I may disagree with Pope Benedict XVI on some matters and I really disagree with some of his subalterns when they mix science and Catholicism, but I admire this Pope since he is no wimp.
The fallout from Benedict's speech in Regensberg is unfortunate and also that from his undelivered speech at La Sapienza University. But it would be dishonest for me or anybody else to say that he was wrong on both counts. After all this razor sharp Professor-Pope is not known for not showing moral and intellectual courage, traits notably lacking today in many professors of our universities including the "Ang Galing Mo" University of the Philippines.
If one thing Benedict must be admired for is in not bowing to intellectual and politically correct academic fads. We professors are guilty since we have to bend to these fads to get rave reviews and research or teaching grants.
Benedict is no Rowan Williams who in some moment of whimsy publicly lectured to British barristers why Sharia Law should be recognized in England. Williams got a whopping dose of criticism both from British Muslims and from Christians.
Rowan Cantuar had to take back his words.
Benedict got a lot of flak for his Regensberg speech and had to make a personal apology for ruffling Muslim sensibilities but never did he take back his words.
And during the recent Easter Vigil Mass at St Peter's Benedict personally baptized a high profile convert from Islam. Egyptian born journalist Magdi Allam converted to Catholicism and taken on the Christian name of "Cristiano". Allam is known for his critcism of fundamentalism and has earned the ire of some Muslims. Italian authorities have provided him a sizable security detail due to threats on his life.
Some Catholics and other Christians were not amused. While they can't argue with Allam's personal decision to convert, they would rather like to have a simple parish priest to have received him into the Church.
They feared the repercussions.
I think this is uncalled for and is insulting to Catholics and Muslims alike. In today's secular world Muslims never worry if a Christian converts to Islam if this was made as a free choice. In Europe many Christians have decided to become Muslims. To their credit Italy's Muslim community has refrained from commenting on Allam's conversion saying it was a "free personal choice".
Benedict XVI by personally baptizing Allam is actually telling everyone that "faith cannot be imposed, it is freely given and received" This was the gist of his undelivered La Sapienza speech. Benedict actually upholds freedom of conscience.