Swetland v. Spencer: Is Islam a “Religion of Peace” – a hot debate


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.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Semper Paratus, The Coming Storm, The Drill, The future and our choices, The Religion of Peace and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. jcocucci says:

    The good monsignor is wrong. Plain and simple. I’m sure he’s a nice man, but he’s part of the problem in this case.

  2. Kent Wendler says:

    When Msgr. Swetland was the Newman Center director here at the University of Illinois:Urbana/Champaign, I had, yes, the privilege of personal “face time” with him. However I was not always impressed with what he said, especially when he asserted as Magisterial teaching things that seemed to me to be items of theological opinion, even if very widely held. (I’ve run into that problem many times, and not just with Msgr. Swetland.)

  3. Jack says:

    This debate has been going on for about 50 years or so. (Hmmmm…)

    Each side trots out personalities/incidents that allegedly support their argument (i.e., “Good Muslims”, “Bad Muslims”, “Good Catholics”, “Bad Catholics”, etc., etc.) Supposedly we are to judge the character of the religion through this antidotes.

    Ultimately to get to the heart of the matter, you must look at the foundational and fundamental documents and teachings of each. If we use those as a benchmark for those who truly believe their faith, then the answer presents itself. Public perception of what is/isn’t good or bad is irrelevant has the adherence to the teaching is what determines whether the party is truly devout to that belief.

    I defy anyone with any level of credentialing to put the New Testament in comparison with ANY other belief system and tell me they are equivalent.

  4. CatholicMD says:

    It appears Msgr. Swetland is engaging in a form of Magisterial Creep and Hyperpapalism. I had hoped the current pontificate would be curing many Catholics of this disorder. When any rational person can look at statements of previous popes (councils) and see how they contradict the declarations of recent popes (council) it gives credence to the accusation that Catholics are required to “check their brains at the door”. This notion that the pope is some kind of Delphic Oracle with a direct line to the Holy Spirit needs to be buried.

    ” For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.” Pastor Aeturnus

  5. Liam says:

    The debate between Msgr. Swetland and Spencer is symptomatic of the deeper of issue which is touched upon here with the quotes from Archbishop Pozzo, namely the weight and binding force of the various documents of the Second Vatican Council.

    Then Cardinal Ratzinger in a July 1988 address to the Chilean episcopate took note of the tendency to turn all of Vatican II into a Superdogma do that all the documents–dogmatic constitutions, pastoral constitutions, pastoral decrees, and pastoral declarations–are levelled out and giving equal and full binding weight so as to eclipse and supersede all previous doctrinal and pastoral teachings of the Church. We this this here in argument of Msgr. Swetland who would elevate a pastoral statement in the declaration Nostra Aetate to a level of teaching the council Fathers explicitly denied to that document. Further, as a pastoral declaration, it was written half a century ago for the pastoral situation of the Church at that time which the Council Fathers may have correctly or incorrectly interpreted. One could argue that previous and subsequent history has shown that the document itself fails to adequately understand the nature of Islam.

    But this is not merely about Islam. If Nostra Aetate is wrong about Islam, perhaps it is mistaken about other pastoral issues vis-a-vis other non-Christian confessions. This makes many persons inside and outside the Church very nervous. Nevertheless, the good of the Church and the responsibility for teaching truth obliges that Church today to revisit the late Council and clarify what is and is not obligatory and what continues to be correct and appropriate pastoral instruction in the changed conditions since the close of the Council as half century ago.

  6. AvantiBev says:

    I heard the debate while stuck in Chi town traffic. I don’t know which was making my blood pressure rise faster: Monsignor’s statements or Interstate 290. I thought Spencer won the debate handily and without rancor but, I am an avid, long time reader of both his books and website. The monsignor’s CLOSING remarks sounded to me like he was reading Mr. Spencer (and me and millions of others who have eyes to see, ears to hear, and brains to reason) out of the Church.

    I paid attention to some of the few follow up callers and the gentleman whose Eastern Rite, Middle Eastern wife had lost 70 of her relatives over the past century to Islamic anti-Christian pogroms was most vehement that we should PAY ATTENTION to “the guest speaker” as he referred to Spencer. I took time to send an email comment thanking Mr. Drew Mariani for the program and stating how much I enjoyed & was enlightened by Mr. Spencer’s books.

    I believe history – if there is anyone around to write it but Muslims — will count many Western Catholic clergy and laity who cry “peace, peace” (and at any price) culpable in the holocaust against Jews and Christians. The current crop of kumbaya clerics remind me of the Catholic accommodationists during the Cold War and their wails during the 1980’s that “Cowboy” Reagan was dangerous and unrealistic in insisting that Communism was evil and would end up “on the ash heap of history”.

  7. iamlucky13 says:

    I don’t know that I’ve seen all of Pope Francis’ remarks on Islam, but the general substance of them seems to be not to generalize. The most surprising statement, from Evangelii Gaudium, is “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”

    There’s two ways to read this:

    1.) What the Koran literally says, but then you face the problem that the Koran does not oppose, and in many cases seems rather sternly to demand violent jihad.

    2.) Reading the Koran in the light of moral truths. This is the only reading that is genuinely “proper.” Reading the Koran properly, you have to reject those parts that are contrary to truth.

    Perhaps not what Pope Francis meant, but it would obviously be improper to give the Koran credibility when it calls for slaying pagans and seems to prefer, but does say that good Muslims are not strictly obligated to t that Christians and Jews be enslaved.

    The fact that many Muslims rejecting violence is also raised, but this doesn’t really define Islam, any more so than the Catholics using contraception defines the beliefs of Catholicism.

    Msgr. Swetland’s also quotes Vatican II and other recent popes as teaching that Islam is a religion of peace, but that’s not what the excerpts he quotes actually say. They merely say that Islam and Christianity have several things in common, including monotheism and valuing alms-giving.

    That said, I can’t see the legitimacy of Spencer suggesting he will leave the Church if assent is demanded on the matter. Assent is a matter of deference to the successors of the apostles, not dogmatic acceptance. There’s a Benedictine aspect to it, obeying legitimate authority even when the authority is misguided, out of love of God and in imitation of obedience to Him, unless, of course, what is asked of you is morally wrong. To overlook the violence in Islam is naive, but not plainly immoral.

  8. JamesM says:

    Surely Nostra Aetarte should only be interpreted in continuity with what the Church previously taught. As we have been told, the Second Vatican Council proclaimed no new dogmas.

    The interpretation put forward by Msgr. Swetland is clearly not in continuity with what the Church has previously taught and must be errant.

  9. wmeyer says:

    I do not have any particular knowledge of Msgr. Swetland. However, Robert Spencer, who by his own admission sort of backed into becoming a scholar on Islam, has accumulated a deep knowledge of Islam in years of extensive research.
    But I would step back a bit, and refer to somewhat older references. And I shall not set pope against pope. St. Thomas Aquinas spoke little on the subject, but clearly, as written here:
    Aquinas on Islam.
    Further, Hilaire Belloc treated it at some length in his The Great Heresies (the chapter in question, thanks to EWTN.)

    All this seems pretty clear, and Belloc makes a compelling case for his view.

    In the podcast, Spencer is at his usual best, with the breadth of his knowledge at his fingertips. That is a reasonable measure, I think, of his reliability. The Msgr., on the other hand, seems not to have a very coherent foundation for his claims, and seems inclined to talk over Spencer to make his points, which to my mind, he failed to do.

  10. Fr. Lovell says:

    I was at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary when Msgr. Swetland was VP of Catholic Identity. Let us just say he is part of the go along to get along crowd.

  11. tskrobola says:

    Radical secularists are trying to “cover” for Islam, so it can be an effecyive stalking horse against Christianity.

    Liberal Christians and Catholics are either on board with giving Islam a pass, and non-liberal Christians are concerned that if we attack Islam we hand rhetorical weapons to the left to void our defense of religious freedom on the grounds of our supposed hypocrisy.

    The Priest here is probably the liberal version.

  12. rachmaninov says:

    I have unearthed this from 2005 When Pope Benedict was questioned while staying in Aosta, Italy:
    ” On July 24, during his stay in the Italian Aosta Valley region, he was asked if Islam can be described as a religion of peace, to which he replied ‘I would not speak in generic terms, certainly Islam contains elements which are in favour of peace, as it contains other elements.'” This is from a very interesting article concerning Ratzinger and Islam. http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/53826?eng=y
    So Robert, if you are reading this, you are perfectly entitled to hold the view you do. The original text of the papal interview can be found at the Catholic News Agency website
    Stephen Walford

  13. Clinton R. says:

    Sadly, we have seen the ongoing love affair with Islam from our popes and prelates since Vatican II. I can’t see how the position of Islam being a “religion of peace” or it having any kind of legitimacy squares with how the saints viewed this sect. From St. John Bosco:

    “…Mohamed established his religion with violence and arms; Jesus Christ established His Church with words of peace using His poor disciples. Mohamed incited the passions; Jesus Christ commanded the denial of self. Mohamed worked no miracles; Jesus Christ worked uncountable miracles in broad daylight and in the presence of countless multitudes. Mohamed’s doctrines are ridiculous, immoral and corrupting; Jesus Christ’s are august, sublime and pure. In Mohamed not even one prophecy was fulfilled; in Jesus Christ all were.

    To sum up, the Christian Religion, in a certain way, renders man happy in this world so as to raise him up to the enjoyment of heaven; Mohamed degrades and dishonours human nature and by placing all happiness in sensual pleasures, reduces man to the level of filthy animals.”


  14. the little brother says:

    I’ve got your R.O.P.right here….

  15. tlawson says:

    I went to seminary and had Msgr Swetland as a professor. Extremely intelligent, great preacher, etc., like a lot of seminary profs.

    You find all too few, it seems, when the “hard stuff” of the Gospel is proclaimed, who will “stand fully with The Lord” and say the hard things along the hard lines that He was saying. Msgr. Swetland was one of these. Not trying to be critical, but, these are the times we live in. How many times, say, when you hear a Gospel from Matthew 25, do you hear a homily along the lines of Matthew 25? Not many.

    Msgr. is a good man, but will stick with the “positive” side of things, and like most preachers today, won’t preach the hard realities and hard consequences and realities of sin.

    I pray as often as I can for Our Lord and Our Lady to pour out anew a spirit like Mother Angelica’s…when priests (and bishops) act like nuns, nuns have to act like priests (and bishops).

    Ad Orientem Forever

  16. arcanum_divinae says:

    I may be pretty ultramontane, but even I have to admit that it’s Muslims, Muhammad, the Koran, etc. that get to define Islam, not the Pope.

  17. Aquinas Gal says:

    It’s so rich that people like Msgr Swetland are suddenly so concerned about giving submission to papal teachings! While I know nothing about Swetland, and don’t mean to imply he is on the catholic left, this is something that liberals have been doing ever since Francis became pope. I remember times when I pointed out that some statement contradicted Church/papal teaching, people just rolled their eyes and laughed at me.

  18. tlawson says:

    THANK YOU,Aquinas Gal, for pointing out something so obvious.

    Again, as a former seminarian at his seminary (Mt. Saint Mary’s in Maryland), you NEVER hear priests (or bishops) of “this type” talk about adherence to Magisterial teachings, unless it’s something like (New York Times-style) “Social Justice” or similar. Bring up Summorum Pontificum, the REAL Sacrosanctum Concilium, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, etc., and then “it’s OK to be a relativist.”

    Thank GOD and Our Lady for all the newer, younger, zealous, open-to-Truth seminarians and priests out there.

  19. rmichaelj says:

    in reply to Iamlucky13
    To overlook the violence in Islam is naive, but not plainly immoral.

    If one has a duty to defend others (e.g. parents, civil leaders, military leaders, and yes even priests and bishops) than overlooking the violence in Islam certainly can be both naive and immoral.

  20. Kathleen10 says:

    This is unbelievable. What can possibly explain a monsignor digging in on such an obvious distortion of truth and reality, it defies comprehension. As was pointed out here, when the pope and the churchmen continue to twist our arms about accepting such nonsense as truth, they are harming the church. There is no way they are going to convince rational people that Islam is peaceful, and by stating that we are under obligation to believe this is an abuse of authority, and just on the face of it, is so absurd. Msgr. Swetland may as well demand we believe grass is red and skies are green.
    To live during these times is stunning, and it is not just the understanding of the very real danger of Islam, and not just that many of our fellow citizens are so morally confused they can’t acknowledge how bad Islam is, but that our churchmen are just as lost as the secular citizenry. How can we ever trust these men when they are so clearly wrong on so many issues. These men add to our burden and make our crosses heavier. It really can be maddening to think of the poor Christians in the Middle East, how they have suffered, and to see these apparently clueless men still acting as apologists for Islam. God help us in these times! The shepherds are deaf, dumb and blind!

  21. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    I have not had time to listen and read the follow-ups, and don’t know when I will, but the points raised by iamlucky13, arcanum_divinae, and implicitly by William Kilpatrick in quoting Khomeini about ‘getting to define Islam’ have to take into account self-describing Muslims and the incessant intestine broils between (groups of) them since not so many years after the death of Mohammed (according to traditional chronologies and historical reconstructions). Self-described Muslim A will define away self-described Muslim B’s claim to be a Muslim, and vice versa, and have been doing so with especial virulence since the dispute over the interpretation of a particular Koran text – with respect to how to wage war – at the Battle of Siffin 1349 years ago last month!

    Yet there also seems good evidence (or so I understand) that the Iranians cheerfully helped their ‘mortal enemies’ in al-Qaeda, who as cheerfully accepted their help, against a perceived ‘common enemy’, and so on.

    I’d like to know what, if any, absolutely common interpretations the multifarious internecine self-described Muslim factions have as to the definition of ‘peace’ and the terms of waging jihad.

  22. Bruce says:

    What does my opinion about Islam have to do with faith and morals?
    Can’t I disagree with another religion and still love them as Christ taught?

  23. stephen c says:

    Many good comments here, with which I agree, but I would like to make some tangential points. First, Father Swetland probably sacrificed quite a lot to follow his vocation, and Monsignor Swetland, who did sacrifice so much , and who may or may not be reading this comment thread, has the right to know that he deserves our prayers (as a fellow sinner) and our gratitude (as a man who has given up all to follow the Lord), even if we disagree with him on the subject under discussion. It is possible he has said nothing as remotely objectionable about the non-Muslims of our day as, for example, St John Chrysostom said about the Jews of his day (with no visible sign of repentance on his part), or as the Servant of God Dorothy Day said about the middle class people of her day (with no visible sign of repentance on her part) (unless I am uninformed).
    I have several Muslim friends (not Salafi, not Wahhabi) and they are nice people; if someone tells me they believe the Koran tells them to hate with a violent and bitter and sinful hate Christians and Jews, all I can say is that is not how they read the Koran.

  24. Kerry says:

    If this assertion is valid,“Spencer’s interpretation … allows these radical groups to say to potential recruits,… ‘See, even our most vocal opponents agree … our interpretation of Islam is the correct one.’”, then what do Msgr. Swetland’s word allow the same radical groups to say about him or his words? May I guess they might say something slanderous and sacrilegious about Christ? If they do, must the Msgr. refrain from “Preaching the Gospel, in season and out”? Of course not. How evil men twist other’s words is not the fault of the Spencer or Msgr. Swetland. The assertion is invalid, and, furthermore, I think, beneath the office the Msgr. holds.

  25. Kerry says:

    However, I would like the Msgr. to leap into the 9mm vs. .45ACP flame wars.

  26. JMody says:

    Fr. Z, this is the most disturbing thing in your post here: not only that a monsignor is setting up a false dogma which, as Spencer indicates clearly will cause the Church a falsehood as truth and cause the entire infallible nature of the Church to collapse, but when you say “We shouldn’t pit Popes against Popes”.

    Is nobody disturbed that this happens all the time on EVERYTHING? Does nobody realize the VALUE we have lost when Popes so consistently provide opportunity to be pitted against their predecessors. Isn’t that a sign that SOMETHING IS WRONG? Maybe it’s just gross inattention to detail and mental sloth, but why are the apparent contradictions so common?

  27. Random Friar says:

    I don’t know if it’s in the Church’s competence to rule on another faith’s qualities, necessarily, dogmatically speaking, whether for ill or for good. We can certainly remark and observe.

  28. pannw says:

    I find it odd, and rather horrifying, that a Catholic priest would so vociferously defend a ‘religion’ that teaches such atrocious and false things about God the Father (Allah, to them), and Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as Islam does. It is one thing to defend individuals who happen to erroneously believe in Islam from threats of violence, intolerance, etc., but to defend the actual false religion, completely contrary to all the evidence? That’s just weird for a Catholic priest to do, in my opinion. If I believed for a half a second that he was right and that I would have to assent to the assertion that Islam is a religion of peace, contrary to what my lying eyes, ears, brain, and recorded history tell me, as a dogma or doctrine of faith, I would, for the first time in my life, have to seriously consider that the Catholic Church is not what she claims to be. Fortunately, I do not for a fraction of a second think he is right.

  29. slainewe says:

    It was all so simple in 1968: gentle Sister Mary Immaculata in her beautiful traditional habit teaching us fourth graders all we needed to know about Islam: “While we Christians spread the Faith by the Cross, Mohammedans force their errors by the sword.”

  30. KateD says:

    “Is Islam a religion of peace?”

    Is the Pope Catholic?

    According to Mr. Spencer, Islam is a religion of peace, it’s just the kind of peace that will come when they’ve killed all Infidels, like Christians, etc.

    And you know, I don’t buy that they are Abrahamic, either, that they worship the same God. Mohamed threw together portions of Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Arab mythology, etc. to come up with Islam. It’s a made up hodgepodge some of which was dictated to him by a ‘jin’ (aka a demon) in a cave.

    Last week I met a Syrian man who was presumably a Christian, as he wore a crucifix. He had just immigrated to America and was so grateful to be safely here. He held no hope for the return of sanity to the country of his birth. I for one am also grateful to see Christian Syrians finding places of refuge.

  31. Pingback: CATHOLIC WEDNESDAY EDITION | Big Pulpit

  32. Norah says:

    I’m probably having a senior moment but I can’t find the link to Msgr Swetland’s reply. Could someone either direct me or provide me with the link? Every time I clicked on I had Mr Spencer’s article.

    Thank you.

  33. Norah says:

    I have just found the link! duh

  34. JonPatrick says:

    I have been reading Dr. Sebastian Gorka’s book “Defeating Jihad” and would recommend it highly. It is very clearly written and provides a summary of how Islam came to be and the rise of Al Queda / ISIS starting with the events of 1979 (Iranian revolution, the attempted seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) and the redefining of what jihad has meant to the Muslims over time.

    Dr. Gorka sees some parallels between this and the rise of Communism / Fascism in the 20th century. He know of what he speaks since his father Paul Gorka was an escapee from Communist Hungary in the 1950’s.

    As KateD says, Islam may be a “religion of peace” but their definition of peace may be somewhat different than ours – a world entirely under Sharia with all nonbelievers either converted or killed, and “people of the book” i.e. Jews and Christians at best living as second class citizens paying onerous taxes.

  35. pmullane says:

    Mgr Swetland’s assertion is wrong, and it seems rather silly.

    There can be no ‘true’ interpretation of Islam, insofar as the Church is concerned, as Islam is a falsehood. There will be a true interpretation insofar as there will be what mohammed meant, whether he was a madman, a conman or a mistaken man. What that interpretation is is of no concern to the Church. Popes, for prudent and diplomatic reasons, may choose to highlight this or that version of Islam, or praise this or that muslim. This hardly could be an interpreted as an exercise of the magisterium. The Pope could, feasibly, teach that Islam is a peaceful religion *just now*. Islam, being a created, worldly thing, is also a changeable thing. Being a changeable thing, the fact that islam is a peaceful religion *just now* does not mean that Catholics are morally obliged for ever and ever to believe that Islam is a peaceful religion.

    The only thing that the Church can say about islam is whether it is true religion, whether its claims about God is correct or not.

    Finally, in my opinion the worst thing that the Church (or more accurately churchmen) can do is try and make people believe things that are not true, or shoehorn things that might not be true into the magisterium, or muddy the waters between what is to be taught as de fide by including in teaching instruments things that do not fall within the Churches arena. If the Church tries to make people believe things that are not true, it will tread no surer path to making people think that everything the Church says is not true, and the Church will lose its ability to save souls for heaven or achieve peace on earth. To my mind, this is why Laudatio Si was such a disaster, and why it will be used alongside Galileo and the crusades, as a stick to beat the Church with in times to come.

  36. LarryW2LJ says:

    Why is it so easy for some (and I emphasize the word “some”) catholics to believe that Islam is a religion of peace; while at the same time having such a hard time believing in the Real Presence?

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  38. KateD says:

    I’m sorry. I know I already commented, but this religion of peace shhhhh….
    ….aving cream really bothers me.

    The fact is that people who self identify as Muslims are killing people in attacks all over the world. They are actively engaged in a war against the West. Closing your eyes and wishing it wasn’t there won’t make it go away. To me they seem akin to guerilla warefare tactics. Just this year so far, outside of Asia, Indianand Africa there have been attacks in Philadelphia, Marseilles, Paris, Valence FR, Ohio, Hanover, Orlando, Torronto, Munich, Magnanville FR, Brussels, Nice, Würzburg, Canada, Belgium, Ansbach, Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray – these are only the ones officially listed as Muslim terrorist attacks.

    As a mother, my job is to teach my children to know and love God with all their hearts and souls, etc. and it is my obligation to keep my children fed, clothed, housed, educated and safe. Therefore I’m obligated to maintain situational awareness for all kinds of potential threats to the welfare of my children. Islamists are certainly on our radar and we are prepared for such an event as we are prepared for a flat tire or potty accident. Stuff happens.

    An intellectual may have the luxury of philosophizing on the topic, but in my day to day life, the debate about whether or not it’s a religion of peace is moot….maybe even absurd.

  39. pjsandstrom says:

    When thinking about ISLAM asmeaning a ‘religion of peace’ one should consult the OED which gives a somewhat different — and not politically correct — entomology. Our political (and perhaps also religious leaders) are not expert in the entomology of Arabic. And maybe read the novel/book published in France on the same day as the “Charlie Hebdo” incident which is called ‘Submission’. The OED reference follows:

    Islam [a. Arab. isl?m lit. ‘resignation, surrendering’, inf. noun of aslama ‘he resigned or surrendered (himself)’, spec. ‘he became or was resigned or submissive (to God)’, hence ‘he became or was sincere in his religion’, 4th conjug. of salama ‘he was or became safe, secure, or free’; whence also the words salaam, Muslim, Mussulman.] a.a The religious system of Muhammad, Muhammadanism; the body of Muslims, the Muslim world. As the proper name of orthodox Muhammadanism, isl?m is understood as ‘the manifesting of humility or submission and outward conformity with the law of God’ (Lane). 1818 Shelley (title) The Revolt of Islam. 1821 ? Hellas 916 Poor faint smile Of dying Islam! 1845 Ford Handbk. Spain i. Pref. 9 His creed and practice are ‘Resignation’, the Islam of the Oriental. 1855 Milman Lat. Chr. iv. i. (1864) II. 169 To subdue to the faith of Islam. Ibid. 213 The potentates summoned by Mohammed himself to receive the doctrine of Islam. 1877 J. E. Carpenter tr. Tiele’s Hist. Relig. 99 With this gloomy conception of deity corresponds the view taken by Islâm of the world. †b.b An orthodox Muslim. Obs. 1613 Purchas Pilgrimage (1614) 311 These (they say) are friends to the Islams, that is, Catholike, or right-beleeving Musulmans. 1814 Spaniards i. iii, Thou art my country’s foe, an Islam in thy creed. Ibid., No Islam born.

  40. JMody says:

    Or another take on this — Dear Msgr. Swetland, since Sacrosanctum Consilium said that Latin was to be retained by the faithful, and that it wished to foster the THEN CURRENT rites “in every way”, is it a matter of faith and morals for each Catholic to know Latin and attend Masses per 1962 MR? What about clergy who suppress either?

    What’s that? Oh, Latin is “different” – I see.

  41. ChesterFrank says:

    At some point the clergy (including Bishops) should start instructing us on what we should know about Islam in a clear and concise and unambiguous manner: a Baltimore Catechism approach. Most of us have not studied comparative religion and are getting bombarded by all sorts of editorials on what to believe and how to react. Even the phrase “Religion of Peace” needs an official explanation. In my opinion many of us, including myself, are dangerously ignorant and uninformed on this subject.

  42. incorpore says:

    I’ve known Msgr. Swetland for a few decades now and love him as a brother. I had listened to this “debate” on Relevant Radio a few days ago, and was wondering if it would get any more play.

    To be frank, I was embarrassed for my old friend after listening.

    His arguments are uncharacteristically weak and faulty. He’s never been one to keep a reasonable schedule, but one wonders if he didn’t rush into this debate before having taken the time to really study, prepare, and think through the realities at hand here.

    As has been pointed out, in the end so many of his arguments were anecdotal and appealed to authority (an authority which may or may not even be properly understood). Worst of all, he seemed to jump into ad hominem attacks rather easily (and pettily), trying to paint Mr. Spencer as a dissenter and some sort of uncharitable bigot.

    The whole thing left me sad. He’s a better man, a better priest, and a better scholar than this. Do keep him in your prayers!

  43. Kathleen10 says:

    Not only are our churchmen telling us what we know is not so, but at the same time they are encouraging us to do what can only be called insanity, throwing open the gates to our towns and cities and allowing an influx of potential enemy combatants to come on in. It is not as if this pontificating on Islam by our churchmen has no impact, it does, people actually listen to these men who propose ignoring reality by putting everyone at very real risk. Even if one ignores the daily attacks taking place in Europe and elsewhere, the relentless rapes, molestations, stabbings and so on, they won’t even comprehend that by the numbers of births alone our nations will eventually be permanently altered because the demographics will make it so. But that is down the road, they will not live to see it, so it doesn’t matter. If Christians become a tiny, persecuted minority, what of it. They had their careers, their agendas, their lives. They carried the water.

  44. The Masked Chicken says:

    I really hate to wade into this very emotionally charged issue, but there is a level of equivocation and subtlety that exists in both the Church’s documents on Islam and the interpretation of terms that almost guaranties that two people arguing on the subject will wind up talking past each other . I would like to clarify some of the key points. This issue came up in a related fashion on Dr. Ed Feser’s blog a few months ago, so I did a fair amount of research on the matter.

    To begin, the question, “Is Islam a religion of peace,” is badly defined question. The word peace has a theological definition and a political definition and the precise sense was not stated in the question. Peace, in Catholic theology, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is “that tranquility that flows from God’s right order.” As Islam is a defined heresy, it deviates from God’s right order in a significant fashion and may not, therefore be said to be a religion of peace, per se, although, since parts of its teachings are co-extensive with Judiasm, it contains a partial order which can lead to a partial peace that many might confuse with the peace of the Faith. This will get sorted out in a Purgatory.

    On the political front, peace is associated with the lack of violence and anyone who reads history must know that violence has been a signature of Islam when in conflict with other religions. That fact is unarguable.

    Islam has various interpretations, so the actual religion is a moving target and thus, there is no one single Islam and the statement, “Islam is a religion of peace,” is too vague to admit an answer. The best one can do is specify that this or that interpretation of Islam does not, ordinarily, advocate violence. That is a very different question and, almost, a statistical one.

    I want to get to the problem of Nostra Aetate, no. 16, because it is almost always misinterpreted. It is one of the subtle and vague passages in the documents of Vatican II which are subject to conflicting interpretations. Let me clarify the text. It says:

    3. 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,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

    The original Latin:

    3. Ecclesia cum aestimatione quoque Muslimos respicit qui unicum Deum adorant, viventem et subsistentem, misericordem et omnipotentem, Creatorem caeli et terrae (5), homines allocutum, cuius occultis etiam decretis toto animo se submittere student, sicut Deo se submisit Abraham ad quem fides islamica libenter sese refert. Iesum, quem quidem ut Deum non agnoscunt, ut prophetam tamen venerantur, matremque eius virginalem honorant Mariam et aliquando eam devote etiam invocant. Diem insuper iudicii expectant cum Deus omnes homines resuscitatos remunerabit. Exinde vitam moralem aestimant et Deum maxime in oratione, eleemosynis et ieiunio colunt.

    It is very clear that the word used is adorant – adore, not worship, which is a related, but very importantly different concept. The word adore is a referential word – it refers to someone or something. As Ed Feser points out, Islam, when they speak of God, refers to a divine Being who has all of the same attributes as the Jews and Christian God – omniscience, omnipotence, simplicity, impassibility, etc. Thus, the object they adore may be said to be actually God in His divinity. Of course, they do not have the Christian revelation, so they cannot see a trinity of persons in the Godhead, as the Jews, likewise, cannot clearly see it. Unlike Jews , who, whether they see it or not, in their dealings with God evidence obliquely the three persons of the Trinity, if only prophetically, Islam does not, as far as I know, have a clear understanding of the Holy Spirit, and certainly, not of Jesus. Thus, they do not adore God in His humanity. Nostra Aetate does not require this, however, as they never clearly define what they mean by God in the passage, so different people can and have interpreted the passage in opposing fashions.

    Now, in that sentence about adoring the true God, Nostra Aetate, in the footnotes, references the statement to an obscure letter:
    5. Cf St. Gregory VII, letter XXI to Anzir (Nacir), King of Mauritania (Pl. 148, col. 450f.). If one looks this up in Migne, one finds something curious – the letter was written by Pope St. Gregory VII in 1076 and he had never met a Muslim at that time. He is making the statement based on hearsay from others. Here is the letter (from The Fisheater’s and Goecity’s websites) in the shorter English form, the Latin, and the longer form:

    “In a letter to the Muslim King of Mauritania, referred to in Vatican II, Nostra Ætate #5, the Pope thanks Anzir for gifts he has received from him, as well as for freeing some prisoners and for his promise to free others. He also sends him a delegation as a token of Christian friendship and love and as a proof of his desire to be of service to him “in all things agreeable to our Fathers.” The most significant part of the letter is the following extract in which the Pope expalins that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. See Epistola 21, PL 48, 450-452.”

    “Thou and We are bound, therefore, by this charity peculiar among us, compared to the remainder of the nations, that we believe in and confess one God, although in a different way, Who we praise and venerate daily as Creator of the ages and Ruler of the same world. (Pope St. Gregory VII, Ep. 21, to Anzir, King of Mauritania, PL 148, col. 451A)

    [In Latin:]
    Hanc itaque charitatem nos et vos specialibus nobis quam caeteris gentibus debemus, qui unum Deum, licet diverso modo, credimus et confitemur, qui eum Creatorem saeculorum et gubernatorem hujus mundi quotidie laudamus et veneramur.

    Second version:

    “Your Highness sent to us within a year a request that we would ordain the priest Servandus as bishop according to the Christian order. This we have taken pains to do, as your request seemed proper and of good promise. You also sent gifts to us, released some Christian captives out of regard for St. Peter, chief of the Apostles, and affection for us, and promised to release others. This good action was inspired in your heart by God, the creator of all things, without whom we can neither do nor think any good thing. He who lighteth every man that cometh into the world enlightened your mind in this purpose. For Almighty God, who desires that all men shall be saved and that none shall perish, approves nothing more highly in us than this: that a man love his fellow man next to his God and do nothing to him which he would not that others should do to himself.
    This affection we and you owe to each other in a more peculiar way than to people of other races because we worship and confess the same God though in diverse forms and daily praise and adore him as the creator and ruler of this world. For, in the words of the Apostle, “He is our peace who hath made both one.”
    This grace granted to you by God is admired and praised by many of the Roman nobility who have learned from us of your benevolence and high qualities. Two of these, Alberic and Cencius, intimate friends of ours brought up with us from early youth at the Roman court, earnestly desiring to enjoy your friendship and to serve your interests here, are sending their messengers to you to let you know how highly they regard your prudence and high character and how greatly they desire and are able to be of service to you.
    In recommending these messengers to Your Highness, we beg you to show them, out of regard for us and in return for the loyalty of the men aforesaid, the same respect which we desire always to show toward you and all who belong to you. For God knows our true regard for you to his glory and how truly we desire your prosperity and honor, both in this life and in the life to come, and how earnestly we pray both with our lips and with our heart that God himself, after the long journey of this life, may lead you into the bosom of the most holy patriarch Abraham.”

    Did I mention that Pope St. Gregory VII proposed, but did not implement the First Crusade? This quotation, is thus, disingenuous, being used in a Council document way beyond its scope.

    Yes, Islam adores the one true God, in part, but do they actually worship him? To worship something is different than adoring it. In order to worship someone, the worshiper has to be told how that someone wants to be worshiped, because, otherwise, they run the risk of sacrilege. Thus, worship implies at least some aspect of revelation, unlike adoration, which can be arrived at by reason, alone. Unfortunately, the revelations of Islam and Catholicism on worship are, objectively, different in many aspects. Nostra Aetate just happens to pick three common aspects, so that they can claim that in these particulars they worship the same God. They do not specify that the use if the word, “worship,” is a limited use. Thus, again, the same subtle game-playing. I recommend that the readers look up the history of the Council debate on this document, because it was as contentious as the recent Synod on the Family and the same games with words to reach a consensus were played (using vague language that could be interpreted either liberally or conservatively).

    There was a dissertation written on adoration vs. worship that makes these same points and I would like to quote from it. There is a difference between acknowledging something as divine (i.e., the same God in this discussion) and giving it the highest reverence, devotion, and adoration (worship, proper). Worship, shachah, in the OT and proskyneo, in the NT, has an aspect of not just devotion, but obedience and obedience requires revelation of the one being reverenced so that one can know that one has got the reverence right and that it truly counts as an act of justice towards the one being worshiped.

    This was the understanding among the Church Fathers: that worship implied some form of revelation (from the dissertation):

    (1)”The Fathers stressed the one sure way of gaining access to God through prophecy. Though Cicero rightly criticized superstitious means of divination, which claimed to have knowledge from the gods through dreams, séances, and ecstatic trances, he went even beyond that to even exclude the possibility of any supernatural communication. Cicero may seem to be justified given the vain religious practices with which he was surrounded, yet his limited view of providence guided him to rule out even the possibility of expecting divine aid for right knowledge and practice in religion. Even though nature speaks clearly of humanity’s moral ordering to God, the weakness of sin had normalized idolatry to the point that, according to [St.] Justin, “in no other way than only from the prophets who teach us by divine inspiration, is it at all possible to learn anything concerning God and the true religion.”…

    (2)”This is how Augustine describes the religion of the masses and the political religion used by rulers to manipulate them. Nevertheless, Augustine also goes to great lengths to criticize another form of religious perversion, that of the philosophers. While he praises the Platonists in particular “because they have been able to realize that the soul of man, though immortal and rational (or intellectual), cannot attain happiness except by participation in the light of God, the creator of the soul and of the whole world.” However, these philosophers who have arrived at this knowledge have not engaged in the true worship of God. Therefore, Augustine makes clear that not only must the object of worship be true, but so also the means of worship as well.”

    (3)”For Augustine worship ultimately does not stem from nature and reason, though it may make use of them, but must flow from a graced interior relationship with God. Augustine insists so strongly about the priority of the internal relation that he put forward this maxim from his Enchiridion: “God is to be worshipped with faith, hope and love…. For these must be the chief, nay, the exclusive objects of pursuit in religion.”

    (4)”nevertheless there is some mode of justice, according to which the lord renders to the servant what it owed to him, or vice-versa: which is called the justice of the ruled. And this way latriais joined to justice, because it consists in that what is rendered to God is owed Him. Whence it is reduced to justice not as a species to a genus, but as a virtue annexed to a principal one, which participates in the mode of the principal.”

    Religion as a Virtue: Thomas Aquinas on Worship through Justice, Law, and Charity, Robert Jared Staudt diss. Ave Maria University, 2008, (1) pg. 33; (2) pg. 43; (3) pg; 50 (4) pg. 116.

    Thus, I think the revelation of both Christianity and Islam has to be factored into the question of worship in a fuller sense when one passes beyond mere worship of a divine entity to a worship of God as a dynamic process, human-to-God. Since latria has a sense of service, God owes it to us, in justice, to tell us if we are, in fact, serving Him correctly (the, “justice of the ruled,” which St. Thomas mentions in his Commentary on the Sentences). Adoration and worship are not quite the same thing. Adoration does not need revelation; worship, does, I think.

    I hope that clarifies the passage in a Nostra Aetate and explains why citing Church documents out of context is asking for trouble.

    The Chicken

  45. Mike says:

    Apropos statistical questions, the only relevant one out of all this seems to be how much longer the corrupt, apostate institutional Church will be allowed to continue to attempt to obliterate the Faith and the faithful.

    ‘Attempt’, to be sure, for Our Lord has won the victory, in which we will share if we persevere with courage and humility. Our Lady of Victory, pray for us!

  46. AvantiBev says:

    Mike et al:
    There is another QUESTION we must ask of ourselves and our fellow Catholics: Whom do you say was in that Arabian cave with Mohammed in 610 A.D.?
    And perhaps a 3rd question if you answer the first one correctly: What are my baptismal vows; what did I renounce?

    Nota bene: It is said in either the Hadiths or Sunnah that Mo’s FIRST words to Khadija – the wealthy widowed business women he had married — “Help me Khadija, for this day I have been visited by a demon.” Even a stopped (non-digital) clock is right twice a day. 8:-)

  47. robtbrown says:

    Fr Z notes that:

    For one thing, says Spencer, [NB] affirmations about the nature of Islam should not be a matter of Catholic faith and morals.

    Actually, it’s not merely a matter of “should not be” but rather “are not”.

  48. robtbrown says:

    For that matter, consider the Gospel last Sunday from Luke 12:

    Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
    No, I tell you, but rather division.
    From now on a household of five will be divided,
    three against two and two against three;
    a father will be divided against his son
    and a son against his father,
    a mother against her daughter
    and a daughter against her mother,
    a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
    and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.

    That doesn’t sound at that peaceful to me.

  49. The Masked Chicken says:

    I think it was uncharitable of me to suggest that Nostra Aetate was deliberately written in a vague manner.

    The Chicken

  50. slainewe says:


    I am not intelligent enough to really follow your post, but I do not understand how theologians ignore the blatant error of Nostra Aetate, no. 16: namely, it CAPITALIZES the word “God” and the word “Creator,” when the god and “creator” who revealed himself to Mohammed is a devil. (The English translation goes even further by capitalizing pronouns that refer to a false god.)

    I would have no problem with NA if it read:

    “The Church regards with esteem, in prayerful hope for their conversion, also the Moslems. They adore a god who is one, living and subsisting in himself; merciful and all- powerful, whom they believe to be the creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to the inscrutable decrees of this god, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to the true God. Sadly, they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, but they do revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when their god will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. We pray that these pieces of truth may be a help in their conversion. Finally, they value the moral life and worship their god especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting. Their devotion to their false god convicts the lukewarmness of those of us blessed with the Revelation of Jesus Christ.”

  51. robtbrown says:

    BTW, an ex seminarian told me that when he was in seminary, the celebrant who read that Gospel concluded with: And this is the Good News of the Lord.

  52. jameeka says:

    I do not want to be off topic, but do want to state that it is still refreshing to be able to hear a respectful debate among Catholic men ( fairly well moderated although not an ideal venue). Good debating skills have gone by the wayside nowadays, and I believe measures such as this and Argument of the Month club draw males into the Church and are a good tool for evangelization, when done well and (again) respectfully. For parents who are praying for their sons to come back to the Church, this kind of thing is vital in learning how to defend our faith. We need strong men on the Catholic side, who are willing to fight with their brains first to come to the Truth.

  53. (X)MCCLXIII says:

    I don’t think it uncharitable to suggest that Nostra Aetate, or other council document, is deliberately vague. I’m afraid that “constructive” ambiguity is rather common.

  54. Chuck says:

    I know I’m late to this party (I’ve been on a self-imposed internet blackout to preserve my sanity) and saw this particular article.

    I would suggest wandering over to Bill Warner’s Political Islam site. He has helped me wrap my head around this problem better than any theological debate.

    I can’t figure out how to hyperlink without pasting the whole thing so I suggest searching for Bill Warner, CSPI, Political Islam and you’ll find it.

  55. robtbrown says:

    While driving this afternoon I listened to the entire debate. I was surprised that it was a blood letting. And the good Msgr doesn’t seem to know the difference between Church teaching and Church policy.

    The debate could have been ended very simply. The US has very good relations with Saudi Arabia. How many churches are there? Zero–and that’s not an accident.

    Msgr Swetland is a grad of the US Naval Academy, so maybe we can put it in naval terms. A row boat was in a battle with a submarine, and the sub blew it up very quickly. Then a Lebanese Christian showed up to say that what was left of the row boat was at the bottom of the sea.

  56. Matt Robare says:

    The strange thing about the “Religion of Peace” meme is of course that it’s literally accurate: linguistically, the word Islam comes from a root S-L-M, of which peace is one translation. Contextually, however, Islam means submission — and that’s the nature of the peace — the cessation of struggle with God’s will. It has nothing to do with pacificism, any more than Christian joy means we’re never sad anymore.

    Moreover, even if one does believe that “true Islam” is pacifistic (and I like the idea of the Pope using his universal jurisdiction per Unam sanctum to make dogmatic definitions for other religions), it’s clear that ISIS is not and they do not intend to cease attempting to kill those who do not practice or convert to practicing their form of Islam.

    On top of that, it’s clear that if one believes and assents to all that the Catholic Church teaches, no matter how Islam is practiced a Catholic must look at it as at best a kind of heathenism, a natural inclination to monotheism corrupted by man’s fallen nature and perhaps contact with the Miaphysite churches (note the Muslim doctrine of tawhid and the Miaphysite formulation of tawehedo). At worst it’s a diabolical mockery of God’s revelation. Either way, it’s an Error and the Church must combat it with the Truth.

  57. YoungLatinMassGuy says:

    The Monsignor is wrong.

    islam is not a religion of peace, because its founder muhammed was not a peaceful man.

    How can a man be considered “peaceful” when he averaged one violent, offensive attack every 6 weeks for the last 9 years of his life? muhammed was clearly a warlord, who cared nothing about the people he hurt.
    Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_expeditions_of_Muhammad

    How can a man be considered “peaceful” when he had his enemies tortured to death, as muhammed did to Kinana al-Rabi? muhammed was a torturer.
    Source: http://www.faithfreedom.org/challenge/torturer.htm

    How can a man be considered “peaceful” when, after torturing his enemy to death, he proceeded to rape that man’s 17 year old wife? muhammed was a rapist.
    Source: http://www.faithfreedom.org/challenge/rapist.htm

    How can a man be considered “peaceful” when, after his enemies surrendered, muhammed had 600-800 men and boys executed? muhammed was a mass-murderer.
    Source: http://www.faithfreedom.org/challenge/massmurderer.htm

    How can a man be considered “peaceful” when that man called for the assasinations of those who mocked him? muhammed was an assassin.
    Source: http://www.faithfreedom.org/challenge/assassin.htm

    How can a man be considered “peaceful” when that man called for the executions of those who left his religion?
    Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostasy_in_Islam

    I will happily debate the Monsignor on any of those points of the life of muhammed.

    I would feel bad for him, because he would find himself on the side of defending torture, rape, assassinations, no freedom of religion or thought, and mass-murder, all of which muhammed did, commanded, and allowed, and all of which muhammed’s most devout followers still practice today.

  58. Michael_Thoma says:

    If I’m not mistaken Robert Spencer is Fr. DEACON Robert of the Melkite Catholic Church. It’s inherently unfair to present Fr. Dn. Robert as a layman, while Msgr. Swetland is presented as a mega-priest. [There is nothing about him being a deacon in his Wiki entry. I’ll add that to the entry, above.]

    In addition to this, most of what Fr.Dn. Robert has been saying about Islam for the past 10 years, has proven true, even in the face of a decade of accusations of racism or islamophobia (even by other clerics and bishops)

  59. The Masked Chicken says:

    Here is something I have never understood about the whole Islam mess: Islam is based on a private revelation occurring after the close of the Apostolic Age (the end of public revelation). Catholicism has a well-developed theology and practical empiricism for dealing with private revelations, so why are any people accepting this private revelation which, clearly, under Catholic teachings on the subject must be rejected? There are many private revelations much less off-the-wall that have been rejected by the Church. There should be absolutely no support for any religion that is based on private revelation after the Apostolic Age. St. Paul says as much.

    I mean, if I claimed a personal revelation that the God of Abraham gave me a new revelation that Jesus were a prophet like me (but I’m better and the last one because, you know, God said so to me) and that we must wage war against those who don’t believe that my revelation is the real thing, how long would it be before I were hauled off to a padded room?

    Heck I can create 10 different revelatory religions before lunch that, given the reasoning the Church used at Vatican II, the Church must recognize as an Abrahamic religion. Are they saying that any Abrahamic religion must be given honor?

    I don’t understand how the Council Fathers could have missed this implication of their theology. In math, we would call the requirement to accept any Abrahamic-based religion to be a corollary to their theorem (theology). I mean, in theory, they would have to accept an Abrahamic religion that claimed to worship the true God, but that gave its adherents the option of ignoring the moral components on Wednesdays, because, you know, man is weak. I dub this religion, Wednesday Night Light. Actually, Star Trek did it better (at least one could imagine the religion being Abrahamic and not due to brainwashing) in the episode, The Return of the Archons.

    In any case, the whole idea of Islam and peace is really besides the point, isn’t it? If it didn’t have a billion plus followers, the Church would have rejected it out of hand, wouldn’t it, like so many other private revelations? Truth is not a matter of numbers, but of an objective correspondence to reality. Suppose there were an Abrahamic religion that modeled itself on the period where Israel were told to wholesale slaughter all of the people in each city on their way to the Promised Land, so this new religion said that genocide were okay. Would the Church highly regard them just because they are an Abrahamic religion? Islam is not just an Abrahamic religion – that already exists – Judaism. It is an Abrahamic-plus religion. Any such religion (of which Christianity may or may not be one, depending on how one looks at it, since it claims to complete, but not contradict Judaism) must be judged on the, “plus,” part. Why doesn’t the Church do this? Why won’t it just simply say that Islam, as a theology in toto, is wrong, even if parts of it are similar to something that is right?

    I have never understood the sudden shift that occurred at Vatican II. They can regard with esteem the revelation which is Islam, but not the revelations of St. Bridget, which are, certainly Abrahamic and much less prone to violence, as these things go.

    I can see why the SSPX has a problem with the documents on religious freedom and ecumenism. They are based on the same premise (which may be mistaken on my understanding) – that error has the right not only to perdure, but to be esteemed.

    The Chicken

  60. robtbrown says:

    MC says,

    I don’t understand how the Council Fathers could have missed this implication of their theology.

    Here’s something that does not require Revelation, private or otherwise: Not everything in the documents of Vat II makes sense.

  61. slainewe says:


    “If it didn’t have a billion plus followers, the Church would have rejected it out of hand, wouldn’t it, like so many other private revelations?”

    One would think so, unless the writers of NA believed in the Sense of the UN-Faithful. (Hmm… come to think about it, there was a lot of that going around in the ’60’s.)

  62. St. Rafael says:

    Msgr. Swetland fails to realize that the Magisterium and the Church existed before Vatican II. He should pay attention to what the Popes and numerous saints have said about Islam throughout the centuries. The Magisterium spans the centuries, not just present time. It may be that some modern churchmen today have fallen for the errors of their time. The errors of this time and epoch being the errors of modern secular thought, philosophical liberalism, and the theological error of Modernism. It is only by seeing what has been said throughout the centuries, that the issue of Islam becomes more clear.

  63. Ben Kenobi says:

    Yet another fantastic article. Thank you for pointing this out Fr. Z! As for this, Callixtus III speaks for me. No need to set out Pope against Pope.

  64. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Thanks to The Masked Chicken for his detailed comments of 17 August 2016 at 10:37 AM and 18 August 2016 at 10:33 AM!

    I’ve long wondered about the possible comparison with “private revelations” (and recall discussing it briefly once upon a time in the combox with other commenters) – and The Chicken’s detailed attention has got me wondering if this comparison has ever been explicitly or implicitly discussed in the course of interaction and reflection within the Church concerning Mohammed, the Koran, and Islamic history and of the development and refinement of thinking about ‘private revelations’.

    For instance, with respect to what I understand to be the earliest account of Mohammed (as distinct from Koran verses) written by AD 661 at the latest, long before hadith or sira was written down, in The Armenian History attributed to Bishop Sebeos: could this be properly read in terms of an account of ‘private revelation’? (And what of the rest of The Armenian History, in its attention to how self-proclaimed followers of Mohammed (“Mehmet”, in the original Armenian) understood him and what he said and did?)

    The Chicken’s details about the letter written by Pope St. Gregory VII in 1076 remind me of what I have read of (little) and about (a bit more) works by St. Paul of Antioch, Bishop of Sidon (with terminus a quo of 1046 and terminus ad quem of 1232), and make me wonder of they are related as part of a polemical/apologetic approach of that period. (One of St. Paul’s works was taken up by an anonymous Arabic-speaking Christian apologist in Cyprus, who, in the early years of the fourteenth century edited and expanded it – and generated a fair bit of lengthy Muslim polemical response, from Ibn Taymiyya, among others.) I can now see it having a possible implicit context in terms of considering ‘private relevations’, too.

  65. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    In “Peaceful jihad?”, Matt Abbott notes – and provides the preface to – an interesting-looking new book, in the context of this debate:


  66. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    An interesting post by a Baptist professor, Dr. Ibrahim:


  67. LovedSinner says:

    I am late to this discussion. I listened to this discussion on the radio the day it happened, so I figured I might comment.

    Msgr. Swetland is wrong in his statement that Spencer is not a faithful Catholic because of Spencer’s views of Islam (regardless if Spencer’s views are correct or not. I am no expert on Islam so I will just say that I don’t know).

    Yet on the other hand I have witnessed first hand Catholics spouting all sorts of anti-Muslim comments in the past year or so. One person went so far to say that all Muslims are bad people by virtue of being Muslims, even if they were born in a Muslim family. When I mentioned the parable of the Good Samaritan and asked if it could apply to a Good Muslim, he strongly said no because all Muslims are bad people.

    I had a conversation with another man who said we should kill all the innocent family members of terrorists because the ends justify the means.

    I am sick of this stand of Catholicism which is tribalistic and prideful. Instead of thinking that our Catholic religion is superior, these Catholics think that they themselves are superior.

    Oh, and I do own one of Robert Spencer’s books. The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). And I love love love Brideshead Revisited and Evelyn Waugh. My favorite quote is about Rex Mottram explaining that if the Pope said it would rain and it did not, then “I suppose it would be raining spiritually, only we would be too sinful to see it.” But we all are like Rex Mottram (and Julia) a little bit, during the times when we are Catholic only for show and not because of an internal love in our hearts.

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