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Benedict Takes the Next Step with Islam | Mark Brumley | September 21, 2006
We're hearing calls for more dialogue with Islam in the
wake of the uproar following Pope Benedict XVI's remarks at the University of
Regensburg. Yet the uproar itself underscores the problem with such calls for
dialogue. How can you talk seriously with people when they're apt to react
violently as soon as you say something they don't want to hear?
Comparisons have been made between Pope John Paul II's
approach to Islam and Benedict XVI's approach. John Paul II had the luxury of
"warming up the crowd" when it came to dealing with Muslim leaders. He could
devote his energies to the role of Christianity's "good will ambassador" to the
Islamic world. By the time the attacks of September 11, 2001 occurred, John
Paul II's papacy was winding down. Even if he had wanted to pursue another
approach, he was hardly in a position to do so.
In the post-9/11 world, Benedict XVI has to get down to
business. Hard conversations have to happen. Difficult questions must be
raised. The uncomfortable task of addressing basic differences is upon us. The
status quo must change and someone has to move it along. That process was
accelerated at the University of Regensburg, when Benedict XVI challenged
the whole world to think seriously about reason, religion, and science.
The Pope's address was not mainly about Islam. It was
about the role of reason in religion and science. Benedict criticized
irrationality in religion, including the use of violence to further religious
ends, but his remarks by no means pitted Christianity against Islam or singled
out Islam. Christianity, too, he observed, has sometimes succumbed to
The trouble is, while most of Christianity has worked
through many of the issues regarding reason and the modern world, much of Islam
hasn't. That uncomfortable truth has to be addressed. "Moderate" voices in
Islam have to speak out forcefully--not against remarks such as those of Pope
Benedict, but against those Muslims who resort to violence, whether physical or
verbal, when people who hold other points of view defend those points of view.
What might a "moderate" Islamic voice have sounded like in
the recent controversy? "We appreciate Pope Benedict's remarks regarding
religion and reason. We do not agree with everything in his analysis, nor with
his manner of presenting it. We know that Pope Benedict did not intend to
embrace the remarks of the Christian emperor he quoted. We concur with his
basic point that violence is contrary to God's will for spreading religious
truth. We acknowledge that some Muslims today do not accept this. We are
embarrassed that they associate the religion of Islam with their violence. We
call on all Muslims to renounce violence. We call on them to accept the good
will of Benedict XVI and to use his speech as an opportunity to find ways for
Muslims and Christians to collaborate and to live together in peace."
That would have been a "moderate" Islamic response. The
fact that there were few such responses indicates the extent to which
"moderate" Islam has any influence in the world, especially in the Islamic
world. This is a fact that the violent, irrational replies to the Pope's
comments should compel reasonable people to acknowledge. It should also force
us to stop thinking our placid discussions with liberalized Muslims
in the West are likely to yield much fruit in the Islamic world at large.
People have criticized Benedict for not anticipating
criticism by Muslims. But the fact is, Benedict's comments shouldn't have been
seen as especially provocative. That Muslims took his words to be provocative
only demonstrates the necessity of his having to say what he said. "Woe to you
when all men speak well of you," Jesus said.
More dialogue with Islam? A much more important
conversation must take place--within Islam. Until it does, not even the Pope can get anywhere. Benedict has taken
the next, difficult step in the West's dealings with the Islamic world. He has
challenged it to think long and hard about itself. Only if leaders within Islam
begin vocally to push Benedict's point about faith and reason, about
irrationality in religion and its use of violence--and risk the hostility from
militant Islam that Benedict now faces--will the Pope and other non-Muslims find
worthy partners with whom to speak. Whether that can or will happen remains to
Is Dialogue with Islam Possible? Some Reflections on Pope
Benedict XVI's Address at the University of Regensburg | Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.
The Regensburg Lecture: Thinking Rightly About God and Man | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
Author Page for Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI
The (False) Tale of Two Popes | Carl E. Olson
Are Truth, Faith, and Tolerance Compatible? | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
First Musings on Benedict XVI's First Encyclical | Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.
The Encyclical: God's Eros Is Agape | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
On Reading the Pope | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
9/11 Revisited | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
The Molochs of Modernity | Dr.
Spartans, Traitors, and Terrorists | Dr.
Plato's Ring in the Sudan: How Freedom Begets Isolation of the Soul | Dr.
The Echo of Melos: How Ancient Honor Unmasks Islamic Terror | Dr.
Martyrs and Suicide Bombers | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
The One War, The Real War | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
Wars Without Violence? | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
Brumley is President of Ignatius
Press and associate publisher of IgnatiusInsight.com.
An former staff apologist with Catholic Answers, Mark is the author of How
Not To Share Your Faith (Catholic Answers) and contributor to The
Five Issues That Matter Most. He is a regular contributor to the
InsightScoop web log.
He has written articles for numerous periodicals and has appeared on FOX NEWS, ABC NEWS,
EWTN, PBS's NewsHour, and other television and radio programs.
the Insight Scoop Blog and read the latest posts and comments by
IgnatiusInsight.com staff and readers about current events, controversies,
and news in the Church!
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