A prominent convert leaves the church

A prominent convert leaves the church

               Magdi Allam

A prominent Muslim-born journalist baptized by Pope Benedict XVI, Magdi Allam, has announced he’s leaving the church because it is too “weak with Islam.”

Allam, writing on his Web site, said the “euphoria over Pope Francis” and the rapid way Pope Benedict was set aside was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” and convinced him to abandon his conversion to Christianity.

Benedict baptized Allam in 2008 during an Easter vigil service at the Vatican, saying he wanted to inspire other former Muslims to practice Christianity openly. At the time, some of the Vatican’s Muslim dialogue partners said the high profile given to the conversion was a deliberate provocation.

Allam said that what drove him away from the church most of all was “religious relativism, in particular the legitimization of Islam as a true religion, of Allah as the true God, of Mohammed as a true prophet, of the Koran as a sacred text and of mosques as places of worship.”

He said it was “true folly” that Benedict had prayed in a mosque in Istanbul, and that Pope Francis, in one of his first speeches, said that Muslims “worship the one, living and merciful God.”

Allam said he considers Islam an “intrinsically violent ideology.”

His very public departure from the church must be an embarrassment to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who personally accompanied Allam on his path to Christianity. Fisichella was later named head of the Vatican’s new Pontifical Council for New Evangelization – presumably the council is using a more productive model of evangelizing than highly politicized “conversions” from other religions.

33 comments (Add your own)

1. Brandon Vogt wrote:
This story confirms a suspicion I've held for a long while: theological objections are often personal objections in disguise.

When wrestling with whether to leave Catholicism, Allam decided through secondary questions like, "how does the Catholic Church engage Islam?" and "do Catholics honor the Pope Emeritus enough?"

Those are of course *important* questions but they have no relevance to whether Christianity (or Catholicism) is true. Here are three questions he should have asked instead:

- Is Jesus God?
- Did Jesus establish the Catholic Church?
- Is Catholicism true or is Islam true? (Or is neither true?)

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 9:29 AM

2. Deacon Greg Kandra wrote:
Good points, Brandon. This also raises questions about what sort of formation/discernment was involved in his conversion. Did he really understand what he was getting into -- and did those guiding his conversion ask all the right questions?

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 9:55 AM

3. Peter Schlemihl wrote:
If he left the Church because of these arguments he listed, he was not a real catholic.

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 9:57 AM

4. Stephanie Jaczkowski wrote:
I often wonder at the Church's seeming embrace of Islam. I study Church theology on my own and more recently have been increasingly exposed to Islam through immigrant friends. At first, I followed the Church's teaching that because they are an Abrahamic faith, the Muslims will also be saved.

However, through talking with my friends I seriously doubt that a valid connection between Islam and Christianity exists. Muslims deny the fundamental truths of Christianity, namely the Incarnation and Resurrection. As well as any mention of a Triune God. Do you have any book suggestions that might point towards justification of this?

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 10:02 AM

5. Joseph Anthony wrote:
It's tragic that he would abandon Christ's Church and endanger his salvation merely because the Church is going through a rough patch. Of course the Church doesn't hold to relativism. Of course Islam isn't the true religion. The Catholic Church has believed this from the beginning and always will. He has his own hobby horse, and if it is important that Church leaders reevaluate their approach to Islam, he ought to dialog with them to that end. I understand that scandals of relativism and immanentism in the Church can be damaging to robust faith, but one has to wonder whether this man's faith was built on sand to fall so easily.

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 10:09 AM

6. Yae wrote:
Wow...reading NEW ADVENT.org headlines one would think he left because of Pope Francis period. Anyway, after reading the article I came to the same conclusion as all the others here posted. I started to wonder if he "converted" out of publicity or sheer emotion without faith and reason.
A conversion of the heart and mind involves a new-found love for Christ as the only son of the living God, a complete acceptance of what the Church teaches and that what she teaches is true.
No matter who is elected pope, in my opinion, one cannot base their faith on that alone as it is simply not enough as house built on sand will sink while a house built on rock will stand and endure against the storm.

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 10:16 AM

7. Margaret Duffy wrote:
With due respect to other commenters, I think his reasons are not that difficult to understand. Yes, his conversion may have had an emotional component. It would be very surprising if it did not. And perhaps his cathechesis was flawed. However, I think he may well have been pushed to make a decision by the change of Popes and the genuinely nasty way in which some are verbally treating the Pope Emeritus. After all, aren't Christians supposed to be distinguished by their love for each other? What kind of example has been given to him and to other recent converts by this weird over reaction? Those of us who have spent their entire lives in the church have some yardstick to measure things by. Even I am surprised and annoyed by some of the gushing euphoria. I swear that if I hear much more cooing about Pope Francis' humility and simplicity I will begin to scream. I have now into my seventh Pope and every one of them has been humble, but I have never seen this kind of hoopla over it. My problem is not with the new Pope, but with those who are sycophantally gushing over him.

Frankly,, I wouldn't be too surprised if we see more recent converts leave and some who were on the brink of a decision change their minds. If we are so unkind to each other, especially to our "elder statesman" how can we say we offer something better than secular society?

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 10:49 AM

8. Sherry Weddell wrote:
I was very concerned at the time of his enormously public conversion. Did he seek baptism because he desired to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ or because it looked like a really dramatic way to reject Islam?

As I wrote at the time, http://www.siena.org/March-2008/an-individual-act-of-conscience-or-a-global-phenomenon

"Meanwhile, someone really sharp, spiritually and theological mature, and prayerful needs to stay close to Allam and guide him through this tumultuous transition. It's hard enough to become a Catholic at age 56 from a non-Christian background. Doing it in the middle of a media and geo-political circus (Imagine if Princess Diana had become Catholic as was rumored before her death!) is full of potential pitfalls."

if he is ready to renounce his baptism so quickly, he must have already been on the verge - or he is a man of tremendous, emotionally-driven impulse. Either way, it seems that publicly rejecting Islam is the heart of the matter for him.

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 10:52 AM

9. Deacon John M. Bresnahan wrote:
Now would be a good time to remember the millions of Catholics and other Christians--like the Copts in Egypt--who get blamed for just about every syllable the pope says and then violently attack and kill Christians for what he says. On the other hand many Eastern Christians look to Rome for aid and international concern for their plight. It is a diplomatic nightmare.
However, it seems like some in the Vatican and elsewhere in the Christian and Catholic world have a bottomless pollyanish atitude toward a religion that gives every evidence of being enamored of and a promoter of violence and killing. But the Western media rarely gives much coverage to the persecution and killing of Christians in the Islamic world (as well as the constant destruction of Christian churches and homes and jailing of Christian ministers.)

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 11:11 AM

10. David wrote:
This gives the lie to his conversion. Gotta wonder what his real reason becoming 'Christian' was. Weak.

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 11:17 AM

11. Tomas wrote:
A fruit of the New Springtime.

Is it any wonder why so many modern day converts have to sustain themselves by papolotry and constantly retelling their conversion stories?

"Ethnicity is the form of Catholic content. Ethnicity without Catholic religious universality leads to racial narcissism and collective self worship. Catholicism without ethnicity is deracinated, ghostlike and is always vulnerable to ideological colonization."

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 11:51 AM

12. thomas tucker wrote:
NO ONE should see enthusiasm about Pope Francis as insulting to Pope Emirtus Benedict. There is simply no reason to do so, and I doubt very much that Benedict sees it that way. We have a new Pope; we have a Pope Emeritus. They are each their own people and we benefit from both of them. Benedict wasn't "laid aside." He stepped down. Now we have a new Pope, and we should be enthusiastic about him. It's no slight to anyone else- that is simply misplaced envy, and dissension, and comes from an evil source.

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 11:59 AM

13. Peter Rowe wrote:
Do not be so hard on him. I am a convert to the Catholic faith myself, by way of atheism. I myself, who am involved heavily in a youth evangelization ministry, have struggled with the seeming desire in the Church by many to embrace universalism, and looked to possibly into another faith - and out of my love of St. Augustine, it would probably would have been a conservative Lutheranism.

I did not convert, and would never because the obviously heretical doctrine of justification by faith alone as well as the rejection of Mary's role in salvation, but I understand why he is leaving the Church. We have played nice too long with Islam, which is a demonic and false religion that cannot save souls, much less should be a dialogue "partner" in any sense which rejects the normative necessity of faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.

Universalism is a poisonous heresy that must be fought with the core of our being: Scripture is explicit, that there is no other Name other than Jesus' necessary for salvation.

My prayers are with him. And my prayers are with the leadership of the Catholic Church as they lead us in this tumultuous era.

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 12:01 PM

14. Sibyl wrote:
Other Islam converts to Christianity agree with Magdi Allam. Their opinions are based on fact, blood, sweat and tears, not sentiment and wishful thinking.

The Catholic Church has given Islam too much undeserved credit and the Catechism #841 is a theological error that does not recognize the false theology, the racism, hatred, injustice in Islam's core texts, its actions and speeches of its teachers from its inception to the current day.

Islam and its practices contradict and oppose, and in fact, was invented to conquer and subsume Judeo-Christianity and substitute its (Mohammed's) own teachings and values.

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 12:13 PM

15. Kelly wrote:
It seems to me that this guy converted because he wanted to do something splashy and dramatic against Islam, not because he believed that Catholicism was the true faith. I'm not sure why he thought that the Church was interested in waging a new Crusade. It doesn't help Catholics in Islamic countries one bit.

As for this Francis vs. Benedict ridiculousness, nobody in the Church is trashing B16. Papa Francisco has just gotten good press because he is clearly a people person who feeds off crowds and he seems adamant at over turning every tradition he can get away with.

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 1:00 PM

16. WesleyD wrote:
Stephanie Jaczkowski wrote:

I often wonder at the Church's seeming embrace of Islam. I study Church theology on my own and more recently have been increasingly exposed to Islam through immigrant friends. At first, I followed the Church's teaching that because they are an Abrahamic faith, the Muslims will also be saved.

Stephanie, that isn't the Catholic Church's teaching. There are many positive things said about Islam by the Catholic Church. The Church teaches that the Muslims worship the one true God (because there can only be one God who created the universe, so everyone from Greek philosophers to Bahai'is to Muslims who worships the unique omnipotent Creator is worshipping the same God). However, the Church has never asserted that Muslims follow Abraham ( Nostra Aetate 3 merely states that Muslims "readily relate their faith" to that of Abraham). More crucially, no magisterial document from Vatican II or any other council or pope has asserted that members of Abrahamic faiths "will be saved". Indeed, Lumen Gentium 16 makes it very clear that while members of other religions often have much "goodness and truth" in them, they are also "often" led astray from the truth as well. And then it follows this in the next section (LG 17) by reminding Catholics that Christ's last command, to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit". While it is true that members of other religions who are blameless in their lack of faith in Christ can be saved, we should not assume that everyone is necessarily blameless and without subjective sin (LG 16).

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 1:05 PM

17. Martina wrote:
I hesitate greatly to say someone was never really Catholic. We are all Catholic by virtue of our Trinitarian baptism...whether we struggle openly or privately with our issues {or dissent} does not negate what the Holy Spirit indelibly placed on our souls.

That said, I think Brandon's questions are the most profound and foundational for converts to consider. Anything not rooted in Dogma and Doctrine are not just reasons to leave the Faith. We're all going to struggle with something the Church does or teaches, so I don't fault this gentleman for voicing his concern. However, it's sad to watch someone leave the Church over something that has nothing to do with Church teaching.

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 1:22 PM

18. Eugenia wrote:
Clearly he did not understand the central teaching of the Church that God is present body, blood, soul and divinity in the Holy Eucharist. If he did, he chose his own issues over the literal Christ at the Altar. Prayers for him.

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 1:38 PM

19. howstheboy wrote:
Well, it can't simply be said that just because the deity of one religion is regarded as the Creator, then that means this deity is the true God. After all if they worshipped Satan as the Creator, would Satan be then the True God?

A better test is this: would someone living in the amazon rainforest, miles from any missionary, look up at the stars and search his heart for knowledge of the natural law, and come to a realisation that there is a god, who created every thing in the universe, who teaches that it is ok to do evil, to lie, to wage unjust wars of conquest, to demean women, to behead those who do not believe.

Would our Amazon dweller come the realisation that such are the attributes of the Creator? if not, then the "creator" deity in Islam is not the True God.

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 2:13 PM

20. F. W. de Perrault wrote:
Although I think there area valid reasons for questioning the motives for Mr. Allam's conversion, it seems unrealistic to expect a complete Catholic formation to have been achieved in him at the time of his Baptism. This is certainly not the case for any Catholic, much less an adult who is at an earlier point in a spiritual journey. That having been considered and put aside for the moment, his argument is then left to stand on its own. Were one to leave Islam to seek harbor in the Roman Catholic faith one would indeed find a Church that says many good things about Islam, if fact the Church says ONLY good things about Islam- that's the problem. We loan our churches to muslims, we've even allowed undocumented Muslims to live inside parish churches which became temporary shelters in Belgium as show of solidarity against anti-immigrant laws. Our Popes pray in Mosques and the building of a great Mosque in Rome was supported by the Vatican. It might seem to a convert that the Catholic Church today is a pan-religious clearing house that is only incidentally Christian. I feel sorry for the gentleman- he should remain Christian and join the Society of St. Pius X (no, I'm not a member) where his conversion would be celebrated and supported and there are no confusion double messages.

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 2:15 PM

21. bobster wrote:
I've lived in a muslim country, and have always had to swallow hard at the Church's cozying up to Islam. They are anti-Christ in the literal sense of the word.

"he who has the Son has life, he who has not the Son has not life." (! John 5:12) ... and Islam teaches that it is blasphemy to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
Sorry, Muslims are on the other guy's team.

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 2:23 PM

22. Mike wrote:
If the quote below is accurate, it appears Allam believes he can still be a Christian without being a member of the Catholic Church:

Magdi Cristiano Allam, despite his frustration with The Church's capitulation to Islam, maintained, "I will continue to believe in Jesus. I have always loved and proudly identify with Christianity as the civilization that more than others brings man closer to God who chose to become man."

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 2:57 PM

23. Lynda wrote:
I can understand him certainly feeling this way. I nearly didn't come back after a 12 year absence because of local material I found in the Parish I technically belonged to. Interfaith rubbish in the Diocese, where a Muslim leader was expounding forth on Adam and Eve in Islam and scoring points with the Catholics that here indeed was another point of similarity. The priest thanking him effusively for this insight!

I was rabid and had to really battle to get past Abrahamic faith nonsense and go to Confession and start living my faith again.

What brought me back to the Church? Many things but a big part of that decision was the condition of Christians in Muslim countries. I couldn't believe it! I couldn't believe no one (except a few religious groups and blogs like Robert Spencer's)was reporting it! It was heart breaking. At the same time Catholic leaders and others were fawning over Islam. Interfaith prayer and finding Islam and ally against secularism.

It is difficult to know how Islam should be handled. But there actions to these Christians in the Middle East should be continually pointed out to their leaders as WRONG in strong and simple terms for the simple reason of reciprocity. At the same time Islam needs to demonstrate their 'tolerance' show us the new Churches when we visit your new Mosques.

They need to be called out on their rough justice.

Their rough justice is in their sharia law, and their prophets example as well. It 'theologically' is pretty entrenched and strong stuff which has firm foundations. Being NICE won't do a thing.

Quite simply they need to stay in their own countries. The only peaceful answer is immigration policy. It might offend but it hurts no one. There are plenty of Latin American, Phillipino and Korean immigrants that maintain their own cultural distinctions and settle into the Western culture beautifully.

God Bless you Magdi - Jesus will get you through and you will find him in the end waiting for you. Blessed are those who mourn.

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 3:04 PM

24. aged parent wrote:
I believe if the Vatican would begin showing some clarity and firmness with regard to its teachings and its disciplines, and restore its Liturgy to its former sacredness, we might have kept this man in the true Church.

In one way, though, he is being honest by leaving. So many other Catholics continue to call themselves "Catholic" while violating every teaching handed down to them by Christ himself and guarded by the Church which was given the power to bind and to loose. They don't have the decency to leave and put an end to their hypocrisy.

Say a Hail Mary for this poor man. Sometimes, that is about all one can do.

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 3:16 PM

25. Stephanie Jaczkowski wrote:

My comments come from section 841 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

"841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day.""

My understanding of it being this. "The plan of salvation"---i.e. getting into heaven
"also includes those who acknowledge the Creator"---i.e. Allah, even in the incomplete understanding of God as three persons
"in the first place amongst who are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham---where I obtained this idea that all Abrahamic faiths will be saved

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 3:21 PM

26. Patrick Logsdon wrote:
From what I understand, there is a high percentage of all converts/RCIA that leave the church a few years after their baptism. no one really knows what was in this man's heart when he sought baptism or why is seeks to leave now. perhaps the only explanation comes in the parable of the sower and the seed.

in regards to Islam, I do not think it is all so black and white. Two famous converts to the Catholic Faith were inspired to return to the faith because of the devotion they say among muslims (Blessed Charles de Foucauld and Luis Massignon) and entered into deep dialogue and exchanges with Muslims.

Also to an outsider the Bible, in parts, can sound as violent as the Koran in parts (parts of the old testament, the "cursing psalms).

I do not think John Paul ll or Benedict 16 were just being "PC" in their relations to Islam, but approached it in a deep manner that was open to dialogue.

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 3:26 PM

27. Micha Elyi wrote:
This gives the lie to his conversion.
-- David (11:17 AM)

You (and others echoing the same sentiment) do realize that Once Saved, Always Saved is not what the Catholic Church teaches, don't you?

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 3:42 PM

28. Irenic wrote:
Tragically, Mr Allam (like so many Christians and non-Christians alike) does not appear to have heard the true message of Christianity: St Isaac the Syrian: Preaching the Astonishing Love of God . The Church Fathers, east and west and this includes Pope Emeritus Benedict and Pope Francis, all teach that God did not create Jews, Christians and Muslims (etc., etc.) per se, but rather that He created human beings in His own image and likeness. Man is dust that has been commanded to become (like) God. To seek therefore, the divine face of God is to strive to attain to the full human stature of Christ. Note to Micha Elyi if I may. The Church teaches that we are in the process of being saved i.e. being transformed into "the image and likeness".

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 6:36 PM

29. Nagyszakall wrote:
Many of the previous comments (I didn't read all of them) reveal a fundamental misunderstanding regarding the Church's word and the pontiffs' gestures toward Muslims. There is a difference between Islam and Muslims. It is very difficult to say what is "core" text and what is not in the Quran, as there is huge difference between how individual Muslims or different branches interpret it. It is a mistake to think that the Catholic Church acknowledges Islam as "true religion" or that followers of it are saved or not by virtue of being Muslims. Should the Church enter that labyrinth and publicly condemn certain interpretations of the Quran and the behaviour of certain Muslims as Islamic behaviour? I think she shouldn't. It is sufficient to condemn violence and proclaim the truth. If after that someone says that the Church agrees with the teachings of Islam, they are simply wrong.

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 10:36 PM

30. Guy wrote:
One thing that makes me uncomfortable about the idea that Islam is necessarily violent is that Christianity has a long and brutal history of violence: religious wars resulting in the deaths of countless millions, burning of heretics - the whole lot. Then again, Islam was once and at places rather tolerant, as in Al-Andalus (medieval Spain), where Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived together in a much more open society than the Christian World in the same period. Things are different now, but neither the bible nor the Quran have changed.

Mon, March 25, 2013 @ 11:15 PM

31. Jess Romero wrote:
It is obvious that Magdi Allam was not properly catechized and he does not understand authority. The laity are in sales (evangelization) not in management (the clergy). He had whats called: "an incomplete conversion" and he suffers from being a "low information Catholic."

Tue, March 26, 2013 @ 1:27 AM

32. Sacerdotus wrote:
The sadness for me is to think that this man could have been received into the Body of Christ while still holding such anti-christian views. The RCIA director let him down.

Tue, March 26, 2013 @ 7:28 AM

33. Joseph D'Hippolito wrote:
You know, Allam is absolutely right! Ever since Nostra Aetate, the Catholic Church has tried to deal with Islam on the same level as Christianity and Judaism. The problem is that Islam's Allah is a fundamentally different deity than the Judeo-Christian Yahweh. I suggest you get a hold of an article written by French Catholic historian Alain Bescancon,"What Sort of Religion Is Islam?" Commentary Magazine published it in 2004. I wrote a piece for Front Page Magazine that quotes it extensively:


John Paul II's ill-advised ecumenical approach to Islam (complete with Koran-kissing) muddied the waters further.

You know, you should stop blaming Allam and look at what the Catholic Church has become. Allam is an honest man who tells the truth. How many lay Catholics are listening, let alone the professional bureaucrats in Rome?

Wed, March 27, 2013 @ 3:17 AM

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