“Those who believed in him were brutal men and desert wanders, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching, through whose numbers Muhammad forced others to become his followers by the violence of his arms.” St. Thomas Aquinas (SCG Book 1)
The past few days we have written about what the Bishops are focusing on in their preaching. Coincidentally, we came across this today. Cardinal Dolan visited an Islamic community in order to help build bridges, maintain peace, promote mutual understanding, and of course plant the seeds of conversion in order that they may be saved. Well, he did everything except for the last part. St. Francis of Assisi who was brave enough to face the possibility of death in converting the Muslims of his day (in between Church-bashing, talking to plants, and singing “Lord of the Dance” of course) would not be impressed. Today, I wanted to take a look at some of the things Cardinal Dolan said.
So first off, we are not going to say (as some might) that any conversation with a non-Catholic must involve the statement “Convert here and now you infidel or I will write to the Inquisition at once!” Liberals think this is what conservative Catholics say. Ultra-radical Traditionalists who consider Michael Voris too liberal might say this, but Catholics with their heads screwed on straight don’t. It is our goal, and it should be the goal of any charity-filled Catholic, to bring each and every person we can into the Catholic Church. Christ said “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.” There are different tactics of doing this, obviously prayer and sacrifices are the greatest means. Good example and strong friendships bring many non-Catholics into the fold. However, in the midst of all this, it is important to also to speak the truth when the situation calls for it. Also, we need to call attention to the fact that Catholicism has something greater to offer. We can and should build relationships with non-Catholics however we should not muddy the waters, and in order to avoid awkward offense, conceal the truth that Christ taught us. Much of what Cardinal Dolan said to the Muslims he was with is unobjectionable. I don’t know what specific moves I’d make in that situation to share the Faith and I do not know necessarily which course of action would yield the best results. Ultimately, conversion is the work of God; we just do what we can. Sometimes this involves harsh words, other times it doesn’t but that’s not my point today.
It is not my intent to nit-pick at what the Cardinal said and didn’t say, however, some of his remarks were alarming. First, Cardinal Dolan says Muslims have to learn to become “Loyal, responsible, patriotic Americans without losing their faith” just as Catholic immigrants did back in the day. Now maybe he is using the term faith really loosely and what he really means is belief in God in general. Still, this is ambiguous enough that it could be taken all sorts of ways. Actually, the most obvious interpretation would be that “faith” here means their commitment to Islam. This is at least how a Muslim would interpret it. If someone told me not to lose my faith, I’d hear “Catholic Faith.” This kind of statement from the Cardinal makes me uneasy, especially in light of his record. I cannot be confident that tomorrow he will remind Muslims that they are missing elements of the true Faith; actually, I can be confident he will not do that. The gist of the statement I got was that they should be true to their “faith.” In other words, they have to face the challenge of becoming good Americans without losing their Islamic identity. This is scary indeed if we take seriously Catholic Church teaching. I hope with all my heart that each and every Muslim does in fact lose their Islamic identity and “faith” (which isn’t faith at all, as I will explain in a second) and be baptized in the Catholic Church.
So why did I just say it is scary? It is scary because Islam is no path to God nor is it a path to salvation. Islam does, as Vatican II recognizes, include some elements of truth. It is a monotheistic religion and shares some key tenants of morality with Christians. These can be paths to God, however, Islam itself is only a false religion that leads people away from God. If a Muslim does find God, he does so in spite of Islam and through the truth that was not distorted by Islam. Imagine a team in baseball wins a game 9-7. The pitcher who started the game for the winning team gave up all seven runs in the first three innings. It is true that the team eventually came back and won, however, it is not because of his pitching but in spite of his pitching. It is true that if the pitcher gave up 10 runs the team would’ve lost, however, we do not say the team won because the pitcher gave up only 7 runs instead of 10. Similarly we do not say that Islam is a path to God because it retains some elements of truth.
I also said Islam is no faith at all. This is true because the supernatural faith includes belief in Christ and the Trinity, as this was revealed by God. Muslims deny both of these concepts vehemently. How can we say Islam is faith when in fact it contains blasphemies against God? It calls Jesus Christ a mere man! Take a look at the Athanasian Creed for a second. It starts by saying “If anyone wishes to be saved he must keep the Catholic Faith” and then goes on to say what that faith is. The faith is centered on belief in the Trinity and Incarnation! It is ordinarily necessary that one has explicit belief in these two dogmas in order to be saved (although in extraordinary circumstances implicit faith suffices). What Cardinal Dolan said simply doesn’t square with the historic teaching and attitude of the Catholic Church. The Church has never treated Islam as though it was “faith” in any sense.
In addition to lacking any resemblance of the faith, Islam lacks the sacraments. There is no baptism in Islam as there is in some Protestant groups. Whatever happened to “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit He will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” The Council of Trent says of our Lord’s words: “If any one saith, that true and natural water is not of necessity for baptism, and, on that account, wrests, to some sort of metaphor, those words of our Lord Jesus Christ; Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost; let him be anathema.”
Anyway, that covers the first problem in Cardinal Dolan’s statements. However, he goes on to say a lot more about how Muslims feel. Now the problem is that there is a strain of Islam that is not trivial and in fact is growing. This radical or Jihadist Islam needs to be recognized for the problem it is. To illustrate this, I’m going to put my comments in [bold in brackets] embedded in his quote) Please note we do not believe that all Muslims share the beliefs I criticize , My comments are targeted at “radical” Islam. However it would be nice if more presumably “mainstream” Muslims voiced them. It might be a good idea if Cardinal Dolan challenged the Muslims he was addressing to do so, which is my point. Anyway… Cardinal Dolan praises Muslims for “Your love of marriage [But how to square this with the forced marriages and reports of assorted “honor” killings in the United States. ] and family, your love of children and babies [but is strapping them with bombs and sending them on Allah’s mission loving ?] your love of freedom [I hope if the Cardinal has heard anything about Sharia Law this is a sarcastic remark that is meant as a joke] — religious freedom particularly [Tell that to the Christians in the Middle East]— your defense of life [except the life of anyone who disagrees with you, again consider those terror bombings. Has Cardinal Dolan spoken with Cardinal O’Malley in Boston recently? ], your desire for harmony and unity [Yeah…but in the name of Islam] and your care for others, your care for God’s creation and your care for those who are in need”
Yes, Yes…. we know Most Muslims are peace loving people, only a few radicals do these bad things etc etc etc… So OK maybe most of those practicing Islam are not blowing up cafes, But it is hard not to escape the conclusion that there is obviously something about contemporary Islam that allows it self to be interpreted this way and by large numbers of people. Even worse are there a lot of loud Muslim voices condemning the terrorist bombings, the Sharia law honor killings, the persecution of Christians, from centers of Islamic religious authority? If so, by whom? As for religious freedom. This comment is breathtaking. It is a crime punishable by death in most Islamic countries to convert from Islam to any other faith, and it is a crime to even wear a crucifix in public in a “moderate Islamic country” like Saudi Arabia. If someone wore a crucifix or passed out a Bible is any number of Muslim nations they would be arrested. This is not a commitment to religious freedom.
The blog post ,which we linked to contains the original article with the entire story. The article states “Cardinal Dolan stressed that Catholics and Muslims have a mutual love of the United States and of the religious freedom that this country affords, especially the ability to meet with people of different beliefs that would not be possible in some other nations.” Hmm…where to begin here? They love the US…really?!?! I guess 9.11 was just a little bump in the road, huh? And the part where it says “some other nations” maybe we should add: MUSLIM NATIONS!
Give me a break. All of this rhetoric simply does not match up with the facts. It does not match up with the facts of Islam or Catholicism. The facts are that Islam and Catholicism are very different and to some extent mutually exclusive. We think Jesus is God and the way to salvation and they think this statement is blasphemy. And didn’t Cardinal Dolan just recently say that we needed to be more open and welcoming to gay people…change of plans I guess. Its not clear how to square this openness to gay people with the Muslim view of gays. Homosexual acts are crimes punishable by the death penalty in Muslim nations like Saudi Arabia and Yemen. ( And you thought Christians were intolerant of homosexuals… wow we just think homosexual acts are sins!)
For now, let’s take a moment to pray for the bishops that they may have the strength to carry out the mission God gives them. The feast of St. John the Baptist is coming up, he was certainly a bold preacher. St. John the Baptist, pray for us, priests, and bishops!