Here’s why Francis is wrong to say Muslims and Catholics worship the same God
Francis' ecumenical relations with Muslims has become one of the key aspects of his pontificate, yet in doing so he ignores the fundamental fact that ‘Islam in itself is not faith.’
Francis and the Grand Imam Al-Tayeb of Al-Azhar in Abu Dhabi after signing the Document on Human Fraternity, 4 February 2019.
ROME (LifeSiteNews) — Much has been made by the Vatican and Pope Francis of the three “Abrahamic religions” coming together in a spirit of harmony and peace in the Abrahamic Family House, recently opened in Abu Dhabi, yet the truth of how Catholicism, Islam, and Judaism actually relate is not entirely as the Vatican portrays.
On February 16, the Abrahamic Family House (AFH) held the inaugural ceremony to mark the grand opening of the center, which was directly born out of the 2019 Abu Dhabi document on Human Fraternity signed by both Francis and Ahmed el-Tayeb during the Pope’s 2019 visit to the UAE.
READ: Pope-backed interreligious Abrahamic Family House opens in Abu Dhabi
The AFH is home to a Catholic church, a Muslim mosque, and a Jewish synagogue, and — according to Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, current president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue — it serves as a “concrete example for people of different religions, cultures, traditions, and beliefs to return to the essential: love of neighbor.”
The AFH is the natural progression of Pope Francis’ controversial Abu Dhabi document on Human Fraternity, a text which states: “The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings.”
The text has been described as seeming to “overturn the doctrine of the Gospel” due to its promotion of equality of religions in a form of “fraternity.”
The Pope’s 2020 encyclical Fratelli Tutti has also played a part in the AFH, since the ecumenical project embodies the style of fraternity that the document called for. This form of fraternity is so essential to such ventures: namely, it is a fraternity and “unity” which are divorced from promotion of the Catholic faith which underly modern ecumenical activities.
Indeed, for many years the Vatican’s relationship with Islam and Judaism has presented a great danger to Catholics. This is particularly visible in the documents which emerged from Vatican II and which have since been used as the backbone of a number of different texts, including the modern catechism, as noted recently by Bishop Athanasius Schneider.
Yet while Vatican officials are busy promoting Islam and Judaism as equatable to Catholicism, as if they are simply the other side of a coin, the truth is that the Abrahamic Family House cannot promote Catholicism, but only dilute or weaken it. How then do Catholicism and Islam, in particular, compare?
Catholics and Muslims – the same God?
The common reference text for Catholic relations with Muslims is a passage from Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, which is:
The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day. (LG 16)
Another is that found in Vatican II’s Nostra Aetate, and which is employed by the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue:
The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God.
These passages are subsequently used in the modern catechism, as well as numerous other texts when on the topic of the Catholic Church’s relationship with Muslims.
Catholics believe in a Triune God, as revealed as as outlined in Catholic doctrine. (See Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum, §800, 851, 1330, 1880. Particularly the Tridentine Profession of Faith in 1862.) God is not adored as God the Father separate from God the Son or Holy Spirit, but in the fullness of His Trinity.
Nostra Aetate itself states that Muslims “do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere him as a prophet.” Consequently the statement that Muslims adore the same one God as Catholics appears even more fallacious, or at least in need of fundamental clarification. The Muslim belief in God is not a belief in the Triune God as taught by Christ in the Gospels and by His Church.
‘Islam in itself is not faith’
In recent times, notable members of the hierarchy have pronounced that Catholics and Muslims do not, in fact, worship the same God. In an August 2016 interview, Cardinal Raymond Burke stated that “I don’t believe it’s true that we’re all worshipping the same God, because the God of Islam is a governor.”
He warned that modern ecumenical rhetoric is grounded in a lack of understanding of Islam:
[W]e don’t respect the truth about what Islam teaches and what, for instance, the Catholic Church teaches, and we just make these general statements, we’re all believing in the same God and so forth, and this is not helpful and ultimately it will be the end of Christianity, meaning nothing has changed in the Islamic agenda from prior times in which our ancestors in the faith have had to fight to save Christianity. And why? Because they saw that Islam was attacking sacred truths, including the sacred places of our redemption.
The cardinal’s words are echoed by Bishop Athanasius Schneider in his book length interview Christus Vincit, when he mentions that “Islam in itself is not faith.” The bishop continues by explaining that faith is only found in Christianity and “is applicable only to belief in the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit … When someone does not believe in the Holy Trinity, he has no faith but simply natural religion.”
READ: Pope Francis joins ecumenical leaders in Rome to promote peace in the ‘spirit’ of 1986 Assisi meeting
Bishop Schneider then goes further in assisting with clarification of the quotation from Lumen Gentium, which is used in the modern catechism and in so many ecumenical ventures:
That we Catholics adore with the Muslims the one God is not true. We don’t adore with them. In the act of adoration, we always adore the Holy Trinity, we don’t simply adore ‘the one God’ but the Holy Trinity consciously… Islam rejects the Holy Trinity. When Muslims adore, they do not adore on the supernatural level of faith.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò also wrote that Lumen Gentium 16 “cannot be interpreted in a Catholic way” and “blatantly contradicts Catholic doctrine.”
Koran rejects the Trinity
These lines from the various prelates are in stark contrast to the theme of modern ecumenical activities, both in clarity and in content, but they are consistent with Church teaching. In Islam there is no compatible act of faith for it has a completely different concept of God and a fundamental difference in adoration.
This can be seen in the words of the Koran itself regarding God as the Trinity. In turning to Surah 4, one can read:
The Christ, Jesus son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He cast to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, “Three”; desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son.
— The Koran, ‘Surah 4:171’, translated with notes by N.J. Dawood, (London, Penguin Books, 2014), 67. See also Surah 5:72-75; Surah 19: 88-93; Surah 112:1-4.
In the words of Islam’s holy text itself, it can be noted that there is an outright rejection of so many fundamental elements of Catholicism. Firstly, the Koran rejects the notion of God as Trinity; secondly, it rejects that God has a son, saying it is beneath Him to have one. Thirdly, Jesus is viewed simply as a messenger of God, necessitating the fact that Mary would not be the Mother of God.
READ: Pope Francis preaches ‘fraternity’ divorced from Catholicism at interfaith meetings in Bahrain
‘Brothers in Abraham’
Yet despite this, Pope Francis continues a near-relentless push for closer ties between Catholics and Muslims, seemingly sacrificing Catholic doctrine on the altar of ecumenism in order to effect this relationship. While Catholics devoted to the traditional form of the Church’s liturgy face papal persecution, Francis instead promotes his regular meetings with Muslim leaders.
His trips to Kazakhstan and Bahrain in the latter part of last year demonstrated this commitment to Islam. “We are called to proclaim with the wisdom of our elders and fathers, that God and neighbor come before all else, that transcendence and fraternity alone will save us,” he stated in his address to Muslim Elders in Bahrain, whom he called “brothers in Abraham.”
In his discussions with the Muslim elders during that visit, Pope Francis notably avoided promoting a Catholic understanding of God as Trinity, instead employing language such as “One who loves humanity, the One whose name is peace” or “the Creator.”
“Let us remember, though, that the unity to which we are journeying is a unity in diversity,” he added.
Based on such Papal actions, Father Alexander Wiseman, FSSPX, described the modern Pontiffs as sacrificing the authenticity of the Catholic faith for ecumenism:
In the name of the ecumenism expressly taught by Vatican II, we have witnessed Popes acknowledging the legitimacy and “truth” of other religions such as Islam, Judaism, and even paganism.
READ: Bp. Schneider warns ‘ecological conversion,’ ecumenism ‘undermine’ Catholic teaching
It is also in light of these modern, ecumenical efforts that Bishop Schneider recently spoke to LifeSite about the practical effect which they have upon the Catholic Church. Modern ecumenism, he said, “undermines the truth that there is only one Church of God and this is the Catholic Church, the Church of Peter, united with the Holy See, the chair of Peter — the Popes.”
Furthermore, proponents of this form of ecumenism are “transmitting a message that multiplicity of religions is a good situation,” he said.
It’s not okay! It’s not the will of God. Because these non-Catholics communities contain objective errors which God condemns, which God does not accept.
Schneider added that “non-Catholic communities contain errors, either doctrinal or moral,” and such errors are “contrary to the revelation, and will of God. What is contrary to the will of God cannot bring blessings.”
He added that Catholics must ensure that charity is always practiced with non-Catholics, but must also inform non-Catholics “that they are unfortunately in an objective error, and that they are called by God to join the Holy Mother Church which is the Catholic Church, which is the will of God.”
By helping non-Catholics “patiently” and with a “crystal clear dialogue” which assists them to “see their own errors,” a proper “love for neighbor” can take place, he stated. Such a dialogue would not involve simply finding common ground, but rather would represent an active evangelizing process from Catholics:
This is the true love for neighbor — when we Catholics are saying to our separated brothers, showing them respectfully their errors, because they cannot continue to live in these errors which are contrary to the will of God.