Sunday, September 29, 2013

Magdi Allam and the Catholic Church



From John Allen Jr. at the National Catholic Register:


Amid the generally positive reaction to Pope Francis, Monday brought a dissenting note. The most celebrated convert of the Benedict years announced he has abandoned the Catholic church, primarily for what he sees as its overly indulgent view of Islam as well as distaste for the "papal idolatry" aroused by Francis' election.

Magdi Cristiano Allam, an Egyptian-born politician and essayist in Italy, rose to fame by styling Islam not as a religion but a violent ideology akin to fascism and communism. He was personally received into the church by Benedict XVI during the Easter vigil of 2008 and announced in the pages of Il Giornale on Monday that he now considers his Catholicism "expired in conjunction with the end of his papacy." 
Allam adds that a positive reference by Francis to Islam in a recent speech to diplomats was the straw that broke the camel's back. He remains a Christian, but no longer identifies himself as Catholic. 
Reaction has tended to splinter into three broad streams: 
  • Pious backlash saying that if Allam is leaving for these reasons, he never understood what it meant to be Catholic in the first place.
  • More neutral essays saying the defection illustrates the challenge Francis faces of trying to hold a fractious church together.
  • A bit of insider schadenfreude over the embarrassment to Italian Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who engineered both Allam's conversion and Benedict's personal involvement.
Unfortunately, in thinking about why Allam took this step, most people haven't gotten past the headline. If you consider the entire essay he published March 25 outlining his thinking, it makes for very interesting reading.
Allam says he's leaving Catholicism because of what he describes as four "physiological" features of the church he can no longer tolerate:
  • "Relativism," meaning the fact that the church "welcomes inside itself an infinity of communities, congregations, ideologies and material interests that translate into containing everything and the opposite of everything."
  • "Globalism," meaning the church "takes positions ideologically contrary to nations as identities and civilizations that must be preserved, preaching the overcoming of national boundaries."
  • A tendency to being "do-gooders," meaning "putting on the same level, if not actually preferring" the interests of people outside one's community with the community's own interests.
  • A "temptation to evil," which Allam blames on "imposing behaviors in conflict with human nature ... such as priestly celibacy, abstaining from sex outside marriage and the indissolubility of marriage, along with the temptation of money."

I agree with Allen that Allam is right that the first three characteristics are those of the Church. They are also those of Christ.

"Relativism" and "Globalism" used in the sense Allam uses it is a good thing; the Church must avoid sectarianism and exclusion to the greatest extent possible. Certain ideologies must be anathema-- Marxism, Nazism, atheism, for example-- but the world's only truly global organization must not be captive to pointless sectarianism.

And a tendency to be "do gooders"? Goodness gracious, that is what the Christian life is. We are called to radical do-gooding, by the original do-gooder Himself.

Some of Allam's criticisms of the Church's supposed accommodation with Islam resonate with me a bit as well, but I trust the Church. She alone has fought Islam for 1400 years. She understands the issues as no other entity does. Defiance has its place, for sure, and I share Allam's general assessment of the totalitarian nature of Islam, but lives and souls are at stake, and the Church's policy of engagement and respect has much to say for it.

I trust the Church.

Allum's fourth "physiological" feature which he can 'no longer tolerate' is raw nonsense. The Church is right on all of these issues.

The Church doesn't always do what I would be inclined to do. Before I became a Catholic, the Church and I were at odds on any number of things. But again and again I have come to see that She was right whereas I was wrong. I am inclined nowadays to listen and contemplate Her teaching.

The Church is a Spiritual Body as well a human institution, and Her wisdom so far exceeds mine as to bring me to my knees (and not only in Mass).

I am thankful that Allam remains a Christian, and I applaud his heroic and largely accurate critique of Islam. His voice is needed. But his duties as a individual Christian are not identical to the Church's duties, which must deal with issues on a far larger and longer scale.

Allam's apostasy suggests that he didn't understand the Catholic Church to begin with.  

8 comments:

  1. Okay, my take.
    By the '"physiological features "

    1. Relativism. It seems to me that this feature is a strength, as described. This 'universalism' is precisely what 'catholic' means. It is the definition of a catholic faith.

    2. I am not pro globalist in any way. Globalism is, IMHO, the work of the adversary. I do not see the RC as a globalist (ie hijacked) force, or I would be opposed to it.

    3. Not only do I see the 'do gooders' as a silly feature in totus, but I cannot understand why he did not notice it BEFORE conversion. He better not go join the Salvation Army, the Methodists, or the Anglican communion either.

    4. This one hits home. I completely agree with his 'temptation' argument when it comes to priests and deacons. I see not reason why a priest should not be allowed to marry and have children. No scriptural or political (modern) argument has ever been made that makes any real sense to me. Nuns or Friars? Sure. Bishops? Surely. But priests and deacons are the 'accessible' face of the church and should be both recognizable and display the attainable virtues of the common parishioner. Their is no greater earthly virtue than being the righteous, moral pillar of a family.

    Finally, on his comments on Islam. When JP II apologized for the Crusades I witnessed one of the most stupid moves in recorded history. The Roman Bishop's hetoric made Chamberlains 'peace in our time' look like common sense. It was echoed and parroted off by Christian leaders around the world. When Benedict XVII made an excellent comment about Paleologos (Constantine XI) that caused all that fuss, I was happy that the current (then) pontiff seemed to have a much more FIRM grasp of the historical reality. His (Benedict's) policy of reciprocity struck a cord with me, and I seriously considered the Personal Ordinariate at the time.
    The current popes comments (on Islam) leave me a little disturbed, but I find them far more open to interpretation and so I see them as political. Wise politic or no? We will have to wait and see.

    My take as a non RC.

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    1. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavySeptember 29, 2013 at 11:20 AM

      C-Rex: "I see not reason why a priest should not be allowed to marry and have children."

      My conversion did not take me immediately to the Catholic Church. We first became involved with a United Methodist church. It was a wonderful church, and my only reason for converting to Catholicism (at the time I did; I would cite many more theological reasons now) was the Methodist view of Communion, a spell with lectio divina, and John 6:53+.

      Having converted, I can say that I appreciate the fact that a priest's only duty is to God and his flock. No family complications or issues that take priority. Our minister at the UMC was a wonderful man, we still respect and love him, but his time was divided between flock and family. And good for him that he cared for both!

      Of course, there are married priests (Anglican priests who have converted). But I hope the current tradition never changes.

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    2. Adm.

      I had written you a reply, but google ate it.
      I will try again later, after my lunch.

      Delete
  2. M.Egnor: "I agree with Allen that Allam is right that the first three characteristics are those of the Church. They are also those of Christ."

    So, you're a leftist, after all?

    M.Egnor: "Allum's fourth "physiological" feature which he can 'no longer tolerate' is raw nonsense. The Church is right on all of these issues."

    Well, not the priestly celibacy bit.

    M.Egnor: "The Church doesn't always do what I would be inclined to do. Before I became a Catholic, the Church and I were at odds on any number of things. But again and again I have come to see that She was right whereas I was wrong. I am inclined nowadays to listen and contemplate Her teaching."

    Your idolatry of The One True Bureaucracy is showing.

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    1. Ilion:

      [M.Egnor: "I agree with Allen that Allam is right that the first three characteristics are those of the Church. They are also those of Christ."

      So, you're a leftist, after all?]

      That's quite a stretch. What I find in Christ is true morality and justice. What the left does is expropriate and mangle a few examples of Christ's justice and mercy, and discard the principles that underlie them. Girard describes this as a satanic imitation of Christ, which is a real insight.

      The right gets Christ wrong in some ways as well.

      It all goes back to that apple.

      [M.Egnor: "Allum's fourth "physiological" feature which he can 'no longer tolerate' is raw nonsense. The Church is right on all of these issues."

      Well, not the priestly celibacy bit.]

      Priestly celibacy is church discipline, not dogma. I think it is an excellent thing, and should be preserved. Reasonable people can disagree.

      [M.Egnor: "The Church doesn't always do what I would be inclined to do. Before I became a Catholic, the Church and I were at odds on any number of things. But again and again I have come to see that She was right whereas I was wrong. I am inclined nowadays to listen and contemplate Her teaching."

      Your idolatry of The One True Bureaucracy is showing.]

      The Magesterium and the Curia are different things. The M is inspired by the Holy Spirit and is infallible. The Curia is a bureaucracy, and is by no means infallible. I happen to think that the Curia is a pretty good bureaucracy, as bureaucracies go, but they make many mistakes, being human and all.

      I love the Church and the good folks doing Her work. I worship God, venerate the Saints, recognize the Sacramental nature of reality, and I do my best to worship no idols, except Joe Namath.


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    2. Ilion:

      Regarding your post above that the Catholic Church is the wellspring of leftism, it's worth keeping in mind that the term leftism originated with the French National Assembly, where the leftists sat to the left of the... representatives of the Catholic Church, who were the original Right.

      The explosion of Protestant sects following the Reformation created an intellectual milieu in which leftism/secularism/atheism flourished. The Church was, and is, the stalwart enemy of both. It was Catholics, not Calvinists, that the Jacobeans slaughtered in the Vendee and throughout Catholic regions of France. It was Catholics who the Spanish leftists slaughtered in 1936-1939, and Catholics who Mexican leftists slaughtered in the Christeros revolt. It was the Catholic Church, led by passionately anti-communist Popes like Pius XII and JPII, that brought communism in Europe to its knees. The primary Protestant body, the World Council of Churches, fellated commie propagandists for decades, even calling its own governing body its "Central Committee". [http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2011/02/17/world-council-of-churches-moves-to-scrap-communist-name/]

      The head of the WCC is called its "General Secretary".

      It's pretty well recognized that the WCC did Moscow's bidding in the Cold War.

      While some Protestant churches have admirably fought the leftist tide, the massive mainstream churches have rolled over and bought into all manner of leftist tripe. Just look at the Episcopalians, not to mention the ELCA, where George Tiller was serving as a usher and upstanding member when he was shot.

      The Catholic Church is a huge organization, and it has its share of heretics and semi-heretics. But it is the body of Christ in our world.

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  3. 'Having converted, I can say that I appreciate the fact that a priest's only duty is to God and his flock. No family complications or issues that take priority. Our minister at the UMC was a wonderful man, we still respect and love him, but his time was divided between flock and family. And good for him that he cared for both!'

    I think this is the substantial point.

    Perhaps especially in rural areas, if Priests were able to marry; then an unmarried (younger?) Priest newly arrived in a Parish, would surly not always be of purely spiritual nor religious interest to his whole congregation?
    Perhaps marrying your local Priest would seem a/the logical and desirable situation for many females of the Faith?
    Why not?
    All very involved and troublesome.
    Then what of the children or relatives of these fruitful unions? Could they not expect preferential treatment at the local school or in local business or whatnot?
    What role might a Priest play (active or inactive) in the legitimate business interests of his in laws? I know the obvious answer is 'no role whatsoever' but life is more complex. If a Priest's in law were an architect or builder and the Church needed some building work doing.....

    All very confusing and complex.

    These sort of questions cause confusion and drain energy.

    Still, we simply cannot dismiss St Paul. I am not sure if the 'excellent' is the enemy of the 'good' in respect of this question.

    Curiously; I read years ago that 20% of Roman Catholic Priests ARE married. The simply marry before they are ordained. Must say I've not come across this in 35 years Church going but if I recall it is more a '2nd/3rd world' situation.
    I wouldn't know but it might overcome the issues that arise with young families.

    John Richardson

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