Via The Maverick Philospher, I found this fine essay by Fr. James Schall. Five years after September 2001, Hillaire Belloc’s 1930’s reflections about Islam are eerie indeed. Belloc’s strange prescience on the matter forms Schall’s subject:
Considering that, in many ways, Islam has been the oldest and most persistent enemy of Christianity, the one from which there is rarely a return if we look back at the lands once conquered by Muslim armies or traders in whatever century, it is surprising how little the official Church has said about Islam. St. Thomas’ Summa Contra Gentiles still seems like the major Christian effort to define what Islam is. Though Islam is a huge historical fact, the fastest growing religion in the world today, including at least a fifth of the world population, with new mosques regularly appearing wherever they are permitted, we have, for example, no encyclical or letter on “What Is Islam?” We have nothing that parallels Mit Brennender Sorge or Divini Redemptoris, no Syllabus of Errors, or Canons of the Council of Trent. It is almost as if the Church has never considered the truth claims of Islam important. From a theological point of view, we trace multiple Christian heresies in our documents, but not Islam, which was, in a way, itself a Christian heresy. On the surface, this lack seems curious almost as if Islam was not important enough to take seriously or that there was a certain danger in doing so.
We do have, to be sure, recent exhortations about what we have in common with Islam and other religions. Our contemporary mode of approach is liberal and irenic, dialogue, when and if that is possible, never any confrontation, even when provoked. We are loathe to mention any problem, including the vast numbers of Christians killed in Islamic countries in the past century, except when it is posed in the most general terms that often make the problems sound to be caused by western ideology, not Muslim belief or practice. We impose western philosophical or ideological methods of analyses on Islamic lands and expect this formula to explain their inner ethos. We use scientific method that blind ourselves to what is going on. In short, we do not really dialogue with Muslims but with ourselves. It frightens us to hear ourselves called “infidels” by Muslims because of what we believe about God and Christ. It is not merely a case of exaggerated rhetoric but the definition of what seems to threaten Islam, namely, another understanding of God, particularly the Trinitarian God and the Incarnation. Much of the appeal of Islam seems to depend directly on the denial of this complex understanding of the Deity which we are bound to hold and propagate.