It all depends on what your definition of peace is if Islam is truly a religion of peace. When everyone is Muslim, submitted to Allah and his prophet Muhammad, there will be peace. Until then, there is jihad, which can take non-violent forms such as lawfare, political pressure from the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the largest world body after the United Nations, to bring about anti-blasphemy laws that make criticizing Islam a crime, and the violent forms we see in beheadings, bombings and other kinds of terrorism.
John Zmirak has weighed in on the debate between Robert Spencer of Jihadwatch and Msgr. Stuart Swetland of Kansas City in which Swetland said one must believe Islam is a religion of peace because it is part of the Catholic Magisterium and anyone who rejects this is rejecting the authority of the Church. (He has a video of the debate at his site)
He writes the Pope is neither a “divinely inspired oracle, who just has to open his mouth to spill out prophetic predictions and mystical insights that we all must cringe at and obey” or “a totalitarian political party like Stalin’s, which claims that its statements are the infallible “voice of history,” and reserves the right to change its party line on a dime, demanding that every Party member do likewise, on pain of expulsion.:
He then goes on:
There are only a few, narrowly circumscribed areas where the Catholic Church claims divine protection from error.
- Truths of faith that the apostles received from Jesus, and passed on to their successors. One example is the fact that Jesus is divine, co-equal with his Father. Early on, not everyone read the Bible as implying this, and the Church held multiple councils to clarify and reaffirm this crucial teaching. Some putative “gospels” suggested otherwise, which let the Church’s bishops know they were inauthentic.
- Facts of history that are essential to the story of salvation. For instance, that Jesus really existed, and that the Apostles actually knew him personally, followed him, and spoke with him in the flesh after his resurrection.
- Instances of divine revelation that were granted to the Apostles during their lifetimes, such as the Revelation to St. John. All public revelation, essential to eternal salvation and hence binding on Christians, ended with the death of the last apostle.
- Truths of morality that accord with the natural law that God wrote in the human heart, and which the Church has consistently and universally taught since the age of the Apostles. Hence abortion, adultery, sodomy, and murder are all things we know with absolute certainty to be wrong.
There are various ways in which the Church has historically formulated and asserted truths from each of these four categories: statements by Church councils, official proclamations by popes, or the unanimous testimony of Church fathers and early Christian tradition. (There is no direct condemnation of abortion in the Bible; that didn’t stop Martin Luther from knowing that it was wrong, from the ancient Christian consensus.) There has never been an infallible statement by a Church council or pope condemning incest or murder, for instance; the historic Christian consensus on such issues is so powerful that it never seemed to be necessary.
When a pope or a council of the Church makes a statement about some issue that does not fall into category 1, 2, 3, or 4, it might or might not be true. That depends on how well-informed and intelligent were the men who drafted the document. But it rests on men, on human wisdom and knowledge, and Catholics grant it no special credence, since we know it has no unique divine protection from ignorance, rank stupidity, or error.
The main problem with Msgr. Swetland’s statement, however, is its recklessness. Last week in Crisis I wrote that the Church’s handling of the Islamic challenge may prove to be far more scandalous than its handling of the sex abuse crisis. Church authorities are engaged in what amounts to a cover-up of Islam’s aggressive nature, and Msgr. Swetland is a prime example of this ecclesiastical determination to put a positive spin on everything Islamic. But the stakes involved in doing so are extremely high. As I wrotelast week, “as the gap widens between what Church officials say about Islam and what ordinary Catholics can see with their own eyes, the credibility of the Church may once again come into question as it did during the sex abuse scandals.”
Spencer makes the same point, albeit a bit more boldly: “if Monsignor Swetland is correct, then Catholics must affirm that Islam is a religion of peace…and the Catholic Church will be requiring that its faithful affirm the truth of what is an obvious and egregious falsehood.” By binding themselves to this falsehood, says Spencer, Catholic leaders will undermine their authority to speak in the name of Christ.
I would recommend you also read Kirkpatrick’s piece in Crisis linked to in the above article.
The Church’s current policy of minimizing the violent side of Islam while extolling the positive side amounts to a cover-up of vital information that Catholics deserve to know. As the gap widens between what Church officials say about Islam and what ordinary Catholics can see with their own eyes, the credibility of the Church may once again come into question as it did during the sex abuse scandals. The complaint then was that Church authorities didn’t do enough to protect children. The complaint that is building now is that all of us are at risk because the Church leadership has chosen to defend a partial and misleading narrative about Islam rather than tell the full truth.