Public Comment

Commentary: In Defense of the Pope

By Carol Gesbeck DeWitt
Tuesday September 26, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI may be too old and conservative for what is best for the Catholic Church. However, the undeserved bad media coverage and misinterpretation of his out of context comments are appalling. Most of the media is sound-biting the controversy into a wider spreading of unfortunately horrible publicity that does not present the facts of the situation, only furthering the damage. Peace is what the world needs more of, not inflaming violence and those who want to escalate it.  

The pope is a good and honorable man of peace and brotherly love. He was speaking of the dangerous dichotomy within the Muslim world, between the teachings of peace and those extremists who take jihadist stance in opposition to the true beliefs of mainstream Muslims. In making his points regarding the use of violence under the guise of religion he quoted from a 14th-century conversation on the truths, perceived at the time, of Christianity and Islam. The pope neither agreed nor repudiated the comments. It was merely illustrative of the centuries old debate regarding values and positions held by dissenting, radical factions, particularly within, but not limited to one religion. Violence is the antithesis of religion and the two cannot coexist. Self-defense and aggression are not the same thing.  

The pope does not harbor anti-Muslim sentiments. He was addressing the issue, that the Muslim religion, like all major religions, has been at times, misused by misguided adherents who have chosen to spread their beliefs through aggression and violence. His speech and statements were intended as a historic, timeless and timely cautionary warning that some extremists are currently engaging in violent, aggressive and criminal behaviors that in themselves are causing great harm and are antithetical to the strongly held beliefs of peace and love held by most moderate Muslims and thinking people of all walks of life.  

It appears that extremist Islamists are eager to search out and use anything to further their agenda. The Catholic Church and the pope make a delicious target for these extremists who want very much to cast all other religions and nonbelievers as infidels and their enemy. They self-righteously take comments out of context that will further their intolerant agenda of inflaming and turning all Muslims against all other religions and people who are not willing to convert and adhere to their narrow interpretations of Islam. The power these extremist wield is increasing as seems apparent by the intimidating effect they use so skillfully to silence most moderate Muslims who fear retribution for speaking freely against the extremists.  

The extremist jihadists do not believe in any science or education that contradicts their limited vision for humanity and promotion of their version of Islam. Since many of their adherents have limited education and experience outside of their rigid belief system, they are easy prey to being inflamed and incited to overreaction to misconstrued information with the intended results, furthering the agenda of the extremists.  

Fair and rational minded people of all religions and secular beliefs must see the folly of media and religious overreaction to misrepresented facts that can only fuel the tinder box of fundamentalist fostered violence and terrorism.  


Carol Gesbeck DeWitt is a Berkeley  



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