Thursday, September 30, 2010

Open Letter to the Pope on Muslim Evangelism

Available here in PDF format. Published in the October 2010 issue of St Francis Magazine.

Here is an excerpt:

The third reform I recommend is this: each bishop must discern
how new disciples coming from Islam should be baptized.
Here there is no panacea. Each diocese is different and the question
of baptism must be handled in a wise but apostolic manner. In
the Middle East (where I have lived for several years) the general
practice among Catholics is to refer Muslims who inquire about
baptism to evangelicals, or simply tell them (as above) that they
must find their salvation in Islam through greater self effort. Of
course Muslims requesting baptism are adults, and thus are (ideally)
baptized by the local bishop. Catholic bishops in the Muslim
world have shown a very strong tendency towards favoring the
security of their material goods (schools, clinics, churches) over
the sporadic and risky requests posed to them by the Muslim
seeking to know Christ, or for that matter the ex-Muslim who
does know Christ and is seeking the sacrament of initiation into
the church which the bishop oversees. The complications are,
well, complicated. But we are called to be shrewd and wise by our
Master. If the bishop needs to be able to deny that he has baptized
a new Christian, then let him specify an old, retired priest or
monk to do this. Or a very old and devout lay person perhaps. Or
a visiting cleric whose expulsion from the country will not be
harmful. Or something. But let there be a policy of some sort. In
the West, the policy most worthy of emulation is your own: unapologetic,
public, and bold.

Thanks to Don for linking to this at his blog.