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Does God will a Plurality of Religions?

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Back in February, the Catholic Pope Francis and the Sunni Muslim Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb signed the “Document on Human Fraternity” in the hope of improving interfaith relations. Hopefully, we are all for fraternity and peace in the family of man. However, this does not mean that we must sidestep or renounce basic tenets of the Catholic faith. Our approach to Islam should not be to become less Catholic but rather to be more Catholic. It is here where a problem arises in the document. It states:

“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.”

We might certainly say that the elements of color, gender, race and even language enrich humanity and find their source in God. This last element would include the value of Latin which so many progressives renounce for a one-sided adulation of the vernacular in worship. However, there is a problem when one says that God desires a “pluralism” and “diversity” of religions. I am reminded of the Protestant reformer Martin Luther on his deathbed. Instead of a reform of Catholicism there had been a widespread revolution and defection. While it may be mythical, it is purported that he said, “My God, my God, what have I done? There are now as many religions as there are heads!” The plurality of religions is not from the active will of God. Instead, it is a consequence of original sin. It is a diversity that is affirmed by obstinacy toward the true God.

The German princes and the King of England did not break from Rome because of doctrine, at least not at first, but for purposes of enhancing wealth and power. The division expanded through ignorance, prejudice, and a selfish egoism. When it came to non-Christians, Mohammad was rejected by the Eastern monks as intellectually ill-equipped to benefit from their teaching and spirituality. Their lack of charity fueled his anger and drove him to create a new religion to challenge Christianity. He deliberately amalgamated the teachings of the Jews, Christians and the local tribal cults. His purported revelations in the Quran often corrupted these elements or misconstrued the purloined doctrines.

An instance of this is his rejection of the Christian Trinity as the Father, the Son (Jesus) and the Virgin Mary. Not only did he wrongly substitute the Blessed Mother for the Holy Spirit, he fails to understand the Church’s teaching that there is ONE divine Nature but THREE divine Persons. God cannot be the source of error and here is a factual error in faith. Mary is a blessed creature of God (not divine) and Jesus is indeed the second Person of the Blessed Trinity.

While Islam went through an intellectual period, it ultimately became a religion that made converts not by persuasive arguments but by sharpened swords. The Muslims were correct that there was one God. A number of the popes have assumed that this was the same God of the Jews and Christians. Many of us have remained unsure.

Are they really children of Abraham? I pray it might be so but it seems to me that their origins are from a man more than from the living God. God does not teach error. God does not will religious division. We should never forget what Jesus said to the Father:

“Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth. ‘I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me’” (John 17:17-23).

Continuing my reflection upon the “Document on Human Fraternity,” the Church can speak of “justice based on mercy,” but Islam understands justice only within the framework of sharia law. Again, I think the East and West may be speaking at cross-purposes. The document should have included a dictionary.

The dialogue for tolerance and peaceful coexistence implies that we are on the same page when it comes to definitions. What does the word “peace” actually mean? Does it mean the peace that comes with unity in Christ? Does it mean an end to violence between people who either hate or feel threatened by one another? Does it mean a truce from violence until one or the other has the upper hand? Does it signify what is defined by the very word, “Islam”— submission to Allah as taught by Muhammad the prophet? The ultimate peace, in this context, mandates the rule of Islam and the supremacy of their religion, deity and laws. I am reminded that Pope Benedict XVI was rewarded with death threats from millions when he asserted that Muslims had to disavow “holy war” or the sword as a means to this Islamic “peace.”

The dialogue among believers presumes that all the religion understand and aim for the same moral virtues. I am not sure this is the case. I am not saying that faithful Catholics are always the victims or the peacemakers. We have often taken up the sword instead of the cross as Jesus commanded. The martyrs of faith, and notable among these are the missionaries, are a testimony of how devoted we should be to the TRUE faith. Here is the whole point. The Roman Catholic Church is the house that Jesus built. Jesus is God come down from heaven to save us. He enters the human family to do so and thus he elevates and graces our humanity. The apostles are sent out to the whole world to proclaim the faith and to baptize in the name of the Trinity. Ours is a supernatural faith. The religion of the Jews is established by God and has a special standing; however it remains a natural faith. All other religions, including Islam, may have facets of the truth but they are intermingled with many errors. False religion may reflect how we are wired for God. There is an innate yearning for the transcendent. However, this is not sufficient to lend them absolute legitimacy. We must accept that in the world millions upon millions of people are spiritually formed by lies. It is only in the Catholic Church where we are molded by the truth. We express that truth every time we come to Mass and recite (as a community) the Creed.

God’s providence allows for the consequences of sin which includes the many false religions and the fracturing of Christianity. But, God does NOT directly will this plurality in faith. Such a view would conflict with the very first laws of the Decalogue:

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them” (Exodus 20:2-5; cf. Deuteronomy 5:6-9).

This law is so central that we find it in the Gospels when Jesus is tempted by Satan. Jesus rebukes the devil: “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve’” (Matthew 4:10).

The document goes to speak about the freedom of religion as a basic human right but while such toleration is exhibited in the West, it is often absent in many if not most countries with Muslim majorities. Beyond toleration, the document goes on to say that Christians and Muslims should acknowledge the other’s religion as “willed by God in his wisdom.” If we are speaking of what God wills to allow or permit, then yes; however, God is not the author of error and sin. Abraham is the common father in faith for Christians and Jews, but outside of this historical intervention by God it cannot be said that God truly spoke to Muhammad or that he willed the multiple deities of the Hindus or any of the lesser cults. This emerged as a point of conflict at the recent Amazonian Synod.

The Holy Father (Pope Francis) who is regarded by critics as the master of confusion, has offered the “possible” corrective that “. . . from the Catholic point of view, the document does not deviate one millimeter from Vatican II.” The Second Vatican Council teaches:

“The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself” (Nostra Aetate 2).

Notice that the compliment toward non-Christian religions is limited or somewhat back-handed. Obviously the Catholic Church would not reject anything that is “true and holy” wherever it is found. An analogy would be a thief who swallowed a diamond. The diamond still has value and is precious even if one has to finger through the manure pile to find it. Another analogy would be the separation of the wheat from the chaff. That which is the true bread must be winnowed from that which has no value.

See also DOCUMENT ON HUMAN FRATERNITY.

One Response

  1. Islam is not a religion so much as it is a political ideology. Read The 2nd part of Quran.
    It is about subduing the world dog Allah and those who do not convert must die or pay the Protection Tax. A lot of political ideologies invoke God, morality and religious language.

    Muslims anc communists have no business in the free world and they should not be allowed to immigrate here. In my mind if you haven’t denounced these ideologies you are a threat. And western civilization doesn’t owe them anything.

    Islam has been enabled by communists to be used as a weapon against the west and Pope Francis is some kind of communist as well. I will never be Catholic again. Religion is a waste of time, I’m an American and this is a Christian country. Not a pluralist society but a Christian society that upholds freedom of thought and belief. Its weakness is believing that enemies of freedom deserve to come here and preach their gate for our nation. And tee Catholic Church has been helping many of them come here and get on public services.

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