Ratzinger's apology for Christian violence in history.
"Pope Benedict, leading a global inter-religious meeting, acknowledged Thursday "with great shame" that Christianity had used force in its long history as he joined other religious leaders in condemning violence and terrorism in God's name."
This is the way the article at Reuters describes it.
This leaves with the following questions to answer.
1) On what scale was this violence ?, What has been its impact ?
2) To whom is this apology being given, considering that most of those cultures & civilizations have long been murdered away lock, stock & barrel?
3) Can mere apologies begin to make a difference?
4) Is the apology sincere? If so, what are the follow-up steps Ratzinger must take? Or is it another filthy stratagem, like the ones that were regularly used against the Caciques of the New World, against the Mayas, the Aztecs, the Incas and the rest?
5) Do the proselytizing activities of the church in the modern world directed against cultures and religions worldwide constitute a continuation of this violence by other means?
These are the questions, I shall begin to answer :-
1) On what scale was this violence ?, What has been its impact?
I was blessed with a copy of "The Age of Reason" by Thomas Paine as a teenager. I am still not sure how it came into my hands. Some guest at our house had contrived to forget it. The impact has been most serene and it has been my infallible guide ever since. Here are a few lines from my "Holy Book" on the subject.
"Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel".
"The setters-up, therefore, and the advocates of the Christian system of faith could not but foresee that the continually progressive knowledge that man would gain, by the aid of science, of the power and wisdom of God, manifested in the structure of the universe and in all the works of Creation, would militate against, and call into question, the truth of their system of faith; and therefore it became necessary to their purpose to cut learning down to a size less dangerous to their project, and this they effected by restricting the idea of learning to the dead study of dead languages.
They not only rejected the study of science out of the Christian schools, but they persecuted it, and it is only within about the last two centuries that the study has been revived. So late as 1610, Galileo, a Florentine, discovered and introduced the use of telescopes, and by applying them to observe the motions and appearances of the heavenly bodies, afforded additional means for ascertaining the true structure of the universe. Instead of being esteemed for those discoveries, he was sentenced to renounce them, or the opinions resulting from them, as a damnable heresy.
And, prior to that time, Vigilius was condemned to be burned for asserting the antipodes, or in other words that the earth was a globe, and habitable in every part where there was land; yet the truth of this is now too well known even to be told.
If the belief of errors not morally bad did no mischief, it would make no part of the moral duty of man to oppose and remove them. There was no moral ill in believing the earth was flat like a trencher, any more than there was moral virtue in believing that it was round like a globe; neither was there any moral ill in believing that the Creator made no other world than this, any more than there was moral virtue in believing that he made millions, and that the infinity of space is filled with worlds. But when a system of religion is made to grow out of a supposed system of creation that is not true, and to unite itself therewith in a manner almost inseparable therefrom, the case assumes an entirely different ground.
It is then that errors not morally bad become fraught with the same mischiefs as if they were. It is then that the truth, though otherwise indifferent itself, becomes an essential by becoming the criterion that either confirms by corresponding evidence, or denies by contradictory evidence, the reality of the religion itself. In this view of the case, it is the moral duty of man to obtain every possible evidence that the structure of the heavens, or any other part of creation affords, with respect to systems of religion. But this, the supporters or partisans of the Christian system, as if dreading the result, incessantly opposed, and not only rejected the sciences, but persecuted the professors. Had Newton or Descartes lived three or four hundred years ago, and pursued their studies as they did, it is most probable they would not have lived to finish them; and had Franklin drawn lightning from the clouds at the same time, it would have been at the hazard of expiring for it in the flames.
Later times have laid all the blame upon the Goths and Vandals; but, however unwilling the partisans of the Christian system may be to believe or to acknowledge it, it is nevertheless true that the age of ignorance commenced with the Christian system. There was more knowledge in the world before that period than for many centuries afterwards;"
The cultures that have been lost forever, the learning that has been destroyed is far, far to extensive to even be cataloged. Here is a random sampling. The Hellenic Culture, Cordoba, The Mayas, Aztecs, The Incas, the rest of the Americas. The words of the noble Hatuey of Cuba:
"Through a traitor, Velásquez was able to surround and capture Hatuey. On February 2, 1512, Hatuey was tied to a stake at the Spanish camp, where he was burned alive. Just before lighting the fire, a priest offered him spiritual comfort, showing him the cross and asking him to accept Jesus and go to heaven. “Are there people like you in heaven?” he asked. “There are many like me in heaven,” answered the priest. Hatuey answered that he wanted nothing to do with a God that would allow such cruelty to be unleashed in his name.
De Las Casas describes the fate of the Taínos. A village of about twenty-five hundred who welcomed the Spaniards, fed them and gave them drink, was immediately wiped out once the feast was over, “they set upon the Indians,” he wrote, “slashing, disemboweling and slaughtering them until their blood ran like a river.”
Of those sent to the mines, he said, the Spaniards “required of them tasks utterly beyond their strength, bending them to the earth with crushing burdens, harnessing them to loads which they could not drag, and with fiendish sport and mockery, hacking off their hands and feet, and mutilating their bodies in ways which will not bear description.”
Aside from being one of the first guerilla-style warriors in Cuba’s history, Hatuey is the first martyr in the struggle for Cuban independence.".
Does this merit just an apology ?
I have not even touched upon the Crusades, the crimes in India, in Africa, in the East Indies, in the far east, and more importantly in Europe. The infamous inquisitions, The Roman, the Spanish, the Goan, the Venetian.
Does this merit just an apology ?
Some recompense for 20 centuries of Rape, Pillage & Murder. Words fail me.
If Ratzinger is at all serious I believe the following steps should be undertaken immediately.
1) Stop proselytizing activities forthwith, because as everyone knows it's a continuation of the past violence by other means, and yes the past methods will return if the church ever happens to get back the power.
2) Remove the murderers from the list of Saints, at least the most egregious ones. Cyril --- The guy who inspired the murder of Hypatia of Alexandria, Urban --- The creator of the crusades, Bellarmine the inquisitor to Galileo and Giordano Bruno, Francis Xavier --- A list of infamy from Europe to Africa, India, Malacca and the Far East, ...., Teresa murderess of hundreds in her hospices.
3) Begin returning some of the religious structures under the church's illegal occupation to the their rightful occupants. Begin with the Pantheon in Rome, The church of Santo Domingo in Cuzco. Just so that we understand your sincerity.