Beliefs Culture Ethics Institutions Politics

Cardinal Timothy Dolan: Islamic State is Muslim like Irish Republican Army was Catholic

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York prays during a Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York May 2, 2013. RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz

NEW YORK (RNS) Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said Islamic State militants terrorizing the Middle East are a distortion of “genuine” Islam much as the Irish Republican Army was a “perversion” of Catholicism.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York prays during a Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York May 2, 2013. RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York prays during a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on May 2, 2013. RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz

Dolan’s comments to CNN on Tuesday (March 3) reflect similar statements about the Islamic State group from Pope Francis, but they also echo some of President Obama’s controversial remarks on Islam, Christianity and the history of violence carried out in the name of religion.

“The IRA claimed to be Catholic,” Dolan told CNN anchor Chris Cuomo. “They were baptized. They had a Catholic identity.” But, he continued, “what they were doing was a perversion of everything the church stood for.”

The spiritual leader of New York’s 2.8 million Catholics, Dolan said that likewise, the Islamic State extremists “do not represent genuine Islamic thought” but are “a particularly perverted form of Islam.”

“The analogy (to the IRA) is somewhat accurate,” said Dolan, an Irish-American who on March 17 will serve as grand marshal of the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

“These are not pure, these are not real Muslims. Now what we need and what Pope Francis has led the world in saying, is we need the temperate, moderate, genuine forces of Islam to rise up and say this — they do not represent us. Now, that’s beginning to happen. God can bring good out of evil.”

Francis has frequently said the Islamic State does not represent genuine Islam and that “all religions have these little groups.” And he has pointed to instances when Catholics used religion to justify terrible violence.

But Obama sparked a fierce backlash at last month’s National Prayer Breakfast when he said ISIS does not represent genuine Islam. He also said Christians should not “get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place,” because in the past believers also “committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

Obama has also been criticized for not highlighting the fact that many Islamic State victims are targeted because they belong to the relatively small but ancient Christian communities in the Middle East.

Dolan showed no such hesitation this week, saying he believed the group was conducting a “systematic, well-choreographed, very well-focused attempt to eradicate the ancient Christian population in the Mideast.”

The IRA was a violent extremist group that existed in various forms throughout most of the 20th century, staging brutal terrorist bombings and attacks aimed at ending British sovereignty in largely Protestant Northern Ireland.

Some Catholic leaders strongly denounced the IRA and sought to downplay the religious aspects of the violence, but the IRA also found support among many clergy and the faithful.

The IRA largely ended its armed struggle after the April 1998 Good Friday Agreement, although some holdouts remain.


About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.


Click here to post a comment

  • Cardinal Dolan is right; the world must respond to the desperate plight of Christians being murdered on a terrible scale in the Middle East. However, it does not help when Cardinal dolan, Pope Francis and other Christian leaders declare that Islam is not the problem. It clearly is a problem. Even if the majority in Islam do not support jihadism Islam is a supremacist religion that believes that anyone not a Muslim is inferior and must be subjugated. This is the creed that fuels Jihadism.

  • Cardinal Dolan is wrong when he equates IRA volunteers with the Jihadists. It was to stand up against a different group of supremacists, the Orange Order, whose supremacist influence, permeated every facet of government in the Six northern eastern counties of Ireland thereby making life intolerable for Irish nationalists, that gave rise to the IRA. They were in most cases honourable volunteers who felt compelled to resist the Orange Order and their backers, the British government. For the most part they conducted their campaign to some ethical norm and never claimed that their campaign was in the name of Catholicism. Indeed, some were Catholics, some where protestants and many were not attached to any religious denomination. It is only confusionists who would link the IRA and Jihadis.

  • Honorable?????????????/ They were/are Marxist revolutionaries (the Fenian Brotherhood was part of Marx’s first International) who murdered more Catholics than the British ever did. AND where was Dolan saying the above when the PIRA was collecting money in the US to blow up children in Britain? He’s an duplicitous ignoramus.

  • Tomas,your own creed is similar, and religion in both cases is at the root of the problem.

    And what about the desperate plight of non-Christians being murdered on a terrible scale in the Middle East?

  • Nobody pays attention to them. Or the fact that Muslims make the majority of ISIS’s victims. If it gets in the way of the narrative of “Islam is Evil!!!!” it is inconvenient.

    Dolan at least had the presence of mind and honesty to declare the real cause of the problem. Fanaticism. Something common to ALL religions.

  • So bombing department stores in London was honorable?

    How about Lord Mountbatten’s boat?

    Killing elderly veterans with indiscriminate attacks in Enniskillen?

    The numerous blatantly sectarian assassinations?

    There was nothing honorable in the brand of terrorism the IRA and many other groups of its era.

    There are differences between the IRA and the Jihadis. It has nothing to do with their ultimate goals and motivations. The IRA were the last breed of professional terrorists. Jihadis are mostly amateurs.

  • Honourable Tomas? What’s honourable about killing people as a means to achieving freedom? It’s an animalistic action used by those lacking intelligence and class. Unevolved beings who are one step above wild apes.

  • So, the Christian Creed is similar to Islam and just as prone to fanaticism? Westerners are quite ignorant of Islam and especially its history, which has been violent from its inception, beginning with Mohammed. I do not find Jesus commanding followers to kills others, as the Qu’ran does on multiple occasions, as well as promising heaven to those who do so and damnation to those who don’t. Jesus did not personally behead over a hundred people and preside over the killing of thousands, as Mohammed did, and whose life is a model for Muslims, and in fact is considered the most perfect person who has ever existed. And how many Christian suicide bombers have we heard of lately? Or a Christian father killing his daughter for dating a non-Christian? The acts of ISIS are also not isolated, but these actions are occurring regularly all throughout the world, although are conveniently not reported. Consider Indonesia, the Philippines, many countries in Africa.

  • Come again David? Are you really that ignorant of your own religion? There are dozens of cases of Jesus and Christian god doing, threatening, or instructing followers to do murder, rape, and other awful acts in your bible. A few from Matthew, just to get started:

    Jesus says that he has come to destroy families by making family members hate each other. He has “come not to send peace, but a sword.” 10:34-36

    Jesus condemns entire cities to dreadful deaths and to the eternal torment of hell because they didn’t care for his preaching. 11:20-24

    Jesus will send his angels to gather up “all that offend” and they “shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” 13:41-42, 50

    Jesus is criticized by the Pharisees for not washing his hands before eating. He defends himself by attacking them for not killing disobedient children according to the commandment: “He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.” (See Ex 21:15, Lev 20:9,…

  • ” And how many Christian suicide bombers have we heard of lately?”

    Suicide bombers are more of a function of lack of funding and availability of arms. It was a tactic originated by the Hindu/Marxist Tamil Tigers. A group which was usually strapped for cash, unlike the well funded IRA. But don’t let facts get in the way of your ranting ignorant narrative.

    There are plenty of Christian professional bombers. Those who killed for political causes as their primary form of income. We also have the Christian amateurs who thought that medical clinics and churches are legitimate targets as well.

    At one point, Christian terrorists were so ingrained in America’s culture they were practically mainstream. They called themselves the KKK.

  • Wow, so wealthy westerners being strapped for money and arms is why there are no christian suicide bombers? And who are the “plenty” of christian professional bombers? Again, please provide even a single recent example of such? Or of Christians beheading others, burning them alive, executing those who don’t want to become Christians? And the KKK was almost mainstream? Where do you get your information from? Sorry, but this tendency to deny the reality of Islamic extremism is bizarre and it is childish to do so by claiming that “all religions are doing it.”

  • Good Lord! How is it possible to be a Cardinal, and yet so abysmally ignorant of history, religion and politics. Dolan should never touch a microphone, a pen, or a keyboard.

  • Right on, Doc.
    Perhaps Cdl. Dolan would look up the following Popes and what they had to contend with:
    Leo IV
    John X
    Benedict VIII
    Victor III
    Pius V

    And how about:
    Otranto Martyrs of Southern Italy
    Battle of Adrianople, 718
    Battle of Tours, 732 [the first of key battles against the Islamization of Western Europe]]
    Battle Of Lepanto, October 7, 1571
    Battle Of Vienna, September 11, 1683 [Thank you Poland]
    The Barbary Wars… on, and on.
    After a little research, then maybe His Eminence might practice prudence before picking up a pen, hitting the keyboard, or opening his mouth.

  • Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said Islamic State militants terrorizing the Middle East are a distortion of ‘genuine’ Islam much as the Irish Republican Army was a ‘perversion’ of Catholicism.”

    ISIS is doing the exact same thing in the same way as Mohammad did. They are killing and conquering anyone not following Islam the correct way just like he (Mohammad) did. Isn’t real history even remotely important to anyone anymore?

    There is not one example of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ doing anything even remotely similar to what the Irish Republican Army does.

    No amount of idiotic subterfuge can alter Islamic history. That history was begun by a man dreaming in a cave, and then leaving that cave, gathering followers and murdering people in the name of the god he invented.

    That is fact.

  • David you’re absolutely right, Catholics…Christians do not know anything about Islam or about Muhammad, and it is a problem, when such a comment, especially when it hears one of the cardinal. Pope Francis never said anything about it, I think he still knows what Islam is, and what it says in the Koran. Here are some lists of suras and verses of the Koran, for those who think that ISIL has nothing to do with Islam. 2:191 call for killing, 4:34 free hit woman, 8:12 hit people over the head, 5:33 killing..crucifying etc, 5:38 cut hands, 5:64 curse, 9:5 call for killing, 5:72 Christians and Jews are non-believers, 9:29 call to fight against Christians and Jews, 9:30 Christians and Jews are the same as non-believers – curse words “kill them Allah”, 9:111 suicide is justified, 9:123 call for strict fight against the non-believers, 13:42 Allah is the master of all concoction, 48:29 there is no mercy for non-believers, 47:4 striking the unbelievers, bind them, do not let them eat…etc

  • David obviously won’t ever mention the likes of Anders Behring Breivik, who was influenced by right-wing CATHOLIC nutjobs like Robert Spencer when he slaughtered 70 teens and wished to behead the former PM of Norway 4 years ago in Utoya. Islamophobes posting here can’t admit the fact that they are just as bloodthirsty as the jihadis they despise. The events in Utoya/Oslo on 7/22/2011 is further proof of it, so cut the crap here David.

  • You really are praying for an American Anders Breivik to emerge, huh? Is the slaughter of 70 teens not enough for you anti-Muslim nutjobs?

  • I believe that ISIS should be shown sympathy. In addition, I would like to say that Mohammed was a good man and would have wanted to dominate the world

  • i cant beleive this!11!1 Kony 2012. Ron Paul for president 2020!!111! Gr8 guy! I love Pope Dolan! I agree with his views 100 percent!!! I LOVE POPE TIM DOLAN.

  • When one thinks of mass murder, Hitler comes to mind. If not Hitler, then Tojo, Stalin, or Mao. Credit is given to the 20th-century totalitarians as the worst species of tyranny to have ever arisen. However, the alarming truth is that Islam has killed more than any of these, and may surpass all of them combined in numbers and cruelty.

    The enormity of the slaughters of the “religion of peace” are so far beyond comprehension that even honest historians overlook the scale. When one looks beyond our myopic focus, Islam is the greatest killing machine in the history of mankind, bar none.

    The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. — Will Durant, as quoted on Daniel Pipes site.

    Conservative estimates place the number at 80 million dead Indians.

    According to some calculations, the Indian (subcontinent) population decreased by 80 million between 1000 (conquest of Afghanistan) and 1525 (end of Delhi Sultanate). — Koenrad Elst as quoted on Daniel…