Without Christian witness and culture, the West cannot resist Islam

Decades ago, Hilaire Belloc prognosticated that Europe would become easy prey to Islamicization because “it has forgotten its nature in forgetting its religion.”

A man walks past a flower next to new security barriers on Westminster Bridge in London June 6. (CNS photo/Clodagh Kilcoyne, Reuters)

Back in 1991, while visiting a Roman museum, I got into a conversation with an employee, who expressed dismay that Pope John Paul II had called for support for the massive migration into Italy of disaffected Albanians.  The woman exclaimed: “Pretty soon Italy will be a Muslim country.”  Having noticed a wedding ring, I asked if she had any children, to which she replied: “We have a French poodle!”  “Ah, Madam,” said I, “there’s your problem: Muslims have ten children, while Italians have French poodles.”  I proceeded to predict that there would be no future version of the Battle of Lepanto or Battle of Vienna; the real war for Europe will be demographic – and the hand-writing has been on the wall for decades.  God is always ready to forgive; Mother Nature never forgives.

In 2010, The Catholic Response sponsored a pilgrimage to England for the beatification of Cardinal Newman.  We arrived in Birmingham the night before the event.  As I assisted the concierge with room assignments for our group, I remarked that I was stunned at how visible was the Muslim presence in the city, at the time already more than 40% of the population.  The young man (a Prince William look-alike, with the bulk of the genetic code going to the face and not much penetrating to the intellect) responded: “Well, I suppose we shall just have to be tolerant!”  I pressed on: “I don’t know how much history you have read, but ‘tolerance’ does not appear often in the Islamic lexicon.  In point of fact, from the seventh century forward, there is a consistent trail of death and destruction.” “Heavy talk for check-in, wouldn’t you say?” came the reply. Ignorance of history and denial of reality.

Just a few months ago, a Catholic school teacher in the Diocese of Orlando was accused of “hate speech” because he assigned his students a reading from St. John Bosco on the nature of Islam.  A very ill-informed, politically correct but theologically ignorant low-level diocesan bureaucrat called for his removal.  She went so far as to suggest that the teacher was actually promoting heresy by sharing the insights of Don Bosco who, quite obviously, had not taken the same course in inter-religious dialogue as she!  Fortunately, due to a nationwide public outcry and the direct intervention of the Bishop, the teacher has had his contract renewed.

What do these three scenarios have in common?  A lack of understanding of the theology and history of Islam and an equal lack of appreciation for the truth and power of the Catholic Faith, when properly lived.  Let’s try to unravel some of this.

Seventy-nine years ago, the indomitable Hilaire Belloc wrote The Great Heresies.  Within that category, to the amazement of many a reader, he named Islam.  Most commentators tend to regard Islam as a new religion appearing in the seventh century.  Belloc thought otherwise.  He maintained – and demonstrated very convincingly – that Islam is a heretical spin-off of Christianity.  In actuality, the principal doctrines of Islam are appropriations of Old Testament teachings assumed into Christianity: the unicity of God, His transcendence, human immortality, divine justice and mercy.  It denies, with a passion, all the “distinctives” of Christianity because, it seems, the Christians Mohammed encountered were Nestorians – themselves Christian heretics. Islamic theology is very simple: easy to understand and easy to practice.  That said, having traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and North Africa, I must say that the level of theological ignorance of the average Muslim is even greater than that of the average Catholic!

How did Islam expand so rapidly, especially in Christian strongholds like North Africa?  Belloc puts it succinctly: “It won battles.”  Further, he prognosticated that Europe would become easy prey to Islamicization because “it has forgotten its nature in forgetting its religion.” As the European Union was being finalized, Pope John Paul II pleaded with the leaders to acknowledge – even in a sentence or two – the Christian roots of Europe.  He was roundly ignored.  Belloc saw in this attitude (already in place in his time) a European death wish which would result in “the return of Islam.”  Belloc wasn’t Madame Zelda on the boardwalk gazing into tea leaves or  crystal ball; he was merely an astute student of history and human nature.  I don’t think he would take delight in saying to his European descendants, “I told you so!”

How else does Islam gain adherents, even suicide bombers?  By highlighting the immorality of the secularized (pagan) West.  Abortion, artificial contraception, same-sex “marriage”, pornography and gender theory are all abhorrent to “People of the Book” – or should be.  Yet are those not the sacred cows of all liberal western democracies – constituting “the Great Satan”?  As horrifying and despicable as the various ISIS-inspired attacks are, can we admit that much of what presents itself as “modern” culture is repugnant to the God of Revelation?  Long before Charlie Hebdo in Paris made the fatal mistake of caricaturing Mohammed, it had been spewing blasphemies against Christ and His Church.  Just before the massacre in the Paris concert hall, a Satanic song had been sung.  Ariana Grande informed the tween girls at her concert about her sexploits with her latest boyfriend.

What I am saying is just this: If the Christian witness were strong, coherent and consistent, Islam would not gain a foothold.

There is still another matter to address, namely, whether or not violence is promoted or countenanced in the Koran.  To be sure, Pope John Paul and President George W. Bush – let alone Pope Francis – constantly asserted that Islam is a “religion of peace.”  Do the Koran and the historical record support that assertion?  There are Koranic citations aplenty to encourage violence against “infidels,” and there are texts to counsel living at peace with Jews and Christians.  In other words, there are contradictory teachings on a very critical topic.  Now, a fair observer would note that there are also apparent contradictions in the Bible.  Catholicism has a magisterium to deal with such situations; Islam does not.  Even more importantly, the Judaeo-Christian Tradition holds up a God of Reason, indeed a God bound to Reason.  The God of Islam is totally sovereign, which means that He can declare something good today and evil tomorrow.  Not to understand that theological fact of life is to misunderstand in the most profound manner why Christian-Muslim dialogue is so fraught with difficulties.

Nothing short of a “reformation” of Islam can confront the problem of violence “in the name of God.”  Islamic scholar, Wael Farouq, has made this very appeal.  Someone may point to the recent (and welcome) condemnation of the jihadi attacks in the United Kingdom by nearly 200 imams, calling for the denial of religious burial rites for the jihadists.  That is all well and good, however, 200 other imams can contradict them.

Where does all this leave us?

Eastern European countries like Hungary and Poland, castigated by the EU for supposed insensitivity to immigrants, has shown the way firstly by strengthening their Christian identity; interestingly, one does not find jihadist assaults there.  Poland’s bishops – and national leaders! – even rededicated their nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

First, Catholics cannot afford to be deluded about the nature of a religion that almost equals Catholicism in number of worldwide adherents.  While the Second Vatican Council’s Nostra Aetate identifies points of commonality between Islam and Christianity (as it does likewise for Judaism and other religions), that irenic presentation does not pretend to be the full story.  Indeed, contrary to the theologically naive diocesan employee in Florida, there has never been any “official” teaching of the Church on Islam (or on any other religion, for that matter).  Pick up Belloc’s book for a solid analysis of Islam, so that you can make an intelligent, informed contribution to much-needed interreligious conversations; such conversations cannot be conducted in any worthwhile way when we deal with fantasy, instead of reality.  Another fine work is 111 Questions on Islam: Samir Khalil Samir S.J. on Islam and the West.

Second, and most importantly, we must do everything possible to return the secularized West to its Christian roots.  That will happen one believer at a time.  Our commitment to a biblical way of life will be the best response to Islamic extremism.  After all, didn’t Our Lord tell us: “When a strong man, fully arms, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace” (Lk 11:21)?

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About Peter M.J. Stravinskas 261 Articles
Reverend Peter M.J. Stravinskas founded The Catholic Answer in 1987 and The Catholic Response in 2004, as well as the Priestly Society of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, a clerical association of the faithful, committed to Catholic education, liturgical renewal and the new evangelization. Father Stravinskas is also the President of the Catholic Education Foundation, an organization, which serves as a resource for heightening the Catholic identity of Catholic schools.


  1. It is both false and foolish to pretend – as did President Bush, and as does Angela Merkel and President Macron of France – and our “current” Pontiff – that Islam is peaceful.

    That is stark insanity.

    Sadly, these various leaders are “progressive elites” living detached from reality.

  2. “How else does Islam gain adherents, even suicide bombers?  By highlighting the immorality of the secularized (pagan) West.  Abortion, artificial contraception, same-sex “marriage”, pornography and gender theory are all abhorrent to “People of the Book” – or should be.”
    Whilst I don’t disagree with a word of that, it misses a point made clear by ISIL: orthodox Muslims hate the “other” for daring to be Kaffirs (rejectors of Islam, Mohammed and Allah) and in particular they hate us for daring to be Kaffirs who are not dhimmis (third class non-citizens subjugated by an Islmaic state).
    The Koran states quite clearly that the “najjis Kaffir” (filthy non-Muslim) is “the lowest of the low”, a sub-human on par with a microbe, whereas the Muslims are “the best community ever raised up amongst mankind”.
    The Koran also tells them that all the wealth of the world ‘rightfully’ belongs to them – as plunder if nothing else.
    Thus they also hate us for our (often ostentatious) wealth in comparison to their poverty, wealth which they see as ‘rightfully’ theirs, implying that we have ‘stolen’ it from its rightful Muslim owners.

    “Long before Charlie Hebdo in Paris made the fatal mistake of caricaturing Mohammed, it had been spewing blasphemies against Christ and His Church.”
    Victim blaming.
    Or are you suggesting that Christians should have massacred Charlie Hebdo for blasphemy?
    It should not be a “fatal mistake” to caricature or blaspheme ANY religion. Yes, of course it is hurts the feelings of that religion’s supporters, but is that any excuse – much less reason – for mass murder?
    I would suggest that any religion that cannot stand to have its oh-so-tender sensibilities trodden on is very weak. I do not think that Christianity which from the outset endured centuries of lies, blasphemy, slander and libel from the Roman authorities is too delicate a flower to stand up to such nonsense.
    Of course Islam decrees otherwise in Sharia, more than one collection of which states that the death penalty for “insult” to “Allah, his prophet [ol’Mo], his book [Koran] and his religion [Islam]”.

    “There are Koranic citations aplenty to encourage violence against “infidels,” and there are texts to counsel living at peace with Jews and Christians.”
    Something of a half-truth, though to be fair the author partially addresses this point later.
    The “ texts [that] counsel living at peace with Jews and Christians” are generally Meccan ones before Mohammed came into conflict with Jews and Christians (although it is worth noting that whilst early Islam was far more anti-Christian than anti-Judaism, this swapped over when ol’Mo came into conflict with the Jews of Medina who saw through his charlatanry).
    The other point not addressed is the Islamic doctrine of Abrogation.
    Put simply, this holds that a chronologically later verse of the Koran (not the same thing as later in the sequence of Surahs in the Koran) overrides an earlier verse in the case of conflict between them.
    Again at the risk of slight simplification, this means that later (Medinan) “verses of violence” almost universally abrogate the earlier (Meccan) “verses of peace”.
    A second view of this, due to Islam’s lack of magisterium, is that the revelation is conditional.
    Thus if a Muslim community is small and weak (as are Muslim communities in much of the west) then they preach and practice “Meccan Islam”. Where they are strong as in the majority-Muslim world they preach and practice “Medinan Islam” – and we see the destruction of first Jewish and then Christian communities in such lands.
    It also follows that the Meccan “peace and tolerance” version of Islam is no more than a place-holder until the Muslim community gains the strength to revert to the Medinan form with all its violence towards and oppression of the non-Muslim.

    “Nothing short of a “reformation” of Islam can confront the problem of violence “in the name of God.”
    Again true in part. But such a reform would be rejected out of hand by all orthodox Muslims as “bid’r” – innovation in religion which, in Islam, is a deadly sin.
    In fact, Islam has had a series of “reformations” in its history – if by such we mean a drive to return to the “pure Islam of Mohammed and his followers”. That of Abdul Wahhab and others such as Qutb and Maududi all being the latest.
    The one thing uniting them is that such a reformation leads to an upsurge in intolerance and violence, both intra- and extra-communal.

    • Jon MC –

      Your aim is off here. You are accusing Fr. S of things he has not said.

      Don’t use Fr. S as a punching bag.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly that there has been no official teaching on Islam that would sanction its irrational tenets. Benedict XVI at Regensberg offered the more succinct assessment of what he and John Paul II considered a defective religion. There is hope as you note particularly in the more rational immigration policies in Eastern Europe. And the resurgence of faith there. There is also a resurgence in W Europe though smaller. Friends living in France, Germany speak of a vibrant practice in areas and a turn to prayer. Contemplative prayer. This could be the start of a renewal of the faith, which as your article states is required for the survival of the entire West in the face of a strident Islam.

    • I should hope they considered it “defective” since it is false! The cure is conversion, not refinement, but it doesn’t seem like anyone believes that anymore.

  4. “Abortion, artificial contraception, same-sex “marriage”, pornography and gender theory are all abhorrent to “People of the Book” – or should be.”

    Yet Muslims do, indeed, indulge in sodomy upon male slaves – quite a bit.

    And Muslim males are among the world’s most voracious and most frequent consumers of on-line pornography.

    • Yes you are absolutely right and even though I do not believe it was the object of the article, I do think constant references to immorality found in the west, in some way hint at justification.Many people for example, the young people at the pop concert probably believe whole heartedly in Christ. Most of us have said and done things in our youth we later regret. The single most terrible thing about Islam is its ultimate rejection of Christ. As a Catholic I feel utter disgust with my church hierarchy for failing to spot a wolf, as a woman I feel utterly betrayed by the political elites who have thrown my sex under the bus.

  5. Sages say, to those professing a spiritual culture and a humane way of proceeding, no religion can pose any threat whatsoever. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism – all these and many others are wonderful human endeavors in search of the Ultimate Truth.

    • Dr. Cajetan Coelho
      “no religion can pose any threat whatsoever.”

      Maybe so, but Islam is not a religion because it has a political agenda, which no true religion has.

      Islam is based on violent subjugation of non Muslims, until they accept its false god Allah as the only god,its false prophet Mohammed claimed he had been ordered to fight people to bring them to accept Allah as the only god,Bukhari 52.4.196.

      Islam means to dominate the world through warfare, which again no true religion wants to do, it is only Islam, the invention of a false prophet which does.

  6. Victim blaming. Or are you suggesting that Christians should have massacred Charlie Hebdo for blasphemy? No, of course he isn’t, as any reasonable, charitable reading of the article indicates. It’s a simple statement of fact. And, as Fr. Stravinskas then states: “What I am saying is just this: If the Christian witness were strong, coherent and consistent, Islam would not gain a foothold.” That might be debatable to some degree, but seeing this as a “victim blaming” is ridiculous.

  7. The demographic victory of islam in Europe will take a few decades. But the psychological victory will come much sooner. The will to resist will crumble. The Islamist know this. European men are not fighters, they are metrosexuals who just want to be left alone to indulge themselves.
    Europe is beyond the point of no return. Bet on it.

  8. Back in 1990 a Rock band called Pendragon recorded a song for their album – The World, called ‘A Man could die out here.’ Some of the lines to that song are remarkably prophetic.
    Here they are:
    …”The problem child of the world today –
    the Middle Eastern adolescent
    sulking his way into the safety of the Angel Isle.
    One day we will wake up, if we wake up at all,
    and the world hand his wife will come crashing through the door.”

  9. There are many good people in the Muslim faith. However, the religion itself is diabolical. Yes, I mean that. It is not just evil, but diabolical. Consider the following key tenets of Islam: 1. Jesus was NOT the son of God, nor was he divine. To claim otherwise is an horrific blasphemy. Jesus did not die on the cross (they used a body double) and therefore there was NO RESSURECTION. 2. Man is NOT made in the image and likeness of God. To claim otherwise is an horrific blasphemy. 3. God is NOT a Trinity. To claim otherwise is an horrific blasphemy. These are not peripheral issues in Islam. The religion is based specifically on the affirmative denial of Christian dogmas. It is diabolical. Satan uses Islam to keep hundreds of millions of people from following Christ.

  10. As for the “reformation of Islam”, I would say the following: There have been several reformations in Islam and all have involved a return to what is considered as the time when Allah blessed Islam under Muhammad and his successors when it conquered huge swathes of the Middle East, Africa and Asia. When Islam became decadent and was dominated by European powers, Muslims thought that this was due to the fact that they had eased off it the true practice of Islam and the way to overcome that and achieve the goal of Islam, which is the imposition of sharia on the whole of humanity, is to go back to the original Islam of Muhammad and his followers. Wahabism and Salafism are perfect examples of this kind of reformation in Islam. Besides that, the Koran declares itself perfect, so why would any reformation be needed? Also, the Protestant Reformation was a misguided effort at going back to what they thought were the original foundations of Christianity, especially “Sola Scriptura”. What did it bring about? Hatred, Luther himself being the best purveyor of it, wars and massacres. Very similar to what Islam does.
    As for Islam being a religion of peace, one might first ask up to what point it is a legitimate religion and not a dangerous cult. The Koran and the Sunnah of Muhammad give us no basis for such an argument. Even the peaceful verses of the Koran, which proceed mostly from Muhammads first period as a preacher in Mecca, where he was a failure, are later Aabrogated” by the militaristic ones from Medina. He was successful only thanks to terror. Popes ought not to proclaim a false narrative about Islam. At present, the Church seems to be an apologist of Islam, which in its turn wants to destroy her. In my estimation, if it hadn’t been for the practice of jihad by Muhammad and his successors, Islam wouldn’t even exist.

    As for it being a Christian heresy, St-John of Damascus held this opinion and we have to realize that he was in a better position in many ways of understanding it than we are.He died in 750 A.D. and that time Islam was not fully constituted. It seems to me that it is a hodge podge of elements from Arabian paganism, Rabbinic Judaism, heretical Christianity, and Zoroastrianism. If it were a Christian heresy, somehow it would have had to begin as Christian, but it appears that it has more elements from Rabbinic Judaism than Christianity. Of course, all of this is very difficult to discover as they first two hundred years of it are lacking in historical sources. The Islam narrative is on a very shaky historical foundation.

  11. “God is our loving Father”, I confidently asserted to the mature Muslim business man I met by chance in a Paris airport. He immediately jumped up and sneeringly said over his shoulder as he walked away, “I have no father but Adam! The problem with men is they have not discovered who their master is.” He was not referring to the loving “Master” of the Gospels. His master was more akin to the “Cracker” of slavery. The Fatherhood of God is certainly the central reality of the Christian Faith and it is what ultimately makes it impossible for Muslims to find a true way to live together with those who still breath the air of Western Civilization. A God that transcends good and evil is no god at all. We are living out an irreconcilable clash of civilizations. In my view, Islam is hardly different from mythical South Sea Islanders who worship a volcano and throw their children into it to maintain a fictional peace. We might observe the same thing, of course, about “secular” Westerners who dispose of their children in abortion mills.

  12. I want to thank Fr. Stravinskas for his excellent article and say that I agree with everything that he says. However, I think that there is a missing link in the picture of an Islam that meerly seeks to fill the void created by a decline in European culture that has abandoned its Christian roots. To not even mention the virulent hatred of Christians by some Islamists, especially those Christians in the Middle East, though not in the West, who have recently suffered a veritable genocide, is an offense of omission. It not only overlooks the bold Christian witness of the church in the Middle East, who are a living part of the universal church and therefore, the West, but it also lends a rationality and credence to the Islam that appears to be purging Europe of its amorality. I believe that there is far more to this complex picture than Europe having been “bad boys.”

    How one takes a van and runs down innocent people, including children, has something to do with having lost one’s humanity prior to that act. Whether you are a radical Islamist or a Right Wing Fascist is only part of the picture. Until we recognize the elephant in the room, we will never be able to capture the essence of this crises of depersonalization, the disconnect between one’s humanity and the other. I believe it has a lot to do with porn addiction, a toxic substance which destroys one’s ability to relate in the most fundamental way to other persons. Mix that with ideology, especially one that promises purification by violent sacrifice, and you have a chain of explosions that will be hard to put out. And here, we arrive back at Fr. Stravinskas’ point, only faith in Christ can heal us and build an authentic culture that turn back the tide of destruction. Lord help us.

  13. The crusades against Islam were fought because the Christians / Catholics knew Islam was an enemy that had to be fought. If they did not fight Islam would over run all of the known world.
    When a king leads crusaders for years it was understood they had enemy that no quarter could be given.
    Sept. 11 was not a date chosen at random. Vienna, 11 Sept 1683 was the defeat of Islam storming the city.
    When a ideology does not hesitate to murder their own, there is nothing peaceful about. When children, the weakest, of a society are pawn in war it has nothing constructive to offer anyone.

  14. I don’t get why we’re all told we have to play footsie with Muhammad followers and put our head in the sand. Let them come into our country and towns and expect them to tolerant in return? It ain’t happening…
    why don’t more bishops and papa Francisco call a spade a spade? Live in reality- Islam is not good for anybody. It’s violent and is extremely opposed to Christ.

    Pray the rosary! Our lady of victory!

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