Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis publicly rebuked one of his priests for criticizing Islam during a recent homily.
Hebda said in a statement issued Wednesday night that Fr. Nick VanDenBroeke had “expressed sorrow for his words and an openness to seeing more clearly the Church’s position on our relationship with Islam.”
The story was first reported by City Pages, a progressive blog owned by The Star Tribune, which dug up a January 5 homily from VanDenBroeke in which the cleric said that “Islam is the greatest threat in the world to both Christianity and to America.”
He said the Catholic Church teaches that its member should “welcome others in the name of Christ,” including “those we don’t like.” A nation, said VanDenBroeke, still “has a right to protect its ideas and its ideals.”
“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 continued. “I believe it is essential to consider the religion or worldview of the immigrants or refugees. More specifically, 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.”
His homily was delivered January 5 for the archdiocese’s “Immigration Sunday” and posted online, but City Pages did not pick up the story until January 29. The story was then published in The Star Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio, KSTP, the New York Post, and The Washington Times.
The executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued a statement Wednesday evening demanding an apology from Church leaders, specifically the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the Catholic Church in Minnesota.
“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,” said CAIR Minnesota Executive Director Jaylani Hussein. “Silence on this issue would send the troubling message that the church holds a negative view of Minnesota’s Muslim community.”
Just a few hours later, a statement from Hebda and an apology from VanDenBroeke were posted on the archdiocese’s website.
“I have spoken with Father VanDenBroeke about his homily on immigration and he has expressed sorrow for his words and an openness to seeing more clearly the Church’s position on our relationship with Islam,” Hebda said in his statement, citing a passage from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
“That continues to be our teaching today. Pope Francis has echoed Pope Benedict, stating that it is important to intensify the dialogue between Catholics and Islam,” Hebda continued. “I am 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.”
The Minnesota Catholic Conference wrote in a tweet that it was “grateful” for VanDenBroeke’s apology.
Immigration Sunday MN is observed to build bridges between people, in particular, migrants and refugees (irrespective of background), and not create walls of resentment. We are grateful to Fr. Vandenbroeke for his apology https://t.co/WV5yberQOy @CAIRMN
— MNCatholicConference (@MNCatholicConf) January 30, 2020
The Twitter account for CAIR National touted the fact that VanDenBroeke “found himself in hot water this month with the Council on American-Islamic Relations.”
Rev. Nick VanDenBroeke found himself in hot water this month with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (@CAIRMN), along with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, over a Jan. 5 homily. @Jaylanihussein .@douglasernst .@WashTimes https://t.co/VAbRizrTAJ
— CAIR National (@CAIRNational) January 30, 2020
“My homily on immigration contained words that were hurtful to Muslims,” VanDenBroeke said in his apology. “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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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Archbishop Bernard Hedba” by Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit.