Ever since the 20th century, the Catholic Church’s Ecumenical movement has effected a massively different outlook on the scene of the world. From the 19th century backwards, Catholics believed that non-Catholics, and especially non-Christians, had no sure hope of attaining eternal life in Jesus Christ. Oh yes, I realize that Pope Pius IX speaks to the exceptional possibility of salvation outside the visible bounds of the Catholic Church (i.e. invincible ignorance and perfect contrition/charity under the auspices of God’s grace), but for the most part, if you were not a Catholic, your soul was in great danger of hell fire if you did not repent and enter into the Church through the holy bath of Baptism. Certainly, from the 17th century backwards, there was an even stronger sense that all who are without the Church and die in their sins will be damned. And yet, today we have Catholic scholars, high clergyman, and theologians professing to hold that, in the end, all men will be saved. Oh yes, they make sure they do not assert so blatantly that this is a certain fact of revelation, but a reasonable hope. Continue reading
On the 4th of February 4th of 2019, Pope Francis and Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque both signed a document on Human Fraternity which contains the following statement:
Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action. The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives. Therefore, the fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept”
Some folks have claimed that this is heretical. Catholic theologian Dr. John Lamont, for example, says that this statement is “a clear, public repudiation of the Catholic faith”. Although not directly saying that Pope Francis intended to repudiate the Catholic faith, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, in an article entitled “The Gift of Filial Adoption“, attempts to emphasize that Christianity is the only religion willed by God.
Is the statement from this document necessarily heretical? This article will attempt to say that it is not necessarily heretical. However, that does not mean I am here arguing that Pope Francis intended an orthodox meaning necessarily. I am only here to demonstrate that the words, as stated, can be understood in an orthodox manner. Other theologians have already attempted to interpret it in an orthodox manner. For examples, see Dr. Chad Pecknold and Fr. Zed. Without belittling the statements of these intellectual giants, I intend to bring more evidence to this direction. Understand, however, that I’ve no particular benefit from defending the orthodoxy of the current Pope, nor do I seek that as a goal. In fact, I’ve wanted him to be put under Episcopal trial since the first year of his pontificate in order to be held accountable to the dogmas of the Catholic Church. What Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s recent Manifesto of Faith was great, but it is simply not good enough. With that said, if and when we do criticize the Pope, however, we should be as accurate as the sun is bright, and make sure there is no hole in our traps through which our opponents can escape with the trickery of words. And this is precisely why Pope Francis is so dangerous. He is not the sort of man who could easily be caught in a position like Arius, who made it clear what he was negating (i.e. the deity of Christ). Heretics such as Apollinaris, Eutychios, and Nestorios were great because you could actually discern what they were saying and negating. In our modernistic and psuedo-intellectual hierarchy today, we do not have the benefit of such clarity (see my article dissecting the mentality of Pope Francis)
Let me first begin by setting the stage of this joint document. In the first place, this was not an invitation from the Middle East for Francis to swoop in like the revivalist George Whitefield and begin open-air preaching to the populace on the necessity of conversion to Christ in order to escape the fires of hell. I wish he would do that, but that is clearly outside the intention of both the Pope and his hosts in the Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates . Rather, as the subtitle of the document suggests, the context was for World Peace and Living Together. The very opening begins with “In the name of God who has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and who has called them to live together as brothers and sisters“. It goes on to mention innocent human life, the poor, the destitute, tortured, orphans, widows, refugees, victims of war, persecution, and injustice, etc,etc. It is quite plain that a Catholic Pope and Muslim Imam speaking to this are quite outside the purview of any evangelistic context through which one side is seeking to convert the other. This is very *down to earth*, in other words. It is far more basic to earthly peace than vital to everlasting happiness with God. The title, Human Fraternity, is precisely referenced in one particular line: “In the name of human fraternity that embraces all human beings, unites them and renders them equal“. There you have it. This document is speaking to the equal rights of all human beings that should be respected in order to best live out our time in the midst of religious, cultural, ethnic, and racial differences. Unless the orthodox Catholic wants to insist, contrary to religious liberty, that we should discriminate unbelievers as less-deserving of freedom, there isn’t a whole lot of exhortation to become Christian to be expected from this document. That is not the intention, nor the goal of it. The goal is stated very clearly in the middle of the document:
“In the name of God and of everything stated thus far; Al-Azhar al-Sharif and the Muslims of the East and West, together with the Catholic Church and the Catholics of the East and West, declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation as the code of conduct; reciprocal understanding as the method and standard” and “call upon ourselves, upon the leaders of the world as well as the architects of international policy and world economy, to work strenuously to spread the culture of tolerance and of living together in peace; to intervene at the earliest opportunity to stop the shedding of innocent blood and bring an end to wars, conflicts, environmental decay and the moral and cultural decline that the world is presently experiencing.”
The goal of the document is to reach dialogue, tolerance, peace, cooperation, and understanding. This is not out of the blue, either. It is not news to anyone in the know that there has often been conflict, hostility, persecution, and even massive casualties caused by the friction created between Catholics and Muslims (at least). And for us Catholics, we shouldn’t see this as a horrible thing. As we shall see, this concept has been clearly taught in the Universal Catechism of the Catholic Church. How should Muslims coexist with Catholics, is the question. This is why the document goes on to speak of the protection of different persons of diverse religions, etc,etc. We aren’t expecting to be told we should suppress one or the other.
Now, I will dedicate the rest of this to the section that everyone keeps talking about. It begins with this:
“Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action”.
It is important that we see that this is the ground of the following comments to come afterwards. Freedom is the right of every person. This is none other than what the Catechism says. In paragraph 2106, the CCC states:
After reading a defense for Bishop Robert Barron’s misleading of Ben Shapiro, I had to give a response to what is becoming the standard apologetic for making a near full eclipse on the Gospel of our Lord. Someone asked if we could imagine this all from the other side, and how bad the “nones” (those with no religion watching) would have reacted to the idea that their souls are in danger if they don’t believe in Christ, or how badly Mr. Shapiro would have reacted if he were told that he is obligated to respond to the Gospel or else be condemned. This was my response to that. Continue reading
Bishop Robert Barron and Rabbi David Wolpe were both invited to come and speak on the Rubin Report on religion, enlightenment, and areas of agreement/disagreement. I did listen to it, and my personal take away was that it was very plain, without entertainment, and I was unhappy that there was not more discussion on their disagreement. In any case, someone brought to my attention a particular segment where Bishop Barron speaks about the unintended conformity to God that exists in even atheists, such as Christopher Hitchens, in his own ethical convictions for justice. The background of this section is Rubin’s topic of discussion on whether someone can erect a fresh and new world-view, which doesn’t have anything to do with Christianity, Judaism, or traditional religion, but which accounts for the existence of ethics. Rabbi Wolpe, in sum, conceded that this might be somewhat feasible, but there would be no root or soil to this enterprise, and so he wonders how long it would last without the foundation underneath which supports it. When it came time for the Bishop to answer, this is how it went: Continue reading
After reading through Romans 4 this fine evening, I decided that I must put into writing what I believe God has revealed to me in the reading of His holy word. This will in regard to the much debated subject of the justification of sinners, and particularly how a Protestant reading is undermined by Paul’s argument with Abraham.
Dr. Douglas Farrow, Professor of Theology and Christian Thought at McGill University, threw down the gauntlet in a recent article for Catholic World Report with a sharp critique of the current regime run by Pope Francis. Though it is clear he put much thought into the content, I have to say that the article is ultimately a bust. The beginning portion decries the growing rise of “Papalotry” that begin to show itself, according to Farrow, with even the famous Dictatus Papae which came out during the Pontificate of Pope St. Gregory VII (1073-1085). I could find you similar claims being made by at least Pope St. Nicholas I (858-867) in his interaction with King Lothair II and his overturning of Episcopal synods in Constantinople in favor of St. Ignatious as rightful occupant of the Patriarchal chair. But I digress. In any case, the current situation in Rome is that the Papacy is beginning to be exalted above its rightful place and appropriate function (see Cardinal Ouellet’s letter to Archbishop Vigano, for one example). Thereafter, in the second half of the article, Farrow decries the beefing up of Episcopal Synods as carrying the ability to exercise magisterial authority, since this will allow the ability of fragmented Synods and particular churches going their own way. With Francis’s desire to decentralize the Papacy, this reduces him to a quasi-neutral referee, and may, in the end, this plan for decentralization is just another form of returning to Gallicanism.
An award winning and Cambridge-reared scholar in Patristics and Early Christianity, Dr. Allen Brent M.A., D.D., who is former Professor in Early Christian History and Iconography at the University of London, King’s College, and who is currently Professor at the Patristics Institute of the Lateran University (Augustinianum) , has made his way into the Catholic Church. He was simultaneously ordained to the Catholic priesthood at Norwhich Cathedral as part of the Anglican Ordinariate.