The other day a friend responded to a post of mine in Facebook about a news article I read on how the Methodist church leadership wants to revive a church in Cottage Grove, Minnesota and their first step is to ask all of the current members, most of whom are 60+, to go away. She said:
I went to the catholic church in Lonsdale a few weeks ago for a family baptism and the priest said from the pulpit that we should not let Muslims into the country. He said other disturbing things, but that was the kicker.
I couldn’t believe this, although I guess I’m not sure why I shouldn’t believe it. Such a statement is no longer a surprise in this country – but I guess if this was going to come from a church pulpit I expected it to be an evangelical “Christian” church pulpit, not one at a Catholic church.
So I had to try to find the church and see if there was any reference to the statement. The church is the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Lonsdale, Minnesota. Lonsdale is located about 40 miles south of the Twin Cities in Rice County. It is a fast growing community that since 1970 has gone from a census population of 622 to an estimated current population of 4,000. This includes a friend of mine from work and her husband and daughter. She loves it there and raves about what a great place it is. She also thinks this is a bullshit.
Yet Lonsdale apparently is not a great place for a Muslim family to reside. One of those people is Father Nick VanDenBroeke (pictured here looking like a man who just learned his pants are on fire). Father VanDenBroeke has been the pastor of Immaculate Conception since July 1, 2017. In his January 5, 2020 homily VanDenBroeke spoke on immigration. You can hear the entire homily here, but I am focusing on the “second particular issue” he wanted to address which starts at around 10:00. VanDenBroeke said:
Who should be allowed into the country? Both as Americans and as Christians we do not need to pretend that everyone who seeks to enter into America should be treated the same. I believe it is essential to consider the religion and world view 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. Of course there are peaceful Muslims, absolutely, but the religion as a religion and as an ideology and world view it is contrary to Christ and to America. I am not saying we hate Muslims; I am absolutely not saying that. 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 world view. And if we want to protect our country not only as a Christian nation but also as the land of the free then we most oppose the immigration of Muslims. That’s an example of keeping bad ideas out of the country that we have a right to do as a sovereign nation. I’m not a hater for saying this. I’m not saying something antichristian because their religion is antichristian. I’m simply a realist to acknowledge that fact they are the greatest threat to Christianity and to America and we need to recognize that and our laws of immigration need to reflect that.
I wasn’t speechless when I heard it. In fact I responded by sending VanDenBroeke an email (email@example.com):
I have listened to your homily on immigration and am appalled at your anti-Islamic rhetoric. The only thing more appalling is your “I don’t hate Muslim” mea culpa. It reminds me of when I’d hear my parents and their friends say “I don’t have anything against those people” when talking about people of color when you knew they had everything against “those people.”
Ever heard of the Catholic crusades? Shame on you for furthering hate in your church, community, and worst of all your own heart. Your xenophobia about Islam is as sad as the xenophobia that this country had against Catholicism not so very long ago. They protested the immigration of Catholics from Ireland, Italy, Poland, Québec, and Mexico usually focusing on the pope’s control of bishops and priests. I wonder how Pope Francis would feel about your words.
I have not received a response as of today. Googling Father VanDenBroeke I found he has a channel of videos including a homily about how Brett Kavanaugh (spoiler alert – he likes him). I don’t expect he and I would agree on many issues – for instance I think immaculate conception means you don’t leave a wet spot – but I do not think it is right when a pulpit becomes a political soapbox in any religious entity.
When I did some research about Lonsdale I found that the hatred of Muslims was an issue there not that long ago. In September of 2016 when Dan Ruedinger, the owner of a local Lonsdale restaurant Treats Family Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor, placed a sign outside the restaurant that said “Muslims Get Out.”
Ruedinger said it was in response to the stabbings inside a St. Cloud mall on September 18, 2016. Police said the suspect, who was killed, made references to Allah and asked at least one victim if they were Muslim. Some people in the area supported Ruedinger and some rebuked him. The story made national news. It was certainly a source of division and the restaurant went out of business a year later. It reopened in November 2017 to new owners under new name but that restaurant also closed despite no evidence that the new owners were connected with the hate spewed a year earlier.
And now, only a few years later, the ugliness of racism and Islamic xenophobia is back in Lonsdale.
At no level do I believe Father VanDenBroeke, or anyone else who has assumed a place of authority, has the right to single out any group and spew the crap-o-la he spewed on January 5, 2020. Pope Francis (the POPE) said that Catholics and Muslims must not be afraid of differences because God has allowed this, but “we must be frightened if we do not work in fraternity, to walk together in life.”
What say you Father?