There has been a real turn in the press, which intially defended the pope, to one which has used the occasion of what has turned out to be a real papal gaffe to attack the pope in general (even Andrew Sullivan 9/20/2006, for whom I have the highest respect).
As a "liberal Catholic" I have all the same annoyance at this pope as the rest, but it still strikes me that this is just not fair.
1. The idea that Benedict XIV (let's all agree to drop Ratzinger - we always use Pontifical names, just like we always use royal names, whatever friends used) was signalling something is ludicrous. The pope has more ways to signal something than any other person apart from the US President. His weekly addresses from St. Peter's are repeated pro forma by the press throughout the world. If he wanted to begin an onslaught against Islam he would have done it there.
2. The pope in previous guise was a serious theologian. As Ratzinger he was one of the most important periti (advisors) at the Second Vatican Council, and in later years remained on good terms with those such and Hans Kung and Yves Congar who never lost the liberal label. I guess that this speech, although a key into his thought in some respects, was exactly what it appeared to be: a college presentation to Catholic intellectuals who hold to an ideal of Hellenic rationality in an era where Post-Modern thought has made such ideas old-fashioned.
3. The pope did right to apologize, not because he was wrong, but because his opponents were idiots who do not deserve to be empowered.
Why does a serious theologian dig up a 40 year old edition of an obscure Byzantine text to quote a "brusque" slam against the prophet which is entirely beside the point.
My current theory (a new one every time I think of this incident) is that the pope was thinking about two or more subjects at the same time.
I wonder what he does think about Islam? Besides the obvious inference that it's not as close to the the Truth as Catholic Christianity!
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