September 2017

Did They Know Christ? Do We?

Anne Barbeau Gardiner’s review of The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America by Andrés Reséndez (June) left me feeling quite ashamed of my fellow “white” Caucasian Christians, not only back then but today.

That the Supreme Court in 1873 would exclude American Indians from U.S. citizenship, and in 1880 uphold its decision by refusing them the right to vote, speaks volumes about its inability to correctly judge the moral aspects of legal personhood — e.g., Dred Scott and Roe v. Wade. 

Those Supreme Court justices who abetted Indian slavery, and those Americans who trafficked in it or owned Indian slaves, were no doubt churchgoers who vied to be noticed at Sunday services, donated to church building funds, lit candles in pious devotion for deceased or suffering members, and “pressed the flesh” at worthy ?charity affairs.? But were they truly practicing Catholics and Protestants? Did they have a clue that Christ walked like a zombie, starved and beaten, in the guise of a slave under their domination? Did they really know Christ?

The same question holds today, only the “slaves” aren’t quite so obvious, as hypocrisy runs rampant among so-called practicing Christians who go to church every Sunday and think themselves righteous for all their piety.

That history is revised and abridged became obvious to me when I learned that in the U.S. not only were the Japanese interned during World War II, but so were Italian-Americans and German-Americans, by the hundreds of thousands, and they were never compensated financially, as were the Japanese. 

When it comes down to an instinctive fight for survival, we are despicable creatures, ever ready to enslave our fellow man. That Hitler made slaves of Jews in collaboration with German citizens proves that our vileness has not changed. Religion, as such, has failed to change our wicked human nature, even among priests and ministers.

A thousand years from now, in some dystopian civilization, perhaps justice will be served with men enslaved by robots.

Richard M. Dell’Orfano
San Marcos, California




Narcissism: the Anti-Tradition

I was really tracking with David Mills’s commendable guest column “The Narcissist’s Religion” (June) until he argued that Protestants “would do better submitting themselves to the tradition of the Reformers than they will deciding for themselves.” Mills refers to participants in a Protestant-sponsored conference who criticized the idea of historically defined dogma while approving of a personal, process-based conception of theology. I would counter Mills’s exhortation for Protestants to return to the traditions of Reformation theology by arguing that narcissism is its own Reformed tradition, a principle of belief and practice that is embedded in the very heart of Augsburg and Geneva.

I don’t mean that individual Protestants cannot be selfless, Christ-like, and holy. As a former Presbyterian (PCA), I heartily acknowledge that certain members of that denomination were, and probably remain, holier than I. Moreover, bulwarks of Protestantism like John Wesley or C.S. Lewis demonstrate the heights of holiness possible for Protestants. But such people go against the grain of their own system.

This is because Reformation theology is fundamentally a turn to the individual. Like the exemplars in Mills’s article, Martin Luther had his own existential crisis regarding his sinful status before God. But the answers of the Church were not sufficient for him, so he sought his own, bending Holy Scripture to meet his narcissistic needs. It’s well known that Luther inserted the word alone into his first German translation of Romans 3:28, a word that doesn’t appear in the original Greek (his version reads, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith alone apart from works of the law”). Why bother to accept Scripture’s words when personal necessity is in the way? He also had the brazenness to call St. James’s letter an “epistle of straw,” and he wanted to excise it from the New Testament canon. Luther embraced what Tradition accorded with his personal needs, and he rejected the rest.

John Calvin likewise drew from Church Tradition, citing Augustine and Chrysostom when they appeared to agree with his theology, while being perfectly willing to depart from the consensus of the Fathers on penance, Mariology, the episcopacy, and Rome’s pre-eminence, among other doctrines. Moreover, plenty of ink has been spilled cataloguing the many narcissistic actions and attitudes of both Luther and Calvin. The exhortation that Protestants return to their own traditions is a Band-Aid to a mortal wound because Protestants, even the most well-meaning ones, will find within their own tradition an inherent anti-tradition.

When I determined that certain theological and historical truths required my departure from Reformation theology, there was much about Catholicism I didn’t understand or even like — morally, for example, that Catholicism might demand I have more children than I expected or desire; theologically, that I would have to accept an elevated role for Jesus’ mother that made me terribly uncomfortable. But accept I did because I recognized that Catholicism, pace Calvinism, demanded my obedience regardless of what I felt or thought. (Note: I’ve come to heartily embrace both the Church’s rejection of contraception and her Marian dogmas and practices.) The “tradition” of the Reformers, in contrast, promotes a paradigm in which subjective conscience weighs heavier than the objective, apostolic authority of Holy Mother Church.

I agree with Mills — if I’m reading him accurately — that it’s better to be pro-tradition than pro-progress (at least in the contemporary, liberal sense of that concept). But the traditionalism of Protestantism is a false one that must ultimately surrender to the true, apostolic traditionalism of Rome.

Casey Chalk
Fairfax, Virginia




DAVID MILLS REPLIES:

I don’t disagree. I really meant better when I wrote that our Protestant friends “would do better submitting themselves to the tradition of the Reformers than they will deciding for themselves.” Not necessarily well, and definitely not as good as they would do were they to enter the Catholic Church, but better — I’m sure of that.





Twain’s Intense Sorrow

Thank you for Barbara E. Rose’s respectful and empathetic account of Mark Twain’s tragic loss of his beloved daughter Susy in her excellent review of Continuing Bonds with the Dead: Parental Grief and Nineteenth-Century American Authors by Harold K. Bush (June). Too often Mark Twain is relegated to the category of social critic and acerbic humorist without regard for his loyal and tender nature.

Rose’s reference to Twain’s “well-known bias against the Bible and religion” is certainly true, but it raises the question as to whether his cynicism was based on an honest appraisal of the disparity between some Christians’ religious beliefs and their inhumane conduct toward their vulnerable and helpless fellow human beings. Twain was a Renaissance man who abhorred sham and snobbery; his incisive wit stung the pseudo-religious and self-righteous.

Twain’s intense sorrow over Susy’s death was deepened by the heavy weight of guilt he endured. If only I had not been so debt-ridden, if only I had been wiser in my investments, if only I had been with her…then there would not have been this urgent need for money, which he raised by traveling over long periods to make personal appearances. Forget the cigar and popular humor, folks; Twain was desperately trying to pay his debts to spare his wife and family from poverty after his death. He never forgave himself.

Grief that follows the death of a child (of any age) eventually brings a strange peace through the realization that nothing can bring about a greater sadness — ever.

Mary Rice
Novi, Michigan




Overkill

In a classic case of overkill, the editor took the better part of two pages to respond to a six-line comment by Cynthia K. Distel (letters, June) expressing her concern over the “trash” that Bishop Robert Barron watches, as evidenced by his guest column “The Rise of the ‘All-Conquering Female’” (March). Even allowing for the editor’s misplaced defense that one can be familiar with a program without being a regular viewer, the good bishop certainly demonstrated a familiarity with these horrific programs far beyond casual viewing.

As a longtime subscriber, admirer, and supporter of the NOR, I am embarrassed by the way the editor periodically shoots himself in the foot when he takes such time, effort, and space to defend the indefensible. The NOR “doth protest too much, methinks.”

Arthur Mattei
Lawrenceville, New Jersey






Ed. Note: To save all that time, space, and effort, perhaps we should have taken a cue from our current President and simply issued a one-word reply: “Wrong!” Better?







Cynthia K. Distel was outnumbered greatly in word count by the editor, so I want to add to her defense. Bishop Barron seems to be more a proponent of Hollywood, as Mrs. Distel implies, than an objective critic of “entertainment,” as the editor states.

Consider Bishop Barron’s praise of Martin Scorsese in a column about the director’s latest movie, Silence (reprinted in the Jan. 28 issue of the Denver archdiocesan newspaper). Bishop Barron says he’s an “ardent fan of Scorsese’s films,” and that “the director’s Catholicism, however mitigated and conflicted, comes through in most of his work.” Yet from Taxi Driver to Cape Fear, from Goodfellas to Casino, Scorsese’s films rely heavily on anomalous, immoral behavior, coarse vulgarity, and psychotic violence. Yes, some of his films feature crucifixes and crucifixions, though often irreverently, such as the non sequitur closing sequence of a crucified man in Boxcar Bertha.

We know that, by and large, Hollywood is no friend of the faith. Instead, a majority of movies contribute to the corruption of society by glorifying vicious bloodlust and hedonistic ignorance. In the latter half of the 20th century, broadcast regulations and related oversight boards were dismantled like old rusting radio towers. Writers and directors who claimed to be victims of blacklists and censorship in turn compiled their own blacklists and acted as censors. All the while, they exclaimed that no one should control or interfere with the creative process. Review and ratings organizations became vestiges of polite society. They were presented as anachronistic, even fascistic, because oversight boards forced others’ views and beliefs on the whole of society; in practice, however, small subversive groups dismissed the sane and responsible in favor of the insane and nihilistic. 

Guidelines such as The Motion Picture Production Code of 1934 were to producers, directors, and scriptwriters what traffic signals and road signs are to motorists. After major revisions to the code in 1961, Hollywood productions began to revel in gratuitous violence and casual sex. In fact, The Children’s Hour received five Academy Award nominations that year. Despite its innocuous title, the film had a lesbian theme. In 1969 homosexual John Schlesinger directed the insolent and tawdry Midnight Cowboy, about a gay male prostitute, which won an Oscar.

When satisfied with what passes for progress, political operatives who usually foment dissent suddenly cite libertarian principles in support of the status quo. Our society has reached this point: adopting an as-is approach to loathsome behavior that destroys traditional safeguards. 

Mike Spaniola
Vail, Colorado




The Heresy of This Age

A. James Gregor writes that the problem created by what some call the Masters of Suspicion (Nietzsche, Marx, Freud) and the postmoderns is that “there are no grounds, either divine or empirical, for any ethical system,” and “there are no longer any moral truths, just choices that govern us both in our public and private lives” (“Why the West Abandoned Standard Rules of Conduct,” May). We have lost those “qualities of consciousness” that could perceive and respect the order and regularity of the world. Those qualities of consciousness were religious. Ancient men were religious through and through; they experienced life in all its aspects religiously. One need only read Heraclitus or Parmenides to recognize the religious contours of pre-Socratic consciousness. And, of course, Socrates himself, in his Apology, testifies repeatedly to the religious grounds of his thought.

Early men possessed a mode of being completely at odds with the present secularized consciousness of today’s non-religious men. Mircea Eliade, in his classic book The Sacred and the Profane, clarifies the difference between these two forms of consciousness — religious and non-religious. He writes that the religious mode of being actually forms a certain way of being human: One is a religious being with a religious existential stance open to the “manifesting Sacred” in the world. In this case, one is habitually attuned to divine presence and its transcendent pull on the mind and heart. Eliade also claims that from a “Christian point of view, nonreligion is equivalent to a new ‘fall’ of man — in other words, that nonreligious man has lost the capacity to live religion consciously…. [Religious experience] has fallen…into the depths of the unconsciousness; it has been forgotten.”

Obviously, I am not referring to religion in its institutional form, as in that common phrase, “separation of church and state.” I think we have lost any understanding, in our current use of the word religion, of what religion actually is, and we confuse it with faith, belief, or doctrine. I am referring to religion in the Thomistic sense as a moral virtue (cf. Summa, 2a2ae, 80, 1). St. Thomas writes that religion is a virtue, a human power to act, which reflexively, through an activation of a human potential, causes a certain character in men who possess this virtue. It is not a theological virtue (like faith, hope, or charity), but it does have God as its longed-for object. Rather, the purpose of religion as a moral virtue is to grow the capacity to recognize God’s excellence in this world and in life through acts of worship.

Phenomenologically, religion as a virtue has a “call and response” movement in its activity. Moreover, the human response to the divine call has its own “ask and receive” character. In the most basic sense, what man receives is faith as a gift in response to the divine call that always impinges on us in our everyday lives. (Hence, Bernard Lonergan defined faith as “knowledge born of religious love” in Method in Theology.) One way of looking at this faith is to call it God’s first revelatory act, given to us in His original gift of creation. Chapter One of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a wonderful summation of the dynamic movements experienced in the heart and mind of the religious person. (A truism that should not be forgotten is that we can only know God in His self-disclosures, creation mediating the first, primordial ones.)

Hence, I do not disagree with Gregor as to the ability of men at one time in history to recognize the ordered regularity of things in this world as worthy of imitation in human conduct. But I insist that the power to recognize this order is given to us when our minds and wills are formed by religion as a moral virtue. So the issue of the loss of public and private morality is the horrible damage done to human nature with the loss of religious consciousness. This loss, present on such a wide scale, is indeed affecting both our public and private ability to be moral as we attempt to live and act together as the social beings we are.

Thus, religion is not optional to our public lives, our schooling, our economy, or our culture; it is not simply a matter of personal choice: to be or not to be religious. There is some basic failure in terms of the First Commandment in such choices, as well as the dreadful consequences to public and private morality. The heresy of the age is to make religion optional, to confuse the religious forming of consciousness as somehow allowing the “church” to rule the “state,” and to think we can supplant religion with “being spiritual.” Religious consciousness, as a condition of being human — in the sense of really existing in the image and likeness of God — is a matter of anthropology (i.e., religious or philosophical anthropology). No one should ever countenance non-religion as one possible option of living a viable and successful human life. Call non-religion what it is: a stark rejection of the gift of God of Himself to His unique creation, envisioned to live by His very breath. Non-religion as a choice is a refusal to develop that uniquely essential power to engage God’s gift of faith and personal self-disclosures enabled by the virtue of religion.

Macon Boczek
Novelty, Ohio




Who Can Judge the State of a Soul?

Thanks to Fr. Anthony Giambrone, O.P., for his balanced, well-considered, and well-written article, “Amoris Laetitia: What Is Pope Francis Up To?” (June). It is the first article I have read that deals with Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation in an adult manner.

Fr. Giambrone is absolutely correct in pointing out that withholding the Eucharist from a divorced-and-remarried person is a practice of the Church, not a doctrine. We are taught that three things are necessary for a sin to be mortal: grave matter, sufficient reflection, and full consent of the will. As Fr. Giambrone points out, Amoris Laetitia teaches that the matter is indeed serious. What is unknown is the state of the person involved in this kind of situation. Only those in the confessional — and God, of course — can possibly know the true answer to this question. So, the public can’t really say whether the parties involved are even guilty of serious sin. With that in mind, withholding the Eucharist could be cruel and unjust. The apostolic churches of Eastern Orthodoxy seem to have little concern over this issue.

My mother always said that the Catholic Church is a hard Church to live in but an easy Church to die in. You could always be sure where you stood. I must admit that this certainty has changed, and I remain a bit confused. I can understand how someone who is divorced and remarried can continue to receive Communion as a sinner, since withholding Communion in such circumstances is a practice that can be changed. What I don’t understand is how he can be forgiven his sins when he has demonstrated little repentance and no commitment to following the instructions Jesus gave to the woman caught in adultery, “Go and sin no more.”

I think the biggest concern about Amoris Laetitia should be its potential impact on the Sacrament of Penance rather than the Sacrament of Matrimony.

Joseph Theranger
Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania






Fr. Anthony Giambrone’s article is compassionate and fair. I appreciate his description of the historical and theological details of the debate about whether those who are divorced and remarried can be given Holy Communion.

A larger issue, however, is whether all those unrepentant people who, being divorced and remarried and thus assumed to be in an objective state of grave sin, are actually in that state of grave sin. There are vast numbers of Catholics and other Christians who have been divorced and remarried (sometimes more than once, and often for many decades) and live lives seemingly full of grace and God’s blessings: they pray regularly, attend Mass and receive the Eucharist, raise their children in the faith, and demonstrate love, peacefulness, patience, kindness, and other fruits of the Spirit.

Mortal sin is said to kill the spiritual life in one’s soul and break one’s relationship with God. Yet there is nothing in many of these peoples’ lives to suggest that they have, in fact, been cut off from God; just the opposite seems to be the case. At least for some of the divorced and remarried, the claim that they are in a state of mortal sin simply does not seem to be accurate.

Robert Schier
Orinda, California




Too Calm

Considering what is at stake, the tone of Fr. Anthony Giambrone’s article on Amoris Laetitia (June) is too calm. It is interesting to read and well informed but too calm.

Encouraging the profanation of the Holy Eucharist on the part of adulterers and others in a state of mortal sin is a new low for the modernists who dominate the visible structures of the Catholic Church. It is as if they were getting tired of their longstanding power and, out of sheer boredom, sit around dreaming of new ways to insult the Divine Majesty and shock the sensibilities of the faithful.

Surely it is a kind of violation of the Redeemer of all mankind to force Him to enter the intimacy of Holy Communion with a soul that stinks of habitual grave sin, the smugness of unrepentance, and the sullen obstinacy of one who believes he is too special to submit to the easy yoke and light burden of Christ (cf. Mt. 11:30). This yoke and burden consists in constant vigilance to ensure that the soul has done all in its power to increase the probability that it is living in a state of grace. True, apart from an unusual supernatural revelation, there is no absolute certainty in this life that anyone is in a state of grace. (Even St. Joan of Arc said, “If I am not [in a state of grace], may God put me there. If I am [in a state of grace], may God keep me there.”) However, the Catholic Church provides ample means to increase the likelihood of being in a state of grace. By making use of these means, the soul can achieve moral certainty that it is fit to enter sacramental intimacy with the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity.

In his book The Three Ages of the Interior Life (1948), Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., wrote, “A person in the state of mortal sin cannot exercise the virtue of Charity because he has lost Charity along with Sanctifying Grace. He can only perform acts of natural love of God and neighbor; these are not meritorious for salvation and heavenly reward, though God in His mercy may look upon them as a plea for the gifts of true repentance and return to Sanctifying Grace.”

Another Dominican, Fr. Jordan Aumann, summed up in his book Spiritual Theology (1980): “Therefore, sanctifying grace is absolutely incompatible with mortal sin.”

Adulterers who force themselves on Christ against His will and His explicit teaching on the sanctity of marriage only add to their guilt. They will not receive one iota of benefit from their sacrilege. (Note that the Holy Eucharist is the Sacrament of Love and not a “sacrament of adultery.”) Perhaps they think that on the Day of Judgment they will be protected by the excuse, “The Pope let me do it.” They should be warned that this excuse might lessen their personal guilt, but it will not change the fact that they committed a horrible offense against God.

Lise Anglin
Toronto, Ontario
Canada




The Wrong Genre

In James Thurber’s short story “The Macbeth Murder Mystery,” a woman who reads only detective fiction accidentally picks up a copy of Macbeth. She reads the play carefully, attempting to determine “who done it,” since in a mystery the obvious suspect (Macbeth) is never guilty. She begins with a faulty premise — a basic genre mistake — and her analysis therefore inevitably yields mistaken conclusions.

Elizabeth Hanink evaluates my book Numbering My Days: How the Liturgical Calendar Rearranged My Life in a similar vein (June). She apparently approached it expecting an inspirational autobiography that narrates the story of an entire life. She opened, instead, a comic memoir that narrates my (inherently limited) spiritual development over the course of a single liturgical year. I inform my readers in the Introduction: “As you read my ruminations and my stories, you may not always find my thoughts and actions to be morally heroic. Some of you may already be holier Catholics as you begin reading this book than I will manage to become by the end of it…. But that’s okay. For I am not the hero of this book — the liturgical year is, and I am its often-bumbling sidekick.”

Hanink nonetheless spends half of her review lamenting my imperfect moral heroism and incomplete spiritual development. She declines to acknowledge the type of book she is reading. She judges Sancho Panza by the standard of Sir Galahad and inevitably — but uninformatively — finds him wanting.

I could write a complete autobiography detailing all the bolder and more heroic things I have ever done for my faith, and I suspect that it would go a long way toward assuaging Hanink’s concerns. But to provide such a spiritual résumé would be rather to miss the point. For, in a definition going back to Aristotle, comedy is a genre focused on the quite unimpressive and unheroic side of human nature. We all laugh at the same jokes because we recognize that we possess a common, flawed nature. And, in a tradition running from Chaucer to Cervantes to Chesterton, comedy is a truly Catholic genre.

My book makes fun of my foibles and limitations — and places them front and center for readers to see — because I suspect a large number of Americans share them. The publications that have reviewed my book positively, such as the Catholic Digest and Our Sunday Visitor, have enjoyed the “averageness” of its protagonist. In the liturgical calendar, the Church shows us that our average lives can and will be transformed by God, but these transformations will typically take place gradually (otherwise, we wouldn’t need Lent every single year). Numbering My Days depicts the movement of grace in a single year of a typically mixed-up, muddled, and ridiculous life, assuming that each step of this transformation is worth celebrating. This type of narrative is not heroic, but it is fundamentally Catholic, the product of a Church that is clear-eyed about human nature but still patiently nudges each of us toward God.

Chene Heady
Farmville, Virginia




The Cult of Muhammad

I couldn’t agree more with Timothy D. Lusch’s thesis in “The Church’s Strange Reappraisal of Islam” (June). In my book The Existence of God and the Faith-Instinct (2010), I delve extensively into the Islamic notions of an impersonal God, the Islamic quest for a world caliphate, and the bizarre concepts of the afterlife in Islam. How could such a strange religion receive such encomia from the Western world, and from the Catholic Church in particular? I think much of the blame lies with the Second Vatican Council. Just as the Council fathers, because of Ostpolitik, refrained from criticism of Soviet communism, which was then the scourge of the Christian world, so also, because of interreligious dialogue gone awry and some anti-Semitic elements, the Council fathers painted a rosy picture of Islam.

Ex-Muslim Nonie Darwish, in her book Cruel and Usual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law (2009), claims that we are making a mistake in even designating Islam a religion. I think she is correct. Islam bears all the characteristics of a worldwide political-religious cult, with ostracism or execution as the penalty for converting to Christianity. In the meantime, Saudi Arabia, which refuses to allow crosses or Bibles — let alone churches — within its borders, is allowed to fund the building of thousands of mosques in the U.S. and throughout the world. The religious naïveté of Christians is well complemented by the naïve “reciprocity” of our government in interpreting First Amendment rights.

At present, I think a good defense against the misconstruals of Islam is to read Bill Warner’s summary of the Koran, A Simple Koran: The Reconstructed Historical Koran (2006), and/or Ali Dashti’s fair and insightful biography of Muhammad, Twenty-Three Years: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Mohammad (1985) — or finally allow some courageous filmmaker to produce a good historical “blockbuster” about the real Muhammad.

Howard P. Kainz
Milwaukee, Wisconsin






Timothy D. Lusch’s fine three-part series on Catholicism and Islam (April, May, and June) prompts me to add to the general discussion of Islamic mythology and its doctrine. Consider the following:

Is there a being in existence known as “Allah”?

Christians’ understanding of God and His attributes is vastly different from Muslims’ understanding of Allah and his attributes. The Christian understanding of the Supreme Being is that He is Trinitarian in His divine nature. Islam denies the Trinity in the Supreme Being. Pursuant to the principle of non-contradiction, both understandings cannot be true. Either the Christian God or the Islamic Allah is the Supreme Being, and the other is a fake. Which of the two is the real Supreme Being?

The Christian understanding is that God is loving and merciful and quick to forgive the repentant sinner. He awaits the repentance of the sinner just as the father awaited the return of the prodigal son. On the contrary, the Islamic view is that Allah is vengeful, punishing, and cruel, a being who wishes the destruction of all who fail to convert to the religion of Muhammad. Islam spread over the Middle East by warfare, not by enlightenment of the spirit of men. The Christian has no experience of this cruelty of the Supreme Being. The God of the Christians attracts the spirit of man by His benevolence and love of His creation. The Islamic awareness of Allah came along long after Christians (and Jews before them) first became aware of a divine Creator of all things — and it came in the seventh century from the imagination of one man.

I conclude with quotes from the New Testament from Christ’s own testimony to His indispensable role in salvation:

- “Jesus saith to him [Thomas]: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me” (Jn. 14:6).

- “Yea, the hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doth a service to God. And these things will they do to you, because they have not known the Father, nor me” (Jn. 16:2-3).

Thomas M. Reid
Rochester Hills, Michigan






In “The Interfaith Delusion” (April), Timothy D. Lusch correctly cites Pope Francis’s statement in Evangelii Gaudium (2013): “Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.” Since avoidance of hateful generalizations of Islam and the interpretation of the Qur’an have nothing to do with faith and morals taught by our Lord Jesus Christ, I can afford to disagree with the Pope.

I can understand where Francis was coming from in his encyclical. There are many Christians living in Muslim-majority countries who rely on Muslim leaders to protect them. The “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” attitude toward Islam might encourage Muslim leaders to protect Christians, but I’m afraid Francis’s strategy will not work. God is more pleased with the sacrifice of Christians who hold on to their faith in spite of persecution. Moreover, just as we are bound to obey our God’s law of love, Muslims are bound to obey their Allah’s commands in the Qur’an and hadiths.

Sura 9:29 of the Qur’an states: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor who hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of truth, [even if they are] of the People of the Book [i.e., Jews and Christians], until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”

This payment of the jizya, or tax, will not apply when judgment day arrives, because in the hadith, Allah commands: “When judgment day arrives, Allah will give every Muslim a Jew or Christian to kill so that the Muslim will not enter into hell fire” (cf. Mishkat al-Messabih, vol. 2, no. 5552).

There is only one interpretation of the plain meaning of those verses, which even no “moderate” Muslim can deny (though he might try to ignore it). Every Muslim, good or bad, knows that the only way to go to their heaven is to obey their Allah’s commands.

Lumen Gentium, Vatican II’s “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,” states that “the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place among whom are Muslims: these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on that day” (no. 16). We should not, however, be deluded by wrong interpretations of this statement.

First, Muslims who believe in the Qur’an do not believe that our God is their God. In Malaysia, for instance, Christians attempted to call our God “Allah,” and Muslims demonstrated in opposition to that. Ultimately, the sharia court in Malaysia banned Christians from calling our God “Allah.”

Second, the Council of Nicaea defined the “Creator” as God, our Father. Muslims do not believe that Allah is their father. They believe that Allah has no children.

Third, the Council of Nicaea declared that God has a Son and His name is Jesus Christ. Muslims do not believe that Jesus is the Son of Allah.

Fourth, the Council of Nicaea and the Apostles’ Creed teach that Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead. Muslims believe that it is Allah who will judge in the end.

In view of the above, the statement from Lumen Gentium can only be interpreted to mean that Muslims who, in spite of the death penalty for converting to Christianity, secretly seek the true God — not Allah of the Qur’an, but the true God of Abraham — are included in the plan of salvation.

Reynaldo O. Yana
Saipan
North Mariana Islands




TIMOTHY D. LUSCH REPLIES:

I appreciate Dr. Kainz’s mention of Ostpolitik as analogous to the Church’s treatment of Islam at the Second Vatican Council and beyond. He correctly identifies two strong threads woven into the conciliar treatment of Islam: interreligious dialogue gone awry and, more disturbingly, some anti-Semitic elements. Of the latter, the Church has been slow to purge those who hold such views. Given the foundational and structural Jew-hatred in the Qur’an and sunnah, it is our duty as Catholics to speak in defense of our Jewish brothers and sisters who live under the existentially specific threat from Islam. To dialogue with Muslims is desirable. To advance the agenda of Islamist organizations like CAIR, ISNA, and ICNA is diabolical.

Mr. Reid distills the difference between Christianity and Islam by prompting the question, Who is God?, and derivative of that primary question, Who is Allah? Reid reasons — and reasoning has helped us Catholics avoid the fate of Sunni Islam after the 10th century — that non-contradiction in discerning the truth of things means that there cannot be both a Christian God and an Islamic Allah. This is the irreconcilable comparison that leads to the inescapable conclusion that Christianity is distinctive. To Reid’s comments I add only that, with the exception of those Muslims — few they may be — who still employ ijtihad (independent reasoning), Allah is not viewed as having attributes. The lack of attributes further supports the distinction between God and Allah.

I appreciate Mr. Yana’s argument. I also understand that the precarious position of persecuted Christians in Muslim countries may require some diplomatic finesse on the part of the Vatican. Assuming this is a strategy, and not indicative of Pope Francis’s genuine understanding of Lumen Gentium and Muslims (for which I reserve judgment and rely instead on His Holiness’s statements and actions), it not only will fail, it is failing, and not merely in the crumbling caliphate of ISIS, but in Egypt and Syria, where Christian communities were supposedly being protected by secular Arab dictatorships (or an Alawite minority like the Assad family). Yet the suffering of our brothers and sisters in the East continues unabated.

As Christians, we will suffer persecution because the Master was persecuted. But we ought not say, pursuant to a conciliar document or the errant ecumenism of Church hierarchy, blessed are the persecutors, for they are the religion of peace.




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