A Deliberate Mis-Reid
The Senate majority leader's convenient use of the pope.
12:00 AM, Apr 17, 2007 • By CHRISTOPHER LEVENICK
ON EASTER SUNDAY, with the exhausting round of Holy Week liturgies completed, Pope Benedict XVI offered the customary papal address, Urbi et orbi, to the city and to the world. The atmosphere was festive--tulips and apple blossoms adorned the central loggia of St. Peter's Basilica--but reports of the speech have been markedly somber. Understandably so, for it was there that Benedict declared, "nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civilian population flees."
The pope's simple and largely incontrovertible observation has unfortunately been wrenched from its original context and put to the service of other, quite different, purposes. Most notably, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has lately taken to invoking the authority of Pope Benedict. In a recent press release, Sen. Reid repeatedly referred to Benedict's address, suggesting that the pope's remarks support Reid's case for a phased withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. They do no such thing.
A bit of context is in order. Benedict's address was not primarily concerned with Iraq, nor with the United States, nor even with affairs of state. Rather, it was first and foremost a reflection on the promise of Easter--a promise that, as Benedict put it, "by His rising the Lord has not taken away suffering and evil from the world but has vanquished them at their roots by the superabundance of His grace."
Suffering and evil persist, however, and Benedict recounted many of the "[n]atural calamities and human tragedies that cause innumerable victims and enormous material destruction." He lamented "the scourge of hunger, of incurable diseases, of terrorism and kidnapping of people, of the thousand faces of violences which some people attempt to justify in the name of religion, of contempt for life, of the violation of human rights and the exploitation of persons." He bemoaned crises in Madagascar, the Solomon Islands, Latin America, Darfur, the Congo, Somalia, Zimbabwe, East Timor, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Israel, and the Palestinian territories. Only then did Benedict devote one-half of one sentence to the subject of Iraq; indeed, on a word-count basis, mention of Iraq constitutes about 1 percent of his entire address.