What about that joint document of Francis and the Imam?
Francis signed something that very strongly suggested that God wills, in his active/positive will, a diversity of religions. This is impossible. The only way to interpret that in a Christian sense is to say that by God’s permissive will there is a plurality/diversity of religions. I wrote about that before in an attempt to make what was signed not be male sonans… at least.
At the end of my post I wrote that I didn’t know what the writers of the document had in mind. We only have the text of what was signed.
People are still talking about it. I had originally thought that – since tens of people had read it, it would vanish into the big cabinet into which ecumenical documents vanish. No so. People are still on it.
For example, over at Rorate a smart fellow, Dr. John R. T. Lamont (a Canadian philosopher and theologian), wrote about it referencing me and disagreeing with what I wrote. He agreed with me too, in that he wrote, regarding my examination of the English Francis/Imam text:
“Applying the distinction between God’s active will and God’s permissive will to Pope Francis’s words, and interpreting the words as asserting that the plurality of religions is the object of God’s permissive will rather than of His active will, is the only way of understanding them in a Christian sense.”
Then he went on to explain how we can’t interpret the bad phrase from the point of view of God’s permissive will. I was not wholly convinced, but he had a strong case. One point I found that was good, that contradicted what I wrote, was something I had planned to include in my own piece… but I left it out lest my post be too complicated. He wrote:
“The context makes it clear that Pope Francis’s words state that God does will religious pluralism itself. Religious pluralism is classed together with other differences such as colour, sex, race, and language that are not evil in themselves, and that are positively willed by God.”
I actually had worked on a post that dealt with whether or not these other things – race, language, etc. – were willed by God positively or they were permitted in His permissive will. But… life took over and I didn’t finish it.
Taken by itself, taking the claim only about religions, we can more easily apply God’s permissive will as an interpretive lens. Taken with the other items, that gets really hard.
I would add another angle.
We also have translations in several languages of the text that was signed. I don’t know what language was the language of authorship. Which language did the Imam’s people and Francis’ people use? Perhaps English or Portuguese… there were Portuguese and English influences in the UAE. Who knows?
Are there differences in the texts? Let’s look!
Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action. The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives. Therefore, the fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept;
- The pluralism and the diversity of religions, … are willed by God in His wisdom
La libertà è un diritto di ogni persona: ciascuno gode della libertà di credo, di pensiero, di espressione e di azione. Il pluralismo e le diversità di religione, di colore, di sesso, di razza e di lingua sono una sapiente volontà divina, con la quale Dio ha creato gli esseri umani. Questa Sapienza divina è l’origine da cui deriva il diritto alla libertà di credo e alla libertà di essere diversi. Per questo si condanna il fatto di costringere la gente ad aderire a una certa religione o a una certa cultura, come pure di imporre uno stile di civiltà che gli altri non accettano.
- Il pluralismo e le diversità di religione, … sono una sapiente volontà divina,
- The pluralism and diversity of religions… are one divine will
La liberté est un droit de toute personne: chacune jouit de la liberté de croyance, de pensée, d’expression et d’action. Le pluralisme et les diversités de religion, de couleur, de sexe, de race et de langue sont une sage volonté divine, par laquelle Dieu a créé les êtres humains. Cette Sagesse divine est l’origine dont découle le droit à la liberté de croyance et à la liberté d’être différents. C’est pourquoi on condamne le fait de contraindre les gens à adhérer à une certaine religion ou à une certaine culture, comme aussi le fait d’imposer un style de civilisation que les autres n’acceptent pas.
- Le pluralisme et les diversités de religion, … sont une sage volonté divine,
- The pluralism and diversity of religions… are one divine will
Die Freiheit ist ein Recht jedes Menschen: ein jeder genießt Bekenntnis-, Gedanken-, Meinungs-, und Handlungsfreiheit. Der Pluralismus und die Verschiedenheit in Bezug auf Religion, Hautfarbe, Geschlecht, Ethnie und Sprache entsprechen einem weisen göttlichen Willen, mit dem Gott die Menschen erschaffen hat. Diese göttliche Weisheit ist der Ursprung, aus dem sich das Recht auf Bekenntnisfreiheit und auf die Freiheit, anders zu sein, ableitet. Deshalb wird der Umstand verurteilt, Menschen zu zwingen, eine bestimmte Religion oder eine gewisse Kultur anzunehmen wie auch einen kulturellen Lebensstil aufzuerlegen, den die anderen nicht akzeptieren.
- Der Pluralismus und die Verschiedenheit in Bezug auf Religion, … entsprechen einem weisen göttlichen Willen,
- The pluralism and diversity of religion… corresponds to a wise divine will
La libertad es un derecho de toda persona: todos disfrutan de la libertad de credo, de pensamiento, de expresión y de acción. El pluralismo y la diversidad de religión, color, sexo, raza y lengua son expresión de una sabia voluntad divina, con la que Dios creó a los seres humanos. Esta Sabiduría Divina es la fuente de la que proviene el derecho a la libertad de credo y a la libertad de ser diferente. Por esto se condena el hecho de que se obligue a la gente a adherir a una religión o cultura determinada, como también de que se imponga un estilo de civilización que los demás no aceptan.
- El pluralismo y la diversidad de religión, … son expresión de una sabia voluntad divina
- The pluralism and diversity of religion, … are expressions of a wise divine will
A liberdade é um direito de toda a pessoa: cada um goza da liberdade de credo, de pensamento, de expressão e de ação. O pluralismo e as diversidades de religião, de cor, de sexo, de raça e de língua fazem parte daquele sábio desígnio divino com que Deus criou os seres humanos. Esta Sabedoria divina é a origem donde deriva o direito à liberdade de credo e à liberdade de ser diferente. Por isso, condena-se o facto de forçar as pessoas a aderir a uma determinada religião ou a uma certa cultura, bem como de impor um estilo de civilização que os outros não aceitam.
- O pluralismo e as diversidades de religião, …fazem parte daquele sábio desígnio divino
- Pluralism and diversities of religion, … are part of that wise divine design
So, in English it is far easier to think in terms of God’s permissive will.
When you get out of English… it isn’t so easy to find permissive will. The statement sounds very much like the pluralism of religions (and other things) is a result of God’s active and positive will. Until we have a clear statement from the Holy See about the meaning of this phrase, it is very hard indeed – all the translations considered – to apply permissive will. It is not impossible to include permissive will, because the whole paragraph is about human freedom. After the statement in question, the text goes on about things that people do to other people.
Again, I don’t know what the writers intended. And yet, there are signatures on it.
We sure need Latin, don’t we.
When we hear or read something strange, we should try to apply the best interpretation and not automatically go to the worst interpretation. At the same time, it doesn’t do any good to ignore the obvious. I don’t think that it is entirely obvious what is meant in that document. Not entirely. But it doesn’t look good. And I think teachers in the Church are obliged to bring clarity rather than confusion.
But with documents these days… it’s as if they don’t want us to know what they really mean.
BTW… in case you are wondering about that phrase I used above, male sonans, this is a category of the theological censures. These censures were applied to protect the integrity of the Faith and to prevent people from being mislead (in the case of falsehood) and confused (in the case of fuzziness). One of the labels was male sonans… evil-sounding. Anyway, here are the categories in descending order of gravity
- hæretica (heretical)
- erronea (erroneous)
- hæresi proxima (next to heresy)
- errori proxima (next to error)
- temeratia (rash)
- ambigua (ambiguous)
- captiosa (captious)
- male sonans (evil-sounding)
- piarum aurium offensiva (offensive to pious ears)
Male sonans and piarum aurium offensiva were low on the list of censures, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t taken seriously.
The badly worded phrase in that document are at the very least piarum aurium offensiva and even male sonans. Note that there is also ambigua.
Salvo meliori iudicio!
I’ve turned on the moderation queue for the sake of helpful comments, well-considered.