I was very surprised to read Dr. McGavan’s criticism of Fr. Webb’s article, ‘The Cross and the Crescent’ in the August-October edition of Oriens. In his article, Father Webb simply makes explicit, in a very clear, concise manner, Pope John Paul II’s statement that, ‘For this reason not only the Theology but also the Anthropology of Islam is very distant from Christianity.’ (Crossing the Threshold of Hope, 1994)
Father Webb made it abundantly clear, by quoting directly from the Koran, that ‘those who claim that Christianity and Islam share the same faith, or that ultimately we worship and confess the same God, are manifestly in error’. Fr. Webb was simply stating facts; he was not impugning the sincerity of genuine belief in the followers of Islam. Nor was he imputing error to the Holy Father, Pope Benedict.
It was difficult to follow Dr McGavan’s logic: ‘if something is untrue, it is not simply untrue’. And, while stating that ‘any action of worship that is not directed by Christ is imperfect’…. and, ‘where worship is imperfect it is not simply “not worship,”’ he then states, having made that claim, that he will not speak about worship of man or of evil spirits. Why not? If ‘imperfect’ worship is still worship, then according to that premise, worship of Satan is still worship?
The unfortunate logical conclusion that we are asked to draw from the sixth paragraph is that the writer of the criticism himself denies the Cross and the Trinity when he enters a Mosque, by hiding his cross inside his clothing. That I do not believe for a moment is his intention – it was simply an unfortunate conclusion drawn from a rather confused example. It is similar when he is quoting holy Scripture. The real question to ask is why did St Paul, in Corinth, bother to proclaim only Christ and Him crucified if it did not really matter whether they believed in the Trinity and the Incarnation with its corollary – the Crucifixion and Resurrection? One could well ask why did our Lord bother to give His final command to the Church if it was irrelevant:
‘All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Go therefore, teach you all nations; baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…’ Mt.28:18-20
Of course there are elements of Truth in every religion; that is not questioned it is so obvious. Similarly there are very good people sincerely believing in something which is, indeed, false. The Church urges us to respect the sincerity of genuine believers even if they are enmeshed in error, but as followers of Christ we are forbidden to do homage to falsehood, or to act in any way that would suggest that we acknowledge falsehood as Truth. Indeed, we dare not, or we have denied Christ. Likewise this respect for others who are in error should not blind us to the errors and the dangers therein to our holy Faith. That attitude only leads to indifferentism.
The Catholic world is reeling in a whirlwind of confusion and ambiguity where Truth seems to have become the casualty of our age. We have an obligation before God not to add to the confusion.
Father A. Brennan