Pope Benedict XVI is, at least from all appearances, a liberal when comes to religious tolerance. His words belie a man who believes that Catholicism is just one of many valid voices. He gives equal credit to Talmudic Judaism, Islam and Protestantism, even suggesting that Catholics need to turn to these various other religions to gain a full understanding of Divine Revelation. He uses the word "pluralism" with a positive connotation. Never once, to my knowledge, has the Holy Father ever called any politician, atheist or secularist to conversion while in Germany, this time or the two previous times. His words to the German government assure politicians that they can govern without regard to God or Christ the King. What a startling departure from everything the Church had always taught previous to the Second Vatican Council.
I think that this is the case with all churchmen today. They have lost sight of religious tolerance and have espoused the flawed view of "ecumenism" of Vatican Council II.
The view of ecumenism isn't what is put forth there, but rather it is a threefold understanding of conversion.
1. Catechesis -- This applies particularly to Catholics and Protestants. If we are to view Protestantism as a heresy, which it is, then it behooves Catholics to show the Protestant that his protest is in vain. The truth doesn't lie in Calvin's view or in Wesley's view or in Hus' view or in Henry's view or in Luther's view. It lies in the Catholic Church. If the four marks of the Church are true, then it can be no other way. The Church has to be one and universal. It has to reach to all men, not just the "denomination" which calls itself Catholic. Christ didn't found 33,000 churches, He founded 1. The Church is the Catholic Church. The second part of this is that Catholics must understand their faith. They must know the basic tenants of what it means to be Catholic. If this cannot be done, then the Church will fail. Catechizing. That is how we respond to Christians of other ecclesial communions and it is how we respond in house, with other Catholics. We need to be unapologetic and we need to be clear. The Church has given us 2011 years of understanding, we are not re-inventing the wheel. We're talking about the very same things we've been talking about since the beginning. The salvation of souls.
2. Ecumenism -- This applies particularly to the Orthodox. There was a schism. There is a schism. The Orthodox make up the second part of Christ's Church. They have a special relationship with us. While the excommunications have been lifted, the schism remains. So, because the relationship is unique, there should be a unique way to respond. This isn't about revealing the truth to them, they already have it. It is about coming to a unified view of how to apply it. They reject certain dogma. On this they should be catechized. However, because they have other apostolic sees, we must approach them as being our separated brothers. We must see them as being our compatriots. We truly must view them as legitimate bishops who must find a way to accept the primacy which Christ called for when he handed the Keys to Peter. That is ecumenism.
3. Evangelization -- This applies particularly to the non-Christian. We must take the Gospel to them. We must convert them to being Catholic. If the four marks are true, as with the Protestant, then the truth must lie in the Catholic Church. This includes the Jews, Muslims and all forms of paganism. The truth of the matter is that these souls are most at jeopardy, because they don't have the light of Christ. They must accept the truth of being one, holy, catholic and apostolic. Once this happens, then the evangelization is complete.
This idea of a "new evangelization" is flawed. We don't need to reinvent the wheel, we need to bring souls to Christ. For extra ecclesiam nulla salus is the truth, but getting humanity to understand it remains the challenge.
The Holy Father has embarked on the dangerous path of liberalism because this liberalism has been engrained into the psyche of those of his generation, and its cause is nothing other than the fear and guilt generated by the remembrance of World War II and the Holocaust. This has been the driving force of this pontificate, always lurking just under the surface of Benedict's dealings with non-Catholics and world governments. This is a particular flaw of the Holy Father's generation. Those of this generation have lived their entire lives under the shadow of, and guilt for, the atrocities of World War II. Never far from their decision making and ideological principles is the contemplation of Hitler, Nazism, the brutality of WWII and the images of the liberated concentration camps. It is particularly pronounced among Germans from this generation, and it tells us much about this pope's apparent inconsistencies and ideological liberalism when it comes to religious tolerance.This speaks directly to the idea of which I have been talking about liturgically for the last several weeks. This idea of both/and....either/or. This duplicity exists not only with regard to the liturgical action as presented in the Novus Ordo and the reform of the reform, but also in the view of relgious tolerance. While we must tolerate the fact that other ecclesial communions, schism, and non-Christians exist, that does not mean that we don't try to convert and bring them to the truth. The Church cannot stand on duplicitous ground. Her foundation is twofold. Tradition and Sacred Scripture; to assume any less is building a house on sandy ground. I firmly believe that the parable of the sandy ground applies in this instance. We must make sure that our foundations are strong and that we must not waiver. Liberalism, in any form is on sandy ground, because it's view is one of constant shifting. To adapt to the times in which one lives is one thing, to constantly shift the foundation is another. This speaks directly to what I've been saying:
The pope has mentioned this remembrance more than once on this current trip to Germany. He was careful to keep the memory of WWII vivid in order to preface his vision. It is a premise that is never isolated from his thinking. It is attached like a cancer.
While it is obvious that Benedict cherishes traditional Catholic expressions, they are to him just mere expressions among so many other expressions, some that are not even Catholic, that are not necessarily equal, but all valid, nonetheless. The difference is of aesthetic quality, like the difference between Bach and Schubert or Reni and Caravaggio. Personal preference ought to be respected, but it doesn't necessarily make any one artist or composer superior to the other. For Benedict the crucial factor for the church-esthete, which he seems to have appropriated to himself, is judging the appropriateness of the various expressions within given circumstances, much the same way someone chooses a venue for a concert. Sometimes traditionalism is more appropriate, and sometimes Communion and Liberation is more appropriate. There is more of phenomenology to Benedict's thinking than the moderate realism of St. Thomas Aquinas in his evaluation of the intrinsic value of Christian expression.
Perhaps on the surface this sounds perfectly acceptable. The problem, however, is that this is not the mission of the Church militant. The mission of the Church militant is that given to her by Christ: "Go and make disciples of the nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit." The mission of the Church is the salvation of souls. Whatever the Church does to alleviate human suffering, it ought to be done as a means to the end of proclaiming the Gospel and eliminating the greatest human suffering of all, which is the real possibility of damnation.
The Church has always been the primary catalyst of cultural change. She formed Western civilization. However, she did this not as the immediate purpose of her actions, but always as a happy byproduct of her primary activity, which is the salvation of souls. We see today the last remnants of a generation of churchmen who have this backward. Pope Benedict XVI has placed shaping culture and guiding the society as the primary activity of his pontificate and the modern Church, even to the point of espousing liberalism and indifference in order to convince non-Catholics of his humanitarian vision of worldly peace.
We, as the Church militant are duty bound to bring people to Christ. It isn't just the job of the priest, bishop, and pope. We must be willing to have the hard conversation and we must be willing to have the chutzpah to take a slap in the face when someone doesn't accept the Catholic view. What we must not be willing to do is walk away when that slap in the face comes.
World peace is not what we've been called to. We've been called, as Catholics to convert and save souls. We don't do this by espousing an "ecumenical" view that all are equal and that there is room for everyone as they currently are. No. We must tolerate their lack of understanding, but we must always work to convert. For if we truly love them, we will help them take the bushel basket off and see Christ's light for all that it is.