Benedict's speech last Tuesday at his old university in Bavaria was undoubtedly provocative and open to a range of interpretations. And for that reason, any course in Communication 101 not to mention centuries of Vatican diplomacy could have seen this coming. So much so that one wonders if the Pope didn't show his speech to even a single top collaborator.
Traditionally, key papal discourses would wind their way through several layers of checks and input from various offices in the Roman Curia and particularly in the latter years of the previous papacy, bureaucrats actually wrote the speeches themselves. But the effective No. 2 man in the Curia bureaucracy, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, had been a lame duck over the last two months after Benedict announced his replacement as Secretary of State would begin this fall (Sep. 15, in fact, the day after the Pope's return from Germany). Insiders say the 78-year-old Italian hadn't had an effective working relationship with the German Pope since he became Pope (some believe he may have even tried to block the election of the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the conclave of April 2005). But more to the point, the Pope has long trusted his own writing touch for major documents and speeches and no one was going to edit his grand return to the University of Regensburg where he'd taught theology in the 1970s.
If someone else had had a chance to examine the speech in advance, they might have made the point that it wouldn't be smart to cite the now infamous words of a 14th century Byzantine Emperor "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached" without some context or interpretation. One might even defend the Pope's use of the historical quote in order to pursue his intellectual point but not his simply leaving it there to flap in the wind, without saying what he thought of its merits. At his Sunday Angelus prayer, Benedict in fact stated clearly that he did not agree with the Emperor, and that he respects Muslims two points that should have been inserted in his speech right next to the emperor's black-and-white quote.