Why I Wrote ‘Charity vs. Dhimmitude’


Much bustle here at Inside Catholic last week, as well as on my blog. Lots of people wanted to know why I was so adamant about defending the UK bishops’ suggestion that Muslim students be given a prayer room and other accommodations.

To reiterate: I’m not particularly adamant about defending the bishops’ dubious idea. I can think of several reasons it is an imprudent move. The problem is that most people are not really focusing on those reasons. Instead, they are making impassioned — and bad — arguments that are rooted in theological and moral rationales that have already led to disaster in the Church’s past. The point of my article was not so much to defend the bishops’ suggestion as to keep reaction against that suggestion from devolving into nonsense. Because, like clockwork, devolve it has.

Here’s an especially devolved quote from the comments on the article that summarizes the craziness of the thinking I oppose. It is one of several attempts by various readers to declare that the Church is in error when she teaches of Muslims (and Jews) that "together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day":

 
The fact that Jews worship One God, and Muslims worship One God, and Christians worship One God does not automatically and necessarily mean that they all worship the same One God, even if there is only one God.

I leave the reader with the task of decoding that. Meanwhile, other readers have written me on my blog, here, and elsewhere to sneer that Nostra Aetate ignores the Bible, or to declare that if we listen to Nostra Aetate, we are shallow simpletons who are ignoring all Church teaching before Vatican II.
The bottom line of this argument: Non-Trinitarian monotheism is not worship of the God of Abraham at all, whatever the fools who write Nostra Aetate may say.

But the logical response here is really fairly simple. It does not in the slightest involve us in saying that "Christians, Jews, and Muslims are really all saying the same thing." It merely involves the acknowledgement that they are saying one thing in common. One thing. There is one God, the God of Abraham. That’s it.
 
One can, if one wants, mention a few other points of commonality as well. Morally, the traditions have various other things partially in common: a recognition at some level of the natural law. Prayer, fasting, almsgiving. Stuff like that. Acknowledging that is common sense — and not the same as denying that there are also enormous differences, beginning with Trinitarianism and going to the extremes of things like "love vs. kill and hate your enemy" (though we Christians often tend to regard that "love your enemies" thing more along the lines of an "ideal" than as something we, you know, do.) 

Ah! But Islam also has a lot of very distorted moral teaching. Yep! Sure does! And there is a huge and growing threat of radical Islamic violence that I in no way deny. I think it’s ridiculous when the media re-brands rioting Muslim thugs as "youths." I think it contemptible when the New York Times sanitizes the radical Islamist butchers of Mumbai as generic "extremists." I’m acutely aware of the fact that Islamic holy texts themselves provide the basis for the thousands and thousands of acts of violence we have seen from the Islamosphere. I regard Islam as a manmade aggregation of some ideas ripped off from Judaism and Christianity and then reworked by a seventh century literary and military genius who may or may not have been influenced by demons, but who did a spectacular job of perverting real revelation.

So please: All you folk who have been writing to inform me that Islam is a menace can desist. I’m really aware of that. I haven’t been living in a cave since September 10, 2001.

All that said, just as we do not fight evil with more evil, so we do not fight false religions with nonsense. And it is nonsense to say that religious truth ripped off from Judaism and Christianity ceases to be true in the mouth of non-Jews and non-Christians. When Socrates or Mohammed acknowledge that there is one God and He is just, they are talking about the only God there is, and they are right. It is mad to reply with incoherent nonsense like, "The fact that Jews worship One God, and Muslims worship One God, and Christians worship One God does not automatically and necessarily mean that they all worship the same One God, even if there is only one God."

Now, it would merely be a theological curiosity if Christians just vented stuff like this and went to bed. However, my concern is that, historically, the whole "there’s the one merciful God we worship, and then there’s the other one merciful God they worship" thing has quickly meant (in the case of the Jews) things like, "Jews don’t worship God at all! They are an alien and subversive element in our culture! They murder Christian children and make matzoh out of their blood!"

 
Now we are living in a time where the same cluster of ideas and feelings that was once directed against Jews is now directed against all Muslims by some Catholics.
 
All Muslims? Well, yeah. Recall that the proposal was, after all, about a bunch of British schoolkids. But the reaction in the comboxes was of this tenor:
 
Give a Muslim an inch and he will take a mile — after he takes your head. These people understand only two things: war, and more war. Ask the dead, tortured Jews in Mumbai if Muslims should be allowed to have prayer rooms in synagogues. Our answer should be their answer: not just no, but f**k no.

It’s an understandable emotion, given Mumbai, Bali, the Twin Towers, and other achievements of the Religion of Peace. But it’s nothing other than that: an emotional reaction. As a basis for policy, it means that we are to assume that every British Muslim schoolkid — in reality, every single Muslim who has ever lived — is the Enemy Within, and he wants nothing less than to kill us all.

Which brings us to the biggest and most dangerous part of the hysterical reaction to the UK bishops’ dubious idea. In the course of my discussion with readers, what kept coming up was the attempt to say that the theological rationales being put forward for regarding all Muslims as the Enemy Within would not, surely, logically justify treating Jews exactly the same way.

 
But the reality is, they logically do.

If non-Trinitarian monotheists called Muslims don’t worship God, then neither do non-Trinitarians called Jews. If we try to claim that we should never allow Muslims to pray on Church property because they are not Christian, then Pope Pius XII should never have allowed Jews to celebrate their rites when he was hiding them in the Vatican and in other church properties. No hijab for Muslim kids, but strict adherence to Catholic dress codes? Very well then, no yarmulkes for Jewish kids at Catholic schools. No five minutes set aside for Muslims to say their prayers? Great! Then no time off allowed for High Holy Days for Jewish kids.

My reader, good man that he is, is no anti-Semite. So he responded with a note that covers most of the themes that prompted my interest in the matter and reflects a lot of the disagreement with my piece last week. Since I cannot answer all my readers, I give his note and my reply as a way of responding to all the readers who objected to what I wrote:
 
Mark, these two situations are not the least bit comparable. For one thing, the Jews are our forebears in the Faith, our elder brothers. Our Mass is the fulfillment of the promise of their Passover meal. Their Scriptures and many of their prayers — we use them too.

I know that and you know that, thanks to Vatican II and 40 years of catechesis. But for close to 2,000 years, Jews were largely regarded by the ordinary Catholic as the sinister internal enemies of Christian civilization — just like Muslims are now seen. Instead of automatically linking all Muslims to the crime of Mumbai, the medieval Catholic mind tended to link all Jews to the crime of the Crucifixion and to numerous episodes of persecution of Christians. And so, Christians periodically forbade their rites as subversive of the Christian civil order, or decided that if they did not convert, it could only be because they basically agreed with the murderers of Jesus that He got what He deserved.
 
The horrors of the 20th century did much to chasten Christians about this attitude, and the teaching of Vatican II and the popes of the past 40 years have done much more. Now Catholic anti-Semitism is relegated to a tiny minority of kooks who long for the old days when Archie Bunker could gripe about "Christ-killers" to his buddy over a beer at the bowling alley. But Archie Bunker didn’t live in the eleventh century. He has only been gone for a heartbeat in the life of the Church. So the question is: Why didn’t Christians, until very recently, make the obvious connections between Judaism and Christianity that you are making here? We will return to that question in a moment. You write:
 
Muslims are not refugees seeking asylum from a brutal oppressor.

Really? None of them? We know this for a fact? All Muslims in Britain and the West come from happy lands, and they just felt like moving? I’m highly skeptical. Especially since we read about Muslims fleeing to the West precisely to escape radical Islamic barbarism. Indeed, if one is faced with a choice between a foaming Bronze Age Radical Islamist and a westernized Muslim who would like to be a bottle blonde, wear jeans and makeup, have a boyfriend, and fit in with mainstream Western culture, which one do you suppose is more likely to be the kid at the British Catholic school? And would it be wiser to tell that student, "You people understand only two things: war, and more war," or to extend charity to her and suppose that she’s, well, a kid with an awful lot on her plate and not somebody bent on global conquest? Indeed, might it not be the case that young Muslims who are highly conflicted about their identity might respond like this guy if they are treated with respect?
 
 
But all this discussion about whether they are oppressed or not is irrelevant. The simple fact is this: If the Pope can let one set of foreign rites be observed on Catholic property out of respect for the human dignity of Jews, there is no iron law forbidding the UK bishops’ to do the same for peaceful Muslims in the UK.
 
More often than not, they are the brutal oppressors — and to be fair they treat their own people nearly as bad as they treat non-Muslims.

Wait. You just said Muslims were not being brutally oppressed.
 
I do not blame Muslim schoolchildren for how Muslim adults run Muslim countries or what imams say in mosques, but Muslim schoolchildren in Catholic schools are not refugees either.

1. You know this how?
2. This matters why?

You seem to be suggesting that Catholics only need respect the dignity of humans if they are refugees. That makes no sense.

 
And Muslims are not our elder brothers in the Faith. Islam is a Christian heresy, and a particularly sick and perverse one at that.

And now we come to the heart of it. For (returning to my point) this was precisely the argument used in the Middle Ages against Jews.
 
 
Remember: for most of the Church’s history, though Muslims were seen as heretics, Jews were seen as even greater heretics. They were regarded as the first and most impenitent rebels against the revelation of Christ, who were far more gravely guilty of their rebellion than any Muslim could ever be. After all, said the medieval Christian, Christ came to them, they rejected him, and they have gone on rejecting him down to this very day. Indeed, (the logic continues) they aren’t our elder brothers all (something Vatican II-resistant Catholics continue to maintain). No, said medievals, they are the original heretics. They are "those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan" (Rev 2:9). The Church is the real "Israel of God," as St. Paul calls it. So the Fathers considered the Church, grafted onto Old Testament Israel, as the main trunk of revelation and the real continuation of the revelation.
 
Medievals typically saw contemporary Jews as the branch that was broken off, rebels who were far more culpable than Muslims because, as Christians thought, Jews actually had the revelation of God and threw it away rather than submit to Christ. Medieval Christians saw their Jewish contemporaries as simply continuing the rebellion of their fathers. That’s why Christians until not very long ago commonly spoke as though Jews are accursed, and that’s why they would periodically lock them in towers in York and demand that they repent and be baptized or burn. It’s why Shakespeare sees the forced baptism of Shylock at the end of The Merchant of Venice not as a tragedy but as a happy ending to a comedy. Any Elizabethan would have said, "Ha! The lovers are married, Antonio is saved and even the cunning old accursed Jew gets mercy he never deserved. Everybody wins!"
 
We rightly recoil in horror from this. But for long centuries, Christians took this picture of our relationship with Jews as axiomatic. In comparison, they regarded the poor benighted Mohammedan as a second-class heretic: Since he began as a pagan Arab who had never had the advantages of the Jew, his fall was not seen as anything like so terrible as theirs.

This is but one reason I am so grateful for Vatican II. And it is why I am so alarmed by the reckless language being trotted out to condemn acts of charity to Muslims. The acts of charity may or may not be prudent. But when we start to argue against them using the same premises and logic that once supported Christian persecution of Jews, it opens the door to all sorts of evils. So, for example, I can think of several good reasons not to give Muslim kids a room for prayer and facilities for ritual ablutions in a Catholic school without ever having to say:

 
Christian charity is Christian charity, and I will always stand up for a person’s basic rights and dignity, regardless of his religion, as best as I’m able. But allowing Muslim prayer rooms in Catholic schools is not charity. It’s craven cowardice.

Because "craven cowardice" implies that the kids are enemies we must defeat in battle, as does the suggestion that they are somehow implicated in the outrage at Mumbai and all they understand only war and more war. In short, it presupposes all Muslims are, by nature, the enemy who seek our destruction in precisely the way that Christians spent centuries presupposing that all Jews are, by nature, the enemy seeking our destruction.
 
 
Are there lots of Muslims who hate Christians? Sure! There have also been Jews who hate Christians. A medieval was well-stocked not only with evil legends like the blood libel but with plenty of true stories of Jewish persecution of Christians. A reading of Eusebius gives us lots of tales of Jews cooperating in the sufferings of the early Church. And even in the Middle Ages, Jews were not all quietly suffering degradation without protest. Many made their contempt for Christians and their faith quite clear to their Christian neighbors. And their Christian neighbors responded in exactly the way that many Christians respond today. Only instead of saying, "If you’ve seen one Mohammedan you seen ’em all," medievals tended to say "If you’ve seen one Christ-killer, you’ve seen ’em all."

Now, as I say, there are several reasons I can think of why the bishops’ suggestions are imprudent and inadvisable. But a general hubbub of shouts like "Ignore Nostra Aetate!" or reckless charges of "craven cowardice" or "surrender to the Enemy" or leaping to the hysteria of saying that accommodating British schoolkids is like accommodating Adolf Hitler is nowhere within a thousand miles of a serious argument.

Which is why I wrote the piece. My issue is not with defending the bishops’ prudentially dubious suggestion. It’s with rebutting the many bad and dangerous arguments being presented against their suggestion, because they compromise the integrity of the Faith and because they endanger our relationship with all non-Catholic religions, not just with Islam. Similarly, my point is not to argue that Islam is not a huge danger, not a manmade religion, and not arguably humanity’s greatest mistake. Nor is it to say that there is no difference between Trinitarian monotheism and the monotheism of Jews and Muslims.

It is to say that it’s not smart to fight Islam by laying the intellectual groundwork for contempt for all non-Catholics, and most especially for Jews. I recognize no commonality of spirit between the hysteria and frequent contempt for Nostra Aetate, Vatican II, Muslims and Jews that I’m seeing in a lot of the combox commentariat and the generous, thoughtful, and fruitful work being done by Pope Benedict XVI in his dialogue with Muslim leaders. It would well behoove Catholics who are serious about the Church’s engagement with Muslims of good will to imitate him, rather than to simply issue sweeping denials that there is any such thing as a Muslim of good will or to heap scorn on Nostra Aetate. The pope is there to teach us. Let’s learn from him.

 


Mark P. Shea is a senior editor at
www.CatholicExchange.com and a columnist for InsideCatholic. Visit his blog at www.markshea.blogspot.com.

Mark P. Shea

By

Mark P. Shea is the author of Mary, Mother of the Son and other works. He was a senior editor at Catholic Exchange and is a former columnist for Crisis Magazine.

  • Jerry L. L.

    Mark, I just want to say that I support what you said in the last essay, and appreciate even more your clarifying words in this one. I hope this ends the misunderstandings.

  • Bret S

    Mark, can you recommend any books on the subject of the history of relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jews?

  • Gren

    Wow Mark, great work. I’m saving this one, and passing it on. It’s sad that you not only had to write the first article, but this one as well. Anyway, I’m glad you did.

    /bookmarked

  • James

    I think Mark Shea is confused about something, and I think he unnecessarily denigrates and belittles others who see things honestly and differently. Such is, in and of itself, uncharitable.

    Both Muslims and Christians believe in one God. There IS one God, and believing that there is one God is believing a truth. That does NOT logically mean that both believe in the same God. There is one TRUE God, and there are other things (which are evil) – which some people worship as god.

    Mohammad claims revelation from God. Either he is lying about receiving revelation from something, or something WAS actually revealed to him. If it was, it did not come from something good – but rather from something evil. As all good Catholics know, Satan often disguises himself as something good, in order to fool those who cannot properly discern. Lucifer, was, after all, the angel of light. In short – many believe (and I do too) that Islam is the work of something malignant and evil, and that the ‘God’ which Muslims worship is NOT the one AND the true God.

    “You shall judge them by their fruits” we were told, and the fruits of Islam are ungood, when seen in their entirety.

    I don’t think Mr. Shea should take such a doctrinaire line in something of this nature, and I don’t think he should belittle and denigrate those who honestly don’t see Islam his way. We are not, as Catholics, required to have an orthodoxy on the nature of Islam. He doesn’t need to browbeat us with his.

    Finally, we are supposed to be charitable to all, including our enemies, and that DOES include Muslims. But true charity means telling them the truth about their religion (that at the very least, it is not the truth). And true charity means NOT supporting an evil lie (that Islam is, in and of itself, good). There is every good reason to not have prayer rooms for Muslims at Catholic schools. We are supposed to stand for the real truth, and ‘affirming’ Islam is doing just the opposite.

    What Mr. Shea seems to be talking about is ‘being nice.’ True charity is often not nice, and in this case, it shouldn’t be nice. It should be the truth, in true charitable love.

    Sincerely,

    James

  • Richard

    Mark Shea’s article is a font of fatuity that is not grounded in reality and has no knowledge and understanding of Islam’s history. From its inception in the desert of the Middle East and its bloody spread across Palestine, North Africa, Spain Islam has shown its fruits. Thinking and writing such as Mr. Shea’s will bring the ultimate destruction of the West and Christendom, particularly Catholicism.

  • James

    And, well, as a related aside:

    If Catholics are serious about the obvious evil threat that Islam presents to humanity, they should take the teaching of the Church to heart, and stop engaging in the mortal sin of contraception – which threatens their own souls, not to mention Christendom. They should marry, and trust God to allow them to bring into this world many new souls through their love.

    James

  • John Zmirak

    Mark, while I agree with you that the mistreatment of Jewish people in past centuries was a sin against justice and charity, that doesn’t logically lead to your conclusion: that the theological arguments that were invoked as EXCUSES for sinful mistreatment of human beings must therefore be false….

    By the same “logic,” the murder of Harvey Milk (or Matthew Shephard) invalidates Christian teaching on sexuality.

    Nor do I agree that we can throw out something as fundamental as the Church’s 1500-year tradition of interpreting the relationship between the New Israel and the Old. Compared to this FUNDAMENTAL theological question, birth control is a trifle, a quibble over ends and means. Ditto women priests.

    So stop making fun of liberal Catholics who see your inconsistency. They are consistent followers of the principle you’re acting on here: If something I agree with something that MAY be implied in the pastoral documents of Vatican II, I am free to take its furthest logical implications as infallible, and use them to trump dozens of much more authoritative sources of Church teaching, and caricature hundreds of years of Catholic practice.

    If the Church is NOT:

    “‘the real “Israel of God,'” as St. Paul calls it…the main trunk of revelation and the real continuation of the revelation.”

    Then what in Heaven or Earth is it? A new, dumbed-down version of the Covenant, helpfully offered by the Creator for Gentiles who couldn’t handle the fullness of the Law? That was Maimonides’ generous interpretation of Christianity–one which the American bishops came pretty close to endorsing in their abortive pastoral letter of 2002.

    The whole question of hijabs in schools, all these prudential arguments–all of it completely pales in the light of this basic question. It’s one thing to say that individuals who believe in Judaism in good faith can be saved through baptism of desire. I completely believe that, and am hopeful that I will meet many such people in heaven. It is QUITE ANOTHER THING to suggest that the practice of Judaism is somehow salvific in a way that Islam, for instance, is not. That Jewish people–defined how? Genetically? By Orthodox rabbis, or the Harris Poll?–somehow have a separate entrance into heaven, and don’t need the Church or the sacraments–even in the “virtual” form of Baptism of Desire.

    Not even Archbishop Lefebvre, intemperate as he was, suggested that Nostra Aetate taught such a thing. It took a committee of American bishops to cook that up. Jewish converts I interviewed for the National Catholic Register rejected it, with vigor. Ask Roy Schoeman, or Rhonda Chervin, or Mark Drogin, or Marty Barack of the Association of Hebrew Catholics, what they think of this two-tier covenant idea.

    Do you really believe this? Can’t you come up with a better reason not to beat up Jewish people? I can think of a great number of reasons that don’t entail fundamental ecclesiological heresy.

    You can’t win this one, Mark. If the Church is just a Special Ed covenant for those of us who weren’t lucky enough to be born Jewish, then as Flannery O’Connor might have said, to Hell with it.

  • Charles Miller

    Unlike many of the combox crowd (love that term – I represent that remark…) I have spent the better part of 30 yrs studying Islam (as a vocation – not occupation) and have lived in Turkey for a time as a US military officer. To make any blanket statement about Muslims is the same as making a blanket statement about Christians or Americans. It cannot hold water. The secular Islam of Turkey is fundamentally different and opposed the the Wahabi brand made in Saudi. So the Muslims are evil crowd doesn’t know what they are talking about, and sound very much like the anti-semites of old.

    Your point, as I read, is that we ought not to dismiss the actions of the Bishops in Britain out of racist views. Which is fair enough. What raised such a ruckus?

    Whether I agree with what they want to do is immaterial. Truly, if we are commanded to love our neighbor and our enemy, are we not called to charitable dealings with the Bishops and Muslims? Now if either raises a sword to kill me as an apostate or an unbeliever, I must defend myself. But let’s distinguish between the one who love peace and the one who loves war. We make a serious error lumping all Muslims into one hated pot. It’s unbecoming and un-Christian.

    Now some people have taken issue with your tone. Heck, it’s your writing style. Your essays on “torture” evoked fairly strong response on my part, but it was never personal. I cannot fathom the emotionality of some of these responses.

    Shoot, it’s all pretty entertaining…combox, indeed!

  • Richard A

    Any rational human being can come up with:
    There is one, supremely powerful God. God’s creation must worship Him. I, as God’s creature, must worship Him, therefore I do.

    It does not follow that because a man can be observed worshipping his God which he declares to be the one God of the universe, that therefore the God he is in fact worshipping is the one God of the universe. I may take him at his word initially, but eventually his manner of worship will reveal who in fact he does worship. It may well be that he is falsely ascribing to the god he does in fact worship attributes – unity, omnipotence – that he has figured out God must have.

  • R.C.

    Please be cautious when asserting that “Muslims do/don’t worship the same God.” I think some of you mean entirely different things by either formulation; hence the confusion.

    The fellow Mark quoted, above, was astoundingly unclear. I’ll try to do better. But at the risk of sounding Clintonian, “it depends on what the meaning of the word ‘God’ is.”

    If we simply define “God” as “the personal being who, existing outside of and independent of the material universe, created it,” why then that’s the God Christians believe in, and Jews and Muslims too. Sure!

    But that is not all these three faiths mean by the word “God”; and in a developed theology the additional characteristics (goodness, eternal existence, omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, attitude toward human free will, miraculous interventions in history, et cetera) are equally critical to identifying just Who we mean by that abrupt monosyllable “God.”

    If you doubt that, consider the case of the early heretics who regarded the material world as uniformly evil and the spirit world as uniformly good. They identified a personal creator of the material universe, too; except what they meant by “personal creator of the material universe” was what we’d call the Devil.

    So: Saying that Muslims, Jews, and Christians worship the same God because they all worship a being who Created the Universe is going a step too far. A Manichee could do the same thing, if he held to the Manichean equivalent of demon-worship.

    “Now, now,” you say, “this is too pedantic. If two people worship a Creator who is good and eternal and omniscient and omnipresent and omnipotent, then surely that’s enough. The Manichee and the Christian may not worship the same God because the Manichee thinks the creator of matter is evil. Fair enough; that’s too fundamental. But if two people worship the same God except one of them believes God cured his acne miraculously, and the other doubts it, the first person doesn’t turn to the second and say, ‘You don’t believe in the same God as me, because I believe in a God who cured my acne!'”

    Fair enough: There are differences of belief in God’s activities which do not amount to differences of belief in God’s identity.

    So the question is, do the ways Muslims vary from Christian belief fall into the “tangential” category (insufficient to identify an entirely different deity) or the “essential” category” (amounting to a different God)?

    Well, some Muslims don’t ever think about theology enough to come to their own opinions on matters which distinguish Christianity from Islam. For these folk, let’s be charitable and gracious and say they worship the same God.

    And as for those who do take non-Christian views? I think there are two topics which rise to the level, or very nearly the level, of amounting to a “different God”:

    (1.) Those who hold Allah’s sovereignty to exclude human free will, who say the infidels and Muslims alike are just Calvinistically acting out their predestined faithfulness or damnation. (This is a surprisingly common strand of Islamic thought, and represents an odd meeting of Islamic theology and Determinist Materialist Monism.)

    (2.) Those who’re wholesale jihadis, slaying defenseless women and kids in pursuit of their goal, and who claim in relation to jihad to “love death as the West love their lives.” (Here, the deity in question may be “all powerful,” et cetera, but I find it hard to call Him “merciful” or even “good.”)

    In the end, though, I think the vast majority of Muslims who’re likely to show up in Catholic schools are Muslims who worship “the same God” in essence; that is, the areas in which they disagree with Christians about God are areas of action not essence. Or, where there are essential distinctions to be made, many of them don’t think hard enough about the topic to even know whether they differ at all.

  • Mark Shea

    It’s one thing to say that individuals who believe in Judaism in good faith can be saved through baptism of desire. I completely believe that, and am hopeful that I will meet many such people in heaven. It is QUITE ANOTHER THING to suggest that the practice of Judaism is somehow salvific in a way that Islam, for instance, is not.

    And that would really really matter if I said anything of the kind. But in fact I said nothing of the kind here (you are simply assuming it) and I have specifically denied that Judaism is salvific.

    Google “A Tale of Two Covenants” (be sure to get all four parts). Please argue with what I actually have to say here rather than attribute to me the exact opposite of my opinions. I have no quarrel with Paul’s view of the Church as the Israel of God. I have a very definite quarrel with the conclusions about how we should treat Jews that the medieval Church came to on the basis of those words. Those conclusions were, in the words of Nostra Aetate “foreign to the mind of Christ”. It does not follow from the fact that Jews possess human dignity that their covenant is salvific.

    My opinion about the relationship of the two covenants is, by the way, just that: an opinion. It is permissible to Catholics, but not required of Catholics. I think it hold up to scrutiny pretty well. It would not hold up to scrutiny at all if it asserted that there was salvation through any other covenant than that of Christ.

    I know what “outside the Church, no salvation” means too, dude.

  • Mark Shea

    I don’t think Mr. Shea should take such a doctrinaire line in something of this nature

    Well, see, the thing is it’s okay to be doctrinaire when we are talking about doctrine. And it is a doctrine taught by Nostra Aetate that “together with us, they [that’d be Muslims] adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day”. I have this notion that Catholics should believe and profess the doctrine the Church teaches.

    As my piece makes clear, acknowledging that Muslims profess a few rudimentary truths of Abrahamic revelation does not constitute pretending that we agree about everything, that Islam is salvific, that Islam is not a huge danger, etc. It just means not foolishly trying to violate the law of non-contradiction.

    In short – many believe (and I do too) that Islam is the work of something malignant and evil, and that the ‘God’ which Muslims worship is NOT the one AND the true God.

    I think Islam a great evil too. That said, your opinion plus five bucks will get you a cup of coffee, when you offer it in defiance of the clear teaching of the Church. And unfortunately, your opinion is wrong when it turns to contradicting the Church. We know it to be wrong because Nostra Aetate has clearly stated that “together with us, they [that’d be Muslims] adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day”. There is no God but the one true God. We worship him. Since Muslims adore him “together with us” that means they worship the same God we do. It does not follow from this that Muslims do not have a gravely defective understanding of God, nor that they are incapable of great evil. It just means that insofar as they affirm what we affirm, they are right. I suggest learning from the Church rather than offering to correct the Magisterium’s unfortunate defects with your personal opinion.

    I suggest the same thing to people eager to correct Humanae Vitae, another document produced by the Post-Vatican II Church which is not dogmatic, but which still has much to say to those who don’t hail from the “Mater, Si! Magister, No!” school of Catholic discipleship.

  • Mark Shea

    Paul Johnsons History of the Jews is good.

  • James

    Sorry, Mark Shea.

    Neither Scripture nor Tradition nor infallible teachings of the Church nor Christ nor the Prophets tell us what exactly Muslims are ‘adoring.’ Their conception of God is based on evil, and what they worship is what gave them that conception. I do not believe their conception of God comes from God; I believe it comes from something evil. Nothing in Catholicism forces me to believe otherwise.

    I do not agree with the statement in Nostra Aetate, and yes, I believe it is mistaken – and a serious and bad mistake at that. I am NOT required to believe that statement; it is NOT an infallible teaching of the Church, and all upon which the Church is based says nothing about Islam, Mohammad, or what Muslims are adoring. The Church is correct, in that Muslims believe in a truth that we do – that there is but one God. However, the Catholic Church, despite claims made in Nostra Aetate, cannot get into the mind of a Muslim to know what it is that he truly worships. Popes are fallible teachers, who try, as all Catholics are supposed to do, their best. That does NOT mean every statement made in encyclicals is perfectly correct.

    Rather – I believe that that statement was made as a means to a supposed ‘good’ end (a form of badness itself) – that we should try to ‘get along’ with Muslims (a serious temptation). We should truly love Muslims, but love does NOT mean getting along. It means standing for the truth with each human soul, including Muslims, whether they be upset or not. Every appeasement of Islam only grows the evil that reigns within it. We should NOT show ‘respect’ for Islam. True love is NOT the same as respect. We should never respect what we believe evil.

    The idea that Muslims worship the same ‘god’ as we do is an assumption – and not, in my mind, a good or reasonable one. That assumption is NOT part of what Catholics need to believe to be saved. I think the Church has made a huge error in trying to establish an orthodoxy with regard to Islam. It does not know the truth of the genesis of Islam, does not know what the true forces are behind that genesis, and should not be taking stands such as this with regard to Islam. Rather, it should be proclaiming the truth of Christ unabashed and unafraid, and leaving the formation of beliefs about Islam alone.

    James

  • Nick Milne

    “Thinking and writing such as Mr. Shea’s will bring the ultimate destruction of the West and Christendom, particularly Catholicism.”

    Yes, naturally; Hell will never prevail against the Church, but nobody ever said anything about Mark Shea!

  • Mark Shea

    I am become Death, the Shatterer of Worlds!

  • James

    Hey Mark (and others) –

    Surely we can see that Islam is a mystery. Did Mohammad make all of the Koran up himself? Or did he write down something that something told him to write down? Did he believe it himself? Or was he trying to manipulate others to gain power? Was he just mad?

    One of those possibilites (and a strong one) – is that Mohammad was used by something malignant to throw a wrench into the world, and to damage Christianity.

    The Church is the rightful authority on the one true God, and on Christ; however, it cannot know the full truth of what Islam really is. Things supernatural (and evil) may well have been involved, and the Church (and every Catholic) has no way to get at that truth. It can only guess as to the truth through discernment. You can discern from what Mohammad says happened to him, from what people say happened, and also, from the (ungood) fruits of Islam.

    In my mind, the Church should leave that discernment open (because it IS open). In the same way, the Church leaves open discernment about many other ‘visions’ and so on received by people of various sorts.

    It is very dangerous for the Church to be telling people what they must believe about what Muslims believe. That is NOT the purpose of the Church. It should resist that temptation – and especially the temptation to find a way that we can all ‘be nice’ to each other. That may not be the right way to go, and may not be reflective of true love. (In the same way, the Church would have been better off refusing temporal power over nations in the past…)

    What the Church (and every Catholic) should do is to hold out the truth of Christ, Son of God, to every human soul in this world, including Muslims. That, we can all agree on, is reflective of true love. Yeah?

    James

  • Dennis

    Please think carefully about the issues you are raising.

    Yes, objectively speaking, there is only one God. It is the God of Jesus Christ (or Abraham, if you prefer).

    But having said that, your argument is theological nonsense. It simply won’t do to quote the worst comments from the previous entry and use them as representative of all the comments posted. More than one person pointed out to you that one can observe the “god” to whom people pay obeisance by the way their god is described and by the way they live their lives. Nostra aetate was making a statement on that level; it was simply saying that Islam is part of the Abrahamic current and that Muslims worship one (a monad) God, i.e., they share in a tradition of monotheism. As far as commonality of customs is concerned, we share some of that with the Asian religions: monasticism, almsgiving, charity, etc. Yet you never bring that up.

    Your equation of anti-Semitic arguments with statements intended to clarify the nature of language about God is ridiculous on its face, but also slander. You’re virtually identifying with the “medievals” (to use your hackneyed term), whom you see only as ignorant persecutors.

    I suppose I should ask you a question, Mr. Shea. Since you’re so grateful for Vatican II, and apparently hold the Church of previous ages in contempt, is that the reason for your hatred of all things traditional? Because you come out of a tradition, the evangelical one, that has a pretty sleazy history itself. I could start with its redneck racism, its initiation of home schooling to avoid education with black kids, its hatred of Jews and Catholics and Blacks, etc. How about that?

  • Mark Shea

    It’s thoughtful of you to tell the Magisterium what it should and should not be allowed to teach. And gosh! It’s so rare for modern Catholics to have the courage to do that. How very different you are from other Catholics who feel that their strongly held opinions make magisterial teaching optional and disposable. All those other Catholics who dissent from Church teaching are wrong, but you are unique; possessed of a high and lonely destiny that makes it just fine to tell the Church she is wrong. I completely affirm you when you declare a magisterial document to be in error about a matter of faith because you are, well, *you*: a guy in a combox who knows a thing or two and who won’t listen to the Church simply because she speaks with apostolic authority in solemn council. What *was* I thinking? True discernment means agreeing with you, James, not some dusty magisterial document written by out-of-touch bishops in union with the Holy See.

  • Lisa

    you play fast and loose with “magisterial documents” yourself. You read things into them that aren’t there.

  • Mark Shea

    If you are going to play the game of “knowing them by their fruits” in order to define Muslims out of participation in monotheism, then, of course, you will have to also say that there are lots of Catholics who “don’t worship the same God we do”. However, the Protestant trick of trying to figure out who is “really a Christian” is a mug’s game, just as this curious attempt to say who is and is not “really a monotheist” based on moral virtue is likewise silly. If somebody says “There is one God, merciful and compassionate, the God of Abraham” he is talking about the only God there is.

    I’m quite willing to say that the Faith also has various other elements in common with Asian religions. It does. So what?

    Your equation of anti-Semitic arguments with statements intended to clarify the nature of language about God is ridiculous on its face, but also slander. You’re virtually identifying with the “medievals” (to use your hackneyed term), whom you see only as ignorant persecutors.

    I don’t see medievals only as ignorant persecutors. I see them as people who were trying to understand revelation and who got some things wrong, as we do. They understood that error has no rights. They did not grasp as readily that, though error has no rights, persons in error do.

    Since you’re so grateful for Vatican II, and apparently hold the Church of previous ages in contempt, is that the reason for your hatred of all things traditional? Because you come out of a tradition, the evangelical one, that has a pretty sleazy history itself. I could start with its redneck racism, its initiation of home schooling to avoid education with black kids, its hatred of Jews and Catholics and Blacks, etc. How about that?

    I don’t hold the Church of previous ages in contempt. I don’t believe in the Two Church theory that posits a Church before the Council and another Church after it. Only progressive and reactionary dissenters posit such rubbish. I simply want modern readers to see that the things they take for granted about “our elder brothers the Jews” have been hard won insights which Holy Church has had to fight to teach a flock that by no means saw such things as self-evident.

    Nor do I hate all things traditional. Your “question” is not a question at all. It is simply a lie wrapped in an accusation and it is meant to deflect attention from the point of the article.

    Nor do I have any problem at all acknowledging the sorry history of racism and bigotry that is part of American Protestant history. (Er, you do realize, don’t you, that I am not a Protestant anymore? Haven’t been since 1987.)

  • Mark Shea

    you play fast and loose with “magisterial documents” yourself. You read things into them that aren’t there.

    Such as?

  • Dennis

    No real Catholic believes in the two-church theory. So enough with the red herring. And enough with the “who’s really a Christian.” You know that wasn’t what my post was about.

    You’re the one who is trying to deflect attention because your article has no real point. Once you get past your shaky attempt to summarize the Catechism, you’re in uncharted waters. Conciliar documents, catechisms, encyclicals, etc., provide parameters and guideposts. But it takes a theologian to go within an explore the territory and you’re not a theologian. So please leave discussions of monotheism and who worships what to those who do know. Because you just muddy the waters.

  • Mark Shea

    No real Catholic believes in the two-church theory…. And enough with the “who’s really a Christian.”

    Do you even think before writing stuff like this or are you trying to do some kind of parody?

    So please leave discussions of monotheism and who worships what to those who do know. Because you just muddy the waters.

    And “those who do know” are some guys in a combox, but not the authors of Nostra Aetate? Cuz, you know, I thought saying “just accept the obvious teaching of Nostra Aetate *was* leaving the discussion to “those who do know”. It’s James who is insisting that the Council Fathers don’t know what they are talking about and that he does.

    Actually the point of my piece is quite clear: Don’t use crappy and dangerous arguments which begin with “The Church is in error to teach…” to fight Islam and defend the Faith. Use good ones that incorporate the guidance of the Magisterium and don’t, in addition to getting your licks in on Islam, do the intellectual spadework for some future resurgence of Jew-hatred among Catholics.

    It’s only muddy if you want it to be.

  • EricG

    Mark Shea:

    I ask these questions in all seriousness:

    1) Your take on the Jews and the Old Covenant might be justified on “sola scriptura” grounds, and by an appeal to church documents of the past 40 years, but how exactly have you rebutted the charge that current magisterial teaching contradicts the theology of the preceding 1960 years?! And if the Church was wrong for 1962 years, what’s to say she hasn’t been wrong for the past 20, your sola scriptura exegesis notwithstanding?

    2) I was a classicist in my undergrad; on what grounds would you say Socrates was a monotheist?

    Thanks!

  • Gren

    I understand that some people are concerned that a person might dial the wrong spiritual force by mistake when they sit down to pray, but really. When you have two traditions that are quite comfortable stating that they want to worship not just one god, but: “that God Abraham worshiped,” then I don’t see any way around the issue anymore.

    You might hate the way they do it, they may get everything wrong, they may understand as little about that one God as a rabid atheist, but they intend to worship the God Abraham did, and we do the same.

    Now, I suppose something could have deceived Islam’s founder, or maybe he just made a religion up out of the blue for personal gain. What matters in the current generation is that you have a group of school kids that are trying to pray to Abraham’s God, coming from a religion with a rough and troubled history. If that communication is real, that is where true peace and healing between our religions will come about and where the work of conversion can begin. We should encourage that prayer, even as we work against that deeply ingrained attitude of violence in the religion.

  • Mark Shea

    how exactly have you rebutted the charge that current magisterial teaching contradicts the theology of the preceding 1960 years

    This article is not addressed to that charge. Peruse http://www.mark-shea.com to see what I have to say about your notion that the Magisterium suddenly became defectible when it said things unapproved by EricG.

    if the Church was wrong for 1962 years

    Was the Church “wrong” before she defined the dogma of the Trinity? Was the Church “wrong” when she tolerated slavery? Was Israel “wrong” when she stoned adulteresses to death? Was Jesus “wrong” when he didn’t? Do you even *have* a conception of what “development of doctrine” might mean besides “People who lived a long time ago were “wrong” and we are “right”?

    And I didn’t say Socrates was a monotheist.

    Is there nobody in this discussion who can contemplate what Benedict has been doing for 10 seconds and try, you know, learning from it? Are we only to hear from the people who are eager to shout “Mater, Si! Magistra, No!”

  • Dennis

    You do use a good strategy, however. Drag Pope Benedict into this and pretend he’s your ally. And no one’s saying “Magistra, No!”

    For God’s sake, Mr. Shea, try, just once, to respond to the issues. You sure didn’t in your response to me.

    And, by the way, how about YOU not using “crappy” arguments yourself. You just said the Church tolerated slavery, but did not provide the many instances when She did not (including Papal Bulls).

    Just once, some nuance from you would be appreciated. The sophomoric stuff you dish out is unworthy of discussion, frankly, and it’s embarrassing. And your replies are inadequate.

  • James

    “It’s thoughtful of you to tell the Magisterium what it should and should not be allowed to teach.”

    Except that I didn’t say that, Mark. I said I thought it was a mistake for the Magisterium to be making assumptions about the nature of Islam, when it cannot know the truth about Islam. I also thinks it’s a mistake to tell Catholics what they should believe about what Muslims actually worship. (One mistake follows from the other.)

    When a Muslim goes to pray to ‘god,’ and says: “I pray that I may be able to slay 10 infidels today, so that your justice will be known throughout the world, and so that I can be 72 virgins in ‘heaven’…” I do NOT think that Muslim is praying to the one true God.

    You can believe differently.

    And I DO believe that there is a strong temptation of many in high levels of the Catholic Church to ‘get along’ with Islam. I also believe that is a really big mistake.

    The last time we went through this, the evil of Islam was stopped from engulfing Europe by Charles Martel, and Pope Pius V and the Battle of Lepanto.

    This time, in Europe, it’s looking like Christendom is just going to cave. You can smell the fear of standing up for Christ in front of Muslims, even today in many parts of Europe.

    James

  • Lisa

    that, for Mark Shea, insults and cliches substitute for argumentation. You notice, he has not really responded to one of his interlocutors, except to tell them they’re not in line with the Magisterium or to use “cool” words like “cuz” or “lie” or “dude” or “crappy.” But he can’t present a reasoned defense of his own argument, except to say: “I support the Magisterium and you don’t.”

  • James

    “It’s James who is insisting that the Council Fathers don’t know what they are talking about and that he does.”

    No, Mark. I’m saying neither I nor the Council Fathers can know the truth about Islam. Why? Because we weren’t there when whatever happened happened to Mohammad.

    I personally believe, through my own discernment (as do many, many, many others), that something evil came to Mohammmad, but I could be wrong. I make that discernment from the accounts of what happened, and from the fruits of Islam. But again, I could be wrong.

    I’m just saying that I believe it’s a mistake for the Magisterium to be telling us what to believe about who (or what) Muslims pray to.

    James

  • Clinton

    Mark, James and Dennis,

    It appears to me that you guys are arguing about entirely different issues. James and Dennis, you seem to be insinuating that Mark does not understand the Catechism and is saying that Muslims and Jews worship the same God because they have the same notion of God that we do. Mark, it looks to me like James and Dennis see the bishop’s advance as a form of cowardice and compromise with the historic Christian faith. In the end, however, their real problem is with the definition in the Catechism, not you.

    Honestly speaking, the statement that “Muslims and Jews adore the same God…” is a little bit disconcerting to me as well. I see what the Church means by this and I have to remind myself that the Church certainly does not mean “salvation” is found through keeping the law or the worship of Allah. It can be especially confusing when one knows that Islam specifically denies that Christ came in the flesh…and we know what that means.

    On a more personal (and pastoral) level, I grew up in India and went to a Catholic school along with a number of Hindus and Muslims. We all prayed together in the mornings and went about our daily chores (studying [smiley=happy]!). As far as I can remember, I do not recall any students asking for specific religious treatment, especially Muslims. Of course exceptions were made, for eg. Sikhs were allowed to wear their turban and Muslim girls a head covering, etc etc. What I am concerned with the issue in Britain is that, knowing that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the U.K. what is the next thing one would encounter? Also, should other faiths also be allowed to do whatever they want to? For example, what if Hindus wanted to bring in an idol and have a puja? Would this mean we are partakers of idolatry? I can see where the Church might draw a line and say, that just because we allow these things out of human dignity, does not mean we approve of them. But in my own experience in India, the line has often got blurred, with multiple Catholics growing up believing that its OK for Hindus and Muslims to do what they do because we all worship the same God…(I’ve heard priests say this too!)

    This is the real problem that I think James and Dennis are having (and honestly me too). Its fine to be nice, but are we by being nice deceiving our “weak brother” (Romans 14 all over again?). I think this is more of a pastoral (and theological) issue that the Church needs to revisit. Perhaps the Church needs to make really clear that while we respect Muslims and Jews and while they claim to worship the “God of Abraham”, we believe there is only one way to be saved, “by believing in Jesus Christ”. Thus Muslims and Jews also need to be “saved”. I think if this is preached very clearly by the Catholic Church, it will take away a lot of confusion among Catholics and Protestants, especially in Asia and now in Western Europe and the U.S.A.

    P.S. Mark, I think your reaction is probably similar to mine, and this is exactly what you are expecting to hear rather than “Muslims all hate Christ and if we give in to them, Christianity will be dead!” [smiley=laugh]

  • Mark Shea

    You just said the Church tolerated slavery,

    Right. Because she did, as was documented in the pages of what used to be called “Crisis” and is now known as Inside Catholic.

    http://tiny.cc/sUKYx

    But that is trivial compared to stoning/not stoning adulteresses. You didn’t answer my question: Is Eric justified in calling this “contradiction” or are there other, less fundamentalist ways of understanding the development of doctrine?

    Lisa:

    I take it by your reply that you have no actual documentation to back your assertion.

    James:

    Your theory that when a Muslim prays for an objective evil, he cannot be praying to God is fine spadework for a theory that our moral perceptions somehow determine the objective reality of God. It has the disadvantage being rather crazy, however, since it means, in the end, that anybody who prays to God without an absolutely perfect understanding of his will and nature is “not praying to God.” Several Old Testament heros have startlingly defective understandings of God compared to what God reveals in Christ. David (who himself receives mercy for murder and adultery in what Eric would call a “contradiction” of the Mosaic law) seeks vengeance on his enemies, contrary to Christ’s command to turn the other cheek. Does he not worship the same God we do? The Psalmist (137) composes a hymn praying that Babylonian babies heads be bashed out on a rock. Does he not worship the same God we do? Ecclesiastes appears to have no concept of the afterlife. Does he not worship the same God we do? How defective does somebody’s understanding of revelation have to be before he is no longer worshipping the God of Abraham? I can’t’ make that call, so I turn to the Church. When I do, she says “Muslims worship the same God we do”. So apparently there is something wrong with your theory, James.

  • John Zmirak

    Dear Mark,
    I’m happy to hear that you don’t make the mistake which I inferred from your article. Let me point out to you why I inferred it, in the spirit of brotherly correction. Certainly, if I write something which inadvertently gives scandal, suggesting to readers that I hold a false teaching, I want people to call my attention to it. The structure of your argument in the piece I was critiquing went like this:

    1) You started with this phrase: “Remember: for most of the Church’s history, though Muslims were seen as heretics, Jews were seen as even greater heretics…” Then you laid out the Church’s traditional teaching which asserts, correctly, that the “faithful remnant” of Israel consisted of those Jews (a significant percentage, according to the sources I’ve read) who accepted Christ. Those who rejected Him were left without a Temple or a homeland, and were in some sense forced to invent a “reformed” Judaism, with no sacrifice, no priesthood. A tragic and painful situation for them; imagine if (as God would never allow) the Apostolic Succession somehow died out. The Catholicism which remained would be a very different animal, albeit with the same doctrinal core.

    2) You laid out a long series of abuses and cruel practices on the part of Christians, as if they were the implication of the Church’s traditional teaching, without specifying that they weren’t, or mentioning the long papal tradition (found in Rabbi Dalin’s book on Pius XII, for instance, and Robert Rychlak’s) of protecting Jews from abusive Christian rulers and mobs. “That’s why Christians until not very long ago commonly spoke as though Jews are accursed, and that’s why they would periodically lock them in towers in York and demand that they repent and be baptized or burn.” You didn’t note the Church’s clear rejection of forced conversions, among other teachings meant to mitigate the effects of an inevitably painful co-existence. (Nor was it all one-sided; Jews in Islamic Spain tended to work for the occupiers–one source of later Spanish anti-Semitism.)

    3) You presented these arguments in the context of being grateful for the doctrinal developments of Vatican II–implying that the Church needed to find a new way of looking at the relationship between the Covenants, since the previous one had led to “disaster,” and resulted in an “Archie Bunker” mentality toward Jews throughout the Church until “a few minutes ago.” Again, no nuance, no clarification of the Church’s official teaching, no account of how popular abuses distorted it.

    From this argument I took away the idea that you regarded the traditional Church teaching (NOT its popular distortions) as fundamentally flawed. Perhaps I was blind to some subtleties in your presentation, but I’m probably not your most imperceptive reader. So if I drew that conclusion, many other readers did as well. Those of us who have grown up being taught that Vatican II is a “superdogma” (Pope Benedict’s words, meant sarcastically) that vitiated everything that came before, are used to such arguments. I could in ten minutes construct an identical argument, laying out the Church’s teaching on birth control, repeating every unfortunate side-effect of overpopulation and maternal death during childbirth, malnutrition and genuine sexism, and end with a peroration that I was grateful for Vatican II. What conclusion would you draw? What would you think I believed about Humanae Vitae?

    Please don’t play into the Manichaean “presentism” of post-conciliar Catholics. It may suit your rhetorical purposes right now, but it encourages all the abuses and heresies in the Church which we so deplore. The genuine anti-Judaists in the Church nowadays are trivial in numbers and influence. The indifferentists are rich, powerful, and numerous. And their errors receive approbation from the secular culture. It’s dangerous to play their game. Please proceed more judiciously in your descriptions of Catholic teaching and history, if only to avoid needless scandal.

  • Mark Shea

    Recall the purpose of my argument. I was writing to somebody who, like the majority of conservative Catholics raised since the council, takes it as obvious and axiomatic that anybody can see that Muslims are *clearly* nothing but wretched heretics to be despised as the Enemy Within while assuming that anybody can just as clearly and self-evidently see that the Tradition provides zero data to support the same (wrong) conclusion about Jews. My point was not “The Tradition is wrong” but “Modern philosemitic Catholics have very little grasp of what Nostra Aetate and other conciliar documents were written to combat.”

    Unfortunately, I can’t write articles about Everything. I can only write about my chosen subject. If readers are bound and determined to read into what I write views I have (multiple times) repudiated elsewhere, I cannot help that.

  • James

    “Your theory that when a Muslim prays for an objective evil, he cannot be praying to God is fine spadework for a theory that our moral perceptions somehow determine the objective reality of God. It has the disadvantage being rather crazy, however, since it means, in the end, that anybody who prays to God without an absolutely perfect understanding of his will and nature is “not praying to God.””

    You have a constant habit of imputing to others things they never said, Mark. I certainly never suggested that ‘our moral perceptions somehow determine the objective reality of God.’ You said that.

    When a Muslim prays, it is a possibility that he is praying to the entity which fed Mohammad the stuff he told people ‘god’ is about – and the Muslim desires that objective evil he is praying for, because he believes that that is what that entity, which he calls god, wants. Many people, for instance, pray to Satan.

    Again – I do not believe the Catholic church should be telling anyone with certainty what Muslims pray to – and certainly should not be requiring us to believe its theories about Islam. That entire religion may be founded on evil, by evil, and for evil.

    The Church’s job is to proclaim the truth of Christ to all men. It has PLENTY to do with regard to that.

    James

  • James

    Yeah, Clinton.

    Of course – we should be telling every Muslim that he needs to be saved through Christ, and that he cannot be saved through Mohammad – and that Islam promotes forms of evil. That is what true Christian love demands.

    Sadly, tragically, you have many bishops and priests in the U.K., and elsewhere, who are too cowardly and afraid to do that, and spend their time worrying about being ‘nice’ to and accommodating of Muslims.

    Political correctness (not stating truths so that the other not be offended) drains both truth and love from this world.

    James

  • Clinton

    Dennis and James,

    I forgot to put this earlier. While I think you guys raise good points and are having a very heated but important discussion, please remember to do so in the spirit of Christian love. Mark is dealing with a very delicate but important issue, and because of the nature of the issue, sometimes it is easy to misunderstand what he is saying. There can be no question that Mark is completely standing in line with the Tradition and teaching of the Church and is trying to be as faithful to it possible. I think it is ok to disagree with him, but please do not say personal things. That is very insulting, especially the whole thing about “evangelicalism’s sneaky past” or whatever. That can sound very demeaning and even I felt hurt at reading that. I think there can be no question that Mark has proved himself to be a faithful Catholic over the last 20 years. Incidentally, his book “By what authority?” played a vital role in my own coming back to the Catholic Church.

    May God bless us all and may we truly work and walk together in praising Him, serving Him and telling all of the marvelous wonders of Him who brought us out of darkness into the light of Christ!

  • Ben

    and please don’t limit your research to Crisis Magazine. It’s not the last word on what the Church teaches or Church history.

    You seem to think Conciliar documents admit of only one reading/interpretation, which is immediately evident to all concerned. You’ve apparently been influenced by the canons of the Council of Trent, but they are rather singular in this regard. You should know that the documents and definitions of many Church councils have had contesting interpretations that often necessitated subsequent Church councils or Papal encyclicals or other modifications. Take Nicaea I, for example. Its Definition says, in part: “God of God, light of light, true God of true God.” But that wording gave rise to two different interpretations: that of the homoousians and that of the homoiousians (of which group Eusebius was a part). This required further clarification and elaborated of the relationship of the Father and the Son. Athanasius wrote his De Decretis as part of that clarification. So this particular “magisterial document” was anything but self-interpreting. And the homoiousians were not necessarily the bad guys here. The words themselves had given rise to ambiguity.

    And consider the documents of Vatican II. What does participatio actuosa really mean (SC 14). Joseph Ratzinger considers it to mean careful attention and contemplation during Mass, as well as interiority. Others think that it means more external, physical participation by the laity. Or what about Lumen gentium 8 and Unitatis redintegratio, both of which discussed the relationship of the Protestant bodies to the Catholic Church? Obviously, there was ambiguity and confusion here and hence differing interpretations because Cardinal Ratzinger wrote Communionis notio (1985), Dominus Iesus (approved by John Paul II) in 2000 and he himself as Pope approved the CDF Document on the Doctrine of the Church (10 July 2007), both of which addressed this ambiguity, which centered specifically around the phrase “subsistit in” (subsists in) as in “The Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church.”

    My point is that your reading of the documents of Vatican II is unsophisticated. These documents do not self-interpret. In many places, they are ambiguous and gave rise to two or more competing intepretations, which only now are beginning to be sorted out. You act as though your reading of Nostra aetate is the only possible one and that just isn’t the case. If real experts have been debating Vatican II documents, practically from the day they were issued, including Joseph Ratzinger, then who are you to say that anyone who disagrees with you is going against the Magisterium? And if you’re going to say that, who are your sources? Joseph Ratzinger himself criticized Gaudium et spes for its “pelagianism.” Are you going to charge HIM with going against the Magisterium?

    You act as though it’s just you and the text. It’s not sola Scriptura here. These are complicated documents, which offer deep theological concepts. Oftentimes, things were not expressed as clearly as one would like. They require interpretation. And unless you’re willing to do the study and research that is necessary and present an unbiased case for competing interpretations of a given document, then you should stand down. Because you’re actually doing a disservice here – you’re presenting a simplistic version of complex Church teaching and tasking people who have a right to disagree on something with unfaithfulness to the Church. And that’s not only ignorant, it’s a sin.

  • DPJ

    Mark, at the end of the day, you’re just some guy in a comment box as well, and have no more authority to speak for the Magisterium than anyone else. As I read your comments above, “Magisterium” seems little more than “a magic word I can invoke whenever I’m losing an argument”.

    Patristic consensus is magisterial. Immemorial tradition is magisterial. The dogmatic decrees of Ecumenical Councils are magisterial. That a Catholic would refer to these for guidance on what the Magisterium authentically teaches rather than your favorite fallible Vatican II document, fallible catechism, or fallible Johannepauline opinion is a perfectly reasonable – and I daresay, far superior, approach.

  • eric

    Basics….christianity is truth….islam is lies(or error)….a part of christianity is to be charitable….so invite the lies into your house and make them comfortable(does it matter that some or even most muslims are peaceful)
    England is very weak(any arguments?)….islam is very strong….
    the proof is in the pudding

  • Mark Shea

    No, I’m not offering a simplistic reading. I’m pointing to one (1) paragraph of the Catechism, saying “This is a real aspect of Church teaching” and wasting a huge amount of time arguing with a small number of vociferous and mule-headed folk who very much want to pretend it is not. I nowhere say it is the totality of the Church’s teaching. I nowhere say it is the last or only word in Church teaching. I simply say it is stupid to deny that it is an aspect of Church teaching, or to exegete it to mean the exact opposite of what it bloody obviously says: namely, that when Muslims affirm what we affirm, they are right as far as they go.

    The reality is, that “glass half full” approach has always informed Catholic approaches to non-Catholic religions ever since the Paul was on the Areopagus (while certainly not constituting the totality of her engagement with non-Catholics). And I see no problem in pointing it out. It was, after all, Justin Martyr who speculated that the pagan Socrates was helped by the Holy Spirit. It’s really an extremely elementary point that only managed to become broadly controversial with Catholics on September 11, 2001 (at least when it came to Muslims).

    As to your snark remark about extending my research beyond Crisis: the article I noted has little to do with interpretation of conciliar documents. It’s written by a professional historian and is a response to Dennis’ ignorant claim that there has never been tolerance of slavery in the Church’s history. The fact is, there has. That’s Dennis’ problem, not mine. For it is Dennis who is offering the simplistic account of Church history there. Yet you have no words of rebuke for him. I wonder why.

    As to acting as though it’s just me and the text: have the past 40 years of respectful engagement with Jews simply passed you by? Does Benedict’s engagement with Islam not suggest to you a certain contrast between how the magisterial office is trying to engage Islam compared with how the combox commentariat here is approaching the question? If you are really serious about situating the text of Vatican II so that it can be accurately interpreted by its implementation in the life of the Church, I might gently suggest that the actions of the Pope are a more reliable guide than the bloviations of the “Repeal Nostra Aetate” crowd that blathers in obscure corners of cyberspace.

  • EricG
  • James

    “Because you [Mark]’re actually doing a disservice here – you’re presenting a simplistic version of complex Church teaching and tasking people who have a right to disagree on something with unfaithfulness to the Church.”

    Thank you Ben.

    James

  • just me
  • Andy

    Mark,

    I believe your next article should definitely be titled, “Why I Wrote ‘Why I Wrote Charity vs. Dhimmitude.'”

    I find there to be a difficult line between respecting other religious beliefs and neglecting evangelism. I do agree with your basic point, in my opinion, being that there are plenty of reasons to disagree with the UK Bishops’ decision, but devolving all discussion to “all non-Christians = burning in hell” is not a productive one.

  • nobody

    We are fighting about God; there can be nothing so important as that.

    G.K. Chesterton, The Ball and the Cross

  • Paul Hamilton

    I wonder if the uneducated, pious Christian worships the same God as the trained Christian theologian because the former thinks in hazy categories whereas the latter is a clear thinker. I wonder if Alvin Plantinga worships the same God as Catholics because the former doesn’t think God is simple, whereas the latter do. I wonder if the Eastern Orthodox believe in the same God as Catholics if they condemn the Filioque. This can get absurd pretty quickly. If having different descriptions of God’s nature were enough to ensure that different philosophers and theologians weren’t talking about the same thing, then what on earth are they arguing about? Are all Christians heretics until they’ve established a clear conception of God because otherwise they aren’t worshipping the right God?

    It’s pretty clear that Jews, Muslims, and Christians are talking about the same thing when they speak of God. All of them are naming the Author that inspired Old Testament. It would sound really stupid if two people, upon agreeing that CS Lewis wrote “The Abolition of Man” began arguing over whose CS Lewis wrote “The Abolition of Man” because one person thought CS Lewis was a black French peg-legged pirate whereas the other one thought he was an Hispanic deaf-mute.

    But even further, Christians, Jews, and Muslims share the most fundamental distinctions in common: God is the creator of the world, existing apart from the world, and would still exist if the world did not exist without losing any of his majesty. Or are we all talking about a *different* God who is the creator of the world, existing apart from the world, and would still exist if the world did not exist without losing any of his majesty?

    One last thing. It’s silly to argue that an atheist cannot be moral. Atheists can be virtuous agents. What ought to be asked is whether an atheist can justify his good actions rationally, or if he is ultimately acting on his personal preferences. Similarly, can’t a Muslim be a good person even if, for the sake of argument, his religion gave him no rationale for being good?

  • Augustine

    And once again, friends, we see how the combox section leads to little more than discord and is destructive of peace of soul.

    When will sites like this learn to eliminate the Comments section?

  • nobody

    Nostra Aetate = Ecumenical document,

  • nobody

    John Paul II quotes from Crossing The Threshold of Hope

  • nobody

    Mr. Shea, much of the common Islamic culture and Islamic state practices clearly violates Church teaching on torture.
    You have had a lot to say about the ruthless President Bush and his Republicans, care to address the Islamic culture?

  • Ben

    Mark, you’re just wrong here. My response had nothing to do with how Pope Benedict is engaging Islam or repealing Nostra aetate. Why are you attacking me for things I didn’t say? And you’d probably be the first one to say that the “actions of the Pope” don’t constitute “magisterial teaching” if someone else cited them. I haven’t seen you cite implementation “in the life of the Church” before. Usually, it’s all about “magisterial documents.”

    The point I was trying to make is that you act as though your reading is determinative. You prooftext. You don’t contextualize, although you tell others to do so. I was saying that conciliar documents need interpretation. Of course, they’ve had implementation: all you have to do is observe how Sacrosanctum concilium has been implemented. That’s due to the interpretation of “magisterial documents.”

    And you need to cite more than one text or article to prove your point. Even high school students can’t hand in a paper with only one source. To be an expert, you actually need to read several books and may be few articles. And a little training in Biblical exegesis probably wouldn’t hurt, either.

  • Ben

    I noted that Joseph Ratzinger himself had criticized Gaudium et spes. Why aren’t you attacking him for going against the Magisterium?

  • James Pawlak

    Reflect on the unchanging teachings of Islam, including:
    FROM THE KORAN

    verses which preach cruelty, incite violence and disturb public tranquility (i.e., 2:193; 8:39; 2:216; 9:41; 9:123; 66:9; 9:73; 8:65; 8:66; 47:4

  • gsk

    While I humbly respect all of you well-read brilliant folk, I confess I cannot step to the plate intelligently on any of the intricate details you’ve brought to the discussion. As a plain “woman in the pew,” the following comment, though, was one I could understand. Mark wrote:

    “I was writing to somebody who, like the majority of conservative Catholics raised since the council, takes it as obvious and axiomatic that anybody can see that Muslims are *clearly* nothing but wretched heretics to be despised as the Enemy Within.”

    I understand it and am insulted by it. Hyperbole after long hours of argument? Perhaps, but this is why I stopped reading Mark Shea a long time ago. I was losing my Christian charity and brotherly affection for him because he kept insulting me — having never met me or broken bread with me.

    I spend long hours studying Islam and writing about it — not because I despise them but because I weep for them and the lies which govern their lives. My heart is especially with the women, denied fundamental equality.

    Whether you’ve adequately answered the theological arguments of James, Richard, Eric, and Dennis I don’t know. I do know that you’ve insulted many fine Catholics who only want a better life for millions of women oppressed under the vile and selfish teachings of a deluded man. This because we love them and REFUSE to despise them.

  • QC

    In regards to Muslims worshipping the same God, this is basic Aristotelian/Thomistic reasoning. This is because it is the case of essence necessitating existence. The bottom line is that if someone acknowledges a being with a non-contingent essence, it can only be that one being whose essence is non-contingent.

    For example, there are things with a contingent essence that exist (say, a horse or a golden calf) and things with a contingent essence that do not exist (say, a unicorn or Athena). However, it is impossible to assert a non-contingent essence distinct from the essence of the non-contingent being that actually exists.

    The Islamic conception of the essence of God is that of a non-contingent being on which everything else is contingent. That essence by necessity exists. And sich there can be only one non-contingent being that exists, they acknowledge the one God.

    They are like the pagans in Acts 17:23 that St. Paul says worship the true God or their poets in verse 28 who described Him.

  • Ainsley

    and it’s time for Mark Shea to stop denying his prejudice against “conservative” Catholics and imputing all sorts of negative attitudes to them.

    Mark is very much like the “spirit of Vatican II” types in that he actually thinks the Church began (again) with Vatican II. Previous Church history is only there to be criticized and dismissed. Anyone with a “traditional” bent is automatically his enemy.

  • Andy

    and it’s time for Mark Shea to stop denying his prejudice against “conservative” Catholics and imputing all sorts of negative attitudes to them.

    Mark is very much like the “spirit of Vatican II” types in that he actually thinks the Church began (again) with Vatican II. Previous Church history is only there to be criticized and dismissed. Anyone with a “traditional” bent is automatically his enemy.

    You have clearly never read anything else by Mark Shea. Anyone critical of conservatives must be crushed, right? Mark is critical of anyone going astray of the faith.

  • Tim Brandenburg

    After reviewing the comments, I have a question – If we can disregard Church documents as non-authoritative… Why does the Church even bother publishing these pieces of crap? They are a waste of time. The Church could do far better things than publish worthless encyclicals and concilar documents.

    Also, does anybody have a list of documents that are in accord with all the Church’s prior teachings? If I have some time to kill, I might bother reading these worthless documents to bone up on what has always been true (I guess they are just recaps for the people that are too stupid to read the prior documents that ARE authoritative).

    Finally, what committe gets to decide which documents are in accord with the Church’s prior teachings? Has that committee put its money where its mouth is and sent a letter to the Vatican denying the contents of these crapping documents and requesting an immediate recantation?

  • Mark Shea

    I believe your next article should definitely be titled, “Why I Wrote ‘Why I Wrote Charity vs. Dhimmitude.'”

    Live forever, Andy. smilies/smiley.gif

    Mark is very much like the “spirit of Vatican II” types in that he actually thinks the Church began (again) with Vatican II.

    *That* must be why I wrote, “I don’t believe in the Two Church theory that posits a Church before the Council and another Church after it. Only progressive and reactionary dissenters posit such rubbish.”

    No Reading Comprehension gold star for you, Ainsley.

    Well, I’d hoped for some improvement on this thread today, but I can see that, with a few sensible exceptions shouting into the wind, it’s largely been taken over by the small minority of people who are bound and determined not to get it. Enjoy yourselves. I’m done.

  • James

    “Why does the Church even bother publishing these pieces of crap? They are a waste of time. The Church could do far better things than publish worthless encyclicals and concilar documents.”

    Hey Tim,

    All bishops, including the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) are to be teachers of the faith. One of their duties is to explain the faith. That’s what all these encyclicals and so forth are. They are very useful, and you can learn a great deal from them. They are somewhat different in each age, because each age is different, and the Pope and Magisterium seek to explain things which are relevant to each age.

    Pope Benedict’s recent encyclical “God is Love” is designed, in part, to help remind people of what true love really is (and it is not just a feeling). Huge numbers of people (and of Catholics) are confused in that regard in this age.

    You should avail yourselves of these teachings, even if, on occasion, the teachers might get a little off track.

    They will help you to understand the faith (and good encyclicals should be tied to Scripture and Tradition).

    James

  • Tim Brandenburg

    Yeah, but how do I know which encyclicals are wrong and which are right? I’m no theologian.

  • nobody

    “stop denying his prejudice against “conservative” Catholics and imputing all sorts of negative attitudes to them.”

    I’ve held back so far on a comment like this because I haven’t read enough of Shea’s writings. But I clearly agree with feeling this same underpinning in much of Mr Shea’s view points.

    Click globe, I’m watching you Mr Shea! [smiley=wink]

  • nobody
  • James

    “Yeah, but how do I know which encyclicals are wrong and which are right? I’m no theologian.”

    Sure, Tim. Most all of most all of the encyclicals are on track. Why? Because they are composed and checked over by those devoted to the faith. Most are grounded in Scripture and Tradition, with clear references to both. If you want confirmation of something, go back to those references.

    The Church is run by humans, and humans are fallible. Where the Church may have been a little off track at times – it has corrected itself. The gates of hell have NOT prevailed against it (which is one reason for believing in it) – despite all sorts of squabbles over the centuries.

    It happens that I do personally believe that some in the Church are a little to quick to characterize Islam, and to make assertions about it – BUT – that does not mean that most all of what the Magisterium teaches (especially about Christianity) is not on track.

    Many of the encyclicals are glorious and abundant in God’s truth through Christ. Try reading and studying some of them.

    James

  • James

    Tim – last (gotta run) –

    The Book of Proverbs tells us: “As iron sharpens iron, so does man sharpen his fellow man.”

    Any true serious Catholic is interested in understanding and promoting God’s loving truth for us – including, of course, the bishops. Yes – there are ALWAYS some bad apples (and occasionally, a bad crop of apples), but for the most part, most bishops are devoted to God and to Christ, and seek to live lives devoted to God’s love in this world. It is the serious Catholics, at all levels, who have sustained the Church – the body of Christ – through the ages.

    And yes, even priests and bishops are susceptible to wrong ideas, and to wrong understandings, and to cowardice. Sometimes it is the duty of the laity to question or confront – but only, of course, if the lay person is truly devoted to knowing the truth, and resorts to arguments based on God’s revelation to us through Scripture and Tradition.

    Arguments you hear on blogs like this are cases where, among those truly committed to Christ – man is sharpening his fellow man. That’s as it should be. Yeah?

    Best,

    James

  • nobody
  • nobody
  • DPJ

    I don’t believe in the Two Church theory that posits a Church before the Council and another Church after it.

    You can claim this all you want, but your presentation of the Church and its relation to Jews doesn’t even pretend to a hermeneutic of continuity. What of anything you’ve written about Catholics and Jews in the past two articles could not be reduced to Old Church bad. New Church good.?

  • Proteus

    Reactionary? Good! For a wonderful defense of being a reactionary, see John Lukac’s book, Confessions of an Original Sinner. The defense is found in the first chapter, called Confessions of a Reactionary. Read it here by clicking on Excerpt on the left side of the page:

    http://tinyurl.com/5px9tb

  • Bender

    Do Christians worship Allah, who has Mohammed as his Prophet, and for whom it is blasphemy, punishable by death, to suggest that he has a son?

    Do Muslims worship the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

    Is Allah the same as the Triune God? Would a Muslim say that Allah and the Triune God are one and the same? Are we really so arrogant as to think that Christians can tell Muslims what their Islamic beliefs are?

    If I start a brand-new religion, insisting that there is only one God and that Barack Obama is that one, true God, can we then say that Christians, Muslims, and Obamaians all worship the same God?

    Must we really spend so much time on such relativistic nonsense?

  • Bender

    Why is it really necessary that (Christian, specifically, Catholic) people agree with the assertion that Christians and Muslims worship the same God? How is what Muslims believe in in any way, shape, or form an article of the Christian/Catholic faith?

    And is it really necessary to bash people and impute evil motives to them if they disagree that Allah is not the same as God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Is it really necessary to mock people if they make the commonsensical point that, just because people use the same term (“God”) does not automatically mean that they are using that term in the exact same way and, thus, do not believe the same thing, notwithstanding the same usage of the term? Does it really take an expert cryptologist to decode that for you?

    If a heterosexual were to say that he believes in marriage, and a homosexual were to say that he believes in marriage, does that mean that they have the same belief in marriage? Or might one of them believe in same-sex “marriage” while the other believes that marriage between persons of the same sex is a logical impossibility and, thus, is not marriage in any true sense of the term?

    Is it not even remotely possible that they might have an honest and good faith understanding that is different from yours??

  • Mark Shea

    Do Christians worship Allah?

    Yes. They’re called Maronites. They’ve been doing it for a very long time now. Which is just one of the reasons the hasty excommunications and denunciations of so-called relativism and rushed dismissals of the Magisterium offered in comboxes are inadvisable.

  • nobody

    Maronites practice ecclesiastical orthodoxy and are in unity with the Catholic Church as a rite.

    THEY DO NOT WORSHIP THE MUSLIM ALLAH!

  • gsk

    Plato wrote: “We customarily hypothesize a single form in connection with each of the many things to which we apply the same name. … For example, there are many beds and tables. … But there are only two forms of such furniture, one of the bed and one of the table.”

    I think we are hereby reduced to the absurdity of, “If a horse’s tail is called a foot, how many feet does he have?”

  • Mark Shea

    THEY DO NOT WORSHIP THE MUSLIM ALLAH

    They worship Allah. There is not a Muslim Allah and a Christian Allah and a Jewish El. There’s just one God, with us humans having a better or worse understanding of him. The fulness of his revelation to us subsists in the Catholic communion, so that Catholics may adore him as he desires his creatures to adore him: perfectly through the offering of his Son. Maronites know this. Muslims don’t. However, God’s love for us is not predicated on our intellectual works and he is famous for receiving the worship of well-meaning folk who have very defective intellectual understandings of him. If he were not then everybody, including you, would not be able to worship God at all because none of us fully understands him. That’s why I asked if Christians before Nicaea were “wrong”. Irenaeus, for instance, appears to be a Subordinationist. He is ignorant of the developed doctrine of the Trinity and holds ideas which the Church will later condemn. Some Old Testament worthies do the same. St. Thomas denies the Immaculate Conception. Are these people “not worshiping the same God” due to their ignorance of the fullness of revelation?

    The Church says an extremely modest thing in CCC 841. Insofar as Muslims (or anybody) acknowledge what we do, they are right. In the case of Muslims and Jews, they acknowledge there is one God, just and merciful, who will judge the word on the Last Day. We say the same. They adore him. So do we. We’ve got that much in common. It does not follow we have everything in common. But that much, at least, we do.

    Is their knowledge radically defective? Yes. So is the knowledge of most Catholics, including you in all likelihood. But if you approach the throne on the last day and say, “I thanks you O God that I am not like other men, or even like this damned Muslim here, because I have earned salvation by the good work of mastering the details of Trinitarian theology and I understand you completely” you should pray like hell that you pass with a grade of 100%, cuz the measure you use will be measured to you.

    There is only one God. We can have defective ideas about him. But our defective ideas do not create a second One God. Nor does our ignorance save us. Christ does that. If a Muslim is saved, it will be because he hears from Christ the words he will speak to the sheep from “the nations” in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats. I, for one, am content to wait till then to see who makes the cut. My concern is that I do, not with telling God his business.

  • Proteus

    There is no Allah. Thus they do not worship Allah.

  • Mark Shea

    There is no Allah. Thus they do not worship Allah.

    That will come as news to all Maronite Catholics who have been praying to Allah at Mass for centuries.

    Do you guys even *know* that there are other rites beside the Latin Rite? Learn a little about your own Church, will ya?

  • nobody

    Mr. Shea,

    Linguistically, sure ALL Catholics worship Allah, but you are the one who stated only Maronites worship Allah (which confuses the issue with the Allah and faith in Islam). If you made an incomplete listing fine, all monotheists worship Allah (Arabic name).

    After spending so much time reading and writing about the definition and title of God, I can only think that Judaism has the best idea to just shut up and honor Him because he is.

    At the end of the day your explanation of our Catholic faith is explained well, what infuriates me is that you place yourself on an ecclesiastical whaling ship and then focus on harpooning small fish while at the same time maneuvering around large whales name faithless, schism, and heresy.

    All of us are defective:
    Luke 18:9-14 describes the three situations all of us find ourselves in constantly, we are all at any given time a self-righteous Pharisee, a repentant tax collector, or a wayward thieve, rogue, or an adulterer.

    My observation, Mr. Shea, is that you chase with great delight self-righteous sardines out of the mouths of whales.

  • Dana

    is not his rudeness or bullying, although they provide enough of a smokescreen to divert people from the real problem.

    What bothers me is his reading of magisterial documents. There is always a lack of context. For instance, in this case Shea took a quotation from the Catechism, but didn’t go back and read Nostra aetate in full (and it’s a couple of pages) to grasp the context of the document. Nor did he do any reseach on the way(s) in which Nostra Aetate has been implemented (even though he keeps talking about it) or how this particular statement on Muslim monotheism has been subsequently interpreted by the Church (or by Muslims, for that matter). In true Protestant, prooftext fashion, Shea only cites the passage he needs to “prove” something, but there isn’t enough background or context to make a judgment on the matter as he states it. Then, since his presentation is garbled and incoherent, he lashes out at his readers for their “inability” to understand his post. Shea may have been Catholic since 1987, but it’s hard to tell it from posts like these.

  • DPJ

    Do you guys even *know* that there are other rites beside the Latin Rite? Learn a little about your own Church, will ya?

    I’m curious to know, Mark, what exactly you know about Maronites and Melkites and other non-Latin Catholics. Can you cite any Maronite or Melkite authors and their opinions on Islam? I may know know much about these Churches myself, but I know they deserve consideration as something more than the answer to a trivia question.

    I’ve read that Allah, to a Muslim, is not a word meaning “God” but the actual proper name of God. But Arabic-speaking Christians use it as a word meaning “God” because it is the most suitable one in the language. If true, that is a very important distinction, as important as the distinction between what an Anglo-Saxon pagan and a modern English-speaking Christian mean by that mysterious monosyllabic word beginning with a hard G.

  • Dan Deeny

    Mark, This is a very interesting discussion, albeit a bit long and involved. Perhaps things will turn out okay in the end. Think of Robert Spencer. He began studying Islam when his Muslim friends encouraged him to become a Muslim. He read widely, deeply, and patiently. Now he is writing books and giving talks trying to explain Islam to all of us. Maybe the Catholics in England will also study Islam and learn Arabic.

  • Amer Haleem

    i’d like to say it has been a long time since i’ve read such appalling, benighted, ignorant, and deeply ungodly ideas about any people of belief like i have here among at least nominal Catholics, but as a Muslim born and raised in America, sadly, i cannot. Indeed, i read it everyday

  • Joe

    ” ‘the fact’ that Islamic holy texts themselves provide the basis for thousands and thousands of acts of violence.” This is, of course, is sorrowfully farcical coming from anyone who is part of a civilization, at the core of which is the Western Christian religious tradition, that has murdered more than a million innocent Muslims in cold blood in less than five years, and twice that number since the first Gulf War. There is no single parallel in all of Muslim history to anything like the maniacal aggression of the West, either in the good ol’ days of Church ascendancy or since the steely, God-absent, grey dawn of modernity.

    Amer Haleem,

    I assure you I shared a deeper pain, anger and frustration regarding the Catholic Faith than you, and I am a Catholic.

    However. I am sorry. Your assertions regarding history and fact are simply not true. If you truly believe them, then truly challenge them by gathering facts from non-Muslim sources that would prove them the lies you claim.

    A.M.D.G.

  • Joe


    #1
    Which is why I wrote the piece. My issue is not with defending the bishops’ prudentially dubious suggestion. It’s with rebutting the many bad and dangerous arguments being presented against their suggestion, because they compromise the integrity of the Faith and because they endanger our relationship with all non-Catholic religions, not just with Islam. Similarly, my point is not to argue that Islam is not a huge danger, not a manmade religion, and not arguably humanity’s greatest mistake. Nor is it to say that there is no difference between Trinitarian monotheism and the monotheism of Jews and Muslims.

    It is to say that it’s not smart to fight Islam by laying the intellectual groundwork for contempt for all non-Catholics, and most especially for Jews. I recognize no commonality of spirit between the hysteria and frequent contempt for Nostra Aetate, Vatican II, Muslims and Jews that I’m seeing in a lot of the combox commentariat and the generous, thoughtful, and fruitful work being done by Pope Benedict XVI in his dialogue with Muslim leaders. It would well behoove Catholics who are serious about the Church’s engagement with Muslims of good will to imitate him, rather than to simply issue sweeping denials that there is any such thing as a Muslim of good will or to heap scorn on Nostra Aetate. The pope is there to teach us. Let’s learn from him.

    #2
    Here’s an especially devolved quote from the comments on the article that summarizes the craziness of the thinking I oppose. It is one of several attempts by various readers to declare that the Church is in error when she teaches of Muslims (and Jews) that “together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day”:

    The fact that Jews worship One God, and Muslims worship One God, and Christians worship One God does not automatically and necessarily mean that they all worship the same One God, even if there is only one God.

    I leave the reader with the task of decoding that.

    #3
    The simple fact is this: If the Pope can let one set of foreign rites be observed on Catholic property out of respect for the human dignity of Jews, there is no iron law forbidding the UK bishops’ to do the same for peaceful Muslims in the UK.

    Mark,

    Regarding #1 above: If you expect such do the same. Your articles are filled with very similar behavior, granted with an “NPR civility”. However, most people rightly find such attitudes as far beneath being treated with “dignity.” Rather they rightly see it as nothing other than the arrogance of modern day “High Priests”.

    Regarding #2 above: I for one understand it clearly. Decoding that assertion is exactly the thing you should be doing IF #1 is truly your goal. Remember, I am not the one putting myself out in the Public Square through books, a Blog and articles as a Catholic voice. You are. As such, as a Catholic, it is not at all an error for me to ask for and point out the errors of your thoughts and assertions. Sadly, since Vatican II, many Catholics have been lead astray from the truth and Tradition of Thomistic reasoning in Faith. Your article decodes nothing and asserts little beyond emotions. I think you can and should do better.

    Regarding #3 above: Since Ive asserted concerns regarding errors in article I have chosen this assertion as a point. That the Pope let “foreign rites be observed on Catholic property” does not make the act proper or without error. Many many Popes have committed errors.

    There are two fundamental errors that seem to run through your article and thoughts. First a confusion regarding the difference between the roles of Charity and treating others with “dignity.” The second an error of speaking to the emotions of an argument people as opposed to the foundational principles that underlie the argument.

    That less educated faithful are deeply pained by such but are unable to express such does not make the truth their hearts see any less true. The Grace which touched you and has brought you to stepping into the Public Square the way you have, demands you do better.

    I think you can.

    A.M.D.G.

  • Rick Malloy, S.J.

    From the DOGMATIC CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH LUMEN GENTIUM SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY HIS HOLINESS POPE PAUL VI ON NOVEMBER 21, 1964

    google “lumen gentium” and click on the Vatican’s website http://www.vatican.va

    16. “Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God.(18*) In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh.(125) On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues.(126); But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things,(127) and as Saviour wills that all men be saved.(12smilies/cool.gif Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.(20*) She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.(129) Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, “Preach the Gospel to every creature”,(130) the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.”

  • Melinda

    holy frijoles!!!what a bunch of nonsense over something so very simple – I know this is an old argument – last year in fact – but after reading the comments furor over Mark Shea’s article and response I felt compelled to ask: what is so difficult to understand about the right of human dignity given to every human by God???? Muslim or Jew, Mormon or Catholic – should make absolutely no difference –

    A prayer room for Muslim students – fine- as long as I can have one too[insert trendy religion of the week here] – that’s where the road becomes a bit dicey…but the basic argument regarding charitable treatment of Muslims because they fall into the category of humans loved by God is sound and comes from sound teaching…so all the comments rebuking Mark Shea for upholding this principle are abdication of responsibility to imitate Christ in the following commandment: Love thy neighbor as thyself…there were NO caveats or conditions placed on that commandment by the way…it wasn’t Love thy neighbor only if he believes what you believe – or love thy neighbor only if the result is advantageous for you – nope – it’s Love thy neighbor – period….and for Christ, loving his neighbor turned out rather badly at least in the short run – death on the cross – but the final outcome was Glorious – and so even if loving our neighbor means our destruction in the short term we are still called to do it for the sake of Christ and our eternal soul..

    That said, I am of the belief that Christ’s promises are true and that if we follow His commandment to love faithfully then nothing including radical Islam and the gates of hell will prevail against Holy Mother Church…

    And that makes ALL arguments against charity rather moot imo..

  • Randy Johnson

    a dusty com-box.

    Mark,

    You said (comment #74): “The Church says an extremely modest thing in CCC 841. Insofar as Muslims (or anybody) acknowledge what we do, they are right. In the case of Muslims and Jews, they acknowledge there is one God, just and merciful, who will judge the word on the Last Day. We say the same. They adore him. So do we. We’ve got that much in common. It does not follow we have everything in common. But that much, at least, we do.

    Is their knowledge radically defective? Yes. So is the knowledge of most Catholics, including you in all likelihood. But if you approach the throne on the last day and say, “I thanks you O God that I am not like other men, or even like this damned Muslim here, because I have earned salvation by the good work of mastering the details of Trinitarian theology and I understand you completely” you should pray like hell that you pass with a grade of 100%, cuz the measure you use will be measured to you.

    There is only one God. We can have defective ideas about him. But our defective ideas do not create a second One God. Nor does our ignorance save us. Christ does that. If a Muslim is saved, it will be because he hears from Christ the words he will speak to the sheep from “the nations” in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats. I, for one, am content to wait till then to see who makes the cut. My concern is that I do, not with telling God his business.”

    This encapsulates the thought that I kept returning to time and time again while reading your article, and the subsequent comments of your detractors. Saying that Muslim’s worship the One True God is not the same thing as saying that Muslim’s worship Him correctly, which seems to be where those who argued against you went off the rails by asserting that False Worship = False God as if God’s Being is dependent on true worship. He is not.

    What did the ancient Israelites do while Moses tarried on the Mount? They made a golden calf, built an altar and on it offered sacrifices. They offered worship to it, worship that properly belonged to God. Did their worship establish the golden calf as True God? No, of course not! Likewise, the false worship of the Muslim does not indicate a false god, it indicates false worship of the One True God that they (rightly) recognize.

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