Thursday, February 14, 2013
What is the real reason for Bishop Robert McManus' decision to rescind Mr. Robert Spencer's invitation to speak?
In a statement which was published in The Catholic Free Press this week, Bishop Robert McManus explained his decision to rescind the invitation to Mr. Robert Spencer to speak at the Diocese of Worcester's Catholic Men's Conference which is to be held next month.
Bishop McManus writes, "In light of my recent decision to rescind the invitation to Mr. Robert Spencer to speak at the Catholic Men's Conference next month on the topic of Islam in its relation to Christianity, I should like to reflect briefly on the conciliar document entitled, The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), specifically on paragraph 16 of Chapter 2 which speaks about the special relationship that Christianity has to Islam. The paragraph states, "But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place among these are the Muslims who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind."
As a result of such a theologically salient statement, the Catholic Church has engaged herself in inter-religious dialogue with Muslims. This dialogue has produced a harvest of mutual respect, understanding and cooperation throughout the world and here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. My decision to ask Mr. Spencer not to speak at the Men's Conference resulted from a concern voiced by members of the Islamic community in Massachusetts, a concern I came to share. That concern was that Mr. Spencer's talk about extreme, militant Islamists and the atrocities that they have perpetrated globally might undercut the positive achievements that we Catholics have attained in our inner-religious dialogue with devout Muslims and possibly generate suspicion and even fear of people who practice piously the religion of Islam...I based my decision solely on the concern that Mr. Spencer's talk would impact negatively on the Church's increasingly constructive dialogue with Muslims." (Bishop shares concerns about conference speaker, Catholic Free Press, February 8, 2013 edition).
At first, Bishop McManus cites a document of the Second Vatican Council - Lumen Gentium - to make it appear as if there is a theological basis for rescinding Mr. Spencer's invitation to speak at the Catholic Men's Conference. Then he later acknowledges that his decision was really entirely subjective, admitting that his decision was based "solely" on his concern that Mr. Spencer's talk would have negative consequences with regard to Catholic-Muslim inter-religious dialogue.
While it's certainly true that Vatican II insists, "The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems" and that Christians and Moslems should "forget the past and..work sincerely for mutual understanding.." (Nostra Aetate, No. 3), dialogue, if it is to be authentic, always means taking the other seriously and approaching him with reverence and love. And this can only be accomplished by communicating with the other in truth.
In his book entitled Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions, Pope Benedict XVI makes a few observations which Bishop McManus would apparently find problematic. The Holy Father writes, "To what extent the new surge forward of the Islamic world is fuelled by truly religious forces is..open to question. In many places, as we can see, there is the danger of a pathological development of the autonomy of feeling.." (p. 104).
Which is why Mr. Spencer's talk would have been most beneficial.
On page 204 of the same book, Pope Benedict XVI writes, "...even with Islam, with all the greatness it represents, is always in danger of losing balance, letting violence have a place and letting religion slide away into mere outward observance and ritualism."
Wasn't this to be the point of Mr. Spencer's talk? Would Bishop McManus accuse the Holy Father of undercutting the positive achievements which Catholics have attained with regard to inter-religious dialogue with Moslems? Why is it acceptable for Pope Benedict XVI to speak of the danger of Islam "letting violence have a place" but unacceptable for Mr. Spencer to talk about "extreme, militant Islamists and the atrocities that they have perpetrated globally"?
Bishop McManus insists that Mr. Spencer's presentation would not be "suitable" for the Men's Conference because its focus 'would be on the danger of militant Islamist jihad." But jihad is not just an aspect of "militant Islam." Jihad is the duty to engage in holy war against unbelievers or enemies of Islam if called upon to do so. It is one of the basic tenets and requirements of Muslim faith. Which is why Pope Benedict XVI has warned that Islam "is always in danger of losing balance" and succumbing to violence.
There are forces in this country and around the world which want to combine Christianity and Islam into a global religion which would be called "Chrislam." Still others seek to blend many different religions into a syncretistic one-world religion with truth being sacrificed in the name of a false irenicism.
Those who have the courage to warn others about the dangers inherent within Islam can expect to be ostracized and increasingly relegated to the margins of society.
For more on "Chrislam" go here.