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Claire Chretien Claire Chretien Follow Claire

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Must Catholics affirm the peaceful nature of Islam or be ‘dissenters’?

Claire Chretien Claire Chretien Follow Claire

August 22, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Must Catholics believe Islam is a peaceful religion in order to be good Catholics?

That’s the question Robert Spencer of JihadWatch.org and Monsignor Stuart Swetland of Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas, have been debating on the radio and online. Spencer maintains that Islam is a violent religion and its sacred texts acknowledge that fact, and Catholics are not required to affirm Islam as having a peaceful nature. Swetland argues that the Magisterium requires Catholics to believe that Islam is an inherently peaceful religion.

William Kilpatrick summarized the dispute rather nicely at Crisis Magazine:

Swetland writes: “My main purpose in having a discussion with Robert Spencer, a Catholic, on a Catholic radio network was to show clearly that his positions on Islam were at odds with Catholic teaching.” He goes on to give a sample of magisterial teachings on Islam, starting with Nostra Aetate and including statements and exhortations from Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. He then observes:

"Robert Spencer’s positions seem to be at odds with the magisterial teachings on what authentic Islam is and what Catholics are called to do about it (accept immigrants, avoid hateful generalizations, show esteem and respect, etc.). At least in the area of morals, Robert seems to be a dissenter from the papal magisterium."

And Fr. Swetland is a dissenter from common sense. The pages of history, the daily news, and Islam’s sacred texts all attest to the fact that Islam is not a religion of peace …

Affirming that Islam is a “religion of peace” has nothing to do with Catholic faith and morals, Spencer and Kilpatrick note, and popes have had different things to say about the religion:

“Which Roman Pontiff must Catholics agree with: “Pope Francis, who declared that ‘authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence,’ or Pope Callixtus III, who in 1455 vowed to ‘exalt the true Faith, and to extirpate the diabolical sect of the reprobate and faithless Mahomet in the East’?”

One also wonders if Catholics should agree with Pope Francis or with St. Thomas Aquinas, a doctor of the Church and Catholicism’s best theologian, who wrote that Islam spread by violence and “perverts almost all the testimonies of the Old and New Testament.” 

Kilpatrick accused Church leaders of covering up the truth about Islam, predicting that continuing to do so could seriously undermine the Church’s credibility and thus its ability to preach the Gospel for the salvation of souls.

Church authorities are engaged in what amounts to a cover-up of Islam’s aggressive nature, and Msgr. Swetland is a prime example of this ecclesiastical determination to put a positive spin on everything Islamic. But the stakes involved in doing so are extremely high. As I wrote last week, “as the gap widens between what Church officials say about Islam and what ordinary Catholics can see with their own eyes, the credibility of the Church may once again come into question as it did during the sex abuse scandals.”

Interestingly, at the heart of Spencer and Swetland’s argument is a debate over whether Nostra Aetate (“In Our Time”), a Vatican II declaration on the Church’s relationship with other religions, is dogmatic. 

A top Vatican cardinal recently said Vatican II’s own documents indicate Nostra Aetate’s statements on Muslims aren’t doctrinally binding.

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