Saturday, September 23, 2006

Nostra Aetate

I am not qualified to speak of theological matters, but while reading Lawrence Auster's VFR, I learned, to my great surprise, that the Vatican II Council which convened over forty years ago, had issued a statement on Islam defining the official Church position with regard to Muslims. It would seem, therefore, that obedient Catholics, who use Church doctrine as a basis for their own opinions and beliefs, are bound, by virtue of Vatican II, to regard the God of Islam and the Christian God as one and the same.

I believe it is safe to say that we judge a God by the conduct of the believers, and it is patently clear (one does not have to be well-versed in theology to see it), that Muslims, Christians and Jews do not obey the same God. After centuries of animosities, falsehoods, strife and bloodshed, Christians and Jews learned to live with each other, not perfectly, but adequately, both religions having the same source in the God of Abraham. Christianity was an extension of Judaism that went beyond the boundaries of one ethnic group and reached out to many groups, having dispensed with certain ancient Jewish rituals (among them circumcision) and stressed the notion of healing both mind and body through faith in Jesus as the Son of God who died for mankind and was resurrected, the resurrection being emblematic of healing, renewal and salvation. Jesus was a Jew who saw the need to cleanse and revitalize his religion, and though the revitalization and subsequent diffusion of the new faith was largely the work of Paul, it is the teachings of Jesus that form its core.

When we add Islam to the Judeo-Christian tradition, troubled though it may be, we are at pains to explain the behavior of Muslims through the centuries. Their backwardness, their archaic need to resolve issues through violence, their open use of human sacrifice (be-heading captives on video), their brutality toward animals, their willingness to die for the reward of sexual gratification (the 70 virgins), their custom of forced conversions, their polygamy, their intense hatred of those they perceive as weak, i.e. the West, their relentless push to dominate whatever land they live in, all these things and many more indicate an obedience to a god that is not the Christian God. Why, then, did the Vatican, back in 1965, state otherwise? And what god do the Muslims obey? I cannot answer these questions, but the text of Nostra Aetate (Our Time) may be found at the Vatican's website. Here is the crucial excerpt on Islam:

The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.

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.

Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom...

5. We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God. Man's relation to God the Father and his relation to men his brothers are so linked together that Scripture says: "He who does not love does not know God" (1 John 4:8).

No foundation therefore remains for any theory or practice that leads to discrimination between man and man or people and people, so far as their human dignity and the rights flowing from it are concerned.

The Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race, color, condition of life, or religion. On the contrary, following in the footsteps of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, this sacred synod ardently implores the Christian faithful to "maintain good fellowship among the nations" (1 Peter 2:12), and, if possible, to live for their part in peace with all men,(14) so that they may truly be sons of the Father who is in heaven.(15)

The next-to-last statement above certainly sounds familiar. It became the basis for more than just affirmative action, since the term "condition of life" covers just about everything. It is logical that Benedict would apologize to Muslims, if he believes in the declarations of Vatican II. In fact, he would have little choice, unless he took the extremely bold measure of denouncing the Council, or acknowledging its lack of relevance to today's crisis. Another question that springs to mind concerns the Church position BEFORE Vatican II. Was there an official doctrine on Islam?

For more informative discussion see this article from VFR and this earlier article as well.

The logo was created for the 40th anniversary of Vatican II.


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