Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

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Ecumenical and Interfaith Dialogue: We Have Much to Celebrate

March 21st, 2011, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

Here at Cleansing Fire we’ve frequently provided information describing the dire situation of Catholicism in the Diocese of Rochester.  The main metrics we’ve used are mass attendance, priestly vocations, people who identify themselves as Catholics, school closings, etc.  There’s no way to sugar coat this data.  It doesn’t take a genius to know that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  So we wonder how our leadership can be so blind to the glaringly obvious fact that whatever they are doing is failing miserably.  The simple answer to this is that they are using different metrics.  Mass attendance?  Priestly vocations?  School closings?  meh!  That’s not what is important.  There are more important things to them – such as healing the “hurt” of women who feel called to be priests, advancing the homosexual agenda, and “winning national attention and making international history” in the area of ecumenism and inter-faith dialogue.  The latter is featured in a recent official DOR video posted on youtube.

It’s 27 minutes long, so if you’d rather skip over it I’ll summarize it for you.  It’s mostly self-aggrandizement coupled with typical DOR foggy theology.  Bishop Clark opens with a monologue explaining that in his pre-Vatican 2 upbringing in Waterford, NY there was an “unwritten rule of not talking about other people’s religions”.  That is sad.  It truly is.  How can you win souls without discussion?   However, the fact that there is room for improvement doesn’t legitimize any form of action you choose to take.  He then goes on to blame the Holocaust on “religious prejudice”.  That seems like an oversimplification to me and perhaps even a bit deceptive.   Combine this idea with the label of “Catholic Taliban” and the painting is starting to come together.  He continues to deride the Catholic Church for having no official support for ecumenism.  I’m not sure how true that is, but I’m also curious why that would bother Bishop Clark since he desires more autonomy at the local level anyhow.  He then goes on to quote Nostra Aetate which is presented as if to legitimize all that is done in the name of ecumenism.  I certainly have no problem with Nostra Aetate, but it should be read in light of all the other V2 texts such as Lumen Gentium which states unequivocally:

1. Christ is the Light of nations. Because this is so, this Sacred Synod gathered together in the Holy Spirit eagerly desires, by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature,(1) to bring the light of Christ to all men, a light brightly visible on the countenance of the Church. Since the Church is in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race, it desires now to unfold more fully to the faithful of the Church and to the whole world its own inner nature and universal mission. This it intends to do following faithfully the teaching of previous councils. The present-day conditions of the world add greater urgency to this work of the Church so that all men, joined more closely today by various social, technical and cultural ties, might also attain fuller unity in Christ.

So what’s the big deal?  Why am I blogging about this?  The video seems rather harmless, right?  The big deal is that ecumenism and inter-faith dialogue runs the risk of religious syncretism.  If we are to undertake such efforts, we must constantly remind ourselves (and others) that all people in all times are in need of a savior.  That savior came into the world 2000 years ago and established a Church which re-presents his eternal sacrifice elongated in space and time.  The Church has a messy history, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, she continues to be guided by Him.  Jesus must be presented to the world not merely as the leader of our particular faith tradition.  He must be presented as the Savior of all peoples – Jews, Muslims, Atheists, etc.  All men must choose to either worship Him or reject Him.  If they reject Him, then they seal their own fate.  True love would be to encourage non-Catholics to enter into a life altering relationship with the Church.  To deny this is to deny Catholicism and Christianity.  Where is that message in all of this?  Paul chastises the Judaizers with these words:

Galatians 2:21
I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose.

The issue being addressed by Paul is different than the current discussion, but the principle applies just as well.  For what purpose did Christ die?

Am I being oversenstive?  I wish it were so, but consider this quote from Bernard Grizard, Diocesan Director – Parish Support Ministries (not exactly sure what that title means)

the sacred narratives of all 3 of these religions [Judaism, Islam, and Christianity] feature many of the same figures, history, and places, although they often present them with slightly different roles, perspectives, and meanings.

Slightly different roles, perspectives, and meanings?  Excuse me sir, but I beg to differ.

In regards to Islam, I know there are people of good will in that faith.  I believe the question of whether they are people of good will because of their faith or in spite of their faith remains.  I’m certainly not scholarly enough to know all the intricate details, but this video debate between Robert Spencer and Peter Kreeft is worth watching.  It’s also worth noting that while Christianity has made mistakes in the past, they pale in comparison to those of Islam.  Is it not a historical fact that Islam is a religion that was spread by the sword?  It’s certainly a fact that Christians living the vast majority of Islam nations are treated unjustly.

A great resource on the topic of ecumenism is found on Peter Kreeft’s audio page titled “Ecumenism Without Compromise”.

Another observation I had while watching this video is how vacant one of America’s largest religious communities is – conservative Evangelicalism.  While the mainline denominations that the diocese mentions in this video (actually, I only remember one) continue to liberalize and shrink, the conservative Evangelical population continues to thrive.  They should be one of our biggest allies and yet the progressive agenda of our current leadership pushes them further and further away.  How sad.

To wrap up, let me offer some prophetic words from CS Lewis:

for about a hundred years we have so concentrated on one of the virtues – ‘kindness’ or mercy – that most of us do not feel anything except kindness to be really good or anything but cruelty to be really bad.  Such lopsided ethical developments are not uncommon, and other ages too have had their pet virtues and curious insensibilities.

Perhaps my harping on the word ‘kindness’ has already aroused a protest in some readers’ minds.  Are we not really an increasingly cruel age?  Perhaps we are: but I think we have become so in the attempt to reduce all virtues to kindness.  For Plato rightly taught that virtue is one.  You cannot be kind unless you have all the other virtues.  If, being cowardly, conceited and slothful, you have never yet done a fellow creatue great mischief, that is only because your neighbour’s welfare has not yet happend to conflict with your safety, self-approval, or ease.  Every vice leads to cruelty.  Even a good emotion, pity, if not controlled by charity and justice, leads through anger to cruelty.  Most atrocities are stimulated by accounts of the enemy’s atrocities; and pity for the oppressed classes, when separated from the moral law as a whole, leads by a very natural process to the unremitting brutalities of a reign of terror.  [pp 49 & 59 – The Problem of Pain]

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2 Responses to “Ecumenical and Interfaith Dialogue: We Have Much to Celebrate”

  1. avatar annonymouse says:

    I stopped reading at “slightly different roles…” Wow. All I can say is, Wow.

    How to completely trivialize the Life, Death and Resurrection of Our Blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Bernard! Way to completely trivialize the most important event in the history of the world: God so loved the world that He sent His only Son…”

    “Slightly different” indeed.


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