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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Robert Fisk’s World: Examine the Pope's words, and there's only one thing to conclude

So it's all the fault of the Pope's satraps. "Vatican advisers blamed for Pope's woes," I was informed by one headline. "A self-imposed cone (sic) of silence surrounds Benedict." And now poor old Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Benedict XVI, the solitary German who found himself manning an anti-aircraft gun at the end of the Second World War ("briefly" and "unwillingly", I know) has had some "harsh words" for his advisers because – according to the Vatican – he "had no idea of Bishop Williamson's views before lifting an excommunication order against him last month".

Well, there you go. But I bring all this up today because of a remarkable article by Ralph Coury, professor of history at Fairfield University, Connecticut, which appeared in the latest issue of the Institute of Race Relations' journal Race and Class. The redoubtable professor has combed his way through Benedict's Regensburg peroration, in which the Holy Father quotes the 14th-century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus as telling a visitor to "show me just what Mohamed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and human". God, the good Paleologus told his interlocutor, "is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body".

Coury's detailed critique of Benedict's mistakes – his apparent belief, for example, that there is a doctrine of jihad in the Koran – is compelling, but he has also unearthed some revealing interviews in which Ratzinger/Benedict reveals a lot more than he should have done about his own bias against Islam. "There is a very marked subordination of woman to man," he says of Islam in 1996. "There is a very tightly knit criminal law, indeed, a law regulating all areas of life, that is opposed to our modern ideas about society ... above all, Islam doesn't make any sort of concessions to enculturation (sic). Islam is Arab (sic), and anyone who becomes Islamic takes on this form of life."


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