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By Diogenes (bio - articles ) | Feb 02, 2009

 For the Vatican, a teachable moment

Thus reads the headline for a blog item on the USA Today site. The author, Stephen Prothero, who chairs the religion department at Boston University, sees the teachable moment and condescends to teach us.

It's always nice when a scholar offers to instruct the ignorant masses, particularly under the auspices of an erudite journal like USA Today. It's even nicer when the scholar in question knows what he's talking about. Regrettably, that is not the case here.

From the ruckus currently surrounding Bishop Richard Williamson, Prothero draws the conclusion that religious should do more to break "the long-standing connection between religion and violence." He goes on:

One of the great challenges of our time is to begin a conversation that might sever that connection. This is a conversation for believers and non-believers alike. In that conversation, we need the largest religious institution in the world, the Roman Catholic Church, as a vocal participant.

The main thrust of Prothero's argument is that Pope Benedict should become involved in that needed conversation. As if the Pope had not underlined precisely that point-- the need to disassociate religion from violence-- in his Regensburg speech. And in his audience with visiting Islamic scholars. And in his annual addresses-- every one of them-- to the Vatican diplomatic corps. And in his World Day of Peace messages. And in his appearance at the United Nations. And during his visit to Turkey. And at the synagogue in Cologne. And... Come to think of it, it's difficult to go through a week's worth of the Pope's public remarks without coming across that message, loud and clear. And yet somehow not loud enough, or not clear enough, to reach Boston University. Strange.

Prothero is the author of Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — And Doesn't. That sounds like the title of a book the author himself should read.

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