Yet I cringed when reading Benedict’s speech, and not jut because of its laughable recounting of 15th century Christianity’s embrace of reason and tolerance. ~Alkyan Velshi
One thing Ledeen did get right was that Mr. Velshi curiously managed to get the century of Manuel II’s dialogue wrong. But there is a more basic problem here: the same snide, irritating disdain for the claims of some Christians to a legacy of non-coercion and toleration presumably on account of a remedial acquaintance with the Wars of Religion or some other such events. It was a long-standing Byzantine tradition to refrain from compulsion and violent coercion in religion, and it is notable in the history of the Byzantine empire–which was officially Christian for nearly 1,100 years–how few heretics were ever killed for their heterodoxy or forcibly converted and how often these measures were opposed in the strongest terms by the Church. There are exceptional cases: the forcible conversion of Jews and violent repression of monophysites under Heraclius; the persecution of the Montanists under Leo III; executions of a few Paulicians and Athinganoi under Michael I; executions of some Bogomils under Alexios I. There were inter-confessional persecutions, most of which took the form of sending people into exile or deposing them from their sees. It might be of interest to note that one of the worst periods of violent persecution in these internal church disputes was under Michael VIII, who sought to enforce church union with Rome. On the whole, the “laughable recounting” of Byzantine reasonableness and tolerance was by and large accurate. Of course no self-respecting religion in the 14th century would have pretended that people are entitled to hold any beliefs they pleased without penalty, but there was a remarkable commitment to refrain from compulsion and coercion in Byzantium. It is one of the things about Byzantium that modern people could view with some appreciation…assuming they knew anything about it, which Mr. Velshi clearly does not.