Friday, February 06, 2009

What does “dialogue” mean?

As far as our relationship with Judaism is concerned dialogue seems to mean that we meet with you and you spend the time ranting at us, and we simply listen and nod our heads in agreement. In recent years our pan-religious dialogue with the Jews has meant criticism over the revised prayer in the Traditional Rite for Good Friday, used by a couple of hundred small communities, criticism over the plan to beatify Pope Pius XII, criticism over lifting the medicinal excommunication of an almost seventy year old dissident bishop who is obviously off his trolley.

Again and again the Holy See stretches out the hand of friendship, only to have it bitten. We saw this when the Pope invited, for the first time in the history of the Church, a rabbi to speak at the Synod on the Word of God. “Dialogue” for many seems to be pretty pointless. In our dialogue with the Anglican Communion (ARCIC): what came out of it? A series of documents, which we were told resulted in “substantial agreement”, only to find a few years later that in practice that communion wanted nothing other than to put clear blue water between Anglicanism and the Church.

Our dialogue with Anglicans changed dramatically with the publication of Cardinal Ratzinger’s document Dominus Jesus. I remember squeals of outrage from Anglicans and the media in a frenzy at the suggestion they were “not a Church in the proper sense”, a few months after the shock and horror both in Anglicanism and the English Catholic Church, there was a significant gear change and real discussion started to take place; England began to change from being Paul VI’s “special ecumenical territory” to Benedict’s “special evangelical territory”, where the Catholic position is stated quite clearly and “catholic” Anglicans are invited to come into the Church.

A similar process seems to have followed the outrage following the Regensburg declaration, before it our dialogue with Islam seems to have been an historical grumbling from the Islamic side of the cruelty of the crusades, a mutual looking back to a golden age of 10th century Spain and not much else, now Catholics dare to ask for churches to be built in Islamic countries, to protect religious rights and finding ways of fighting abortion and defending the family together.

I find it difficult to imagine the Pope was not aware of the uproar that would follow the lifting of SSPX excommunications, nor the ineptness of the Vatican PR machine, these he would have taken into account. From time to time it seems the Pope does think a stampede is a good thing, when everything has quietened down the ground has been shifted and fresh debate can take place. He himself might be villified becoming a little less popular with some, but he has started a new debate. Popularity is not his game: debate is.

Who now does not know that the SSPX are on their way back? Who now doesn’t know that there is going to be a close look at what the Second Vatican Council said? Who now doesn’t know that there is going to be a reassessment of the role of Tradition in the Church? Who now doesn’t realise it is possible to be a Catholic and question many things which in the last forty years have regarded as unquestionable?

It is intolerable to criticize decisions which have been taken since the Council; on the other hand, if men make question of ancient rules, or even of the great truths of the Faith -- for instance, the corporal virginity of Mary, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the immortality of the soul, etc. -- nobody complains or only does so with the greatest moderation. I myself, when I was a professor, have seen how the very same bishop who, before the Council, had fired a teacher who was really irreproachable, for a certain crudeness of speech, was not prepared, after the Council, to dismiss a professor who openly denied certain fundamental truths of the Faith.

These are the main issues, a consequent one might well be a reappraisal of the Church’s relationship with Judaism, for example can we or should we pray for their conversion. This touches our relationship with non-Christian religions.
If we do not point to the truth in announcing our faith, and if this truth is no longer essential for the salvation of Man, then the missions lose their meaning. In effect the conclusion has been drawn, and it has been drawn today, that in the future we need only seek that Christians should be good Christians, Muslims good Muslims, Hindus good Hindus, and so forth. If it comes to that, how are we to know when one is a 'good' Christian, or a 'good' Muslim?
quotes from Cardinal Ratzinger's 1988 address to the Bishops of Chile


Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Great commentary Father...

If dialogue doesn't lead to the Truth it's pointless :)

Brian said...

For forty years the Catholic Church has been lost in a fog called 'ecumania' as essential matters of faith have been watered down, disregarded or publicly opposed by bishops and theologians of the faith.
When people ask 'can we or should we' pray for the conversion of Jews and Non-Christians you can tell that the Church has strayed from the Gospel as lived and preached for the first 1960 years of the Church's history.
What we need is a return to the Traditions of the Church in doctrine, liturgy and morals, ignoring and seeing past the nonsense we have had to put up with for so long.
If some RC wish to become Protestant, then let them but just don't call it Catholicism or Christianity for that matter.
Along together now...."Faith of our fathers...."

Unknown said...

What a great post, Father! So many people, especially the main stream media, have been vilifying the Pope at every opportunity. How blind they all are, for they cannot see.
This Pope is a man with a plan, and he won't rest until the church has been restored to it's full glory and potential. Praise God!

Anonymous said...

It is always a case of, "Either renounce the very tenets you hold to be dear or we'll inflict some wound upon you."

In a way, dialogue with other religions seems to echo the life of the Early Church and the martyrdoms of Christians down the ages, just in an unbloody fashion.

George said...

Excellent post and very well put Fr Ray. Concise and to the point.

And indeed what exactly IS the point if not to point the people of the world to God's only Son, Jesus Christ the Saviour of all through His ONE, TRUE, CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH.

That should be the sole purpose of dialogue and ecumenism because anything less is 'short changing' the people we are talking to. You can't give people half-baked bread any more than you can fudge some half-baked 'truth' with them just so that they don't get offended!

Imagine in the fullness of time meeting up with a 'lost soul', to whom you once had the opportunity to talk to on matters of the Faith. You didn't give them the fullness of Truth at the time, for fear of causing offence, embarrassment etc.. etc... They look at you through haggard eyes streaming with tears and ask "Why didn't YOU tell me"??

Time for plain speaking is well overdue and Pope Benedict has the 'guts' to do it. We should all be strengthened in this and do some plain speaking in our own little 'circles of influence'. "Be not afraid", Jesus tells us again and again. Well, let's rise to that rallying call - BE NOT AFRAID!

God Bless Pope Benedict - he knows 'The Truth' and how best to get it across to all! Those that deny it or simply don't want to know will scream, holler and shout "Foul" - well so what? Let them. They follow another 'master' and will get their just desserts!

Elizabeth said...

There is only one true Catholic Faith and everyone is welcome aslong as they accept the infallible teachings. It is our critics who need to justify themselves, not us, we know we are part of the one true faith. Most religious arguments are always the same "I am right and you are wrong". As Jesus said, we must turn the other cheek, the battle is won all we want is to guide as many people along the right path as we can. That is what ecunemism is, but if they are desperate to go the other way, then even Jesus told His apostles to brush the sand from their feet.

The Catholic Church will not change to suit the times, that is the failure of all other Christian sects. Our Pope is the leader of our church and his importance is shown in the bible when Peter is mentioned by name 195 times showing that he had a special role that represented all the apostles as a group, a spokesman, the voice of the Church.
Our Pope is a brilliant diplomat and able 'to preside the charity of the Church'.

We need to say the Prayer for England 'intercede for our seperated bretheren, that with us in the one true fold, they may be united to the Chief Shepherd, the Vicar of thy Son'

Paul Knight said...

Ecellent post, Father.

Delia said...

Very well said, Father, and a welcome note of sanity. Have just looked at the Tablet editorial online. Quite hysterical. I do wonder what kind of agenda these people have in exploiting Jewish sensibilities to discredit the pope.

Anonymous said...

Again and again the Holy See stretches out the hand of friendship, only to have it bitten.

The never-ending horizon of ecumenical dialogue was doomed from it's inception. Since John XXIII and Paul VI "opened the windows" to let the secular stench into the church, the bride of Christ has been humiliated, vilified and brought to her knees (some people would say that Lumen Gentium [Light of the Nations] should be renamed Kneeling before the Nations). What was once a majestic authority is now bending and collapsing over itself in order to be "all things to all men" in regards to religion and salvation.

Pope Benedict XVI should put an end to this incessant "dialogue" of pious platitudes, pioneered by his predecessor and stir the Barque of Peter on the course of true ecumenism, which made the Catholic church the greatest number of converts.

Anonymous said...

Off his trolley.....

Very unkind of you to say that.
Listen to the audio:,bshp_williamson,25th_anniversary_of_st_michaels_final,40_min.mp3

umblepie said...

Spot on,Father. An excellent post.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Paul, I do not think so at all, the man is obssessed by conspiracy,

Anonymous said...

The sacred cow that was Vatican II has to be slain. It's killing the Church. It has to be the first example of politically correct theology to hit the Church. The policy of appeasement to the liberals has just made them bolder. Appeasement never works and we are paying the price.

To me it feels like right time, right place and right Pope and I hope B16 gets on with confronting the liberals and giving them a straight choice - are you in or are you out. You have to crack a few eggs to make an omelette and we are way too frightened of confrontation. I cannot imagine our Catholic forbears being so wimpy.

Martyrs of the Coliseum, pray for us and pray for the pope especially.

Anonymous said...

I think that our Holy Father sees the big picture and has throughout his life took seriously the call of Christ to take up the Cross daily.Popularity is not the name of his game,it is easy to see how as he tries to fulfill his ministry the Words of the Beattitudes ring true, " Blessed are ye when they shall revile you and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you untruly for my sake.BE GLAD and REJOICE for you reward is very great in heaven.

Anonymous said...

PS anyone who can denounce the Sound of Music is definitely off their trolley!

PeterHWright said...

This is surely one of Fr. Ray's most fascinating posts.

I wonder what will emerge after the storm dies down.

Will more people begin to see the difference between ecumenism and false ecumenism ?

I hope so.

Anonymous said...

Let me address this one point by point. But first, I hope St Augustine doesn't mind my paraphrasing him: 'Lord, grant me brevity, but not yet!'

Dialogue with the Jews. The re-introduction of the Traditional Rite for Good Friday was always bound to touch a raw nerve with Jews because of their collective memory of the fact that, during the Middle Ages, it was frequently unsafe for them to be seen in public on Good Friday. It has after all been only forty years since the ancient collective accusation of deicide has been set aside by the Church though not, it seems, by SSPX priest Father Florian Abrahamowicz.

The beatification of Pope Pius XII shouldn't be the problem it is, and it wouldn't be but for the dirty propaganda of Rolf Hochhuth. Rabbi David Dalin has written the excellent work The Myth of Hitler's Pope which would be an excellent gift to give to a Jewish friend. Eight thousand Jews were hidden on the Pope's orders in the Vatican, on Church premises in Rome and at Castel Gandolfo alone – comparable in number to those Oskar Schindler saved together with their living descendants.

As for the lifting of the excommunication of Bishop Williamson, though it was strongly criticised by Rabbi David Rosen, he felt better about it after I sent him an e-mail explaining how things work in the Church, what an excommunication means and what it doesn't.

One thing in particular I think we should bear in mind as Gentile Christians is that the Jews are our elder brethren in the faith. In Jewish culture it isn't good form to talk to the first-born son in any direction except up.

Finally, of all the truckloads of Encyclical Letters written by the Popes down the centuries, I have yet to find one that deals in depth with the subject of eschatology, and especially with the role of the Jews in God's redemptive purposes. For the Holy Father to write one would do us the power of good.

Dialogue with the Anglicans. Not a Church in the proper sense? The English doesn't translate the Latin very well here, nor for that matter the French. I think the squeals of protest subsided a bit when the difference between a Church and an ecclesial community was explained.

Dialogue with the Muslims. Of the ten worst countries for religious persecution seven are Muslim. The widespread hankering for the imposition of Islamic law is an ambition up with which I will not put.

GOR said...

The Holy Father has long decried relativism in the world of today. In Truth and Tolerance he dealt with this and how the widespread belief that ‘all religions are equal’ has led to a denigration of two central Christian concepts: conversion and mission.

If all religions are the same then ’conversion’ is merely an internal act, not an act of converting to another religion. Under the same premise ‘mission’ becomes “a kind of religious imperialism, which must be resisted”. This describes very well what many people understood about ‘ecumenism’ since Vat II. Consequently, true dialogue has been distorted into a “can’t we all just get along” kind of mentality, which is inimical to the Truth.

“To a great extent the concept of dialogue…has acquired a different meaning. It has become the very epitome of the relativist credo, the concept opposed to that of ‘conversion’ and mission. Dialogue in the relativist sense means setting one’s own position or belief on the same level with what the other person believes, ascribing to it, on principle, no more of the truth than to the position of the other person.”

We do no service to other religions when, out of a false sense of fraternity and equality, we downplay the fullness of Truth that is to be found only in the Catholic Church. Besides failing to bring more souls to the Truth, we risk the condemnation Our Lord warned about: “He who denies Me before men, him will I deny before My Father in heaven.”

Kate said...

Thanks Fr., for a great post!What has the endless dialogue achieved?
A situation where a Cardinal apologises to a Rabbi for the legitimate and pastoral actions of the Holy Father.

Unknown said...

Thank you, Father.

It will be interesting, to say the least, to see where the discussion of the "challenges" of the past 40 years leads.

I am an SSPX adherent. Frankly, it is the only place I have been exposed to in which I do not have to "unteach" my children lessons from the day, where I don't have to remember what I told them the day before, because the principal doesn't change... i.e. yes, son, we pray for those of other faiths, yes, we pray and sacrifice for the Pour Souls in Purgatory, living together before marriage is wrong, sin is sin, both Heaven and Hell are real, the Rosary is not some archaic meaningless string of "Hail Marys", but something our Lady herself asked for us to do, homosexuality is wrong and for those with a tendency/weakness in that direction should resist it as an alcoholic resists the drink or a heterosexual resists fulfilling desires outside the context of marriage... etc... etc...

Anyway, I digress. Hopefully these courageous acts by the Holy Father, specifically the Motu Proprio and the withdrawal of Excommunications, will lead to a broader, more consistent teaching and acceptance of the true Catholic Faith as it has been throughout the centuries.


Joe Spencer

David said...

Excellent post, Father. I have a great deal of Jewish roots on both sides of my family and (not "but") get frustrated when Catholics do not think we should pray for the conversion of the Jews. This seems due to the implicit belief that to be outside of the Catholic Church does not put one in a gravely deficient situation with regard to eternal salvation.

We now hear occasionally a priest critising a "wrong understanding of ecumenism" or "false ecumenism". However, very rarely does he then go on to explain what "true ecumenism" would be. Let's not forget that the expression originates from the Protestant ecumenical movement that sought - and still seeks - the creation of a "super church" in which differences of opinion will give way to the need for unity.

Why don't we just scrap the word "ecumenism" and call what we need to do as "evangelisation"?

Dymphna said...

I've always wondered what the point of all this dialgoue is supposed to be. Nobody ever seems to get converted and if anything it seems to lead Catholics out the door.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful post of yours, Fr Ray. What you said is so true.

Joe said...

Is the Society of St Pius X on its way back? I think we have yet to see, as the conditions set in the statement of the Vatican Secretariat of State are quite unambiguous.

Adulio said...

Michael Petek: It has after all been only forty years since the ancient collective accusation of deicide has been set aside...

The collective accusation of deicide was never an official view-point in the church. Thus Catechism of the Council of Trent states in the section Reasons Why Christ Suffered under "Suffered Under Pontius Pilate":

"This guilt seems more enormous in us than in the Jews, since according to the testimony of the same Apostle: If they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8); while we, on the contrary, professing to know Him, yet denying Him by our actions, seem in some sort to lay violent hands on Him."

And the 1962 Good Friday prayer can hardly be accused of stirring up anti-semetic feelings. John XXIII already removed the "offensive" words in 1959. In all other respects it is based on scripture entirely (unlike the Novus Ordo one). The prayer was a remnant of the Good Friday intercessions that the early Christians used in Rome at the time of persecutions. If people are stupid to have antipathy towards the Jews because of the prayer, then that's their fault.

I personally cannot think of anything more anti-semetic than the last 40 years of "dialogue" where we have basically told Jews: "Stay Jewish! Don't convert to the Catholic church or embrace Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. Your wait for the Messiah is not in vain."

Anonymous said...

Ottaviani - semitic please not semetic ! Good spelling and godliness surely must have some relation.

Anonymous said...

Ottaviani, you're quite right to say that the collective accusation of deicide was never an official teaching of the Church. But Catholics kept professing it - unless I'm mistaken many Arab Christians still do - so the Church had to keep putting it down.

One thing we as Gentiles have to remember is that Israelites were serving God when our ancestors were still worshipping rocks. The word of God is meant to come to the Jews first, then to the Gentiles.

There are very many accounts on record of Jews coming to faith in Jesus because of a personal visitation from Him, as was the case with Rabbi Israel Zolli, rather than because of a frontal assault from Catholics.

Paul Knight said...

Michael Petek,

Modern day Judaism in all its forms, is the direct descendent of Pharisaic Judaism. Our Lord didn't have many good things to say about it. Ours is the faith of Abraham. Therefore I do not see how holders of the Jewish religion are our 'elder brethren'. If they had the faith of Abraham, then perhaps, but they don't, otherwise they would not have rejected (or continue to reject) their Messiah.

Unknown said...

Excellent commentary and anlysis, Father.

Anonymous said...

Paul, the Jews are our elder brethren because they received the word of God before we did, and because we Gentile Christians are admitted to the covenant God first made with Israel.

According to the Catechism Judaism is the only non-Christian religion which is already a response to God's revelation in the OT.

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