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When Will the Defiance End?

It is often assumed that when members of two different religions engage in dialogue about doctrinal matters, the necessary prerequisite for fruitful dialogue is that neither religion claim to possess absolute truth. But Dominus Iesus (DI), recently issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, reiterates that Catholicism possesses “absolute truth” (#4).

DI also says that “the Church’s proclamation of Jesus Christ…makes use of the practice of interreligious dialogue…. Interreligious dialogue, which is part of the Church’s evangelizing mission, requires…obedience to the truth…” (#2, italics added). Well then, it’s obvious that the Church is using — or is supposed to be using — dialogue as a means of evangelizing. And that’s fine with us.

Surely then, the Church has nothing to learn from other religions doctrinally — though presumably there might be some give-and-take on minor matters and the resolution of misunderstandings, notably with the Eastern Orthodox and Protestants.

It appears, however, that many of the dialogues between Catholics and (especially) non-Christians have been taking place under false pretenses — false, that is, to the doctrinal claims of Catholicism. John L. Allen Jr., the National Catholic Reporter’s Rome correspondent (an ace reporter, by the way, in spite of his biases) reveals this clearly in that paper’s September 22 issue. He quotes Arvind Sharma, a Hindu, who said, “I’ve never met a Catholic” who approaches dialogue from the “point of view” articulated in DI. Allen quotes Rabbi Jonathan Romain of England, who said, “I’ve yet to encounter an English Catholic who takes this [DI’s] position in real life.” Allen also cites Rita Gross (Buddhist), Kurt Krammer (Buddhist), and Farid Esack (Muslim) as telling him that their Catholic dialogue partners don’t operate from the Catholic principles reiterated in DI.

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