As a follow up, John Zmirak at Stream weighs in on Swetland’s position that you, dear readers, as Catholics must accept that Islam really is “Religion of Peace” because, he says, Vatican II and other documents, says so. If you don’t accept that Islam is a “Religion of Peace”, you are, essentially, according to Msgr. Swetland, bad Catholics, dissenting from the magisterium as if you were Fishwrap fans. Zmirak says that Swetland is, well, being “creative”. Zmirak uses the amusing analogy of “the Vatican’s ‘sacred monkeys,’ which Cordelia Flyte invented in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited to tease her sister’s Protestant fiancé”.
ORIGINAL POSTED 16 August 2016
The other day Catholic radio show host Drew Mariani had a (too short) debate about the claim that Islam is a “Religion of Peace” between Robert Spencer (an Eastern Catholic Deacon of the Melkite Church who has written extensively on Islam and who directs Jihad Watch) and Msgr. Stuart Swetland. You can hear this archived HERE. Listen and take note their different tones as they make their points.
Swetland argues that Catholics must accept that the magisterium requires Catholics to accept that Islam is a “Religion of Peace”. Spencer argues that the sacred texts of Islam state that Islam is not a Religion of Peace.
After the radio discussion, Swetland then wrote to Robert Spencer (he says that Spencer is a dissenter from the magisterium). Spencer responded with his own statement. (Links also below). [NB: Excerpts of Msgr. Swetland’s response to Spencer are in Spencer’s response.]
Then, over at Crisis (which I admire each day as a great resource) we see a response to Msgr. Swetland by William Kilpatrick.
Must Catholics Believe that Islam Is Peaceful?
The Apostles’ Creed (updated version):
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, and the peaceful nature of Islam. Amen.
Or, anyway, that’s how it ought to read according to Monsignor Stuart Swetland, President of Donnelly College in Kansas City. No, Msgr. Swetland didn’t actually propose a revision to the Apostles’ Creed, but he does seem to be saying that Catholics have a religious obligation to affirm that Islam is a religion of peace.
In a long statement following up on a radio debate with Robert Spencer on Relevant Radio’s Drew Mariani Show, Swetland, according to Spencer, “contends that the statements of recent Popes to the effect that Islam is a religion of peace fall into the category of teachings to which Catholics must give ‘religious assent.’” [Is that so?]
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. [This is, at least, a very difficult conclusion to reach.]
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. Or, to quote the Ayatollah Khomeini, “Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those are witless.” Khomeini was an Ayatollah Usma, a “Grand Sign of God”—an honor bestowed only on the most learned religious leaders. My guess is that the Ayatollah knew a lot more about Islam than Msgr. Swetland does.
I’m not saying that Swetland is “witless.” In fact, he seems to be an intelligent man. He has an undergraduate degree in physics, was a Rhodes Scholar, and studied philosophy and economics at Oxford. Still, high IQ and common sense don’t always go together. As George Orwell noted, “some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.”
In the radio debate and in an article responding to his statement, Robert Spencer does a fine job of dismantling Swetland’s arguments. [I value highly the back and forth on this issue.] For one thing, says Spencer, [NB] affirmations about the nature of Islam should not be a matter of Catholic faith and morals. In other words, it’s a serious overreach to contend that the “wrong” opinion on the nature of Islam or on the advisability of mass Muslim immigration may constitute dissent from Church teaching. In saying that it does, Swetland has just created a whole new class of Catholic dissenters—one that probably numbers in the tens of millions. Spencer also observes that what previous popes had to say about Islam contradicts what current popes have said. 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’?” [We shouldn’t pit Popes against Popes.]
The linchpin of Swetland’s case is Nostra Aetate’s brief statement about the “Moslems.” [NB] But as Spencer, and I, and others have pointed out, there are numerous problems with Nostra Aetate. One question that arises is whether Nostra Aetate was ever intended to be a dogmatic statement. [The other day I posted something about Nostra aetate in reference to the reconciliation of the SSPX. Archbp. Pozzo recently informed us about the intention of the Council Fathers about Nostra aetate itself. Pozzo said: “The Secretary for the Unity of Christians said on 18 November 1964 in the Council Hall about Nostra aetate ‘As to the character of the declaration, [PAY ATTENTION] the Secretariate does not want to write a dogmatic declaration on non-Christian religions, but, rather, practical and pastoral norms’. [We are free to disagree with “pastoral norms”.] Nostra aetate does not have any dogmatic authority and thus one cannot demand from anyone to recognise this declaration as dogmatic. This declaration can only be understood in the light of tradition and of the continuous Magisterium.] …
[… I don’t want to reproduce the whole thing here… do go to read at Crisis…]
The main problem with Msgr. Swetland’s statement, however, is its recklessness. Last week in Crisis I wrote that the Church’s handling of the Islamic challenge may prove to be far more scandalous than its handling of the sex abuse crisis. 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.”
Provocative. I suggest that all of you get up to speed on this debate by listening to the audio link, and then following up with the statements of Swetland and Spencer.
Sts. Nunilo and Alodia, pray for us.
St. Pius V, pray for us.
St. Lawrence of Brindisi, pray for us.
Lord, have mercy on the soul of Fr. Jacques Hamel.
Lord, save and protect persecuted Christians.
Mary, Destroyer of All Heresies, pray for us.