17 September 2006 - Sunday

"God is not pleased," addendum

I suppose my previous entry failed to address, at least directly, the charge actually aimed at Benedict XVI by most Western critics. That charge seems to be simply that the inflammatory Manuel II Paleologus quotation was unnecessary, whether or not Benedict personally agrees with the Byzantine emperor.

Now, unless the pope is a liar, he does not agree with Manuel in thinking that Mohammed brought into the world only "things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." But since I cannot prove that the pope is not a liar, I will content myself with asking myself whether the quotation was necessary.

And I conclude that yes, it was necessary. Or rather, it was much more responsible of the pope to include it, in some form or another, than it would have been to exclude it.

In any kind of intellectual history, it is essential to understand what a thinker was arguing against in order to understand what he was arguing for. In this case, as long as Benedict wanted to highlight Manuel's argument for rationality and toleration at all (and I happen to think it was a cool thing to highlight), he had to place it in an historical context.

If he had not mentioned that Manuel II Paleologus was making a Greek and Christian argument against the ideas of a Persian Muslim, the pope would have done little justice to Manuel's thought. So I find it astounding that some otherwise historically-minded people are claiming that Benedict should have censored the upsetting bits out of his intellectual history.

Are there any other topics that a religious leader should shy away from when talking about the worldviews of past thinkers? Should we be making a list?

| Posted by Wilson at 17:59 Central | TrackBack
| Report submitted to the Humanities Desk