Posts Tagged “vatican”

The Pope’s journey to the Middle East was intended to help patch his relations with Muslims. But so far, Muslims haven’t been impressed … for reasons that defy common sense. AFP reports on Muslim clerics’ irrational dismay::

Pope Benedict XVI urged inter-faith reconciliation on the second day of a Holy Land tour but disappointed Muslim clerics by failing to offer a new apology for remarks seen as targeting Islam. …

Some clerics expressed disappointment however that the pontiff in his wide-ranging speech had made no new apology for a 2006 address in which he quoted a medieval Christian emperor who criticised some teachings of the Prophet Mohammed as “evil and inhuman.”

Let’s clear the air on the matter of Benedict’s supposed “insult” of Islam, before it gets too cluttered with insane rhetoric. In September 2006, the Pope delivered a lecture at a German university. It was a very long lecture about faith and reason, and about historical and present-day beliefs on the matter. In the midst of the speech, Benedict happened to quote a document written by the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaiologos (who reigned 1391-1425). This quotation was as follows:

Show me just what Muhammad 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.

These are the words that lit the torch of Muslim fury. However, not only were these not the Pope’s own words — they were the words of a long-dead Byzantine emperor whose beliefs about Islam were affected by the fact that his nation and Islam had been at war for some five centuries up to his time — the Pope did not say in the speech that he agreed with this sentiment. To the contrary, he stated that it was extreme; moreover, he noted that Manuel himself must have known better, since elsewhere the Emperor had shown an awareness of Qur’an passages stating, among other things, that religion cannot be compelled.

Nevertheless, Muslim fanatics weren’t about to let facts get in the way of their unbridled sanctimonious rage. Protests and violence ensued around the Muslim world. Churches were torched or bombed (including Anglican ones … apparently the mindlessly furious Muslims who attacked them had no idea that there’s a centuries-old schism between the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches and that the Pope has nothing to do with the latter). Property in many places was destroyed, and a Catholic nun was even killed in Somalia.

The truth, of course, is that the Pope did not insult Islam in his lecture. He didn’t come anywhere near doing so. The Pope may be guilty of many things … including making some rather wild and inaccurate statements … but he clearly got a bum rap over this particular lecture. Even now, the Muslim world still has not forgiven him for this imagined slight. Someday the Muslim clerics who still unhappy with Pope Benedict will grow up enough to see that he never actually insulted Islam … but that won’t be anytime soon. Certainly it won’t happen in my lifetime.

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… get out of the papal palace! Yes folks, Pope Benedict XVI is not happy. The source of his unhappiness? The backlash against him after he presumed to know more about epidemiology than actual credentialed epidemiologists. As I blogged previously, the Vatican is famously thin-skinned, so there’s no surprise. Here’s the AP report, via the Hartford Courant:

The Vatican says some negative reactions to the pope’s comments about condoms and AIDS during a trip to Africa were an “unprecedented” attempt to intimidate him.

Pope Benedict XVI said last month that condoms weren’t the answer to Africa’s AIDS epidemic and could make the problem worse. …

The Vatican said the pope’s comments were taken out of context and had unleashed an “unprecedented media campaign.” It says they were “used by some groups with a clear intent to intimidate, as if to dissuade the Pope from expressing himself.”

Actually I agree that — on matters that are not his to decide — the Pope should, in fact, not “express himself.” As an important, globally-known public figure, the Pope has a responsibility to measure his words and not just shoot off his mouth whenever he feels like it, on topics in which he has zero expertise. As Stan Lee has famously said (reflecting the words of FDR), “With great power comes great responsibility.” For better or worse, the Pope’s words carry great power. It is not wrong to expect of him — especially since he presumes to be the standard-bearer for morality in the occidental world — that he take care in how he exercises that power.

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The Pope recently made something of a public confession (if not a sacramental one) over the Williamson affair that I’ve blogged about a time or two already. CBS News reports on this unusual moment of papal candor:

Pope Benedict XVI has made an unusual public acknowledgment of Vatican mistakes and turmoil in his church over an outreach to ultraconservatives that led to his lifting the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying bishop.

In an attempt to end one of the most serious crises of his papacy, he said in a letter released Thursday that the Vatican must make greater use of the Internet to prevent other controversies. …

The Vatican has said that Benedict did not now know that British-born Bishop Richard Williamson was a Holocaust denier when he lifted his excommunication on Jan. 24.

Benedict, in an implicit criticism of aides, said that not searching the Internet for information before lifting the excommunications Jan. 24 was an “unforeseen mishap” that caused tensions between Christians and Jews.

What the Pope clearly implies here, even if he doesn’t say it in so many words, is that his own aides — who no doubt had been working on reaching an accord with the Society of St Pius X for a long time now — had failed to vet the Society’s members.

Now all that remains is for Benedict to re-excommunicate Williamson for having defied his order to immediately recant his claim that no one died in gas chambers in Nazi Germany (so far Williamson has not changed his position). We’ll see if he gets around to it someday.

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The Vatican is still smarting over its support for the Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson and is still highly sensitive to any criticism over the matter. A parody on Israeli TV has sparked outrage from the Holy See, because like little children, they cannot take what their own minions dish out (as reported by the AP):

The Vatican said Friday it has formally complained to the Israeli government about a private Israeli TV show that ridiculed Jesus and Mary in an “offensive act of intolerance.”

In Israel, the television station assured the Israeli foreign ministry that the segment would not be shown again and that its host, well-known Israeli comedian Lior Shlein, had apologized.

In the program, Shlein sarcastically denied Christian traditions — that Mary was a virgin and that Jesus walked on water — saying he was doing so as a “lesson” to Christians who deny the Holocaust.

It was a reference to the Vatican’s recent lifting of the excommunication of a bishop who denied 6 million Jews were killed during World War II. The rehabilitation sparked outrage among Jews.

Now that it is willingly harboring a known Holocaust denier, the Vatican is hardly in any position to whine about anyone else’s “intolerance.” Of course, the Pope could have demonstrated that he took the matter of Williamson’s Holocaust-denial seriously, by firing or re-excommunicating him … but to date he has refused.

Note to Benedict XVI: Turnabout is fair play. Deal with it … or not. The choice is yours.

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By now you’ve probably heard about the Holocaust-denying erstwhile-renegade Catholic bishop who, a few weeks ago, was reinstated into Catholicism by the Vatican, along with the rest of the group known as the Society of St Pius X. The SSPX (as it has been acronymed) was founded in opposition to a number of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, and therefore was an ultra-conservative group. The reconciliation between the Vatican and the SSPX last month had been the culmination of many years of negotiation and discussion.

Bishop Richard Williamson, originally from the UK but living and working more recently in Argentina (not coincidentally, Latin America tends to be ultra-conservative in its Catholicism, thus the SSPX had been at home there) has denied the Holocaust on multiple occasions, and very publicly. This speaks to the heart of the rift between the SSPX and the Roman Catholic Church, because one of the canons of II Vatican to which the renegades had objected, had been the doctrinal denial of collective Jewish guilt for the crucifixion of Christ. While the SSPX did not make much of this particular aspect of the Vatican reforms, it did acquire something of a taint of anti-Semitism nonetheless — an accusation which the group has denied, but cannot seem to shake, especially since the Holocaust-denier Williamson ranked so highly in their organization.

In its effort to reconcile with the SSPX as a group, the Vatican appears not to have investigated the individual members of SSPX, though, since it was caught off-guard over Williamson’s Holocaust denials. After a couple weeks of trying to act as if there was no controversy, the Vatican finally ordered Williamson to recant his Holocaust denials, as the Boston Globe reports:

The Vatican, facing the biggest controversy to confront the papacy of Benedict XVI, yesterday called on a bishop who has denied the extent of the Holocaust to recant his views. …

The Vatican’s action yesterday came in the form of a statement from its secretary of state’s office. The statement said that Benedict was unaware of Williamson’s comments — some of which were made recently on Swedish television, but some of which date back much further — when he decided to lift the excommunication. The statement also said that in order for the Society of St. Pius X to be fully reconciled with the Vatican, it must accept the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, which include the church’s renunciation of anti-Semitism.

Sounds good, but to date, Williamson has not done so, and is resisting having to do so, as Deutsche Welle reports:

A bishop recently rehabilitated by Pope Benedict XVI said he want to “examine the evidence” of the Holocaust before possibly recanting his statement that no Jews died in Nazi gas chambers, a German newsmagazine reported.

Even as Vatican officials were working to control the damage caused by Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to rehabilitate a Richard Williamson, a bishop who denied the Holocaust in an interview, with papal meetings and inter-faith dialogue, Williamson told Germany’s Der Spiegel news weekly he needed time to scrutinize data surrounding the Holocaust.

Note that this rhetoric is very typical of Holocaust-deniers. They frequently claim to have “examined the evidence” but they are simply not persuaded by it; if anyone gives them more evidence — they claim — they are certainly willing to change their views. Only they never do — no matter what evidence they’re given. Thus, they posture as though they are somehow “open-minded,” but never actually behave as though they are.

But Williamson was not directed by the Vatican to re-examine the evidence and reach a new conclusion; rather he was told explicitly and plainly to repudiate his Holocaust denials and reject anti-Semitism. He is not obeying the Pope. As a clergyman newly restored to the Church’s graces, it is a violation of his vows as a priest not to obey.

This in turn led SSPX to fire him from the seminary they’d set up, as the BBC reports:

An ultra-traditionalist British bishop who denies the Holocaust has been removed from his post as the head of a Roman Catholic seminary in Argentina. …

In a statement, the head of the Latin American chapter of the Society of St Pius X, which runs the seminary in La Reja, said Bishop Williamson had been relieved of his position as director.

My guess is that the SSPX, newly accorded with the Vatican, will dump Williamson altogether, unless he stops being a good little Holocaust denier, because right now the SSPX’s standing depends on his doing so.

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