Monday, September 18, 2006

Is Reasonablesness Fundamental to the Faith?

Pope Benedikt's address at University of Regensburg, Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections, has created a firestorm of protest. Perhaps a Financial Times headline caught it best: "Dry speech that snowballed around the world."

In his lecture to his old colleagues, the pope quoted a dialogue between a fourteenth century Byzantine emperor (Manuel II "Palaeologus" or "Ancient Reason") and a Persian Moslem scholar. Palaeologus's six hundred year old words offended some Moslems. Their extreme, even violent, reaction is tragically ironic.

Benedikt's speech is both a plea for reasonableness and a warning to the West against its exclusion of religion from public dialogue. The pope told the university faculty: "In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world's profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions.

"A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realms of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures."

Benedikt quotes Manuel II Palaeologos as an occasion for citing his ancient argument that "Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. 'God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably ("syn logo") is contrary to God's nature.' "

The extremists who burned churches and who martyred Sister Leonella (Rosa Sgorbati) seem intent on confirming Manuel II's accusations. They reject the pope's call for a dialogue between cultures based on the inherent dignity of man and his fundamental right to life. Perhaps must offensive to these blood lusting fanatics is the pope's own fundamentalism: the proposition that "reason" or "reasonableness" (the German word is "Vernunft") is fundamental to faith because "Not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature."

To link to the original text in German, click on the title of this post.