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The incompatibility of violence and religion spans the ages
9/22/2006 9:17:00 PM - Bishop Thomas Doran, Diocese of Rockford IL
Pray for the Holy Father. It will not come as a surprise to any regular readers of this column or this paper that Pope Benedict XVI brings to the papacy extraordinary gifts of mind and heart. He was that rare breed of university professor who was both respected and loved by his pupils during a long academic career which spanned three decades. He has written works that are now used as textbooks in our better seminaries and theological schools.
On the occasion of his recent visit to his native Germany, he discovered what it is to be "rabbit punched" by our beloved American press. Any who write will know the feeling. Some weeks ago I wrote a column in this space which was promptly and wrongly interpreted by a regional secular newspaper which missed the purpose of the article, the intent of the article, and the argument of the article.
Anyone who uses the American media with any frequency will understand that increasingly its function is not to report the news but to make it. A case in point is the Holy Father's speech at the university at Regensburg in Germany on Sept. 12, 2006. The Holy Father's subject in his speech was delivered to an audience of genuine academics, such as we do not often see in this country, and the question the Holy Father was answering, it seems to me, was this: Can we know God, at least somewhat, through the use of reason in the context of our Christian faith?
Now, anyone as young as I am will remember the Catechism question: "What is Man?" Answer: "Man is a creature composed of body and soul and made in the image and likeness of God." This likeness is found principally in the soul with its faculties of intellect and will, knowing and loving.
It is true that the wondrous knowledge we have of God comes largely through His self-revelation to us in the scriptures, and especially in the marvelous religious personality of His son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, called the Incarnate Word because He is God's word to us "made flesh," and he dwelt among us.
Compared to God's intellect and will, ours are puny. But we can have a little bit of knowledge of God from our natural reason, our intellect, because we are made in the image and likeness of God who is pure intellect and will. The difference between God and us is vast, but there is this similarity between God and ourselves that we know and love in the same sense that He knows and loves, even as we acknowledge that He is infinite and we are limited. From this limited knowledge - putting aside the wonders that we know about God from revelation - we can say that our God is one and true and good because these are transcendental properties of being and are shared somehow by all that is. Between us and God there can be knowledge and love.
For the Muslims this is not true in quite the same way. They believe that God is so far above creation that the only posture of the creature toward the creator is submission. God is not even held to fulfill His promises. We say in the Act of Hope, "Relying on your infinite goodness and promises, I hope to obtain pardon for my sins, the help of your grace and life everlasting." For the Muslim, God is so utterly and completely apart from us that there is no communication or communion beyond that of utter submission.
Turning to what the pope said, he pointed out that Mohammed's command to spread Islam by the sword is contrary to the nature of God. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. The Holy Father quoted a Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Paleologus: "God is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably ... is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats."
Later on Pope Benedict says that: "For Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. ... So that God is not bound even by His own word ... nothing would oblige Him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice idolatry."
Now you can see that this is an argument best handled by academics. It is not something that can be plucked out of context by a reporter, sensationalized and then sold to the "Arab street." To do what the press has done - to take two lines out of a six-page, single-spaced erudite lecture and retail them as typical of the whole - is, to put it plainly, a cheap shot to which people of good will do not stoop.
You have no idea how painful it is for someone of Irish and German ancestry to have to say that the London Times got it right when we missed it, but it is true. In the Sunday Times for Sept. 17, 2006 this quite correct analysis appeared:
"The emperor's words (that is the words quoted by Pope Benedict), taken at face value certainly look explosive ... The point was to illustrate the fundamental contradiction between religion and holy war. The same contradiction, as any Muslim interested in debating the issue could point out, applies to Christianity. Violent conversion to any religious faith, or for that matter violent oppression of religious opponents, goes against God's nature."
The Times concluded its article with these words: "The Vatican has said he (Pope Benedict) is very sorry his speech caused such offence to Muslims. That is fine but it should not go further than that. He should certainly not be pushed into withdrawing his remarks. As in the case of the Danish cartoons, Muslim zealots are trying to impose their restrictions of free expression on the West. Mindful as we should be of religious sensitivities, that cannot be allowed to happen."
Bishop Doran is a native of Rockford. He attended St. James Catholic Grade School, Campion High School, Loras College and St. Pius X Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa .
Upon his graduation in 1958, he was assigned to Theological Studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome by then Bishop Loras T. Lane, Bishop of Rockford. Ordained to the priesthood on December 20, 1961, he finished his studies and was awarded a Licentiate in Sacred Theology in 1962. Upon his return to the Diocese of Rockford, he served in many administrative, judicial and pastoral areas until 1975. Bishop Doran returned to Rome to complete a doctorate in Canon Law from 1975-1978. On returning to the Diocese he again served many administrative areas, most especially as Chancellor, Judicial Vicar, Vicar for Catholic Education and Rector of the Cathedral of St. Peter until 1986.
In the Spring of 1986, the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, appointed him to be Prelate Auditor of the Roman Rota in Rome. He served on the Roman Rota until his appointment as Bishop of Rockford in April of 1994. Bishop Doran was ordained and installed as the Eighth Bishop of the Diocese of Rockford on June 24, 1994. On September 2, 2000 the Holy Father recognized the Diocese of Rockford and Bishop Doran by naming him a member of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. On March 2, 2001, Pope John Paul II named Bishop Doran a bishop member of the Congregation for the Clergy.
Bishop Doran currently serves on the following Committees and Boards:
Chairman of the USCCB Canonical Affairs Committee
Administrative Committee of the USCCB
Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse of Minors
President of the Institute on Religious Life
Board of Catholics United for the Faith
Trustee for The Catholic University of America
Bishop Doran previously served on the following Committees and Boards:
Subcommittee to draft the US Bishops' application of plan to implement Ex Corde Ecclesiae
Consultant to the Ad Hoc Committee to Oversee the Use of the Catechism
The subcommittee to study the Interdicasterial Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests
Ad Hoc Committee on the Forum
Board of National Rural Life Conference
Chairman of Region VII Bishops
Administrative Committee of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (1997-2000)
Administrative Board of the U.S. Catholic Conference (1997-2000)
Mixed Commission to revise the "Essential Norms" for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons
Commission on Science and Human Values
Committee on Women in Society and in the Church
Common Ground Initiative
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