Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Two Hard Hitting Italian Op-Eds On Pope's Baptism of Magdi Cristiano Allam

Here is post II of the reactions to the big Easter Vigil Baptism of the Pope . Go here for post one Interview with Crisiano Allam and Vatican Op- Ed on His Baptism

I was very much struck by this pieces that were in the Italian papers. They both are quite strong and take us down memory lane. I love how the first piece talks about how Catholics and converts should be quiet was the same tune that was being said in the Communist days. Those were dangerous days too. I have no real memory of this event but not too far ago on ancient history (The 1970's) there was also intimidation by the Red Brigades in Italy. John Allen had a piece on how a tragic event whose anniversary we just observed at that time changed Italy, European Politics and indeed the Church. Go see Aldo Moro affair a watershed for the West and for the Church for the details of a tragic event that Catholics, Non Catholics, and especially Post Cold War young Americans should read. Freedom comes at a cost at times.

Anyway thanks again to the Ratzinger Forum that have provided the translations. The bolding is all mine as to the text.

The Muslim and holy water, baroque enchantment and act of courage
by Giuliano Ferrara Translated from Il Foglio, 3/25/08
It was a stormy Easter at the Vatican. A Latin liturgy dense with the mystery of faith, darkened by rain on the day of the Resurrection, after the Chinese shadows of Good Friday and the Via Crucis. And in the heart of the Paschal Triduum, in the symbolic passage from the shadows to light after the procession of the Easter candle, lashings of faith with baroque enchantment to complement the rational architecture of the Regensburg lecture.

The conversion to Catholicism of the secular Magdi Allam, who was baptized with the name Christian, was a most public act, administered with courageous wisdom by the Church and similarly borne by its new member. I hope that the eventual polemical repercussions (I do not wish to think for now of any possible excess of intolerant violence against a perceived apostasy) may be faced with equal wisdom and equal courage. And bon voyage to Magdi Cristiano in the difficult course that awaits him.

It was a feast for every free-thinking individual to see him within the flagship of the Universal Church, on the night that is truly universal for all Catholics, the Easter of the Resurrection, as the helmsman blessed his flock with holy water. Secularist prejudice maintains that conversion, like one's faith, should remain a private matter, and that only in this way can it be considered sincere.

But the secularists are wrong. True laymen, secular non-believers, know the history of human spirituality, and know that interiority can only be either the first nucleus of a conversion or its final outcome when, after public examination of a new way of looking at the world and of being in the world, the convert arrives at the certainty of faith that the human being belongs as much toe earth that he inhabits as he does to the heaven he does not yet know.

And yet the choice to convert is completely up to the freedom and inclination of the individual concerned. A catechumen is not a prisoner coerced to undergo the radical transfiguration of his soul. He is a free man who freely chooses to follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ in communion with fellow believers and his pastors.

Some 25 years ago, Claudio Magris, an educated Catholic of weak thought, launched a very harsh attack on me based precisely on this prejudice that faith must be kept private, only he extended it even to one's way of thinking! At the time, it referred to a minor secular metaphor for religious conversion - the passage from being communist to professing anti-communism.

For a certain type of bourgeois but Communist-loving intellectuals, anti-Communism was something terrible - an 'unnecessary evil' or an inconvenient attitude. They thought that whoever turned his back on Communism should keep quiet, suffer his torments in private and consider himself benevolently ostracized from their society forever. I responded with bitter words at the time, and then by living an intractable petulant life in defiance of that prejudice.

Twenty years later, another Catholic leftist, the Vatican correspondent Giancarlo Zizola, who was my fellow presentor of a new book at the headquarters of the Radical Party, came back to the topic of this silence desired from converts with the same peremptoriness, calling me the prototype of the secular person who cozies up to the Church like a devout convert, and he too advised me to just keep silent [about the values and ideas I shared with the Church].

I responded that he was addressing the wrong person, because I was infinitely more secular than he and his radical friends, and that the literature produced by famous converts in the Church included several letters of St. Paul, that divinely petulant irascible preacher of the new Christian theology, and an entire library of St. Augustine, another convert who certainly never renounced the superb pleasure of talking about his conversion for the benefit of the rest of mankind.

One of the most beautiful things in life is the system of concordances. It is an encounter of acts, ideas and feelings of the time, with a range infinitely superior to that dictated by 'so-called 'coherence', the ideological model of the orthodox secularist-liberal school of thought. When John Paul II and Ronald Reagan sought to dismantle the dark certainties that imprisoned Europe during the years of the Cold War, 'convert' (to anti-communism) was an insult administered with contempt and accepted with honor

Now that the Europe of Benedict XVI must confront secularist conformism and Islamist radicalism - between the systematic aggressions against devalued human life and the threats of a death-lover who speaks from a cave in Waziristan - conversion to Christianity is a a regal ceremony and a rite of sanctification that is happily provocative. Christianity is now digging a wide trench away from the brief and unhappy Marxist century.

Always thinking the same things, keeping to first impressions despite a system that is changeable and changing, being every day 'true to oneself', rationalizing history in a way that is unfaithful to religion, and in the guise of idolatrous secularism - all this does not necessarily mean faithfulness, loyalty or an obligation of conscience, which are important criteria in life. Often, they stand rather for laziness, fear, and above all, a false concept of historical reality, which changes despite the stability of being, but eludes the self-imprisoned ego.

Magdi Cristiano Allam knows well - because he is a reader, and an attentive listener to the seemingly unhinged but rigorously composed secular cacophony that has accompanied the post-Marxist years - that we could not make him a better gift for his very special Easter (about which we knew nothing beforehand) than a quotation from Benedict XVI in which he recalls that personal adhesion to Christ was best summarized in the formula "I and no longer I".

That he may continue to investigate and report on the reality of radical Islam in Europe - which is ignored in the name of a vague multi-culturalism - is our wish as well as our prediction for him. That he will continue to expose with the courage that characterizes his abundance of critical ideas about Islam, matured in his personal and professional life, is more than ever obvious as well as legitimate.

Although they have some disputable aspects, his analyses and ideas have been habitually and tendentiously ostracized from legitimate discussion in a Europe where the passive reception of the 'philosophy' of Tariq Ramadan has accompanied the trials of Oriana Fallaci for Islamophobia and the big Islamofascist game hunt against those magnificently 'scandalous bessts' Theo Van Gogh and Robert Raedecker, not to mention those satirical Danish cartoonists and s handful of other European 'dissidents' who have been intimidated and isolated by Islam.

It is usually such isolated sentinels who sound the alarm in critical situations. But "I and no longer I": this majestic conversion that has now been reported and is being widely commented around the world is a highly charged symbol of what it means to govern with discernment, with a dynamic blend of passion and intellectual detachment.

The sense of the power of militant redeployment conveyed by the manner of the conversion itself, the catechumenate (preparation for conversion) that was kept secret until the very end, the list of the convert's authoritative guarantors within the faith (among them, Cardinal Ruini and Mons. Fisichella), the physical support of the member of Parliament (and of Communione e Liberazione) who stood as the new convert's godfather [Maurizio Lupi] - all this also gave a strong political imprint to the personal and ecclesiastic aspects of the conversion.

Magdi Cristiano Allam knows that, in the secular or religious form, conversions are the bete noire of modern cultural totalitarianism, and that they are fought against by the favorite method of consigning the convert to the symbolic status of pariah, provocateur, profiteer and renegade without principles.

Those who pass this kind of judgment will say this has nothing to do with God, that this is all just politics of the basest kind, and that the holy water of conversion contains the germs of intolerance. The epithets for the ostracized convert are easy to pin on, even through oblique and apparently invisible strategies. We can only hope that Magdi Cristiano can defend himself from such enemies, who pullulate in the West, and even a bit from his own self, by keeping close watch that what he says and writes may always be up to the level of the great event of which he became such a very public protagonist.
Il Foglio, 25 marzo 2008

How many Catholics have no love for them!
Translated from Libero, 3/26/08
Primed by Catholics who are zealots for dialog at any cost and the the idea that conversion should only be an intimate private affair (such as Claudio Magris and Franco Monaco, who were immediately heard from on this issue), now it's the turn of the imams, the ulemas, the ayatollahs and assorted judges in Muslim law to unleash themselves against the Pope.

And then there are the 138 Muslim leaders who sent a letter with assertively friendly intentions to Benedict XVI, to which he replied with every good will. And now, it seems they would take back everything since the Pope dared to pour water 'in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit' on a head that they would gladly see cut off. The 138 have been said to be moderate - more, they are held to be champions of moderation in the Muslim world, to whose representatives the Pope held open the doors of the Vatican last month.

Speaking for them now, or claiming to, is Aref Ali Nayed, director of the Royal Center for Strategic Islamic Studies in Amman, Jordan, who has roundly if indirectly attacked the Pope for what took place in St. Peter's Basilica at the Easter Vigil Mass. Nayed has anathematized the "deliberate and provocative act of baptizing (Magdi) Allam on such a special occasion and in such a spectacular manner."

The new Catholic is, of course, Magdi Christiano Allam, who has been considered a 'dead man walking' since 2003 by the very ones who now profess themselves scandalized because of his criticsms of Islam, the religion into which he was born. Nayed cites with horror the Easter Vigil homily in which Pope Benedict XVI contrasts light and darkness. It is not right to speak in such terms, this Islamic scholar claims, feigning ignorance that the Pope is merely citing Gospel text.

Then he demands that the Pope denounce Allam, proof if it is needed of an incapacity to tolerate religious freedom on the part of some Muslims - even supposed intellectuals - which casts doubt on whether there are really any 'moderates' in the bosom of Islam. In this case, they simply seem to show that Allam is right about his criticisms. It all seems predictable, and we said so right away. It now even seems as though Osama Bin laden's calculated lie about the Pope, whom he deliberately accused of being behind the Danish cartoons satirizing Mohammed, were in some way an intended deterrent to Allam's baptism by the Pope. But for now, let us leave aside the Muslims, some of whom make their living out of threatening others who do not think like them.

I am more outraged by the finger-wagging that some Catholic intellectuals have been inflicting on the Pope. There are legitimate concerns, of course, that, in the current climate of fear of Islam, has crossed even the minds of simple churchgoing Catholics. But this time the ringmasters of political correctness have presumed to get into the head of Papa Ratzinger and to divine his motivations. He may not be infallible in matters like these, but he certainly deserves more respect for his mind. Now, they're telling him that a more intimate ceremony for Allam's baptism would have been more appropriate and desirable.

Writing in Corriere della Sera, one of the most 'a la page' among our writers today, Claudio Magris, who has been a member of Parliament for the Ulivo party, pontificated: "Baptism is an act of interior life, not of media spectacle or political logic..." He calls Allam a VIP, and says the Pope would have done better to baptize some 'anonymous' person instead of Allam.

Perhaps Magris has a catalog of 'anonymous' persons from which the Pope could have chosen! - as though it were a lottery. But that is not the case. Every person is unique, no one is anonymous. Magris then reproaches Magdi for having been too prudent about criticizing the Church and for seeking to convert Muslims! He exhorts: "The moment of Baptism is not the most opportune time to make bellicose declarations" and he mocks the new Catholic for 'presuming to tell the Church, mater et magistra, (mother and teacher), what the right way is".

On the contrary, it is Magris who presumes he can lead the Pope by the nose even though he uses oblique language to do so. "Fortunately, Catholicism shows off her grace and grandeur even in the smallest details, which can even make up for the tiaras." [The tiara is the three-tiered crown of the Popes that has not been used since Paul VI decided to renounce it early in his Pontificate.] It seems Popes have to make amends for the tiara! Even Vittorio Messori, also in Corriere, while defending the Pope and Allam, reproaches what he considers excressive prudence while he questions 'a provocative and arrogant attitude'.

To console Magdi, he tells him that his objections against Islam had a couple of precedents. Above all, a homily by Cardinal Giacomo Biffi dated September 20, 2001 [9 days after 9/11]: "There is a precise order from the Lord which does not admit of any exceptions. He did not say: Preach the Gospel to every creature, except to Muslims, Jews and the Dalai Lama." The same admonition is found more formally in a document (doctrinal note on evangelization) from the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith last December.

The Church's oldest and most humble catechisms may help us understand what takes place on Easter eve. It asks Catholics to 'believe, celebrate and testify to their faith'. The verb 'celebrate' has the same root as the word 'celebrity'. Etymologically, it has to do with glory. Must we then reproach Jesus for having gone to John the Baptist to be baptized, rather than to a more modest local prophet without John's reputation (of which there were quite a few]? Or would Magris perhaps reproach St. Ambrose for having performed that momentous baptism in Milan on the Easter Vigil in 387.

According to tradition, that night, the Te Deum was alternately chanted by the bishop and his famous catechumen. Augustine at the time was already a VIP thinker, a recognized philosopher of Manichaeism, and his conversion caused a sensation. He never ceased to denounce the religion of deceit from which he had emerged, nor cease to say how unworthy he was of the new religion.

The Pope obviously decided on the gesture of baptizing Allam on Easter eve, despite reasons of prudence that may have argued against it. In this way, he wished to put all converts under his wings: Who touches them, touches me. He identifies with the example of Jesus who was not ashamed of anyone. And just as Francis kissed the leper, so too did Benedict symbolically kiss our Magdi, who has been declared a pariah, a contaminated outcast, by the universal chorus of conformists. Benedict has shown that the right way to bear witness is that of the man who was born blind with mud over his eyes. Despite the certainty of 'persecution' if he proclaimed Jesus as his savior, he did so without fear. There is no truth about love that cannot and should not be proclaimed from the rooftops - just as lovelorn people leave their graffiti of love on bridges and on public buildings. Religious freedom deserves nothing less, or it is not worth anything.
Libero, 26 marzo 2008

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Orthodox church has much apology to make in Western World: protocommunist massacres by Palamite Zealotes under Hesychast hyperventilatory halucinations, Cantacuzene taxation driving farmers to embrace Turks, Komyakoviac Obshchina giving birth to soviet communism as reactionary casuistry opposing Napoleon's defeudalization, Cosmus Aitalius being patron originator of of modern genocide as seen by the massacre of Turks in Crete by Venizelos. And their hypnotic brainwashing incantations are designed to make theirf locks into terrorists. Is all masochistic because reject Original Sin.