128 – “If we are honest in presenting our convictions, we will be able to see more clearly what we hold in common. New avenues will be opened for mutual esteem”

Over the last three years we have all accompanied Francis’ constant efforts to hold out a hand toward other religions in an attempt to foment ecumenical dialogue with surprising and novel implications. This invariable fixation of his pontificate – for which he dedicates considerably more time than to the other pastoral initiatives we had become accustomed to in former pontificates – is undertaken while insisting on the necessity to ‘cooperate with all people of good will’ in order to open ‘opportunities for dialogue, which is essential if we are to know, understand and respect one another.’

Faithful to his plans, the Bishop of Rome has made it clear on repeated occasions that we are obliged to unite our efforts for the construction of a culture of encounter and peace. However, from the Catholic standpoint – which is the only one that really matters to a baptized person desiring to save his soul – things take on a different perspective. When a high-level ecclesiastical figure speaks to the world, his intent may be none other than to preach Christ, and Christ crucified. His words and example, as well as the enthusiasm that his person tends to inspire, are all founded on the link that unites him closely to God, whose authority he officially represents.

The Magisterium of the Church, to which we have had recourse along these three years, with great profit, in all the questions that recent events have been raising, makes it clear that the mission of the ecclesiastical hierarchy is to teach all peoples the Gospel, without eliminating any of the moral consequences inherent to its proclamation. Therefore, ecumenical dialogue should be understood as an opportunity to present the path of conversion toward Jesus Christ to non-believers; not as a search for neutrality, for compromise and confabulations between Greeks and Trojans.

Francis’ frequent and irrepressible incursions within the field of ecumenism reveal very different intentions. We have heard him repeat the same inter-confessional litanies in which he invokes human values much more often than the name of Jesus Christ, and in which the saints with their prayers for us and the Church don’t seem to be included. He rarely mentions anything suitable to his position, and fills his speeches with statements that could be easily and better gleaned from other sources.

It is time to reflect with a spirit of faith on what Francis is saying, so that his ecumenical proposal as well his conciliating speeches may be understood in light of their grave consequences. Above all, we should consider them in light of the will of God, the only factor that should motivate us to work for the good of our neighbor.

Francis

slanka

Quote A

It is in this spirit of respect that the Catholic Church desires to cooperate with you, and with all people of good will, in seeking the welfare of all Sri Lankans. I hope that my visit will help to encourage and deepen the various forms of interreligious and ecumenical cooperation which have been undertaken in recent years. These praiseworthy initiatives have provided opportunities for dialogue, which is essential if we are to know, understand and respect one another. But, as experience has shown, for such dialogue and encounter to be effective, it must be grounded in a full and forthright presentation of our respective convictions. Certainly, such dialogue will accentuate how varied our beliefs, traditions and practices are. But if we are honest in presenting our convictions, we will be able to see more clearly what we hold in common.New avenues will be opened for mutual esteem, cooperation and indeed friendship. Such positive developments in interreligious and ecumenical relations take on a particular significance and urgency in Sri Lanka. For too many years the men and women of this country have been victims of civil strife and violence. What is needed now is healing and unity, not further conflict and division. Surely the fostering of healing and unity is a noble task which is incumbent upon all who have at heart the good of the nation, and indeed the whole human family. It is my hope that interreligious and ecumenical cooperation will demonstrate that men and women do not have to forsake their identity, whether ethnic or religious, in order to live in harmony with their brothers and sisters. (Address during the interreligious and ecumenical gathering from the trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, January 13, 2015)

Quote B

Whenever adherence to a specific religious tradition gives birth to service that shows conviction, generosity and concern for the whole of society without making distinctions, then there too exists an authentic and mature living out of religious freedom. This presents itself not only as a space in which to legitimately defend one’s autonomy, but also as a potential that enriches the human family as it advances. The more men and women are at the service of others, the greater their freedom! Let us look around us: there are so many poor and needy people, so many societies that try to find a more inclusive way of social justice and path of economic development! How great is the need for the human heart to be firmly fixed on the deepest meaning of experiences in life and rooted in a rediscovery of hope! Men and women, inspired in these areas by the values of their respective religious traditions, can offer an important, and even unique, contribution. This is truly a fertile land offering much fruit, also in the field of interreligious dialogue. (Meeting with the leaders of other religions and other Christian denominations, September 21, 2014)

Teachings of the Magisterium

Table of contents

I – The Mission of pastors is to attract non-Catholics to the practice of the true religion. Falsely interpreting divine and human rights through accords and agreements is to go against Christ
II – If ‘we are honest in presenting our convictions’, then we must announce the Gospel without modeling it according to the world, and should seek the conversion of all peoples by the acceptance of Christ’s sovereignty
III – Fomenting ‘healing and unity’ requires true conversion to Christ. In what does this conversion consist?
IV – True conversion demands a renouncing of harmful dominant tendencies: it is impossible to adapt Christ to our theories and to those of others


I – The Mission of pastors is to attract non-Catholics to the practice of the true religion. Falsely interpreting divine and human rights through accords and agreements is to go against Christ


Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)
– All men may attain to salvation by faith, baptism and the fulfillment of the commandments

Pius X
– Pastors must avoid seeking cowardly neutrality made up of weak schemes and compromises to the injury of divine and human rights
– The duty that has been imposed upon bishops of bringing back human society to the discipline of the Church…

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
– …and of keeping pure and whole the deposit of faith

Gregory XVI
– In these evil times the shepherds must never neglect their duty; vigilance and united effort against the common enemies
– You must stand as a wall against everything that raises itself against the knowledge of God

Benedict XVI
– A Bishop must also know how to resist the enemies, the wolves

Sacred Scripture
– Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock!


II – If ‘we are honest in presenting our convictions’, then we must announce the Gospel without modeling it according to the world, and should seek the conversion of all peoples by the acceptance of Christ’s sovereignty


Sacred Scripture
– Repent!
– Do not conform yourselves to this age

Pius XII
– Avoid unnecessary and harmful changes of expression which modify the substance of the truth

Benedict XVI
– Jesus did not proclaim a grace without conditions

John Paul II
– Cooperation that does not lead to conversion and baptism is in vain
– Conversion is expressed, from the outset, in faith which is total and radical


III – Fomenting ‘healing and unity’ requires true conversion to Christ. In what does this conversion consist?


Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
– If the word is contradicted by behavior, its acceptance will be difficult
– Christ requires a complete adhesion of the intelligence, will, feelings, actions and future plans
– Conversion signifies a reform of thought and deeds

Synod of Bishops
– After the encounter with Jesus, everything is different as a result of metanoia, conversion

International Theological Commission
– Jesus announces a new justice: imitation of the ways of the heavenly Father


IV – True conversion demands a renouncing of harmful dominant tendencies: it is impossible to adapt Christ to our theories and those of the others


John Paul II

– Society will only be renewed with the renewal of the human heart: by the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist

Benedict XVI
– Be careful lest Christ become just one more name to adorn our theories

Catechism of the Catholic Church
– Conversion of the heart is expressed in visible signs
– Conversion to God is impossible without repugnance toward evil

Benedict XVI
– Christians are called to swim against the tide


I – The Mission of pastors is to attract non-Catholics to the practice of the true religion. Falsely interpreting divine and human rights through accords and agreements is to go against Christ


Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

  • All men may attain to salvation by faith, baptism and the fulfilment of the commandments

Bishops, as successors of the apostles, receive from the Lord, to whom was given all power in heaven and on earth, the mission to teach all nations and to preach the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain to salvation by faith, baptism and the fulfilment of the commandments. (Vatican Council II. Dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium, no. 24, November 21, 1964)

Saint Pius X

  • Pastors must avoid seeking cowardly neutrality made up of weak schemes and compromises to the injury of divine and human rights

It is for you, therefore, venerable brethren, whom Divine Providence has constituted to be the pastors and leaders of the Christian people, to resist with all your strength this most fatal tendency of modern society to lull itself in a shameful indolence while war is being waged against religion, seeking a cowardly neutrality made up of weak schemes and compromises to the injury of divine and human rights, to the oblivion of Christ’s clear sentence: ‘He that is not with me is against me’ (Mt 12:30). (Pius X. Encyclical Communium rerum, no. 31, April 21, 1909)

  • The duty that has been imposed upon bishops of bringing back human society to the discipline of the Church…

You see, then, Venerable Brethren, the duty that has been imposed alike upon Us and upon you of bringing back to the discipline of the Church human society, now estranged from the wisdom of Christ; the Church will then subject it to Christ, and Christ to God. If We, through the goodness of God Himself, bring this task to a happy issue, We shall be rejoiced to see evil giving place to good, and hear, for our gladness, ‘a loud voice from heaven saying: Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God and the power of his Christ’ (Rev 12:10). (Pius X. Encyclical E supremi apostolati, no. 9, October 4, 1903)

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

  • …and of keeping pure and whole the deposit of faith

This function of the Bishops belongs to the office divinely committed to them ‘of keeping pure and whole’ … ‘the deposit of faith’ in common with the Successor of Peter and ‘of proclaiming the Gospel without ceasing’; and by reason of this same office they are bound not to permit that ministers of the word of God, deviating from the way of sound doctrine, should pass it on corrupted or incomplete. The people, committed as they are to the care of the Bishops who ‘have to render account to God’ for them, enjoy ‘the sacred and inalienable right of receiving the word of God, the whole word of God, into which the Church does not cease to penetrate ever more profoundly’. (Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Declaration for safeguarding the belief in the mysteries of the Incarnation and of the Most Holy Trinity against some recent errors, no. 7, February 21, 1972)

Gregory XVI

  • In these evil times the shepherds must never neglect their duty; vigilance and united effort against the common enemies

We must raise Our voice and attempt all things lest a wild boar from the woods should destroy the vineyard or wolves kill the flock. It is Our duty to lead the flock only to the food which is healthful. In these evil and dangerous times, the shepherds must never neglect their duty; they must never be so overcome by fear that they abandon the sheep. Let them never neglect the flock and become sluggish from idleness and apathy. Therefore, united in spirit, let us promote our common cause, or more truly the cause of God; let our vigilance be one and our effort united against the common enemies. Indeed you will accomplish this perfectly if, as the duty of your office demands, you attend to yourselves and to doctrine and meditate on these words: ‘the universal Church is affected by any and every novelty’ [Saint Celestine, Pope, epistle 21 to Bishop Galliar] and the admonition of Pope Agatho: ‘nothing of the things appointed ought to be diminished; nothing changed; nothing added; but they must be preserved both as regards expression and meaning’ [Saint Agatho, Pope, epistle to the emperor, apud Labb., ed. Mansi, vol. 2, p. 235]. (Gregory XVI. Encyclical Mirari vos, no. 6-7, August 15, 1832)

  • You must stand as a wall against everything that raises itself against the knowledge of God

We write these things to you with grieving mind but trusting in Him who commands the winds and makes them still. Take up the shield of faith and fight the battles of the Lord vigorously. You especially must stand as a wall against every height which raises itself against the knowledge of God. Unsheath the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God, and may those who hunger after justice receive bread from you. Having been called so that you might be diligent cultivators in the vineyard of the Lord, do this one thing, and labor in it together, so that every root of bitterness may be removed from your field, all seeds of vice destroyed, and a happy crop of virtues may take root and grow. (Gregory XVI. Encyclical Mirari vos, no. 22, August 15, 1832)

Benedict XVI

  • Being a Bishop means knowing how to resist the wolves

Jesus, the ‘Bishop of souls’, is the prototype of every episcopal and presbyteral ministry. To be a Bishop, to be a priest, means in this perspective to assume the position of Christ. It means thinking, seeing and acting from his exalted vantage point. It means starting from Christ in order to be available to human beings so that they find life. Thus the word ‘Bishop’, is very close to the term ‘Shepherd’; indeed the two concepts become interchangeable. It is the shepherd’s task to feed and tend his flock and take it to the right pastures. Grazing the flock means taking care that the sheep find the right nourishment, that their hunger is satisfied and their thirst quenched. The metaphor apart, this means: the word of God is the nourishment that the human being needs. Making God’s word ever present and new and thereby giving nourishment to people is the task of the righteous Pastor. And he must also know how to resist the enemies, the wolves. He must go first, point out the way, preserve the unity of the flock. (Benedict XVI. Mass for the imposition of the sacred pallium on the new metropolitan Archbishops, June 29, 2009)

Sacred Scripture

  • Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock!

Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the Lord. Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds. I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply. I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the Lord. (Jer 23:1-4)


II – If ‘we are honest in presenting our convictions’, then we must announce the Gospel without modeling it to the world, and should seek the conversion of all peoples by the acceptance of the Christ’s sovereignty


Sacred Scripture

  • Repent!

Repent, and believe in the gospel. (Mk 1:15)

  • Do not conform yourselves to this age

Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. (Rom 12:2)

Pius XII

  • Avoid unnecessary and harmful changes of expression which modify the substance of the truth

You must also see to it that you present the truth so that it can be rightly understood and appreciated, using always clear and never ambiguous terms, avoid unnecessary and harmful changes of expression which easily modify the substance of the truth. Such has ever been the practice and usage of the Catholic Church. And it agrees with that saying of Saint Paul: “Jesus Christ…was not: ‘It is’ and ‘It is not’; but, ‘It is’, was in him” (2Cor 1:19). (Pius XII. Allocution to the Seminarians of the Ecclesiastical College of Rome, June 24, 1939)

Benedict XVI

  • Jesus did not proclaim a grace without conditions

Next let us reflect further on this verse: Christ, the Saviour, gave to Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins (v. 31) in the Greek text the term is metanoia he gave repentance and pardon for sins. This to me is a very important observation: repentance is a grace. There is an exegetical trend that states that in Galilee Jesus would have proclaimed a grace without conditions, absolutely unconditional, therefore also without penitence, grace as such, without human preconditions. But this is a false interpretation of grace. Repentance is grace; it is a grace that we recognize our sin; it is a grace that we realize the need for renewal, for change, for the transformation of our being. Repentance the capacity to be penitent, is a gift of grace. (Benedict XVI. Eucharistic Concelebration with members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, April 15, 2010)

John Paul II

  • Cooperation that does not lead to conversion and baptism is in vain

Conversion to Christ moreover is joined to baptism not only because of the Church’s practice, but also by the will of Christ himself, who sent the Apostles to make disciples of all nations and to baptize them (cf. Mt 28:19). Conversion is also joined to Baptism because of the intrinsic need to receive the fullness of new life in Christ. As Jesus says to Nicodemus: ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God’ (Jn 3:5)? (John Paul II. Apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, no. 73, September 14, 1995)

  • Conversion is expressed, from the outset, in faith which is total and radical

The proclamation of the Word of God has Christian conversion as its aim: a complete and sincere adherence to Christ and his Gospel through faith…so that they can believe in Christ and ‘confess him’ (cf. 1Cor 12:3) […] From the outset, conversion is expressed in faith which is total and radical, and which neither limits nor hinders God’s gift. At the same time, it gives rise to a dynamic and lifelong process which demands a continual turning away from ‘life according to the flesh’ to ‘life according to the Spirit’ (cf. Rom 8:3-13). Conversion means accepting, by a personal decision, the saving sovereignty of Christ and becoming his disciple. (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptoris missio, no. 46, December 7, 1990)


III – Fomenting ‘healing and unity’ requires true conversion to Christ. In what does this conversion consist?


Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

  • If the word is contradicted by behavior, its acceptance will be difficult

In any case, it needs to be remembered that, in transmitting the Gospel, word and witness of life go together. Above all, the witness of holiness is necessary, if the light of truth is to reach all human beings. If the word is contradicted by behaviour, its acceptance will be difficult. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Doctrinal note on some aspects of evangelization, no. III. 11, October 6, 2007)

  • Christ requires a complete adhesion of the intelligence, will, feelings, actions and future plans

‘This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent’ (Jn 17:3). God has given human beings intellect and will so that they might freely seek, know and love him. Therefore, human freedom is both a resource and a challenge offered to man by God who has created him: an offer directed to the human person’s capacity to know and to love what is good and true. Nothing puts in play human freedom like the search for the good and the true, by inviting it to a kind of commitment which involves fundamental aspects of life. This is particularly the case with salvific truth, which is not only an object of thought, but also an event which encompasses the entire person – intelligence, will, feelings, actions and future plans – when a person adheres to Christ. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Doctrinal Note on some aspects of Evangelization, no. II, 4, October 6, 2007)

  • Conversion signifies a reform of thought and deeds

Conversion (metanoia), in its precisely Christian meaning, signifies a change in thinking and in acting, as the expression of the new life in Christ proclaimed by faith: a continuous reform of thought and deeds directed at an ever more intense identification with Christ (cf. Gal 2:20), to which the baptized are called before all else. This is, in the first place, the meaning of the call made by Jesus himself: ‘repent and believe in the Gospel’ (Mk 1:15; cf. Mt 4:17). (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Doctrinal note on some aspects of evangelization, no. III, 9, October 6, 2007)

Synod of Bishops

  • After the encounter with Jesus, everything is different as a result of metanoia, conversion

This encounter with Jesus, through his Spirit, is the Father’s great gift to humanity. We are prepared for this encounter through the action of grace in us. In such an encounter, we feel an attraction which leads to our transformation, causing us to see new dimensions to who we are and making us partakers of divine life (cf. 2Pet 1:4). After this encounter, everything is different as a result of metanoia, that is, the state of conversion strongly urged by Jesus himself (cf. Mk 1:15). (Synod of Bishops. XIII Ordinary General Assembly, The new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith, Instrumentum Laboris, no. 19, 2012)

International Theological Commission

  • Jesus announces a new justice: imitation of the ways of the heavenly Father

This new and final Kingdom of God was preached by Jesus and in fact set in motion in his Person and in his activity. He demands a complete change of heart, metanoia, in his disciples and announces to them a new way of living, a new justice, in which they will imitate the ways of the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:48; Lk 6:36). (International Theological Commission. The dignity and the rights of the human person, no.2.1, 1983)


IV – True conversion demands a renouncing of harmful dominant tendencies: it is impossible to adapt Christ to our theories and those of the others


John Paul II

  • Society will only be renewed with the renewal of the human heart: by the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist

The way to the renewal of society passes through the renewal of the human heart. In this process the witness of an inner transformation of the Church’s children cannot be lacking. Christ himself left us the best means for achieving it: the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. (John Paul II. Address to the Bishops of Poland on their ad limina visit, January 16, 1998)

Benedict XVI

  • Be careful lest Christ become just one more name to adorn our theories

The contribution of Christians in Africa will only be decisive if their understanding of the faith shapes their understanding of the world. For that to happen, education in the faith is indispensable, lest Christ become just one more name to adorn our theories. The word of God and the testimony of life go together. But testimony on its own is not enough either, for “even the finest witness will prove ineffective in the long run if it is not explained and justified – what Peter called always having ‘your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have’ – and made explicit by a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the Lord Jesus” (1Pet 3:15). (Benedict XVI. Apostolic exhortation Africae Munus, no. 32, November 19, 2011)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

  • Conversion of the heart is expressed in visible signs

Jesus’ call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, ‘sackcloth and ashes,’ fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance (Joel 2:12-13; Is 1:16-17; Mt 6:1-6; 16-18). (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1430)

  • Conversion to God is impossible without repugnance toward evil

Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of heart). (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1431)

Benedict XVI

  • Christians are called to swim against the tide

The principal concern of the Synod members, as they looked to the situation of the continent, was to seek ways of inspiring in Christ’s disciples in Africa the will to become effectively committed to living out the Gospel in their daily lives and in society. Christ calls constantly for metanoia, conversion. Christians are affected by the spirit and customs of their time and place. But by the grace of their Baptism they are called to reject harmful prevailing currents and to swim against the tide. This kind of witness demands unswerving commitment in ‘ongoing conversion to the Father, the source of true life, who alone is capable of delivering us from evil and all temptations, and keeping us in his Spirit, in the very heart of the struggle against the forces of evil.’ Such conversion is possible only if one is sustained by the convictions of faith, supported by a genuine catechesis. It is right, then, to ‘maintain a living connection between memorized catechism and lived catechesis, which leads to a profound and permanent conversion of life.’ Conversion is experienced in a unique way through the sacrament of Reconciliation, which calls for particular attention so that it can serve as a genuine ‘school of the heart’. At this school, the disciple of Christ gradually forges an adult Christian life marked by an attention to the spiritual and moral dimensions of his actions, and thus becomes capable of ‘confronting the difficulties of social, political, economic and cultural life’ through a life permeated with the spirit of the Gospel. (Benedict XVI. Apostolic exhortation Africae Munus, no. 32, November 19, 2011)


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