Rorate Caeli

We are back to the regular version of Islam: no need for warning labels
And, please, leave the old Catholic Encyclopedia alone

A perfectly European-looking gentleman: Abdülmecid II,
 last Turkish Caliph - Paris, circa 1935

In the recent past, when we have linked to the Old (1907-1913/4) Catholic Encyclopedia, a very important work of reference for Catholics in the public domain, we have only been linking to and recommending the Catholic Answers version, available here as "The Original Catholic Encyclopedia".


There are two main reasons: the first one is that each article includes an image of the scanned page of the original print version so that the reader may be able to verify by himself the accuracy of the transcript.

There is, however, an even more important reason. Allow us to use as an example the essential article on Islam (or rather, on Mohammed and Mohammedanism), written by the great Mesopotamian-born American scholar and Chaldean Catholic priest, Fr. Gabriel Oussani, born in Baghdad and raised in... Mosul, both capitals of the respective Turkish Vilayets of Baghdad and Mosul, which, together with the Vilayet of Basra, would become the new Kingdom of Iraq after the Great War.

This is the famous conclusion to his article:

In matters political Islam is a system of despotism at home and of aggression abroad. The Prophet commanded absolute submission to the imam. In no case was the sword to be raised against him. The rights of non-Moslem subjects are of the vaguest and most limited kind, and a religious war is a sacred duty whenever there is a chance of success against the "Infidel". Medieval and modern Mohammedan, especially Turkish, persecutions of both Jews and Christians are perhaps the best illustration of this fanatical religious and political spirit.

Clear, right? Incontestable, right?

Now, if you search for this article in the more famous online version of the Catholic Encyclopedia, this is what you get before you even start reading Fr. Oussani's words, that were based on a lifetime of personal experience of Islam as a Mesopotamian Christian: "To complement this article, which was taken from the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent recommends a prayerful reading of 'Nostra Aetate' from the Second Vatican Council." This is unfortunately not the only case in which such warning notes are present.

Sorry, the Catholic Encyclopedia is a reference work that should be presented as close as possible to its original content. It is offensive and condescending to present that as a kind of  "warning label", meaning, "now this is what the following unenlightened pre-Conciliar author thought about Islam, but first read the Conciliar text 'prayerfully' "-- supposedly, we gather, because Fr. Oussani did not understand what Mohammed and his religion were all about, unlike the Conciliar Fathers, and did he write this article 'prayerfully' anyway?... Owners can place notes wherever they want on their websites, but they must avoid interfering with the content of their works of reference, in particular the Catholic Encyclopedia, otherwise they render the reference work untrustworthy. For this reason, we insist in our recommendation of the "Original Catholic Encyclopedia" version of the work. It is a historical work, and should be presented and preserved as such. Fr. Oussani's article is a perfect example of the error of anachronistic editorial notes: Oussani knew Islam intimately, from his very first moment on this earth, in such a way that some Conciliar Fathers couldn't possibly express at a time (1960s) that we can now see was a very brief period of apparent Islamic calm and secularized Kemalist, Nasserist, Baathist, and Pahlevi regimes, even if some individual bishops certainly did know it well. This is what Nostra Aetate had to say: "The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth ... .Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom."

Really? What did that add to your knowledge of Islam and, editorially, to Fr. Oussani's article?

Besides the utter strangeness of members of one religion defining in one of their official documents what members of another religion supposedly believe and how they should act, the only effect is cognitive dissonance: how can such a nice and peaceful confession cause so much suffering throughout the world? Because any person (not just any Catholic or any Christian, but any breathing person with minimal sensitive skills) can sense that the game is up, that something is moving deep inside as well as on the surface of the Muslim world, the dormant conquering will inseparable from the reality of the Muslim faith is agitating globally. British author David Selbourne (no Catholic he), wrote some sobering words for Fabian Socialist British weekly New Statesman in May (we do not agree with all points of the article, but we highly recommend its reading):

The complexities (and double-games) of the Islamic world are a labyrinth for the “infidel”. It is a labyrinth that western reason, such as it now is, has never mastered, and that it cannot master now with hellfire missiles and unmanned drones.

Wearied or sickened by all this? Yes. But it is the fate of the impotent western powers that is being determined by it. For the “jihad” is advancing in Syria to the eastern Mediterranean seaboard, while the muez­zin’s call to an increasingly ardent faith grows more insistent throughout the Islamic world.

After the publication in the US in 2005 of my book The Losing Battle With Islam, [then Massachusetts Senator and current American Secretary of State John] Kerry rang me to discuss the arguments in it. When he became secretary of state I told him (with some presumption) that the non-Muslim world is too unaware of what is afoot, hobbled by its wishful thinking and lack of knowledge, and whistling in the dark. In a position paper I wrote for him, I set out a list of the failures that the west, and especially the US, has on its hands. Among them are the failure to recognise the ambition of radical Islam; the failure to condemn the silence of most Muslims at the crimes committed in their names; the failure to respond adequately to the persecution of Christians in many Muslim lands; the failure to grasp the nature of the non-military skills that are being deployed against the non-Muslim world – skills of manoeuvre, skills in deceiving the gullible, skills in making temporary truces in order to gain time (as in Iran); and, perhaps above all, the failure to realise the scale and speed of Islam’s advance.
“If things continue like this,” I told friend Kerry, “the history of our age may one day be written under a caliphate’s supervision.” I added brashly: “Get your aides to read the Quran. Keep political correctors at bay ...”. ... [T]oday’s Islam is the most redoubtable adversary to the American imperium it has ever faced, the challenge of the Comintern included.
To the aid of Islam has also come the betrayal by much of today’s left of its notionally humane principles, as Christians are assaulted and murdered (shades of what was done to the Jews in the 1930s) and their churches desecrated and destroyed from Egypt to the Central African Republic, from Iran to Indonesia, and from Pakistan to Nigeria.
Islam can kill its own apostates, too; in many Muslim countries denies reciprocity to other faiths in rights of worship; and seeks to prevent reasoned discussion about its beliefs by attempted resort to blasphemy laws. ...

To add to such falsehoods come the illusionists of every stripe, with their unknowing, simplistic or false descriptions of Islam as a “religion of peace”. Even today’s Pope – as the Christian faithful were being harried, persecuted or put to the sword in Nigeria, Syria, Iraq and beyond – told the world in November 2013 that “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Quran are opposed to every form of violence”. But read the text yourself, and you will see that jihadists can find plenty justification for the acts they commit, even if most Muslims are pacific.
The present renaissance of Islam, additionally provoked, as ever, by western aggressions against its lands, is an old story of swift movement and conquest, as in the 7th century. Is something like it stirring again? Perhaps; you decide. In 50 years’ time the world will know for sure.

Sure, some Conciliar Fathers could have that gullible attitude in the early 1960s, an age in which the president of Egypt (Gamal Abdel Nasser) could say the things in the video below, and a Muslim-majority audience could find hilariously absurd the thought of women wearing once again hijabs in the streets of the country, and in which not even a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood could make his medical student daughter wear a tarha (a scarf) -- take a look, it truly is an eye-opening video:

What presentation of Islam as we know it seems more realistic today: Oussani's or Nostra Aetate's? The Catholic bishops sending Ramadan greetings that must cause scorn among Muslims, or the cold analyis by Selbourne, in perfect agreement with the 100-year-old analysis of Fr. Oussani? Guess what: Fr. Oussani was right because he had history and an understanding of the true essence of Islam on his side -- the 1930-1970 apparent low-point of Islamist unrest, which was the general mood at the time of the Council, was just the calm before the storm. Some influential and over-optimistic Conciliar Fathers, in this as in many other points (the upcoming "sexual revolution" and family values collapse, for instance), did not really sense the true signs of the times. Fr. Oussani was right, as the 1915 Turkish Genocide of Assyrian, Armenian and Hellenic Christians in Anatolia would soon show -- and as the elimination of Christians from his own city of Mosul this past week shows once again.

Whoever wants editorial commentary can find plenty of it on the web and has no need of condescending notes, as if the wisdom of our forefathers of the faith needed warning labels.