of such unholy fools. I'll even learn to laugh at them the way I do when folks accuse my Church of being the Whore of Babylon.

But today, is not yet that day.

We all know what offends muslims but it might be a good idea for muslims to learn what evokes that same visceral reaction in cultures not their own. It might also be a good idea if they too were to try to curb this autonomic instinct rather than to nurse it into a full blown sin.

I do understand the visceral response. However, by now, everyone must have had the chance to read the text itself, which is both measured and reasonable. The fact that muslims are still raging is an indication that this is no longer a matter of visceral reaction. It has become a temper tantrum.

If reasonable questions about islam can not be raised by non-muslims or can not be answered reasonably by muslims, then islam itself is the problem.

I'm beginning to lose patience: About 1,000 Pakistani clerics, scholars demand pope's removal.

"The "Pope, and all Infidels, should know that no Muslim, under any circumstances, can tolerate an insult to the Prophet (Muhammad).... If the West does not change its stance regarding Islam, it will face severe consequences."

Note to Islamic Jamaat al-Dawat:
It's well passed time that Islamic Jamaat al-Dawat and all muslims know that the Pope and Catholics simply aren't bound by their rules.

I respect another man's faith to the same degree that I respect his opinion that his wife is beautiful.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

In Indonesia, Three Catholics Want Their Execution Publc

Please join me in prayers to St Joseph that they might have a holy death.

I haven't a clue what this man's credentials are so I don't know if his opinion is worth anything but he has An Interesting Take on Jihad

Germans reconsider religion

Pope Benedict XVI's challenge to secularism meets with receptivity during his German visit.

Finally, Another Perspective on Pope Benedict XVI's Regensburg Address

Unlike the writer, I believe that the Pontiff was sending a message to both 'the West' and Islam. The Pope was telling both parties that Catholics are willing to 'sit down at the table'. He was also establishing the framework under which the dialogue of cultures might take place.

I think that the reason a lot of people fail to understand this is the same failure of imagination that Stalin revealed when he asked: "How many legions does the Pope have?"

People are so used to thinking in ecumenical terms that they sometimes forget that Catholicism is a distinct and vital culture with a single voice: Benedict's.

Even a lot of Catholics tend to forget this but when you consider the numbers we're dealing with...

Osservatore, Roman Mosque easing tensions


And just a reminder: Prayer and Fasting Are Weapons of Peace

Obviously, I've been reading a lot on the uproar around the Pope's remarks. How is it possible that "the West" doesn't "get it". Doesn't anyone realize that the Pope's strongest criticisms were not of Islam but of "the West"?


"The intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application. While we rejoice in the new possibilities open to humanity, we also see the dangers arising from these possibilities and we must ask ourselves how we can overcome them.

We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way, if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizons. In this sense theology rightly belongs in the university and within the wide-ranging dialogue of sciences, not merely as a historical discipline and one of the human sciences, but precisely as theology, as inquiry into the rationality of faith.

Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today. In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world's profoundly religious cultures
[which by the way includes Catholicism] see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions."

Muslim Reciprocity

Off topic but this is irresistibly funny

Catholics and Muslims: a common outlook

"A deeper reading of Pope Benedict's Regensburg speech suggests a message that Catholics and Muslims can share, says Ehsan Masood: that modern science must make room for theology.

The pope's lecture amounts to a defence of European Catholicism as a faith grounded in rationality. For Pope Benedict, this is a rationality that absolutely must include both religion and reason, and not reason by itself. In the course of building his case, he takes few prisoners. There is of course the example of his belief that Islam is an inherently irrational faith. The pope is similarly critical of those Christians who want to reduce his own faith to no more than a guiding framework for ethics and morality, sans worship and sans theology.

On both these counts, the speech ignores any evidence that might weaken the arguments being put forward, as Tina Beattie points out in her openDemocracy article "Pope Benedict XVI and Islam" (18 September 2006). But these are diversions on the road to the pope's main point, which is his critique of the relationship of science and religious belief. Moreover, this is aimed, not at Muslims, or Christians, but at the non-religious in the scientific community. Indeed, a deep irony is that the pope's reading of the state of science/religion relationship today will find many, if not most Muslims in agreement with his views....

Among the many ironies here is that Pope Benedict's speech could just as easily have been written by a Muslim, because it accords with mainstream Muslim views on science and faith. Many Muslims believe for example that faith should be integral to reason and knowing. Moreover, they believe that ethics and morality should include both faith and science as a frame of reference. Indeed, Catholics and Muslims at the United Nations are often on the same side during debates on issues such as how to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids. In addition, Muslims in common with Pope Benedict also believe that it is right to use reason to be able to understand God and creation.

Pope Benedict has wisely apologised for the offence that his speech caused. He chose not to say sorry for the content of what he said. Doing so would have made little sense as the target of his criticisms was science, and not Islam. Confusingly, however, the pope also now says that his speech was in fact a call for dialogue between cultures. It was in fact a call for dialogue between people of science and people of faith. But this chapter must now be closed. A more careful reading of his text by leaders of Muslim nations and by the media would have saved us all from the tragic events of the past week."

In Tribute to Benedict


"Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: 12 Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you. 13 You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house."


16 You have not chosen me: but I have chosen you; and have appointed you, that you should go, and should bring forth fruit; and your fruit should remain: that whatsoever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. 17 These things I command you, that you love one another. 18 If the world hate you, know ye, that it hath hated me before you. 19 If you had been of the world, the world would love its own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20 Remember my word that I said to you: The servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you: if they have kept my word, they will keep yours also.

21 But all these things they will do to you for my name's sake: because they know not him who sent me. 22 If I had not come, and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He that hateth me, hateth my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no other man hath done, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But that the word may be fulfilled which is written in their law: They hated me without cause.

26 But when the Paraclete cometh, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of me. 27 And you shall give testimony, because you are with me from the beginning.

I find it odd that so many people see the Pope's address in Regensburg as an attack on Islam and a papal alignment with the self-proclaimed West. I fail to see how it can be interpreted that way. Instead, I see an invitation to people from both "the West" and Islam to re-align themselves under a shared banner that embraces Faith and Reason.

Before the war... before the jihad... before the terror, it was the pride of Islam to declare itself a religion of reason to which reasonable men might give allegience. The Pope is simply asking the leaders and the people of Islam to renounce the accretion of violence that now has Islam in its stranglehold.

This is not to claim that jihad is alien to Islam. History alone would give the lie to such a statement. The question isn't whether violence is compatible with Islam. Rather the question is whether violence is essential to Islam. The Pope believes that Islam can renounce violence and yet flourish. But the ultimate answer to this question lies within the people of Islam.

An authentic "Western" response to the Pope's message requires a similar self-examination by "the West". It is so easy to claim that we are a people of peace. However, preemptive war and disproportionate response are not the actions of peace makers. Rather they are the inarticulate argument of fear. The sanitary art of dropping bombs is no less violent, no less destructive than the madness of jihad.

It was the Yesha Rabbinical Council which announced that “according to Jewish law, during a time of battle and war, there is no such term as ‘innocents’ of the enemy.” This statement eradicates any presumption of moral high ground that Israel might seek to claim. It is precisely the position taken by the Islamists. Nor is America exempt from the Pope's critique. As cardinal, he spoke against America's pre-emptive strike on Iraq.

The Catholic Church is not pacifist. Her history includes warfare and She has a well-defined Doctrine of Just War. The Iraq War simply didn't qualify under the Doctrine. Admittedly, the Just War Doctrine is a Catholic Doctrine and not one binding on non-Catholics. But it is also a reasonable doctrine developed over centuries and it deserves the reasonable consideration of reasonable men. Potentially, good reason might bind reasonable men.

Yet there is more to the Pope's clarion call. He invites both Islam and "the West" to a dialogue of cultures. In doing so, he specifically makes the argument that a form of "reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures."

To me, this is a key point of his address. As a Catholic, I have watched this conflict escalate. To be honest, though, I haven't felt that I have a dog in this fight. I'm in agreement with Buchanan's assessment that "we live not just in a post-Christian era, but in an anti-Catholic culture not worth defending or saving". I've hear the nonsense about the clash of civilizations and barbarians at the gate but it all rings hollow. After the Pope's lecture, I finally understand why.

The Church is the heart of Western Culture and without its heart, the West is just a dead man walking or if you prefer a more apt metaphor: a chicken without a head. It is an animated body with the life cut out of it, frantically acting out the final desperate dance of dying neurons.

And so, the choice to date has been between a culture of death and the death of culture. Neither seems like much of a bargain.

Now, with the Pope's speech, I've suddenly been given a seat at the table. Instead of a two-sided argument, it has become a three-sided discussion. Naturally, it's a discussion we might lose, but it is one worth having.

St Joseph, remember me in your prayers.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Just as there are Muslims demanding the conversion of our Pope under the threat of death, there are Catholics praying for the conversion of muslims with the promise of life.

Our Lady, Pray for us all

What a silly man

More calls for dialogue in a Muslim world angered by Pope

Not to act reasonably (with logos) is contrary to the nature of God," said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures. To rediscover it constantly is the great task of the university. - Benedict XVI

What the Christian Pope thinks about Islam matters to the Muslim world

". . . It was, therefore, to the Pope especially that so many Muslims looked up as to an impartial arbiter of fairness, as to a beacon of light amidst the gathering dark clouds of prejudice and hostility.

This is why it hurt them so much when they were given the false impression—by careless or manipulative media reports—that this was not so, that the Pope himself might have lent a hand to their detractors.

This is why it is now of such transcendent importance, so necessary and so urgent, that all of us in the Church energetically support the Holy Father himself, right now, in eliminating that terrible impression, and in restoring the image and reality of the Church as the Muslim world's respectful friend and partner in dialogue "about God and about all things in relation to God.""

Monday, September 18, 2006

I support the Pope

A Terrible Incident

Sheikh Muktar Robow, deputy security chief of Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia (SICS), said in a statement to Missionary International Service News Agency: "We condemn the killing of the nun. It was barbaric and contrary to the teachings of Islam."

Card.Toppo: “Face Islamic protests with truth, courage and prayer”

"I am not saddened by these protests: we have to face them with Christian courage and prayer because truth needs no defence."

Wasn't it Pope John Paul II thst reminded us "Be not afraid"?.

Last week, Pope Benedict quoted a 14th century empereor who asked "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." Granted this isn't the Pope's own opinion, but why don't Muslims have any answer (other than violence) to this simplest of all questions? If asked, what "newness other than evil and inhumanness" ancient Catholicism/Christianity brought to the religious conversation, any practitioner of the Faith could easily answer. Their answer would be sufficient to stir hunger in the heart of the questioner.

Catholicism/Christianity's contribution was that "God so loved the world that He sent His only Begotten Son; that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life"

If Islam really were the "Final Revealation", it's followers would have an equally concise and breath-taking answer. Apparently they don't.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Pope’s speech: lending Islam a helping hand to avoid a downward spiral

Rather than criticising Islam, the Pope is actually offering it a helping hand by suggesting that it do away with the cycle of violence. He also asks Islam not to leave the cycle of “Reason” or better still, he urges it to engage Christianity in a dialogue for reasons related to ethics.

"Faith, Reason & The University": Pope Benedict's Speech At The University of Regensburg

"Not to act reasonably (with logos) is contrary to the nature of God," said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures.