My dear friend Father George Rutler is pastor of The Church of Our Savior in New York. Last week he published the followig in the parish bulletin.
"September 24, 2006
"Many in the communications media, accustomed to sound bites, lack the ability to follow the reasoning of Pope Benedict XVI's brilliant lecture at the University of Regensburg. Some journalists misrepresented him, inciting fanatics who burned churches and killed and threaten worse. The New York Times, which defends films and art blaspheming Christ, demands that the Pope apologize to hysterical holdovers from the Bronze Age. Among the words excised from most reports of the lecture were those of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus: "God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. . . . Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence or threats."
"The Pope's lecture includes lines taken verbatim from Part II, chapter 2 of his book Truth and Tolerance which we have been selling in our parish book stall this past year, and which caused little comment until demagogues distorted it. The Times of London, to its credit, commented in a September 17 editorial that the Pope wanted to show the contradiction between religion and holy war. 'Violent conversion to any religious faith, or for that matter violent oppression of religious opponents, goes against God's Nature.' One immediately thinks of journalists kidnapped and ordered to convert to Islam at the point of a gun. Reaction to the Pope's lecture shows that a large number of Muslims are not interested in rational debate. The Holy Father was insulted, burned in effigy and threatened. It was an unfortunate sequel to demonstrations after the publication of Danish cartoons critical of Mohammed, which led to the massacre of over 100 innocent people.
"Our civilization is at stake. They are naïve who think that fanatics are not serious in their malice. Mr. Chamberlain thought Hitler might be reasoned with as a gentleman. After the Yalta Conference, President Roosevelt opined that under the surface Stalin might be 'a Christian gentleman.' Countless millions died because of those miscalculations.
"Last Sunday, the city authorities assigned police protection to our own parish because of feared violence from Islamic extremists demonstrating nearby. If God assigns particular people to be his witnesses in each age, we should feel honored that he had us conceived in this generation, to witness to his Gospel with reason and charity.
T"he London Times said, 'The clash of civilizations is not between Christianity and Islam. It is between those who favor open debate and those who think free speech is anathema. . . . The Vatican has said [the Pope] is very sorry his speech caused such offence to Muslims. That is fine but it should not go further than that. . . . As in the case of the Danish cartoons, Muslim zealots are trying to impose their restrictions of free expression on the West. Mindful as we should be of religious sensitivities, that cannot be allowed to happen."'"
Fr. George W. Rutler