## Sunday, September 17, 2006

### Two apologies: comparative literature

I am afraid that Rae Ann was right and the Pope is forced to do very similar things as our president was forced to do last year. My guess is that if this similarity is going to continue, the outcomes might be equivalent, too.

Let's compare these two texts:

Letter from President Summers on women and science - January 19, 2005, five days after Summers' famous speech

Text of Pope's apology - Sunday, 17 September 2006, five days after Pope's famous speech

LHS: Dear Members of the Harvard Community;

Pope: Dear Brothers and Sisters,

LHS: Last Friday I spoke at a conference on women and science, hosted by the National Bureau of Economic Research. I attended the conference with the intention of reinforcing my strong commitment to the advancement of women in science, and offering some informal observations on possibly fruitful avenues for further research.

Pope: The pastoral visit which I recently made to Bavaria was a deep spiritual experience, bringing together personal memories linked to places well known to me and pastoral initiatives towards an effective proclamation of the Gospel for today.

LHS: Ensuing media reports on my remarks appear to have had quite the opposite effect. I deeply regret the impact of my comments and apologize for not having weighed them more carefully.

Pope: At this time, I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims.

LHS: Despite reports to the contrary, I did not say, and I do not believe, that girls are intellectually less able than boys, or that women lack the ability to succeed at the highest levels of science. As the careers of a great many distinguished women scientists make plain, the human potential to excel in science is not somehow the province of one gender or another. It is a capacity shared by girls and boys, by women and men, and we must do all we can to nurture, develop, and recognize it, along with other vital talents. That includes carefully avoiding stereotypes, being alert to forms of subtle discrimination, and doing everything we can to remove obstacles to success.

Pope: These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought.

LHS: I am strongly committed to Harvard's success in attracting both students and faculty who are outstanding and diverse along many dimensions. We have recently committed up to \$25 million in new funds to avoid budget constraints on the appointment of outstanding scholars from underrepresented groups, including women and minorities. Last year we completed a comprehensive report of our appointments process in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and we continue to assess and implement measures at a variety of levels to improve our effectiveness in this area. And we are actively exploring ways to enhance flexibility and support for faculty trying to balance career and family, through such measures as enhanced leave, parental teaching relief, delayed tenure clocks, and better childcare options.

Pope: Yesterday, the Cardinal Secretary of State published a statement in this regard in which he explained the true meaning of my words.

LHS: These and other steps should all be part of a broad-based and sustained effort to achieve a vital goal we all share: assuring that Harvard plays a leadership role in accelerating the advancement of women in science and throughout academic life.

Pope: I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect.

Conclusions

Yes, Rae, I seem to agree: it seems mostly isomorphic. The Pope still has the opportunity to learn from the subsequent developments at Harvard University and not to pay 50 million dollars to build the new school of jihad in Rome. ;-)

Another chance for the Holy Father is, of course, the hope that the Muslims are actually more reasonable than the feminists, and thus an isomorphic sequence of events will lead to a happy end in his case. I find it rather unlikely. Some Muslims are gonna be satisfied but the remaining Muslims will keep on making the Pope's life unpleasant.