The pope has trotted out what might be his third semi-apology for his remarks at the University of Regensburg that have angered Muslims. Or it might be his fourth semi-apology. I pretty much gave up on following the apology coverage when it became clear that the U.S. media was completely surprised that Benedict could have insulted, or could have been perceived as insulting, another religion. It seems no one on American television, or spilling ink in our newspapers, remembers that 10 years ago, when Benedict was still Cardinal Ratzinger, he dismissed Buddhism as just a form of mental masturbation.
In his latest semi-apology, the pope claimed today that no "attentive reader" of his speech could believe he said anything objectionable. In a nice bit of serendipity, the pope's speech got an attentive reader today, Irvine's own Kevin Drum. Drum, who writes the Washington Monthly's blog, Political Animal, is famously reasonable. And relentlessly moderate, though somewhat liberal. Also, infuriatingly evenhanded, all too often. But painstakingly civil, always. Usually less an animal (the blog's title refers to a passage from Aristotle's Politics), than a nice Political Glass of Warm Milk. And so what did he conclude after reading Benedict's speech?
The reference to Islam near the beginning of the speech was entirely gratuitous and disingenuous, as were Benedict's subsequent crocodile tears over the idea that anyone could have taken offense at his remarks.
Of course, as the pope's apologists are quick to point out, the reference to Islam was just one part of the speech, and must be kept in the context of the whole speech, which was about faith and reason. Well, Drum read the whole speech, and here's what he calls his "nickel version":
Mohammed was a violent man. Violence is unreasonable. God loves reason. Draw your own conclusions.
Playing devil's advocate, let me just say in the pope's defense, that at least this time he didn't call anyone a mental jerk-off. Clearly he's grown as a person since ascending the throne of St. Peter.