It seems lots of people are making a habit of underestimating Pope Benedict, although no one seems to be profiting from it. From the BBC: Pope publishes cancelled speech
The Vatican has released the text of a speech the Pope was due to have given during a visit to Rome University, that was cancelled due to protests.
While some Rome students and faculty members have been crying victory, others have rallied around the pontiff. At Wednesday's general audience, students turned up with banners of support for the Pope.
A senior Vatican cardinal has urged Romans to turn out for next Sunday's Angelus blessing in St Peter's Square.
In the speech that Pope Benedict wrote himself for delivery at the start of the academic year in Rome, he acknowledges that some of the things said by theologians over the centuries have been proven false by history.
But he insists that the search for truth cannot be divorced from the traditional fields of study at universities since the Middle Ages, namely philosophy and Christian theology.
The BBC reporter doesn't quite get it, but this isn't surprising as the Pope's talk touched upon a number of thinkers from Socrates to John Rawls and is pregnant with undercurrents. Indeed, it seems obvious that either the Pope was aware of the possibility of the protests or that the speech was altered to highlight the intellectual vacuousness of his critics.
At one point Benedict even invokes the neo-Marxist school known as "Critical Theory": (The Pope's address, in Italian, can be found here)
Jürgen Habermas esprime, a mio parere, un vasto consenso del pensiero attuale, quando dice che la legittimità di una carta costituzionale, quale presupposto della legalità, deriverebbe da due fonti: dalla partecipazione politica egualitaria di tutti i cittadini e dalla forma ragionevole in cui i contrasti politici vengono risolti. Riguardo a questa "forma ragionevole" egli annota che essa non può essere solo una lotta per maggioranze aritmetiche, ma che deve caratterizzarsi come un "processo di argomentazione sensibile alla verità" (wahrheitssensibles Argumentationsverfahren). È detto bene, ma è cosa molto difficile da trasformare in una prassi politica.
For those whose Italian isn't what it could be, I'll translate:
Jürgen Habermas represents, in my opinion, a vast consensus of current thinking when he says that the legitimacy of a constitutional charter, in its legality, derives from two sources: from the equal political participation of all the citizens and from the reasonable manner in which political disputes are resolved. Concerning this "reasonable manner" he notes it may not be only a matter of arithmetic majorities, but it should be characterized as a "process of argumentation sensitive to the truth." It is well said, but it is a difficult thing to transform into political practice.
Indeed, that difficulty is spelled out by the knee-jerk reaction of the critics at La Sapienza, who represent less a moment of progress as compared to the Church's medieval obscurantism, than a return to such obscurantism. They certainly failed to live up to any Liberal idea of what a University should be. They even failed to live up to the politics of mediation favored by leftists like Habermas. Indeed, all they managed to do is look foolish, boorish and downright uncivilized.
It is heartening that some are recognizing this in Italy itself. From the BBC again:
The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone told the Rector of Rome University, after students threatened to disrupt the Pope's visit, that the Pontiff would no longer be "guaranteed a dignified and tranquil welcome".
What is interesting is that the anti-Pope protests seem, in some ways, to have backfired. One leading Italian newspaper the Corriere della Sera ran a front page editorial headlined "A defeat for the country", while President Napolitano and politicians of both the right and left have been condemning demonstrations of intolerance towards the Pope.
Even when this Pope loses, he wins