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