Since publishing my original article on this topic, I have received a lot of feedback on it, both positive and negative. The article was cross-posted at The American Catholic, Il Sussidiario, and Catholic Online. A local version of the article ran in my hometown newspaper as well. Too be sure my article has provoked an important dialog. Due to the critical judgment that I have received from Catholic friends whom I admire I would like to clarify some of my thoughts. The overall position I took in supporting the building of the Ground Zero Mosque remains the same though.
First, I recognize the building of the Ground Zero Mosque is a prudential matter in which good Catholics, Christians, and Americans can agree to disagree upon. It is prudential matter and both sides have legitimate reasons to either support or oppose its construction at the current location.
It’s important that I address my use of the word “support.” My intention in using this word has caused unnecessary confusion on exactly what I meant by it. By support I do not mean Catholics should monetarily support the construction or operation of it. Construction workers who are Catholic can legitimately refuse to work on this project. It would be more precise to say that I would “allow” or “permit” it to be built. Catholic do not have to actively support it in any other way.
It is both legitimate and reasonable for those who are against its construction to base their objection on concerns that it offends the families of the victims of 9-11. The problem though that I see in regards to current events is that some of the biggest vocal opponents of the Ground Zero Mosque are well-known neoconservatives, like Newt Gingrich and Rudolph Giuliani besides other talking heads on Fox News. Both are known for their promotion of the concept of the “Long War” against Islam. In particular they are some of the strongest drummers in beginning a war against Iran. It’s no wonder that Muslims are ignoring the request to move the Mosque to another location. As one commenter on my article said, both sides are no longer communicating to each other. There is no dialog. There is no friendship. This topic has been reduced to one of polemics and ideological arguments on both sides.
The imam’s threat of violence if the Mosque is not allowed to be built there deeply concerns me as well. This is exactly the issue that Pope Benedict XVI was addressing in his Regensburg lecture in regards to Muslims. He made the critical point that Muslims must come to terms with their acceptance of and use of violence, especially the direct and intentional killing of innocent humans, in promotion of the Muslim faith. This is something that Muslims must internally deal with and resolve themselves. The problem for Muslims lie in the fact though that violence in the promotion of their faith has its origin and roots in the very life of Muhammad, which makes it a wicked problem for them.
Most of the opponents who are the reasonable and logical ones against the building of the Mosque say it’s not about the legality of doing so. All parties recognize it is legal and permissible to build there. Therein is another problem with this topic. The state of New York and the city itself said that they wanted NYC, especially lower Manhattan, to continue life as normal after 9-11. That means all things commercial, residential, etc. NYC must remain NYC! When you can have porn stores or strip clubs there for example to my understanding, by what grounds can you then discriminate against Muslims who have done everything legally and administratively correct to build there? There is no grounds except arguments of prudence that it is offensive to the victims to do so there. That’s the reality of the situation. As Catholics we must face reality and deal with facts. Sometimes facts are not always the way we wish them to be.
At the end of the day we as Americans must give the Muslims the right to build their mosque there. We must give them the freedom of speech and religion to do so even if we strongly and passionately disagree with them. Many good men (and women) have died protecting those rights, let us not forget.
I hope my above remarks help more to clarify than confuse my own position. I’ll allow you to be the judge and look forward to your comments.