01/18/2022: Today commences an eight-day devotion begun over a century ago under Pope St. Pius X: The Octave for Church Unity. For Catholics who follow the old liturgical calendar, from January 18-25 we pray to Our Lady, Help of Christians: “To thee we entrust our firm purpose of never joining assemblies of heretics.” I have provided the eight daily intentions below this article.*
A front-page article in our diocesan newspaper raised my ire last week. Reporting on the local, ecumenical outreach to Afghan refugees settling in our state, it profiled some of the volunteers and their experiences. One Catholic volunteer recalled an Afghan Muslim family kneeling on prayer rugs during her visit to their home. When a young member of the family noticed her crucifix and asked about her faith, she was able to overcome language and culture barriers, she explained, because she “prays to the same God” as the Muslims.
I groaned, remembering the controversial statement in the Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium, paragraph 16: “….the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind.”
How can this be? We all know that Islam (and Judaism, too) denies the divinity of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. “The merciful God” they profess to worship—the one “who on the last day will judge mankind”—will be none other than the Son of God, in whom they don’t believe. And what about Our Lord’s own words in John 4:16, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me”?
Thoughts like this will get you branded as a so-called “traditional” Catholic, accused by Pope Francis of rejecting Vatican II and scorned for clinging to the old form of the Mass. As a member of the ecclesia discens (the learning Church), I simply seek clarification on statements that seem to conflict with unchangeable Church teaching. What I have learned, above all, is that vigorous dot connecting and discernment is necessary to find where, indeed, Holy Mother Church stands on issues of critical importance to our salvation.
I challenge you to research this particular quandary concerning Allah’s true identity. Check the present-day Catechism of the Catholic Church promulgated under Pope St. John Paul II in 1997. In paragraph 841 you’ll find the Lumen Gentium statement footnoted and quoted almost word for word.
Consult the Baltimore Catechism III (1949) and The Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent (1567). Zero mention of the Muslim faith, let alone the assertion that they share our belief in the One True God.
Dig deeper. Go back to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 841, and look up its footnote to another Vatican II document, Nostra Aetate. Its authors included an obscure reference to a personal letter penned by Pope Gregory VII in 1076 to a Muslim ruler. The pontiff is said to have stated, “…we believe in and confess one God, admittedly, in a different way, and daily praise and venerate Him, the creator of the world and ruler of this world.”
And this is how we arrive at the feel-good conclusion that Catholics and Muslims are brothers in arms who worship the same God?
I believe an agenda, and not the Holy Ghost, has driven this modern twist on Catholic thinking. In fact, it stems from the openly stated agenda of Vatican II’s modernist Churchmen to remove “everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling-block for our separated brethren…the Protestants.” Fast-forward six decades and it appears they have achieved and even exceeded that goal. Stumbling blocks for non-Christians have also been removed.
The rest of us are tripping over the Truth.
Most Catholics today are not aware of, or do not believe, the Church dogma of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus—outside the Church there is no salvation (with few and uncertain exceptions). This dogma did not change but has been suppressed quite effectively since Vatican II. It’s not found in the current Catechism of the Catholic Church. Rather, in paragraph 816, a statement from the “Vatican II Decree on Ecumenism” seems to echo Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus—but then changes the boundary to include those outside the Church “who belong in any way to the people of God.”
From there, the paragraphs progressively expand on this idea, culminating with the assertion in paragraph 841 that Muslims share in our plan of salvation because they worship the same God.
The result has been what author Eric Sammons expertly explains as “deadly indifference” in his book bearing the same title, which I reviewed here. Religious indifference is the prevailing view, making all religions essentially the same and each on a path to salvation. Today’s Catholics are increasingly confusing the Church’s mission of saving souls with that of finding common ground among non-Catholics.
You can hardly blame the Catholic volunteer mentioned earlier for failing to explain the profound significance of her crucifix to the Muslim boy. She was, after all, part of an ecumenical outreach program, joining forces with Protestants to make the Afghan refugees comfortable in their new homes. (I wonder if a Protestant volunteer in her situation would have passed up the opportunity to proselytize.)
While the importance of knowing our faith cannot be overstated, I hope I have just demonstrated it is no easy task. What we think we “know” depends not only on what we read and how deeply we dig into Church teaching, but also on which Mass we attend. I am pretty sure you won’t find a Traditional Latin Mass Catholic who believes Allah and the One True God are the same . . . or that pathways to salvation exist outside of the Catholic Church. Instead of stumbling into a false ecumenism, we are praying for Church Unity that can only happen by conversion of our Protestant and Non-Christian brethren.
*Octave for Church Unity Daily Intentions:
January 18: The return of all the “other sheep” to the one fold of St. Peter, the One Shepherd.
January 19: The return of all Oriental Separatists to communion with the Apostolic See.
January 20: The submission of Anglicans to the authority of the Vicar of Christ.
January 21: That Lutherans and all other Protestants of Continental Europe may find their way back to Holy Church.
January 22: That Christians in America may become one in communion with the Chair of St. Peter.
January 23: The return to the Sacraments of all lapsed Catholics.
January 24: The conversion of the Jews.
January 25: The Missionary conquest of the world for Christ.