The damage is done. Ratzinger makes a comment contrary to where the Church stood before and then apologizes. Vatican could perhaps get distressed and spin it in any way it can to save face but the cost will be measured in American lives.
For my religious friends here are some inconvenient facts:
1) In a sort of evolutionary conspiracy, clerics of the Western world for some time have realized the fact that all religions are engaged in a common spiritual fight against a rising secular world. The Vatican went so far as to declare in 1962 that Islam has given the world important truths about God and Jesus (and other religious mumbo-jumbos). This is despite the fact that Islam does not recognize Jesus as the son of God and denies crucification.
2) More than a quarter century later (under JP2) in the aftermath of the Rushdie affair, the Vatican was holier than Khomeini — the holiness who issued the fatwa to murder Rushdie. I am not fond of Rushdie myself but I do deeply care about his freedom of expression and his right to express himself without physical threats to him. In 1989 Vatican’s mouthpiece L’Osservatore Romano, criticized Rushdie and Cardinal O’Connor of NY urged Catholics not to read the book and Cardinal Decourtray of Lyons called Rushdie’s book an insult to religion. Clerical interest was put ahead of the fact that murder (of Rushdie) is an UNchristian act!
3) Unfortunately, even the prominent rabbi Avraham Shapira wanted the book banned for he realized that if Islam is attacked today, tomorrow it will be some other religion (his own perhaps). Furthermore, the Archbishop of Canterbury sympathized with Muslims’ “hurt feeling” … “outrageous slur on the Prophet.”
Folks, you may be unaware of all this but the Holy Terrorists of Islamic world are quite aware of the debate within Christian world and Christian clergy’s sensibilities. They may be bigoted but they are not stupid. As such, Ratzinger was hardly the right person to start this “dialogue of civilization and cultures” that Khatami is currently promoting in Harvard and at the National Cathederal. I was shaking my head in disbelief when I watched Peggy Noon proclaim that his holiness (the Pope) did a service to us by starting this dialogue. For the bigots of Islamic world “dialogue” does not mean the same thing that it does for the readers of this blog. For them dialogue means that the Western world (particularly the US) apologize for all the real or perceived sins of the White man’s past. In other words, it means moral capitulation by the West. In the past few days they saw Ratzinger “commit a crime” against Islam and then the apology is the kind of “dialogue” that they are looking for. But I assure you that the apology will not satisfy these people and in their crooked minds they see the US soldiers as latter-day Crusades marching to the tune of Ratzinger. You may laugh at such notion but the military target of Ratzinger’s puerile apology will be US soldiers and American citizens abroad and perhaps even at home.
This war against bigotry will be fought in many different types of battlefields, some of which we do not like but which we can NOT retreat from. As such, here is my recommendation on how to conduct a “dialogue of civilizations”: Have GWB clearly tell Iranians that their nukes are against our interest when he goes to the UN next week. Then send Condi Rice to Tehran to be very clear on where we stand. Give them a week or two and if they do not kowtow to our wish send two or three carrier groups to the Iranian shores. GWB is already known as a “shoot now ask later” type of cowboy to the Islamic world. I think this is a good thing as it establishes US’s credibility. Then watch on how frantically Iranians will start accommodating. And we should not be afraid of using those military assets because we will lose our credibility Ratzinger-like within days. Ratzinger and the institution he represents only morally arm our enemies and I am quite sure that a few fanatics who had second thoughts about killing themselves in suicide bombings have been convinced of the righteousness of their cause.