What the Catholic Catechism says about Islam
, Vincent C. defends
the Church from the charge that it commands its members on penalty of sin to support open borders. I replied that though support for open borders is not required of Catholics, it is still promulgated by the Church hierarchy and carries much authority and influence, and therefore the Church, as the Church, can be criticized for it.
Unfortunately, it is also the case that some of the most dangerous liberal teachings of the Church are not optional, but are included in the Catholic Catechism, the Church’s official statement of the Catholic faith, and thus all Catholics are required to subscribe to and practice them. I am thinking specifically of the Catechism’s passage on the Church’s relations with Islam, which, along with the rest of the Catechism, Vincent tells us, Catholics must accept on penalty of sin. Here it is:
The Moslems, “professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who at the last day wiill judge mankind” (Lumen Gentium 16). Though the Islamic faith does not acknowledge Jesus as God, it does revere Him as prophet, and also honors His virgin mother. Moslems “prize the moral life, and give worship to God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting” (Nostra Aetate 3). Noting that there had been many quarrels and hostilies between Christians and Muslims, the Second Vatican Council urged that all “forget the past and strive sincerely for mutual understanding, and, on the behalf of all mankind, make common cause of safeguarding and fostering social justice, moral values, peace, and freedom” (Nostra Aetate 3).
Let us now consider these statements of authoritative Catholic doctrine one at a time.
“Moslems profess the faith of Abraham.”
Meaningless and dangerous. That Muslims claim descent from Abraham and even claim to share his faith tells us nothing about the actual doctrines and history of Islam. It does not mean that those doctrines have anything in common with Christianity and Judaism.
“Muslims along with us adore the one and merciful God.”
False. The god of the Koran, who is a god of pure will unknowable to man, a god who commands his Islamic followers to conquer the earth, a god who commands that Muslims kill Jews and Christians unless they accept Islam, is not the God of the Bible.
“The Islamic faith regards Jesus as a prophet.”
False. The Islamic faith regards Jesus, along with Abraham and Moses, as Islamic prophets, and says that anyone who believes otherwise is an enemy of Islam who must be punished.
“Moslems prize the moral life, and give worship to God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.”
False. Muslims only believe in moral treatment toward their fellow Muslims. Non-Muslims are enemies, to be lied to, warred against, stolen from, subdued, and killed. The idea of an objective morality is foreign to Islam.
“Forget the past [i.e., forget 1,400 years of jihad, including the destruction of Eastern Christendom by Muslims] and strive sincerely for mutual understanding [with Muslims].”
Catholics are thus obligated to forget that their 1,400 year old enemy, their enemy who is commanded by his religion to subdue and destroy Christendom, is in fact their enemy. This obligation on Catholics is worse than suicidal liberalism. It turns suicidal liberalism into a religion, which says if you believe that your enemy is your enemy, if you speak the truth about your enemy who is commanded by his unchanging religion to subdue and destroy you, you are in a state of sin and may go to hell.
“On the behalf of all mankind, make common cause [with Muslims].”
Muslims are commanded by their god not to be friends with Christians and Jews, so how can Christians make common cause with Muslims? To the extent that we attempt to follow this command, we engage in a sick fantasy that we are making common cause with Muslims, while they use our state of delusion to advance their power over us.
“Safeguard and foster social justice, moral values, peace, and freedom.”
Social justice is a leftist term that has no meaning in the real world. There has never been and can never be a society that has social justice. Social justice is simply a Marxist slogan the effect of which is to delegitimize every existing society, or rather, to delegitimize Western political society.
* * *
Let me repeat that all the false and destructive ideas discussed above are in the Catholic Catechism and therefore are obligatory on Catholics.
What is to be done? There must be a movement within the Church to remove the passages relating to Islam from Nostra Aetate and Lumen Gentium that are quoted in the Catechism, and to remove the passage in the Catechism that makes those statements part of the official body of Catholic faith. Until that is done, the Catholic Church remains officially committed to—and requires its flock on penalty of sin to believe—false ideas that spell dhimmitude and religious and civilizational suicide, both for itself and for the whole Western world.
—end of initial entry—
Dan M. writes:
Your analysis of the catechism, I’m afraid, is deeply flawed. In each case you have “read into” it things that are not there, and then claim falsehood.
(1) To begin with, in saying, “Muslims profess the faith of Abraham,” you have falsified the passage by leaving out “ing to hold.” Professing the faith, and professing to hold the faith, are categorically distinct things. The one is the profession of the faith itself, while the other is the claim that one holds it. This is easy. This is not a false statement, for the Muslims do claim to hold it. That we may believe the faith they hold is not ours, is another issue.
(2) “Muslims along with us adore the one and merciful God.” The second half of this (the initial statement) is admittedly problematic, and the one place in this passage where there seems to be error. It is of course always a question exactly how many wrong things one may believe about the Christian God before one must say that the belief is no longer in this same god. This is a problem for a great many Protestants, who seem to think that one only gets into heaven if one believes all the right things. The truth is that none of us believes all the right things. Nevertheless, we must draw the line somewhere, but I think it is not drawn according to some arbitrarily set minimum number of essential qualities believed, but according to the fruits of the believers taken in the broadest possible sense across time. According to this standard, I think any objective examination of the history of Islam, especially in its dealings with Christians, must convince an unbiased observer that they do not serve the same god as the Christians, regardless of which god one believes to be the true one. That said, they do understand themselves to worship a god that is “one” and “merciful.” But the key is in the article. If the passage had said “a one and merciful god (note lower case),” without implying that that god is our God, it would pass inspection.
Perhaps this is the place to mention that infallibility is commonly misunderstood to mean that any utterance of the Church must include the whole of the truth as it is understood at any time in which one examines it. This is a standard that no work of man can ever live up to. As an example of this, I offer the famous case of those who, questioning the doctrine of infallibility in the two or three cases in which they think they have caught the popes in error, say that in one of these cases the pope did not say what he ought to have said. But infallibility certainly does not apply to things not said! This is at the root of the rest of your errors in interpretation here. Admittedly the catechism doesn’t tell the whole story. But, it was never intended to be an exhaustive treatment.
(3) Continuing, then, “The Islamic faith regards Jesus as a prophet.” True. You seem to want other contingencies spelled out here, but the statement is true as it stands, whether or not they think him an Islamic prophet. (Of course they think him an Islamic prophet!) This is the passage that you should have marked as meaningless. Hindus too, within the vast range of beliefs allowed them, may well (some of them, like perhaps Ghandi) think Jesus a prophet—but we hardly care—the fundamental truth is that they reject him as God. (Also, I’m not too sure that they honor Mary in any sense of that word, esp. as virgin mother. It’s been a long time since I read the Koran, but it seems to me I recall it said some rather outrageous lies about her.)
(4) “Moslems prize the moral life, and give worship to God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.”
Once again, as it stands, this is strictly true. This is their own self-understanding—what they would say of themselves if asked. This does not say, what I think you read it to say, that they practice the moral life! (As we understand it or otherwise.)
(5) “Forget the past [i.e., forget 1,400 years of jihad, including the destruction of Eastern Christendom by Muslims] and strive sincerely for mutual understanding [with Muslims].”
Forgetting the past, in respect of wrongs done to one personally, is just good Christianity. To forget the past civilizationally is suicide. This passage must be interpreted in the former way, as a command not to bring personal prejudice to personal dealings with others of that faith, which personal dealings are all that a person as Christian dealing personally need be concerned with. Otherwise, there is no chance of either witness or conversion.
(6)”On the behalf of all mankind, make common cause [with Muslims].”
This again is just assuming the best of others, at least until they act to remove all doubt—these are all, you note, the conditions of possibility of peace. There is no harm, I would say, in carrying cocked and locked, just in case. But we cannot just presume iniquity in our dealings with them, even if we expect it.
(7) “Safeguard and foster social justice, moral values, peace, and freedom.”
Social Justice is admittedly leftist cant, but it need not be. To my mind it is simply a redundancy—all justice is social.
Undoubtedly you will think I’ve been needlessly nit-picky in my critique of your analysis. The catechism, you will say, just does not spell out the Muslim threat adequately, and I agree. But this is to miss the whole intent of it. It is not a political tract designed for the purpose. Its limited range is to spell out proper Christian moral conduct for the individual believer in respect of other individuals. And, most importantly, it gives the benefit of the doubt to our enemies, without (with the one exception noted above) saying anything specifically false.
I thank Dan M. for his criticisms and I am deeply heartened by them. This is because, knowing next to nothing about Catholic doetrine, I evaluated the Catechism passage just on the basis of looking at this text and responding to its meaning according to my own understanding, knowing that I may have gone over my head and fearing I may have made a fool of myself. Dan probably knows 100 or 1,000 times more about Catholic teaching than I do. Yet, having read his comment, I can comfortably say (as he expected I might say) that each of his criticisms of my article consists of nothing but nugatory nitpicking. In no way do his criticisms touch on, weaken, or invalidate my substantive points. Which gives me confidence that I’m on the right track.
I’m writing this late at night. Maybe tomorrow I will respond to his criticisms point by point.
Serge Trifkovic sends this:
The Catholic Encyclopaedia (1908):
“In matters political, Islam is a system of despotism at home and aggression abroad… . The rights of non-Moslem subjects are of the vaguest and most limited kind, and a religious war is a sacred duty whenever there is a chance of success against the “Infidel.” Medieval and modern Mohammedan, especially Turkish, persecutions of both Jews and Christians are perhaps the best illustration of this fanatical religious and political spirit.”
Come back, St. Pius X, all is forgiven…
Yes, there it is. Between 1908, when that encyclopedia entry was written, and the 1960s, when Nostra Aetate and Lumen Gentium were issued, there was a total forgetting of what had been a central fact of Christendom for a thousand years, the Moslem enemy.
Bat Ye’or writes:
Issa, the Muslim Jesus, has a mission: at the end of days he will destroy Christianity and suppress all religions other than Islam.
Rachael S. writes:
I do not have time right now to respond point-by-point to all the criticisms leveled at today’s “Catholic Church,” but most of what I have been reading are criticisms of the Modern Church. As a traditionalist Catholic, I know that the Church today is not a Church at all, but a liberal anti-Church. Having had experience with both New Church and traditionalism, I can say that the former concerns itself with all sorts of liberal, mushy, tradition-destroying “social-justice” issues, the latter with the care of one’s soul. I have never heard anything in a traditionalist sermon about open borders; but my mentor at New Church did “border-crossings”“with some ridiculous group called JustFaith—and went to the Illegal Immigrants march on the Mall in Washington (though she never gushed about having attended any of the Marches for Life). This was a woman the “Church” picked to guide me in Catholicism! My tutoring in the Catholic faith was mostly accomplished through a program called RCIA (Rite of Christian Inititation of Adults) a self-help sharing circle where everyone talked about their feelings. When I suggested that we memorize Catholic prayers, I was told I could do that on my own time, and that it wasn’t important to memorize things like a robot. What is objectively Christian, or Catholic, about shunning prayer and vainly talking about oneself for an hour and a half?
The modern, anti-Catholic Vatican II organization is a bright neon-orange warning sign of what will happen to an institution if it is rotted from the inside out with liberalism (and even more sinister things) …
Anthony D., who is Catholic, writes:
I wanted to say that this article is a real gem. I sent it to several people including a Monsignor in the New York Archdiocese with a request to foreword it to the Vatican.
It is really a weapon against the enemy, even within the church itself!
Dan M. writes:
Perhaps my previous email was too long winded and not direct enough to be clear. My intent was to deny emphatically your substantive claim that:
“”some of the most dangerous liberal teachings of the Church are not optional, but are included in the Catholic Catechism, the Church’s official statement of the Catholic faith, and thus all Catholics are required to subscribe to and practice them.”
The idea that Muslims worship the same God as Christians is, I believe, a falsehood, but it is not a liberal teaching; it is a Muslim teaching. Liberals, more particularly, leftists (for clarity), do not think that there is a God at all. They are singularly unexcited about the issue, and perfectly happy to take Muslims at their word. On their account, neither side is worshipping anything real anyway. Naivete, ignorance of history, and lack of personal contact with Muslims generally has given rise to Christian acceptance of the idea. Liberals are not plotting to have Christians believe this, and defending it. They would not even know where to begin. (They’re not exactly theologians, you know.) Even if the Church were to recover the understanding of the 1908 encyclopedia, I doubt very much that warnings and accusations against Islam would ever appear in a Catechism, the purpose of which is to instruct the faithful in faith and morals. You’re not going to find anything like, “Beware the wily Muslim, for he is thine Historic Enemy.” Wouldn’t be prudent, you see. Perhaps such things are appropriate for encyclopedias and other instructional media, but not for the Catechism.
With that caveat then, I insist that I as a Catholic am not bound to believe or practice or subscribe to anything specifically liberal. The other passages that you analyzed, I believe I have shown do not commit me to anything dangerous and liberal. The rest simply gives the benefit of the doubt to the Muslim. “Forget the past” is a prohibition against prejudice and unfairness, not a call to historical ignorance. “Social justice” is unquantified here, I may construe it anyway I like. If some in the hierarchy construe it to mean something evil, that’s their problem. As for making common cause with Muslims, if I happen to run across any that are interested in the things mentioned and pursuing those things with me, I’ll not say, “get lost, you historic enemy you.” (Especially considering that he will probably be risking death to do so.)
I have no wish to sound so positive, but everything Dan has said here is either incorrect or besides the point. His main idea is that the passage is not liberal because liberals are not believers. Excuse me? Does Dan seriously mean to tell us that there are no liberal Christians? That Vatican II was not a liberal event in the Church? That the Ecumenism launched by Vatican II is not a liberal movement? That the cult of Man embraced by Vatican II is not a liberal idea?
Here, in an amazing passage I’ve quoted before, is Pope Paul VI in the closing session of Vatican II, January 1966:
[The Church] was also much concerned with man, with man as he really is today, with living man, with man totally taken up with himself, with man who not only makes himself the center of his own interests, but who dares to claim that he is the principle and final cause of all reality. Man in his phenomenal totality … presented himself, as it were, before the assembly of the Council Fathers …. The religion of God made man has come up against the religion—for there is such a one’of man who makes himself God…. [The Council] was filled only with an endless sympathy. The discovery of human needs—and these are so much greater now that the son of the earth has made himself greater—absorbed the attention of the Synod…. [W]e also, we more than anyone else, have the cult of man…. Oh yeah, making man in his phenomenal totality—which necessarily includes evil man—the highest value rather than God—which means that human evil is really good, which means that man is inherently good—is not liberal. Nope. No liberals here!
[The Catholic religion] proclaims itself to be entirely in the service of man’s wellbeing. The Catholic religion and life itself thus reaffirm their alliance, their convergence on a single human reality: the Catholic faith exists for humanity …
Further, this focus on man—man as he is, man who somehow (as John Paul II said) already has Christ within him as a result of Christ’s Advent and therefore doesn’t really need Christianity—connects directly with ecumenism which makes all religions roughly equal in terms of salvation. Jesus said, in the sublime words of Tyndale and the King James version, “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” That is assuredly not a liberal view of man’s destiny. But today’s Church says that basically everyone can be saved, even Muslims. That is liberal.
Thus Dan’s first point, that the Catechism is not liberal, and that therefore by following the Catechism Dan is not committing himself to liberalism, is demonstrably incorrect.
His second point, about relations with Muslims, is that the passage from the Catechism adds up to merely giving Muslims “the benefit of the doubt.” He says that the Catechism’s prescriptions for relations with Muslims only have to do with a Catholic individual’s tolerant and accepting relations with decent Muslim individuals, not with the Church’s relations with Islam. Thus he writes:
“Forget the past” is a prohibition against prejudice and unfairness, not a call to historical ignorance. So, “forget the past” doesn’t mean, uh, forget the past. It means don’t be prejudiced. But wait—isn’t opposition to prejudice a prototypically liberal value”
Thus Dan strives to make the passage seem other than what it plainly is: a supremely liberal call for Catholics to embrace Muslims as fellow believers and thus demolish the historic defenses that for 1,300 hundred years saved Western Christendom and European civilization from Islam.
John S. writes:
Catholics believe that salvation comes through Christ in and through His church. To the extent that people are separated from the Church, they are separated from Christ, and the further that separation is, due to our own fault, the harder it is to be with Christ in Heaven.
The Catechism’s entry “The Church’s relationship with the Muslims” (CCC 841), makes three basic points: 1) Muslims are included in the plan of salvation; 2) Muslims believe they hold the faith of Abraham, and 3) Muslims adore God. The focus is not on Islam as a belief-system but on Muslims as believers. Catholics are enjoined, as a matter of doctrine, to see Muslims not primarily as enemies or infidels but as people, like ourselves, who are in need of salvation. By identifying the few things that Catholics have in common with Muslims, the Catechism establishes a basic framework within which Catholic ought to relate to Muslims as fellow believers in God.
Because the commonalities presented are so few, the Catechism tacitly acknowledges how wide the separation is between Muslims and the Church, and so how difficult is the path to salvation for Muslims, from a Catholic point of view. A deeper engagement with Islamic beliefs, as occurs in the works of Bat Ye’or and Serge Trifkovic, reveals how dangerous and pernicious many Islamic beliefs actually are, including their conception of God. One approach the Church could take is to openly declare the error of Islamic beliefs, to call on Muslims to reject Islam, accept belief in Christ and the teaching of His Church or be damned. The Church, in recent times, has chosen a different, more conciliatory approach. One can argue the merits of one approach over the other. The point is, these are approaches involving prudential judgments about how to present Catholic doctrine; these are not doctrines in themselves. Pius X may have issued anathemas; Benedict XVI and recent popes before him have chosen dialogue. Both take very different approaches but both still uphold the same fundamental doctrine.
I appreciate the clarity and conciseness of John’s comment. He had earlier sent a 1,200 word long comment and I asked him to send something shorter.
I appreciate his clarity because he is presenting (in his second paragraph) the position of the Church that in my view we must utterly reject. First, we must reject the notion that Muslims as Muslims are included in the plan of salvation. As I understand what Mark N. says in the concurrent thread about whether Muslims go to heaven, it is in spite of their being Muslims that individual Muslims may perhaps be saved, not because of their being Muslims. To say that followers of that warlike anti-human religion, as such, are part of the plan of salvation is repulsive.
“Catholics are enjoined, as a matter of doctrine, to see Muslims not primarily as enemies or infidels but as people, like ourselves, who are in need of salvation.”
THIS is the very essence of the Christian liberalism that must be rejected. THIS is the pernicious view that says that we must look at Muslims merely as individuals, not as members of a religious/political movement that is enjoined by its god to wage eternal war toward our destruction. Liberalism denies the importance of the larger “wholes” of culture, nation, and religion to which people belong, and makes the individual and his equal rights and the imperative not to discriminate against him the most important thing. For us to view Muslims primarily as individuals not as Muslims is the very thing that has opened the doors of the West to the Jihadist onslaught and made it impossible for us to defend ourselves. Whether it’s dealing with terrorists as criminals rather than enemies, whether it’s litigating against terrorists rather than waging war against them, whether it’s the prohibition on profiling, whether it’s the FBI’s use of the CAIR as a consultant on the meaning of jihad (!), all the crazy things we’re doing now vis a vis Muslims are based on the assumption that we must view Muslims as individuals deserving our friendship and support and not as a group that is mortally dangerous to us.
I also disagree with John’s third paragraph, where he says that both a hard-line approach and a dialog-type approach toward Islam are equally based on the same doctrine. Under current doctrine as defined by the Vatican II documents Nostra Aetate and Lumen Gentium and the current Catechism, a hard-line approach is out of the question, as we saw in Pope’s pathetic Larry Summers routine in the days and weeks after the Regensburg speech. A hard-line approach was only possible, and actually existed, before those documents were promulgated, and would only become possible again if they were amended or repealed.
Charles T. writes:
The first time I heard the statement that Muslims hold the faith of Abraham and adore the one true God; I must admit I was puzzled at first. I believe the first time I heard this articulated was when the current Pope gave an address in a recent visit to Turkey. I initially thought he was simply trying to be congenial to the Turks. Surely, the leader of one the largest bodies of Christendom could not believe this position personally, now could he? However, I did not realize it was an official part of RC catechism until I found this article. As I pondered what was being taught and said here, I became deeply worried about the church teaching Christians to believe such a position.
I am deeply worried about the statement not only because of the falsehood taught, but also because it can lead to a passivity in resisting Islam. If they are our brothers, why resist them? Would it not be better to try and reason with them? Of course, I believe this is wrong-headed thinking. I also do not believe every Catholic holds this position on Islam. As Mr. Auster—and others—have pointed out before, Islam is not a branch of the Abrahamic faith. The Abrahamic faith originated with God approaching Abraham and is described in Genesis 15. Islam originated with Mohammed many centuries later. There is no shared faith. There is no shared development. The two cultures could not be further apart in their concept of God and faith.
In addition, I was equally deeply concerned about the statement that Muslims adore the one true God. What? Then why are they raping, murdering, stealing, flying airliners into bulidings, lying,etc., ad nauseam? This statement is simply blatantly false. Muslims adore a god, but it is not the Christian one…. and they commit their crimes in the name of this god. Muslims are taught in their Koran to do these things. Their Mullahs teach that Muslims can commit these acts against infidels. It is part of their evangelization campaign. The Bible does not teach this. Even a cursory reading of the Koran and the Bible should reveal to the reader the difference between Islam and Christianity.
I am neither RC nor anti-RC; however, I believe the church should abandon this position. It is a damaging, false statement.
Kevin V. writes:
Despite the convoluted defenses some neo-con Catholics mount the writings of the Second Vatican council are filled with heresy and contradiction to centuries of dogma and doctrine. That council has sunk the Church, period. It’s all over but the crying. It wasn’t just that council, don’t get me wrong you could see the strings unraveling in Vatican I with the declaration of papal infallibility. That was basically a last ditch defense against unraveling of Catholic controlled society.
As far as I’m concerned the Catholic Church is the Church Jesus Christ founded, if it is undone there is no more Christianity and therefore it was always an illusion. I could never consider becoming a protestant so I will soon no longer be a Christian.
John S. writes:
As I stated in my first paragraph, Catholics believe that salvation comes through Christ via His Church. A Muslim’s salvation can only come through Christ and His Church. It does not come through Islam. The Catechism points to two things that help a Muslim on his path to salvation (made extremely difficult because of his vast separation from Christ): his belief that he shares the faith of Abraham and his adoration of God. These are the starting -points for a Muslim on his way towards salvation through Christ. To say that followers of that warlike, anti-human religion do not have the opportunity for salvation through Christ would be repulsive.
Also, seeing your fellow man as a creature made in the image of God and in need of salvation is not liberalism, it is orthodox Christianity. A hard-line approach is not out of the question as a mater of doctrine because the approach itself, as I tried to point out, is not doctrine. Nothing that is stated in the documents re the Church’s relationship with Muslims need be repealed or amended because it is not in error. That doesn’t rule out clarifying certain points if the Holy See believes that would lead to a better understanding of the doctrine, but the doctrine itself, properly understood, is sound. If the Pope wanted to, he could take a different approach, echo the 1908 Catholic Encyclopedia and rail against certain beliefs of Islam, and still the doctrinal statements in the Catechism and other documents would be operative. That he chooses not to do so is a decision based on prudence; he is not constrained by doctrine.
Gintas J. writes:
Is Allah the same as the Christian God?
I am reminded of a riddle that Abe Lincoln liked.
Q: If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?
A: Four (not five). Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.
The Apostle Paul addressed the worship of idols in his letters to the church in Corinth. I Corinthians 8:4-6:
“So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”
People in Corinth were worshipping their idols, their gods. Those idols / gods were gods, in the sense that people worshipped them. But similar things could be said of money, cars, or a statue. They are gods from a purely human view, based on how humans treat these idols / gods. What makes a god really the God is not how humans treat him, but his attributes, his nature, his character. The idols are not God, no matter how many people worship them. God is still the God, even if no one worshipped Him.
To translate this to today, yes the Muslims worship Allah, so he is a god, the way we humans see things. But he does not have the nature and attributes and character of Abraham’s and the Christians’ God. So he is not the God. Calling Allah God does not make him God.
If the Catholic Church assumes Allah is the same as the Christian God, it makes a serious mistake, perhaps on the level of Paul associating Jupiter with God.
Jake F. writes:
You and your correspondents sometimes seem to be discussing two different things: whether the Catholic faith is right about something vs. whether the Catholic Church is. The Church can do many things badly, and even do bad things. The Holy Spirit only protects the Church’s infallibility in official pronouncements of matters of faith and morals—anathemas pronounced in Ecumenical Councils and ex cathedra (“from the chair”) declarations of the pontiff. Many Catholics are uncomfortable with what the Church says and does even though they believe the faith is right.
At any rate, in this topic, you quoted John:
“Catholics are enjoined, as a matter of doctrine, to see Muslims not primarily as enemies or infidels but as people, like ourselves, who are in need of salvation.”
“THIS is the very essence of the Christian liberalism that must be rejected. THIS is the pernicious view that says that we must look at Muslims merely as individuals, not as members of a religious/political movement that is enjoined by its god to wage eternal war toward our destruction.”
While I’m sympathetic to your view of this topic overall, you seem to have run astray here. John didn’t say we must look at Muslims “merely” or “only” as individuals. We can also look at them as Muslims, and at Islam as pernicious, but that’s only part of the picture; John’s statement tells us that they’re also people, and since Christ died for all men we must treat them as people for whom Christ died.
Maybe I should put it this way: 1. To the extent that Islam deviates from the truth, it’s bad. 2. People are naturally good (though afflicted with concupiscence). 3. As people, individual Muslims are naturally good. 4. To the extent that Muslims also participate in the bad aspects of Islam, they’re bad; but many Muslims reject bad aspects of Islam, consciously or not, which makes them better than they would be otherwise.
I’m not saying that we should always engage Muslims in discussion, or that Islam can be reformed if we engage “moderate Muslims,” or anything like that. I’m not even defending the Church’s current position on engaging with Islam.
But it isn’t leftist to say that Christ died for all men, or that you should love your enemies.
There are other tidbits that might be worth discussing: who gets into heaven (yes, we only know that the handful of saints are there), “invincible ignorance” (the ancient understanding that people who haven’t heard the Gospel aren’t necessarily damned simply for being non-Christian) and whether it applies to most Muslims, whether “Muslims do/don’t worship the same God” is really a reasonable question to ask. But that’s more than I have time for now.
I have one minor note regarding vocabulary: “ecumenism” is technically the discussion with and outreach to Christian religions that are not in league with the Pope, while “interfaith dialogue” is discussion with non-Christian religions.
Thanks again for all you do.
Would the defenders of Christian Europe from the eighth century to the eighteenth century have said that we need to think about Muslims as individuals? No. When it came to Islam, their first, second, and third priority was to defend Europe from Islam, period. An individual Muslim is a part of Islam. How much more is this the case when that individual Muslim is one of millions of Muslims now residing in the West, who have been allowed to enter the West precisely because of the modern Western belief that we must look at people as individuals and not as members of groups.
Jake F. replies:
The modern error is to look at people only as individuals and to deny the validity of looking at them as members of groups. You seem to be making the opposite error, looking at people only as members of a group and denying that we should look at them as individuals.
The recognition of both facets of a man (individual and member of group) is more critical now, when large numbers of Muslims live among us, than it was in the eighth century, when we were separated, because today the average Western man will meet good Muslims. Unless I’m seriously misreading you, you say that we will not meet good Muslims because they cannot be considered as individuals; all Muslims are bad. This position is incorrect, and liberals will use it to show how obviously wrong conservatives are.
I agree and have repeatedly said that the challenge is always to find the proper balance between the individual and collective dimensions of our humanity. But Islam is something else, and cannot be looked at the same way we look at other human groups. The relative degree of importance we give to the rights of individual Muslims in relation to how we treat Muslims as a group must be different from our dealings with individuals of other groups. Islam as a religion is committed by its god and its unchangeable law to world domination and the rule of sharia. Islam is a machine created by Muhammad and his followers to gain power over non-Muslims. Wherever Muslims are, that machine will be in operation, whether or not all Muslims are actively involved in the operation. The more Muslims there are, the stronger the machine will be. Therefore Muslims in significant numbers do not belong in any Western society—something that virtually all Westerners would have understood prior to the mid 20th century when modern liberalism took over. This does not mean that I necessarily seek to remove all Muslims from the West. But we must see Islam for what it is and has always been. We must stop and reverse Muslims’ increase in the West. The danger that Islam as a religion poses to us outweighs the importance we must give to the rights of individual Muslims. How much the former outweighs the latter is a prudential matter to be decided by the exigencies of the challenge we face in balance with considerations of humanity. But if we of the West fail to understand that the group aspect must outweigh the individual aspect when it comes to our dealings with Islam, we will never be able to defend ourselves and we will steadily be taken over by Islam.
An example of what I mean would be the right of the free exercise of religion. Since Islam is not just a religion in which individuals privately and harmlessly worship their god but a political ideology of world conquest, Islam does not deserve First Amendment protections under our Constitution. Once that is understood and established in law, we should start to limit Muslims’ free exercise of their religion, and then they will voluntarily start to leave.
Karen in England writes:
The comments of the Catholic readers make interesting reading and none can properly explain the CCC841 and what it specifically means regarding Moslem salvation. However they seem to accept without question that they should treat Moslems well and without suspicion and thus are effectively disarmed. This is an example of Catholic docility where one must accept the Catechism in its entirety as the authority on faith and morals and follow it. Catholics can complain about CCC841 but the Vatican is not democratic and ignores complaints and therefore the CCC will not be changed and this section will not be removed. It is also interesting that the Catholics do not understand the Word of God as in the Bible which states unambiguously that Christianity is a religion of faith and not works “so that no-one can boast.”
We need to get an answer to the question of what a Moslem needs to do to be saved in the Catholic way. A Moslem who becomes a Christian believer is saved, under the Protestant and Biblical definitions of Salvation. However if he lives in Saudi Arabia and cannot attend a Catholic Church because there are none and hence cannot do the works which the Catholic faith requires for salvation (Sacraments- baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance/indulgences, alms,prayers) but nevertheless has a strong Christian faith, can he still be saved? If Moslems are the first to be saved among those who adore the Creator, will the Moslem works suffice ie, alms, prayers, fasting, jihad? What is Rome’s plan for Moslems?
Kevin’s comments are disturbing. If he leaves the Church of Rome, he will “not become a Protestant” and will therefore not be a Christian. What is he going to become? A Secularist? A Moslem? The latter is not impossible since the Vatican now approves Moslems. This is a denial of the Reformation and hence a denial of the basis of the foundation of the USA (and Britain) which is a country founded on Protestant values and not on Roman Catholic ones. Catholics have been allowed to live in Protestant countries, have largely been left alone and have enjoyed a higher standard of living, education and freedom than they would have had in RC Countries. But they also do not recognise the legitimacy of and reasons for the Reformation. Likewise Vatican II did not revoke the Council of Trent and hence still does not recognise the Reformation.
Can the Vatican and its flock who are in denial of the Reformation, the Glorious Revolution and the basis for the formation of the affluent and successful Protestant nations (of which the Romans in their political and economic backwardness are profoundly envious and largely subsidised by via the EU) act as defenders of the West when they don’t give the Protestant West legitimacy and they form close bonds with Moslems?
I doubt the Vatican will defend the West whatever individual Catholics want or think.
I had thought that the post-Vatican II Catholic Church was pretty darned accepting and tolerant of the range of Christian denominations and in some ways had virtually turned itself into a Protestant church itself. It is really necessary for the Catholic Church formally to subscribe to the Protestant Reformation in order for it to be acceptable to Karen? What must the pope do to be sufficiently ecumenical—lead the crowd in St. Peter’s Square in a performance of “Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott”? Well, given John Paul II’s kissing of the Koran, singing a Protestant hymn would be pretty mild stuff.
However, while I don’t think Karen’s argument is correct that the Church is fundamentally hostile to the northern Protestant nations and for that reason doesn’t care to help defend them from Islam, it is a thought provoking and troubling thesis and I have posted it. Certainly the attitude of the previous pope and the bishops regarding U.S. immigration policy suggests that the hierarchy places no value on the survival of a historic distinct American nation. But, of course, neither do the Protestant churches and a lot of prominent Protestant Americans. If Karen would denounce the Protestant churches for their civilizational treason as fiercely as she does the Catholic Church, the anti-Catholic part of her argument might have more sway.
Whoops, my suggestion about Catholics singing a certain hymn, intended whimsically, turns out not to be so. According to Wikipedia’s article on Luther’s great hymn:
August 3, 2009
Perhaps ironically, given its Reformation pedigree, it is now a suggested hymn for Catholic masses, appearing in the second edition of the Catholic Book of Worship, published by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In this connection, I’ve always loved the lines in the last poem in Eliot’s Four Quartets, “Little Gidding,” where, speaking of the English Civil War, he writes of past enmities being ended and former enemies becoming one:
We cannot revive old factions
However, I think that Catholics singing “A Mighty Fortress is our God” is carrying this reconciliation business a bit too far!
We cannot restore old policies
Or follow an antique drum.
These men, and those who opposed them
And those whom they opposed
Accept the constitution of silence and are folded in a single party.
Jon K. writes from Sweden:
I believe one can never emphasize this enough: the Catholic Church is in deep crisis. A crisis of Faith. One can no longer trust a bishop’s, not even always a Pope’s word at face value. Most things need checking against Catholic tradition.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 21, 2007 10:48 PM | Send
The matter of immigration is a good example, and on this topic it must be said that the Catholic bishops will show no more realism in Italy than in the USA (this invalidates Karen’s theory). It would be completely impossible to reconcile the new “Catholic” position or attitude (willful naivete and irresponsible “love”) with that of the Church in let’s say 1948. Those Catholic bishops who today are defending mass immigration never even try to explain how it could be reconciled with what the Church taught earlier on.
Please read Romano Amerio’s “Iota Unum” (or at least: read about it). Or even many declarations by Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI. The Church is going through a crisis.
However, as this Pope has repeatedly reaffirmed, Catholic Church teaching cannot change. Therefore, one can always go back to earlier—usually much clearer—pronunciations by Church authority to know what the Church teaches.
Last, one must distinguish between Church teaching and the different attitudes of churchmen. For instance: new “attitudes” like the new Catholic naivete and irenism towards Islam is in no way Church teaching. “Attitudes” and policies (for instance Paul VI’s appraisal to the UN) are not binding and may prove to be utterly wrong. One must also keep in mind that even Catholic documents on doctrine present different degrees of certainty.