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One of our commentators, Annie, reminded me that Cardinal Burke would disagree with my post yesterday because he is firmly of the opinion we should be ‘afraid of Islam’. It is always with huge reluctance that I find myself at odds with a Prince of the Church:

“There is no place for other religions…as long as Islam has not succeeded in establishing its sovereignty over the nations and over the world,” Burke said in Hope for the World.

“It is important for Christians to realize the radical differences between Islam and Christianity in matters concerning their teaching about God, about conscience, etc.,” said Burke. “If you really understand Islam, you understand that the Church really should be afraid of it.”

“Islam is a religion that, according to its own interpretation, must also become the State”

I was reminded of the reaction of some Protestants to my own Church here, not to mention the reaction of some Catholic traditionalists. I am not terribly sure that either group would necessarily agree with the Cardinal that teaching about freedom of conscience is something on which the Church has majored; Protestants would say this in one type of anxiety, remembering the fires of Smithfield, whilst traditionalists would say it with another form of anxiety, remembering fondly the days of the index of forbidden books. Quite how ‘radical’ the difference between our two faith is, historically, in matters of freedom of conscience and the right of people in a State to dissent from Islam/the Church, seems to me a more vexed question than the Cardinal allows for. St Pius IX would not, I suggest, have concurred with him on that issue.

It seems to me that Cardinal Sarah gets closer to the truth when he talked about the dangers of fundamentalist Islam – but it ought to be noted he also referred to the dangers to be apprehended from the ‘mentality of the secularized world and individualistic West.’ It is not from Islam that the dangers of ‘”gender ideology”, and groups like FEMEN and the LGBT lobby’, come, which, he argued ‘leads to the “subjectivist disintegration in the secularized West through quick and easy divorce, abortion, homosexual unions, euthanasia”.’ It is surely closer to the mark to identify extreme forms of Islam as the danger we should fear?

One commentator on yesterday’s post thought it a product of wishful thinking and directed me to a lecture by an American Muslim professor to put me right. I listened with interest, but remain uncertain what it was supposed to put be right about, as he did not seem to be saying anything vastly different than I was, which is that whatever dangers are to be apprehended from individuals purporting to be speaking in the name of Islam, we should beware of doing them the honour of taking them at face value as the main representatives of Islam.

It might, of course, be that I am guilty of wishful thinking here, and if so, it would be interesting to know what those who think that would counsel in terms of how we live with the millions of Muslims in our countries, the vast majority of whom seem to me to have interests very similar to those of most of their countrymen and women in terms of life, and do not appear to be bent on allying themselves with Jihadists. Were I an advocate of that sort of Western ‘freedom’ of which Cardinal Sarah was so critical, I suppose I might think somewhat differently. I might look across Europe at the tactic of filling the population gap left by mass abortion and contraception by mass immigration, and wonder whether my faith that religion was in decline was going to be justified when so much of that immigration comes in the form of people who take their faith very seriously. As a Catholic, I might legitimately wonder why my own Church appears to be less effective at getting its people do do likewise – but that is another debate for another time.