When Pilate, with reverential fear, asked Christ about his sovereignty, he answered: ‘You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice’ (Jn 18:37) Was Our Lord perhaps being a fundamentalist in making this affirmation with so much conviction and resolve? Since he is God, made man, the Truth in substance, he could not have acted differently.
In the same way, his Church could not but be the sole holder of truth, for as Saint Paul affirmed, it is ‘the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth’ (1Tim 3:15). The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the Church ‘faithfully guards ‘the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints’ She guards the memory of Christ’s words; it is she who from generation to generation hands on the apostles’ confession of faith’ (CCC no. 171). Moreover, the Divine Master left the Apostles a mandate: “The gospel must first be preached to all nations” (Mk 13:10). Therefore, the primordial objective of the Catholic Church’s dialogue with other religions consists of the announcing of the Gospel, and the call to conversion.
However, Jesus declared that those who did not accept his Gospel would be condemned: ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned’ (Mk 16:15–16). Consequently, he made it clear that the Church should define positions well: those who follow the truth, and those who persist in error. In face of other religions, every Christian has the duty to ‘not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord’ (2Tim 1:8). The Catechism teaches: “In situations that require witness to the faith, the Christian must profess it without equivocation, after the example of St. Paul before his judges. We must keep ‘a clear conscience toward God and toward men’ (Acts 24:16)” (CCC 2471)
Being faithful to the truth of the Church is not fundamentalism, but integrity in the faith. Interreligious dialogue that does not point toward conversion, but holds the belief that the Church is enriched and purified with other creeds places the truth of the Church in doubt, in the spirit of Pilate: ‘quid est veritas?’ (Jn 18:38). Dialogue which doubts in the one who affirmed ‘I am the way and the truth and the life’ (Jn 14:6) cannot ‘have meaning of love and truth,’ but amounts to sheer relativism. And the Apocalypse is exceedingly severe with relativists: ‘because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth’ (Rev 3:16)
What does the Magisterium pronounce with respect to true interreligious dialogue?
Enter in the various parts of our study
II – The mandate of Christ is to evangelize, in other words, to show the truth and draw the others from error…or prohibit it so that no one is deceived!
III – The Church is the custodian of the truth and maintains pure her doctrine that was received from Christ. She does not need to seek a greater truth, nor is She purified by interreligious dialogue
IV – Indispensable doctrinal clarification: What was the call for dialogue transmitted by Vatican Council II? Does the Church not desire Evangelization? What is true dialogue? Does a false dialogue exist?
I – Fidelity to Catholic orthodoxy is ‘fundamentalism’? Or is it the only defense from an omnipresent dictatorship of relativism?
How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves – flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true. Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be ‘tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine’, seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires. (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Homily for the Pro eligendo Pontifice, April 18, 2005)
For a long time, the reason for evangelization has not been clear to many among the Catholic faithful. It is even stated that the claim to have received the gift of the fullness of God’s revelation masks an attitude of intolerance and a danger to peace. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Doctrinal note on some aspects of evangelization, no. 10, December 3, 2007)
Anyone who is so ‘progressive’ as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God; whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him in your house or even greet him; for whoever greets him shares in his evil works. (2Jn 9–11)
These pan-Christians who turn their minds to uniting the churches seem, indeed, to pursue the noblest of ideas in promoting charity among all Christians: nevertheless how does it happen that this charity tends to injure faith? Everyone knows that John himself, the Apostle of love, who seems to reveal in his Gospel the secrets of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and who never ceased to impress on the memories of his followers the new commandment ‘Love one another,’ altogether forbade any intercourse with those who professed a mutilated and corrupt version of Christ’s teaching: ‘If any man come to you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into the house nor say to him: God speed you.’ (2Jn 10) For which reason, since charity is based on a complete and sincere faith, the disciples of Christ must be united principally by the bond of one faith. (Pius XI. Encyclical Mortalium animos, no.13, January 6 1928)
Even on the plea of promoting unity it is not allowed to dissemble one single dogma; for, as the Patriarch of Alexandria warns us, ‘although the desire of peace is a noble and excellent thing, yet we must not for its sake neglect the virtue of loyalty in Christ’ (Ep. 61). (Pius XII. Encyclical Orientalis ecclesiae no. 16, April 9, 1944)
We also know that the modern world is in the grip of change and upheaval. It is undergoing developments which are having a profound influence on its outward way of life and habits of thought. The great advances made in science, technology, and social life, and the various currents of philosophical and political thought pervading modern society, are greatly influencing men’s opinions and their spiritual and cultural pursuits. The Church itself is being engulfed and shaken by this tidal wave of change, for however much men may be committed to the Church, they are deeply affected by the climate of the world. They run the risk of becoming confused, bewildered and alarmed, and this is a state of affairs which strikes at the very roots of the Church. It drives many people to adopt the most outlandish views. They imagine that the Church should abdicate its proper role, and adopt an entirely new and unprecedented mode of existence. […] An effective remedy is needed if all these dangers, which are prevalent in many quarters, are to be obviated, and We believe that such a remedy is to be found in an increased self-awareness on the part of the Church. The Church must get a clearer idea of what it really is in the mind of Jesus Christ as recorded and preserved in Sacred Scripture and in Apostolic Tradition, and interpreted and explained by the tradition of the Church under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit. (Paul VI. Encyclical Ecclesiam suam, no. 8, August 6, 1964)
II – The mandate of Christ is to evangelize, that is, to preach the truth and draw others from error…or prohibit it so that no one be deceived!
Act as the people’s representative before God, bringing to him whatever they have to say. Enlighten them in regard to the decisions and regulations, showing them how they are to live and what they are to do. (Ex 18: 19–20).
If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it! If I do so willingly, I have a recompense, but if unwillingly, then I have been entrusted with a stewardship. (1Cor 9: 16–17)
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry. (2Tim 4:1–5)
The Church, to which Christ the Lord has entrusted the deposit of faith so that with the assistance of the Holy Spirit it might protect the revealed truth reverently, examine it more closely, and proclaim and expound it faithfully, has the duty and innate right, independent of any human power whatsoever, to preach the gospel to all peoples, also using the means of social communication proper to it. (Code of Canon Law. Can. 747 §1–2)
Actually, the proclamation of and witness to the Gospel are the first service that Christians can render to every person and to the entire human race, called as they are to communicate to all God’s love, which was fully manifested in Jesus Christ, the one Redeemer of the world. (Benedict XVI. Address to the participants of the International Conference on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Conciliar decree Ad gentes, March 11, 2006)
For the Church, evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new: ‘Now I am making the whole of creation new’ (Rev. 21:5; cf. 2Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15). But there is no new humanity if there are not first of all new persons renewed by Baptism (cf. Rom 6:4) and by lives lived according to the Gospel (cf. Eph 4:24–25; Col 3:9–10). The purpose of evangelization is therefore precisely this interior change, and if it had to be expressed in one sentence the best way of stating it would be to say that the Church evangelizes when she seeks to convert, (cf. Rom 1:16; 1Cor 1:18, 2:4) solely through the divine power of the message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieu which are theirs. (Paul VI. Apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, no. 18, December 8, 1975)
Conscious of the tenebrous audacity of the widespread evil in this life, the true follower of Christ feels a living stimulus for a greater vigilance over himself as well as over his brothers who find themselves in danger. Certain as he is of the promise of God and the final triumph of Christ over his enemies and those of his kingdom, he feels interiorly strengthened against disillusions and weaknesses, defeats and humiliations, and may communicate equal confidence to all who approach his apostolic ministry, converting himself into a spiritual bulwark, while giving encouragement and example to those who are tempted to given in to discouragement before the number and power of the adversaries. (Pius XII. Address to the members of the Sacred College of Cardinals and the Roman Prelature for Christmas, December 24, 1940)
Can there be, Venerable Brethren, a greater or more urgent duty than to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph 3:8) to the men of our time? Can there be anything nobler than to unfurl the ‘Ensign of the King’ before those who have followed and still follow a false standard, and to win back to the victorious banner of the Cross those who have abandoned it? What heart is not inflamed, is not swept forward to help at the sight of so many brothers and sisters who, misled by error, passion, temptation and prejudice, have strayed away from faith in the true God and have lost contact with the joyful and life-giving message of Christ? Who among ‘the Soldiers of Christ’ – ecclesiastic or layman – does not feel himself incited and spurred on to a greater vigilance, to a more determined resistance, by the sight of the ever-increasing host of Christ’s enemies; as he perceives the spokesmen of these tendencies deny or in practice neglect the vivifying truths and the values inherent in belief in God and in Christ; as he perceives them wantonly break the Tables of God’s Commandments to substitute other tables and other standards stripped of the ethical content of the Revelation on Sinai, standards in which the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount and of the Cross has no place? (Pius XII. Encyclical Summi pontificatus, no. 5, October 20, 1939)
But, God forbid that the sons of the Catholic Church ever in any way be hostile to those who are not joined with us in the same bonds of faith and love; but rather they should always be zealous to seek them out and aid them, whether poor, or sick, or afflicted with any other burdens, with all the offices of Christian charity; and they should especially endeavor to snatch them from the darkness of error in which they unhappily lie, and lead them back to Catholic truth and to the most loving Mother the Church, who never ceases to stretch out her maternal hands lovingly to them, and to call them back to her bosom so that, established and firm in faith, hope, and charity, and ‘being fruitful in every good work’ (Col 1,10), they may attain eternal salvation. (Denzinger-Hünermann 2867. Pius IX. Encyclical Quanto conficiamur moerore, no. 8, August 10, 1863)
We believe it our duty and office to cut and uproot the noxious weeds we perceive growing, so that they do not take root and spread damage in the field of the Lord. Certainly, ever since the origins of the early Church, due to the necessity that the faith of the elect be proven like gold in the fire, the Apostle, vessel of election, wished to warn the faithful that if someone arise, of those who alter and amend the Gospel of Christ, spreading false doctrines and betraying the depository of the faith, even if it was an angel who evangelized something other than he had, it would be necessary to anathemize him. (Pius IX. Apostolic letter Ad apostolicae sedis, August 22, 1851)
It is impossible for the most true God, who is Truth Itself, the best, the wisest Provider, and the Rewarder of good men, to approve all sects who profess false teachings which are often inconsistent with one another and contradictory, and to confer eternal rewards on their members. […] By it we are taught, and by divine faith we hold one Lord, one faith, one baptism. […] This is why we profess that there is no salvation outside the Church. (Leo XII. Encyclical Ubi primum, no. 14, May 5, 1824)
With the admonition of the apostle that ‘there is one God, one faith, one baptism’ (Eph 4:5) may those fear who contrive the notion that the safe harbor of salvation is open to persons of any religion whatever. They should consider the testimony of Christ Himself that ‘those who are not with Christ are against Him,’ (Lk 11:23) and that they disperse unhappily who do not gather with Him. Therefore ‘without a doubt, they will perish forever, unless they hold the Catholic faith whole and inviolate.’ (Symbol .s. Athanasius) (Gregory XVI. Encyclical Mirari vos, no. 13, 1832)
According to Wis 11:11, ‘By what things a man sinneth, by the same also he should be punished’. Now a schismatic, as shown above (a.1), commits a twofold sin: first by separating himself from communion with the members of the Church, and in this respect the fitting punishment for schismatics is that they be excommunicated. Secondly, they refuse submission to the head of the Church, wherefore, since they are unwilling to be controlled by the Church’s spiritual power, it is just that they should be compelled by the secular power. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 39, a. 4)
Therefore, dear ones, from those [heretics of] which we are speaking, flee from them as a deadly poison, condemn them, withdraw from them and, if adverted by you, they don’t wish to correct themselves, avoid conversation with them because as it is written. ‘…their talk will eat its way like gangrene’ (2Tim 2:17). (Leo I, the Great. Homily 96 against the heresy of Eutyches, 3)
Further, the Church which, together with the apostolic duty of teaching, has received the command to guard the deposit of faith, has also, from divine Providence, the right and duty of proscribing ‘knowledge falsely so called’ (1Tm 6:20), ‘lest anyone be cheated by philosophy and vain deceit’ (cf. Col 2,8). (Denzinger-Hünermann 3018. Vatican Council I, Ecumenical XX, Session III, Dogmatic constitution concerning the Catholic Faith, April 24, 1870)
III – The Church is the custodian of the truth and maintains pure her doctrine that was received from Christ. She does not need to seek a greater truth, nor is She purified by interreligious dialogue
Concretely, one must never lose sight of the fact that the Church does not find the source of her faith and her constitutive structure in the principles of the social order of any historical period. While attentive to the world in which she lives and for whose salvation she labours, the Church is conscious of being the bearer of a higher fidelity to which she is bound. It is a question of a radical faithfulness to the Word of God which she has received from Christ who established her to last until the end of the ages. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Concerning the Reply for the Doctrine of the Faith on teaching contained in the Apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, October 28, 1995)
In the formation of their consciences, the Christian faithful ought carefully to attend to the sacred and certain doctrine of the Church. For the Church is, by the will of Christ, the teacher of the truth. It is her duty to give utterance to, and authoritatively to teach, that truth which is Christ Himself, and also to declare and confirm by her authority those principles of the moral order which have their origins in human nature itself. […] The disciple is bound by a grave obligation toward Christ, his Master, ever more fully to understand the truth received from Him, faithfully to proclaim it, and vigorously to defend it. (Vatican Council II. Declaration Dignitatis humanae, no. 14, December 7, 1965)
For, in giving us, as He did, His Son, which is His Word – and He has no other – He spake to usually together, once and for all, in this single Word, and He has no occasion to speak further. […] And this is as though he had said: That which God spake of old in the prophets to our fathers, in sundry ways and divers manners, He has now, at last, in these days, spoken to us once and for all in the Son. Herein the Apostle declares that God has become, as it were, dumb, and has no more to say, since that which He spake aforetime, in part to the prophets, He has now spoken altogether in Him, giving us the All, which is His Son. Wherefore he that would now enquire of God, or seek any vision or revelation, would not only be acting foolishly, but would be committing an offence against God, by setting his eyes altogether upon Christ, and seeking no new thing or aught beside. (Saint John of the Cross. Ascent of Mount Carmel, II, 22, 3.4.5)
The Catholic Church is alone in keeping the true worship. This is the fount of truth, this the house of Faith, this the temple of God: if any man enter not here, or if any man go forth from it, he is a stranger to the hope of life and salvation. Let none delude himself with obstinate wrangling. For life and salvation are here concerned, which will be lost and entirely destroyed, unless their interests are carefully and assiduously kept in mind. (Divin. Instit. Iv, 30. 11–12) (Pius XI. Encyclical Mortalium animos, no. 11, January 5, 1928)
Again, as all who offer themselves are received whatever may be their form of religion, they thereby teach the great error of this age – that a regard for religion should be held as an indifferent matter, and that all religions are alike. This manner of reasoning is calculated to bring about the ruin of all forms of religion, and especially of the Catholic religion, which, as it is the only one that is true, cannot, without great injustice, be regarded as merely equal to other religions. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Humanum genus, no. 6, April 20, 1884)
Also perverse is the shocking theory that it makes no difference to which religion one belongs, a theory which is greatly at variance even with reason. By means of this theory, those crafty men remove all distinction between virtue and vice, truth and error, honorable and vile action. They pretend that men can gain eternal salvation by the practice of any religion, as if there could ever be any sharing between justice and iniquity, any collaboration between light and darkness, or any agreement between Christ and Belial. (Pius IX. Encyclical Qui pluribus, no. 9, November 9, 1846)
Does he who strives against and resists the Church trust that he is in the Church, when moreover the blessed Apostle Paul teaches the same thing, and sets forth the sacrament of unity, saying, ‘There is one body and one spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God?’ And this unity we ought firmly to hold and assert, especially those of us that are bishops who preside in the Church, that we may also prove the episcopate itself to be one and undivided. Let no one deceive the brotherhood by a falsehood: let no one corrupt the truth of the faith by perfidious prevarication. […] The Church also is one, which is spread abroad far and wide into a multitude by an increase of fruitfulness. As there are many rays of the sun, but one light. […] Her fruitful abundance spreads her branches over the whole world. She broadly expands her rivers, liberally flowing, yet her hear is one, her source one; and she is one mother, plentiful in the results of fruitfulness. (Saint Cyprian of Carthage. On the unity of the Church, II, 5)
The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother. If any one could escape who was outside the ark of Noah, then he also may escape who shall be outside of the Church. The Lord warns, saying ‘He who is not with me is against me, and he who gathereth not with me scattereth.’ He who breaks the peace and the concord of Christ, does so in opposition to Christ; he who gathereth elsewhere than in the Church, scatters the Church of Christ. (Saint Cyprian of Carthage. On the unity of the Church, II, 6)
Effectively we are one in his mystical body. […] He reasoning is, then, of this nature: just as he who drinks the chalice of the Lord becomes one with him, in the same way, he who drinks the chalice of the demons becomes one with them. But if there is something that above all should be fled from, it is union with the demons. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, cap. 10, lec. 4: 1Cor 10:14–17 – rep. Pet. Tar.)
For since they hold it for certain that men destitute of all religious sense are very rarely to be found, they seem to have founded on that belief a hope that the nations, although they differ among themselves in certain religious matters, will without much difficulty come to agree as brethren in professing certain doctrines, which form as it were a common basis of the spiritual life. […] Certainly such attempts can nowise be approved by Catholics, founded as they are on that false opinion which considers all religions to be more or less good and praiseworthy, since they all in different ways manifest and signify that sense which is inborn in us all, and by which we are led to God and to the obedient acknowledgment of His rule. Not only are those who hold this opinion in error and deceived, but also in distorting the idea of true religion they reject it, and little by little, turn aside to naturalism and atheism, as it is called; from which it clearly follows that one who supports those who hold these theories and attempt to realize them, is altogether abandoning the divinely revealed religion. (Pius XI. Enyclical Mortalium animos, no. 2-3, January 6, 1928)
How so great a variety of opinions can make the way clear to effect the unity of the Church We know not; that unity can only arise from one teaching authority, one law of belief and one faith of Christians. But We do know that from this it is an easy step to the neglect of religion or indifferentism and to modernism, as they call it. Those, who are unhappily infected with these errors, hold that dogmatic truth is not absolute but relative, that is, it agrees with the varying necessities of time and place and with the varying tendencies of the mind, since it is not contained in immutable revelation, but is capable of being accommodated to human life. (Pius XI. Enyclical Mortalium animos, no. 2–3, January 6, 1928)
For this reason, the distinction between theological faith and belief in the other religions, must be firmly held. […] This distinction is not always borne in mind in current theological reflection. Thus, theological faith (the acceptance of the truth revealed by the One and Triune God) is often identified with belief in other religions, which is religious experience still in search of the absolute truth and still lacking assent to God who reveals himself. This is one of the reasons why the differences between Christianity and the other religions tend to be reduced at times to the point of disappearance. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Declaration Dominus Iesus, no. 7, August 6, 2000)
Such an exhortation seems to us to be of capital importance, for the presentation of the Gospel message is not an optional contribution for the Church. It is the duty incumbent on her by the command of the Lord Jesus, so that people can believe and be saved. This message is indeed necessary. It is unique. It cannot be replaced. It does not permit either indifference, syncretism or accommodation. It is a question of people’s salvation. It is the beauty of the Revelation that it represents. It brings with it a wisdom that is not of this world. It is able to stir up by itself faith – faith that rests on the power of God. It is truth. It merits having the apostle consecrate to it all his time and all his energies, and to sacrifice for it, if necessary, his own life. (Paul VI. Apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, no. 5, December 8, 1975)
Obviously we cannot agree with these various forms of religion, [Jewish, Muslim, and Afro-asiatic] nor can we adopt an indifferent or uncritical attitude toward them on the assumption that they are all to be regarded as on an equal footing, and that there is no need for those who profess them to enquire whether or not God has Himself revealed definitively and infallibly how He wishes to be known, loved, and served. Indeed, honesty compels us to declare openly our conviction that the Christian religion is the one and only true religion, and it is our hope that it will be acknowledged as such by all who look for God and worship Him. (Paul VI. Encyclical Ecclesiam suam, no. 107, August 6, 1964)
I again went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also […] and I presented to them the gospel that I preach to the Gentiles – but privately to those of repute – so that I might not be running, or have run, in vain Moreover, not even Titus, who was with me, although he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised, but because of the false brothers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, that they might enslave us – to them we did not submit even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain intact for you. (Gal 2:1–5)
I mean that what they sacrifice, (they sacrifice) to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to become participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and also the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and of the table of demons. Or are we provoking the Lord to jealous anger? Are we stronger than he? (1Cor 10:20–22)
Do not be yoked with those who are different, with unbelievers. For what partnership do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said: ‘I will live with them and move among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people. Therefore, come forth from them and be separate,’ says the Lord, ‘and touch nothing unclean; then I will receive you and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.’ Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of flesh and spirit, making holiness perfect in the fear of God. (2Cor 6:14–18; 7:1)
IV – Indispensable doctrinal explanation: What was the call for dialogue transmitted by Vatican Council II? Does the Church not desire Evangelization? What is true dialogue? Does a false dialogue exist?
Here once again the Council proves helpful. It can be said that the entire Decree on Ecumenism is permeated by the spirit of conversion. In the Document, ecumenical dialogue takes on a specific characteristic; it becomes a ‘dialogue of conversion’, and thus, in the words of Pope Paul VI, an authentic ‘dialogue of salvation’ (Encyclical Ecclesiam Suam). Dialogue cannot take place merely on a horizontal level, being restricted to meetings, exchanges of points of view or even the sharing of gifts proper to each Community. It has also a primarily vertical thrust, directed towards the One who, as the Redeemer of the world and the Lord of history, is himself our Reconciliation. (John Paul II. Encyclical Ut unum sint, no. 35–36, May 25, 1995)
But the danger remains. Indeed, the worker in the apostolate is under constant fire. The desire to come together as brothers must not lead to a watering down or whittling away of truth. Our dialogue must not weaken our attachment to our faith. Our apostolate must not make vague compromises concerning the principles which regulate and govern the profession of the Christian faith both in theory and in practice. An immoderate desire to make peace and sink differences at all costs (irenism and syncretism) is ultimately nothing more than skepticism about the power and content of the Word of God which we desire to preach. The effective apostle is the man who is completely faithful to Christ’s teaching. He alone can remain unaffected by the errors of the world around him, the man who lives his Christian life to the full. (Paul VI. Encyclical Ecclesiam suam, no. 88, August 6, 1964)
Therefore the whole and entire Catholic doctrine is to be presented and explained: by no means is it permitted to pass over in silence or to veil in ambiguous terms the Catholic truth […] moreover because outside the truth no true union can ever be attained. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Instruction Ecclesia Catholica, no. II, December 20, 1949)
To be watchful for purity of doctrine, the basis in building up the Christian community, is therefore, together with the proclamation of the Gospel, the primary and irreplaceable duty of the Pastor, of the Teacher of the faith. How often Saint Paul emphasized this, convinced as he was of the seriousness of the accomplishment of this duty (cf. 1Tim 1:3 –7; 18 –20; 4:11, 16; 2Tim 1:4 –14). Over and above unity in love, unity in truth is always urgent for us. (John Paul II. Address to the Third General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate, I, no. 1, Puebla, January 28, 1979)
For some are firm in the faith; and so it is to be hoped that their communicating with unbelievers will lead to the conversion of the latter rather than to the aversion of the faithful from the faith. These are not to be forbidden to communicate with unbelievers who have not received the faith, such as pagans or Jews, especially if there be some urgent necessity for so doing. But in the case of simple people and those who are weak in the faith, whose perversion is to be feared as a probable result, they should be forbidden to communicate with unbelievers, and especially to be on very familiar terms with them, or to communicate with them without necessity. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica II–II, q. 10, a. 9)
The Church’s constant missionary proclamation is endangered today by relativistic theories which seek to justify religious pluralism, not only de facto but also de iure (or in principle). As a consequence, it is held that certain truths have been superseded; for example, the definitive and complete character of the revelation of Jesus Christ, the nature of Christian faith as compared with that of belief in other religions, the inspired nature of the books of Sacred Scripture, the personal unity between the Eternal Word and Jesus of Nazareth, the unity of the economy of the Incarnate Word and the Holy Spirit, the unicity and salvific universality of the mystery of Jesus Christ, the universal salvific mediation of the Church, the inseparability — while recognizing the distinction — of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Christ, and the Church, and the subsistence of the one Church of Christ in the Catholic Church. […] On the basis of such presuppositions, which may evince different nuances, certain theological proposals are developed — at times presented as assertions, and at times as hypotheses — in which Christian revelation and the mystery of Jesus Christ and the Church lose their character of absolute truth and salvific universality, or at least shadows of doubt and uncertainty are cast upon them. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Declaration Dominus Iesus, no. 4, August 6, 2000)
Religions, including Christianity, are one of the major obstacles to the discovery of truth. This truth, however, is never defined by the author in its precise contents. For him, to think that the God of one’s own religion is the only one is simply fanaticism. ‘God’ is considered as a cosmic reality, vague and omnipresent; the personal nature of God is ignored and in practice denied. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Notification concerning the writings of Father Anthony de Mello, SJ, June 24, 1998)
Indeed, God ‘desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth’ (1Tim 2:4); that is, God wills the salvation of everyone through the knowledge of the truth. Salvation is found in the truth. Those who obey the promptings of the Spirit of truth are already on the way of salvation. But the Church, to whom this truth has been entrusted, must go out to meet their desire, so as to bring them the truth. Because she believes in God’s universal plan of salvation, the Church must be missionary”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 851) Inter-religious dialogue, therefore, as part of her evangelizing mission, is just one of the actions of the Church in her mission ad gentes. Equality, which is a presupposition of inter-religious dialogue, refers to the equal personal dignity of the parties in dialogue, not to doctrinal content, nor even less to the position of Jesus Christ — who is God himself made man — in relation to the founders of the other religions. Indeed, the Church, guided by charity and respect for freedom, must be primarily committed to proclaiming to all people the truth definitively revealed by the Lord, and to announcing the necessity of conversion to Jesus Christ and of adherence to the Church through Baptism and the other sacraments, in order to participate fully in communion with God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus, the certainty of the universal salvific will of God does not diminish, but rather increases the duty and urgency of the proclamation of salvation and of conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Dominus Iesus, no. 22, August 6, 2000)
However, if such dialogue is to be truly constructive it must involve not just the mutual openness of the participants but also fidelity to the identity of the Catholic faith. Only in this way will it be able to lead towards the unity of all Christians in ‘one flock with one shepherd’ (Jn 10, 16) and thus heal that wound which prevents the Catholic Church from fully realising her universality within history. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Commentary on the document, Responses to some question regarding certain aspects of the doctrine on the Church, June 29, 2007)
Nowadays the call to conversion which missionaries address to non-Christians is put into question or passed over in silence. It is seen as an act of ‘proselytizing’; it is claimed that it is enough to help people to become more human or more faithful to their own religion, that it is enough to build communities capable of working for justice, freedom, peace and solidarity. What is overlooked is that every person has the right to hear the ‘Good News’ of the God who reveals and gives himself in Christ, so that each one can live out in its fullness his or her proper calling. This lofty reality is expressed in the words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman: ‘If you knew the gift of God,’ and in the unconscious but ardent desire of the woman: ‘Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst’ (Jn 4:10–15). (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptoris missio, no. 46, December 7, 1990)
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