UPDATE 6 Feb 2019
Fr. Hunwicke posted a comment at his splendid blog. HERE
Fr Zed has given a characteristically fine and intelligent interpretation of PF’s words. As have some others.
Having perused them, I am also rather interested in what some parts of the Jewish Community might think of any suggestion that the Holocaust was willed by God as part of His “permissive will”.
What Fr Zed and others have done is (this is not irony; I mean it) absolutely essential; it is truly necessary. In the great task which some future pontificate will inherit, of putting the Papal Magisterium back up on its feet after the disasters of this pontificate, it wo’n’t do just to say “That man was repeatedly, disastrously, wrong”. Because the obvious corollary of this is that any pope may be horribly wrong. The standing of the Successor of S Peter will need to be restored, for the good of the Chyrch and for however much time there will be before the End. So, surely, it will have to be said that there are ambiguities in his scripts which need to be interpreted carefully and authoritatively in order to rescue them, and him, from apparent heresy.
But I do think it is outrageous that pastors and academics should have to waste their time dreaming up these ‘interpretations’ of yet another PF disaster. By the way: was Cardinal Ladaria shown this text? [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]
Originally Published on: Feb 5, 2019
I have recently paid as little attention as allowable to most of what is coming from the pens of Rome. However, this needs some attention.
Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahamad al-Tayyib, signed a document on “Fratellanza Umana per la Pace Mondiale e la convivenza comune… Human Fraternity for world peace and living together”.
The document presents some affirmations and aspirations. It contains the following head-scratching statement. Emphases mine…
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;
Do you get that? “The pluralism and diversity of religions” is “willed by God”.
We must seek a way to understand this without it sounding like heresy. Note well that, after that awkward phrase, the continuation speaks to our freedom to believe, etc. That hints at a solution.
God did not will a diversity of religions in the sense that all religions are equal paths to God. False religions are evil. God does not actively will evil.
When we speak of God’s will we make distinctions. God has an “active or positive will” and a “permissive will”. God’s “active will” concerns that which is good, true and beautiful. On the other hand, God has a “permissive will” by which He allows that things will take place that are not in accord with the order He established.
For example, God created Adam and Eve to live a certain way according to their nature and His will. However, He foresaw that they would fall and He permitted them to fall. By His active will they were to live a certain way. By His permissive will they strayed and fell. In the end, even all that God permits to go wrong will eventually be righted.
Consider that a multiplicity of languages, which God imposed at the Babel incident in Genesis 11, was a sign of God’s disapprobation and medicinal punishment. God willed that the people should rely on God, not on their own works. He permitted them to defy Him and rely upon themselves. The multiplicity of languages He imposed was a punishment for evil, ultimately meant to correct their behavior and also to foreshadow the Pentecost event.
Did God positively, actively will the evil heart-ripping religion of the Aztecs? He permitted it. The greatness of the Mother of God was shown to be that much greater when, by her intercession, that evil came to its end.
Did God positively, actively will the vast multiplication of Christian sects, contrary to Christ’s prayer “that they be one” and His positively willed act to found one, and not many, churches?
God wants certain things by His positive or active will. God allows the contrary to take place by His permissive will. In any case, nothing happens outside of the will of God, who is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.
God allows evil and brings forth greater goods from the evil He permits.
Read in this way, namely, that by God’s permissive will there are a multiplicity of religions, etc., that statement in the document, above, is acceptable.
If you read the statement to mean that by God’s positive or active will there are a multiplicity of religions, that’s an error. That would impute to God the active willing of false religions and, therefore, evil, which is impossible and contrary to reason.
God cannot positively will evil. God can only, by His nature, permissively will evil.
I don’t know what the writers of the document intended. I’m just telling the truth about what is written.