Islam, Realism, and The Church

By William Kilpatrick

We feel that the most powerful insight in this article is found midway through to the end.—CBJ ed. 

The Catholic Thing—In comments last year, Marcello Pera, a prominent Italian intellectual and non-believer, criticized Pope Francis for “openly going against tradition, doctrine, and introducing inexplicable innovations, behaviors and gestures.”

A philosopher of science, former president of the Italian Senate, and close friend of Pope Benedict XVI, Pera asserted that Francis had turned Catholicism into “a Church so outgoing that it can no longer be found anywhere.”

In an earlier 2017 interview with Il Mattino, Pera was even more outspoken.  In answer to a question about “indiscriminate” welcoming of migrants to Europe, he replied: “Frankly, I do not get this pope, whatever he says is beyond any rational understanding.  It’s evident to all that an indiscriminate welcoming is not possible:  there is a critical point that can’t be reached.”

He continued: “If the pope. . . insists in a massive and total welcoming, I ask myself:  why does he say it?. . .Why does he lack a minimum of realism, that very little that is requested of anyone?  The answer I can give myself is only one:  The Pope does it because he hates the West, he aspires to destroy it. . . .As he aspires to destroy the Christian tradition.”

Two years ago, most Catholics would have found that hard to swallow.  But now, the idea that Pope Francis hates the West is beginning to seem plausible.  It would explain much of what he says and does – his criticism of capitalism and colonialism, Amazonian initiative and, above all, encouragement of mass Muslim migration into Europe.

Does he also aspire to destroy the Christian tradition?  Well, he rarely misses an opportunity to criticize traditional Catholics.  At the same time, he seems intent on introducing exotic and decidedly non-traditional practices into the life of the Church.

The key word, of course, is “aspires.”  Does Francis consciously desire to “destroy” the West and traditional Christianity (aka Christianity).  Or is he simply a well-intentioned do-gooder who doesn’t understand the consequences of his experiments?

That’s a serious question, but it’s unnecessary to know the answer in order to raise a related question:  Whatever the intention, do his policies and programs actually tend toward the destruction of the West and of Christianity?

I would say, “Yes, they do.” And I would argue, as Professor Pera does, that they “lack a minimum of realism.”  Future historians may well look back upon our era as the Age of Unreality.  And many in the Church have embraced this unreality as though it were a newly revealed Gospel.

Some Church leaders have been flirting with the idea of….


The most dangerous fantasy, however, is the one that Church leaders have created about Islam.  We are told that it’s a religion of peace, that it shares much common ground with Christianity, that Muslims venerate Jesus just as Catholics do, that terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, and that the slaughter of Christians by Muslims can be attributed to a tiny minority who “misunderstand” their religion.

At the same time, we are taught that “Islamophobia” – an irrational fear of Islam – is a far greater danger than Islamic aggression.

Pera’s point is that these supposedly “irrational” fears are actually quite reasonable.  He is mainly concerned with the fantasy that Europe can successfully absorb millions of Muslim migrants who don’t want to assimilate.  But as one can see, there is a whole basketful of other fantasies that Catholic leaders believe about Islam.

Where does the fantasy come from?  Some attribute it to the influence of Louis Massignon (1883-1962), a French Catholic scholar of Islam whose work had a profound effect on Catholic thinking.  Yet Massignon’s main interest was in the…

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