LONSDALE, Minn. (AP) — A civil rights group is calling on Minnesota’s Roman Catholic church leaders to reject a sermon in which a priest in the southern part of the state described Islam as a threat to the U.S. and Christianity.
The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Wednesday that the Minnesota Catholic Conference should repudiate the Jan. 5 sermon by the Rev. Nick VanDenBroeke in which he said that Islam was the “greatest threat in the world” to the United States and Christianity.
CAIR’s request came after the newspaper City Pages published an article Wednesday about the sermon. VanDenBroeke later in the day apologized for the words used in the homily.
“My homily on immigration contained words that were hurtful to Muslims,” VanDenBroeke said. “I’m sorry for this. I realize now that my comments were not fully reflective of the Catholic Church’s teaching on Islam.”
A spokeswoman for the Catholic Conference told the Star Tribune that the group’s response would be coming from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, which oversees the Lonsdale parish. Archbishop Bernard Hebda told the Star Tribune in an e-mail that he had not yet spoken with VanDenBroeke.
But Hebda said that the church’s teaching is clear, and he quoted Pope Benedict XVI as saying that the church looks with esteem to Muslims, who worship God through prayer, fasting and the giving of alms.
“If all of us who believe in God desire to promote reconciliation, justice and peace, we must work together to banish every form of discrimination, intolerance and religious fundamentalism,” Hebda said. He added that Pope Francis also has stressed the importance of dialogue between Catholics and Muslims and has urged all Christians and Muslims to be “true promoters of mutual respect and friendship, in particular through education.”
The homily was recorded and posted on the church’s website.
VanDenBroeke said parishioners must remember that immigrants are humans deserving of compassion. But he added that sovereign nations have the right and responsibility to control their borders to protect their citizens and lands.
“Both as Americans and as Christians, we do not need to pretend that everyone who seeks to enter America needs to be treated the same,” he said. “I believe it is essential to consider the religion and worldview of the immigrants or refugees.
“More specifically, we should not be allowing large numbers of Muslims (seeking) asylum or immigration into our country. Islam is the greatest threat in the world both to Christianity and to America,” he said.
VanDenBroeke urged his parishioners to oppose Muslim immigration.
He also said he believes that young immigrants known as Dreamers, who were brought to the United States as children, should have a path to citizenship. And he said that he thinks the country’s immigration system could be easily fixed if a wall were built to close the southern border to curb future illegal immigration and “at the same time provide a path to legal citizenship for those who have been living here, who can prove they’re not criminals, they’re living good and peaceful lives, they’re willing to work and pay taxes and be responsible.”