Month: September 2005

Papal Souveniers

Looking for “A Bargain at St. Peter’s”? — The Jerusalem Post profiles Rome’s papal souvenir sellers — a family business spanning generations and generations . . . and with a history not known to many:

Di Veroli is one of approximately 105 vendors, all of whom are licensed to sell souvenirs at stands in front of Rome’s most important monuments – and all of whom, except for one, are Jewish. Other ambulant vendors, like Di Porto, carry trays of trinkets but are not licensed to set up stalls. All of these vendors, too, except for one, are Jewish. Like other Italian Jews, some of the vendors are observant, though many are not. Most passersby and many Italians would never know that Di Veroli is Jewish and many would likely assume that he, like the majority of Italians, is a Catholic.

“All the vendors know one another. We come from the same community. We have grown up together and we help one another out with the business,” says Di Veroli. Nearly half of Italy’s 30,000 Jews live in Rome but, despite its size, the community is extremely cohesive. Many of the vendors are related. Like their fellow Roman Jews, the souvenir vendors see one another at synagogue, at weddings and Jewish community events. Their children attend the same schools and their families live in the same neighborhoods.

As it turns out, Jewish participation in the Catholic souvenier business has its origins in a policy decision of Pope Paul VI and the often-lamentable history of Jewish-Christian relations:

. . . Jewish life in Rome underwent a radical change in 1555 when Pope Paul IV, responding to the threat of Protestantism by cracking down on all forms of heresy, rescinded all privileges enjoyed by the Jews and established a ghetto to isolate them from the Christian population. Jews were forbidden to own shops or property outside the ghetto and were not allowed to practice most professions.

Having little choice in the ghetto, many Roman Jews made their living as ambulant vendors, selling used clothing, fabric and scrap metal. According to Marina Caffiero, a history professor at Rome’s La Sapienza University, Jewish vendors would also go door to door, buying and selling sacred objects and religious relics.

Even though Roman Jews were not allowed to own shops or property, they were allowed to leave the ghetto and walk about the city for the purpose of commerce, with a special pass granted by the papal authorities. Rome’s Jewish community was of great importance to the Papacy.

“The Papal state wanted to keep tight control over the Jewish population, but at the same time the Church needed the Jews, both for economic and theological purposes,” Caffiero explained. “The street sellers provided competition to the Catholic businesses, which had formed monopolies. Theologically, the Jews [were believed to have] witnessed the death of Christ and they represented a group to convert to Catholicism.”

With Italian Unification in 1870, the Roman ghetto was abolished and the Jews were made equal citizens.

Fascinating story, no?

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Pope Benedict XVI Roundup!

[Note: I may add a few more notations to this post over the course of this week as I compile them, but nothing like the meeting of Pope Benedict XVI and Hans Küng to start it off, eh? — Chris]

Pope Benedict XVI meets Hans Küng

“In a dramatic gesture of reconciliation, Pope Benedict XVI met Sept. 24 with his former colleague and longtime nemesis, Swiss Catholic theologian Hans Küng, a fiery liberal who once compared then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger with the head of the KGB in his capacity as the Vatican’s top doctrinal enforcer.” So reports John Allen Jr. (National Catholic Reporter‘s uber-correspondent from Rome) on the big story of the week:

During a four-hour session that stretched over dinner, the two men essentially agreed to disagree on doctrinal matters. The pope offered warm praise for Küng’s efforts to foster dialogue among religions and with the natural sciences, while Küng expressed support for the pope’s commitment along the same lines.

“It’s clear that we have different positions,” Küng told NCR in a telephone interview from his home in Tübingen, Germany. “But the things we have in common are more fundamental. We are both Christians, both priests in service of the church, and we have great personal respect for one another.”

A Sept. 26 statement from the Vatican did not say who had requested the meeting, but said that it took place in a “friendly climate” and that Benedict XVI offered special support for Küng’s efforts to build a Weltethos, or a moral framework based on values shared among religions which can also be recognized by secular reason.

“We should not have delusions,” Küng said of what the meeting suggests about the pontificate of Benedict XVI. “His stances on church policy are not my own.”

Nevertheless, Küng said, he regards the meeting as a “sign of hope for many in the church with the same vision as mine.”

He described the session as “very joyful,” with “no reproaches, no polemics.”

Küng said he did not request that Benedict XVI restore his license to teach Catholic theology.

The National Catholic Reporter provides some behind-the-scenes details:

Küng told NCR that he wrote to the new pope to request a meeting roughly a week after his April 19 election. He said he had repeatedly requested a meeting with John Paul II, both before and after the 1979 decision to revoke his license as a Catholic theologian, without response.

I have to wonder if Pope John Paul II might have been more considerate of Küng’s request to meet if Küng weren’t so vehement in his polemics. Openly ridiculing the Holy Father as a third-rate theologian with “a very thin theological foundation — not to mention a lack of modern exegesis, the history of dogmas and the church” and accusing him of betraying Vatican II” by “rigorous moral encyclicals [and] traditionalist-imperialist world catechism” (as he did in his biography ) doesn’t exactly cultivate an amicable relationship. If anything, this week’s conciliatory meeting is a testament to Pope Benedict’s patience, forgiveness and goodwill.

Further Links:

In Other News . . .

  • Pope to put his stamp on U.S. church hierarchy, by Rocco Palmo. Religion News Service. Sept. 17, 2005. Rocco (Whispers in the Loggia) on a very important element of the Holy Father’s task — choosing the future leaders of the Catholic Church:

    For nearly a quarter-century, Benedict, as the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, played an advisory role in the appointment of bishops. But when he was elected pope in April, he inherited the papacy’s absolute authority to select suitable leaders for the world’s 2,700 dioceses — 197 of which are in the United States. . . .

  • Vatican schedule released for September- December, indicating B16’s plans to resume regular visits to Rome parishes, and preside at all the major traditional Vatican celebrations of the Christmas season. Catholic World News, Sept. 26, 2005.
  • The Monk under the Mitre, by Austen Ivereigh. Godspy.com. [Reprint from The Catholic Herald] Sept. 9, 2005 — Reflecting on World Youth Day in Cologne, Ivereigh counters the speculations of the media that the final Mass at Cologne “to launch a broadside against the Dictatorship of Relativism”:

    f this was an offensive, it was free of offence. It roused prayer, not adulation; it was less holy crusade than meditation for a silent retreat. While Catholics for a Free Choice gave out condoms, the Pope never even mentioned contraception. Those who hoped for a hammering of the heretics were left twiddling their whips.

    The Word Youth Day homily was just that: not a manifesto; not a Gettysburg address; not even rhetoric tailored to television. It was a superb, old-fashioned piece of catechetics, unafraid to be bookish, which paid young people the compliment of not patronizing them. In the age of CNN and MTV it takes real daring to explain the Eucharist in front of a million young people by dwelling on the nuances of the word ‘adoration’ in Greek (proskynesis, in case you wondered).

    It was a flawless performance: the Pope smiled and waved, radiated hope, reached out to Protestants, Jews and Muslims, and confirmed hundreds of thousands of young people in their faith. Not only did Cologne exorcise the Panzerkardinal demons, but Benedict “left critics taking a new look at the Church he leads” according to the Reuters religion editor, Tom Heneghan. “It was his humility,” clapped The Times, “that captured hearts”.

  • On a similar note, Hartwig Bouillon (freelance journalist, Germany) reports that “Project Benedict confounds German critics” (Mercator.Net, Sept. 9, 2005):

    What actually happened left German TV journalists gobsmacked. The received wisdom — that youngsters would like the event, but didn’t care for the Faith — was shattered. More than one million joyful young pilgrims invaded Cologne, cheered the Pope and openly prayed. The sheer impact of the images was overwhelming. Dominating the news was the white-garbed Pontiff on a catamaran slowly cruising up the Rhine encircled by 1200 youths from all over the world. On both banks of the immense river half a million more, the front row standing knee-deep in water, were cheering and singing: “Be-ne-detto! Be-ne-detto!”

    Now that a few weeks have elapsed, the penny has dropped for the commentariat. Benedict XVI is neither the “German shepherd”, as he was dubbed by the British tabloid press, nor a doddering Übergangspapst, a mere nightwatchman for John Paul the Great’s legacy. In fact, Pope Benedict has his own agenda. Shy and friendly he may be, but with his razor-sharp intellect, long experience, and deep piety, he is setting his own course. . . .

    (Thanks to Rocco Palmo (Whispers in the Loggia) for passing along this article.

  • Radio-Novel Looks at Life of Joseph Ratzinger Zenit. Sept. 13, 2005. Zenit News Service reports that “Beginning Sept. 25, and continuing every Sunday for the next 12 weeks, Vatican Radio will broadcast the Italian-language novel [on the life of Pope Benedict XVI] by chapters. . . . The idea of a radio broadcast of the Pope’s biography came to journalist Franco Bucarelli when paging through the volume “My Life,” written by Cardinal Ratzinger himself, and published in Italian by St. Paul’s, which has granted the rights for this program.”

St. Blog’s Reads Pope Benedict: Book Reviews and Reflections

* * *

Closing with some powerful words of prayer and reflection from Pope Benedict’s Sept. 25 Angelus: On the Eucharist and Love: “Source of the Spiritual Energy That Renews Our Life”:

The whole of Jesus earthly existence, from his conception until his death on the cross, was an act of love, to the point that we can summarize our faith in these words: “Jesus, caritas” — Jesus, love. In the Last Supper, knowing that his hour had come, the divine Master gave his disciples the supreme example of love, washing their feet, and entrusted to them his precious legacy, the Eucharist, in which the whole paschal mystery is centered, as the venerated Pope John Paul II wrote in the encyclical “Ecclesia de Eucharistia.” Take and eat, all of you, because this is my Body,” “Take and drink all of you, because this is the cup of my Blood.”

Jesus’ words in the cenacle anticipated his death and manifested the consciousness with which he faced it, transforming it into a gift of himself, in the act of love that gives itself totally. In the Eucharist, the Lord gives himself to us with his body, with his soul and with his divinity, and we become one with him and among ourselves.

Our response to his love therefore must be concrete, and must be expressed in a genuine conversion to love, in forgiveness, in reciprocal acceptance and in attention for the needs of all. Many and varied are the forms of service that we can offer our neighbor in everyday life, if we pay a little attention. The Eucharist becomes in this way the source of the spiritual energy that renews our life every day and, in this way, renews the love of Christ to the world.

Previous Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI Roundups:
4/11/05;
4/15/05;
4/18/05;
4/23/05; 5/01/05;
5/21/05;
6/6/05;
6/25/05;
7/10/05;
7/14/05;
7/25/05;
8/15/05;
9/12/05

Here and There . . .

An irregular roundup of blogs, articles and commentary.

  • “Legends of the Fall” – musings from DarwinCatholic:

    When Catholics are confronted with suffering in the world, we often say that whatever the source of suffering is, whether direct human agency (war, crime, etc.) or natural phenomena (hurricane, earthquake, disease, etc.) are involved that this is “a result of the fall”. This makes a lot of since, since as we learn from the bible, “Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)

    One of the things that strikes me, however, is: If the suffering resulting from an earthquake or a hurricane is somehow the result of the fall, what would things have been like had man not fallen? . . .

    Via Scott Carson @ An Examined Life, who offers some thoughts of his own.

  • Oswald Sobrino on “The Grace of Writing”:

    For me and I think for many others, writing is not so much an escape from reality as a way into reality. In writing, we order the jumble of thoughts and desires inside of us–I am excluding those who practice the “stream of consciousness” form of writing which seems to me more akin to painting or composing. The act of writing brings order and logic which reveals new depths to what we think. In the act of writing, value is added, something new emerges that was not present before the laptop was opened. That something new is insight and enlightenment. . . .

    Announcing the arrival of a new Catholic literary journal for young Catholic writers called Dappled Things, planning its first issue for December 2005. (The deadline for current submissions is October 15th).

  • “The Old Days Were Better”, from Jeff Culbreath:

    Traditionalists are often caricatured as sentimentalists hankering for a Golden Age that never was. Their critics will often say that every generation thinks society is going to hell-in-a-handbasket; or that cultural decline is a myth fabricated by those classes which have lost power and influence; or that all generations are equally good and equally bad; or, more boldly, that the things traditionalists lament in reality constitute social progress. Sometimes they will also say things like: “Do you really want to go back to slavery or racial segregation?” “Do you really want to go back to sweat shops and child labor?” “Do you really want to go back to keeping women barefoot and pregnant and in the kitchen?” “Do you really want to go back to high rates of poverty and illiteracy and infant mortality (forgetting about abortion, of course)?” Etc.

    Beware of those who argue thus. These claims are designed to be conversation stoppers, to divert attention from the specific issues raised by cultural traditionalists. Defining the past by its worst characteristics is an illegitimate argument. Distorting the faults of the past (e.g., the “subjugation” of women, infant mortality, etc.) is also an illegitimate argument. When your critics throw this kind of garbage at you, it simply means they are not willing to address the issues you are raising. . . .

    Read the whole post. Very well said, and give a round of thanks to Jeff for joining the blogosphere once again.

  • Jeff Miller offers some reflections on doubt as an avenue to communication, interaction with atheists and his journey to the Catholic faith.
  • Old and New Rites Distinguished: Specifics of the Mass of the Catechumens and Old and New Rites Distinguished: Specifics of the Mass of the Faithful – two rich and detailed comparison by Fr. Tucker (Dappled Things):

    I’m not sure exactly how to go about concisely highlighting the differences between the Old and the New Rites of the Roman Mass. I don’t want to do a long and detailed play-by-play. Nor do I want to enter into facile and odious comparisons (e.g., “Old Mass=reverent, New Mass=irreverent” or “Old Mass=robotic, New Mass=spirit-filled”). This is what I’ve decided to do: I will presume the reader is familiar with a Sunday parish Mass in the New Rite, celebrated according to the rubrics and with effort at reverence and loveliness. I will imagine a person going into Solemn Mass celebrated according to the traditional Rite and note the principal differences. . . .

    Fr. Tucker is also involved in a worthy project Digitizing the Tradition:

    One of the things I’ve been trying to do here (the photo projects are a goood example of this) is to document and make publicly available images, prayers, and descriptions of customs that have been a part of the Catholic tradition but have, of late, slipped from view. By rescuing these things from oblivion and making records freely available in digital format, I’m hoping to aid in their dissemination and put them within reach of anyone’s who’s interested.

    I’ve been corresponding with a number of my readers who care for this sort of thing, and I am expecting some new projects to emerge that will be of liturgical interest (chiefly). A number of them are currently scanning old photographs and rituals from the rare books in their possessions, and this work will soon be available for your edification. If others are interested in helping with this endeavor, do let me know.

  • Fr. Tucker also has very good posts on recognizing one’s predominant faults and “talking down to bishops”, something we — myself included — can take to heart.
  • Will or willn’t? – Elliot Bougis ponders an inexplicable riddle of Calvinist theology, and gives us some insight into his own conversion as well. . . . also, “Get Back, or, What I Didn’t Learn from The Beatles.
  • A Sobering Prospect–Personal Holiness, Stephen Riddle (Flos Carmeli):

    I was writing a meditation on a gospel passage this morning when a sobering thought occurred to me. We serve the Lord more by who we are than by what we say. People who see us and know that we are Christians judge both us and the Christ we proclaim by what we do. The look at the concurrence of words and actions to see what it is we proclaim. . . .

  • “The Faith Connection promotes universalism” – Dr. Blosser writes his bishop about serious ambiguities on the Church’s mission to evangelize in the article “Who Can Be Saved?” by Bob Duggan. (The Faith Connection is one of those educational flyers (one page and light in content) distributed in parishes today):

    “What I find depressingly tendentious about the issue, like many, is that although the writing generally falls within the broad limits of what may conform to Church teaching, it often skirts the edges of these limits precariously, suggesting ecclesiastical support for prevailing social opinions distinctly at odds with Catholic orthodoxy. . . .”

  • Dr. Blosser — The Pertinacious Papist — is WAGING ACADEMIC JIHAD! — battling downsizing and fragmentation of the liberal arts core at my alma mater, Lenoir-Rhyne College. Find out more at the North Hall Society.
  • The Doré Gallery of Bible Illustrations, Complete [Project Gutenberg Online Texts]: “This volume, as its title indicates, is a collection of engravings illustrative of the Bible—the designs being all from the pencil of the greatest of modern delineators, Gustave Doré [1891].”

    Gustave Doré (1832-83) is my favorite illustrator, admire from the moment I discovered his work as a child. He is famous for his woodcut illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost, and Don Quixote, and his biblical illustrations are truly a sight to behold. I can’t imagine better than Doré in bringing the stories and imagery of the Scriptures to life. My thanks to Steven Riddle for noting that these prints are now available online.

  • Just as he did with Louisiana bloggers during Katrina, Gen Ex Revert provides a list of Catholic bloggers from Texas. Remember them in your prayers.
  • Cathy Hutchins @ Reform Club asks: So Who Wants to be an Anarchist?”

    A question posed earlier on this blog, probing the possible interpretations of the word ‘anarchist’ as used by a product of Western civilization circa 2005, took on a different and more personal hue for me this weekend. Hue, saturation, and contrast, to be specific.

    My husband’s employer dispatched him to New York City for a couple of days last week. He never goes anywhere without his Contax U4R digital camera; it’s the sort of object Sidney Reilly might have used to great advantage before the Bolshies executed him in 1918. He spent his small ration of spare time wandering around Manhattan and Brooklyn snapping pictures.

    This photo was taken at the corner of Wall and Broad Streets. It is 23 Wall Street, the J.P. Morgan Building, built in 1914. . . .

    I confess it was a college obsession during my freshman-sophomore year.

  • “Reconnecting with Reality” Godspy.com Sept. 18, 2005. – My friend David Jones (la nouvelle théologie) interviews Caleb Segall, editor of The New Pantagruel, web-based journal and refuge for “Augustinian-Thomists” seeking respite from the con-game of liberalism.
  • Aquinas:”First Whig?” – Novak’s Catholic Whig Tradition – If I may make a plug for one of my own posts to Religion & Liberty — an exploration of the origins of Michael Novak’s claim that St. Thomas Aquinas was the ‘First Whig’ and misinterpretations thereof.
  • Teófilo @ Vivificat) reviews Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles, by Raymond Arroyo, EWTN’s news anchor (who btw lost his home in Katrina — remember him in your prayers as well). It sounds like a very good book, about an amazing woman.

    Dual congratulations are in order to Pedro and his wife, who on August 31st celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary, and on Sept. 18, 2005, became full Oblates of St. Benedict, “in a simple ceremony held at St. Vincent’s Archabbey in Latrobe, PA.” Read his post to find out the significance of this event.

  • Karen Marie Knapp (From the Anchor Hold) says We can’t let schismatic “traditionalists” steal our saint!
  • Over at Pontifications, Michael Liccione is blogging “a series of articles I’ve planned on Catholic teachings that many say have changed to such an extent that the Church’s claim to teach infallibly is thereby decisively undermined.” Development and Negation Part 1 (Introduction); Part 2 (“extra ecclesiam nulla salus”); Part III (the doctrine of limbo).

    Meanwhile, Al Kimel has a series of reflections (disputes, rather) with the Protestant understanding of justification. (Note that as is the usual case with Pontifications, the comments are a worthy read as well, and given that they tend to run in excess of 50+ per post and are rather substantial in their own right, you might want to grab that cup of coffee and settle down with an hour or two of heavy reading. =)

Apostolic Visitation and an impending “Purge” of Gay Clergy?

Catholic World News reports that “The Vatican-run apostolic visitation of U.S. Catholic seminaries and houses of priestly formation will begin late this September.” Visits will be coordinated by Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services.

In light of the recent spate of sexual scandals in the American Catholic Church, special attention will be paid to “areas such as the quality of the seminarians’ human and spiritual formation for living chastely and of their intellectual formation for faithfulness to church teachings, especially in the area of moral theology.” Suffice to say this — together with notice “about a document that hasn’t been released yet that no reporter has read” regarding a Vatican crackdown on gay clergy — is causing an outbreak of panic, hysteria and rumor-mongering among the press. Here are some of perspectives on the issue from St. Blog’s Parish, offering various perspectives on the issue . . .

  • Ready to Rumble – Amy Welborn questions:

    As the American Church gets healthier, the seminaries get healthier, and vice-versa. The question of who is a good candidate – who has an authentic vocation – continues to be difficult, though. I agree that those who embrace a “gay” identity as defined by American culture should not be admitted to seminary, because most of the time, that self-definition is formed more by American culture than by Church teaching. Andrew Sullivan, for example, is complaining long and loud about this, but the truth is that, judging from his previous writings, Sullivan doesn’t have any problem with, for example, sexual promiscuity, obsessions and fetishes as lived out in the gay subculture, sees all of that beyond the pale of possible judgment, and for all of his hopes for the positive impact of gay families (which I believe is sincere), has absolutely no connection with the ways that Catholic tradition has conceptualized and thought about sexuality. You’re laughing because you’re saying “Of course,” but I’m making the point because there’s a veneer of tradition that some would like to try to pretend exists: that the self-identified, political gay position is capable of simply espousing gay marriage, for example, or the morality of love-inspired homosexual acts, and at the same time retaining the rest of traditional Catholic morality underneath it all.

    I say…that position can’t and, isn’t really interested. So for that reason, sure, the self-identified political gay man shouldn’t be in seminary.

    But should the man who struggles with same-sex attraction and seeks to live chastely, who buys the whole package of Catholic moral teaching, be put into that category? Absolutely not. To me, that’s insane, and truth be told, it’s not that difficult to tell the difference. And if you think that your list of favorite, orthodox priests through the ages doesn’t include at least one who’s struggled with same-sex attraction, you’re mistaken, and I’ll bet you real money. Not that we can prove it, of course.

    Speaking of Amy Welborn, she has an op-ed this Sunday with the Grey Lady herself, telling it like it is (“In truth, it’s about far more than homosexuality. And it’s badly needed”): “The Sins of the Seminaries” New York Times Sept. 25, 2005.

  • To the question posed by a reader: “How should a man with same-sex attraction understand a blanket prohibition on his entrance into the priesthood irrespective of behavior?”, Mark Shea responds:

    I don’t know, since I am not subject to same sex attraction and am loath to hand out free advice about temptations I have never experienced. I do know that, as somebody who is just as barred from the priesthood as you are (since I am married) that I do not regard this particular judgment call by the hierarchy as a comment on my value as a human being, nor even on my progress in holiness. I merely regard it as a prudential judgment call on the likelihood that someone in my state of life would able to fulfill the demands required by a priestly vocation. . . .

    Read the whole exchange. Nonetheless, Mark later registers his concern:

    a) I think it takes an approach that does not see the person, but thinks only in broad insurance company terms. I would prefer it if a guy like David Morrison–i.e. a committed, celibate man with SSA with a proven track record of devotion to our Lord–could be a priest if he wanted to be.

    b) I think it will, if implemented, wind up punishing the honest and rewarding liars.

    c) I very much doubt it will be implemented in any case, just as the American Church has managed to avoid implementing Ex Corde Ecclesia.

  • On this issue I believe the most relevant voices are those Catholics with SSA who live the call to bring their lives into conformity with the Church’s vision of sexuality. Of these, John Heard, aka. DreadNought is in my opinion one of the best and most eloquent in his witness to the gospel: Seachange Not Shortchange 9/19/05; Vatican Bans Gay Priests 9/21/05 and Responses to a Seminarian.
  • David Morrison has a different take on the policy:

    acknowledge that this is a cynical view, but I don’t believe this visitation of the seminaries will correct anything. Faculty, both clergy and lay, who have participated in the malformation of priests in the past will be left alone. The institutions will spiff up their curricula for the visit and conduct the visiting clerics through some pro-forma tour of the facilities and nothing will happen. The whole point of this new policy will be to distract attention from seminary staff who have not formed seminarians to seek and to strive for chastity and who have undermined their faith. Indeed, the whole point of this policy is to scapegoat all men with SSA for the misbehavior of those who have been bad priests and those who have formed them.

The McCarrick / Allah Controversy

  • Reproducing the full text of McCarrick’s address, Jimmy Akin thinks it’s not that big a deal, and explains why:

    The fact is that Allah is simply the standard Arabic word for “God.” It is used by Arabic-speaking Muslims and Christians alike–including Arabic-speaking Catholics. If you read an Arabic New Testament, it’s going to have Allah where “God” appears in the English version. When they say prayers in Arabic (e.g., the Rosary) and the prayer refers to God, they use the word Allah.

  • Domenico Bettinelli disagrees: “The point they’re missing on McCarrick” Sept. 21, 2005.

On a lighter note . . .

  • Bloggers return from hiatus: Catholic & Enjoying It (Mark Shea); View From The Core (Lane Core, Jr.), Hallowed Ground (Jeff Culbreath) — welcome back!
  • Mark Shea — who is now podcasting @ CatholicExchange — asks: What do YOU enjoy about being a Catholic?
  • As if Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code wasn’t enough, from Speculative Catholic comes a list of thriller novels which revolve around the Catholic Church (and the terrible, TERRIBLE secrets harbored within its depths! — didja know that “The Catholic Church has kept the immortal Risen Christ prisoner in a dungeon beneath the Vatican for 2,000 years”?
  • William Luse has been bitten by The 24-Hour Bug. I’ve been there. =)
  • Gregorian Chant Enforces The Peace ICWales. March 24, 2005.
  • HUFFPO EMERGENCY BUSH BASH BLOG APPLICATION FOR THE VICTIMS OF ALL DISASTERS EVERYWHERE!, by Greg Gutfeld. The Huffington Post, May 9, 2005 (Via Domenico Bettinelli.
  • Curses. . . . This is a positively evil recommendation from Steven Riddle at Flos Carmeli. I’m talking about LibraryThing.com, a convenient tool to list your library online, downloadable to an Excel file, links to Amazon.com, searchable by tags, etc. Simple and practical, it’s one of those nifty ideas that make you wonder “why didn’t I think of that?” and ponder the God-given creativity of man. I predict I’ll be obsessively cataloging and organizing my library online for the next week, such that I’ll get absolutely NOTHING done.
  • MyCatholic.com “is the first Catholic web portal that allows users to choose their own content, layout, and preferences. It offers daily Mass readings, reflections, news, commentary, custom RSS/Atom feeds, a Catechism study, links, tools, and more.” Check it out.
  • Ok, here’s something we can all get behind — got any rosaries to spare? A Catholic parish in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba serving our military could use your help:

    friend with whom I have served in the past just returned from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. While he was down there, he established a great relationship with the parish there, Our Lady of Cobre. He is presently trying to get together rosaries and other sacramentals to be used by the servicemen and civilians who are presently stationed there. . . . I am hoping that if we can get the word out about this through Catholic bloggers, we may be able to really make something happen. If you feel that you are unable to do so, thanks for your consideration and please keep the parishoners of Our Lady of Cobre in your thoughts and prayers.

    Click the link for further information on how you can assist.

Briefly – Response to Stephen Hand

I see that Stephen Hand has issued an “Open Proposal to Debate Warbloggers”:

One on one. Especially Christopher Blosser or David Armstrong, but also Shawn McElhinney or Greg Mockeridge as this invitation is extended to each individually . . . on the subjects of Iraqi war and the Church’s position regarding it, the nature of the pope’s prudential judgement or counsel in this grave context of war, the infallible values behind such judgements in the context of killing, dying, proliferation of terrorism, American arms trade and hegemony, sticking to magisterial texts on these matters and reason, etc… One of them will only have to find a way to get me to any proposed venue and back. I would very much look forward to meeting any of these in such a public forum where facts and method cannot be manipulated. These particular polemicists, we must say, specialize in ad hominem polemics, trying to make their opposition the issue, so as to deflect from the issues themselves. So far Christopher has refused this invitation to debate, understandably (preferring, like [Dave] Armstrong and the others who have targeted antiwar advocates steadily together, the manipulation of their opponents words behind a monitor with a view to creating caricatures, blocking or cutting off replies, etc) —so I am now extending the same invitation to the others. I would like to match facts (most importantly) and debating skills (less importantly) with any one of them on stage in public where words cannot be excised from context as is their specialty. Manly debate, as opposed to cynical and tactical nonchalance, is the test of a man’s propositions and metal.

Stephen’s invitation to a public debate is a rather belated response to a series of posts to this blog back in May 2005. Greg Mockeridge published a guest post on I. Shawn McElhinney’s blog (Rerum-Novarum), addressing what he thought were deficiencies (putting it nicely) in Hand’s polemical writing style regarding issues on capital punishment, the war in Iraq (or war in general), and the application of Catholic social teaching to economic matters. This was accompanied by commentary by Shawn himself. I publicized my agreement with Greg/Shawn’s criticisms, along with Dave Armstrong and Lane Core, Jr., Gregg the Obscure” (Vita Brivis). Stephen Hand responded (indirectly). The rest is history.

For the public record I refer readers to my final post “Parting Thoughts on the Hand/Mockeridge Debate”, with a compilation of previous posts, insofar as I was involved in the matter. Regarding Stephen’s allegations of “ad hominem polemics,” I entrust evaluation of my conduct and language to the judgement of my readers.

In terms of fairness and “manipulation” of texts, I contend that Stephen Hand / Houston Catholic Worker have never been fair (nor accurate) in their malicious portrayal of the neocons (“The Zwicks vs. Fr. Neuhaus & Michael Novak” Against The Grain August 19, 2003). To my knowledge Stephen to this day has never retracted these articles from his website, failing to see that something might be amiss in their portrayal of Fr. Neuhaus, Michael Novak, and Cardinal Dulles.

Regarding my “steady targeting of anti-war advocates” — against Stephen’s portrayal of this blog as a Republican-financed Warblogging Military-Industrial Propaganda Machine [TM], I wish to point out that with the exception of May 2005 I have blogged relatively little on the topic, in comparison to the output (and far better commentary) of other bloggers. I did, however, commment on what I perceived to be the moral incoherency of some Iraqi war protestors (Against The Grain March 22, 2003).

Secondly, the May 2005 discussion concerned not so much the issue of the war itself as the danger of dogmatizing one’s private opinions and the case that Catholics may indeed disagree over these issues without being castigated as heterodox “dissenters” from magisterial doctrine.

To illustrate my point: Cardinal Ratzinger in May 2003 expressed his agreement with Pope John Paul II’s condemnation of the war, as well as (suprisingly) joining Cardinal Martino in proposing that the Catholic just war tradition altogether might be considered illegitimate, in light of “the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups” (Zenit News Service May 2, 2003).

Nevertheless, when faced with the question of the status of Catholics who disagreed with John Paul II on such matters — during the U.S. presidential campaign of 2004 and the concurrent “communion scandal” — Cardinal Ratzinger clarified in a letter to the U.S. Catholic bishops:

3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

As if Cardinal Ratzinger’s clarification wasn’t enough to convey this point, it was likewise addressed and reiterated by a number of Catholic laity, academics and clergy (on both sides of these issues, I might add) — among them: Oswald Sobrino, “Scott Carson, Karl Keating, James Akin, Russell Kirk, George Weigel, Fr. Michael Orsi (Ave Maria School of Law), Cardinal Avery Dulles and Archbishop John J. Myers . . . in light of which, it is difficult to see this as being a position solely held by those Stephen commonly refers to as “warbloggers.”

* * *

I believe I have sufficiently explained where I stand on the matter. Readers are hereby invited to plumb the archives (May 2005) if they wish to revisit this discussion.

I must further question Stephen’s wish to debate “especially” myself, as I can think of more knowledgeable folk who could do a far, far better job of presenting a case for U.S. intervention in Iraq, had they the patience. (I imagine the spectacle would be something akin to Christopher Hitchen’s verbal sparring with George Galloway, Sept. 17, 2005).

In any case, if Stephen wishes to transcend polemics and “match facts”, surely nothing prevents him from doing so — and for a much wider audience — on his blog. Time permitting, I may even reply myself, in which case Stephen has my assurance that I will not “excise words from context,” or engage in any manipulation thereof, as is my alleged specialty.

* * *

On the war in Iraq, I refer my readers to our compilation of articles on the Iraq War and the Catholic Just War Tradition, an ongoing collection which contains more than adequate coverage from all sides in this debate.

* * *

Update I. Shawn McElhinney responds to Stephen’s challenge, providing for the public record a summary of links to his posts from the May 2005 exchange.

It appears that Stephen has now rescinded his challenge to public debate. So much the better. Turning, then, to the comments:

Greg and Shawn’s original editorials were in defense of various individuals who they believe were misrepresented and slandered in articles published by Stephen Hand — I have demonstrated this as well on numerous occasions.

Given that Stephen publishes these articles in a public forum in the hopes of attaining an audience, he should expect a critical response from those who disagree. He cannot simply give a platform to malicious remarks and misleading content and cry “foul!” if somebody calls him on it.

Stephen can be commended for his work on behalf of the poor — I have likewise commended the Zwicks @ Houston Catholic Worker in the past for their work, rising to their defense on occasions where people speak ill of their actual ministry [to the poor].

But to the extent that Stephen’s “work for peace” involves deliberate slandering and mispresenting the positions of fellow Catholics in a public forum, I’m not suprised if people will continue to question his methodology.

Concluding, then, with Carol’s advice:

The time has come for all to simply say, “I disagree,” and to go their own ways, perhaps much as Peter and Paul did for a while, rather than let differences spiral into hatred or malice.

Further Reflections on Jacques Dupuis

A “Theological Prophet” or the Triumph of Relevance Over Orthodoxy?: And How Catholics Often Handle Suspect Theologians – Justin Nickelsen has a good post expressing his concerns over the Congregation’s handling of suspect theologians, with specific attention to the investigation and Notification concerning the late Fr. Jacques Dupuis (1923-2004), regarding his work Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism (Orbis, 1999).

Justin provides an exerpt from In Many Diverse Ways–In Honor of Jacques Dupuis Orbis Books (October, 2003) by Cardinal Avery Dulles (who wrote the first chapter), expressing his personal appreciation for Dupuis. Noting as well the support of Gerald O’Collins and Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, Justin ponders:

. . . Personally, the fact that these people, especially Dulles–whom I greatly respect as a theologian and as a man of the Church–have reservations about the process and application of Dupuis’ notification produces a greater desire to understand just what it is that he was saying.

Could it be that Dupuis is another “theological prophet”, ahead of his time?

Perhaps the “religious relativism” that has been running rampant in the post-coniliar Church has spoiled the possibility for a nuanced and honest manual on “religious pluralism”.

Could it be that one day the Church, despite the Supernatural wisdom and authority imparted to Her from God, will be in a position of remorse for the decision to discipline the theologian, or, at least, forget the fact that She once turned Her face to his work?

Surely, there is precedence for such a hypothetical occurrence…

Does Aquinas or de Lubac ring any bells?

Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism

Having read Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism (Orbis, 1999), it is my opinion that the Congregation’s notification was indeed warranted. But as I’ve blogged previously, it is worth noting that, in Dupuis’ case, the notification is critical but not exactly reprimanding (“is not meant as a judgment on the author’s subjective thought”). The Notification begins with the recognition of “the author’s attempt to remain within the limits of orthodoxy in his study of questions hitherto largely unexplored” — nevertheless:

. . . while noting the author’s willingness to provide the necessary clarifications, as evident in his Responses, as well as his desire to remain faithful to the doctrine of the Church and the teaching of the Magisterium, they found that his book contained notable ambiguities and difficulties on important doctrinal points, which could lead a reader to erroneous or harmful opinions. These points concerned the interpretation of the sole and universal salvific mediation of Christ, the unicity and completeness of Christ’s revelation, the universal salvific action of the Holy Spirit, the orientation of all people to the Church, and the value and significance of the salvific function of other religions. . . .

The present Notification is not meant as a judgment on the author’s subjective thought, but rather as a statement of the Church’s teaching on certain aspects of the above-mentioned doctrinal truths, and as a refutation of erroneous or harmful opinions, which, prescinding from the author’s intentions, could be derived from reading the ambiguous statements and insufficient explanations found in certain sections of the text. In this way, Catholic readers will be given solid criteria for judgment, consistent with the doctrine of the Church, in order to avoid the serious confusion and misunderstanding which could result from reading this book. . . .

The Commentary on the notification adds:

. . . This Notification seeks to underscore the gravity and danger of certain statements which, while apparently moderate, precisely for this reason risk being easily and uncritically accepted as compatible with the Church’s doctrine, even by those closely involved in interreligious dialogue. In the present context of a society that is indeed increasingly multireligious and multicultural, the Church recognizes that she urgently needs to express her doctrinal identity and witness in love to her unshakeable faith in Jesus Christ, source of truth and salvation.

Thus the focus is on the grave potential for misinterpretation due to the ambiguous nature of the subject matter involved, while acknowledging at the same time the author’s sincere desire “to stay within the bounds of orthodoxy” — and that, precisely, is the difference between Dupuis and wayward scholars like Paul Knitter and Roger Haight, neither of whom show concern about remaining faithful to Catholic tradition.

Repressive Measures?

While the Notification was merited, we can surely consider whether the manner in which the investigation was conducted is subject to improvement. Catholic journalist John Allen Jr. has followed the Dupuis investigation (as he has on all things Ratzinger) with very close attention. Following Dupuis’ passing in 2004, Allen offered some personal criticisms of the Dupuis investigation, the subsequent document Dominus Iesus (seen very much as directed at the work of Dupuis), and its unanticipated consequences (“Remembering Jacques Dupuis” (“Word from Rome”, National Catholic Reporter January 7, 2005):

No doubt the result was both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it made Dupuis a worldwide celebrity, as a never-ending stream of speaking and writing invitations attest. Dupuis gained an audience for his ideas that might otherwise have eluded him. On the other hand, the lingering whiff of scandal meant that Dupuis remained under a cloud. His works were subjected to intense scrutiny, and in recent months he felt his Jesuit superiors had been under pressure to silence him.

I can testify that this was not just Dupuis’ over-active imagination. In December 2002, I organized a presentation in Rome of Tom Fox’s book Pentecost in Asia, and Dupuis was part of the panel. I had hoped it would take place in the Aula Magna of the Gregorian, but in the period leading up to the event I got a call from a Jesuit official who asked me if I could find another location. Granting permission for Dupuis to speak in the main lecture hall, he said, would invite unwanted attention from the Vatican. In the end, the panel took place at the Oratory of St. Francis Xavier del Caravita, and Dupuis was his usual dry-witted, incisive self. Afterwards he asked me if somebody had refused permission to use the Gregorian; I didn’t have the heart to add one more bit of pain, and blamed it on scheduling. . . .

Whatever the rights and wrongs, one cannot help but be saddened by the effect all this had on Dupuis, who felt at times that a church he had served loyally had deserted him. Dupuis was a man of deep and constant prayer, whose devotion to Christ was absolute. The suggestion that he had done something to compromise the church’s faith in Christ devastated Dupuis; it was, in a very real sense, a cancer that ate away at him, producing, as Egaña put it at the funeral, an “unspeakable sadness.” It will be for future generations to assess the content of his theology, but as for the character of the man, his rectitude seems beyond dispute.

It is no criticism of anyone in particular to voice the hope that in the future, the Catholic church may be able to find more humane ways of resolving its doctrinal quandaries.

* * *

Dupuis’ Subsequent work

Although the Congregation’s Notification indicated they found little difficulty with Dupuis himself, there may be cause for concern with his subsequent work. Christianity and the Religions: From Confrontation to Dialogue (Orbis Books, November 2002). I have not yet read this book myself, but would like to note that it has received two rather conflicting reviews and perceptions as to its faithfulness to Catholic tradition.

On one hand, Georgetown U.’s Peter C. Phan (“Inclusive Pluralism” America Vol. 188 No. 3. February 3, 2003) describes it as “conceived as a more accessible version of its predecessor,” composed during the period of his investigation by the Congregation, and with “careful attention to the objections brought forth by the C.D.F. as well as by his theological peers against his previous work.”

Phan praises the book as “a notable advance in Christian theology of religious pluralism,” rooted in sound trinitarian Christology, traditional to the point where it could hardly be considered “innovative” at this point in time:

[Phan] It must however be frankly acknowledged, with all due respect to Dupuis’s theological achievements, that inclusive pluralism is anything but avant-garde, much less beyond the pale of orthodoxy. Indeed, Dupuis acknowledges that the substance of his thesis has been affirmed by the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences as far back as 1987. Dupuis unambiguously and repeatedly affirms Jesus’ role as the universal revealer and savior. He distinguishes between the economy of the Logos and that of the Spirit, but never separates them. While suggesting that other religions are “participated mediations” in the mediation of Jesus, he also unambiguously affirms the nature of the church as the sacrament of the mystery of salvation. While recommending interreligious dialogue for mutual enrichment, he firmly holds that the mutual complementarity between Christianity and other religions is asymmetrical—that is, the acknowledgment of the existence of “elements of truth and grace” in other religions does not cancel out the unsurpassed and unsurpassable transcendence of God’s self-manifestation in Jesus and Christianity.

So why was Dupuis subjected to such harassment (no other word seems more appropriate) and public humiliation? Perhaps because his expression “inclusive pluralism” (or “pluralistic inclusivism” or “pluralism in principle”) conjures up the specter of the “pluralism” or “pluralist paradigm” of such theologians as John Hick and Paul Knitter. But anyone who reads his corpus, even without complete attentiveness, should know that Dupuis has repeatedly distanced himself from this position and has convincingly rebutted it.

On the other hand, Gerald McDermott, an Episcopal priest and Professor of Religion at Roanoke College, describes Dupuis as “[registering] a subtle but resounding ‘No!’ to Cardinal
Ratzinger and John Paul II,” indicating elements of his later work that would in all likelihood merit further concern of the Congregation (Monastic Interreligious Dialogue Bulletin 70, March 2003):

Dupuis claims the Christian tradition “never places Christ in the place of God” (88), cites approvingly an author who states that Jesus “never puts himself forward” (167), and holds that God not Jesus is at the center of Jesus’ proclamation (22)—all this without serious attention to countervailing texts such as Jesus’ claim to be the “way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). In words that implicitly refute Ratzinger’s warning, Dupuis contends that “the working of the Word goes beyond the limits which mark the working presence of the humanity of Jesus even in his glorified state” (160). This, he explains, is because Jesus’ human consciousness was limited and did not exhaust the divine mystery. So the revelation in Jesus Christ was not exhaustive of the divine mystery (14). Nor is the Spirit always linked to the risen humanity of Jesus: if the Spirit was not “communicated through” the risen humanity of Jesus before the Incarnation, why need it be so now? (181).

Dupuis’ approving citation from Jeremiah S. O’Leary is even more suggestive of a break from the traditional “content of faith”: “The other religious traditions represent particular realizations of a universal process, which has become preeminently concrete in Jesus Christ” (193). Here is evidence of a way of thinking about Jesus that goes back to the Enlightenment’s idealists. For Kant, Hegel and Schleiermacher, Jesus was the prime example of a process that does not logically require Jesus. To make Jesus logically necessary to salvation would violate the fundamental Enlightenment axiom: that ultimate meaning must be expressed in general but not particular terms. As Lessing famously put it, “Accidental truths of history can never become the proof of necessary truths of reason.”

The problem for the Enlightenment, and perhaps for Dupuis, is that Jesus was one of the “accidents of history.” Divinely intended of course, but not accessible to humanity universally. This could explain why Dupuis makes a number of moves that separate salvation from the historical events of Jesus of Nazareth: atonement in the Cross is never mentioned let alone explained as necessary to salvation, salvation is defined as wholeness/self-fulfillment/integration but never as redemption from sin, the “reign of God” (aka “Kingdom of God”) is described in terms of social justice but never personal discipleship to Jesus, and Jesus’ uniqueness and universality are said not to be “absolute” (166). This may also explain why Dupuis insists there is an Ultimate Reality common to all the religious traditions but experienced and conceived variously—“a single divine mystery with many faces”—words which ignore the wildly conflicting claims of the religions and provocatively recall Dominus Iesus’ denial that “Jesus is one of many faces which the Lord has assumed to communicate in a salvific way” (9).

There is much more to McDermott’s critical review, but this is sufficient to confirm that there was indeed something in Dupuis’ approach and methodology which would warrant the attention of the Congregation.

Anyone studying the subject of Christianity and religious pluralism and seeking, as Dupuis did, to remain within the bounds of orthodoxy will recognize that this is no easy task. I believe that ultimately, Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism will be recognized for its substantial treatment of these issues by a Catholic theologian who, in spite of certain weaknesses in his approach, nevertheless demonstrated great courage in navigating this rather difficult terrain in Catholic theology. I look forward to Justin’s reading of his book and to further discussion of this most intriguing of subjects.

Related Posts:

Related Documents on Fr. Jacques Dupuis

In the Press…

Jacques Dupuis, SJ 1923-2004 Times Online. January 12, 2005.
Remembering Jacques Dupuis, by John Allen, Jr. Word from Rome January 7, 2005.
“Rome sends mixed signals on Jesuit contributions”, by John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter, April 27, 2001.
“Theologian Criticized by Vatican Wrote Interreligious Guidelines”. America. April 23, 2001.
“A Matter of Justice : Was the trial of Jacques Dupuis really necessary?”, by Ladislas Orsy. America. April 16, 2001.
“Ways of Salvation? On the investigation of Jacques Dupuis”, by Francis J. Sullivan. America. April 9, 2001.
“Theologian’s work merits encouragement, not censure”. National Catholic Reporter. March 9, 2001.
“Theologian Dupuis says He’s Free At Last”, by John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter, March 9, 2001.
“Cardinals Air Differences on Role of Doctrinal Congregation”. America. April 10, 1999.
“Provincials decry Vatican Suspicion of Asian Theology”, National Catholic Reporter, April 2, 1999.
“Ratzinger Rips Konig’s Criticism”, National Catholic Reporter, April 2, 1999.
In Defence of Jacques Dupuis, by Cardinal Franz Konig. The Tablet, January 16, 1999.
“Indian Archbishop Defends Jesuit Theologian”. America Dec 5, 1998.
“Two European Scholars Under Scrutiny for Heresy”, by John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter, Nov. 20, 1998.

Documents Pertaining To…

Commentary on the Notification of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding the book Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism by Father Jacques Dupuis, S.J., Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, March 20, 2001.
Statement of Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Feb. 26, 2001.
Notification on the book Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism (Orbis Books: Maryknoll, New York 1997), by Father Jacques Dupuis, S.J., Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Jan. 24, 2001.

Reflections on Jacques Dupuis

A “Theological Prophet” or the Triumph of Relevance Over Orthodoxy?: And How Catholics Often Handle Suspect Theologians – Justin Nickelsen has a good post expressing his concerns over the Congregation’s handling of suspect theologians, with specific attention to the investigation and Notification concerning the late Fr. Jacques Dupuis (1923-2004), regarding his work Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism (Orbis, 1999).

Justin provides an exerpt from In Many Diverse Ways–In Honor of Jacques Dupuis Orbis Books (October, 2003) by Cardinal Avery Dulles (who wrote the first chapter), expressing his personal appreciation for Dupuis. Noting as well the support of Gerald O’Collins and Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, Justin ponders:

. . . Personally, the fact that these people, especially Dulles–whom I greatly respect as a theologian and as a man of the Church–have reservations about the process and application of Dupuis’ notification produces a greater desire to understand just what it is that he was saying.

Could it be that Dupuis is another “theological prophet”, ahead of his time?

Perhaps the “religious relativism” that has been running rampant in the post-coniliar Church has spoiled the possibility for a nuanced and honest manual on “religious pluralism”.

Could it be that one day the Church, despite the Supernatural wisdom and authority imparted to Her from God, will be in a position of remorse for the decision to discipline the theologian, or, at least, forget the fact that She once turned Her face to his work?

Surely, there is precedence for such a hypothetical occurrence…

Does Aquinas or de Lubac ring any bells?

Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism

Having read Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism (Orbis, 1999), it is my opinion that the Congregation’s notification was indeed warranted. But as I’ve blogged previously, it is worth noting that, in Dupuis’ case, the notification is critical but not exactly reprimanding (“is not meant as a judgment on the author’s subjective thought”). The Notification begins with the recognition of “the author’s attempt to remain within the limits of orthodoxy in his study of questions hitherto largely unexplored” — nevertheless:

. . . while noting the author’s willingness to provide the necessary clarifications, as evident in his Responses, as well as his desire to remain faithful to the doctrine of the Church and the teaching of the Magisterium, they found that his book contained notable ambiguities and difficulties on important doctrinal points, which could lead a reader to erroneous or harmful opinions. These points concerned the interpretation of the sole and universal salvific mediation of Christ, the unicity and completeness of Christ’s revelation, the universal salvific action of the Holy Spirit, the orientation of all people to the Church, and the value and significance of the salvific function of other religions. . . .

The present Notification is not meant as a judgment on the author’s subjective thought, but rather as a statement of the Church’s teaching on certain aspects of the above-mentioned doctrinal truths, and as a refutation of erroneous or harmful opinions, which, prescinding from the author’s intentions, could be derived from reading the ambiguous statements and insufficient explanations found in certain sections of the text. In this way, Catholic readers will be given solid criteria for judgment, consistent with the doctrine of the Church, in order to avoid the serious confusion and misunderstanding which could result from reading this book. . . .

The Commentary on the notification adds:

. . . This Notification seeks to underscore the gravity and danger of certain statements which, while apparently moderate, precisely for this reason risk being easily and uncritically accepted as compatible with the Church’s doctrine, even by those closely involved in interreligious dialogue. In the present context of a society that is indeed increasingly multireligious and multicultural, the Church recognizes that she urgently needs to express her doctrinal identity and witness in love to her unshakeable faith in Jesus Christ, source of truth and salvation.

Thus the focus is on the grave potential for misinterpretation due to the ambiguous nature of the subject matter involved, while acknowledging at the same time the author’s sincere desire “to stay within the bounds of orthodoxy” — and that, precisely, is the difference between Dupuis and wayward scholars like Paul Knitter and Roger Haight, neither of whom show concern about remaining faithful to Catholic tradition.

Repressive Measures?

While the Notification was merited, we can surely consider whether the manner in which the investigation was conducted is subject to improvement. Catholic journalist John Allen Jr. has followed the Dupuis investigation (as he has on all things Ratzinger) with very close attention. Following Dupuis’ passing in 2004, Allen offered some personal criticisms of the Dupuis investigation, the subsequent document Dominus Iesus (seen very much as directed at the work of Dupuis), and its unanticipated consequences (“Remembering Jacques Dupuis” (“Word from Rome”, National Catholic Reporter January 7, 2005):

No doubt the result was both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it made Dupuis a worldwide celebrity, as a never-ending stream of speaking and writing invitations attest. Dupuis gained an audience for his ideas that might otherwise have eluded him. On the other hand, the lingering whiff of scandal meant that Dupuis remained under a cloud. His works were subjected to intense scrutiny, and in recent months he felt his Jesuit superiors had been under pressure to silence him.

I can testify that this was not just Dupuis’ over-active imagination. In December 2002, I organized a presentation in Rome of Tom Fox’s book Pentecost in Asia, and Dupuis was part of the panel. I had hoped it would take place in the Aula Magna of the Gregorian, but in the period leading up to the event I got a call from a Jesuit official who asked me if I could find another location. Granting permission for Dupuis to speak in the main lecture hall, he said, would invite unwanted attention from the Vatican. In the end, the panel took place at the Oratory of St. Francis Xavier del Caravita, and Dupuis was his usual dry-witted, incisive self. Afterwards he asked me if somebody had refused permission to use the Gregorian; I didn’t have the heart to add one more bit of pain, and blamed it on scheduling. . . .

Whatever the rights and wrongs, one cannot help but be saddened by the effect all this had on Dupuis, who felt at times that a church he had served loyally had deserted him. Dupuis was a man of deep and constant prayer, whose devotion to Christ was absolute. The suggestion that he had done something to compromise the church’s faith in Christ devastated Dupuis; it was, in a very real sense, a cancer that ate away at him, producing, as Egaña put it at the funeral, an “unspeakable sadness.” It will be for future generations to assess the content of his theology, but as for the character of the man, his rectitude seems beyond dispute.

It is no criticism of anyone in particular to voice the hope that in the future, the Catholic church may be able to find more humane ways of resolving its doctrinal quandaries.

* * *

Dupuis’ Subsequent work

Although the Congregation’s Notification indicated they found little difficulty with Dupuis himself, there may be cause for concern with his subsequent work. Christianity and the Religions: From Confrontation to Dialogue (Orbis Books, November 2002). I have not yet read this book myself, but would like to note that it has received two rather conflicting reviews and perceptions as to its faithfulness to Catholic tradition.

On one hand, Georgetown U.’s Peter C. Phan (“Inclusive Pluralism” America Vol. 188 No. 3. February 3, 2003) describes it as “conceived as a more accessible version of its predecessor,” composed during the period of his investigation by the Congregation, and with “careful attention to the objections brought forth by the C.D.F. as well as by his theological peers against his previous work.”

Phan praises the book as “a notable advance in Christian theology of religious pluralism,” rooted in sound trinitarian Christology, traditional to the point where it could hardly be considered “innovative” at this point in time:

[Phan] It must however be frankly acknowledged, with all due respect to Dupuis’s theological achievements, that inclusive pluralism is anything but avant-garde, much less beyond the pale of orthodoxy. Indeed, Dupuis acknowledges that the substance of his thesis has been affirmed by the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences as far back as 1987. Dupuis unambiguously and repeatedly affirms Jesus’ role as the universal revealer and savior. He distinguishes between the economy of the Logos and that of the Spirit, but never separates them. While suggesting that other religions are “participated mediations” in the mediation of Jesus, he also unambiguously affirms the nature of the church as the sacrament of the mystery of salvation. While recommending interreligious dialogue for mutual enrichment, he firmly holds that the mutual complementarity between Christianity and other religions is asymmetrical—that is, the acknowledgment of the existence of “elements of truth and grace” in other religions does not cancel out the unsurpassed and unsurpassable transcendence of God’s self-manifestation in Jesus and Christianity.

So why was Dupuis subjected to such harassment (no other word seems more appropriate) and public humiliation? Perhaps because his expression “inclusive pluralism” (or “pluralistic inclusivism” or “pluralism in principle”) conjures up the specter of the “pluralism” or “pluralist paradigm” of such theologians as John Hick and Paul Knitter. But anyone who reads his corpus, even without complete attentiveness, should know that Dupuis has repeatedly distanced himself from this position and has convincingly rebutted it.

On the other hand, Gerald McDermott, an Episcopal priest and Professor of Religion at Roanoke College, describes Dupuis as “[registering] a subtle but resounding ‘No!’ to Cardinal
Ratzinger and John Paul II,” indicating elements of his later work that would in all likelihood merit further concern of the Congregation (Monastic Interreligious Dialogue Bulletin 70, March 2003):

Dupuis claims the Christian tradition “never places Christ in the place of God” (88), cites approvingly an author who states that Jesus “never puts himself forward” (167), and holds that God not Jesus is at the center of Jesus’ proclamation (22)—all this without serious attention to countervailing texts such as Jesus’ claim to be the “way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). In words that implicitly refute Ratzinger’s warning, Dupuis contends that “the working of the Word goes beyond the limits which mark the working presence of the humanity of Jesus even in his glorified state” (160). This, he explains, is because Jesus’ human consciousness was limited and did not exhaust the divine mystery. So the revelation in Jesus Christ was not exhaustive of the divine mystery (14). Nor is the Spirit always linked to the risen humanity of Jesus: if the Spirit was not “communicated through” the risen humanity of Jesus before the Incarnation, why need it be so now? (181).

Dupuis’ approving citation from Jeremiah S. O’Leary is even more suggestive of a break from the traditional “content of faith”: “The other religious traditions represent particular realizations of a universal process, which has become preeminently concrete in Jesus Christ” (193). Here is evidence of a way of thinking about Jesus that goes back to the Enlightenment’s idealists. For Kant, Hegel and Schleiermacher, Jesus was the prime example of a process that does not logically require Jesus. To make Jesus logically necessary to salvation would violate the fundamental Enlightenment axiom: that ultimate meaning must be expressed in general but not particular terms. As Lessing famously put it, “Accidental truths of history can never become the proof of necessary truths of reason.”

The problem for the Enlightenment, and perhaps for Dupuis, is that Jesus was one of the “accidents of history.” Divinely intended of course, but not accessible to humanity universally. This could explain why Dupuis makes a number of moves that separate salvation from the historical events of Jesus of Nazareth: atonement in the Cross is never mentioned let alone explained as necessary to salvation, salvation is defined as wholeness/self-fulfillment/integration but never as redemption from sin, the “reign of God” (aka “Kingdom of God”) is described in terms of social justice but never personal discipleship to Jesus, and Jesus’ uniqueness and universality are said not to be “absolute” (166). This may also explain why Dupuis insists there is an Ultimate Reality common to all the religious traditions but experienced and conceived variously—“a single divine mystery with many faces”—words which ignore the wildly conflicting claims of the religions and provocatively recall Dominus Iesus’ denial that “Jesus is one of many faces which the Lord has assumed to communicate in a salvific way” (9).

There is much more to McDermott’s critical review, but this is sufficient to confirm that there was indeed something in Dupuis’ approach and methodology which would warrant the attention of the Congregation.

Anyone studying the subject of Christianity and religious pluralism and seeking, as Dupuis did, to remain within the bounds of orthodoxy will recognize that this is no easy task. I believe that ultimately, Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism will be recognized for its substantial treatment of these issues by a Catholic theologian who, in spite of certain weaknesses in his approach, nevertheless demonstrated great courage in navigating this rather difficult terrain in Catholic theology.

A response to Thomas J. Herron (Culture Wars)

From Bill Cork — via Mark Shea . . . an article by Thomas J. Herron in the latest issue of Culture Wars, titled “The Trouble with Converts”, an “all out assault” which takes aim at Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus, Linda Chavez, Rev. Robert Sirico (The Acton Institute), Catholic journalist Rod Dreher, and . . . The Blosser Family(???)

All the converted members of this family appear to be rabid supporters of the current American occupation of Iraq and, to varying extents, have adopted the neocon habit of name calling people with whom they disagree like “Pat ‘isolation above all else’ Buchanan.” … The members of the Blosser family, as relatively new members of the Church, may be excused for not seeing the battle at National Review as just one campaign in the on-going Catholic-Jewish tribal war in America. … It is obvious to anyone that, at present, the Jewish “tribe” has beaten the Catholic “tribe” and taken over the Bush administration, the Republican Party and the “conservative” media with the result being America’s headlong plunge into never-ending wars in the Middle East … while the moral decay at home continues.

Brief thoughts on this latest outburst from the Catholic fringe:

  • I am most definitely NOT rabid. I’ve had my shots.
  • Labeling Pat “Isolation At All Costs” Buchanan was in reference not to his stance on the Iraq war but to his article “Was World War II Worth It?” May 11, 2005 — and which was vehemently protested (rightly so) by a number of bloggers, including this from Vodkapundit.
  • I’m not sure if “The Blosser Family” is all that uniform (no pun intended) in our support of the war in Iraq. Mr. Herron might have came to that assumption by virtue of my father having penned the excellent “War and the Eclipse of Moral Reasoning” (presented at the Tenth Annual Aquinas/Luther Conference held October 24-26, 2002 at Lenoir-Rhyne College), and perhaps myself for my occasional blogging on the topic. My brother Benjamin? — not a peep, nor fromJonathan and Nathan (the latter presently at sea aboard the U.S.S. Kearsarge).
  • As far as attacks on Catholic bloggers and/or converts go, Mr. Herron could probably take lessons from Fr. Joseph O’ Leary’s “Rise of the Neo-Caths”, who in July 2005 targeted “Jeff Miller, Jimmy Akin, Oswald Sobrino, Mansfield Fox, Earl E. Appleby, Amy Welborn, Arthur Tsui, and at the youngest (and perhaps most genuine) end of the spectrum, Apolonio Latar III.” (I think Mark Shea escaped The Wrath of O’Leary on account from his taking a leave of absence from blogging). You can view the content of O’Leary’s screed here; a roundup of responses from St. Blog’s Parish here.
  • The barely-concealed allegation that Israel is pulling Washington’s strings is seriously disturbing. Exactly what kind of “culture war” would want to provoke, exactly? — And here I was just blogging about the hatred of Jews found among some factions of traditionalist Catholics. As Mark Shea notes:

    “Yes, it’s true that we converts bring baggage with us. It’s also true that I disagree (respectfully) with the Blossers in my view of the war. I don’t think it met just war criteria. But there’s a strange tendency on the Catholic far right (see the Herron link) to constantly return to the Jews as the source of all our ills that gives me the willies.”

  • Whence this “Elders of Zion” conspiracy-theory regarding neoconservatives and the Iraq war? — Norman Podhoretz gives a brief history in his historial survey of terrorism and the development of “The Bush Doctrine” ( “World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win” Commentary Sept. 2004):

    . . . A cognate count in this indictment held that the invasion of Iraq had been secretly engineered by a cabal of Jewish officials acting not in the interest of their own country but in the service of Israel, and more particularly of Ariel Sharon. At first the framers and early spreaders of this defamatory charge considered it the better part of prudence to identify the conspirators not as Jews but as “neoconservatives.” It was a clever tactic, in that Jews did in fact constitute a large proportion of the repentant liberals and leftists who, having some two or three decades earlier broken ranks with the Left and moved rightward, came to be identified as neoconservatives. Everyone in the know knew this, and for those to whom it was news, the point could easily be gotten across by singling out only those neoconservatives who had Jewish-sounding names and to ignore the many other leading members of the group whose clearly non-Jewish names might confuse the picture.
    This tactic had been given a trial run by Patrick J. Buchanan in opposing the first Gulf war of 1991. Buchanan had then already denounced the Johnny-come-lately neoconservatives for having hijacked and corrupted the conservative movement, but now he descended deeper into the fever swamps by insisting that there were “only two groups beating the drums . . . for war in the Middle East—the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner in the United States.” Among those standing in the “amen corner” he subsequently singled out four prominent hawks with Jewish-sounding names, counterposing them to “kids with names like McAllister, Murphy, Gonzales, and Leroy Brown” who would actually do the fighting if these Jews had their way.

    Ten years later, in 2001, in the writings of Buchanan and other paleoconservatives within the journalistic fraternity (notably Robert Novak, Arnaud de Borchgrave, and Paul Craig Roberts), one of the four hawks of 1991, Richard Perle, made a return appearance. But Perle was now joined in starring roles by Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, both occupying high positions in the Pentagon, and a large supporting cast of identifiably Jewish intellectuals and commentators outside the government (among them Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol, and Robert Kagan). Like their predecessors in 1991, the members of the new ensemble were portrayed as agents of their bellicose counterparts in the Israeli government. But there was also a difference: the new group had managed to infiltrate the upper reaches of the American government. Having pulled this off, they had conspired to manipulate their non-Jewish bosses—Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and George W. Bush himself—into invading Iraq.

    Before long, this theory was picked up and circulated by just about everyone in the whole world who was intent on discrediting the Bush Doctrine. And understandably so: for what could suit their purposes better than to “expose” the invasion of Iraq—and by extension the whole of World War IV—as a war started by Jews and being waged solely in the interest of Israel?

    To protect themselves against the taint of anti-Semitism, purveyors of this theory sometimes disingenuously continued to pretend that when they said “neoconservative” they did not mean “Jew.” Yet the theory inescapably rested on all-too-familiar anti-Semitic canards—principally that Jews were never reliably loyal to the country in which they lived, and that they were always conspiring behind the scenes, often successfully, to manipulate the world for their own nefarious purposes.

  • Of course, I realize the mere fact of my quoting Norman Podhoretz in Commentary only confirms Mr. Herron’s suspicions. Ah, well.

Updates!

  • A response from [Dr.] Philip Blosser, Pertinacious Papist and Patriarch of the Blosser Clan.
  • A brief comment from Benjamin (Jamie) Blosser, whose blog Ad Limina is worth visiting for its theological depth. Demonstrating Thomas Harren’s complete ignorance, Jamie is a patristics scholar at Catholic U., an “inveterate Augustinian” and probably the furthest thing from a neocon. He also maintains a St. Augustine Library devoted to the “life, works and influence” of the Great Saint from Hippo.
  • “Paleo-Con Wingnut Watch” – Cacciaguida (“a proud neo-con, or else a paleo-con of such paleosity that I regard Lew Rockwell and Albert Jay Nock as mere neos and prefer instead the old-time politics of Pope Urban II”) provides some background history on E. Michael Jones and Fidelity / Culture Wars.
  • Those Dallas Zionist Conspirators December 2004 – Amy Welborn / Rod Dreher on another of Thomas J. Herron’s rants. Apparently this obsession with blaming the Jews runs pretty deep.
  • Mr. Herron might want to check out the InternationalJewishConspiracy, which has the goods on the Zionist infiltration of the Vatican:

    “On April 2, 2005 at 9:37 PST (Pope Standard Time), Agent 241533, the International Jewish Conspiracy’s eyes and ears in Vatican City since 1978, fearing exposure, went underground in an emergency maneuver to avoid detection.

    In a series of encrypted communiqués the agent has admitted to InJewCon CathCom that human error was to blame. Tired from an assignment that had lasted nearly 30 years, he had begun to let his cover slip. He more than once referred to the Council of Bishops as a Minyan, and on one Friday afternoon asked the Auxiliary to the Pontifical Throne if he “wouldn’t kill for a corned beef.”

    They even have a special page devoted to their loyal puppet Dubya.