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A Question for the Pope, and Waiting for an Answer

by Hugh Fitzgerald

In Church Militant, some new Catholics have put a question for Pope Francis that we devoutly hope he will answer:

A group of ex-Muslim converts to Catholicism are criticizing Pope Francis’ approach to Islam. In an open letter to the Holy Father recently published online, the former Muslims say the pope’s teaching on Islam as it appears in the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (EG) implies that Islam is a good religion in itself.

If Islam is in itself a good religion, as you seem to teach, why did we become Catholic?” they ask. “Do not your words question the goodness of the choice we made … at the risk of our lives?”

The Pope has to answer this question. He cannot simply walk away from this. Catholics worldwide deserve an answer. Converts deserve an answer. Converts from Islam who have risked their lives to become Catholics deserve an answer. Does Pope Francis believe that Islam is superior to Catholicism? If so, why doesn’t he convert? Does he think that those who converted to Catholicism from Islam, risking their very lives, have made a terrible error? Perhaps he believes that yes, on the whole, Catholicism is just an eensy-weensy bit better than Islam, but not enough for anyone to risk his life by converting to it. So please, you Muslims thinking of converting, don’t. It just isn’t worth it. Take his word for it — after all, he’s the Pope.

Or does he believe, in his confused, good-hearted, weak-minded, utterly maddening way, that Catholicism is in fact superior to Islam? If he does, can he tell us why? Can Pope Francis bring himself to say what he must say, if he is to be truthful to his faith, even if that offends the world’s Muslims he has been courting so determinedly, and for whom he has been serving as a relentlessly upbeat apologist? Or will he come out with something absurd like “all religions are essentially the same in that they all strive for good”?

After all, this is the man who assured us that “there is no such thing as Islamic terrorism” because he can read in the papers about a Christian man who kills his fiancé or his mother-in-law, which naturally means….what? Apparently, that Christians, too, practice “terrorism.” No, I already told you — he’s the Pope. He doesn’t have to make sense. And as for those 109 Jihad verses in the Qur’an, the ones that command the faithful to kill the Unbelievers, to smite at their necks, to strike terror in their hearts — well, those verses are clearly not to be taken seriously, because the Pope knows that “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.” No, he doesn’t have to tell you how he knows it. He’s the Pope. Ipse dixit. And who are you going to believe about “authentic Islam”? Those madmen in ISIS and Al Qaeda and  Boko Haram, or the Holy Father?

Paragraph 252 of EG [Evangelii gaudium] declares: “The sacred writings of Islam have retained some Christian teachings; Jesus and Mary receive profound veneration and it is admirable to see how Muslims both young and old, men and women, make time for daily prayer and faithfully take part in religious services.”

Islam has appropriated some Biblical stories and figures, but these are not the same as “Christian teachings.” Among those so appropriated are Jesus and Mary, but in Islam they are transformed, beginning with the fact that the Islamic Jesus is not the Son of God and Mary, not the Mother of the Son of God. What “Christian teachings” have been retained in Islam? It would be fascinating to hear Pope Francis dilate upon that theme. Love one’s enemies? Faith (in God), Hope (that there is a better world and we are working toward it), and Charity (you are tasked with trying to make an effort to love even the person who absolutely hates you)? Where are Faith, Hope, and Charity in Islam? How does the God of the Christians differ from the Allah of the Muslims? Is there a Golden Rule in Islam? At the Vatican, these can be Questions for Study and Discussion.

“The Holy Father continues in the next paragraph, ‘Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.’”

Robert Spencer, an Islamic expert and editor of Jihad Watch, told Church Militant, “These converts are respectfully calling upon the Pope to acknowledge truths that he has repeatedly denied and misstated.”

The ex-Muslims quote Abp. Nona Amel, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul in Iraq:  “Our present sufferings are the prelude to those that you, Europeans and Western Christians, will suffer in the near future. I lost my diocese. The headquarters of my archdiocese and my apostolate have been occupied by radical Islamists who want us to convert or die.”

The ex-Muslims don’t have the impression Pope Francis is taking Amel’s warnings seriously.

They further criticized the Pope’s encouragement of Western countries to accept Muslim refugees without regard to religion. His most recent public speech on the subject came on New Year’s Day, at the 51st World Day of Peace celebration, whose theme was “Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in Search of Peace.”

The Holy Father also drew a comparison between the exodus of the Holy Family and modern-day refugees during his Christmas Eve homily on December 25:

So many other footsteps are hidden in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary. We see the tracks of entire families forced to set out in our own day. We see the tracks of millions of persons who do not choose to go away but, driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones.

There are now tens of millions of Muslims living in Europe. Some — a very few — are real refugees. But most are not. None of the Pakistanis now in England were  “driven from their land.” The Moroccans and Turks in Germany and the Netherlands were not “driven from their land.” The Algerians and Moroccans and Tunisians in France were not “driven from their land.” No Iraqi Muslims — the Christians are a different story — were “driven from their land.” None of the Muslim Egyptians and Libyans now in Italy had been “driven from their land.” Some migrants in Europe from Syria could be described as being “driven from their land” by the violence of civil war, but millions of them found refuge among coreligionists in the Middle East (in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan), and all of them might have done so. They were not hounded into going to Europe, but chose it for all the material benefits it offered.

The Muslims who have been flooding into Europe in recent decades — “invading” is not too strong a word — have done so, and will continue to do so if the Merkels and Mays have their way, in order to take full advantage of everything that the generous welfare states of the West offer them: free or subsidized housing, free medical care, free education, family allowances. With so many benefits, these migrants have been in no hurry to find jobs. Their unemployment rates remain far above — at least twice that of other, non-Muslim immigrants. They are quite content not to work, but to receive the many forms of Jizyah supplied by European taxpayers. The rates of criminality for Muslim migrants are staggering. The Pope needs to be reminded that the real refugees from the Muslim Middle East, those who face persecution and even murder, are the Christians, including the Copts in Egypt, 200,000 having left Egypt in the last few years, the Assyrians and Chaldeans in Iraq, more than a million of whom — nearly 80% — have fled that country since 2003, and those Orthodox and Catholics in Syria who could no longer count on being protected by Assad and the Alawites. The Anglican Canon Andrew White, the “Vicar of Baghdad,” has said that Christianity is “over” in Iraq. Yet the Pope for years chose not to denounce the Muslim persecution of Christians, though he finally did so last October — without naming either “Islam” or “Muslims” — when he said, “We see many of our Christian brothers and sisters in the Oriental Churches experiencing dramatic persecution and an increasingly disturbing diaspora.”

As Church Militant has often reported, the Catholic Church is experiencing rapid collapse in European countries like France and the United Kingdom, while Islam is exploding in popularity.

Is it true that Islam is “exploding in popularity” in Europe? It may be “exploding” in numbers, but that has nothing to do with its “popularity.” That word implies that Islam is proving to be more attractive a faith than Christianity. But the explanation for the steady increase in the Muslim population is twofold: first, millions of Muslim migrants have arrived, and more continue steadily to arrive, so that there are now tens of millions of Muslims in Europe; second, Muslim birth rates in Europe are much higher than those of non-Muslims. What if the Pope were to discuss this publicly, to state that the increase in the Muslim population is a result of migration and birth rates, and instead of defending and praising Islam at every opportunity, he were to call upon Europeans not to lose heart nor to abandon Christianity?

Imagine if the Pope could at long last address his flock — we can dream, can’t we? — thus:

“If Islam becomes the predominant faith in Europe, if  Europe’s Christians begin to feel as insecure as Christians have recently felt in Muslim lands, will that be a result we should regard with equanimity? I do not think so. I admit that in the past I did not fully understand the challenge — some might put it even more strongly — of Islam to Christianity. I have had to learn a great deal, had to abandon some earlier views, and now know much that has been painful for me to acknowledge. But now I do understand, as I did not when I was determined to focus on similarities in the two faiths, what distinguishes Christianity from Islam. I hope that we Christians will not lose faith in our faith, will recognize what Christianity offers that Islam does not, and will work to spread the faith that we know to be true. We must not surrender, demoralized, to the militant carriers of the fighting faith of Islam. We must remain steadfast in our Christian faith, and not retreat, but rather spread the Gospel especially to those millions of Muslims whom we have admitted into our midst. And we should take care to welcome ex-Muslims who, as we know, take great risks when they become Christians.”

In November 2017, Church Militant reported that ISIS published a poster featuring a beheaded Pope Francis, along with various propaganda posters hinting at Christmas attacks on various large cities around the world.

That poster of a headless Pope Francis was published by ISIS, and the Pope — that formidable scholar of Islam — knows that ISIS members are not real Muslims. They are confused about their faith. They take many Qur’an verses much too literally. Some seem to think that the command to “smite at their necks” actually means “smite at their necks.” We all know where that kind of literalism ends up taking us — far from the “authentic Islam’’ that “has nothing to do with violence.” The Pope isn’t worried; he knows that “authentic Islam” will prevail, and the historically good relations between Muslims and Christians will not be affected by the fanatics of ISIS.

The Holy Father has acknowledged that countries have good reasons to limit migrants. On his return flight last November from Sweden — a country dealing with a crisis of Muslim integration — he said that countries need not accept more refugees than they can handle.

“I believe that, in theory, one cannot shut their heart to a refugee,” the Holy Father commented. “However, political leaders need to be prudent; they should be very open to receiving them, but they also need to be prudent when it comes to working out how to settle them because it is not just about receiving a refugee; they also need to be integrated.”

The Pope, having for so long championed mass migration into Europe, now suggests — a little late — that no country need accept more refugees than it “can handle.” But he still fails to make the essential distinction between Muslim and non-Muslim migrants. In Europe, it has proven impossible to integrate large numbers of Muslims, no matter how much money and energy and goodwill have been expended on them by their hosts, while non-Muslim immigrants to Europe are absorbed with comparative ease. Surely this gives us reason to suspect that there is something about Islam that prevents integration. Could it have something to do with the commandment not to take Christians and Jews as friends, “as they are friends only with each other”? Is the Pope aware of the doctrine of Al-wala’ wa-l-bara’, which means love for fellow Muslims, and hatred for the Kuffar?

“Robert Spencer hopes the Holy Father heeds the warning from this recent open letter [by the ex-Muslims].”

We can only hope that he will deign to respond, and not give these courageous people cause to echo St. Paul’s question, ‘Have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?’” Spencer told Church Militant.’

Amen.

First published in Jihad Watch.

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