ST. PAUL, Minn. — A priest of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis has apologized for a homily that described Islam as the biggest threat in the world to the United States and to Christianity.
“My homily on immigration contained words that were hurtful to Muslims,” Fr. Nick VanDenBroeke, pastor of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Lonsdale, Minn., said in a Jan. 29 statement posted on the website of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.
“I’m sorry for this. I realize now that my comments were not fully reflective of the Catholic Church’s teaching on Islam,” he stated.
Archbishop Bernard Hebda also issued a statement on the homily, in which he said that he addressed the issue with VanDenBroeke, who “has expressed sorrow for his words and an openness to seeing more clearly the Church’s position on our relationship with Islam.”
“The teaching of the Catholic Church is clear. As Pope Benedict XVI noted, ‘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 honour Mary, his Virgin Mother,’” Archbishop Hebda said.
“That continues to be our teaching today,” he added.
“Pope Francis has echoed Pope Benedict, stating that it is important to intensify the dialogue between Catholics and Islam. He has emphasized ‘the great importance of dialogue and cooperation among believers, in particular Christians and Muslim, and the need for it to be enhanced.’ He has called for all Christians and Muslims to be ‘true promoters of mutual respect and friendship, in particular through education,’’ he noted.
Fr. VanDenBroeke gave the homily for which he apologized Jan. 5, which Minnesota’s Catholic bishops have designated as Immigration Sunday.
According to the local newspaper City Pages, Fr. VanDenBroeke said in his homily that unlike issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, Church teaching on immigration is not “black and white.”
He noted that nations have the right to protect their “ideas and ideals” as well as the duty to “welcom(e) the stranger.”
He then said that “as Americans and as Christians, we do not need to pretend that everyone who seeks to enter America should be treated the same.”
“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 asylum or immigration into our country,” he said.
He added that Islam is “the greatest threat in the world” to Christianity and the U.S. and that the Church must work to “(keep) bad ideas out of the country,” City Pages reported.
“I’m not saying we hate Muslims,” Fr. VanDenBroeke said in the homily. “They are people created out of love by God just as each one of us is. But while we certainly do not hate them as people, we must oppose their religion and worldview.”
He added that he supported President Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall along the border between the U.S. and Mexico, and that he supported a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers - undocumented students and young people brought into the United States by their parents.
The Minnesota Star Tribune reported that Fr. VanDenBroeke has given political homilies in the past, including a homily in 2018 in which he urged his parishioners to pray for Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh, who is pro-life, was seen by many Catholics as a key nomination to the court for a possible overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision which allowed for legalized abortion in the United States.
According to City Pages, the Jan. 5 homily was posted to Fr. VanDenBroeke’s parish website (it appears to have since been taken down). It caused an uproar in the local community, including from the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Minnesota), which issued a statement calling on Catholic leaders to condemn the homily.
“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,” Jaylani Hussein, CAIR-Minnesota’s executive director, said in a statement reported in the Minnesota Star Tribune.
In his statement, Archbishop Hebda concluded by saying that he was “grateful for the many examples of friendship that have been offered by the Muslim community in our region and we are committed to strengthening the relationship between the two communities.”