I heard a priest advise that before criticizing Vatican II, one should read all sixteen documents from the council. I’ve never had any reason to criticize it, I didn’t even know what it was until long after converting, but I am taking that advice seriously and reading those documents. Ecumenism is a difficult concept, but a critical one in our times.
My studies have also led me to the thought of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. In his book of essays, Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions, the cardinal deals with interreligious prayer, and his explanation wasn’t what I expected.
Some people mistakenly think that interreligious prayer is a form of hospitable ecumenism, that we should accept our neighbor’s form of worship in tolerance and acceptance because those things are loyal to the Gospel message. However, the wise cardinal rejected that idea completely, reminding us about the commissioning of the seventy-two disciples to proclaim the Word of God. They were told to wipe the dust from their feet of any town that rejects the Word.
Shared prayer, he says, would “be a fiction, far from the truth” leading to false interpretation. Think about it. If a Christian prays with a group as if we are all praying to the same gods however any of us imagines them, then the Christian must logically accept that no one can really know God or love God either. He must deny that the living God calls us in a personal way to serve Him. Ultimately, he must deny that man can know the truth.
Praying would cease to be praying, cease to be a dialogue with Someone who sees and hears us, and become a mere form of self-reflection. It would mean that we pray to a god who has no will of his own, and if that were true, then any attempt to convert people to Christ would be a shameless form of religious imperialism. The concept of interreligious prayer contradicts the commission to evangelize.
There is no middle way. The Church’s belief in Christ must be properly understood, He is not a manifestation of the Divine, He is the Divine. The Christian has to resist the idea that all religions are equal, not to make us superior, for no one saves himself, but because we believe Christ the living God demands obedience and conversion. Christ is the Truth, and we are called to dialogue in a bold and educated way that knows legitimate limits, without caving to false pathways.
Sites That Link to this Post
- Showing Respect to Other Religions : Accepting Abundance | October 21, 2012