What the Pope really, actually said in Regensburg...
I've already noted today's point in a comment that I posted to yesterday's blog entry, but posting it as a separate entry will serve to emphasize it.
The Pope's remarks, originally in German, deserve a more accurate translation. The block quote below presents the official English text with alterations in red font to fit the Pope's original German address:
In the seventh conversation (διάλεξις – controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with an astonishing brusqueness, for us an astounding brusqueness, bluntly on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached". The emperor, after having expressed himself so very forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood -- and not acting reasonably ("συν λόγω") 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... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...".Compare my alterations to the crucial portion of the official English translation:
Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached". The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable.Now, first of all, this official English translation itself shows the Pope putting distance between himself and the words of the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, and a careful reading will note this, but the German original is even more expressive of distance.
For those interested, the original German words behind my alterations are:
in erstaunlich schroffer, uns überraschend schroffer Form ganz einfachIn the first of these two, an entire phrase is left out, "uns überraschend schroffer Form," which I've rendered as "for us an astounding brusqueness." Also missing is the expression "ganz einfach," which I take here to mean "bluntly." In the second of these two, "nachdem er so zugeschlagen hat," I think that the word "zugeschlagen" carries more force than the translation renders, so I've added the intensifier "very." With these small changes made for greater precision, the Pope is more clearly shown to be carefully distancing himself from the Byzantine emperor's words.
nachdem er so zugeschlagen hat
Unfortunately, the English text that appeared in the media was an official one provided by the Vatican, and someone in the Catholic hierarchy will have to accept responsibility for that text with its imprecise translations. But even given their imprecision, they indicate that the Pope doesn't fully agree with the manner in which the Byzantine emperor expressed himself. Moreover, the English text -- like the German text itself -- is merely provisional, as the endnote informs:
The Holy Father intends to supply a subsequent version of this text, complete with footnotes. The present text must therefore be considered provisional.I don't doubt that the subsequent English translation will strive for more accuracy, and likely add some explanatory footnotes to the disputed points.
Incidentally, I see that the Pope's old nemesis, Hans Küng, has spoken out for the Pope on this issue:
Dissident Swiss theologian Hans Küng, one of the Pope's harshest critics, also defended the leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics, saying he didn't intend to provoke the Islamic world. ("Couchepin backs Pope's Islam comments," Neue Zürcher Zeitung, September 17, 2006)I'm glad that Küng has spoken out on this issue, for his years of work in interreligious dialogue should give his statement added weight among Muslims.
Meanwhile, violent, unreasonable reactions to the Pope's words against violence and unreason in religion continue.