Friday, September 22, 2006

More apologies? Enough Already!

International Herald Tribune

Some say apologies by pope are too much

By Ian Fisher
The New York Times

Published: September 20, 2006

VATICAN CITY Muslims angry about Pope Benedict XVI's remarks on Islam are not the only ones talking about an apology.

"What should he apologize for?" asked Daniele Corbetta, 43, a psychologist in Rome. "There is freedom of speech, and what he said is objectively true."

There was, without doubt, a low-grade seething where Corbetta stood, amid thousands of pilgrims and tourists, in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday as the pope again addressed his quoting a medieval emperor who called Islam "evil and inhuman."

Three days after saying he was "very sorry" about the reaction to his remarks, delivered last week in Germany, Benedict sought to clarify again.

"This quotation, unfortunately, was misunderstood," the pope said, alluding to days of protests and attacks on churches by offended Muslims. "In no way did I wish to make my own the words of the medieval emperor.

"I wished to explain that not religion and violence, but religion and reason, go together," he said. He added that he hoped he had made "clear" his "profound respect for world religions and for Muslims."

But in the crowd here, and around other parts of the world that are not Muslim, there were many voices like Corbetta's, saying that the pope does not need to keep clarifying himself. Perhaps, many say, he should have been more diplomatic in his choice of quotes in his speech.

But, in a strong counterreaction to the strong Muslim reaction, many Catholics and other non-Muslims say Benedict stood out from other world leaders, in these tense times, by speaking about violence and Islam - and that the violent reaction to the remarks simply proved his point. In fact, some say the issue may define his papacy.

"It's about time that somebody from the western, Judeo-Christian religions finally came out stating that some of the teachings of Muhammad are used violently," Steven Gottesfeld, 40, an American Jew who attended the pope's weekly audience with his Catholic wife, Patricia.

For many Catholics, Benedict's speech - for all its complexity and all that remains unclear about what he meant to say - marked a turning point in this papacy and, perhaps, a historic moment of clarity: that just as his predecessor, John Paul II, played a key role in ending communism, supporters say that Benedict's role may be to speak out against radical Islam.

As such, many supporters of the pope say that he should not issue the further apology that many Muslims are demanding. For many far afield from the Vatican, using the words "very sorry" on Sunday already gave the impression of retreat.

"It just seemed to me that by apologizing and backing away a little, he was encouraging more of the violence and anger on the streets," said Edward Morrissey, 43, who this week posted an anguished "open letter" to Benedict on his popular blog, Captain's Quarters, which often addresses Catholic issues urging him not to apologize more.

"It's the nature of radicalism that if you give an inch, they will take a mile," he said in a telephone interview from Minnesota, where he blogs and works as a call center manager. "That's why I wanted to say: Don't go any further."

See also yesterday's post from Edward Morrissey, "The Futility Of 'Clarifications'" on his blog, "Captain's Quarters".


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