Thursday, October 11, 2012

Catholic and Muslim dialogue

So Catholic and Muslim leaders got together and talked for a couple days earlier in the month.  OK.  No problem there.  Though I notice, again, that there is certainly an uptick on how much energy is spent reaching out to the Islamic world versus, say, reaching out to other religious traditions.  Nonetheless, it isn't as if Islam is some small little insignificant force in the world, and perhaps it's logical that the Church would spend so much energy reaching out to Muslims. 

Fair enough.  But as I read this article on the USCCB website, I was struck by this section attributed to keynote speaker Jesuit Father Tom Michel:

"effective and truthful dialogue requires faithfulness to one's tradition. "Muslims must glory in the prophethood of Muhammad and the Qur'anic message that he brought," he said, "just as Christians must glory in the cross of Jesus Christ and our faith in what God has accomplished in him for all humankind." But, he continued, this faithfulness need not lead to enmity but rather mutual affection and encouragement since, "we worship and confess the same God.""
What does that mean?  I mean, really.  What does it mean?  Sorry, maybe I'm just not smart enough to keep up with a Jesuit, but that sounds like nothing other than the old 'there are many paths that lead to God' talk of the 1980s.  That's the stuff you used to hear on Oprah.  A Christian, a MuslimBuddhist, Hindu, Shinto, Druid, Satanist - they're all just different paths to God.
Religion, you see, is a bunch of made up stories and fairy tales told by ancient man trying to make sense of the world.  Institutional Religion was the corruption of that sincere attempt to understand the universe.  But it's important to realize that God, if He/She exists, never revealed anything other than inspired insights to people who then hammered out those insights into various forms of myth, legend, and tall tales.  Therefore, all these different paths have their origins in God in some way or another, therefore they're all just fine and equal and all that. 
Now, is that what the good Father is thinking when he says this?  Is he making a statement of fact, that the best way to dialogue is for Muslims to glory in the Prophet Muhammad?  Is he saying that's the same as when Christians glory in the cross of Jesus Christ?  It looks like it to me.  Maybe he isn't.  I don't know. 
I know this is why I think there is so much confusion, and quite frankly, so little fealty to Catholic teaching among so many Catholics.  It's a known problem, and most Catholics admit it's a problem.  But when you see something like this, you have to ask what it means.  This is posted, and apparently endorsed, by the USCCB.  Are they OK with this?  Is this the Bishops' view?  Have I gotten it all wrong?  If I have, then what does this mean?  Are they saying different paths lead equally to God?  God doesn't care what  you believe as long as you are a good person?  
I know this was an inter-faith conference, and I understand that it's not a place for a rousing fire and brimstone tent meeting.  But still, words mean things.  Is dialogue that important that issues that could lead to salvation are put on the back burner?  Or am I to assume that salvation no longer depends on such things as what you happen to believe?  Or maybe a combination, or neither?  Againwhatever the answer, I'm increasingly sympathetic to Catholics who scratch their heads and can't figure out where the historic Catholic faith fits with the new Catholic faith.  I know some Catholics will say 'whatever the Church says now is the truth through the development of doctrine', but others will wonder just how far you can go before it's no longer the development of doctrine, but simply brand new doctrines replacing the old

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