Change does not come swiftly to the Roman Catholic Church. For example, prior to Galileo’s publication of his 1632 book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Church leaders firmly believed that the Earth was the center of the universe and that all other heavenly bodies, including the Sun, orbited around it. Galileo disagreed. As a basis for its belief, the Church relied upon biblical references such as Psalm 104:5, I Chronicles 16:30, and Ecclesiastes 1:5, all of which proclaim that the universe is firmly established and cannot be moved.
Galileo, who has come to be known as the “father of modern physics,” was summoned before an ecclesiastical court in 1633 and charged with heresy for his writings. On June 22 of that year he was sentenced to house arrest for the remainder of his life. However, justice is not totally blind. On October 31, 1992, some 359 years later, Pope John Paul II expressed regret for how the Galileo matter was handled and issued a declaration admitting that “errors had been committed.”
However, a centuries-long debate within the Catholic Church over the question of whether the Sun orbits the Earth, or vice versa, has been of little import compared to the imminent dangers posed by radical Islam in the 21st century. To the best of our knowledge, unlike the constant threat of sectarian genocide at the hands of radical Islam, the debate over Galileo’s theories did not cost the lives of thousands or millions of non-Muslims… perhaps entire nations.
Yet, the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian denominations are evolving ever so slowly in their approach to Islam. In a most thoughtful and thoroughly researched treatise, titled, Islam, Interreligious Dialogue, and Evangelization, published on May 8, 2015, Andre Villeneuve, Ph.D. of Saint John Vianney Seminary, describes the evolution of the Church’s approach to Islam in just the past half century.
According to Dr. Villeneuve, “Since Vatican II (1962-65) the Catholic Church has taken a conciliatory approach toward non-Christian religions in general, and Islam in particular. Interreligious dialogue has tended to focus on similarities rather than differences…” He quotes the Council’s statements on Islam expressed in the Declaration on Non-Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate, which proclaim, “The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself, merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men… Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother…”
The Council went on to say in Nostra Aetate: “Since in the course of centuries, not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.”
The conciliatory theme in the Catholic hierarchy continues to this day. Dr. Villeneuve writes that, “After praising the commitment to prayer, faith, devotion, and ethical values of many Muslims, (Pope) Francis encourages Christians to adopt a welcoming attitude towards the increasing number of Muslim immigrants in traditionally Christian countries, while asking for a reciprocal freedom of worship for Christians living in Muslim countries.”
He quotes Pope Francis in his Evangelii Gaudium apostolic letter as saying, “Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.” This is in sharp contrast to a statement made by Pope Benedict XVI in his Regensburg Lecture of September 12, 2006, a statement that was not well received in the Muslim world. In that statement, Benedict quoted the 14th century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, who said, “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
Yes, as Pope Francis has suggested, we should first ask for reciprocity from the Muslim world, but asking is not the same as demanding, and it’s time that political and religious leaders in the Christian world demand reciprocity throughout the Muslim world, signaling that serious repercussions will follow if it is not granted. Nothing less will suffice.
Needless to say, the response from the Muslim world has not been what the Vatican might have hoped for. Instead of reciprocating, in kind, radical Islam has pursued a brutal, unrelenting jihad against the Christian world. Dr. Villeneuve quotes a 1991 Muslim Brotherhood document, titled, “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America.” The memorandum explains that the Brotherhood “must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and Allah’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”
Dr. Villeneuve goes on to say that, “At the same time, mainstream Muslim organizations considered to be ‘moderate’ by the American public have turned out to be stealthily pursuing radical agendas, quietly attempting to Islamize the United States by undermining national security, pushing for greater public acceptance of Muslim practices, and silencing as much as possible any criticism if Islam…” He warns that “Stealth jihad is also actively at work in schools and educational institutions across the United States where textbooks financed by Saudi Arabia are used to present a sanitized or glorified view of Islam which downplays or dissimulates the history of violent jihad, all under the cover of ‘multiculturalism.’ ”
All of that is relatively tame… something our children and grandchildren will have to worry about a few decades down the road… compared to the blood-chilling details of a May 26, 2015 posting by PJ media. The article is titled, “Here are al-Qaeda’s Guidelines for Which “Blasphemers” to Assassinate.” Al-Qaeda has declared open season on the following persons:
Those who insult the prophet Muhammed and/or the Islamic religion.
Those who oppose following Sharia Law, including teachers, college professors, political leaders, judges, lawyers, engineers and doctors.
Those who misinterpret Islam wrongly in speeches and written articles, including writers, poets, intellectuals, newspaper and magazine editors, actors, journalists, and movie and television producers and directors.
Those who wrongly represent the rulings of Sharia Law in their writings or speeches.
Those who denigrate Muslim social values by introducing nudity and extramarital sex among Muslim youths.
Those who attempt to reverse Sharia rulings in existing Islamic cultures and economies.
Certainly, such threats are not likely to produce a “welcoming attitude” among non-Muslims, as Pope Francis has suggested.
At this writing, the focus of the western world is on Syria and Iraq where ISIS, one of history’s most bloodthirsty organizations, is literally butchering its way across the Middle East. The limits of their savagery are beyond comprehension, yet Western leaders, chiefly Barack Obama, sit idly by, not knowing how to prevent the ISIS butchers from slaughtering us on our own home soil.
As his answer to the problem, Obama tells us that it is the Iraqis and their neighboring Arab peoples who must do the fighting and dying to prevent violent jihad from returning to our shores, but that hasn’t worked out too well because Iraqi soldiers, with little or no motivation to martyr themselves on our behalf, have thrown down their weapons and fled the field of battle.
For example, assume you are an Iraqi soldier, a member of a nomadic goat-herding tribe, and that you have never been called upon to defend any territory beyond what was needed to graze your tribal herds. Then, out of the clear blue, the president of the United States sends military forces whose job it is to convince you that you must risk your life to defend national borders that mean absolutely nothing to you and that you will likely never see in your lifetime.
His soldiers provide you with modern weapons and train you how to use them. And when a bunch of guys from Syria, all dressed in black, begin killing, raping, and pillaging cities, towns, and villages in your part of the world, he sends 450 more soldiers to help out. But then, word begins to circulate around the campfires at night that the president of the United States who asks you to put your life on the line to protect what he insists are your ethnic and political boundaries, has no interest whatsoever in protecting the international borders of his own country.
So what do you do when all those guys dressed in black, wielding machetes and flying a black flag, come after you with guns blazing and threatening to slice off your head and rape your wife? Do you stand your ground and fight to the death, or do you turn tail and run? What do you do?
Some of the 450 new troops that Obama is sending to Iraq will be embedded with forward units of the Iraqi military as advisors and air controllers. If those U.S. troops begin to take casualties, especially fatalities, Barack Obama had better pack his bags and head for sanctuary in Kenya.
Like the authors of Nostra Aetate in Vatican II, Obama may endorse the notion that we “forget the past” and “work sincerely for mutual understanding,” with the Muslim world. But that’s a pie-in-the-sky notion for the Pope and other religious leaders who have no armies to commit to the military meat grinder. It is not an option that is available to the leader of the Free World.
Paul R. Hollrah is a retired government relations executive and a two-time member of the U.S. Electoral College. He currently lives and writes among the hills and lakes of northeast Oklahoma’s Green Country.