There is little discussion in the San Jose Mercury News letters page; most are content to make their bid for cretinhood individually. But this week has seen an interesting debate on the subject of ... the Crusades.
Last Sunday came this snivelling submission
Pope should reach out to Muslims
Pope Benedict XVI could not accomplish his declared goal as peacemaker more magnificently than by following Pope John Paul II's lead and issuing an official, strong, unambiguous apology to the Muslim world for the Crusades.
Almost all historians agree that the Crusades were a tragic mistake, and that responsibility for them rests squarely upon the shoulders of the Roman Catholic Church and its Western European followers. Confessing that mistake, accepting responsibility, emphasizing that America was not discovered until 200-plus years after the last Crusade and therefore is not to blame, would strike a huge blow for mutual understanding and peace.
And this morning, a very unexpected reply -- no, two replies
! You can hardly find anyone in Silicon Valley who objects to the backbreaking taxes we're given the opportunity to vote for every year, but mess with the Crusades, and you've stirred a hornet's nest!
One letter objected to criticism of the Crusaders on merit:
Church wasn't solely responsible
Don McCleve's assertion (Letters, April 24) that the Roman Catholic Church is alone responsible for the Crusades is absurd. This simply ignores the fact that Muslims had seized the Holy Lands by unjust war of conquest from the Byzantines in the first place, and that the Seljuk Turks were attacking Christian pilgrims who had for centuries been traveling to the Holy Land to visit the religious sites spoken of in the Gospels.
The Catholic Church may apologize for specific crimes its members committed that occurred during the Crusades, but how about some acknowledgment of the crimes which inspired the Crusades in the first place?
The Crusaders treated the Byzantines in general, and the inhabitants of Cyprus in particular, as their personal pillaging ground. What inspired the Crusades was not the opportunity to right wrongs, but rather the opportunity to claim fiefdoms in the eleventh century Middle Eastern power vaccuum.
The other rebuttal was more to the point:
Apologizing for Crusades
Letter writer Don McCleve (April 24) encourages the new pope to ``reach out to Muslims'' and apologize for the Crusades. How far back should we go? Should Muslims apologize for sacking Constantinople some 1,500 years ago? Should the Romans apologize for sacking Jerusalem two millenniums ago?
Perhaps the Pope should apologize for those in the Western world who cannot stop apologizing.
If the pope is going to apologize for anything it should be for the way protestants were treated. The counter-reformation is probably the darkest moment in the history of christianity. St. Bartholemew's Day massacre, Spanish Inquisition, John Huss. Whats not to hate? Of course this is one apology that will probably never happen.
And btw, i dont think that anyone owes the Muslims of the middle ages any apologies. Doesnt anyone recall the battle of tours, where the Franks saved Europe from muslim conquest? They had already conquered spain and were on their way to Germany. Any war that the Europeans fought against muslims before about 1850 can only be described as a defensive war, no matter where the front lines were.
i think that apologies can sometimes be meaningful, even years or centuries after the fact. Too often though people want apologies for the sake of apologies. Who would a papal apology to Muslims really benefit? would it mean anything to the muslims? Does anyone think that if the Pope apologized for the crusades, that suddenly East-West relations would normalize? This is one case where the apology would only benefit the apologizer, and hence is unnecessary.