The ongoing career of Larry Ratzinger, a.k.a. Joseph Summers

As I have been saying, virtually alone, from the start of the pope affair, it was a very ballsy thing Benedict did at Regensburg, to quote uncritically the emperor Manuel II Paleologos’s remark that everything Muhammad had brought was evil and inhuman. I indicated that if the pope wanted to make such a ballsy statement and was ready to stand behind it, I was ready to stand with him. But I recognized nevertheless that it WAS a ballsy statement. None of the pope’s mainstream conservative defenders acknowledged that. Why? Because they cannot admit to any aggression on our side, and they themselves don’t want to be aggressive. They just want to declare universal principles of democracy, at the very sound of which, they fondly believe, our Muslim adversaries will automatically convert to the ways of the West.

But the pope in fact was not prepared to stand by his stunning comment, and has been forced into one apology and retraction after another. The latest, as reported in a USA Today article that a correspondent has just sent me, is that the pope has emended the official text of the Regensburg address. In the original, the pope said that the emperor’s remark that Muhammad’s works were evil and inhuman was made “somewhat brusquely.” In the revised version, the pope says that the remark was made with “a brusqueness that we find unacceptable.”

As I’ve previously commented, I’m not bent out of shape about this clarification because there is no need for the pope to suggest that everything about Islam is evil and inhuman; it is not literally true, and it is needlessly provocative. The main point of his lecture was his penetrating analysis of the unreason and spiritual violence that reside at the heart of Islam. If he had stuck to his main theme, and omitted the quotation of Manuel, that would have been better.

But unfortunately, that’s not all. Benedict has also added a footnote to the emended lecture that reads:

“In the Muslim world, this quotation has unfortunately been taken as an expression of my personal position, thus arousing understandable indignation. I hope that the reader of my text can see immediately that this sentence does not express my personal view of the Quran, for which I have the respect due to the holy book of a great religion.” [Emphasis added.]

So, in the revised lecture, the pope says he respects the book that is the source of the spiritual violence he criticizes in that same lecture, the book that is the war manual for the submission and destruction of all non-Islamic peoples, societies, and religions in the world, particularly Christianity, the book that led to the defeat and liquidation of the Christian empire led by the tragic Manual II Paleologos.

Though this kowtowing is no different in kind from the 1965 Church declaration Nostra Aetate which honors Muslims’ adoration of the “one God,” as well as from Benedict’s own previous approving comments about Islam, I still feel a little sick, just as I did at the sight of former Harvard president Lawrence Summers begging for his job after he was attacked for suggesting that women may have less aptitude for science at the highest levels than men.

I’m not just being negative here. This discussion provides a lesson of deep consequence for the prospects of Western survival. Spokesmen for our side must not make excessive statements that they are not prepared to defend. That is not an argument against making strong statements. It is an argument for making sure, before we speak, that we are standing on solid ground and are prepared to ward off all attacks. What must come to an end if the West is to survive is the “kvetch and retreat” syndrome first identified by Rabbi Meyer Schiller, whereby conservatives make some gesture at opposing the other side or standing up for our own side, and then immediately abandon it and shuffle further backwards.

But what does it mean to stand on solid ground? It means to stand on non-liberal ground. As long as our own principles are liberal, as long as such liberal values as pluralism and tolerance, rather than traditonalist values such as nation and civilization, are our ultimate governing values, we will not be able to oppose liberalism and the liberalism-assisted takeover of the West by the Other. Mainstream conservatism is itself largely liberal. Only a belief system that is non-liberal at its core, namely traditionalism, can save the West.

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A correspondent points out that the pope did not denounce the content of Manuel II’s statement, only its “brusqueness.” So is this yet another non-apology apology? Oy vey.

Gintas J. writes:

I would suggest the pope has NOT been forced to apologize and retract. If he is a liberal as you’ve been showing, it’s his nature to do that, he doesn’t need to be forced.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 09, 2006 02:29 PM | Send

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