Sacred Cow

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In the current pontificate, Mary Jo Anderson at The Catholic World Report reminds us, speaking the truth about Islam is verboten:



A Catholic teacher in Florida remains under fire in his diocese, three weeks after the Huffington Post reported that he assigned “anti-Muslim” material to sixth- grade students. Mark Smythe, who teaches social studies and religion at Blessed Trinity Catholic School in Ocala, Florida, faces termination unless he signs a letter of reprimand. Theresa Simon, Human Resources Director for the Diocese of Orlando, in consultation with Henry Fortier, Superintendent of Schools, informed the school’s principal that Mr. Smythe “must” be reprimanded because he caused an incident that distressed Muslim community members and furthermore it was an “embarrassment for BT(Blessed Trinity)School, the Office of Schools, and the Bishop’s Office.”

Despite school principal Jason Halstead’s defense of his teacher—“It’s obvious from your comments that you are quite supportive of Mr. Smythe….”—Ms. Simon confirmed that “there is no way around” the reprimand. Should Mr. Smythe decline to sign the reprimand “he will still be held accountable for its contents.”

Mr. Smythe’s class read St. John Bosco’s evaluation of Islam. A mother of a student was surprised to see Islam described as a “monstrous mixture” of several faiths containing “ridiculous, immoral and corrupting” doctrines. She shared the material with a Muslim friend whose children had also attended Blessed Trinity. The latter contacted the Huffington Post’s “documenting hate” project.
When the Post contacted the Diocese of Orlando, Jacquelyn Flanigan, associate Superintendent apologized for the teacher’s “unfortunate exhibit of disrespect” and assured the Post that a reprimand had been ordered. Flanigan, who is not a theologian, pushed further in her statement to the Post, saying “the information provided in the sixth grade class is not consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.” Ms. Flanigan had not met with the teacher, the principal, or the pastor, Fr. Patrick Sheedy, to determine the nature of the full presentation of the lesson or the context. Additionally, she gave no authority for her statement that St. John Bosco’s work isn’t “consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Blessed Trinity School uses the acclaimed series, All Ye Lands, by Catholic Text Book Project. Formed in 2000, the Catholic Textbook Project recognized a critical need for textbooks that avoid a secularized, sometimes anti-Catholic worldview. “But most importantly,” states the Project’s website, “our textbooks are Catholic; they proceed from the insight that mankind and history have been transformed irrevocably by Christ and his Church. Put simply, without the Church, history simply would not be the same. We tell that story fully and accurately.”

The introduction to the volume of All Ye Lands that Mark Smythe has in his class states, “Thank you for undertaking the education of the next generation of American Catholics in a century filled with perils and promise. Christ offers our youth a challenge and a hope that no other religion or philosophy permits. We, their teachers and parents, cannot allow our children to be ignorant of the origins of the Faith or of the beliefs of other cultures in an increasingly hostile world.”

The tempest
In his “final warning” memorandum dated April 28th, Superintendent of Schools, Henry Fortier, again reminded the teacher that the “incident has cast an embarrassing spotlight on Blessed Trinity Catholic School as well as the Diocese of Orlando.” The Superintendent concedes in his memo that Mr. Smythe did balance his presentation in class by citing the areas of faith that Islam and Christianity share: faith, prayer, charity, fasting and pilgrimage. However, the material from Saint John Bosco was rejected by Fortier as not currently approved thinking.
Mr. Fortier instructed Mr. Smythe to familiarize himself with “the Catholic Church’s position on the Islam faith” by reviewing “current scholarly Catholic faith-based analysis of the Islam faith… We especially note the writings and living witness of Pope Francis with all Muslims.”

Mr. Smythe was given a deadline of May 7th, to report back to the principal with a list of the documents he had read per the memorandum. Further, Fortier warned Smythe that he is “not to venture away from the approved teachings of the Catholic Church.” And, whether inside or outside of school, “a negative comment about or disparagement of the Islam faith” will result in immediate termination.

Finally, Smythe is directed by the memo to sign the reprimand. According to his attorney, Henry Ferro of Ocala, Mr. Smythe has not signed the reprimand because he does not think that his actions warrant the reprimand. Legally, a reprimand in an employment dossier can be grounds for termination and/or make future employment difficult. Smythe is married and has three children. Absent any prior guidelines or statement of policy by the Church, how is a Catholic school teacher, teaching in a Catholic school, to know that material from a canonized Saint, and one who is a patron saint of school children, is disallowed, much less grounds for reprimand that jeopardize his future?

The incident raises other serious questions. Was Mr. Smythe’s pamphlet by St. John Bosco a matter of correct and accurate teaching used imprudently? Did the diocese overreact in order to appease a powerful national media outlet? Are diocesan personnel under the misunderstanding that there is one official “approved” Catholic teaching on Islam? (Requests from CWR for comments from representatives of the Diocese of Orlando have not been returned.)

These questions and others merit a broad discussion within the Catholic education establishment. Is it not the mission of Catholic schools to prepare students to live out and defend their faith in a world increasingly hostile to the Gospel of Christ? If so, how so?

Fr. Peter Stavinskas is the executive director of the Catholic Education Foundation and holds a doctorate in school administration and another doctorate in theology. From his decades of experience as a teacher and administrator in Catholic schools Fr. Stavinskas observed that, as starting point, “There is no ‘Catholic teaching’ on Islam, as such. Don Bosco’s reflection is not ‘Catholic teaching’ but an historical perspective and a straightforward description of what that religion teaches.

Similarly, Vatican II has no ‘Catholic teaching’ on Islam, merely a one-paragraph summary of points of convergence between Christianity and Islam (as Nostra Aetate does for Judaism and even pagan religions).”

As for the diocese’s requirement for more “scholarly” presentations on Islam, and for an analysis more current than even Vatican II’s Nostra Aetate (which Ms. Flanigan cited for the Huffington Post), there is the scholarly address given by Pope Benedict XVI at Regensburg in 2006. If teacher Mark Smythe is remiss for quoting 19th-century Don Bosco on Islam, what then of Pope Benedict’s quote from a 14th-century Byzantine emperor’s statement, “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”


Go here to read the rest.  Historically, one of the bracing things about Catholicism has been its dedication to truth regardless of the consequences.  Today, if you are Catholic and employed by the Church, better not speak the truth about Islam, or you will get it in the neck.  It appears that the mercy Pope Francis constantly speaks about does not apply to truth tellers about Islam.



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  1. My goodness. Perhaps this Bishop is lucky not to be in Orlando.
    I realize that the Orthodox are in schism, at least on paper, but with Catholic bishops and the bureaucrats we have, Oy vey! The parable of the the son who said he would go work in the field (and then did not) and the son who said he wasn’t going to (and then did anyway) keeps running through my mind. Little wonder people have found other outlets outside of the One True Catholic and Apostolic Church to try to labor in Vineyard.

  2. Too much “Catholic” education is not Catholic. Truth has been a casualty for some time now in too many dioceses.

  3. Such people are liberals first Catholics somewhere around tenth.

    FYI, liberals are dishonest, immoral, and stupid as bags of rocks. Act accordingly.

    In conclusion (Thank God!), the truth is an absolute defense. Those people deny the Truth. It is what they do. Again, act accordingly.

  4. It was in Orlando, back in 2005, that Terri Schiavo was deemed
    “vegetative” and starved and dehydrated until, after fourteen days, she died.
    Robert Lynch, then Bishop of Orlando, received a great deal of criticism for his
    less-than-robust defense of Terri Schiavo, her family, and the Catholic belief
    in the Sanctity of Life until its natural end. Bobby Schindler, Terri’s brother,
    said that he would never forget “one of (Bishop Lynch’s) boldest statements,
    issued in the weeks leading up to (Terri’s) death. He didn’t call for mercy for
    Terri, or for the continuation of basic care, but, unbelievably, for my family
    and those fighting for my sister to ‘step back a little and allow some mediation
    in these final hours’ with those seeking to end my sister’s life. They were only
    her ‘final hours’ because men like him regarded her right to life as negotiable
    rather than absolute.” As Terri’s death approached, Bishop Lynch arranged
    to be away from Orlando and far from reporters.

    I recall us to this shameful episode in the life of the Church — when the Bishop
    of Orlando abandoned a woman to be legally, cruelly killed whilst concern-trolling
    about how unfortunate all the fuss was — to pose a rhetorical question: in light
    of Bishop Lynch’s infamously pusillanimous response to Terri Schiavo’s killing,
    shouldn’t he also be forced to sign a letter of reprimand? After all, to paraphrase
    the HR Director for the Orlando Diocese quoted above, Bishop Lynch certainly
    “must” be reprimanded because he caused an incident that distressed members
    of a religious community and furthermore, it was an embarrassment for… well,
    pretty much all Catholics, everywhere, and not just a school and the chancery.

    Actually, it is stunning to hear that the Orlando Diocese is claiming that the
    embarrassment Mr. Smythe has allegedly caused the Bishop’s Office is reason to
    end the man’s career. After the wretched display Bishop Lynch put on in 2005,
    I’d have sworn that particular Bishop’s Office was incapable of feeling embarrassment.

  5. When will some of the bishops carry a shepherds staff. To approximate Chesterton: if the truth is the truth then it is true in any time and place. St. John Bosco is the founder of the Salesians, second only to the Jesuits in number and a teaching order. Islam is what it is. Read the Qu’ran. It will only affirm what St. John Bosco said. This is not prejudice it is simply presenting what is there. Why should any Moslem be offended when their faith is presented for what it is. When Catholics face criticism for the Inquisition they do not deny it but express sadness that it is part of our history and we try to make sure it does not happen again. If I took offence every time the church was criticized I would live in a perpetual snit. How sad that PC is so powerful Catholic Saints are not permitted to be quoted in Catholic Schools. Rather than the diocese being embarrassed by this Catholic teacher, it seems to me the diocese should be embarrassed by the one who has the solemn duty to be THE teacher of faith in the diocese.

  6. “or you will get it in the neck.” Gulp.
    …separating the brain from the rest of the body..
    Jesus is the head of His Body, Islam tries to separate Christ from the Father and to separate the head of Christ from His Body. Saint John tells us that those who do not have the Son don’t have the Father. If they say Jesus is a prophet are they saying He is a false prophet? The appeasers and tolerators want to find refuge from the dangers of a wild and violent religion in the lie that it is a religion of peace. They say peace peace but there is no peace in a lie.
    They don’t really have God, nor do we all worship the same God. It is silly not to admit that it is a false and dangerous religion

  7. What a stupid and pernicious age we are cursed to live in: a faith that, from the top down, spends more time defending other religions than her own truths.
    It is the cult of “dialogue” that is the most poisonous fruit of the 21st ecumenical council. And it is the most jealous of idols, God save us.

  8. There’s a common bourgeois type which is everywhere in the education and social services apparat (as well as corporate HR) and includes most clergymen. Catholic institutions should be vigorous and sure enough of themselves to contain and expel these types. Since Catholic institutions are run by and large by people infected with “bored-out-of-their-minds-careerism” (as Amy Welborn put it), you have scandals like this, and scandals like Charlotte Catholic High School, and scandals like Providence College, and scandals like the Patricia Jannuzzi affair. And, of course, the greeting card sentiments you’re served in a typical novus ordinary parish week after week.

    Fr. Paul Mankowski offered some years ago that the first six decades of the 20th century may have been something of a golden age re the quality of the clergy in the Anglosphere. Just sixty years later, we live in a time where the prudent course of action is to hope the rights are regular and stay the heck away from anyone currently on the Church payroll.

  9. Call most Diocese these day asking for the Head Teacher of the Diocese and you’ll get the catholic school superintendent.
    That speaks volumes doesn’t it?

  10. Clinton.

    I remember Terri’s battle.
    Interestingly while we witnessed the Lynch, (appropriate name in this case)..the Bishop Lynch approach, across the pond our Holy Father was showing the world what dignity looks like in death. Spring of 2005. A case study in euthanasia for the former and true dignity in dying in the latter.
    God bless both recognized on earth while the other suffered martyrdom.

  11. qBishop Lynch ran the Diocese of St. Petersburg, not Orlando.
    I say that not in his defense. Lynch is not a Bishop you would want in charge of your diocese.

  12. The entirety of Vatican Two was submerged, and subsequently drowned, in the anti-baptismal waters of Ecumenism and Ecumenism is the Universal Solvent of Tradition.

    Invisibilium within the Hierarchy is that prelate whose puissant possession of Tradition is such that it could be applied as a force against our Inertia Into Indifferentism and we are sheep with shepherds who, when they are denying there is such a thing as a sheep gate, are trying to drive us out of the sheep gate because the faithful are the new black sheep mucking up the putative peace

  13. The Muslim teaching about Christianity is petty straightforward: It is a corrupted form of Islam. Unlike the Koran which is a literal copy of a heavenly book, the Bible text has been corrupted over the centuries and construed to teach false things about the Prophet Jesus, He was not the son of God; did not die on the cross, rise from the dead on the Third Day, and then ascend into heaven. He is not divine, and the doctrine of the Trinity is blasphemy. He did work miracles, and he will have a special role in the End Times, but what the Church teaches about him is false.

  14. John Schuh,

    We don’t coexist/dialog with people that want to kill us, who respond with violence to generous offers.

    Intolerance. If all Christians are blasphemers, it’s ok to massacre them like they do with Coptic Christians.

    Muhammad obtained standard Aryan (gnostic) heresy from a heretical monk out of Damascus, not from Satan, as Salmon Rushdie posited, or from Gabriel as per M’s fabrications.

    Don’t believe me. Believe John Quincy Adams(noted American theologian?).

    “In the seventh century of the Christian era, a wandering Arab of the lineage of Hagar, the Egyptian, combining the powers of transcendent genius, with the preternatural energy of a fanatic, and the fraudulent spirit of an impostor, proclaimed himself as a messenger from Heaven, and spread desolation and delusion over an extensive portion of the earth. Adopting from the sublime conception of the Mosaic law, the doctrine of one omnipotent God; he connected indissolubly with it, the audacious falsehood, that he was himself his prophet and apostle. Adopting from the new Revelation of Jesus, the faith and hope of immortal life, and of future retribution, he humbled it to the dust, by adapting all the rewards and sanctions of his religion to the gratification of the sexual passion. He poisoned the sources of human felicity at the fountain, by degrading the condition of the female sex, and the allowance of polygamy; and he declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind. THE ESSENCE OF HIS DOCTRINE WAS VIOLENCE AND LUST: TO EXALT THE BRUTAL OVER THE SPIRITUAL PART OF HUMAN NATURE.

    “Between these two religions, thus contrasted in their characters, a war of twelve hundred years has already raged. That war is yet flagrant; nor can it cease but by the extinction of that imposture, which has been permitted by Providence to prolong the degeneracy of man. While the merciless and dissolute dogmas of the false prophet shall furnish motives to human action, there can never be peace upon earth, and good will towards men. The hand of Ishmael will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. It is, indeed, amongst the mysterious dealings of God, that this delusion should have been suffered for so many ages, and during so many generations of human kind, to prevail over the doctrines of the meek and peaceful and benevolent Jesus (Blunt, 1830, 29:269, capitals in orig.).”

    Observe that Adams not only documents the violent nature of Islam, in contrast with the peaceful and benevolent thrust of Christianity, he further exposes the mistreatment of women inherent in Islamic doctrine, including the degrading practice of polygamy.

    A few pages later, Adams again spotlights the coercive, violent nature of Islam, as well as the Muslim’s right to lie and deceive to advance Islam.

    Schuh, I hope you don’t believe Muhammad and his slanders against Christ. Do you know where Dante places Muhammad in Hell, and why?

  15. I’m sorry. I wasn’t aware the Vatican had a Congregation or Dicastery or Office or any kind of portfolio whatsoever having anything to do with jackassery on the part of catholic school bureaucrats.

  16. Clinton: we should never forget that Terri Schavro was also denied the sacraments by court order, a clear case of the demonic if there ever was one. Where was the local ordinary when that happened?

  17. Why spend thousands of dollars to send your child “catholic” schools like Blessed Trinity to send you child to Hell while the Public Schools will do the same thing free of charge!

  18. Why pay “catholic” schools like Blessed Trinity in Florida to send your child to Hell when the public schools will do the same free of charge!

  19. 🙁 Why pay “catholic” Blessed Trinity in Florida to send your child to Hell when public schools will do the same free of charge?

  20. I have only just seen this since I have spent most of the past week or so in bed ill. Now having read it, I may well spend the next week or so in bed ill!

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