Cardinal McCarrick: "I Cannot Say, ‘Don’t Embrace The Quran’"
McCarrick was a featured speaker at the National Press Club during a press conference sponsored by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), where a group of religious leaders denounced the anti-Muslim bigotry they believe has arisen in America as a result of the proposed construction of a mosque and Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.
CNSNews.com asked McCarrick, “Americans believe there is a God-given right to the free exercise of religion, which is enshrined in the First Amendment. Does a Muslim born and raised in Mecca have a God-given right to convert to the Roman Catholic faith, in your mind, and freely exercise his religion there?”
“As an American, I believe that we all have a right to practice what God tells us is his message to us, and if, therefore, if someone is--if someone sees the Gospel as the truth of God’s presence in our world, that person should embrace the Gospel,” McCarrick responded.
“If a person sees the Quran as proof of God’s presence in the world, then I cannot say, ‘Don’t embrace the Quran.’ So that I think we are, we should always be willing to talk to people and we should always be willing to love them and we should always be willing to allow them that freedom of conscience which comes from God.”
McCarrick was also asked if the Obama administration needs to do more to ensure the free exercise of religion in Saudi Arabia, where a Muslim converting to another religion (apostasy) is punishable by death, according to the State Department’s most recent report on religious freedom in that country. Also, according to the State Department, "blasphemy" can be punished by death in Saudi Arabia, as well as any effort by a non-Muslim to proselytize his or her religion. Non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia, according to the State Department, must practice their religion in private.
"Non-Muslims and many Muslims whose beliefs do not adhere to the Government's interpretation of Islam must practice their religion in private and are vulnerable to discrimination, harassment, detention, and, deportation for noncitizens," says the State Department's report on religious freedom in Saudi Arabia. "Blasphemy is a crime punishable by long prison terms or, in some cases, death. Conversion by Muslims to another religion (apostasy) and proselytizing by non-Muslims are punishable by death under the Islamic laws adopted by the country, but there have been no confirmed reports of executions for either crime in recent years."
“Well, I think that it would be wonderful if by continuing conversations we could begin to see all the nations of the world come to that same appreciation which they accepted when they joined the United Nations,” said Cardinal McCarrick.
Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy, the President of Interfaith Alliance told CNSNews.com that a Muslim living in Saudi Arabia has the God-given right to convert to the Roman Catholic faith.
“Absolutely, and in Islam as well as in Christianity or Judism or any other major religions, it depends on which books you read, which theologians you read as to what answer you get. I mean, I know I’m a Christian, a Christian pastor. I know people in my tradition who say that the First Amendment never meant to separate the institutions of religion and the institutions of governing. I don’t agree with that,” he said.
“But that’s what they say. If you look in Islam, you will find scholars who say that religion is by nature a choice made in freedom and that a person ought to have the right to convert either to Islam or from Islam as that person pleases, but you can also find in that community, people who argue that they don’t have the right to do that. So, we’re dealing not just with scripture and tradition but even more with interpretation of scripture and tradition.”