Pontifical Council for Culture…

…judges Francis’ idea on renouncing our own culture to benefit the refugees

  • In dialogue with non-believers the missionary mandate of Christ must not be forgotten

Dialogue with non-believers and the pastoral approach to unbelief spring from the twofold mandate given to the Church to announce the Gospel to people and to cultures: “go out to all the world and preach the Gospel to every being” (Mk 16:15), and “go teach all nations” in (Mt 28:19). This missionary task belongs to the whole Church without exceptions. It can not be separated from the whole life of the Church, nor is it a specialised activity to be entrusted to a few experts. The mission is transversal and includes catechism and teaching, liturgy and ordinary pastoral activity in families and parishes, seminaries and universities. […] Without the dynamism which springs from a lived-out faith, any pastoral proposal would remain void of apostolic value. (Pontifical Council for Culture. Concluding document of the Plenary Assembly 2004. Where is your God? Responding to the challenge and unbelief and religious indifference today, II, March 13, 2004)

  • There is a rupture in the handing on the faith, intimately linked to the abandonment of a popular culture long impregnated by Christianity

In fact, in the vast cultural areas where the majority do belong to the Church, there is a rupture in the handing on the faith, intimately linked to the process of abandonment of a popular culture long attached to and impregnated by Christianity. It is important to take into consideration the factors that condition this process of distancing, of weakening, and of obscuring the faith in the transforming cultural milieus where Christians dwell, in order to present some concrete pastoral propositions to respond to the challenges of the new evangelisation. For the cultural habitat, where one lives, influences one’s ways of thinking and of behaving, one’s values and criteria of judgement, and it also raises questions at once difficult and decisive. (Pontifical Council for Culture. Concluding document of the Plenary Assembly 2004. Where is your God? Responding to the challenge and unbelief and religious indifference today, no. 1, March 13, 2004)

  • It is not only a question of grafting the faith onto these cultures, but also of revitalizing a de-Christianized world

Thus, it is not only a question of grafting the faith onto these cultures, but also of revitalizing a de-Christianized world whose only Christian references are of a cultural nature. On the threshold of the Third Millennium, the Church throughout the world is faced with new cultural situations, new fields of evangelization. (Pontifical Council for Culture. Towards a pastoral approach to culture, no. 1)

…judges Francis’ idea on if doctrine can be interpreted against the infallible Magisterium

  • There is a rupture in the handing on of the faith, intimately linked to the process of abandonment of a popular culture impregnated by Christianity

In fact, in the vast cultural areas where the majority do belong to the Church, there is a rupture in the handing on of the faith, intimately linked to the process of abandonment of a popular culture long attached to and impregnated by Christianity. It is important to take into consideration the factors that condition this process of distancing, of weakening, and of obscuring the faith in the transforming cultural milieus where Christians dwell, in order to present some concrete pastoral propositions to respond to the challenges of the new evangelisation. For the cultural habitat, where one lives, influences one’s ways of thinking and of behaving, one’s values and criteria of judgement, and it also raises questions at once difficult and decisive. (Pontifical Council for Culture. Concluding document of the Plenary Assembly, Where is Your God? Responding to the challenge of unbelief and religious indifference today, Introduction , no. 1, March 13, 2004)

  • Today it is necessary not only to graft the faith into the cultures, but also restore life to a dechristianized world

It is not only necessary to graft the faith into the cultures, but also restore life to a dechristianized world, whose Christian reference points are often of a strictly cultural nature. These new cultural situations all over the world present themselves to the Church, at the threshold of the third millennium, as new fields of evangelization. (Pontifical Council for Culture. Concluding document of the Plenary Assembly, Where is Your God? Responding to the challenge of unbelief and religious indifference today, Introduction , no. 1, March 13, 2004)

…judges Francis’ idea on renouncing our own culture to receive the refugees

  • There is a rupture in the handing on the faith, intimately linked to the abandonment of a popular culture impregnated by Christianity

In fact, in the vast cultural areas where the majority do belong to the Church, there is a rupture in the handing on the faith, intimately linked to the process of abandonment of a popular culture long attached to and impregnated by Christianity. It is important to take into consideration the factors that condition this process of distancing, of weakening, and of obscuring the faith in the transforming cultural milieus where Christians dwell, in order to present some concrete pastoral propositions to respond to the challenges of the new evangelisation. For the cultural habitat, where one lives, influences one’s ways of thinking and of behaving, one’s values and criteria of judgement, and it also raises questions at once difficult and decisive. (Pontifical Council for Culture. Concluding Document of the Plenary Assembly 2004, ‘Where is your God? Responding to the Challenge of Unbelief and Religious Indifference Today’, Introduction, no. 1, March 13, 2004)

  • It is not only a question of grafting the faith onto these cultures but of revitalizing a de-Christianized world

Thus, it is not only a question of grafting the faith onto these cultures, but also of revitalizing a de-Christianized world whose only Christian references are of a cultural nature. On the threshold of the Third Millennium, the Church throughout the world is faced with new cultural situations, new fields of evangelization. (Pontifical Council for Culture. Towards a pastoral approach to culture, no. 1, May 23, 1999)

  • Dialogue with non-believers cannot forget the twofold mandate given to the Church to announce the Gospel to people and to cultures

Dialogue with non-believers and the pastoral approach to unbelief spring from the twofold mandate given to the Church to announce the Gospel to people and to cultures: ‘go out to all the world and preach the Gospel to every being’ (Mk 16:15), and ‘go teach all nations’ (Mt 28:19). This missionary task belongs to the whole Church without exceptions. It cannot be separated from the whole life of the Church, nor is it a specialized activity to be entrusted to a few experts. The mission is transversal and includes catechism and teaching, liturgy and ordinary pastoral activity in families and parishes, seminaries and universities. […] Without the dynamism which springs from a lived-out faith, any pastoral proposal would remain void of apostolic value. Inviting us to make holiness the primary and indispensable part of every pastoral program, the Holy Father reminds us of the importance of prayer, the Sunday Eucharist, the sacrament of reconciliation, the primacy of grace, listening to and proclaiming the Word. (Pontifical Council for Culture. Final document of the Plenary Assembly 2004. Where is your God? New forms of unbelief and religiosity, II, March 13, 2004)

  • True collaboration with Muslims on the level of culture does not dispense Christians from bearing witness to their Christological and Trinitarian faith

Islam is currently expanding rapidly, particularly due to migratory movements from countries with rapid demographic growth. Countries with a Christian tradition, where, except in Africa, population growth is slower or even negative, often see the increased presence of Muslims as a social, cultural or even religious challenge. […] True collaboration with Muslims on the level of culture in real reciprocity may foster fruitful relationships in Islamic countries and with Muslim communities established in traditionally Christian countries. Such collaboration does not dispense Christians from bearing witness to their christological and trinitarian faith in relation to other expressions of monotheism. (Pontifical Council for Culture. Towards a pastoral approach to culture, May 23, 1999)

  • The phenomenon of migration destabilizes teaching of the Faith

The phenomenon of migration also destabilizes schools when the large non-Christian presence is used as an excuse to justify abandoning an explicit teaching of the faith, rather than to seize on this opportunity to propose the faith, as has long been the tradition of Church’s missionary activity. (Pontifical Council for Culture. Final Document of the Plenary assemble, Where is your God, I, 2.5)

…judges Francis’ ideas present in Laudate Si

  • The growing conviction that there exists an essence of truth in the heart of every religious experience has led to the idea that they must gather elements from different religions in order to reach a universal form of religion

Today, together with Archbishop Fitzgerald, I have the honour of presenting a Document on the phenomenon, which was drafted by Rev. Peter Fleetwood, at that time an official of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and by Dr. Teresa Osório Gonçalves of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. It is the fruit, therefore, of a long and authentic collaboration between offices [of the Holy See] in order to help provide an answer, with ‘gentleness and respect’, as the Apostle Peter once recommended (1 Pt 3,15) to this religious and cultural challenge. […] The reasons for such a change are numerous and diverse, but they all come down to the noticeable cultural shift from traditional forms of religion to more personal and individualistic expressions of what is now being called ‘spirituality’. It seems that there are three specific reasons at the heart of such a change. The first lies in the feeling that traditional religions or institutions no longer give what they once claimed they could provide. Some people in their view of the world are really unable to find any room for believing in a transcendent, personal God, and the experience for many has driven them to ask whether this God has the power to bring about change in this world, or if He really even exists at all. The dreadful experiences that have convulsed the world have made some people very cynical towards religion. […] There is another reason to explain a certain anxiety and a certain rejection of the traditional Church. Let us not forget that in ancient Europe, pre-Christian, pagan religions were very strong, and often, unseemly conflicts took place linked to political change that have been inevitably labelled as Christian oppression of ancient religions. One of the most significant developments in what may roughly be called the ‘spiritual’ sphere in the last century was a return to pre-Christian forms of religion. […] The complex series of phenomena, known by the term of ‘neo-pagan’ religions, reveal the need felt by some to invent new ways to ‘counter-attack’ Christianity and return to a more authentic form of religion, a religion more closely bound to nature and the earth. For this reason, one has to recognize that there is no place for Christianity in the neo-pagan religions. Like it or not, a struggle is taking place to win the hearts and minds of people in the interrelations between Christianity, ancient, pre-Christian religions, and their more recently developed ‘cousins’. The third reason, at the origin of the rather wide-spread disillusionment with institutional religion, derives from a growing obsession in Western culture with Oriental religions and the paths of wisdom. When it became easier to travel outside of their own continent, adventurous Europeans began exploring places that they had previously known only by consulting the pages of ancient texts. The lure of the exotic put them into a closer contact with the religions and esoteric practices of various Oriental cultures from Ancient Egypt to India and Tibet. The growing conviction that there exists a deep-down truth, an essence of truth in the heart of every religious experience has led to the idea that they can and must gather the various elements from different religions in order to reach a universal form of religion. Once again, in such an enterprise there is little room for institutionalized religions, especially for Judaism and Christianity. (Pontifical Council for Culture and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Presentation by Cardenal Paul Poupard of the Holy See’s Document on the ‘New Age’, February 3, 2003)

… judges Francis’ ideas present in Laudato Si’

  • New Age has a marked preference for Eastern or pre-Christian religions, and considers the world itself divine

New Age has a marked preference for Eastern or pre-Christian religions, which are reckoned to be uncontaminated by Judaeo-Christian distortions. Hence great respect is given to ancient agricultural rites and to fertility cults. ‘Gaia’, Mother Earth, is offered as an alternative to God the Father, whose image is seen to be linked to a patriarchal conception of male domination of women. There is talk of God, but it is not a personal God; the God of which New Age speaks is neither personal nor transcendent. Nor is it the Creator and sustainer of the universe, but an ‘impersonal energy’ immanent in the world, with which it forms a ‘cosmic unity’: ‘All is one’. This unity is monistic, pantheistic or, more precisely, panentheistic. God is the ‘life-principle’, the ‘spirit or soul of the world’, the sum total of consciousness existing in the world. In a sense, everything is God. God’s presence is clearest in the spiritual aspects of reality, so every mind/spirit is, in some sense, God. […] There is no alterity between God and the world. The world itself is divine and it undergoes an evolutionary process which leads from inert matter to ‘higher and perfect consciousness’. […] James Lovelock’s book on the Gaia Hypothesis claims that ‘the entire range of living matter on earth, from whales to viruses, and from oaks to algae, could be regarded as constituting a single living entity, capable of manipulating the Earth’s atmosphere to suit its overall needs and endowed with faculties and powers far beyond those of its constituent parts’. (Pontifical Council for Culture and Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life, A Christian reflection on the ‘New Age’, no. 2.3.4.2 – 2.3.4.3, February 3, 2003)

  • For the New Age, Jesus of Nazareth is simply one among many historical figures like Buddha and others

[For the New Age]: Jesus of Nazareth was not the Christ, but simply one among many historical figures in whom this ‘Christic’ nature is revealed, as is the case with Buddha and others. Every historical realization of the Christ shows clearly that all human beings are heavenly and divine, and leads them towards this realization. (Pontifical Council for Culture and Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life, A Christian reflection on the ‘New Age’, no. 2.3.4.2, February 3, 2003)

…judges Francis’ idea on ‘good vibes

  • The concept of matter as waves or energy is central to much of New Age thinking – God is no more than one immense vibration of energy

The move from a mechanistic model of classical physics to the ‘holistic’ one of modern atomic and sub-atomic physics, based on the concept of matter as waves or energy rather than particles, is central to much of New Age thinking. The universe is an ocean of energy, which is a single whole or a network of links. The energy animating the single organism which is the universe is ‘spirit’. There is no alterity between God and the world. The world itself is divine and it undergoes an evolutionary process which leads from inert matter to ‘higher and perfect consciousness’. The world is uncreated, eternal and self-sufficient. The future of the world is based on an inner dynamism which is necessarily positive and leads to the reconciled (divine) unity of all that exists. God and the world, soul and body, intelligence and feeling, heaven and earth are one immense vibration of energy. (Pontifical Council for Culture and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life, A Christian reflection on the ‘New Age’, no. 2.3.4.3, February 3, 2003)

  • The necessity of persons who are capable of critically explaining on New Age thought

Quite a few New Age groups welcome every opportunity to explain their philosophy and activities to others. Encounters with these groups should be approached with care, and should always involve persons who are capable of both explaining Catholic faith and spirituality, and of reflecting critically on New Age thought and practice. It is extremely important to check the credentials of people, groups and institutions claiming to offer guidance and information on New Age. (Pontifical Council for Culture and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life, A Christian reflection on the ‘New Age’, no. 6.2, February 3, 2003)

  • Danger of the so-called New Age ‘prayer groups’: they lure gradually into a form of false worship

Some local New Age groups refer to their meetings as ‘prayer groups’. Those people who are invited to such groups need to look for the marks of genuine Christian spirituality, and to be wary if there is any sort of initiation ceremony. Such groups take advantage of a person’s lack of theological or spiritual formation to lure them gradually into what may in fact be a form of false worship. Christians must be taught about the true object and content of prayer – in the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ, to the Father – in order to judge rightly the intention of a ‘prayer group’. (Pontifical Council for Culture and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life, A Christian reflection on the ‘New Age’, no. 6.2, February 3, 2003)

  • Necessity to warn against the attempt to place New Age religiosity on the same level as Christian faith

In a cultural environment, marked by religious relativism, it is necessary to signal a warning against the attempt to place New Age religiosity on the same level as Christian faith, making the difference between faith and belief seem relative, thus creating greater confusion for the unwary. In this regard, it is useful to remember the exhortation of Saint Paul ‘to instruct certain people not to teach false doctrine or to concern themselves with myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the plan of God that is to be received by faith’ (1 Tim 1:3-4). Some practices are incorrectly labeled as New Age simply as a marketing strategy to make them sell better, but are not truly associated with its worldview. This only adds to the confusion. It is therefore necessary to accurately identify those elements which belong to the New Age movement, and which cannot be accepted by those who are faithful to Christ and his Church. (Pontifical Council for Culture and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life, A Christian reflection on the ‘New Age’, no. 4, February 3, 2003)

…judges Francis’ idea on the essence of divinity

  • Deus sive natura: pantheism which is the despersonalisation of God

The new religiosity is an adherence to a God that often has no face nor personal characteristics. Questioned about God, both declared believers and declared non-believers affirm that they believe in the existence of a force or superior transcendent being, but who has no personal attributes, much less those of a Father. The fascination of oriental religions, transplanted into the West, resides in the depersonalisation of God. In scientific circles, the old atheistic materialism is giving way to the return of pantheism, where the universe itself is divine: Deus sive natura sive res

The Christian proposal is based, however, on the revelation of the God-in-three-persons, in the image of Whom each person is called to live in communion. Faith in the tri-personal God is the basis of the whole Christian faith and also of the constitution of an authentically human society. (Pontifical Council for Culture. Concluding document: Where is Your God? Responding to the Challenge of Unbelief and Religious Indifference Today. March 13, 2004)

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