The whole idea of the Pope has always struck me as an archaic enigma. The notion that the pope has some kind of direction connection to the divine is about as plausible as god speaking direction to Pat Robertson or the George Bush. Typically, except for discouraging birth control in overpopulated nations, most of the pope’s pablum is harmless, at least until this week. The nice thing about the lack of kings and divinely appointed spiritual leaders in the United States is that when they do something extraordinarily foolish, one way of another popular will can and usually does ensure that they are replaced. Now a self-proclaimed infallible spokesman for God makes some very deliberate outrageous statements such as that Muhammad had brought the world only “evil and inhuman” things. Quoting the Emperor Manual II Paleologos of the Byzantine Empire, the emperors words were, he said:
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.
Of course he has already apologized. But as we say in court – you can’t unring a bell once rung. He apologized much like someone who isn’t apologetic might. He said that he was sorry for causing offense. He was sorry for the reaction. Its like saying “I’m sorry you feel that way,” instead of admitting error or taking responsibility. Instead, he should have said he was wrong and then listed what Muslims have done for the world and how things have changed in since the 14th century. But he won’t.
The last Pope made sincere, long term attempts at religious tolerance and bridging divides. Everything the last pope did was set back instantly by a few unwisely chosen words.What to do now? If this Pope was sincere about his apology he would have to follow in his predecessor’ footsteps. He would have to never again say anything that would make the world doubt that he did not believe his statement. He won’t do this – he has instead made a lame apology Aside from his lame apology he won’t make a concerted effort to reach out to the Muslim world. Sure, he will do some nominal efforts. It will be like him saying I can’t be racist, some of my best friends are black, Hispanic, Jewish, whatever other knee-jerk explanations racists use when their racism is unearthed. To put it another way, the Pope’s credibility has been destroyed and I doubt he will do that it takes to ever have it restored.
If the head of the Methodist Church, Episcopal Church or some other more democratic organization made such comments, even much more mild, he or she would resign before being ousted. The Pope should, but won’t do the same.