"There must be some human truth here that is beyond religion," said atheist Oriana Fallaci last year in sympathy with the worries Pope Benedict XVI expresses in his essay "If Europe Hates Itself" (Detail of interior of the Sunday School addition of Tadao Ando's Church of the Light, Osaka, blogged earlier here. Galinsky Photo)
"The European Union is the vehicle of the leftist totalitarians," writes Paul Belien in the go-to media standard-bearer of freedom in the culture wars, The Brussels Journal:
Two clashes of civilization are currently taking place in Europe. Freedom-loving people [are] having to fight on two fronts. One involves the radical segment of the immigrant Muslim population that opposes basic Western values such as freedom of speech and that is intent on imposing Islamic taboos (such as the mere fact of depicting their prophet Muhammad) on the non-Islamic population. The other involves radical secularists that want to eradicate all remnants of traditional Christian culture from post-Christian Europe by restricting the right to conscientious objection on the part of religious people.
The debate over how to acknowledge Europe's Christian history in the EU's constitution -- signed by member states in October of 2004 but as yet unratified -- ended with a bloodless, euphemistic reference to "the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe." Pope John Paul II had lobbied European governments to officially recognize the European Union's Christian roots to no avail:
The Vatican argument is that Christianity's fundamental role in shaping European culture should be acknowledged in what is destined to become the EU's key document.
Don't try to confuse the Ministry of Truth with historical fact, of course. Tellingly in light of how things are going on the European Front in the War on Terror, "The arguments against embedding Christianity in the new constitution don't just come from secularists," however, The Washington Times suggested two years ago during the debate:
There are broader political reasons ranging from having later to include a reference to Islam when -- or is it if? -- Turkey joins the European Union, to the danger of deepening the sense of isolation of Muslim immigrants in Europe, and the contention that the reference should really be to the Judeo-Christian culture, which would really set the cat among the Islamic pigeons.
Thank GOD our beloved Benedetto -- the Pope who loves cats and Mozart -- is on the case. We agree with Oriana Fallaci -- the renowned Italian Journalist indicted last year in her native country for vilifying, as the law says, a "religion admitted by the state," in this case Islam -- that "You cannot survive if you do not know the past." In an Opinion Journal interview with Tunku Varadarajan last June -- blogged here -- she said "I am an atheist, and if an atheist and a pope think the same things, there must be something true. It's that simple! There must be some human truth here that is beyond religion":
John Paul II--"Wojtyla"--was a "warrior, who did more to end the Soviet Union than even America," but she will not forgive him for his "weakness toward the Islamic world. Why, why was he so weak?"
The scant hopes that she has for the West rest on his successor. As a cardinal, Pope Benedict XVI wrote frequently on the European (and the Western) condition. Last year, he wrote an essay titled "If Europe Hates Itself," from which Ms. Fallaci reads this to me: "The West reveals . . . a hatred of itself, which is strange and can only be considered pathological; the West . . . no longer loves itself; in its own history, it now sees only what is deplorable and destructive, while it is no longer able to perceive what is great and pure.
We googled on over to The Holy See website and found that the "Message of His Holiness Benedict XVI for Lent 2006" expresses -- to use Fallaci's words -- "human truth here that is beyond religion," most comforting in these soul-trying times. A few excerpts (be sure to read the whole thing):
Yes, even today the Lord hears the cry of the multitudes longing for joy, peace, and love. As in every age, they feel abandoned. Yet, even in the desolation of misery, loneliness, violence and hunger that indiscriminately afflict children, adults, and the elderly, God does not allow darkness to prevail. In fact, in the words of my beloved Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, there is a “divine limit imposed upon evil”, namely, mercy (Memory and Identity, pp. 19ff.). It is with these thoughts in mind that I have chosen as my theme for this Message the Gospel text: “Jesus, at the sight of the crowds, was moved with pity” (Mt 9:36).
Update: Diana West, in her otherwise spot-on Washington Times op ed this morning [via Michelle Malkin], equates the Vatican's measured "Cartoon rage" response to the cowering response of other Western institutions:
This is the lesson of Cartoon Rage 2006, a cultural nuke set off by an Islamic chain reaction to those 12 cartoons of Muhammad appearing in a Danish newspaper. We have watched the Muslim meltdown with shocked attention, but there is little recognition that its poisonous fallout is fear. Fear in the State Department, which, like Islam, called the cartoons unacceptable. Fear in Whitehall, which did the same. Fear in the Vatican, which did the same. And fear in the media, which have failed, with few, few exceptions, to reprint or show the images. With only a small roll of brave journals, mainly in Europe, to salute, we have seen the proud Western tradition of a free press bow its head and submit to an Islamic law against depictions of Muhammad. That's dhimmitude.
We think "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's applies here. In our view the Vatican struck just the right note for the things that are God's.