Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Knowledge Not Power; Hugh, Fr. Fessio, Benedict, and Islam

Computer still down, so still light blogging, but here are some items worth reading:

Knowledge is Not Power and Other Paradoxes by Fr. James Schall, SJ, one of my favorite essayists.

Hugh Hewitt posted his interview with Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ.

Yesterday I interviewd Father Jospeh Fessio, Provosty of Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida, and student and friend of Benedict XVI. (Father Fessio is also the founder of Ignatius Press.) The entire interview should be read, and the transcript is here, but the most fascinating part concerned a gathering at Castle Gandolfo with the Pope and his students this past September, where the subject was Islam.

Wherein, Hugh and Fr. Fessio said:

HH: Father Fessio, before the break, you were telling us that after the presentation at Castel Gandolfo by two scholars of Islam this summer with Benedict in attendance, as well as his former students, for the first time in your memory, the Pope did not allow his students to first comment and reserve comment, but in fact, went first. Why, and what did he say?

JF: Well, the thesis that was proposed by this scholar was that Islam can enter into the modern world if the Koran is reinterpreted by taking the specific legislation, and going back to the principles, and then adapting it to our times, especially with the dignity that we ascribe to women, which has come through Christianity, of course. And immediately, the Holy Father, in his beautiful calm but clear way, said well, there's a fundamental problem with that, because he said in the Islamic tradition, God has given His word to Mohammed, but it's an eternal word. It's not ohammed's word. It's there for eternity the way it is. There's no possibility of adapting it or interpreting it, whereas in Christianity, and Judaism, the dynamism's completely different, that God has worked through His creatures. And so, it is not just the word of God, it's the word of Isaiah, not just the word of God, but the word of Mark. He's used His human creatures, and inspired them to speak His word to the world, and therefore by establishing a Church in which he gives authority to His followers to carry on the tradition and interpret it, there's an inner logic to the Christian Bible, which permits it and requires it to be adapted and applied to new situations. I was...I mean, Hugh, I wish I could say it as clearly and as beautifully as he did, but that's why he's Pope and I'm not, okay? That's one of the reasons. One of others, but his seeing that distinction when the Koran, which is seen as something dropped out of Heaven, which cannot be adapted or applied, even, and the Bible, which is a word of God that comes through a human community, it was stunning.

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