Sunday, April 6, 2008

"Recruiting the Pope as a leader in the War on Terror"?!?

"Americans warm to Benedict—but they won't like everything he says" -- so says The Economist ("Don't all hug him at once" April 3, 2008), referring in particular to "Catholic conservatives":

But is it the real Benedict conservative Americans are hugging tight, or a caricature of him that they have sewn together? People are arguing already about the meaning of his appearance at the United Nations on April 18th. For liberals, this may be the time when the visitor gives right-wing admirers a cold shower by reminding them of the Vatican's opposition to the Iraq war.

Moreover, they point out, Benedict is a defender of a Catholic social doctrine, and an economic world-view, that in American terms sound quite socialist. And he will surely use his UN address to affirm his support for the world body, and more generally for multilateral diplomacy. “It's a stretch for the neoconservatives to recruit the pope as the leader of the war on terror, and it's also a stretch to associate him with the uncritical acceptance of capitalism,” says Paul Baumann, editor of Commonweal.

Trust me, conservatives like George Weigel and Fr. Neuhaus are well aware that Ratzinger, along with his predecessor, has disagreed with them on going to war with Iraq. However, conveying an appreciation for Benedict's emphasis on respect for religious pluralism by Muslims and denunciation of religious violence hardly constitutes an attempt to "recruit the Pope to head the war on terror."

Among the views which the Economist perceives as being offensive to Catholic conservatives is Benedict's hope for "a reformed Islam as a potential ally in challenging the 'dictatorship of relativism'".

The Economist might be suprised to learn that leading "Catholic neocons" Fr. Neuhaus, George Weigel and Michael Novak are no strangers to this hope. On the idea of Islamic renewal, Fr. Neuhaus has stated:

Yet more troubling is the message that Islam, in order to become less of a threat to the world, must relativize its claim to possess the truth. That plays directly into the hands of Muslim rigorists who pose as the defenders of the uncompromised and uncompromisible truth and who call for death to the infidels. If Islam is to become tolerant and respectful of other religions, it must be as the result of a development that comes from within the truth of Islam, not as a result of relativizing or abandoning that truth.
While some have posited the need for a "Muslim Luther", Weigel envisions someone along the lines of the Muslim equivalent of Leo XIII: "... a religious leader who reaches back into the deeper philosophical resources of his tradition in order to broker a critical agreement with Enlightenment political thought, and to shape his tradition's encounter with the economic and political institutions of modernity" (see Faith, Reason & The War Against Jihadism). And Michael Novak has entertained similar idea in The Universal Hunger For Liberty: Why the Clash of Civilizations Is Not Inevitable (2004).