Friday, January 20, 2006

The pope on the Koran: A clarification

I think it is important for me to give context to and clarify the remarks I made recently in a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, reported in Diana West’s column in The Washington Times (“Silence that speaks volumes,” Op-Ed, Friday).

The most important clarification is that the Holy Father did not say, nor did I, that “Islam is incapable of reform.”

What I did say — and it contains an unfortunate ambiguity — is that “in the Islamic tradition, God has given His word to Mohammed, but it’s an eternal word. It’s not Mohammed’s word. It’s there for eternity the way it is. There’s no possibility of adapting it or interpreting it, whereas in Christianity, and Judaism, the dynamism’s completely different, that God has worked through His creatures.”

Note first that it was the Koran that was referred to, not Islam. The comparison was between the Christian Bible and the Koran, not between Christianity and Islam. I said, paraphrasing the Holy Father, that “there’s an inner logic to the Christian Bible, which permits it and requires it to be adapted to new situations.” Then I maladroitly alluded to this comparison, referring to “that distinction when the Koran, which is seen as something dropped out of Heaven, which cannot be adapted or applied, even, and the Bible, which is a word of God that comes through a human community.”

I made a serious error in precision when I said that the Koran “cannot be adapted or applied” and that there is “no possibility of adapting or interpreting it.” This is certainly not what the Holy Father said. Of course the Koran can be and has been interpreted and applied. I was making a (too) crude summary of the distinction that the Holy Father did make between the inner dynamism of the Koran as a divine text delivered as such to Mohammed, and that of the Bible, which is both the Word of God and the words of men inspired by God, within a community that contains divinely appointed authorized interpreters (the bishops in communion with the pope).

The meeting was an informal one of the Holy Father and his former students. The presentation and the discussion were in German, and the Holy Father was not speaking from a prepared text. My German is passable but not entirely reliable. My later remarks in a live radio interview were extemporaneous. I think I paraphrased the Holy Father with general accuracy, but it was an indiscretion for me to mention what he said at all, and my impromptu paraphrase in another language should not be used for a careful exegesis of the mind of the Holy Father.

The Rev. Joseph Fessio

Provost, Ave Maria University

Editor, Ignatius Press

Naples, Fla.

Horse slaughter and property

The letter (“Appalling decision to allow horse slaughter,” Thursday) demeans the Department of Agriculture for “kowtow[ing] to the wishes of the three foreign-owned horse slaughterhouses rather than abide by the will of the American people.”

Is it reasonable, morally or legally, to ban the slaughter of horses? Should a majority vote or a federal law be allowed to erase the property right of horse owners (that sell to slaughterhouses) or the rights of slaughterhouses to buy and butcher animals or the rights of persons (American or foreign) to purchase horse products for human or pet consumption? How we each answer these questions says much about our future.

If a majority vote or federal law is able to outlaw horse slaughter, then cattle, sheep or chicken slaughter are sure to follow. Other property rights are next. Whether it concerns our livestock, pet, home or our family, the precedent of one group successfully imposing their wishes or beliefs forcibly through unconstitutional federal legislation on others knows no bounds and should raise the ire of every American. If it doesn’t, God help us.



A false path to energy security

In the editorial about America’s dependence on foreign oil and gas (“…And foreign oil and gas,” Editorial, Sunday), The Times lamented the defeat of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling legislation as “a wasted opportunity” and criticized opposition to such legislation as “unconscionable.” Yet, the same article acknowledged that the vast majority of the world’s proven oil and gas reserves lies beneath other nations.

There is nothing conservative about depending on oil for 40 percent of America’s energy needs when our nation only sits atop about 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves. America, having drilled over 500,000 oil wells already, accounts for 8 percent of global production and is draining its meager oil supply far faster than oil-rich nations are.

The same problem exists with natural gas. The United States possesses only 3 percent of proven gas reserves, yet gas accounts for over 20 percent of our energy consumption. Geologic reality makes it inevitable that heavy dependence on oil and natural gas will always mean dependence on foreign oil and gas. It makes no sense to pin this nation’s economic prosperity and national security to resources that God did not give us in abundance.

This drain-America-first mentality is incredibly shortsighted and will eventually leave our nation totally at the mercy of foreign governments. Equally troubling is the fact that the lawmakers on Capitol Hill who are pressing to open the Arctic refuge are the same ones who oppose significant investment in alternative fuels and strong conservation measures.

The false promise of new drilling opportunities is being used by drilling advocates to undermine the political will for positive change and forestall the aggressive measures needed to reduce our dependence on oil. This is special-interest politics at its worse.

Your readers should also realize that this “small part” of the Arctic refuge is 1.8 million acres and represents the last 5 percent of Alaska’s coastal plain not already available for oil and gas development. Conservation is conservative, as is a prudent, forward-thinking energy policy that weans America off of its dangerous oil and gas dependence.


Government affairs director

Republicans for Environmental Protection


Hillary’s plantation

In regards to Hillary Clinton’s plantation comment (“‘Plantation’ remarks still echoing on Hill,” Nation, Thursday), what would she do? How would she free those on that particular plantation?

Would she always allow a vote by the entire body, or would she bottle up issues that her ideology doesn’t agree with?

Why don’t we turn the discussion to those great bills that she has introduced and passed through the Senate that have improved the lot of the American people in such a great way? Somebody must remember those.


Bellingham, Wash.


Celebrating minority excellence and brotherhood between the races would be the perfect tribute to Martin Luther King. This embodies his famous dream. But characterless politicians and activists exploit our annual national MLK holiday as an opportunity for extortion and promotion of their religion of victimization.

Oprah Winfrey is the most influential woman in American media. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, another black woman, could become the next president of the United States. Yet, every MLK Day, the usual suspects attempt to sell the lie that minority opportunity and race relations in America have not progressed beyond the 1950s.

Such rhetoric is divisive and poisonous to our youth. As a black American, I find this extremely offensive. A more productive approach to honoring MLK would be to use the occasion of his birthday to showcase minority achievements, higher test scores, random acts of kindness and brotherhood between the races.

Such examples are more prevalent than the negatives. Sadly, for those with selfish agendas, the truth threatens their livelihood. Good people, let’s focus on the positive steps we are making, moving closer to the fulfillment of Martin Luther King’s dream.


Deltona, Fla.

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