I’m pointing you outside my blog today, to a post I wrote for the web journal Sightings, published by the Martin Marty Center. As many of you know, I wrote my dissertation and first book on anti-Jewish religious polemic in the Middle Ages, and the way it was used to define Christians and separate them from those with different beliefs. When I read the address Pope Benedict XVI gave at Regensburg on reason and faith in 2006, it upset me greatly because I had the sense he was arguing for a return to twelfth-century modes of inter-religious understanding — or misunderstanding as it might be. But I wasn’t moved to write until a couple of weeks ago, when I read a new address he gave praising one of the architects of this understanding, Peter the Venerable. Here’s the first paragraph, and the link that follows will take you to the full text:
n his general audience in St. Peter’s Square on October 14th, Pope Benedict gave an address in which he held up the twelfth-century monk and abbot of Cluny, Peter the Venerable, as a model for contemporary Christians, lay and monastic, praising him for his ability to balance both contemplative spirituality and the demands and pressures of the world. Peter was an unusual choice. Though the pope associated him with the abbey’s canonized abbots, quoting his papal predecessor Gregory VII that at Cluny, “there was not a single abbot who was not a saint,” Peter in fact was never canonized. Why select him as a model over other Benedictine contemplative administrators, not least Saint Benedict himself, who could provide the same example of tranquility in the face of turmoil? What makes Peter stand out from his brethren at this moment in time?