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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Monday, September 18, 2006

And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss, And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross

The furor over the Holy Father's Regensburg address underscores the larger philosophical and theological battle between the West and Islam. At the heart of the battle is the nature of God and whether the human person is made in His image and likeness. One of the points of the Holy Father's speech is that the use of violence to spread religion is unreasonable; and being unreasonable, it is not of God. This is a stinging indictment of Mohammed and the Koran, especially where it indicates:

When the Sacred Months (of truce) are over, kill those who ascribe partners to God, wheresoever you find them. Seize them, emcompass them, and ambush them. Then if they repent and observe the prayer, and pay the alms, let them go their way.

Fight against those who do not believe in Allah, who do not proibit what God and His Prophet have forbidden, and who refuse allegiance to the True Faith--until they pay the tribute readily after being brought low. (Koran, Surah IX, 5, 29)*

Contrast this with the Church's approach to conversion and the human person. Yes, there have been anomalies in the past, but the Church's position on conversion is one that is respectful of the human person and his dignity. In a nutshell, it goes thus:

(1) The human person, endowed with free will, has a right--by virtue of his being human and made in the image of God--to make an act of faith. This [i.e., the will] cannot in any way be coerced.

(2) Likewise, the human person--having an intellect and a will--is created so that he might seek the true and the good--God. Hence Augustine's famous, "Oh Lord, our hearts are restless until they rest in You." Indeed, he is obliged to seek the truth and adhere to it once found. That being said, a human person has no right to adhere to error.

(See Vatican II, Dignitatis Humanae and Nostra Aetate. Likewise for a detailed analysis of the above two points see, Kevin Flannery, S.J., "Dignitatis Humanae and the Development of Doctrine" [especially in regard to the seeming contradiction between Pius IX's Syllabus and the Documents of Vatican II].)

Are we at an impasse with the Muslims on this one? To look at the Muslim diaspora, it seems that we are. Since the days of Jan Sobieski and the defense of the Gates of Vienna, things have been relatively quiet. No more. And what should we expect since the West has adopted a relativism that has cut the proverbial metaphysical ground from under our feet.

This last point was the preeminent message of the Pope's address.

*Text of the Koran quoted from John A. Hardon, S.J., Religions of the Orient: A Christian View (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1970)

UPDATE: Read Fr. Schall's insightful piece on the importance of "The Regensburg Lecture."