By Andrew C. McCarthy, OCTOBER 20, 2012 –
EDITOR’S NOTE: This column is adapted from Andrew C. McCarthy’s foreword for Andrew Bostom’s Sharia Versus Freedom: The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism, published this week by Prometheus Books.
‘Multi-religious prayer almost inevitably leads to false interpretations, to indifference as to the content of what is believed or not believed, and thus to the dissolution of real faith.” So wrote Joseph Ratzinger in 1986. Even then, the man who would later become Pope Benedict XVI was renowned as a singularly deep thinker on the finer points of religious belief systems — to say nothing of the sweeping themes.
As head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, Cardinal Ratzinger was ruminating on the World Prayer Day for Peace, forged by his legendary papal predecessor, John Paul II. Though he was among the pontiff’s closest advisers, Ratzinger was uneasy about John Paul II’s grand gesture: taking center stage in a spectacle of interfaith solidarity. Flanked about him were leaders of the world’s religions. Even Shamanism took its place among Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholicism, Protestant sects, Judaism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and, of course, Islam — all joined in an iconic, ecumenical quest for “peace.”
It was as if there were but one civilization, one single, common way of looking at the world. It was as if there were a talismanic aura about “peace,” such that the word connoted a universal value, impervious to inquiry about its meaning to the variegated voices uttering it. Was this “peace” the mere absence of war? Hadn’t the 20th century already proved that there were evils worse than war? Was “peace” an absence of war achieved by appeasing malevolent oppressors? Or was it an absence of such oppressors because they had been righteously defeated — because liberty and equal opportunity, undergirded by the rule of law, had triumphed? Details, details. Surely a tidal wave of banners, splaying “peace” in a Babel of tongues, would wash away such impertinent questions.