Cardinal O'Malley on NYC Mosque

Via the Daily Dish, Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s thoughts on the “Ground Zero Mosque,” as told to an interviewer for FOX News:

I told her it is a sign of the value we have for freedom in this country, and for religious freedom in particular. We certainly do not want to support groups that promote terrorism, but there are many American citizens who are Muslim, and they have a right to practice their faith. Having a mosque near the site of the attack can be a very important symbol of how much we value religious freedom in this country.


I compared the situation to a historical situation in Ireland: During the Easter Revolution the Irish were very careful to protect the rights of the Protestants in the Free State. They did not take back their cathedral or close their churches. Instead, they wanted people to see they believed in freedom of religion.

Michael O'Loughlin


Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
John Flaherty
8 years 3 months ago
Ms. Rehbein,
Well said.
Perhaps some of the rhetoric has grown needlessly brutal, but I think there are some legitimate questions that need to be answered.  Why do the city and our clerics not insist that the builders provide public answers to questions related to public safety and security?  Why does anyone insist that people are being intolerant, ignorant, or whatever if they question the Muslim intent?
Does Freedom of Religion now mean that we simply ignore 9 years (or more) of stubborn intolerance from a particular community?

As far as that goes, why is it the city is doing all it can to clear hurdles for this project, but has turned a blind eye toward efforts to rebuild a Greek Orthodox church in the same general area?
Does the City of New York genuinely care about the 1st amendment?  Or are the various agencies involved bending double to help the Muslim community so they'll look good, while demonstrating the usual casual contempt for everyone else?

This effort looks more and more to me like a typical effort to demolish the law while insisting the virtue of the same law.
8 years 4 months ago
The mosque at Ground Zero has nothing to do with freedom of religion and anyone who continues to suggest that is being disingenuous.  Apparently a lot of gullible minds have fallen for that argument.  Or maybe they are not gullible and have an agenda which they try to hide.
8 years 4 months ago
I will be direct.

I do not comment on every post.  You can go through them and see which ones I comment on and how often.  There is generally very little commenting on this site so if someone makes a few comments then that may look like too much to some but in reality it is very little.

 I have two comments on some of Mr. Reidy's comments:

 ''let other people have their say''  How is this of any relevance?  How are people being prevented from speaking?

''if you find our commentary so objectionable, why post and repost''  This sounds like an attempt to censor someone by making them unwelcome.  I was taught by Jesuits, taught at a Jesuit college so I feel I should be welcome especially if my comments don't echo the choir.  I find your approach as one to stifle debate and not encourage it.  I am criticized for being polite and when I am direct, told to go elsewhere.
we vnornm
8 years 4 months ago
Tim and JR:

I serve at Tim's pleasure, so I hope I don't end up writing for the Marist College student paper after this. But the First Amendment is important and we can invoke it here, I think. So here are some thoughts:

A large group of people in the US (5000?) were traumatized by the actions of priests. The Church-only after much pressure from others-began to acknowledge this and make some kind of reparations for these actions. Many in the Church who had nothing to do with this find themselves apologizing for the actions of others. 

Many persons abused by priests become upset, even tremulous, when reminded of the trauma. Seeing even another priest can invoke this. So many avoid symbols that remind them of what they went through. We understand this; we give them space.

It would be a sign of extreme cruelty to demand that someone face a tangible reminder of the abuse they suffered.

Now on 9/11, another large group of people were traumatized by the actions of a small group of people. The number of persons traumatized on 9/11 is certainly greater than the number of persons abused by priests, when we take into account all the families who lost a family member, kids growing up without parents, tens of thousands of people seeing the planes hit.

When we acknowledge the trauma that happened to the victims of the priests, 
we don't expect that it will be over in five years, ten years, or whatever.

So I am going to invoke the spirit of Blessed Cardinal Bernardin, of Chicago, my hometown. What is some Common Ground that can unite everyone?

Yes, those building a mosque have that right. But could some approaches from their side occur, such as talking with groups of the victims, learning what symbols may evoke Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Might the Church consider acting as advocates for these victims? 

I'd view this as more of a mutually acceptable solution, recognizing there is no perfect solution. Get both sides talking: yes, we're building a mosque. But what can we do to diminish post-traumatic stress reactions of the victims, as we know these will occur? 

Cardinal O'Malley, in my view, is a saint and he deserves almost unconditional positive regard (hyperbole). I am glad Tim stands up for him, and also reminds everyone about the negativity on these blogs. I would not tolerate it in my electronic college courses.

But I have read many of JR Cosgrove's responses, and although they may push buttons at times, I think he brings in ideas that deserve to be heard. Sometimes the blogs do seem to lean in just one political direction. Many in the national press are stating opinions similar to JR Cosgrove.

In the spirit of "Our Brother Joseph," can this discussion branch out so its not just a back and forth of two ideological themes?

Okay: my main point. People from each religion work together to address the needs of the traumatized. 

I apologize in advance for any naivete or lack of understanding of this complex situation, and hope that both Tim and JR Cosgrove will not delete me. bill

Brendan McGrath
8 years 4 months ago
Some thoughts on the "Ground Zero Mosque" - I've been saddened lately to read about all the problems the Church faces, how people are drifting from the Church, etc.  So I find myself being very sympathetic to and supportive of any increased presence of or commitment to so-called "organized religion."  I think it can only be good to have more mosques in the country, since hopefully it may prompt non-Muslim Americans to return to their religions (if they ever had any) - and ultimately, perhaps non-Catholics of any kind practicing their religions more would put pressure on Catholics to stay Catholic, to return to the Church, etc., etc.  That is what I ultimately want, and perhaps the "Ground Zero Mosque" could help advance that.

I say build as many mosques as you want near Ground Zero, so it'll shame people from Christian backgrounds back into their churches, shame non-practicing Jewish people to return to their synagogues, etc., etc.  To do a humorous paraphrase of a common saying, "the answer to offensive prayer is not repression of prayer, but more prayer!"  ;) 

Of course, no prayer of any kind is offensive (well, OK, some prayers can be offensive, but any prayer no matter how offensive is good, since God will answer the underlying desire for God buried within it).  And to continue on that line of thought - shouldn't those families of 9/11 victims and any others who are offended by this community center/mosque be happy to see any prayers offered in close proximity to the site where so many lost their lives?  I mean, these people are praying to God - regardless of any errors or gaps in their beliefs about God from the perspective of Catholicism, they're still praying to God. 

Anyway, in closing, to Catholics who are upset about the "Ground Zero Mosque," stop protesting and say a novena.
Jim McCrea
8 years 4 months ago
"Tricky position he's in.  Whatever he says is bound to greatly displease someone."

The truth shall make you free, not comfortable.  Rabbi Lionel Blue, The Tablet, 8-12-95.
Jim McCrea
8 years 4 months ago
(Cross posted from Commonweal):

“Insensitivity” has become the acceptable word to use rather than the true expression: anti-Islamic prejudice.

I will continue to ask: how far from Ground Zero is far enough before an Islamic Cultural Center’s location is acceptable? (Forget Tennessee; who would want to build one there anyway?)

What about the Muslims who died on 9-11? Can only the non-Muslims dictate what is acceptable construction near (not on or at) Ground Zero?

Some interesting facts that poke holes in this Nativistic apoplectic fit:

1. There is a mosque in the Pentagon, another “sacred space” post 9-11 (,-Tim:-What-about-the-Pentagon-mosque)

2. There is a Shinto shrine near Pearl Harbor (is this not a “sacred space?”) (
Jim McCrea
8 years 4 months ago
If prayer is the lifting up of one's mind and heart to God, then no prayers can be offensive, whether I agree with them or not.
Tom Maher
8 years 4 months ago
It is unfair to attack JR Cosgrove for his opinions.  He has always shown an in-depth inderstanding of issues  and very mature insight wgich should be welcome in any open forum.     It is perfectly proper in civil discourse and not harsh to reject or criticize agruments that are tidy politically correct explaination of controversys,  even arguments made by the President. the mayor and the Cardinal.

Fairly stated and explained, JR Cosgrove's views are in fact supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans.  The issue with the location of the mosque is not a narrow religious-tolerance issue.  This issue also involves a political and public relations dimension.  The appropriatness and sensitivity of locating a mosque so near to the hollowed grounds of the destroyed World Trade Center is in disregard to the feelings and thoughts of most Americans.  

President Obama has received a nationwide firestorm of cirticism for his Friday night endorsement of the mosque location.  The President too narrowly reasoned that it was legal but failed to deal with the larger question on everyone's mind: But Is it right? 

JR Cosgrove  is right to question the President's the mayor's and the Cardinal's analysis for being too narrow in its concern and way too shallow in its conclusion. 

Any attempt to censor JR COsrove is an attempt to exclude from discourse the thoughts and feelings of the overwhelming majority of the American people who feel and reason the way JR Cosgrove does. 

It is sad and unfortunate for a magazine named "America" to censor the content and tone of any commentator let alone the always insightful comments of JR Cosgrove who deserves as does anyone much more respect and appreciation than is being shown here.    Free speech is essential for all political discourse in America.  We have no place for thought control.  
John Flaherty
8 years 4 months ago
Mr. Reidy,
I'll admit to being a bit disgusted with your comments to Mr. Cosgrove and your appreciation for those of Mr. Van Ornum.  I didn't see anything terribly harsh from the former, though what the latter may have mis-stated some facts.  I don't see any degree of harsh rhetoric, but definitely an insistent call to see the whole truth.

As for Cardinal O'Malley's opinion, I regret this is not the first I've heard from him that I thought well off the mark.

I imagine this mosque will wind up being built.  I regret, I have serious doubts about whether it'll necessarily help the community in the way it's been suggested.
I wish I didn't have to say that, but the attitude coming from those who want to build it doesn't give me much confidence that they'll have much genuine concern for others.

These days, minorities rarely have any accountability in that sense.
Vince Killoran
8 years 4 months ago
I have no idea how defending Constitutional rights is the same as-to use Cosgraove's claim- "fram[ing] the argument in terms of freedom of religion and thus mak[ing] it an emotional argument."

ed gleason
8 years 4 months ago
Good comment and the Irish comparison was even better.  
8 years 4 months ago
'Why is Cardinal O'Malley being disingenuous and, as you plainly suggest, gullible?'
I did not plainly say Cardinal O'Malley was gullible but apparently a lot of people commenting on this issue are.
I do not know what Cardinal O'Malley's specific agenda is but I know he is an intelligent man and the controversy over the mosque at Ground Zero has nothing to do with freedom of religion.  So why does Cardinal O'Malley continue to perpetuate that nonsense.   I do not know.  Whatever it is would then be disingenuous in most instances.  So disingenuous is more applicable than gullible for Cardinal O'Malley.
Now as far as I can determine, Cardinal O'Malley is an excellent man so maybe there is another reason.  I can think of a third reason and that is to appear to be tolerant no matter how much the provocation is.  I find such a position as self defeating in the long term.  There is no reason to be constantly confronting but an ongoing policy of giving in to those who provoke is not a good strategy.
If you think I speak in innuendos then that is to be polite.  I am trying to get an honest discussion instead of a one sided pontificatation as is prevalent in a lot of the posts on this site.  I find the opinions expressed here by the authors shallow, one sided and often derogatory.  When I get too direct sometimes, my comments have been censored. So that is why I couch what I say.
ed gleason
8 years 4 months ago
Cardinal  Dolan's Irish comparison e.g. St Patricks cathedral in Dublin is still and always will be an A Church of Ireland building.
Vince Killoran
8 years 4 months ago
If the folks in charge of the planned center have broken the law then they should be arrested.  If not, then get out of their way and let them practice their faith. This is America.
8 years 4 months ago
I agree with Tim Reidy.  There are too man ad hominem attacks which stifle the discussion.  We should stop labeling people such as when some call others hippocrates.  This is unbecoming at a Jesuit website.
Molly Roach
8 years 4 months ago
The mosque isn't a mosque but is an Islamic Center.   The Islamic Center is not at Ground Zero.  So what is going on here?   A  neuralgia regarding Muslims?  PTSD symptoms related to 9/11?  People looking for a fight?   People looking  for scape goats? Religious bigotry?  Profound confusion?  I see people in a complete frazzle, taking offense where there is no evidence of offense intended, forgetting that one of our great inherited treasures in this country is freedom of worship.  The city of New York is not blocking this Islamic Center.   I am very sceptical about the source of the frazzle.  There's a lot of manipulation happening through the internet and through media.   Scary times.
Brendan McGrath
8 years 4 months ago
"If mosques are outlawed, only outlaws will have mosques."  ;)

(A paraphrase of Al Franken's humorous paraphrase of the original line about guns: "If abortions are outlawed, only outlaws will have abortions.")
8 years 4 months ago
My point was and still is that the controversy over the mosque about 200 yards from where the World Trade center stood has nothing to do with freedom of religion and to continually bring this argument up is not relevant.  There are about 40 mosques in Manhattan and roughly 200 in New York City from what I understand.  There are two mosques within a few blocks of the World Trade Center that have been there for some time.  So please tell me how Muslims are being discriminated against in New York City because of their religion.
So to frame the argument in terms of freedom of religion and thus make it an emotional argument on this non existent infringement of a basic right is to be tactful not correct.  The choice of space, the choice of name, the type of building are shall we say inappropriate.  If they put it in mid town or just further uptown from the Wall Street area, few would be protesting.  One has to question the motives involved and the lack of transparency so far.  So my point is which I expressed on another post is that they should be asked to move the site to some place else in lower Manhattan or better yet much further up town and if they insist on using this space then make it a modest building.  If they refuse, then we will know their true intentions.
we vnornm
8 years 4 months ago
Two different sides, each feeling right (pontifications), and rhetoric that keeps getting angrier and angrier on a national level, to me at least is a situation calling for diplomacy and compromise. Maybe David Paterson's offering to suggest an alternative will help or will lead to other attempt to work something out. I suspect we will experience many more situations like this. Democrats breaking party lines to join with many Republicans certainly does say many things about the will of the constituents. So far many "leaders" offer rather simple statements and I hope there are others waiting in the wings who have been observing quietly and are becoming ready to enter the situation with calmness.

I think Pope Benedict's use of the concept of "reciprocity" applies here and how this is handled by each side will tell the world a great deal.  

Tricky position we are all in. Whatever each of us says is met with displeasure by someone else. We are being divided. (I write this in the passive voice. "We" are being acted upon.) And I don't think we started the entire chain of events. 

There is suggestion that AMERICA on this issue is out of tune with many Americans. We often demand "lay participation" in the Church, i.e. democracy-and right now the American people are speaking with an urgent voice.
Ricky Vines
8 years 4 months ago
It is like forgiving the Nazis for what they did to the 6 million dead Jews. 

That is the prerogative of the victims.  How dare you presume for the dead and bulldoze the living into your vision?
Dave Buonerba
8 years 4 months ago
Good for Cardinal O'Malley.

Those who "oppose the mosque" are playing right into the hands of the 9/11 terrorists, who sought to pit the U.S. and the rest of the western world in a hostile conflict against Islam.

The issue at stake in the current controversy IS in fact freedom of religion/assembly.  While I can understand the emotional aspect which underlies much of the opposition to the planned project, caving in to these same emotions only serves to undermine the very principles that make our nation the great place that it is.

That's my only agenda, so I suppose that makes me one of the gullible.
Marie Rehbein
8 years 4 months ago
The Islamic center/mosque from the terrorists point of view could be seen as a trophy - proof of Islam beginning to triumph over the culture of the United States.  That the US laws mandate allowing this could be seen as no different than the US practices allowing people the freedom to travel so that they could hijack planes and fly them into symbols of capitalist greatness.

It does not surprise me that people feel uncomfortable with the construction of this center/mosque, even if they do not articulate it well.

Perhaps, the controversy could be eliminated if the WTC were to be rebuilt, including on its grounds a memorial to the innocent victims that also articulates US commitment to the freedom of religion.  This would surely dwarf whatever the Islamic community would be doing two blocks away. 


The latest from america

The act of planting a garden is the easier part: It’s the small daily acts of caring over the long haul that can be a challenge.
Elizabeth Kirkland CahillDecember 15, 2018
So what is it about these cheesy, mass-produced films that make them so irresistible?
Colleen DulleDecember 14, 2018
Last year, 'America' published “An (unconventional) Advent Playlist.” This is my (much more conventional) Advent playlist.
Molly MattinglyDecember 14, 2018
Jeff Daniels in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (photo: Julieta Cervantes)
Two starry new Broadway productions have no qualms about speaking their mind.
Rob Weinert-KendtDecember 14, 2018