Card. Levada opines about the upcoming Assisi meeting

The Assisi inter-faith meeting for peace.   All you have to do is mention it in some circles and the fireworks begin.

Benedict XVI, Pope of Christian Unity, has slated another meeting in Assisi, also an inter-faith gathering for peace.   It will without question have a different tenor to it than that original confab.

There is a story on ZENIT today:

Cardinal Levada Clarifies Assisi Event

Says the Path of Peace Is the Church’s Path

VATICAN CITY, JULY 8, 2011 ( The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is offering a clarification on the upcoming meeting in Assisi, where Benedict XVI will gather with representatives of the world’s religions and non-believers to promote justice and peace.

The meeting, to be held in October, follows upon two similar events hosted by Blessed John Paul II. All three of the meetings have caused a stir among certain ecclesial circles, with some people accusing the Popes of syncretism, or giving the impression that all religions are equal.

Cardinal William Levada, who succeeded the German Pontiff in heading the doctrinal congregation, acknowledged the misinterpretations that have been leveled against the Popes. And he questions why Benedict XVI would carry on with the initiative in such a context.

In short it is not a question of hiding the faith for the sake of a superficial unity, but of confessing — as John Paul II and the Ecumenical Patriarch then did — that Christ is our peace, and that precisely because of this the path of peace is the path of the Church, the cardinal said.

In his statement, published Wednesday, Cardinal Levada draws from then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s reflections as well as the Second Vatican Council in clarifying the intention of the Assisi event.

Because ‘all men are called to union with Christ’ (Lumen Gentium, 3), the Church must be leaven of this unity for the whole of humanity: not only with the proclamation of the Word of God, but with the lived testimony of the profound union of Christians with God. This is the authentic path of peace, he noted.

Moreover, the cardinal added, the title chosen for the next Day of Assisi — Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace — gives us a second indication [as to the motives]: to be able realistically to hope in the building together of peace, it is necessary to put truth as criterion.

The original bond between ethos and logos, and between religion and reason, lies ultimately in Christ, the divine Logos: precisely because of this, Christianity is able to restore this bond to the world, he said.

Peace without truth is not possible, Cardinal Levada stated, and the flip-side is also true: the attitude to peace constitutes an authentic ‘criterion of truth.’

I refer the readers to the Holy Father’s first Letter for the World Day for Peace of 1 Jan 2006 and also to the CDF’s 2000 document Dominus Iesus and Pius XI’s indispensable Mortalium animos.

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  1. Jason Keener says:

    Unfortunately, I think there is a serious rupture in the Church’s approach to other religions that is difficult to justify. In talking about this Assisi Prayer Meeting in January of 2011, Pope Benedict XVI stated he would attend the upcoming Assisi interfaith gathering with the aim to “solemnly renew the commitment of believers of every religion to live their own religious faith as a service in the cause of peace.” (Angelus Message on January 1, 2011)

    How can the Roman Pontiff say that he will actually encourage believers of false religions to live their own false religions and not instead clearly call these people to convert to the true Catholic Religion? With all due respect to Pope Benedict, I don’t think there is any justification, including world peace, that would make it morally legitimate for anyone to encourage the practice of false religions that, for example, deny the Trinity and Christ’s Incarnation. Even in a practical sense, how can false religions like Islam contribute to the building of peace in society when Islam is riddled with errors about the dignity of the human person and our relationship with God?

    If we want world peace, we should call all non-Catholics to the Catholic Faith and then build a true Catholic culture. In the meantime if this is not possible, we should try to build peace with non-Catholics by appealing to their human reason through natural law arguments, which will not legitimize the practice of their false religions.

  2. William of the Old says:

    Amen, Jason. Nicely and charitably stated.

  3. ericrun says:

    Maybe the pope believes it’s only possible to evangelize on a personal level, and by calling for peace, if peace comes, people of different faiths with have an opportunity to discourse, and the Holy Spirit and truth can work in the non-believer. But without peace, the non-believer is going to stop listening because there is a possibility that the non-believer will interpret the Church’s teaching as the problem, and not the interactions of the individuals involved. So, sure we in our impatience want everyone to accept the truth immediately, but we have to go through steps to draw them to the truth.

  4. JimmyA says:

    Very clear. Good old Darth.

  5. kgurries says:

    “…solemnly renew the commitment of believers of every religion to live their own religious faith as a service in the cause of peace.”

    I don’t think the Pope intends by this to confirm others in their non-Christian traditions. But if they live their own religious faith — in the spirit of being authentic pilgrims of truth and peace — then the seeds of truth and goodness can grow and blossom.

  6. irishgirl says:

    A lot of ‘very traditional’ Catholics hate the Assisi meetings (poor St. Francis, his hometown gets terribly bashed). I hope that with Papa Benedict there will be a different ‘slant’ on this upcoming one than they were under Blessed John Paul II.

  7. Brad says:

    Having recently had another one of those incredibly draining discussions with my proudly pagan brother, I’m a bit sensitive to this:

    “…will gather with representatives of the world’s religions and non-believers to promote justice…”

    As I tried to help him comprehend, Christ is objective Justice (as well as Peace, Love, etc). “Non-believers” are seeking a commodity that emanates from (not only emanates from, but actually simply is) Emmanuel, even thought they will not acknowledge Him as its source.

    I want orange juice! I deny the orange!

  8. catholicmidwest says:

    kgurries: “But if they live their own religious faith — in the spirit of being authentic pilgrims of truth and peace — then the seeds of truth and goodness can grow and blossom.”

    I’m trying to figure out what this sentence means, but alas, I have no clue…..unless….. you have an undeclared equivocation on the word truth there, which I certainly hope you do.

    At any rate…not sure this justifies hosting them in our churches, which seems counterproductive. However, I’m not a cradle catholic and often don’t see things the same way as they do. I’ve been around outside the Church and some things cradle Catholics really get keen on don’t actually help because they play into the scripts of other mindsets, you know. Eh, there are other mindsets, and people convinced of them for what they think are good reasons. ;)

  9. Jason Keener says:


    Unfortunately, I have to disagree with you. I don’t think there is any set of mental gymnastics that will allow one to reasonably conclude that the Holy Father’s statement is not in some way about confirming non-Catholics in their religious errors.

    I find it quite strange how absolutely obsessed the Church is today with finding the good points in other religions, even to the point of absurdity. I believe that it is a modernist error for the Church to do so and is closely akin to the error in popular culture where everyone is trying their hardest to make all moral choices, academic outcomes in schools, etc., equal for the sake of political correctness and the fear of offending someone.

    For example, we all know that Islam is the predominant major religion that is threatening world peace, yet how will we ever get Muslims to change their ways if the Pope will ask Muslims at Assisi to use their false and dangerous religion as a means to achieve peace? Moreover, how do we expect that Jews and Protestants will be able to bring peace to a fallen world when they are without Christ, without the true teachings of the Church, and without the graces of the seven Sacraments? We would do well, I think, to remind ourselves of what Pope Pius XI taught in “Quas Primas,” “In Christ is the salvation of the individual. In Christ is the salvation of society.”

    Many will say that Catholics should at least give Protestants credit for venerating the Scriptures and recognizing the Sacrament of Baptism. I do not view these Protestant actions as being praiseworthy because in venerating the Scriptures and the Sacrament of Baptism, the Protestants are doing so in a way that sets up a parallel church and rips the Scriptures and Baptism from their proper context within the True Church. Why would we extol such behavior when it is so clearly objectively wrong? Sure, Protestants alive today are not responsible for causing the Protestant Revolution (Reformation), but they are certainly responsible for prolonging it. Why is the Catholic Church not openly and actively calling on Protestants to renounce their errors through apologetics and missionary activity instead of trying to give Protestants credit for ripping elements of Catholic life from their proper context? Yes, these are strange times indeed.

  10. benedetta says:

    While I recognize the concerns and do not wish to minimize them, there are some defining characteristics to this which are constructive for the Church as the faith representing and proposing to everyone Christ, true peace, as the Church is called to do. The meeting itself is at the invitation of the person of the Holy Father, Vicar of Christ and consecrated to Him, and, the meeting will be held in a location also consecrated. I find this to be significant.

    Further it seems that there is a need to find agreement or acknowledgement among people who ascribe to other religious practices as well as non-believers that there is very little promise for a peaceful and just society through the cultivating and furtherance, to the point of domination, imposition, of irreligion, and, similarly, where government refuses to permit faith by holding a particular practice up as required for profession under threat of violence and punishment there can be no lasting societal peace.

  11. rfox2 says:

    Let’s all pray for swirled peas!

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Mr. Keener.

    When the priest utters “pax vobiscum” at Mass, that peace is predicated on Christ. We know that those in Christ have peace, no matter what happens to their bodies, no matter how many wars come and go, no matter what they need to endure. The early martyrs knew this. To encourage others in non-Catholic faiths to remain in them, whether explicitly or implicitly, and further to encourage them to seek “peace” is to encourage them to seek a phantom. If a man were in a desert, and someone encouraged him to seek after a mirage, would we call that charity?

    We do these things at the highest levels of Church authority and then we wonder why the Church is suffering from extensive indifference, synchretism, and falling prey to the New Age.

  12. benedetta says:

    The program appears to consist of talks. There is no aligning with other religions to invoke prayer as an exercise in relativism or syncretism.

    I for one feel that the ethical result from communities attempting to actively live a religious profession has much better promise for “peace” (as contrasted from the peace of Christ in the sense of a peaceful society, one that has a recognition of right ordering in laws etc) than a society which takes all cues and guidance from the “virtue” of irreligion, secularism, relativism, nihilism, or government mandated profession which let’s face it in present form means a state-sponsored and violently aggressive Islam which is not permitting Christians the right to exist.

    There is an “insurance” against this syncretism worry in that the Vicar of Christ, on consecrated ground, defines and proposes, in his person. The terms for this dialogue is explicitly on the terms of Christ and his Church though it would make no sense to propose it in triumphalist terms then hope that others would take us up on the hospitality to have a discussion having been deterred by the specter of the use of a meeting to appear, as if buying into the secularist mindset, that religion only seeks to constrain human liberty and dominate others, such an exercise would be pointless. And I do repeat that I believe that the Holy Father and consecrated places have significance. I don’t know what to make of the notion that they lack this, which is what the secularists and those who hate the Church seem to eternally argue, that it is meaningless.

  13. Maltese says:

    The original bond between ethos and logos, and between religion and reason, lies ultimately in Christ, the divine Logos: precisely because of this, Christianity is able to restore this bond to the world, he said.

    As true as that may be, that is not the message that came out of prior Assisi events. What came out of prior Assisi events was a feeling of syncretism and relativism.

    Saints Stephen and Sebastion were martyred by stone and arrow for proclaiming Christ, not proclaiming some nebulous peace message, as John Paul II did, as if he were some random religious figure, like the Dali Lama.

    Assisi has NOTHING to do with proclaiming Christ, and EVERYTHING to do with a Bilderbergesque coalescing of religions, and exchange of ideas. Shameful. God let this nonsense stop!

  14. Quoting the above: “In talking about this Assisi Prayer Meeting in January of 2011, Pope Benedict XVI stated he would attend the upcoming Assisi interfaith gathering with the aim to ‘“solemnly renew the commitment of believers of every religion to live their own religious faith as a service in the cause of peace.”’ (Angelus Message on January 1, 2011)

    First, in all fairness to the Holy Father, one needs to read and to understand the above statement first within the context of his entire message, given on the 44th World Day of Peace. In his Angelus message, Pope Benedict XVI makes reference to his World Day of Peace message which he would give to the world that same day, the theme of which was “Religious Freedom: The Path to Peace.” He is in fact not calling upon us to abandon Christ’s Great Commission, but rather to be faithful to it: to witness to the Truth, the one and only Truth, which alone can bring true Peace. The Truth which by definition leads to Peace is not something which could ever be imposed upon anyone by force. We must, as witnesses to Christ, like God Himself, “beckon humanity with a loving plan.”

    In taking the Holy Father’s remarks in context, we can then see the fulness of meaning of those remarks: it is only Christianity which is able to carry out what he calls for. No religion other than Christianity, no matter how faithfully lived, truly serves the cause of peace, because there is no peace without the reconciliation of Christ. Any person of another faith, if he or she honestly examines that faith, would be able to discover this. And if we are faithful to the Great Commission, our faithfulness will make plain to them “the reason for the hope that is within.”

  15. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    I hope there’s none of those things like in prior Assisi meetings where statues or other icons get put on altars or in Church spaces. That’s all the ultra-trads need to start bashing us again about ecumenism being wrong and “extra ecclesia nulla sulam” being brandished as a weapon of division instead of its true meaning in the Church.

  16. Maltese says:

    Young Canadian RC Male: I hear you, my man! I was an atheist, and then a “Medjugorje Catholic” (if one can be termed such), and now an “ultra-trad”. We are on the same team! But, divisions in the Church have existed for the last 2,000 years! Sometimes we, in the Church, have to work things out between each other! It doesn’t connote division, so much as respectful dialogue, and respectful debate!

    I wish you well!

  17. stuartbreaux says:

    If you ask me, this has less to do with theology and more to do with politics. It positions the Church as the leading force for religious freedom and toleration among religions, building capital that it can spend fighting the spread of relativism in the west generally and Islam in Europe, Africa and Asia. Perhaps also it is prudent to find allies where you can. If other religions trust you, they are more likely to stand with you in protecting the family, for instance.

    I don’t mean to suggest that the Church is duping other religions, or tricking them in a Machiavellian scheme. I just think people like Pope Benedict have long surveyed the future and tried to find a path through the current spiritual quagmire we’re in, and uniting with people who share some basic concerns is one solution. I think it would be wise to clearly delineate the bounds of this “alliance,” but I don’t think it is necessarily syncretism.

  18. kgurries says:

    Jason K. and CMW, if non-Catholic relgious traditions (even non-Christian ones) contain elements of truth and goodness mixed together with error and evil — then the Holy Father is certainly encouraging the former (in spite of the later) as a way to build peace. In the final analysis peace is dependent upon truth and truth is a person (Jesus Christ).

  19. Innocentius says:

    When the gift of Fear of the Lord is lost, there goes the gift of Wisdom. This is what has happened to the hierarchy of recent memory. Instead of putting away and asking forgiveness for two great transgressions against the First Commandment, they want to celebrate it again. What a sorry thought.

    Rex suprema, salus animarum est. The supreme law is the salvation of souls: the principal and main mission of the Church. Quite the contrary is brought forth.

    Peace. What good is it if it is not the Peace that Our Lord spoke of; the terrible words He spoke in the Scriptures:

    Matt 10: “31 Fear not therefore: better are you than many sparrows. 32 Every one therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven. 33 But he that shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven. 34 Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword. 35 For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. ”

    Lastly, perhaps the Cardinal Prefect who is guarding the purity of the Catholic Faith has not read “Iucunda Sane”:

    “We, strengthened by this faith, firmly established on this rock, realizing to the full all the heavy duties that the Primacy imposes on Us – but also all the vigor that comes to Us from the Divine Will – calmly wait until all the voices be scattered to the winds that now shout around Us proclaiming that the Church has gone beyond her time, that her doctrines are passed away for ever, that the day is at hand when she will be condemned either to accept the tenets of a godless science and civilization or to disappear from human society. Yet at the same time We cannot but remind all, great and small, as Pope St. Gregory did, of the absolute necessity of having recourse to this Church in order to have eternal salvation, to follow the right road of reason, to feed on the truth, to obtain peace and even happiness in this life.” — Encyclical of POPE PIUS X on POPE GREGORY THE GREAT, March 12, 1904

  20. jbpolhamus says:

    “…the attitude to peace constitutes an authentic ‘criterion of truth.’”

    Is he insane? Or does he just not quite believe in logical proof? One can be a perfect pacifist, and be completely mistaken and heretical in ones beliefs concerning Christ and the Dogmas of Christianity. It’s so simple a schoolboy couldn’t miss it…like firing a blunderbuss at the side of a barn from ten feet. And this man is at the head of a major department of the Church? A Cardinal? Give me a break. Give all of us a break. This amateur hour in the curia is getting truly embarrassing.

  21. JP Borberg says:

    I’ll admit I stopped reading after the 7th comment, but the fact that the commenters here, who appear to be reasonably educated Catholics of good will, have such conflicting opinions about the intended and perceived meaning of this event at Assisi clearly demonstrates that whatever it actually is trying to communicate to the world will be misunderstood.

    Same with the comments about people being faithful to other religions. If you need 250 words to force an interpretation the folks here will accept to what the pope said, what are the chances it’ll be understood that way by the general public the message was addressed too?

    Anyway, the Holy Father seemed fairly blatant in his opinion that we shouldn’t be trying to convert Jews, which just doesn’t make sense, so I’ve abandoned the hope that the Church’s official position on ecumenism will make sense any time soon.

  22. JP Borberg says:

    First up, you missed the point of my post, which is that the Holy Father’s actions in this instance are obviously causing confusion.

    Second, the idea from St Bernard that your article refers to is that the Jews would convert en masse in the end times, and is actually biblical if I remember correctly. Why would I have a problem with that?

    Your link does not indicate if St Bernard say anything like “Christians should not target Jews specifically for conversion”, and that “the mission of the Church is primarily to the Gentiles”, which are the the ideas your article attributes to the Holy Father, and the ideas which I think are wrong.

    Do you have a link that actually shows I disagree with St Bernard?

  23. i-girl>>>A lot of ‘very traditional’ Catholics hate the Assisi meetings (poor St. Francis, his hometown gets terribly bashed). <<<

    unhappily, there was much to hate. Starting with the confusion they generated theolgically and ending with the out and out pacifism that was identified as the Church's primary political agenda

  24. benedetta says:

    That the vast majority of msm and even some so called Catholic media will misinterpret what is substantial is a given. I don’t deny that there have been missteps in the name of ecumenism and some have taken the ball and run with it, far far away it seems, as they personally see fit while others are attempting to listen and reason through with others without imposing new structures which suit them first and foremost. Distinctions can and should be made.

    I just do not believe that it is altogether a waste of time for the Church to engage in visible as well as totally unnoticed discussions with people from every walk of life, this is an effort obviously supported by scripture and tradition. That it will be distorted, hijacked, misinterpreted is a given in the current climate in which most of the media opposes the Church, often explicitly or absent that mostly without an examination of the underlying assumptions, and certainly without a clear and accurate explanation of what the Church actually teaches and why teachings are good and workable in people’s real day to day lives. I concede that this is the way pretty much everything winds up being publicized.

    If this sort of endeavor is truly such a waste of time then other discussions with groups actively separating from the Church by that reason would similarly be a waste of time however this is simply not so.

    Would the Church be relegated to a sort of isolationism? First of all the Church is not a political entity. In the current atmosphere I would think that would indicate weakness, fear. And the Church is not and cannot be, afraid.

    Let me put it to you this way. Let’s assume you have a group of young people at a university attempting to live and order their lives together in the current situation. A few come from households or upbringings in which a world religion is practiced including regular worship and milestones marking their maturity and growth in understanding. Now there is much we can look at which tell us the habits of this age group at university and the subjects and endeavors which occupy much of what free time is available and one recognizes that this group pressures one another in some obvious and some less obvious ways and one also recognizes that lack of friendships with others who share common outlook, worldview, values, open mindedness in the face of what is currently indulged in can be, well, let’s face it, deadly. It isn’t helpful to mince words to deny the realities. So, with a given believer raised to worship who does so on one’s own choosing while at university, attracted to the truth, which group or subgroup would that person have more possibility of sharing and encouraging one another, though all very different, in friendship? The irreligionists? The raised with a touch of spirituality group? The group taught that domination and aggression in all things is the aim? The group raised on tv & texting? The ones who sometimes attend Mass but taught to reject everything the universal Church believes since they are holier or better than that? The group who finds support for daily life through a dialogue of regular worship, reading, conversation, growth in faith?

    We who enjoy the communion of the faith should be in conversation with all people. But the voice of militant secularism does not permit it, much less open mindedness to respectful dialogue. For the sake of freedom of religion, it is constructive for the Church to be in conversation and this meeting which is at the invitation of the Vicar of Christ is already on the terms of Our Lord, though Our Lord does not seem one to force His presence or belief, on anyone. So that the Church has freedom to interact wherever the Church must be a conversation of this sort is not a complete waste of time. And it is not as if the Holy Father devotes constant attention but this is one step.

    As far as what occurred in previous years I really have not looked into it a whole lot but I accept the concerns of others here about it. As I said before I do not think the worries are without foundation. I stated why nonetheless I believe it is not an exercise in syncretism and relativism and why it is not a complete waste of time. What if St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier just decided it was all a complete waste of time…and others…I just refuse to underestimate what it means to be consecrated to Christ. It is no small potatoes…In the interest of self editing I don’t have anything more to say and it seems that the way the discussion is going on this particular matter I will only wind up repeating.

  25. dspecht says:

    As mortalium animos is mentioned above – if you read it then you will see that such meetings like in Assisi are contrary to this encylica and are (explicitly) condemned by it. We had more than 1900 years of acting totaly different than in the last few years/decades. And more, the kind of actions in the last years is really condemned by the teaching of the 1900 years before. “Who has eyes to see shall see, who has ears to hear shall hear”

  26. muckemdanno says:

    ” It will without question have a different tenor to it than that original confab.”

    Fr. Z, I sure hope you are right. But this can not be inferred from what Card Levada says here. He says all the negativity regarding the prior Assisi meetings are due to misinterpretation of what they were all about. Card Levada “acknowledged the misinterpretations that have been leveled against the Popes.”

    In other words, the critics of the prior Assisi meetings are wrong. The meetings are good, there is no problem with how they were done in the past. Jason Keener also points out that the Pope himself wants the members of the other religions to practice their religions all the more and all the better.

    I don’t see how you can conclude that it will be different this time. It sounds all the same. It’s all about the “trads” having the wrong “hermeneutic.”

  27. benedetta says:

    Have read mortalium animos, a great encyclical. I don’t think the concerns are unfounded. I think the encyclical informs what will be happening. Pope Benedict is a person who is entirely familiar with the encyclicals of the Church, I guess that would be an understatement. Now in the interest of time and self-editing…I’m off. It’s an interesting discussion. I don’t think we should tie up Pope Benedict’s hands because of something that happened before or because of the inevitable media distortions which can and will occur.

  28. catholicmidwest says:

    I wonder…and I could be wrong….but I wonder if the real reason these go on is that:

    There is really one pressing earthly reason for all these religions to work together, and that is to put up resistance to the growing belief that religion is a cultural artifact, and more than that, the cause of wars and strife in the world. This idea is a rather common one in Europe and it grows wherever the global conceptions of modernity go. Some religious people even think that wars are caused by religions, and they’re probably right part of the time.

    But I think what worries the Vatican is that modernity, and even more more so post-modernity, comes up with things that subvert religious needs, and that’s done quasi-intentionally at most levels. And it uses this bad reputation that religion has to its own benefit. It says it’s better. Why? Religious needs are troublesome. They can limit profitability and governing ease. They can make people forthright and stubborn and cause them to believe that they are more than meat to be managed. And yes, they can cause dislocations of the business cycle because to the extent that what they teach can be formulated into truth claims, they can cause disagreement, even strife.

    This is a real problem for us because of all religions, the three scriptural religions of the middle east are the most truth-claim oriented. That would be Judaism, Christianity & Islam. And of the three, we are the most likely to be forthright about this. We have a reputation of going to the lions in song, remember. Not that the global community is going to make a big deal of this, or even consider it particularly pertinent in this day and age, when they have convinced us we need this, that and the other thing and we are so busy we can’t even take the time to think about what might be universal existential truths.

  29. catholicmidwest says:

    So, I’m saying this isn’t really about comparative religions or syncretism or anything like that from some leader’s probable point of view. It’s really a defensive move among things that the world has shoved into the same working “guild.”

    However, I don’t know if it’s a wise choice or not to allow ourselves to be clumped up with those who actually might start wars for converts or land. I’m thinking of Islam for instance.

    You see, some religions aren’t really in it for the kind of good that we Westerners think of when we think of religion. They’re really more like household gods. To the extent that people may believe that they help the family or the clan or whatever, I suppose might people swear by them and regard them as good. But they’re not the same thing as something like Christianity which speaks of God and the good he intends for the whole world, somewhat regardless of the personal effort we might have to put in as his followers, and what we believe we are doing and will get. See the difference?

    And some religions have stated goals that sound like they’re in it for the good, and maybe they are, but that’s not how it ends up in too many cases because of the incompleteness of the religion and the cultural obstacles swept up within it. Example-Islam.

    So, I”m still not on board with Assisi, but I realize that there might be more than one reason for doing it. Nevertheless, there is a cost for this kind of thing, as there is for all things, and it may be more than we realize even when we object to the muddled picture it creates vis a vis teaching the faithful within the Catholic church, although that is prima facie the biggest objection that currently is being made.

  30. Benedetta said:
    “I don’t think we should tie up Pope Benedict’s hands because of something that happened before or because of the inevitable media distortions which can and will occur.”

    Thank you, Benedetta, for your thoughtful comments, which I have also found helpful. We need to pray, trust the Lord, and let His Vicar be His Vicar.

    I also try to read everything I can towards better understanding the Holy Father’s teachings and writings, while also trying to filter out inaccurate or incorrect reports. A short and well-written piece related to this post’s subject, which I found quite helpful and would like to share, is a commentary from the National Catholic Register:

  31. JP Borberg says:

    AdJesumPerMariam13, thank you for you insightful response to my questions. They show a deep understanding of the Holy Father’s teachings, especially there relation to the opinions of St Bernard.

  32. benedetta says:

    AdJesumPerMariam13, That is an interesting article you posted. By coincidence, I had thrown into my bag a book I recently located in storage and after my last post this morning had an opportunity to look into a text that others might find helpful as to understanding that in no way does Pope Benedict advocate the mentality which equates the God of the Trinity with what have been come to be understood under the label of deity for others. “On the Ecumenical Situation”, from the book, Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith The Church as Communion, with updated notes from Ignatius Press.

    Also catholicmidwest above makes excellent points and as far as the danger of widespread distortion transmitted as accurate and true, to the media is a point which I will re-evaluate. I will say that it does not appear to be something that the Church is devoting a great deal of time to right now, this sort of public engagement. Perhaps more private sorts of conversations, with non-believers as well as with other Christians would better serve the aims rather than something that runs risks.

    I think the notion of being a “cultural” or with a whiff of spirituality, this or that, no matter how the media and others may attempt to dress it up, is something that many buy into and feel is valid however it is hard to say that in those instances when one does not truly commit but holds back that they are adherents to a practice or have faith. Now those who dabble in this or that may argue that doing what suits them is faith because they say so. But religion is not an individual hobby or undertaking but can only be played out in a wider sphere of mutual commitment with others who acknowledge to seek the same. So it is not really possible to have a conversation with people who are of course fellow human beings and perhaps seekers and struggling but not willing to step up and be unashamed to be known through commitment to the faith. Nor is it possible to have a conversation with groups adhering to a belief system which desires the harm or destruction of another due to their beliefs. With both there is no two way street as far as a conversation is concerned, one may only be going the one way.

    Clearly via media and consumerism, through desperation, practices “borrowed” are becoming quite commonly encountered in Catholic circles and presented as worthy substitute for Christian prayer and even the sacraments. Whereas the vast majority of those who engage in such practices, if asked I don’t think could tell you what those practices are intended to invoke or signify and even if given an objective presentation of where they lead would recoil and certainly if dimly aware of the great gift of the Christian life of faith would never give over their being to something else.

    Still (and I am sorry to repeat) the fact which of course as a given the media will not register is that this is not a conversation held on terms which invite us to believe that non-believers’ practices are all essentially the same thing. But perhaps we too need to recognize this fact ahead of time to support clarification and to resist the tendency by many to distort the person of the Holy Father into something he is not, to portray the Church as so many other things.

  33. kgurries says:

    CMW, I think you make excellent points and I agree with much of what you say. I do think that the particular challenges and threats posed by militant secularism have prompted recent Popes to take PRUDENTIAL decisions that would have been unthinkable in other ages. Assisi is a good example of this — and the (intended) positive effects must be weighed against the (unintended) negative effects. Catholics are free to disagree with Assisi-type initiatives on prudential grounds. At the same time, it seems to me that some Catholics go too far when they say that it is contrary to the Faith and that a Pope has no right to do it. So, I think there is a delicate balance to keep in this.

  34. catholicmidwest says:

    Human beings are constructed such that we have the capacity to wonder and learn, ponder and pray, decide and believe, and we have freedom for all these reasons and more; we love. These are all tied together in mysterious but very real ways. To mute or even take away these prospects is a fundamental affront to humanity wherever it is found. I think this is really what the Vatican might be seeing in the trivialization/marginalization of religion to the exclusion of a more driven notion of what humanity is about–an encroachment on human freedom.

    However, when you get down to the applications of such things, the real picture is about as organized as a plate of spaghetti. How do you go about protecting these things? How do you even talk about such things with a world that is in such disarray and when there are so many differences of culture, situation and opinion? And you know, these things have to be protected for all the world, if not for all the other reasons that can be given, then just so we don’t risk losing them as the consequence and final chapter of everyone (else) losing them.

  35. catholicmidwest says:


    I also think that there is a delicate balance that must be kept in this. And I think Catholics ought to talk openly about some of these ideas that we are facing, ideas that might become more serious as time passes. Pro & con, and in depth.

    The world has a long, long history of secular messianism of one sort or another, over and above the acceptable efforts of nations and so on. In itself that’s just part of human history. But the prospect has never loomed in a global way before in quite the same way that it’s just beginning to shape up now. It’s more than spill-over of enthusiasm left over from the good purposeful activity that people engage in; it’s something that might take on a life of its own. Food for thought.

    That said, I don’t know that this Assisi event is the way to work with it. I don’t even know that this is the motive of the Assisi thing, but maybe it is. It seems to me to fit. Right down to the admonition to use the freedom we have as humans to live our religions well, no matter what they are…….

    If this secular messianism becomes a huge problem, I don’t know how we deal with it, to be honest, except to exhibit the products of our own freedom to prove that it can never be taken away, only the appearances can be muted. Humans are what they are and we have these properties. And if we de facto lose the ability to commit and to love because we are forced to deny it, we lose everything. There is no more.

  36. Craigmaddie says:

    Quite simply, such ventures are incompatible with Scripture, Tradition, and the Extraordinary and the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium. No matter what mental somersaults we perform in an attempt to square the circle, we must, ultimately, come back to the thrice-defined infallible dogma “outside of the Church there is positively no salvation”. Those who are outside of the Church deserve nothing less than the truth. To confirm them in their errors in this way is a grave sin against the theological virtue of charity.

    I’m sure someone will respond by saying that we must trust the Holy Father. Yes, in matters of doubt we should always give him the benefit of that doubt. However, there is increasingly less doubt that Assisi III will be yet another Break-The-First-Commandment-Jamboree and, thus, there is sufficient material for us to make a judgement on. This and the recent statements by the Pope to the effect that the Jews are somehow exempt from the need to convert are greatly perplexing.

  37. Jason Keener says:

    I don’t want to keep pressing this point, but I don’t think Catholics should in any way work for the advancement of peace by encouraging others in their false religions, even when Catholics only encourage the so-called good points of those religions. According to traditional moral theology, an act becomes immoral when it is evil in either its objective nature, when it’s done with a bad intention, or when it is done in bad circumstances. When Protestants, then, continue to use objectively good elements of Catholic life such as Baptism and some of Christ’s teachings apart from their divinely-intended setting within the fully True Catholic Church, those actions of Protestants become immoral because the circumstances in which they use the good elements of Catholic life are evil, for no one has a right to rip this or that element from the life of the Catholic Church and thus set up an alternate church. Catholics, then, can never try to achieve the good of peace through any action that would encourage, confirm, or tacitly approve the immoral action of Protestants and their continued separation from the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, there has been a breakdown in the rigors of Thomism and traditional moral thinking in the Church, which has prevented many people from seeing the inherent flaws in the Church’s new approach to ecumenism.

    On the other hand, Catholics may legitimately work for peace with Protestants, Muslims, and Jews by strictly appealing to the human reason we all share through natural law arguments. This can be done in a way that does not at the same time encourage or show tacit approval to non-Catholics in their continued separation from Christ’s True Church.

    I think all of this also raises the question of how Protestants can truly be considered to be in some kind of communion with the Catholic Church, as is often taught in the Church these days. If Protestants reject the governing authority of Christ’s Church, reject certain teachings of Christ’s Church, and insist on using elements of Catholic life like Baptism outside of what Christ Himself intended, how can Catholics go so far as to praise their actions and call them “brothers and sisters in Christ?” Unfortunately, these are the actions of enemies and not friends. Also, how can the Catholic Church now say that God is using the evil actions of Protestants as a means to their salvation? Certainly, I agree that God probably brings some Protestants to salavtion but it is despite their immoral acts, not because of them. Moreover, if God is saving all sorts of non-Catholics despite or because of their non-Catholic religious beliefs, why did Christ go through the trouble of taking human flesh, dying on the Cross, and founding One True Catholic Church? In “Humani Generis,” Pope Pius XII condemned the ideas of those who “…reduce to a meaningless formula the necessity of belonging to the true Church in order to gain salvation.”

    Finally, we should always be charitable with Protestants but we should also call a spade a spade.

  38. Bill Foley says:

    from Bill Foley
    It is simply amazing how the commentators on this post really think that they can run the Catholic Church better than the Vicar of Christ. These are the very same ones who denigrate the Second Vatican Council and who disdain the odinary form of the Mass.
    I would ask these good folk to imitate the saints in their passionate love and loyalty to the Holy Father.
    Saint John Bosco said the following: “We must love the popes … their counsels and even their wishes must be a command to us. My sons, regard as enemies of the faith those who belittle the pope’s authority or who try to minimize the obedience and respect due to his teachings and directives. ” If the author is somewhat unfavorable to the pope, don’t read the book. ” “Do not ever forget these three things: devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, devotion to Mary Help of Christians, and devotion to the Holy Father.”
    Saint Catherine of Siena said: “Even if the pope were Satan incarnate, we ought not to raise up our heads against him, but calmly lie down to rest on his bosom. He who rebels against our father is condemned, for that which we do to him we do to Christ; we honor Christ if we honor the pope; we dishonor Christ if we dishonor the pope. ”
    Saint Josemaria Escriva said: “Thank you my God for that love for the Pope you have placed in my heart.” “Love for the Roman Pontiff must be in us a beautiful passion, for in him we see Christ.”
    I would suggest that the good folk go to the EWTN document library and enter a search for “Cardinal Gilroy.” They can then read a marvelous three-page article on the papal magisterium, which shows God’s immense love for us in giving us a “sacrament of truth” in the papacy. God is protecting us in giving us a sure guide on our path to sanctity and on our way to heaven.

  39. Craigmaddie says:

    It is simply amazing how the commentators on this post really think that they can run the Catholic Church better than the Vicar of Christ.

    Each Pope is granted special graces of state that are not given to other people; however, that does not mean that he will in fact cooperate with those graces. When St Peter caved into the Judaisers and was reprimanded by St Paul we can say that he wasn’t “running the Catholic Church very well”. Or, to take an extreme example, there would have been few devout Catholics who couldn’t have run the Church better than Pope Alexander VI. The man was a valid Pope, but he was also a profligate and a libertine.

    One of the great errors of the present time is papalotry. This is where a Pope clearly violates the teachings of Christ and His Church (for example, Pope John Paul II taking part in a Voodoo ritual in Togoville, 9th August 1985*) and those who are scandalised by this (in the sense used in moral theology) are attacked by other Catholics for being ‘disobedient’, ‘more Catholic than the Pope’, ‘one-man magisteriums’, ‘no better than Protestants’, ad infinitum.

    The Apostolic faith is not the personal possession of any Pope that he might change it; rather, he is called to defend that which has been handed down to him from the Apostles. The Pope is not the formal object of faith, God is. And my obedience to Christ and the infallible teachings of His Church (taught through the Extraordinary and Ordinary Magisterium) trumps my obedience to the Pope in those cases where, in his authentic i.e. non-infallible Magisterium, he clearly and without room for reasonable doubt contradicts those teachings, which is entirely possible. Events like those at Assisi are quite clearly not in accord with Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium.

    It is important to remember that if by his bad example a Pope leads us to sin gravely against the theological virtue of faith (though it is probable that a Pope himself could never be a pertinacious heretic) then we will still be damned if we do not repent. Just because the bad example came from the Vicar of Christ (who is not impeccable) does not mean that we will somehow ‘get off the hook’.

    Two years ago, I was speaking to a Polish priest about the events of Assisi in 1986 and I expressed my distress about it. He opined that events like Assisi are for “people of a high spirituality” whereby men and women from different faith traditions can meet on a plane beyond dogma and external forms. This is Gnosticism…actually, worse than that, it is Freemasonry in a dog collar.

    I love the papacy and Christ’s Church and it is that same love that causes me to express my protest against this kind of event that is entirely alien to the Catholic faith – and not even the Pope can make it so. If you believe otherwise then seriously mistaken.

    * An event that has been flushed down the memory hole, although an account can be found on page 5 of L’Osservatore Romano of the 11th of August 1985.

  40. Craigmaddie says:

    It is also well to remember that when Pope Pius IX was first elected he was actually quite liberal and desired a modus operandi with Freemasonry in Europe. In fact, Freemasons marched through Turin shouting “long live Pope Pius!” Don Bosco posted boys around the town to shout instead “long live the papacy!”

  41. JP Borberg says:

    I agree with what Craigemaddie wrote.

  42. rahook says:

    After reading Craigmaddie’s comment yesterday about Pope John Paul’s visit to Africa, I went to the local Catholic library to check L’Osservatore Romano’s coverage of the event. There was nothing in the August 12, 1985 issue about a Voodoo ritual. The August 19 issue printed the Pope’s address to a group of animists. Although the Pope did not talk specifically about converting to Christianity, there was nothing in his address that in any way compromised the teachings of the Church. It is also worth considering the Pope’s remarks in his 1994 book “Crossing the Threshold of Hope” (p. 82):

    At this point it would be helpful to recall all the primitive religions, the animistic religions which stress ancestor worship. It seems that those who practice them are particularly close to Christianity, and among them, the Church’s missionaries also find it easier to speak a common language. Is there, perhaps, in this veneration of ancestors a kind of preparation for the Christian faith in the Communion of Saints, in which all believers–whether living or dead–form a single community, a single body? And faith in the Communion of Saints is, ultimately, faith in Christ, who alone is the source of life and of holiness for all. There is nothing strange, then, that the African and Asian animists would become believers in Christ more easily than followers of the great religions of the Far East.

  43. Craigmaddie says:

    Hello Rahook,

    I am referring to the Italian edition of L’Osservatore Romano. I found it difficult to believe it myself so I contacted the archive department of L’OR and ordered a scan of page 5 of the edition from the 11th of August (i.e. not the English edition of the 12th). About two-thirds of the way through the article una preghiera nella foresta sacra (“A prayer in the sacred forest”) there is the following paragraph:

    Ed è stato proprio un omaggio agli antenati il primo gesto compiuto da Giovanni Paolo II appena giunto a Togoville. Gli è stata portata una zucca secca riempita con acqua e farina di mais. Il Papa l’ha presa tra le sue mani e dopo un leggero inchino ha sparso l’acqua tutto intorno. Lo stesso gesto aveva compiuto questa mattina a Kara, prima di celebrare la messa. Si tratta di un’usanza alla quale i togolesi tengono in modo particolare. L’ospite accetta l’acqua, simbolo della prosperita, e la condivide con gli antenato spargendola su quella stessa terra che ne custodisce le spoglie mortali e lo spirito. Le breve cerimonia si è svolta nel piu assolut silenzio.

    My translation with the help of Google:

    “The first gesture which was made by John Paul II after arriving in Togoville was an act of homage to the ancestors. A gourd was filled with water and dry corn flour. The Pope took it between his hands and bowed slightly after the water was scattered all around. The same gesture was made ??this morning in Kara, before celebrating mass. This is a custom to which the Togolese are particularly attached. The guest accepts the water, a symbol of prosperity, and shares it with his ancestors by scattering it on the same ground that houses their mortal remains and their spirit. The brief ceremony was held in the most absolute silence.”

    If you wish I could email you the page in question so that you can check for yourself. Please let me know.

  44. Craigmaddie says:

    At this point it would be helpful to recall all the primitive religions, the animistic religions which stress ancestor worship. It seems that those who practice them are particularly close to Christianity, and among them, the Church’s missionaries also find it easier to speak a common language. Is there, perhaps, in this veneration of ancestors a kind of preparation for the Christian faith in the Communion of Saints, in which all believers–whether living or dead–form a single community, a single body? And faith in the Communion of Saints is, ultimately, faith in Christ, who alone is the source of life and of holiness for all. There is nothing strange, then, that the African and Asian animists would become believers in Christ more easily than followers of the great religions of the Far East.

    Whilst we may agree or disagree with the late Holy Father’s opinion of the ‘nearness’ of Animism (or Voodoo, as it is more commonly known) to the Catholic faith, we must, however, acknowledge that the First Commandment prohibits any form of communicatio in sacris with non-Christians in their own rites.

  45. Craigmaddie says:

    If anyone else would like a copy of the article in question please email me at homoviator72 at (remove the spaces and add the @)

  46. rahook says:

    Pope John Paul’s gesture reminds me of the famous story of Matteo Ricci and the Chinese rites controversy. A certain faction in the Church accused him and other missionaries of taking part in the local practice of what appeared to be ancestor worship in the far East, resulting in the eventual expulsion of the missionaries. However, many years later the Vatican re-examined this practice and concluded that it did not in fact constitute worship, but was rather a form of homage to the Chinese ancestors–exactly the word used to describe Pope John Paul’s actions. In the meantime, however, all the efforts that had been made over the years by the missionaries to spread the gospel in the far East were completely wiped out. So I think we must be careful when we make accusations of this sort. We may find ourselves doing more harm than good.

  47. Craigmaddie says:

    I think you make a very valid point in raising the issue of Fr Matteo Ricci and the veneration of ancestors. In a sense, it does not have to have any religious significance, in the same way that the minute’s silence we observe every Armistice Day in Britain does not indicate any particular religious belief other than a mark of respect.

    It is clear that Fr Ricci went to great lengths to ensure that the Chinese rites have no religious significance:

    After having carefully studied what the Chinese classical books said regarding these rites, and after having observed for a long time the practice of them and questioned numerous scholars of every rank with whom he was associated during this eighteen years of apostolate, Ricci was convinced that these rites had no religious significance, either in their institution or in their practice by the enlightened classes. The Chinese, he said, recognized no divinity in Confucius any more than in their deceased ancestors; they prayed to neither; the made no requests nor expected any extraordinary intervention from them. In fact they only did for them what they did for the living to whom they wished to show great respect.
    -From the Catholic Encyclopedia 1913

    However, it must be borne in mind that the discussion about rites was limited to China. Were the rites, on the contrary, in any way indicative of a cultus then they would have been inadmissible. I’m afraid that in the case of the Animist/Voodoo rite we simply cannot get around the fact that they do have a religious significance. This was highlighted by the presence of six Animist priests who performed the rite with John Paul II as well as the invocations made at the beginning of the ritual:

    Potenza dell’acqua to ti invoco! Antenati Be’, io vi invoco.

    Power of water I invoke you! Spirit of the ancestors, I invoke you.

  48. rahook says:

    But it is not clear from your quote to what extent the Pope participated in the rite, if he was fully aware of its significance or what his intentions were in taking part. In any event, it is obvious that the Vatican does not consider Blessed John Paul II to be guilty of communicatio in sacris. On that note, I will drop out of the discussion.

  49. Craigmaddie says:

    I think the Pope’s intentions were probably very good, when understood in light of his probable leaning towards universalism. If he had thought that by taking part in this rite he was confirming them in an error that emperilled their salvation I have no doubt that he would not have done what he did.

    I think it is clear that John Paul II’s optimism that people can and will be saved in other religions was contrary to the witness of Scripture, divine Tradition, and the infallible Magisterium. The fact that the late Pope was beatified with the disclaimer that the acts of his pontificate (such as his participation in this ritual which has always been understood as contrary to divine law) were not taken into account but only his personal sanctity (cf Cardinal Amato) is merely a demonstration of just how profound the crisis is that we are going through.

    John Paul II was a good man and I think he is almost definitely in heaven, but many of the late Holy Father’s ideas and actions – when measured against the yardstick of the traditional Catholic faith – were simply not orthodox.

  50. Craigmaddie says:

    I agree it’s time to drop this subject.

    God bless you.

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