Abp. Hebda Throws Priest Under the Bus Over Muslim Remarks

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by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  January 30, 2020   

Cleric warned Islam is the top threat to Christianity and to America

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MINNEAPOLIS (ChurchMilitant.com) - A priest of the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is being forced by his archbishop to apologize for preaching on the dangers of Islam.

At the behest of Abp. Bernard Hebda, Fr. Nick VanDenBroeke apologized Wednesday for his Jan. 5 homily in which he said, among other things, "Islam is the greatest threat in the world both to Christianity and to America."

He went on record saying immigration of Muslims should be curtailed owing to the dangers inherent in their Islamic religion.

Hebda met with VanDenBroeke owing to pressure from the Islamic community over the priest's homily. VanDenBroeke then issued his apology the same day.

"My homily on immigration contained words that were hurtful to Muslims," wrote VanDenBroeke. "I'm sorry for this. I realize now that my comments were not fully reflective of the Catholic Church's teaching on Islam."

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VanDenBroeke, pastor at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Lonsdale, Minnesota made the remarks while — on what's called Immigration Sunday — preaching to his parish on a wide array of topics related to immigration. During his recorded homily, he weighed a country's right to protect itself from dangerous ideologies with its duty to help poor immigrants.

"Both as Americans and as Christians, we do not need to pretend that everyone who seeks to enter America should be treated the same," the priest noted. "I believe it is essential to consider the religion and worldview of the immigrants or refugees."

He then went on record saying immigration of Muslims should be greatly curtailed owing to the dangers inherent in their Islamic religion.

"More specifically," preached VanDenBroeke, "we should not be allowing large numbers of Muslims asylum or immigration into our country. Islam is the greatest threat in the world both to Christianity and to America."

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Fr. Nick VanDenBroeke

He next drew the distinction between those Muslims who are peaceful and the Islamic ideology that goes against Christianity and America's Western culture.

"Of course, there are peaceful Muslims, absolutely," affirmed the priest. "But the religion as a religion and as an ideology and worldview is contrary to Christ and to America."

He further affirmed that he doesn't "hate Muslims" as they are a "people created out of love by God." He went to warn, however, that their religion and worldview must be opposed in order to keep America free for Christianity.

"But while we certainly do not hate them as people, we must oppose their religion and worldview," warned VanDenBroeke. "And if we want to protect our great country, not only as a Christian nation, but also as the land of the free, then we must oppose the immigration of Muslims."

He finished that segment of his homily by saying he wasn't saying anything "anti-Christian," noting that Islam by its very nature is "anti-Christian."

"I'm not saying something anti-Christian because their religion is anti-Christian. I'm simply a realist to acknowledge that fact. They are the greatest threat to Christianity and to America and we need to recognize that and our laws of immigration need to reflect that," concluded VanDenBroeke.

After media broke the news of his homily on Wednesday, backlash from the Islamic community was swift. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Minnesota) issued a statement condemning VanDenBroeke's remarks and urging Minnesota bishops to condemn the priest's comments.

Cdl. Raymond Burke, former head of the Vatican's highest court, also warned of the dangers of Islam.

"We urge leaders of the Catholic Church in Minnesota to repudiate these hate-filled and un-Christian remarks as unrepresentative of the faith they hold dear," decried Jay­lani Hussein, executive director of CAIR-Minnesota.

Hebda met with the priest the same day, who subsequently issued a brief apology for his remarks on Islam.

Hebda also issued a statement on Wednesday ignoring the dangers of Islam and citing from Pope Benedict XVI's apostolic exhortation Ecclesia In Medio Oriente, calling Christians to hold Muslims in esteem. 

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Pope Benedict XVI

"As Pope Benedict XVI noted," relates Hebda, "'The Catholic Church, in fidelity to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, looks with esteem to Muslims, who worship God above all by prayer, almsgiving and fasting, revere Jesus as a prophet while not acknowledging his divinity, and honor Mary, his Virgin Mother.'"

In a 2016 interview with Italian media, Cdl. Raymond Burke, former head of the Vatican's highest court called the Apostolic Signatura, also warned of the dangers of Islam.

"It is clear that Muslims have as an ultimate goal conquest and power over the world. Islam, through the sharia, their law, will rule the world and allow violence against the infidels, like the Christians," explained Burke.

This echoed similar statements Burke made concerning Islam in July 2016.

Speaking of "little Muslim states" that are currently "no-go zones" (deemed too dangerous) for authorities in France, Burke warned, "These things aren't anomalies for Islam. This is the way things are to go. ... If you do understand that and you are not at peace with the idea of being forcibly under an Islamic government, then you have reason to be afraid."

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