If there is one question I could ask the Catholic hierarchy today it would be, "What are you doing?" Like many people, my head is spinning after learning that Cardinal Bernard Law went to a Mosque last week and took part in an Islamic prayer service observing the feast of Ramadan. The Boston Globe reported that Law, dressed in a flowing black robe, assumed the Moslem prayer posture on his knees, bowed his head to the floor and offered praise to Allah as the imam chanted sunset prayers.
While I'm a firm believer that we must treat people of other religions with respect, kindness and Christian charity, it's my opinion that Law has gone too far in trying to extend "a hand of friendship" to the people of Islam. It's not my opinion that counts here, but the fact that such actions by members of the Catholic hierarchy are bound to cause confusion and loss of faith among people who are seeking the truth.
As in past columns, I ask Catholics to use their sense of reason when weighing the actions of the Catholic hierarchy in our day. How many young people, being lured by an interest in eastern religions, will take the Cardinal's actions as a green light to go ahead and dump Christianity? How many Catholics, unsure of what they believe, will now be reassured that it doesn't really matter what you believe as long as you pursue peace and social justice? How long will it be before we see methods of Islamic prayer inserted in our catechism classes as our children are taught to appreciate and endorse all religions out of respect for multiculturalism? How sane is it that a Catholic cardinal falls on his knees in a Moslem mosque while outlawing kneeling for communion in our Catholic parishes?
It is not the intention of this article to condemn Islam or any other religion; I believe the Catholic Church has spoken on these issues. As for me, a simple Catholic, Christ has given specific instructions that His disciples love one another in word and deed, bring the Gospel to all men, and pray for our enemies and those who persecute us. I cannot judge the heart of any individual, not even the pious person who attends Mass every Sunday and weekday. It's reassuring that Christ alone will be the One judging the living and the dead; He didn't give that job over to any of us. However, one cannot embrace Catholicism and at the same time embrace all the religions of the world. It is not possible without a loss of faith. If we believe that in the fullness of time God sent His only Son Who was born, suffered, died and rose from the dead, Who established one Church on earth, then we have set ourselves apart from the man-made religions of the world. While respecting all peoples, we have to stand for what we believe and bring the Gospel to the world in the love and charity with which Christ commissioned us. Compromise is not an option.
The Gospels show us that Christ was often found among tax collectors to the disgust of the "churchmen" of that time. But there is no record of Christ adopting the ways or customs of the tax collectors. Rather, He ate among them (not during any religious ceremony) in order to speak to them of the truth. There is no record in the Gospels of Christ entering the temples of the Roman gods in order to make peace with other religions. Nor did He instruct His disciples to endorse the ways and beliefs of the Gentiles for the sake of unity.
Many in the Church today are fixated on the idea that the Moslems worship the one God and we are therefore on "common ground." They maintain that all of our differences are merely personal preferences which must not get in the way of unity and peace. In fact, the Church is bending over backwards since September 11 in order to make friends with the Moslems in an effort to appease them. Cardinal Law is right in saying that violence has no place in religion, but such a realization cannot be taken as a reason to embrace Islam in order to show the world that Catholics do not hold a grudge against Moslems.
No Catholic has to go to a Mosque and pray with Moslems in order to speak of peace between peoples. While I'm not an authority on the religion of Islam, I'm willing to bet that any Moslem leader who set foot inside a Roman Catholic church and genuflected before the tabernacle in order to "offer a hand in friendship" would be quickly denounced as an infidel. I do not believe that he would have any luck attempting to explain that his actions are meritorious because Catholics and Moslems worship the same God.
Cardinal Law, like so many of his friends in high places, is crossing over the line of sanity when it comes to embracing ecumenism. For them, it seems there are no boundaries at all. The whole Church can be crumbling around them and their concern is for acceptance and tolerance of all religions, but certainly there is very little tolerance among them for Traditional Catholicism. By their words, actions and inaction, they sabotage the very Church which has given them rank, status and privilege.
It's sadly ironic that during the same time period while Cardinal Law was visiting the Mosque in Wayland, the Moslems and Christians in Nigeria were killing each other in an outbreak of violence fueled by controversy over the Miss World Pageant. According to news reports, Moslems objected to the pageant on the grounds that it encouraged promiscuity. A newspaper reporter then insulted the Moslem people by suggesting that Mohammed himself would have chosen a bride from among the beauty contestants. The resulting violence claimed the lives of at least 105 people, injured hundreds and displaced thousands.
This is surely an atrocity. Despite the sadness of this event, we must look at the tell-tale signs that Christianity has plummeted to an all time low. Why on earth should Christians be defending the Miss World Pageant? The Moslems were right in denouncing the immorality of this type of worldly entertainment. Where were the Catholic bishops on this one? This is something that Moslems and Christians could have stood against together without jeopardizing anyone's faith. This was something for which Christians and Moslems should have united in the name of God.
I can't imagine anyone who is serious about the Faith sitting down to watch an evening of television including the Miss World Pageant! But then, I can't recall the last time I heard the Catholic bishops take a strong stand against the world and Hollywood, and encourage the faithful to wholeheartedly stand against evil and reject the immoral influences of the world including promiscuity and immodesty which pervades our society. However, the bishops are quick and powerful when it comes to purging the Church of kneeling, for the sake of "unity."
It's becoming more apparent with every new day that the modern church wants to make friends with everyone (except Traditional Catholics), offend no one, and reach some sort of agreement between all religions for the sake of an outward appearance of unity. From the top down, the faithful receive message after message of the goodness and mercy of "the Creator" and the lack of social justice among men, but little of substance regarding the real battle against evil and the prince of darkness. At a time like this, when I read that the Holy Father is singing the praise of the mountains along with the United Nations, I'm compelled to ask, "What ARE you doing?"
Shouldn't Roman Catholics be concerned - albeit alarmed - that now days the pope and bishops don't even blink when proclaiming the heresy that Catholics and Moslems worship the same God? This cannot be, for Catholic dogma teaches that Roman Catholics must believe in the Triune Divinity of One God in Three Divine Persons - Father, Son and Holy Ghost - whereas Moslems do not recognize the Blessed Trinity, or the divinity of Christ or His Spirit of Truth. For that matter they do not recognize God as a "Father" but as Allah. Yet we are supposed to believe the patronizing rhetoric of ecclesial ecumenicrats that Catholics and Moslems worship the same God?! We all MUST ask them: "What ARE you doing?"
It's a very difficult time in the Church. Many of us have our faith tested by the very ones who are ordained shepherds, men we instinctively look to for guidance and direction. By the grace of God we have to resolve not to take our eyes off of Jesus Christ. He stands as our Beacon, our Light of hope, the Way, the Truth and the Life. When the waves of confusion are nearly drowning us and we just don't know what to do, let us draw consolation from the following words of Thomas 'a Kempis in The Imitation of Christ:
Grant, O Lord, that I may know what I ought to know; that I may love what I ought to love; that I may praise that which is most pleasing to Thee; that I may esteem that which is valuable in Thy sight; that I may despise that which is despicable in Thy eyes.
Suffer me not to judge according to the sight of the outward eye, nor to give sentence according to the hearing of the ears of men that know not what they are about; but to determine both of visible and spiritual matters with true judgment, and above all things ever to seek Thy good will and pleasure. (Book III, Chapter 50.7)