Happy Independence Day!

Happy Fourth of July!

Independence Day, tomorrow, is also the conclusion of our Fortnight for Freedom, our two-weeks of prayer, penance, and advocacy on behalf of our “first and most cherished freedom,” that of religion.  We thank God for it, and ask for the fortitude – - like that characterizing John the Baptist, John Fisher, and Thomas More, saints whose feasts we celebrate during the Fortnight – - in defending it.

Couple of weeks ago, I visited the Albanian Islamic Center on Victory Boulevard in Staten Island.  (You may have seen the coverage in last week’s Catholic New York).  What a grand day it was!  I felt very much at home, and was welcomed as a family member.  As one of the Imams pointed out, of course I was a family member, since we were all children of the same one, true God, the God of Abraham, the God revealed to and by Israel, Jesus, and Mohammed.  With the same Father, the Imam concluded, we’re brothers and sisters!

One of the many fond memories of the visit was how glowingly the Imams and the people spoke of their love for America.  The Moslems were clear that what drew them to our country was, yes, the promise of economic prosperity, and the appeal of Democracy, but also, religious freedom.  Many of them were fleeing homelands where people of different creeds fought, often violently, and distrusted each other, and where governments opposed and oppressed religion.

Here, they boasted with obvious relief and gratitude, people of faith work together, trust each other, live next to each other, and welcome each other, as my visit displayed.

And here, the Imams and their people remarked, government protects religious liberty, and doesn’t impede or restrict it.  In America, my Islamic friends observed, the conviction is that freedom of religion is a given in human nature, self-evident and given by God, to use the vocabulary of the Founding Fathers, not a concession or favor from big government.  Here, they sighed in relief, the government leaves us alone, allowing us the free exercise of our religion.  Here, they concluded, religion was looked upon as a plus, a blessing, to society.

Those radiant comments seemed even more compelling since, as we spoke, one could see the Statue of Liberty in the harbor; that the day I visited was right before our opening of the Fortnight for Freedom; and that Independence Day was near.

Part of my prayer this Fourth of July will be that my Islamic neighbors will never regret their decision to come here, and that the promise of religious liberty they found so magnetic will never become a sham in this “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

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One Response to “Happy Independence Day!”

  1. BELLA says:

    Cardinal Dolan,
    Just wondering, are you saying that all religions are equal? That’s what it sounds like. The same God was revealed to Mohammed? Are you serious? Are you saying that the Jewish faith is equal to Muslim faith? Cardinal Dolan, I am not a Cardinal but I know the difference bewteen the Muslim faith and the Catholic and Jewish faiths. The Muslim faith is a heresy.
    The follwing is an excerpt from Hillaire Belloc:
    Mohammedanism was a : that is the essential point to grasp
    before going any further. It began as a heresy, not as a new religion. It
    was not a pagan contrast with the Church; it was not an alien enemy. It
    was a perversion of Christian doctrine. It vitality and endurance soon
    gave it the appearance of a new religion, but those who were contemporary
    with its rise saw it for what it was_not a denial, but an adaptation and a
    misuse, of the Christian thing. It differed from most (not from all)
    heresies in this, that it did not arise within the bounds of the Christian
    Church. The chief heresiarch, Mohammed himself, was not, like most
    heresiarchs, a man of Catholic birth and doctrine to begin with. He
    sprang from pagans. But that which he taught was in the main Catholic
    doctrine, oversimplified. It was the great Catholic world_on the frontiers
    of which he lived, whose influence was all around him and whose
    territories he had known by travel_which inspired his convictions. He came
    of, and mixed with, the degraded idolaters of the Arabian wilderness, the
    conquest of which had never seemed worth the Romans’ while.

    He took over very few of those old pagan ideas which might have
    been native to him from his descent. On the contrary, he preached and
    insisted upon a whole group of ideas which were peculiar to the Catholic
    Church and distinguished it from the paganism which it had conquered in
    the Greek and Roman civilization. Thus the very foundation of his teaching
    was that prime Catholic doctrine, the unity and omnipotence of God. The
    attributes of God he also took over in the main from Catholic doctrine:
    the personal nature, the all-goodness, the timelessness, the providence of
    God, His creative power as the origin of all things, and His sustenance of
    all things by His power alone. The world of good spirits and angels and
    of evil spirits in rebellion against God was a part of the teaching, with
    a chief evil spirit, such as Christendom had recognized. Mohammed preached
    with insistence that prime Catholic doctrine, on the human side_the
    immortality of the soul and its responsibility for actions in this life,
    coupled with the consequent doctrine of punishment and reward after death.

    If anyone sets down those points that orthodox Catholicism has in
    common with Mohammedanism, and those points only, one might imagine if one
    went no further that there should have been no cause of quarrel. Mohammed
    would almost seem in this aspect to be a sort of missionary, preaching and
    spreading by the energy of his character the chief and fundamental
    doctrines of the Catholic Church among those who had hitherto been
    degraded pagans of the Desert. He gave to Our Lord the highest reverence,
    and to Our Lady also, for that matter. On the day of judgment (another
    Catholic idea which he taught) it was Our Lord, according to Mohammed, who
    would be the judge of mankind, not he, Mohammed. The Mother of Christ, Our
    Lady, “the Lady Miriam” was ever for him the first of womankind. His
    followers even got from the early fathers some vague hint of her
    Immaculate Conception.[1]

    But the central point where this new heresy struck home with a
    mortal blow against Catholic tradition was a full denial of the
    Incarnation.

    Mohammed did not merely take the first steps toward that denial,
    as the Arians and their followers had done; he advanced a clear
    affirmation, full and complete, against the whole doctrine of an incarnate
    God. He taught that Our Lord was the greatest of all the prophets, but
    still only a prophet: a man like other men. He eliminated the Trinity
    altogether.

    With that denial of the Incarnation went the whole sacramental
    structure. He refused to know anything of the Eucharist, with its Real
    Presence; he stopped the sacrifice of the Mass, and therefore the
    institution of a special priesthood. In other words, he, like so many
    other lesser heresiarchs, founded his heresy on simplification.

    Catholic doctrine was true (he seemed to say), but it had become
    encumbered with false accretions; it had become complicated by needless
    man-made additions, including the idea that its founder was Divine, and
    the growth of a parasitical caste of priests who battened on a late,
    imagined, system of Sacraments which they alone could administer. All
    those corrupt accretions must be swept away.

    So again I ask you Cardinal we worship the same God?