Cardinal Raymond Burke is evidently keeping busy by promoting a new book, and to that end he has been serving his interviewers the reddest meat it has to offer: attacks on Islam that aim to set the church back to before Vatican II.

Actually, very far back, since the cardinal is glorifying the Crusades. In one recent interview, he was quoted as saying that “nothing has changed in the Islamic agenda from prior times in which our ancestors in the faith have had to fight to save Christianity. And why? Because they saw that Islam was attacking sacred truths, including the sacred places of our redemption.”

Religion was certainly an element of the Crusades, but historians have found the motives for the warfare, which spanned centuries, to be complex.

Burke approaches Islam with a simplistic, Trump-like bravado: He has personally studied it!


So he supposedly knows better than the assembled bishops of the Second Vatican Council: “To say that we worship the same God as stated in Nostra Aetate, which is not a dogmatic document, I think is highly questionable … How can the God that we know, a God fundamentally of love, St. John says `God is love,’ be the same God that commands and demands of Muslims to slaughter infidels and to establish their rule by violence.”

Burke has reduced Islam and the “Islamic agenda” to its most extreme elements – the terrorists who follow a virulent and relatively modern variant of an ancient faith.

At Crux, we see the claim that “Muslims need to hear” Cardinal Burke’s views so that they understand not all Christians approach Islam with the openness that Pope Francis does.

Somehow I think they already know. 

The Crux column credits Burke with a “willingness to say things that others think,” casting his outspokenness as a virtue. But another way to look at it is that Burke is saying things that others with limited understanding of Islam may suspect but are wise enough to hold back.

For Burke is playing into the hands of the most radical and vile elements claiming to fight under an Islamic banner – those who contend the West is pursuing a new Crusade, supposed justification for holy war and a host of atrocities. President George Bush's errant reference to a "crusade" at the start of the Iraq war quickly made its way into Islamist propaganda (I once heard a Catholic bishop in Egypt roar in anger over that remark). To have a prince of the church say such things: it's news, yes, but news with the potential to make life even worse for the Christians of the Middle East. 


Paul Moses is the author, most recently, of The Italian Squad: The True Story of the Immigrant Cops Who Fought the Rise of the Mafia (NYU Press, 2023). He is a contributing writer. Twitter: @PaulBMoses.

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