Saturday, January 15, 2011

How to Engage in Muslim-Bashing -- An Example From a Bishop

I've heard some wonderful Christmas homilies over the years.  Homilies that drew me again, in a fresh way, to the mystery and the beauty of the incarnation.  Homilies that have shown me how to look for Christ, how to find Christ, in all sorts of people and situations where I might otherwise (left to my own devices) miss God's presence.  Homilies that made me want to work harder at carrying Christ's love within me, as Mary carried her child, God-as-babe, in her womb.

Unfortunately, however, it appears that a homily at midnight mass can also be used to bash those of God's children who happen to be Muslim.

Here's a link to the homily that Bishop Thomas John Paprocki--who was installed as shepherd of the Springfield Diocese in Illinois (my diocese) last summer--delivered on December 24, 2010, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield.

The bishop opened his homily by mentioning the execution of a Muslim general three centuries ago, an execution that occurred on Christmas day, and then the bishop proclaimed, "Merry Christmas!"  Here's an excerpt from a later section of the homily:
It doesn't help when our country plays politically correct games such as the security operations at our nation's airports.  You can't fight a war if you can't identify the enemy, and if 83-year-old great-grandmothers have to be treated the same way as Muslim Arabs from the Middle East with body scans and "enhanced pat-downs," then we're wasting a lot of time and money for nothing.  True, not every Muslim is a terrorist, but most terrorists these days are Muslims, and we ignore that fact at our peril.  

Yes, I know, the TSA's newest routine in airports is problematic at best.  And yes, Bishop Paprocki has stated in his homily that "not every Muslim is a terrorist."  Nonetheless, the bishop's primary  goal in this homily seems to be to instill in his listeners a fear of Muslims, a resentment of Muslims, a view of Muslims as an unpalatable "other."  As if there is not already enough of that in the air.  I'm reminded of my aged relative who used to tell me, frequently, "Now, I'm not saying that all black people are bad . . ." immediately before he charged full-speed ahead with his prejudice.

As much as I would hope for a higher standard from a bishop, I guess I'm hoping for too much.  Oh well, I know I'm a sinner, in need of God's mercy and love; I should not be too surprised to see this evidence of the bishop's sinfulness, too.

Spread the love that Christ came to earth to share, Bishop.  Please do not play to the worst prejudices out there.  Don't turn Lincoln's admonition to listen to "the better angels of our nature" on its ear by giving the Catholic faithful permission to view Muslims as a monolithic, less-than-human group.


Thom, sfo said...


JunaidAfeef said...

Thanks a lot for sharing your insights on Bishop Paprocki's 2010 Christmas homily. No, really, I mean it - thanks.

Bishop Paprocki's homily really disturbed me. It was so brazenly hostile. Still, I knew that many Catholics would find his words and message distasteful or even repugnant. It wasn't wishful thinking that made me think that Bishop Paprocki's views were not universally shared by Catholics, but rather, it was based on having friendships with Catholics that span 25 to 30 years.

I'm a Muslim. I'm also an American. I wrote some of my reactions and thoughts to Bishop Paprocki's on one of my blogs. The blog is called "An American Muslim Journal" and it can be found at I invite you to visit it and read my reflections on Bishop Paprocki's homily.

It's late now but perhaps tomorrow I'll share your blog post on my blog to highlight the good will that I know exists.

Thanks again.

Best Regards,
Junaid M. Afeef

Steve said...

Thanks, Junaid. I'm off to class in a few minutes but look forward to reading your blog later in the day. I'm really glad that there's plenty of room for dialogue and mutual respect in the world -- we'd all be in sorry shape, and not living out what our faith traditions call us to, if that weren't the case! The best to you.