Human-rights complaint seeks secular praying room for Muslims at … Catholic University

posted at 9:25 am on October 28, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

I’ll start off this post by informing readers that they will not identify the most outrageous part of this story from the headline, not here at Hot Air, and not at Fox News, which headlines the story, ‘Do Crosses at Catholic University Violate “Human Rights” of Muslims?’  Before we get to the most outrageous part of the story, let’s hit the teeth-grinding allegations in the complaint (via Katie Pavlich):

The Washington, D.C. Office of Human Rights confirmed that it is investigating allegations that Catholic University violated the human rights of Muslim students by not allowing them to form a Muslim student group and by not providing them rooms without Christian symbols for their daily prayers.

The investigation alleges that Muslim students “must perform their prayers surrounded by symbols of Catholicism – e.g., a wooden crucifix, paintings of Jesus, pictures of priests and theologians which many Muslim students find inappropriate.”

Who filed this complaint?  A crank who’s making a habit of targeting Catholic University:

The complaint was filed by John Banzhaf, an attorney and professor at George Washington University Law School. Banzhaf has been involved in previous litigation against the school involving the same-sex residence halls. He also alleged in his complaint involving Muslim students that women at the university were being discriminated against. You can read more on those allegations by clicking here.

Banzhaf said some Muslim students were particularly offended because they had to meditate in the school’s chapels “and at the cathedral that looms over the entire campus – the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.”

“It shouldn’t be too difficult somewhere on the campus for the university to set aside a small room where Muslims can pray without having to stare up and be looked down upon by a cross of Jesus,” he told Fox News.

At this point it’s unclear whether any actual Muslim students at Catholic University are complaining at all.  And it would be difficult to understand why they would complain, since Catholic University is a private institution.  Its name makes their mission and environment about as clear as one could possibly imagine.  If Muslim students had problems with Catholic iconography, one might imagine they would have chosen a more secular environment for higher education — like Georgetown George Washington University, for instance.  As a private Catholic institution, CU is under no compulsion to make arrangements for any other religious services on their campus, nor to strip down the campus so that no one thinks they’re Catholic — even though they’re pretty clear about that.

Besides, what exactly is CU supposed to do — tear down the cathedral dome?  I’ve visited CU and the Basilica, and it’s a beautiful, contemplative place.  My wife and I attended Mass there on a visit a couple of years ago.  The university is hardly overwhelmed with Catholic iconography, however, and there are plenty of places off-campus in the neighborhood for students to meet for those who think it is.  According to Google Maps, there are five Islamic centers within 4 miles of the Basilica, including three less than two miles away.

However, none of this is the most outrageous part of the story.  The most outrageous part of the story is that the Office of Human Rights thinks it needs six months to probe this complaint:

A spokesperson for the Office of Human Rights told Fox News they had received a 60-page complaint against the private university. The investigation, they said, could take as long a six months.

I can solve this in sixty seconds: “Those offended by Catholic iconography should not choose a private Catholic university for their higher education.” That didn’t take six months or waste thousands of taxpayer dollars.  The very idea that this needs six months of investigation tells me that we need to eliminate the Office of Human Rights, and perhaps replace it with the Office of Minding Your Own Business and the Department of Having A Clue In The First Place.

Update: I did mean George Washington University, not Georgetown, which one commenter reminded me is also a private Catholic university (Jesuit, in fact).  My point was that these students — if any actually are complaining — could have attended Banzhaf’s university rather than CU.

Update II: Maybe I should argue that I didn’t make a mistake by referencing Georgetown instead of GWU.  I’ve received a few e-mails about Georgetown’s track record on defending its Catholic environment, put best by Mark M:

When I saw that line crossed through Georgetown on your Human rights post I just about laughed out loud.  I thought you were referring in a backhanded way to the whole crucifix controversy that broke out there sometime in the late 80s early 90s.  I do not remember exactly when it was, but Georgetown did seriously debate if  they should take down their crucifixes so they would not offend non Catholics.  I am fairly sure they did end up removing them.  Contrast this with Notre Dame which not only has a crucifix in every classroom, but in the list of emergency numbers posted by the phone in every classroom is a number to call if the crucifix has disappeared.

I had the pleasure of being a student at both institutions.  One semester at GT and then I did my graduate work at ND.  The difference between the schools in terms of Catholic identity was black and white.  The feeling at GT was almost as if they were ashamed of it.  At ND it was everywhere.  If you have been to a football game at ND, (And I believe you wrote about it at the Captains Quarters) you should have been able to pick up on it.

I’ve never been to Georgetown but I have visited Notre Dame twice, and it is a very Catholic environment.  I just wish I could claim credit for a backhanded reference, but it really was just a caffeine-deficient moment for me.

Update III: I just received this from a grad student at Georgetown:

Georgetown to this day remains a Catholic school, with a crucifix in every classroom, and Jesuit Professors and Deans scattered throughout both the undergraduate and graduate programs. I know tihs first hand as I am in the grad program for International Security Studies at the School of Foreign Service and work at the undergraduate Dean’s Office to help pay rent.

I haven’t yet seen a sign of shame about the school’s Catholic nature, although most of the ‘internal-drive for diversity’ at Gtown- the institutional promotion of diversity and the acceptance of clubs and assemblies of different religions- is mostly an advancement gesture. Guess where Gtown gets its money? Its the Saudis, Emiratis, Lebanese, et al.

So they don’t seem to have a problem with G-town’s iconography. And just to reiterate, there’s really no indication the original story that any Muslims at CU do, either.

Update IV: The Anchoress also weighs in on this story:

Banzhaf is not a stupid man. He knows full well that a Pontifical will not create spaces where Jesus is off-limits. Knowing it, he knows he will be able to paint the school as “intolerant” and “discriminatory.” This leads me to believe that he is either a deeply anti-Catholic bigot, or someone out to make a name for himself by taking on the big, bad Catholic Church via its school. …

I think someone is acting with malice, here, but I don’t think it’s CUA, or for that matter, the Muslim students, who don’t seem to be anywhere near as offended as Banzhaf suggests:

Wiaam Al Salmi, a Muslim student at CUA who recently started the Arab American Association, which had is first meeting this week, said, “The community here is very respectful of other religions and I feel free to openly practice it.” […]“Even though it’s a Catholic school, a lot of its teachings are very similar to Islam,” said Al Salmi. “It teaches respect, community service, love, worship etc. which are things that Islam also teaches.”

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The church for the first 300 years was not headquartered in Rome, did not have a Pope, had absolutely no hierarchy of one church above another, had no practice of celibacy among the priesthood, or any concept of priesthood for that matter, and had none of the quintessentially Catholic doctrines of Catholicism . . .

In short, the early church was not recognizably Catholic until around 400 AD . . . .

The sheer number of doctrines now held by the Catholic church that were clearly not held by the church circa 100-200 AD argues that Catholicism is a different branch of Christianity. I see no particular reason why Catholicism is more akin to the church Jesus founded than, say, the Indian, Ethiopian, Akkadian, or Egyptian branches of the faith.

There’s a certain Eurocentrism in forgetting that Christianity spread to Asia Minor, North Africa, or the Indian subcontinent before or at the same time that it made its way to Rome.

Christianity was a world religion before it was a European religion. We tend to forget that.

tom on October 28, 2011 at 11:34 PM

You are right about some missionaries of the Roman Catholic Church in later centuries wrongly trying to Latinize some of the Eastern Catholic Churches when it came to liturgies, traditions, disciplines and customs.

But they never tried to change their faith beliefs because they all shared the same ones, since they were all founded by the Apostles and their disciples, just like the Roman Catholic Church was founded by St. Paul and St. Peter. The faith beliefs of the Catholic Church today, East and West (as well as all the Eastern Orthodox Churches), are the same ones from the first century. Any deep and sincere reading of the early Church Fathers will show that. I invite anyone reading here to read them.

There is still a problem today with some who try to Latinize the various Eastern Catholic Churches, like the Maronite Catholic Church.

The Churches you are talking about have never been part of the Roman Catholic Church. They are part of the Catholic Church because they are in full communion with the Bishop of Rome (Pope.)

The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church (India), the Ethiopian Catholic Church (Ethiopia), the Chaldean Catholic Church and Syriac Catholic Church (the old Akkadian) and the Coptic Catholic Church (Egypt) are just some of about 22 Eastern Catholic Churches, all in full communion with the Bishop of Rome (Pope). The Pope/Bishop of Rome is the Patriarch of the Western/Latin/Roman Catholic Church, which has the largest number of members of all the Catholic Churches. But the other Catholic Churches each have their own Patriarchs and Bishops and liturgies, disciplines (like married priests and different fasting rules) and customs.

Just like in the first few centuries of Christianity, the Eastern Catholic Churches look to the Bishop of Rome for final authority on orthodox faith teachings. On everything else they have their own jurisdiction.

In the 1st century the 4th Bishop of Rome was St. Clement, (taught by and hand picked by St. Peter to succeed him, but he declined for a few years). In the 1st century the Church in Corinth wrote to Clement to settle some disagreements that had come up between the Christian leaders in that area. The Bishops in areas nearer to them were not asked to intercede and help. Corinth did not ask St. John the Apostle living at the time in Ephesus, who was much closer to Corinth than Rome, to settle this. They asked the Bishop of Rome to intercede and help them and guide them. And when Clement wrote back, he did so with fatherly authority, as if it was expected of him and he even seemed to apologized for taking so long in responding to his responsibilities because of “calamities” that had befallen the Church in Rome.

Here is one excerpt :
“If anyone disobey the things which have been said by him [God] through us [i.e., that you must reinstate your leaders], let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and in no small danger. . . . You will afford us joy and gladness if being obedient to the things which we have written through the Holy Spirit, you will root out the wicked passion of jealousy.”

We also see the unity with Rome from the writings of some of the East’s most revered Saints and Bishops and theologians. (There are early writings about the chair of Peter and the orthodoxy of teachings of Rome from all the major Christian cities around the Mediterranean, including Jerusalem, Alexandria, Caesarea, Antioch and Carthage)

From St. Cyprian of Carthage in 251AD:

“The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. And to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever things you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, they shall be loosed also in heaven’ [Matt. 16:18–19]). … On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were also what Peter was [i.e., apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all [the apostles] are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?” (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; 1st edition

There has always been a discipline of celibacy in the Christian Church, as well as married priests, from the very beginning. St. Peter and St. James were married, while St. John and St. Paul were celibates. Even St. Peter, who traveled with his wife (who was an evangelist and martyr herself,) remained celibate/continent for the rest of his life.

From the earliest days of the Church and still today in the Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, married men could become priests, but not vice versa. And they needed to abstain from sex the night before celebrating the Eucharist. (Like fasting and prayer as a spiritual preparation.) About a hundred years ago, the Pope did away with this requirement for married Eastern Catholic priests, but Eastern Orthodox priests still follow this discipline today. Also from earliest times, only unmarried men or elderly married men who remained celibate/continent could become Bishops.

During the 1st century and still today, the ministerial priesthood had 3 rankings:

Episcopoi (Bishops/overseers/sometimes called Evangelists),

presbuteroi (presbyters/elders – the English word “priest” comes from the Greek presbuteroi, not from the Greek word for a Jewish priest. The Greek word for Jewish priest was not used in the early Church to apply to the presbyters/elders, so as to distinguish them from the priests of the Old Covenant, whose duties of sacrifice in the Temple were different than the duties of Christian presbyters/elders/priests who offered the Lord’s Supper and also acted as rabbis/teachers.

and diakonoi (deacons/ministers)

I won’t post all the Scripture or early Church writings to support this, but I will post just these from St. Ignatius in 110AD (taught by and hand picked by St. Peter to be Bishop of Antioch and became a martyr):

“Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and is at last made manifest” (Letter to the Magnesians)

Let no one do anything of concern to the Church without the bishop. Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop or by one whom he ordains [i.e., a presbyter]. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (Letter to the Smyrneans)

Note: Catholic meant the one universal Christian Church united in the orthodox faith beliefs passed down from the Apostles.

“He that is within the sanctuary is pure; but he that is outside the sanctuary is not pure. In other words, anyone who acts without the bishop and the presbytery and the deacons does not have a clear conscience.” (Letter to the Trallians)

You say that the Catholic Church’s teaching today are not what the first Christians taught.

What is most central to the Catholic Church (and Orthodox Churches) today and what was most central to the faith and practices of the first Christians? The Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

What the first Christians believed, what is written in Scripture and in the early Church writings, is exactly what the Church teaches today. Again, I can’t go into all the Scripture or early Church writings, just a few.

John 6 says, “for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” (or “food indeed” or “food verily”)

Then some of Jesus’ disciples who followed Him, (not just those in the crowd listening) said “this saying is hard; who can accept it?” . . . As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” And Jesus didn’t go after them and say they misunderstood and He was just being figurative.

This is from the 1st century Didache (Teachings of the Apostles) 14:

Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice [Matt. 5:23–24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’ [Mal. 1:11, 14]”

St. Ignatius of Antioch again in 110AD:

“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes. . . . . Let that be considered a VALID Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, chapters 6-8).

St. Justin Martyr, Christian Apologist in 151AD explaining the faith to the Roman Emperor. (Justin was martyred a decade later):

“We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which HAS BEEN MADE INTO the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the CHANGE of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus” (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).

What does all this sound like to you?

It is “the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus,” “flesh which suffered for our sins.” Not merely “common bread.” And one is “heterodox” if they “do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ.” “No one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true” and has been baptized. And those who “deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes.”

The food is “made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer” and there is a “change.” It is a “sacrifice” and “pure offering,” as foretold in Scripture. There is such a thing as a “valid Eucharist,” which means there is such a thing as an invalid Eucharist. How can a sign or symbol be invalid? And what makes it a valid Eucharist, according to Ignatius, was to be united with the Bishops of the one universal/Catholic Church.

One must “confess” their sins first and receive with a clear conscience, like St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians, not to receive “unworthily.”

It says, “we have been taught” – Sacred Tradition. “Set down by Him” – the Eucharistic prayer comes from Jesus Himself, from the Gospels and 1 Corinthians.

This is the never changing teaching of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, who share the Tradition of the Apostles. There is no way around this.

And the many quotes from the early Church were Bishops in good standing during a time when orthodoxy of teaching was paramount to the Apostles and their appointed leaders of the persecuted Church. (We see this in the New Testament which talks of “sound teaching” and the “true Gospel” and “false teachers.”) These Bishops were the men taught and hand picked by the Apostles and those who immediately followed them. The first links in the chain of Sacred Tradition.

And there are no early Christian writings to the contrary.

In trying to interpret that John chapter 6, I tend to put a lot of value on what Ignatius said about the Eucharist, who was taught by St. John and his disciple, Polycarp, than I would the interpretations of John’s Gospel by men today.

Origin 225 AD: “”Although there are many who believe that they themselves hold to the teachings of Christ, there are yet some among them who think differently from their predecessors. The teaching of the Church has indeed been handed down through an order of succession from the apostles and remains in the churches even to the present time. That alone is to be believed as the truth which is in no way at variance with ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition.”

Good night and God bless you.

Elisa on October 30, 2011 at 12:33 AM