a bit of confusion regarding Catholic Interfaith interactions


#1

I'm a little confused by the statements that have been made on other threads - specifically the Wicca one and the Non-Christian/Catholic one.

At the heart of it lays the topic of what is the relationship between the Catholic Church and other religious faiths that fall out of the Abrahamic category. Although technically I may as well extend the question to certain Protestant denominations as well as the Jews and Muslims on the board.

Going with the Catholic example though ~ I kind of see two trends. And because i'm the guy looking in from the outside - i'm in no position to judge which of these two trends adequately represents your dogma.

Track 1 is going to state that all religions outside of your faith comes from the ultimate source of metaphysical evil in the universe. ie: They are lies, I have truth, etc. etc.

So that's easy to understand. Many evangelical sects i've encountered tend to follow that line.

Except, well, by personal experience watching members of your faith interact with those Non-Abrahamic faiths....the result doesn't really tally up to what Track 1 is stating.

Let me precise here: i am not stating that those instances I've seen somehow constitutes some sort of hidden Pluralism. Not once did I ever see one of your members of your Church state.

But there is a much more perceivable respectful tone amongst your professional polished theologians and those who are actively engaged in the process of evangelization in the "host culture" than well, a random member of the laity voicing his or her opinions here on CAF or in real life.

Gaah... perhaps i'm butchering this so let me go with an example:

Buddhism - as seen in America - tends to be grouped by many of the more traditional western faiths as being part and parcel to the "New Age movement." Cue Castigation.

I then jump on a plane and go to South Korea or Thailand - and i see something competely different. In the specific case of you Catholics, i see more a parternship with Buddhist organizations (who in those cultures represent the traditional guardians of a morality that tracks pretty well over your concept of Natural Law. ) - against THEIR "New Age movements" - which do include some pretty wacky Evangelical sects....who may or may not have a correlate in the States.

Let me reiterate: I don't have folks stating that Jesus was a Buddhist or that Buddha worshipped Yahweh. Again, anti-plularism.

BUT - its not quite Track 1 either. In fact there is a real emphasis placed by the hierarchies (if the other religion happens to have one) about the commonalities shared by your faiths in terms of ethics, morality, and certain contemplative practices.

ie: "I am right, but..that doesn't make the other guy evil.. or damned."

Do you see where i'm kind of getting confused by this.

In one place - members of your Church are essentially decrying the "Other faith" as Servants of Satan.

In another place - you and "the Other Faith" are literally holding the line against certain groups (which tend to fall under the category of "New Religions" - at best maybe 50-70 years old) that have been labeled as Cults (or Psuedo-Cults) within that society.

Or...holding the line against really angry irritable juvenile versions of myself. :p

But to put it bluntly - What gives? Or what accounts for this disparity in opinion? :shrug:

And just what is your dogma when it does come to evaluating whether say Wicca/Hinduism/Buddhism/Scientology/etc is an incorrect but admirable faith, some sort of Occultism, or a dangerous tool of the evil?


#2

I can understand why this is so confusing to someone coming from the outside! First off I just want to let you know that I appreciate that you are interested in trying to understand what we actually believe. It is refreshing to see. :slight_smile:

Catholics, as you know, believe that their religion is the only true religion and that there is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church. ***However ***these two statements need clarifcation. They’re a little more nuanced then they often seem to be.

First, while Catholicism holds fast to the claim that it is THE one true faith it recognizes that other people, and even other faiths can have and be aware of part of the truth. So, even though the Catholic Church is the only one with the fullness of truth, other religions can approach this by sharing in the truth at least partially. For instance, those religions (and people) that recognize murder as wrong have a part of the truth. Those religions and people that recognize the importance and worth of loving self-sacrifce also have part of the truth. So, while the Church ultimately sees these religions as incorrect, she also recognizes the value that can exist within them.

I think its hard to put clear cut-off points on these different religions as the extent to which each has truth is a continuum, but my best shot at picking distinctive points would be:

  1. Fullness of Truth (Catholic Church) vs Anything else
  2. Partial Truth without any falsehoods (I don’t know if any such religions exist… but they possibly do!) vs Partial Truth mixed in with errors.

I think what causes many Catholics to talk about other religions as satanic is because of the errors they see within them. Satan is, after all, the father of lies. However this does not mean that such a religion must always be viewed as wrong. To the extent that it has some truth it should be encouraged. (Not, of course, in telling people not to convert to Catholicism, but in encouragin people to hold onto that which is true within their religion) Because of this you will have Catholics working with other religions for the sake of accomplishing some good in light of their mutual recognition of the truth that their goal really is good. So, if Catholicism and some other religion share a mutual recognition of some truth, they can work together against some other religion which does not recognize this as true, at least with respect to that error. I’m not sure if I’m making this any clearer… but I hope this helps!

Also, with respect to no salvation outside of the church, I know this isn’t directly what you asked, but I think understanding it will help you to understand the Church’s position better. What this teaching means is that no one can get to heaven unless they are baptized, however, there are a few ways that people can be baptized.

  1. Baptism by water. This is what you normally think of when you think of baptism. Water is poured over the person to be baptized and they are baptized in the name of the trinity.
  2. Baptism by fire. This is where someone is martyred for the faith when they have not yet been able to receive baptism by water (Don’t worry, there is no ritual with fire. :wink: The martyrdom itself is considered as ‘test by fire’ and so is the form, if you will of their baptism.
  3. Baptism by desire. This is where someone desires to be Catholic, but for whatever dies without another form of baptism. The interesting thing here is that it is not always neccessary for a person to have even been aware of Catholicism for this kind of baptism to occur. The Church recognizes such a thing as “invincible ignorance”. This means that if someone is unaware through no fault of their own that Catholicism is the only religion with the fullness of truth, but has sought out this truth and followed to the best of their ability or knowledge, then the fact that they never thought “I want to be baptized a Catholic” does not exclude them from baptism by desire. If they really sought out the truth and really wanted to follow it as best they could then the Church recognizes this as being a desire for participation in the fullness of truth, and so a desire ultimately to be baptized into the Catholic faith.

Now, your gonna get many different views with respect to this third one as to how common (or rare) such a baptism is, but the important thing to note is that the Catholic Church* does not claim *that somebody must be obviously Catholic for them to get to heaven. In other words, there is the possibility that someone from another religion can get to heaven. It is just seen as a much harder path, one that gives no surety to its members. And even for those that do make it to heaven, they still missed out on the fullness of truth here on earth. So, the Church teaches that it is better to be a faithful Catholic while alive, while at the same time recognizing that there will likely be some people in heaven who never affiliated themselves as Catholic.

Sorry that this is so long-winded, and I hope I haven’t been repeating things you already know. But I hope this helps you to understand the answer to your question. Feel free to ask me for clarification and I’ll do my best. :slight_smile:


#3

What he (wanderer) said. :D


#4

Regarding relations with non-Christians (excepting Jews) I suggest you look up the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialog, their writings and activities, and the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate as well as John Paull II's Redemptoris Missio.

Regarding relations with other Christians and Jews, see Commission for religious Relations with Jews and Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Vatican II documnt Unitatis Redintegratio, and John Paul II's Ut Unum Sint.


#5

Thank you for your kind responses.

I think i understand the basic outlines of what you've stated and what the documents suggested.

But i do have to wonder why such a viewpoint doesn't seem to have penetrated into the conscious of the wider population in your faith.

At times it seems like certain individuals are fighting rather old holy wars.


#6

And just what is your dogma when it does come to evaluating whether say Wicca/Hinduism/Buddhism/Scientology/etc is an incorrect but admirable faith, some sort of Occultism, or a dangerous tool of the evil

Hi Mr. Atheist,

I will try to answer. I think that many christians go to far in judging those other beliefs as you describe. Jesus taught us not to judge others but instead of looking at the specks in the eyes of others, to take the beams out of our own eyes.

What they are missing is Christ in their lives. They may be very admirable in their own way. But christianity goes farther than virtues of the heathens of even godliness.
It is to live with the love and forgiveness of Christ in our heart. That changes us inside and as Paul explains "Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." In other words we are changed by our high calling.

Rob


#7

Thank you for your kind responses.

I think i understand the basic outlines of what you’ve stated and what the documents suggested.

But i do have to wonder why such a viewpoint doesn’t seem to have penetrated into the conscious of the wider population in your faith.

At times it seems like certain individuals are fighting rather old holy wars

Mr Atheist,

Perhaps they dont know Jesus very well? Why dont you ask them?

Rob


#8

My dear brother Atheist :slight_smile:

My first little piece of advice would be: Do not judge Catholicism by CAF posters. The majority of us are imperfect lay people, not the Magisterium.

There are here also a large nuber of Americans who are perhaps influenced by their Evangelical brethren whom they have grown up amongst or beside, and who have not necessarily researched the actual teachings of the faith but mearly believe what they have been brought up with. In the environment of many American states, where Evangelical Protestant understandings of salvation and other religions reign, it can be very easy to assume that the Catholic Church shares the same views as the broader Protestant Christian community.

Secondly many Catholics do not have sufficient in-depth knowledge of their faith. This is to be expected in every religion, and is by far not a uniquely Catholic phenomenon, since many lay people are simply content to know the basics of their religion and live their lives accordingly without researching in depth the Church’s teaching on EENS or other faiths.

Thirdly, there is a group of ardent, extreme Traditionalists on CAF who represent less than 0.00001% of the global 1.1 billion demographic of the Catholic Church and are predominantly confined to a small segment of the USA but who are, sadly, a very vocal minority on the web. These people often take exclusivist texts from Fathers and medeival Popes, ignore the broader context in which these statements were made and other inclusiuvist texts of these fathers/popes, and extrapolate from these texts restrictive understandings of the Catholic faith not shared by the actual Magisterium.

Like your good self, I too have been irritated by the sheer ignorance of many ordinary lay Catholics as to the actual teachings of their faith concerning EENS and non-Christian religions. I often ask myself: Is it a catechesis problem? Are Catholic schools to blame? Are parents too blame? Is their a lack of proper education in the Church? Or is it wilful ignorance because they do not like what the Church teaches?

Its frustrating and I’m afraid that I do not know the full answer but I pray that it gets solved somehow by the hierarchy of the Church.

Another thing to consider though is that the Church’s teaching on EENS, for example, while looking simple on the outside is actually as deep as the Grand Canyon and difficult for many people to understand properly. The Church’s teaching vis-a-vis other faiths that is the universal action of the Holy Spirit and the doctrine of seeds of the Word in other religions, are also hard to understand.

Much love in Christ :thumbsup:


#9

For the record the Catholic Church’s official teaching vis-a-vis other religions was perfectly sumed up by Blessed Pope John Paul II. In it he references the teachings of the Church Fathers, the Second Vatican Council and two of his previous encyclicals from the 80s and 1991 respectively:

"…I have wished to recall the ancient doctrine formulated by the Fathers of the Church, which says that we must recognize “the seeds of the Word” present and active in the various religions (Ad gentes, n. 11; Lumen gentium, n. 17). This doctrine leads us to affirm that, though the routes taken may be different, “there is but a single goal to which is directed the deepest aspiration of the human spirit as expressed in its quest for God and also in its quest, through its tending towards God, for the full dimension of its humanity, or in other words, for the full meaning of human life” (Redemptor hominis, n. 11).

The “seeds of truth” present and active in the various religious traditions are a reflection of the unique Word of God, who “enlightens every man coming into world” (cf. Jn 1:9) and who became flesh in Christ Jesus (cf. Jn 1:14). They are together an “effect of the Spirit of truth operating outside the visible confines of the Mystical Body” and which “blows where it wills” (Jn 3:8; cf. Redemptor hominis, nn. 6, 12).

Every quest of the human spirit for truth and goodness, and in the last analysis for God, is inspired by the Holy Spirit. The various religions arose precisely from this primordial human openness to God. At their origins we often find founders who, with the help of God’s Spirit, achieved a deeper religious experience. Handed on to others, this experience took form in the doctrines, rites and precepts of the various religions.

In every authentic religious experience, the most characteristic expression is prayer. Because of the human spirit’s constitutive openness to God’s action of urging it to self-transcendence, we can hold that “every authentic prayer is called forth by the Holy Spirit, who is mysteriously present in the heart of every person”. We experienced an eloquent manifestation of this truth at the World Day of Prayer for Peace on 27 October 1986 in Assisi, and on other similar occasions of great spiritual intensity.

  1. The Holy Spirit is not only present in other religions through authentic expressions of prayer. “The Spirit’s presence and activity”, as I wrote in the Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, “affect not only individuals but also society and history, peoples, cultures and religions” (n. 28). Indeed, the Spirit is at the origin of the noble ideals and undertakings which benefit humanity on its journey through history.

Normally, “it will be in the sincere practice of what is good in their own religious traditions and by following the dictates of their own conscience that the members of other religions respond positively to God’s invitation and receive salvation in Jesus Christ, even while they do not recognize or acknowledge him as their Saviour (cf. Ad gentes, nn. 3, 9, 11)” (Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue – Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Instruction Dialogue and Proclamation, 19 May 1991, n. 29; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 1 July 1991, p. III).

Indeed, as the Second Vatican Council teaches, “since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of coming into contact, in a way known to God, with the paschal mystery” (Gaudium et spes, n. 22).

This possibility is achieved through sincere, inward adherence to the Truth, generous self-giving to one’s neighbour and the search for the Absolute inspired by the Spirit of God. A ray of the divine Wisdom is also shown through the fulfilment of the precepts and practices that conform to the moral law and to authentic religious sense. Precisely by virtue of the Spirit’s presence and action, the good elements found in the various religions mysteriously prepare hearts to receive the full revelation of God in Christ.

For the reasons mentioned here, the attitude of the Church and of individual Christians towards other religions is marked by sincere respect, profound sympathy and, when possible and appropriate, cordial collaboration. This does not mean forgetting that Jesus Christ is the one Mediator and Saviour of the human race. Nor does it mean lessening our missionary efforts, to which we are bound in obedience to the risen Lord’s command…The attitude of respect and dialogue is instead the proper recognition of the “seeds of the Word” and the “groanings of the Spirit”…May the Spirit of truth and love, in view of the third millennium now close at hand, guide us on the paths of the proclamation of Jesus Christ and of the dialogue of peace and brotherhood with the followers of all religions!.."

- Blessed Pope John Paul II, General Audience Address, September 16, 1998, Vatican

So that’s the teaching from the top so to speak :smiley:


#10

Very good post.:thumbsup: Informative and useful.


#11

[quote="TheAtheist, post:5, topic:286365"]
Thank you for your kind responses.

I think i understand the basic outlines of what you've stated and what the documents suggested.

But i do have to wonder why such a viewpoint doesn't seem to have penetrated into the conscious of the wider population in your faith.

At times it seems like certain individuals are fighting rather old holy wars.

[/quote]

Some of the time it's because we are used to being maligned, by certain section of the media and other Christian communities. Catholics have become defensive over time.

These 'rather old holy wars' are part of the psyche of Catholics because we take attacks on the Church personally as if our very own family was under attack. Additionally, because we ** know** that the CC is the one instituted by Christ when these attacks occurred/occur we view it as an attack on Christ.

For those who doubt that the CC is the one instituted by Christ, they find it puzzling and the height of temerity to hold that claim.

Some Catholics including my own grandmother are set in their views and ways, she does not consider other Christians as 'christian'. So you see that view is not taught but maybe more observed by my mum, aunties and uncles.

Catholicism has been around for 2000years, some Catholics are an obvious product of many, many generations of 'viewpoints'.

It's human nature.

Additionally, Catholics come from all backgrounds worldwide and some are more educated about the Faith than others.


#12

[quote="Vouthon, post:8, topic:286365"]
My dear brother Atheist :)

My first little piece of advice would be: Do not judge Catholicism by CAF posters. The majority of us are imperfect lay people, not the Magisterium.

[/quote]

You know Vouthon, i'm of 2 minds regarding this.

In the more formal/theoretical sense I understand you completely. Trying to live up to any ideal whatsoever is a task the vast majority of humanity regularly fails at.

At the same time, those imperfect people are also the faces that others associate with one's cause - be it religious/political/ideological.

So on a practical level - their effects matter alot more whether its the missionary offering you a helping hand or the priest slamming the doors of his church shut and condemning you to death. ~ (that's from the the Rwandan Genocide where for many the "Call of Tribe" easily override one's religious affiliations)

Thirdly, there is a group of ardent, extreme Traditionalists on CAF who represent less than 0.00001% of the global 1.1 billion demographic of the Catholic Church and are predominantly confined to a small segment of the USA but who are, sadly, a very vocal minority on the web. These people often take exclusivist texts from Fathers and medeival Popes, ignore the broader context in which these statements were made and other inclusiuvist texts of these fathers/popes, and extrapolate from these texts restrictive understandings of the Catholic faith not shared by the actual Magisterium.

I've never quite understood how the "Traditionalist" fits into the grand schema of your Church.

Case in point --> traditioninaction.org/

Anyone outside of your religious institution's structures would come away with some very....odd.. and probably incorrect views about your religion as a whole if they were directed to that website as representative of your faith.

(Trust on that one - it took me 5-7 days of "deprogramming" a friend of mine :p)

Like your good self, I too have been irritated by the sheer ignorance of many ordinary lay Catholics as to the actual teachings of their faith concerning EENS and non-Christian religions.

Well i wouldn't go so far as to say irritated - just a little confused.

Some Churches are easier to "read" you might say, on these matters. Others are a lot more difficult IMHO. (ex. To be honest - Its hard for me to peg down what the Anglican Communion believes on a number of issues.).

It is also somewhat difficult to pair up the EENS as you have related it to previous historical actions within your Church.

Those, i guess you can say skeptical of your groups intentions (although frankly i think they are denying the "everyday evidence" of goodwill before their eyes) would point to such things as St. Boniface's Destruction of the Donar Oak or the Burning of the Temple of Serapis in Egypt.

I think the anxiety can be addressed as "They are kind and speak of peace, because the world is no longer theirs."

The development of that sentiment - whether it withers or grows - has some rather direct and unfortuante effects on the life of individuals.

And How your laity understands the EENS can either strengthen or destroy that notion above.


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