I have rarely seen such a display of bad diplomacy in my life. We seem to have hit a new low.
Pope Benedict XVI (16 for those who think I’m being elite by using Roman numerals) visited the United States and the White House. President Bush seemed to roll out the red carpet for him....
Some people were critical of the President’s “Awesome speech your Holiness,” but I didn’t see that as a big deal. But there were a couple of monumental things in terms of diplomacy that really stood out. As well as comments....
For one, the 21- gun salute. Again, I am not opposed to 21- gun salutes and have seen many of them and find them quite moving. They are most often used at the burial of a veteran and are most appropriate. But for welcoming the Pope?
Pope Benedict, nee, Joseph Ratzinger is 81 years old and was born and raised in Germany. Considering he was born in 1927 he grew up during the reign of Adolf Hitler and grew up in Nazi Germany. He spent time, pretty much against his will, like mostly all the youth of his era, in the Hitler Youth. At great risk he went AWOL from the Hitler Youth and very much despised the Nazi regime....and war. So, being highly sensitive to the Pope they chose to give him a 21- gun salute? Huh?
Then there were the President’s comments about life being sacred and not being a moral relativist.
Moral relativism has become a big tent to encompass lots of things. It is often simply stating that moral relativists don’t believe in any principles, but all ethical decisions are made subject to circumstances. Actually, lots of people who are classified as moral relativists do believe that there are definitive principles, but they are either not totally knowable (aka, God’s Truth) or unachievably. Joseph Fletcher, in this work, “Situation Ethics” said that all morality was situational, but based on the premise of Augustine stating, “Love and do as you will.”
The reality is that moral relativism pretty much encompasses everyone. Most people do cafeteria pick and choose their ethical principles. But not everyone in some circumstances.
Take the Pope. The Pope would consider himself to be pro-life. He is opposed to abortion under all circumstances. All. No exceptions. He’s opposed to stem cell research, euthanasia, capital punishment, and most war unless it strictly adhere to the Just War Principle. Guess where he would stand on torture?
President Bush is not pro-life. He may be opposed to abortion and stem cell research, but he’s an absolute moral relativist on other life issues. I was wondering when reading his comments if he realized how inappropriate he was in stating his view of morality in front of a person who has such a hugely different perspective than he does.
Then, of course, Laura Bush wore a white dress. When you invite the Pope, you don’t wear white. He does. That’s it. Major protocol error. Not on Mrs. Bush’s part, mind you, because someone needed to have a clue.
So, here’s my question. You completely blunder protocol (this is the White House, mind you) and you really step in it with your words. Was this an attempt to deliberately insult a foreign dignitary or just plain stupid?