what did the pope mean?

last week pope benedict quoted from a 14th century document which uses deeply intemperate, and in the pope's own words, 'shockingly brusque' language to condemn those who link religion and violence. he may or may not have intended to offend muslims. i suspect not - the comment was made in the context of an academic paper, and it is likely that it was assumed that the comments would not be heard by anyone not present at the gathering. while this may be evidence of naivety on the part of the former cardinal ratzinger, or perhaps arrogance, i frankly find it hard to believe that he expected never mind intended the reaction to the way his words have been construed in the press.

the fact that there have apparently been militant and even violent protests in response tends to prove the point that those who would use religion to endorse violence against the human person need to be engaged with, at least in terms of the kind of dialogue that academic popes may not yet be capable of, and better still in terms of religious leaders articulating a religious path that is both authentically spiritual and pro-actively non-violent, rather than the kind of practice that passes for mainstream religion in the west - which these days, in spite of some noble exceptions (e.g. yesterday's intervention by rowan williams regarding the crisis in childhood), tends toward either insipid and unengaging, or nationalistic and so blindly supportive of violence that it becomes about as far away from the teachings and way of jesus as it's possible to get without coming back in the opposite direction.