Monday, September 18, 2006

Personal Asides: What is This? “The Vatican” to Monitor the Pope? …Liberal Relativist Neil Steinberg Instructs Us on Religion.


The Vatican.

Correction: When in Matthew XVI: 15-16, Jesus Christ said to Peter, “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” He meant, of course, pending on the acquiescence of the Vatican’s p. r. office which shall have the right to bowdlerize Peter so as to not make waves or disturb the comfortable. That is what Saturday’s New York “Times” implies now that Benedict XVI has gotten into trouble with Muslims because of his remarks attesting to a conversation on the truths of Christianity between 14th century Byzantine emperor Manuel Paleologus II and a Persian scholar. Benedict, one of the most renowned biblical scholars and theologians of the West, quoted the Emperor as saying, “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” The pope now says he regrets the episode. Even that clarification was a mistake. The Muslims didn’t accept it. They burned churches and shot a nun. He has followed up with a profound apology. He shouldn’t have.

Benedict cited the quotation, saying that the doctrine of holy war and violence in the name of religion is contrary to God’s nature and to reason. A not very stunning conclusion. But since this truth has kicked up serious complaints in the peaceful religion of Islam “The Times” and some Italian newspapers, Vatican sources will have to be more vigilant about letting statements like Benedict’s go uncorrected…it being more important to pacify our hot-eyed bearded turbaned mullahs than to speak the truth. I am sure our own Catholic Senator Dick Turban—er, Durbin, would agree about his Pope.

The savviest commentator on Rome is John Allen of the “National Catholic Reporter.” He’s been an extreme theological liberal in his past due to the liberal newspaper he’s worked for, wrote a savage book on then Cardinal Ratzinger but then trimmed his sails and wrote another in favor of him when Ratzinger became Benedict XVI. Why? Some say it’s because Allen has moderated; others because as a good journalist he wants to ingratiate himself with his news sources.

Allen has just written that “any PR consultant would have told the pope that if he wanted to make a point about relationship between faith and reason he shouldn’t open up with a comparison between Islam and Christianity that would be widely understood as a criticism of Islam, suggesting that it’s irrational and prone to violence.” Heavens no. We don’t want that misconception to get out now that Islam has responded by burning down only a few churches and shooting only a few nuns in Palestine. That violence erupted after Benedict’s talk proves that Benedict should not have issued a regret. Some day some time we’re going to have to confront these guys and it could have been now. Only the day of confrontation has been delayed because of the Vatican PR office.

The fact is that Islam teaches that Muslims must wage war on non-Muslim states, that today’s jihad terrorists have the same motives and goals as Muslims who fought the Crusaders, that the Crusades were defensive forays and Muslim persecution of Christians has continued for 13 centuries and still goes on. It is also clear that Muhammad did not teach peace and tolerance but led armies and ordered the assassination of his enemies…that the Qur’an commands Muslims to make war on Jews and Christians…that what we know as the “Islamic world” was created through a series of brutal conquests of non-Muslim lands…that the jihad continues today with the outlook that unless curbed Europe could be Islamic by the end of this century…and that ex-Muslims live in fear even in the United States. And Benedict apologized—for what?


Neil Steinberg, the best feature columnist in the “Sun-Times” fills the marketing niche of the sophisticated and worldly wise upwardly mobile young urban male. His writing skill makes his column an interesting read. The other day it occurred to him that those who want prayer in the schools prefer only Judeo-Christian prayers not the prayers or worship phrasings of exotic religions. To him this insight seemed an inspiration. To most, it is commonplace.

He wrote his relativism the other day under the heading “Believers think there’s no god but their God.” Of course: that’s why they’re Judeo-Christian believers! So did the founders and those following them who endorsed voluntary prayer in public schools. He continues: “Those who support prayer in school, for instance. They don’t really want prayer in school. They don’t really want little Kiki burning incense and little Haji offering bread-fruit to the great god Gamesh.” Is this what he suggests the Declaration meant? Deist Thomas Jefferson wrote that “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator…”

Jefferson’s use of the word Creator stamps him as one who supports the tradition view of Creator as First Cause. Along came the Warren Court, which, influenced by Hugo Black who wrote that even secular humanism is a religion, not withstanding that it does not believe in God. That was a flat contradiction to the first charter of our liberties. If he were better-schooled, Steinberg would tell us in his column that Black’s nihilistic view is to be preferred over Jefferson’s in the Declaration. Black’s view is highly unorthodox for his time and ours. But were he to do this, Steinberg would be different from his heavy-weight colleagues: Debra Pickett, Stella Foster and Richard Roeper.

But the fight to return to the old verity goes on. Those who believe in the God Jefferson described have the right to insist that voluntary prayer—not forced prayer—not be abrogated in public schools because some like Steinberg believe either in no God or that any belief is of equal stature. Not as the U. S. was originally constituted, sorry. That doesn’t mean that there’s no room for dissent but does mean that the Founders’ God can be voluntarily beseeched without harming the Constitution…and will be again when the goofy Warren court’s nihilism can be rectified. Steinberg doesn’t understand the historical significance or obviously hasn’t read Black (a former Klansman whose membership was revealed when, as Alabama senator he was up for confirmation to the Court).

But let us not be too tough on Steinberg, the best feature writer in this city’s liberal Democratic newspaper of record. He has courage, is gifted, is sometimes perspicacious and also writes good jokes.


  1. Tom,

    Are you saying that students can't voluntarily pray in schools today? If so, then I'm a bit surprised based upon my own experience while growing up going through the public school system.

  2. Mr. Steinberg was quite on target today, don't you think? Excerpt follows:
    "Notice how when Pope Benedict XVI made some remarks that could be seen as maligning Islam, the blow-back was on any convenient Christian institution. Some of the churches burned in the West Bank and Gaza weren't even Catholic.

    "This should remind us that hatred is not a rational system of thought. We might decry the loss of civilian life during Israel's recent campaign in Lebanon, but what they were trying to accomplish -- stop the people shooting missiles at them -- is a big leap away from what segments of the Arab world have been doing this week: lashing out at innocent neighbors, pressing them into service as proxies for ire sparked by an innocuous comment made by a distant leader of a different religion altogether."
    And the Pope did not apologize -- to his credit. His "regret" was for the Muslim "reaction."

    I read the full speech over the weekend. His Holiness could have picked a better way to get into his eventual topics -- but having given the quotation, he might at least have told us how the Persian responded to the Emperor's question.