CNN reports on a brewing controversy involving the Vicar of Christ on Earth, Pope Benedict XVI. In a recent speech in Germany,
Benedict quoted 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus who said, "Show me just what Mohammed 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."
Islamic critics responded along these lines:
"The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) regrets the quotations cited by the pope on the Life of the Honorable Prophet Mohammed, and what he referred to as 'spreading' Islam 'by the sword,'" a statement released by the OIC on Thursday said.
"The attribution of the spread of Islam around the world to the shedding of blood and violence, which is 'incompatible with the nature of God' is a complete distortion of the facts, which shows deep ignorance of Islam and Islamic history."
(Cough, cough, Steve Centanni, cough.)
But wait, Benedict wasn't even talking to Muslims, said a spokesman. Rather, the pontiff was talking to irony-addled Westerners:
According to Lombardi, Benedict's speech was "a warning, addressed to Western culture, to avoid 'the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom.'"
Equal time for the real and imagined bill of particulars against Roman Catholics, in easy to read comic book form.
Possible feel-good way around this: Joint ritual sacrifice of all Catholics and Muslims involved in producing Kingdom of Heaven.
This is as good a time as any to remember Roger Williams, the great colonial American figure and visionary when it came to secular government and religious toleration. Williams was preaching "soul liberty" for all people, "paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or anti-christian" at a time when his pal John Milton was pointedly excluding Catholics in his defense of a free press, Areopagitica.