Sunday, September 17, 2006

Why the Pope is Right - Part II, The Media

Judging from the reporting in the media on the aftermath of the Pope's comments about faith and violence which included comments about violence in Islam, you would think that the media more than Muslims wants an apology from the Pope. It seems as if the media is joining "the Muslim World" in demanding an apology from the Pope and since its not getting one and is not going to get one it has made up one where there is none.

For two days I have surveyed the mayor news outlets in the U.S., Europe and Latin America and most of the headlines are attributing the Pope an apology he hasn't given and most likely won't give. Invariably they have translated the fact the Pope feels sad and sorry for the reaction of some Muslims to his words as the same as being sorry for what he said.

This Pope is a very intelligent man and he knew his words would have an effect as they have. He has illustrated the problem he wants to address by letting the fanatical Muslims illustrate it for him with their behavior. The Pope's address is meant for moderate Muslims. His words are to the effect that this is not the first time in history that the world faces the sword of Islam. He also makes the difference that the common love for God that Muslims have with other religions doesn't have to be trapped in the cultural times of Muhammad or of today. In other occasions this Pope has recognized good values in Islam and its practitioners.

Besides exposing the fanatics, the Pope is seeking a cultural dialogue, neither an ecumenical dialogue nor an interfaith dialogue. An ecumenical dialogue is truly only possible with other Christians. And although an interfaith dialogue can happen with other faiths, like Buddhism and Islam, interfaith dialogue is most fruitful with Judaism because it is the roots of Christianity and because we share saints, traditions and one basic faith and promise.

His words will spark more debate between Muslims than between Muslims and Christians. And this is precisely what this Pope is all about in his ministry to these times. Pope John Paul II faced a different world, one that was framed by the Cold War and the threat of atheistic Communism. There was a need for people of faith to unite before a common threat to religious freedom. Pope Benedict XVI faces a post-9/11 world where religious fanaticism threatens religious freedom.

In his recent lecture the Pope, as in other occasions, calls for a "clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation for violence, from whatever side it may come." Pope Benedict XVI sees Islam as a religion that is open to God and the violent trends in it as a matter of history. So his call to responsible Muslims is to reject those aspects that have to do more with human historical conditioning than with God's calling. And he is mostly concerned with mutual reciprocity in freedom of religion, especially in Muslim regions of the world where The Bible and the practice of Christianity is forbidden while Muslims throughout the Western world are allowed to freely practice their faith.

Judging from past coverage it looks like some in the media want an apology from the Pope to diminish his moral authority. The Pope has only said he laments the reaction of some Muslims but not what he said. And according to The Associated Press at least one Muslim spokesman interprets it correctly, "In Turkey, State Minister Mehmet Aydin said the pope appeared to be saying he was sorry for the angry reaction but not the remarks themselves.’ You either have to say this 'I'm sorry' in a proper way or not say it at all,' he told reporters in Istanbul, 'Are you sorry for saying such a thing or because of its consequences?'" Apparently, some people want to put the Pope through the same endless weeks of apologies they expect from politicians, especially conservative ones, went they commit a slip of the tongue.

These same group in the media has already given us a spin that the Pope has apologized. The proper translation of the word the Pope used in his statement "rammaricato" really means "lament", again for the reactions taken out of context, not for the truth contained in them. One can say to anyone, "It saddens me you feel offended by what I have said but what I'm saying is the truth." This is what the Pope has done.

But who do some in the media want to put through the grinder of serial apologies? They do not want an apology from Benedict XVI they want to catch Ratzinger, that's who. The New York Times editorially expressed this attitude very well: "A doctrinal conservative, his greatest fear appears to be the loss of a uniform Catholic identity, not exactly the best jumping-off point for tolerance or interfaith dialogue. 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 also heal." The New York Times confuses tolerance with pusillanimous agreement and interfaith dialogue with politically correct capitulation.

I do not expect the Pope to apologize for what he said, which is not the quote he used in his lecture as illustration of the attitude he is addressing in contemporary radical Islam, that violence in the name of God is irrational and goes against God. I think it will be too much to expect the media to expand on the Pope’s explanation that his lecture "in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect", not the superficial getting along that today passes for interfaith dialogue.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right on! The media has missed the message. Instead of reporting what the Pope said, they wrote what they were thinking but did not have the courage to print it.

9:33 PM  
Blogger José Alejandro Amorós said...

Thank you for your comments anonymous. The Pope is simply making clear to Muslims as well as to anyone interested, that Faith and Reason as gifts from God are not mutually exclusive. And yet that human historical conditioning and temporal circumstances do not exclude people of faith from having committed or still commit grevious moral errors. However, a rejection of rational conversation in matters of faith today in favor of violence is not only incompatible with the deep call for human unity toward God of all major religions but also incompatible with the transcendence of our historical limitations possible in a civilized and pluralistic world.

10:04 PM  

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