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My reading this breaks my rule that I won't read anything about anything the Pope says until I can see the full text.


Maclin, I think your link may need fixing.

Anyway, you'll get no argument from me.

You're right, thanks, it's fixed now.

Good policy, Janet.

It saves me a lot of hand-wringing and forehead smacking.


Catholics, more than anyone, ought to be able to be clear-eyed about Islam: both acknowledging its strengths and recognizing the danger it poses. We've been living with it for 1400 years. If only we could remember.

It's a valid point. Not only can those words be taken that way, the pope grew up in a culture that was created by them being taken that way. Not all Muslims now take "subject all nations" to mean "by the sword"; and some Christians in the past have taken "make disciples of all nations" to include "by the sword". So while conquest is inherent to Islam, we can't reduce it to that. There are aspects of political crisis and cultural background that feed into those readings becoming active and even paramount for some Muslims.

And this is a fairly direct paraphrase of what the Pope said in the interview (from my reading of the French original).

It seems to be the politically correct thing to do these days, compare radical Islam of today to "radical" Christianity of centuries ago (e.g. The Crusades). It does seem that to do so one must automatically place the radical Muslims into the context of being several centuries behind in their thinking, which of course they are, while living in the 21st century and having access to modern technology and weapons. But doesn't it just make them look worse and worse, that they continue to act in this fashion when western society is now enlightened (at least when it comes to violence and useless deaths)?

It's more a question of cultural and political context than of chronology.

Yes, Paul, it's certainly a valid point, etc., as part of a comprehensive discussion of the two faiths. And if that's what the pope was engaged in, good for him, and bad for journalists distorting him.

But it's also, taken on its own, a liberal cliche which establishes a false moral equivalence between what Christianity once did and what Islam is now doing. It reminds me of the people who took pains, after 9/11, to draw attention to the sack of Muslim Jerusalem by the Crusaders, strongly implying that we deserve to be hated for the sins of our ancestors, while utterly ignoring, for instance, the sack of Christian Constantinople by Muslims, not to mention the whole history of Islamic aggression against Christianity.

I'm not an expert, but from what I've read the mandate to conquer is pretty literal in Islam, and has to be "spiritualized", while it's the other way around with Christianity. It's a point you would expect a pope to make.

I've read the whole interview now and will back off some from my criticism. I've updated the post to that effect and included a link to the full text.

Francis says "conquest is inherent to Islam" and the newspapers present him as saying Christianity and Islam are morally equivalent. Benedict says it and there are anti-Christian pogroms across the Middle East. So much of this is about media spin that it isn't even funny, and the journalists seem to think themselves innocent.

There was a comparison of the Syrian civil war to the Thirty Years' War in Foreign Affairs a few months ago. It was shockingly, mind-bogglingly simplistic about the causes and course of the Thirty Years' War, let alone in how it drew parallels with Syria. Why do people have such a strong urge to do this?

Was the distortion in the direction of making Christian Europe look bad? If so that would be pretty typical--that weird Western impulse to think the worst of Western culture and history, and the best of others. I was about to say it's sometimes also simple ignorance, but then it hit me that you're talking about a magazine where you'd expect the writers to be experts.

"...the journalists seem to think themselves innocent." That's a puzzle. I think sometimes they are, in the sense that they are completely unaware of their own prejudices, and do what they do more or less automatically or instinctively.

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