Nostra Aetate 3: Catholics and Muslims

Affirmation for the followers of Islam:

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. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

A Muslim friend once remarked that his faith had more in common with Judaism, in that both emphasized “right action” above “right faith,” orthopraxis over orthodoxy, in other words. This distinction is lost on many Christians, especially those who espouse a “rightness” on the interior, regardless of how that appears to be deficient on the outside.

It’s an interesting development that Catholicism, often criticized for emphasizing “works,” finds itself with an “orthodoxy” movement that emphasizes faith, “right” faith. At least in words.

Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.

How does this square with our remembrances of Lepanto, the Crusades, etc.? Are Christians called to set an example above and beyond the pack? Or are we content to sit as peers, as our “They started it!” attitude sometimes betrays?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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