Lightning strikes the Vatican after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI
Dante Alighieri took a dim view of Papal resignation, consigning Pope Celestine V, who resigned his office after serving only five months in 1294, to the anteroom of Hell.
Virgil describes the residents of that region of the Underworld:
Questo misero modo
tegnon l’anime triste di coloro
che visser sanza ’nfamia e sanza lodo.
Mischiate sono a quel cattivo coro
de li angeli che non furon ribelli
né fur fedeli a Dio, ma per sé fuoro.
Caccianli i ciel per non esser men belli,
né lo profondo inferno li riceve,
ch’alcuna gloria i rei avrebber d’elli. ...
Poscia ch’io v’ebbi alcun riconosciuto,
vidi e conobbi l’ombra di colui
che fece per viltade il gran rifiuto.
“This miserable state
Holds the sad souls of those
Who lived without infamy or praise.
Commingled are they with that caitiff choir
Of Angels, who have not rebellious been,
Nor faithful were to God, but were for self.
The heavens expelled them, not to be less fair;
Nor them the nethermost abyss receives,
For glory none the damned would have from them.” ...
When some among them I had recognized,
I looked, and I beheld the shade of him
Who made through cowardice the great refusal.
The (regarded by the Church, and scholars generally, as apocryphal) Papal Prophecies allegedly received in a vision by St. Malachy, 12th century Bishop of Armagh, interestingly predict that there will only be one more pope after Benedict.
The next pope will preside over the Church in a time of persecution. The city of Rome will be destroyed, and the Last Judgment will arrive.
The prophecy says (in Latin):
In psecutione extrema S.R.E. sedebit.
Petrus Romanus, qui pascet oues in multis tribulationibus: quibus transactis ciuitas septicollis diruetur, & Iudex tremendus iudicabit populum suum. Finis.
“In the extreme persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will preside. Peter the Roman, who will pasture his sheep in many tribulations: and when these things are completed, the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the terrible judge will judge his people. The End.”
I thought I was pretty much the only pedant likely to know about the Prophecies of St. Malachy, but I found that the Irish Central was up on all this, and actually beat me to the punch in informing contemporary mankind on the world’s imminent end.
Jean-Léon Gérôme, Next Year at Airline Security, 1867, private collection.
I was appalled by the reactions of my classmates to news that the officialdom was responding internationally to the failed Christmas Eve underwear bombing by adding electronic strip searches to the pointless forms of harassment and humiliation inflicted on ordinary citizens of Western countries, in order to avoid singling out for special attention exotic representatives of the backward and benighted regions of Barbaria where the teachings of Mahound commonly inspire fanatical intolerance and a lust for blood.
There were all kinds of crude jokes about how trivial issues of personal modesty are by comparison to safety, and how happy they all would be to stripped completely naked in mixed company in order to avoid injury or death. This from a bunch of men over 60, who in general, doubtless, have plenty of reason for personal objection.
I thought myself that this particular measure represented a particularly apt metonymy for a number of the objectionable aspects of the contemporary liberal perspective: the eager submission and thoroughgoing surrender of everything, including personal dignity and privacy, to official authority; the elevation of egalitarianism to a position of absolute supremacy over any and every other value; cowardice and materialism; and limitless obeisance to the Other, combined with a complete disregard for either female modesty or human dignity.
The Telegraph reports that at least one modern leader actually is on the record objecting to the new full body scanners.
The Pope made his comments during an audience with airport workers held at the Vatican.
Although the Pontiff did not mention the words body scanner it was clear what he meant as he told the 1,200 strong crowd: “Every action, it is above all essential to protect and value the human person in their integrity.
“Respecting these principles can seem particularly complex and difficult in the present context.
“The economic crisis has had problematic effects on the civil aviation sector, the international terrorist threat which, precisely, has in its line of fire airports and aircraft to realise its destructive schemes.
“Even in this situation, one must never forget that respecting the primacy of the human person and attention to his or her needs does not make the service less efficient nor penalise economic management.”
Militant muslims planned a coordinated hacking attack last week on the Pope’s web-site, as yet another expression of Islamic indignation at the Pope’s recent speech arguing that religious faith cannot be legitimately coerced.
Not altogether surprisingly, in this technological battle between a reactionary Western institution embodying the outlook of the Scholastic Middle Ages and adherents of the backward cult clingng to the moral and cultural values of the Middle Eastern Dark Ages, the former won. As at Tours in 732, as at Jerusalem in 1099, as at Lepanto in 1571 and Vienna in 1683, the green crescent flag went down in confusion and defeat before the Cross.
Lee Harris, in the Weekly Standard, interprets the Pope’s recent speech (which so thoroughly upset the Saracens) as a message to the modern rationalist secular community of the West.
To the modern atheist, both (the Christian and the Islamic) Gods are equally figments of the imagination, in which case it would be ludicrous to discuss their relative merits. The proponent of modern reason, therefore, could not possibly think of participating in a dialogue on whether Christianity or Islam is the more reasonable religion, since, for him, the very notion of a “reasonable religion” is a contradiction in terms.
Ratzinger wishes to challenge this notion, not from the point of view of a committed Christian, but from the point of view of modern reason itself. He does this by calling his educated listeners’ attention to a “dialogue—carried on—perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara—by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both.” In particular, Ratzinger focuses on a passage in the dialogue where the emperor “addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness” on the “central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: ‘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.’”
Ratzinger’s daring use of this provocative quotation was not designed to inflame Muslims. He was using the emperor’s question in order to offer a profound challenge to modern reason from within. Can modern reason really stand on the sidelines of a clash between a religion that commands jihad and a religion that forbids violent conversion? Can a committed atheist avoid taking the side of Manuel II Paleologus when he says: “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 and threats. . . . To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death.”
Modern science cannot tell us that the emperor is right in his controversy with the learned Persian over what is or is not contrary to God’s nature. Modern reason proclaims such questions unanswerable by science—and it is right to do so. But can modern reason hope to survive as reason at all if it insists on reducing the domain of reasonable inquiry to the sphere of scientific inquiry? If modern reason cannot take the side of the emperor in this debate, if it cannot see that his religion is more reasonable than the religion of those who preach and practice jihad, if it cannot condemn as unreasonable a religion that forces atheists and unbelievers to make a choice between their intellectual integrity and death, then modern reason may be modern, but it has ceased to be reason.
Visiting the University of Regensburg, where he used to teach from 1969 to 1977, Pope Benedict XVI gave a speech in which he reflected on the Christian tradition of rational theology, and the incompatibility of religious coercion with Reason.
The Pope’s quoting of a comment on Islam made by a 14th century Byzantine Emperor has, again, produced the (at-this-point only too familiar) world-wide temper tantrums on the part of the community of turban-wearers.
Pakistan summoned the Vatican’s ambassador to express regret over the remarks, as parliament passed a resolution condemning the comments
The head of the Muslim Brotherhood said the remarks “aroused the anger of the whole Islamic world”
In Iraq, the comments were condemned at Friday prayers by followers of radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr
The “hostile” remarks drew a demand for an apology from a top religious official in Turkey
The 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference also said it regretted the Pope’s remarks.
What the Pope actually said was:
It is a moving experience for me to be back again in the university and to be able once again to give a lecture at this podium…
..even in the face of such radical scepticism it is still necessary and reasonable to raise the question of God through the use of reason, and to do so in the context of the tradition of the Christian faith: this, within the university as a whole, was accepted without question.
I was reminded of all this recently, when I read… of part of the dialogue carried on – perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara – by the erudite Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both.
In the seventh conversation…the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, 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 emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. “God,” he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats.”
The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality.
At this point, as far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we are faced with an unavoidable dilemma. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God’s nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true?
Apologize, my eye. What the Pope ought to do is what Pope Urban II did, and call upon the people of the West to defend Civilization against the insolent aggression of Islamic barbarism, instructing them that God wills its defense. Deus vult.