Time Magazine "suddenly" discovers a voice in the wilderness: "Pope Benedict XVI talks with members of a Muslim delegation from the U.S. at the end of his weekly Wednesday general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, March 1, 2006." (Alessandro Bianchi/Reutrs/Corbis photo)
"Suddenly, when he speaks, the whole world listens," gushes a breathless Time Mag, enthralled with its belated discovery of Papa Ratzi, the Pope who loves cats and Mozart. Long before Cardinal Ratzinger became Benedict XVI, the great student of history and human nature was warning the West of the gathering Eurabian storm. But only when Time notices the "hard-knuckle intellect with a taste for blunt talk and interreligious confrontation" is this voice in the wilderness "suddenly" heard:
Few people saw this coming. Nobody truly expected Benedict to be a mere caretaker Pope -- his sometimes ferocious 24-year tenure as the Vatican's theological enforcer and John Paul's right hand suggested anything but passivity. But this same familiarity argued against surprises.
We guess it depends upon what your definition of "few" is, not to mention your capacity for surprise. Take the late Oriana Fallaci, for one, the renowned Italian journalist indicted in her native country for vilifying, as the law says, a "religion admitted by the state," in this case Islam. We've often quoted Fallaci's transcendent words regarding her spiritual connection with "her soulmate," as she told the WSJ's Tunku Varadarajan last year:
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.
Time continues in its self-congratulatory mode of sudden discovery:
The new Pontiff was expected to sustain John Paul's conservative line on morality and church discipline and focus most of his energies on trimming the Vatican bureaucracy and battling Western culture's "moral relativism."
Don't you love the scare quotes around moral relativism?
Although acknowledged as a brilliant conservative theologian, Benedict lacked the open-armed charisma of his predecessor. Moreover, what had initially propelled John Paul to the center of the world stage was his challenge to communism and its subsequent fall, a huge geopolitical event that the Pope helped precipitate with two exhilarating visits to his beloved Polish homeland. By contrast, what could Benedict do? Liberate Bavaria?
"Open-armed charisma" aside -- eye of the beholder? -- can you say clueless? While Time Magazine slept:
But this year he has emerged as a far more compelling and complex figure than anyone [Anyone in your Pauline Kael bubble of denial, perhaps] had imagined. And much of that has to do with his willingness to confront what some people feel [It's those "some people" again, but this time what they "feel" makes a lot of sense] is today's equivalent of the communist scourge -- the threat of Islamic violence.
But [But? Again, where have you been?] by speaking out last September in Regensburg, Germany, about the possible intrinsic connection between Islam and violence [Doh], the Pontiff suddenly [Yawn] became a lot more interesting. Even when Islamic extremists destroyed several churches and murdered a nun in Somalia, Benedict refused to retract the essence of his remarks. [Hey, big boy, when was the last time YOU retracted the essence of your remarks?] In one imperfect [Sez who?] but powerful stroke, he departed from his predecessor's largely benign approach to Islam and discovered [No, hon. He's been there forever. It's YOU who belatedly "discovered"] an issue that might attract even the most religiously jaded. In doing so, he managed (for better or worse) to reanimate the clash-of-civilizations discussion by focusing scrutiny on the core question of whether Islam, as a religion, sanctions violence.
Update: We're putting you on hold, Time Magazine. Instapundit is on the line.
Update II: Pajamas Media links.