Question: I am curious if the Catholic Church has any official positions on Islam, and on Mohammed and the Quran in particular.
— Paul A Foster, Clinton, Md.
Answer: The most important official statement by the Catholic Church on Islam came from the Second Vatican Council in its Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate). While the relations between Christianity in general and the non-Christian religions of the world had traditionally been one of outright hostility, the declaration represented a sea change in the manner in which the Church regarded religions outside Christianity.
Nostra Aetate stated: “The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these [non-Christian] religions. She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men” (No. 2). It also stated: “The Church, therefore, urges her sons to enter with prudence and charity into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions. Let Christians, while witnessing to their own faith and way of life, acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truth found among non-Christians, also their social life and culture.”
Specifically on the matter of relations with Islam, Nostra Aetate states: “The Church has also a high regard for the Muslims. They worship God, who is one, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has also spoken to men. They strive to submit themselves without reserve to the hidden decrees of God, just as Abraham submitted to God’s plan, to whose faith Muslims eagerly link their own. Although not acknowledging him as God, they worship Jesus as a prophet, his virgin mother they also honor, and even at times devoutly invoke. Further, they await the day of judgment and the reward of God following the resurrection of the dead. For this reason they highly esteem an upright life by way of prayer, alms-deeds and fasting” (No. 3).
While numerous initiatives — official and unofficial — have been undertaken in the matter of Catholic-Muslim relations, I am not aware that any substantive conclusions have been attempted in the specific matters you mention: Mohammed and the Quran.
Question: Our diocese has a couple of priests who regularly use the homily time to walk down among the people and single out members of the congregation and ask them to share how their family members are doing, and that sort of thing. Some use the homily as an “ask the priest” question-and-answer time. Are there official guidelines as to what a priest is supposed to do during the homily?
— Name and city withheld, Tennessee
Answer: The 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal states that the homily “should be an exposition of some aspects of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary [the unchanging parts] or from the Proper [the changing parts] of the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners” (No. 65).
Msgr. M. Francis Mannion is a priest and theologian of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Send your questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.