Senator Durbin's Muslim civil rights hearings began this week. As a deliberate partisan rejoinder to Rep. Peter King's almost equally pointless Islamic radicalization hearings of a few weeks back, I decided to avoid following them. However, I learned there was going to be some Catholic input in them, in the person of the emeritus Cardinal Archbishop of Washington Theodore McCarrick.
He's not one of my favorites, being a man who seems to think his function as shepherd is to sound vaguely pastoral, responding with soporific vagueries in the face of controversy. As I said at another board, I was expecting "the episcopal Derek Smalls" to deliver his usual "unmemorable soothing pap."
Oops. Big oops. It was actually very, very good stuff. [The link to the full presentation is at the bottom.]
This is a particularly clear-eyed section:
At the same time, we recognize that not every charge of wrong-doing against people or groups within a religious community amounts to religious discrimination, bias or bigotry. Religious beliefs are no excuse for threatening others with or carrying out acts of violence. At this particular moment in our nation’s history, we face a real threat to our national security from terrorism that has its origins in a particular form of extremist ideology that holds itself out as authentic Islam. These pervasive threats endanger all people both in this country and abroad. We cannot pretend that these threats do not exist. Our government has a duty to understand the threat and confront it effectively in order to keep our citizens safe and to promote and defend the common good of all.
He pointedly raised the mistreatment of Christians in Muslim-majority lands, noting recent atrocities, and stated that not all criticism of Muslim behavior could be fairly described as bigotry. At the same time, he delivered a sotto voce message to Catholics, indicating that we risk sawing off our own branch with indiscriminate criticism of Muslims, reminding us of our own historical experience in America. Given the growing contempt for the Catholic voice in the public square on multiple issues, it's worth heeding.
My apologies, Archbishop--this was genuinely good and useful stuff. And much starchier than expected. Bravo!