I just finished reading an article that has been popping up in my social media feed for some days now; Nostra Aetate and the Catholic Response to Islam, recently published by Crisis Magazine.
The punchline is already present in the title: According to the writer, the Council’s “Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions” is the Catholic response to Islam.
In reality, it is anything but.
With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at what the Council had to say about Islam in Nostra Aetate – Article 3; in particular, its first few sentences.
Before we dig into the text, one should note the intent that is expressed in the title to the Declaration and repeated in its introduction:
“… the Church examines more closely her relationship to non-Christian religions…” (cf NA 1)
Why is this so important?
Because it tells us that the document is not, as some claim, ordered toward human beings of a different faith; as if little more than an exercise in affording these individuals the respect that all persons deserve.
Rather, this document is specifically addressing the Church’s relationship with particular systems of belief and worship.
The two are very different.
Religions can, and indeed must, be evaluated in a purely objective manner; whereas there is an element of the subjective (the domain of God alone) to be acknowledged with regard to our interactions with individual persons.
With this distinction in mind, let’s begin.
“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, 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.” (cf NA 3)
First, it is noteworthy that the Latin normative text of Article 3 opens with one long sentence as opposed to two separate sentences as one finds in the English translation:
Ecclesia cum aestimatione quoque Muslimos respicit qui unicum Deum adorant, viventem et subsistentem, misericordem et omnipotentem, Creatorem caeli et terrae, homines allocutum, cuius occultis etiam decretis toto animo se submittere student, sicut Deo se submisit Abraham ad quem fides islamica libenter sese refert.
What difference does this make?
Quite a bit, actually.
It is one thing to speak kindly of a group of persons in a generic sense, but what the Council did in the case of “the Moslems” is quite another.
Being aware of the aforementioned intent of the Declaration, we should already be alert to this fact.
Even so, the format of the Latin text makes it clearer still that the esteem being expressed for Moslems is predicated upon what follows, in the same sentence, concerning the religion of Islam.
“The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems who adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself, merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men, and who 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.”
As one can see, read as one lengthy sentence, it is obvious that the Council is articulating the reasons why esteem is being expressed for the Moslems; namely, it is based upon their particular system of belief and worship.
And what does the Council tell us about Islam?
The text goes well beyond simply acknowledging that the followers of Islam claim or perhaps even desire to direct their adoration toward the God of Abraham. Rather, Nostra Aetate boldly equates Abraham’s faithfulness with the behavior of devout Moslems.
Worse, it suggests a certain equality between “the inscrutable decrees” that came from God to Abraham with the Moslem understanding of the same; the former having been made known to us in Sacred Scripture.
And where, pray tell, do the Moslems encounter the so-called “inscrutable decrees” to which they “take pains wholeheartedly to submit”?
In the Qur’an.
Recall that Francis once exhorted a gathering of refugees gathered in Rome:
“Sharing our experience in carrying that cross, to expel the illness within our hearts, which embitters our life: it is important that you do this in your meetings. Those that are Christian, with the Bible, and those that are Muslim, with the Quran. The faith that your parents instilled in you will always help you move on.”
How dare he equate the Bible with the Qur’an!
Indeed, but let’s be honest; the Council did it first.
By plainly suggesting that the Moslems’ submission to the Satan-inspired decrees recorded by Muhammed in Islam’s “holy book” is comparable to Abraham’s submission to the voice of the one true God, the Council is essentially endorsing, in the name of the Church no less, the claim that the Qur’an is divine revelation!
Let that sink in for a moment…
Nostra Aetate continues:
“Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet.” (ibid.)
As is often the case with modernists, “they pervert the meaning and force of things and words.” (cf Pope Leo XIII, Ut Mysticum, quoted by Pope St. Pius X, Pascendi)
As such, do not be fooled by the Council’s (much less Islam’s) use of the word “prophet.”
In reality, the Moslems do not consider Jesus a “prophet” as Catholics understand the word; namely, as one who speaks truth in the name of Almighty God.
Rather, Islam “reveres” Jesus as a mere messenger of Allah – the false god who utters blasphemies and encourages all manner of violence.
And for this the Council expressed esteem…
What could possibly be more anti-Catholic than that?