Friday, November 18, 2011

"No one who denies the Son has the Father"

It seems that much of the inter religious dialogue in the Catholic Church these days is built upon a very fundamental but faulty premise: that human beings can be in meaningful communion with God the Father outside of the unique mediation of Jesus Christ. This is the premise behind a lot of the interactions between the Church and other religions - when we ask a non-Christian to pray, we are in fact assuming that they have some sort of communion or access to God the Father apart from the covenant of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, why ask them to pray?

If we say to a Hindu, "Pray for world peace," to whom are we asking them to pray? There are only three options: First, we are asking them to pray to a god who does not exist, in which case such a prayer is fruitless. Second, perhaps it is the devil they are addressing? The Fathers did in fact believe this was the case. St. Cyprian teaches that the gods of the pagans are actually demons:

"They are impure and wandering spirits, who, after having been steeped in earthly vices, have departed from their celestial vigor by the contagion of earth, and do not cease, when ruined themselves, to seek the ruin of others; and when degraded themselves, to infuse into others the error of their own degradation" (On the Vanity of Idols, 6).

Whether or not be the case, let us presume that the Church would not knowingly ask pagans to pray to demons; at least this is certainly not the intention when some Church dignitary is asking pagans to pray; if this were the case, it would certainly be sinful. This leaves us with only the third option: They are presuming that the pagan already has a real, meaningful relationship with the true God, such that this pagan can petition God for worldly favors and expect to be heard and answered. And all this without the necessity of Jesus Christ. This must be the presumption behind asking pagans to pray - otherwise, we are either asking them to pray to the devil or to nothing, which wouldn't make any sense. The Church us behaving as if these non-Christians have the same access to God that we do.

If we look at Benedict's closing words at Assisi III, we see this statement: "Violence never again! War never again! Terrorism never again! In the name of God, may every religion bring upon the earth justice and peace, forgiveness and life, love!" He here abjures all the false religions, in the name of the one true God, to bring about those fruits of the spirit that only the true religion is capable of. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Gal 5:22-23) Are pagans now able to bring about these fruits on the earth without the necessity of the Spirit of Christ?

This came rushing home to me this evening during Holy Hour as I was reflecting on the first letter of John. He says: 

"Who is a liar but he who denies Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. He who confesses the Father has the Son also" (1 John 2:22-23).

"Anyone who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God" (2 John 8)

And let us not forget our Lord's words in the Gospel of Luke: "He who rejects me rejects Him who sent me" (Luke 10:16). St. Paul tells us in Romans 5:1-2, "Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God."

Bottom line: Rejection of Christ as Lord and Messiahs means ipso facto rejection of God the Father.  You cannot refuse to accept Christ and still claim to have access to the Father. The only reason we can "obtain access to this grace in which we stand" is because of the peace we have with God the Father through Christ our Lord. Without Christ, there is no peace with God and certainly no communion with Him in such a way that we can stand shoulder to shoulder with non-Christians and ask the non-Christian to pray to their god for worldly favors.

It is especially disheartening to read this sort of stuff in the works of Mother Teresa, who has recently been beatified. In her book Life in the Spirit: Reflections, Meditations and Prayers, she says:

We never try to convert those who receive [aid from Missionaries of Charity] to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, or agnostics become for this better men — simply better — we will be satisfied. It matters to the individual what church he belongs to. If that individual thinks and believes that this is the only way to God for her or him, this is the way God comes into their life — his life. If he does not know any other way and if he has no doubt so that he does not need to search then this is his way to salvation.” (pp 81-82)

I have been unable to authenticate the following quote, so take it with a grain of salt, but in an interview with the publication Christian News, one of Mother Teresa's nuns was asked how the Missionaries of Charity how they prepare dying Hindus for death. The nun replied, "We tell them to pray to their Bhagwans - to their gods." Based on everything I have ever read about Mother Teresa, and what I know about missionaries in general, it would not surprise me if this were totally factual. I do know that Michael Zima in his book Mother Teresa: The Case for the Cause has documented some similar statements from  Mother Teresa herself.  There she explains how she treats dying persons with the appropriate rites from their respective faiths:“for Hindus, water from the Ganges on their lips; for Muslims reading from the Koran; for the rare Christian, the last rites” (p. 142).

Our inter religious dialogue, and certainly our missions, will not bear any fruit until we get rid of this unfounded assumption that access to God can be granted through all religions. Our missions and dialogue with the world's religions need to be founded on this one basic principle: "I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me" (John 14:6).

Let's return to St. Cyprian for our closing thought:

"For whereas in the Gospels, and in the epistles of the apostles, the name of Christ is alleged for the remission of sins; it is not in such a way as that the Son alone, without the Father, or against the Father, can be of advantage to anybody; but that it might be shown to the Jews, who boasted as to their having the Father, that the Father would profit them nothing, unless they believed on the Son whom He had sent. For they who know God the Father the Creator, ought also to know Christ the Son, lest they should flatter and applaud themselves about the Father alone, without the acknowledgment of His Son, who also said, "No man comes to the Father but by me." But He, the same, sets forth, that it is the knowledge of the two which saves, when He says, "And this is life eternal, that they might know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." Since, therefore, from the preaching and testimony of Christ Himself, the Father who sent must be first known, then afterwards Christ, who was sent, and there cannot be a hope of salvation except by knowing the two together" (Letter 72:17).

22 comments:

scotju said...

The Holy Father is now visiting the world capital of voodoo in Benin. He gave a speech in which he condemned occult practises. Yet, at Assisi, he allowed a voodoo priest to utter his demonic chants. Although PBXVI is, IMHO, a better Pope that PJPII, he's begining to show he's mired in the spirit of Vatican II morass of ecumania. I hope the next pope will set things straight, because if he doesn't, God may give us a great big can of Wrath of God whoop-ass!

El Eremita said...

Boniface,

You provide very interesting remarks, but keep in mind that what is important here is what the Magisterium has taught about the matter; quotes from the Scriptures and a Father of the Church do not strictly "prove" anything per se, they only provide "theological evidence".

Here we have two contrary theological opinions: either God hears the prayers of pagans or He does not. You support the later view (based on 1John and St. Cyprian) while Mother Teresa (and apparently Joseph Ratzinger also) hold the contrary position. One could also theorize that there are certain conditions that have to be met for God to hear a prayer made by a pagan (being in state of invincible ignorance, etc.), but that is not important now.

Your arguments seem pretty convincing to me, and I would tend to agree with them. But you present your opinion as if this were a "settled" matter... as if Mother Teresa and Benedict XVI were holding theologically erroneous or even heretical opinions condemned or rejected by the Magisterium, but (as far as I know) this is not the case; to prove so, you would have to provide definitive magisterial teaching expressly condemning such positions.

And I am not saying that the Church has not condemned these views, only that I am not aware of such condemnation... if it effectively doesn't exist, then one can lawfully hold views similar or identical to those of Mother Teresa and the Holy Father (How to support them theologically is another matter, you have done a great job supporting yours).

Best regards from Argentina!

BONIFACE said...

I am not accusing the Holy Father or Mother Teresa of holding any heretical opinions...at the very least, I am saying their statements are troubling. And I would go with 1 John over Mother Teresa.

St Thomas has some interesting stuff to say about God hearing pagans. Notice I did not say that God cannot hear pagans, but that pagans do not have a meaningful relationship with Him, in such a way that they can ask Him for worldly favors and expect to be heard.

Anonymous said...

Terrible picture to look at!!! The less I hear about Mother Theresa, the better. I'd rather have a repentent Baptized Catholic Gangster, begging God for forgiveness on the Church steps than the "Mohandas" ...Mchatma..Or whatever the hell his name was! Mike 4819

Anonymous said...

How can she be a saint when she denies Christ like this? How many damned souls is she not responsible for? I don't get it. I don't get how you can run around in circles and talk about "not accusing her" of anything. She should be accused of all these things which she is guilty of. I am trying to convert to the Catholic Church but I can see no other choice than either the way of beatification is faulty and fallible, or the Catholic Church is not the true Church. If God is merciful enough to pardon this terrible and unrepentant sinner, that is one thing, but for the Church to the beatify her? That is disgusting. And it is the same for Pope John Paul II.

Why should I struggle against my sins when Mother Theresa denied Christ and still went to heaven? Why should I be hated and cast out by my own family when Popes like John Paul II, who've sent more people to hell than in any other time, is called "the Great?" There is no reason.

Anselm said...

There is actually little or no reason at all to think that beatifications are infallible, so please don't let such a thing hinder your conversion to the Church!

BONIFACE said...

Correct - although I would disagree if you were to make the same case for canonizations.

Anonymous said...

As if they're not both going to be canonized eventually.

El Eremita said...

Anonymous @ November 20, 2011 7:19 AM / 8:19 PM.

The text which Boniface cited is compatible with what theology calls "invincible ignorance" (you should read about it); although it's not appropriate to call it a "way of salvation", the text in question is not a dogmatic theology treatise, so it can be interpreted in an orthodox way.

Regarding your conversion, you should not remain outside the Church just because you don't agree with these beatifications; not only because they are not infallible pronouncements (although I think that they are definitive), but specially because your drastic disagreement with them is based on what is called "rash judgment" (which is a sin against justice): you are judging two persons of "Christ deniers", "unrepentant sinners" and of "sending people to hell" just based on some quotes or events which scandalized you, and theological misconceptions.

Keep in mind that the people at the Vatican who studied the life and works of JPII and Mother Teresa are light years away from us in terms of theological knowledge, research resources, etc. Don't you even at least consider the possibility of being wrong about them? Do you consider yourself an infallible judge of people's sanctity? Did you received a special revelation from God telling you that they are in hell or that there is people in hell because of them?

Remember that your first duty is to worry for your own salvation, so leave judgment up to God, canonization processes up to the bishop of Rome, and theology up to theologians.

Blessings.

Anonymous said...

Because the theologians and romans with light years of knowledge better than ours have done so much for the Church the last 50 years.

The judgment is not on whether or not they are in hell, but if they should be made as examples and elevated to such a status as beatification (and canonization) does.

El Eremita said...

"Because the theologians and romans with light years of knowledge better than ours have done so much for the Church the last 50 years."

The current crisis doesn't give you the right to simply disregard the work of the people at the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. Do you have any evidence showing that any of them holds any responsability for the current crisis? Do you have any arguments to question their capacity/honesty/orthodoxy/etc.?

Without such evidence, you have to admit that they are in a better position than you to pronounce a judgment over the life and works of JPII and Mother Teresa.

"The judgment is not on whether or not they are in hell, but if they should be made as examples and elevated to such a status as beatification (and canonization) does."

The theological certainty of canonizations and beatifications, as far as I know, applies only to the assumption that the person in question is in Heaven. If he/she is to be made an example of, is a pastoral decision that, to my limited knowledge, is not infallible. However, it is exclusive competence of the bishop of Rome, and even if such pronouncement is not infallible, if he sets somebody as an example, I am nobody to judge his decision.

As Saint Paul recommends, I will "test everything" and "hold on to the good" (of which there is plenty in the lives of both, JPII and Mother Teresa). If I find anything in their lives which is questionable or even scandalous (e.g. JPII kissing the koran), I will simply disregard it, as they were not impeccable. I recommend you to do the same.

Blessings.

BONIFACE said...

Well, two things: I agree with yo that canonizations are infallible as regards their being a statement that an individual is in heaven, but they can definitely be errant in their causes (i.e., why the Church canonized them).

Second, I must disagree here - one does not need to be a theologian to realize that Mother Teresa trying "to make Hindus better Hindus" is wrong or that telling dying Hindus to pray to their gods is terrible. In these cases, I think those who try to justify this behavior, or even hold it up as an example, are obfuscating the Faith rather than explaining it. If you ask what cause we have to question the capabilities of the individuals in the Congregation for Causes of Saints, the fact that they beatified JPII and Mother Teresa are the two most glaring examples.

Anonymous said...

El Eremita has forgotten the line between humility and cowardice. That kind of bubblegum talk will attract no one to the faith.

Anonymous said...

(if you could edit this into the comment I just posted that would be great)

Not to mention the whole "just disregard the bad they did." I'd like to see ONE SAINT beatified previously to this whole mess who had "something bad" on their head (that they didn't repent of and after which they became great saints, of course). The problem is, of course, that there is none. Because those who are made to be called Blessed or Saints on this world are because of that examples, and it's supposed to be in everything they do. I can't even be bothered to argue, like I wrote, El Whatever's weak faith and excusing hypocrisy just makes me feel hopeless inside.

BONIFACE said...

Let us refrain from calling people cowards or weak in faith. Please, no ad hominem attacks here.

Anonymous - Sorry, I don't have the power to edit comments. If I could, every comment would say, "Boniface is 100% correct." LOL.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid there's no other word. What else should you call someone who suggests that the saintliness of saints is now a "pick and choose", or rather "pick and ignore", deal? What kind of atheist do you think will be drawn towards the faith when they hear something like that? I used to be one. I'll tell you: they'd laugh, and their image of Christians as hypocritical and blind to reality would be confirmed. That's what they're doing right now when Benedict XVI invites them to "talk." I hear my old identity of atheism laugh from the darkest recesses of my mind. "See?", it says. "Told you." Trying to make no refrain from speaking the plain truth of the matter by some false humility, pure cowardice and fear, running away from the problems. I resent it, and do my best to make war against it, but it's no help when people like El Eremita aid it and make the ground (faith) I stand on feel shifty.

It's that kind of defensive and whitewashed theology that has made what some call the "Cociliar Church" such an easy target for mockery. And it deserves it. It's weak, it's hollow, frankly, it's pathetic. It's simply a matter of fact that if the Church consisted of people who spoke like El Eremita, apologizing with bended backs to the world, refusing the see or admit the obvious, I would remain outside of the Church always. There would be nothing for me, or anyone else, there. And that's exactly how it is today.

I'm just glad there are some people who aren't afraid to point out confusion and error where they see it, and then fight it. After all, you can't fight the problems if you refuse to see them, much less acknowledge them.

Still, I am going to go the the theology course today, and possible hear the priest deny Christ several times, and that it's OK to not really believe in some dogmas of the faith, and I'm going to go to a Mass where people drop in whenever they want, where the tabernacle is some kind of modernist painting, I'm going to listen to people tell me that masturbation isn't wrong, and then I'm going to go home, pray, and then go on my computer, see the Pope praying with hoodoo whatevers that sacrifice humans, and hear people tell me that I shouldn't point out the obvious and that my faith is weak, and then I am going to be told not to tell those people that they're cowards, and the only people who seemingly stand for everything the Church stands for is not in full communion with it, whatever that means, so I can't really go there, and then I'm going to go to sleep, and then another day begins.

I'm not bitter. I'm just tired. And I'm not even in the Church yet.

BONIFACE said...

Anonymous-

Your words emphasize exactly what is wrong with the Church - God give you grace for the burden you have, and God give us all grace to, in our own lives, to be the kind of Catholics we need to be. The restoration starts with us.

El Eremita said...

Boniface,

You say that "telling dying Hindus to pray to their gods is terrible", but that depends on the moral nature of the act in question. If they are actually praying to demons, then it would be doubtlessly terrible, but we don't have any theological certainty about that. St. Cyprian's authority alone doesn't suffice. And the Magisterium (the current Pope and the bishops in union with him) seems to think otherwise.

But, we also know, as you said in this post, that only the True Religion can bring a true communion with God. So, we could say that your first theory is the "sententia probabilior": their prayers have no real addressee, and are therefore fruitless unless God freely chooses to hear them (which, as you agreed, is not impossible for Him). This is important, because if I know or at least suppose that the person in question is invincibly ignorant of the True Faith, and that what he/she is praying for is objectively good (world peace, having a peaceful death), I can have some hope for him/her to be heard by the true God.

As I said before, to my knowledge, this theory has not been condemned by the Magisterium, and therefore it's licit to act based on it. Besides, unless it can be demonstrated that pagan gods are actually demons or that God won't hear pagan prayers under any circumstances, it's theologically valid.

BONIFACE said...

El Eremita-

We "don't have any theological certainty" that they are praying to demons?

1 Cor. 10:20: "But the things which the heathens sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God. And I would not that you should be made partakers with devils."

Psalm 96:5: "For all the gods of the Gentiles are demons: but the Lord made the heavens."

Deut. 32:16-17: "They provoked him by strange gods, and stirred him up to anger, with their abominations. They sacrificed to devils and not to God: to gods whom they knew not: that were newly come up, whom their fathers worshipped not."

Rev. 9:20: "And the rest of the men, who were not slain by these plagues, did not do penance from the works of their hands, that they should not adore devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and wood, which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk."

Remember, there are only "two masters." If you are not serving God, you are serving Satan. Granted, God's grace can reach those who are in the Kingdom of darkness, but we ought not change an act that men do in ignorance (worshipping pagan gods) into something that is positively virtuous. God overlooked these things in days past, but with the coming of His Son, there is no excuse, as He tells us through Paul in Acts 17:30-31:

"And God indeed having winked at the times of this ignorance, now declareth unto men, that all should every where do penance. Because he hath appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in equity, by the man whom he hath appointed; giving faith to all, by raising him up from the dead."

Thus, the doctrine is clearly taught in Scripture that (a) what the pagans sacrifice and offer they actually do to demons, not to God, and that (b), though God overlooked this ignorance in times past, there is now no longer an excuse, as with the coming of His Son, He calls all men to do penance and turn from their idolatry. Therefore, it is uncalled for to summon pagans together and, rather than telling them to repent and accept the true God, allow them to offer prayers to false gods (demons) right in the vicinity of consecrated churches. It is for this very reason that the prophets tell us God destroyed Solomon's Temple.

So, do you take St. Paul's admonition in 1 Cor. 10:20 to be less than authoritative? Does that not constitute "theological certainty"?

El Eremita said...

Boniface,

Again, the Scriptures provide theological evidence, but the important thing to us as non-theologians is what the Church has taught about the matter. And as I previously said, I am not aware of any magisterial pronouncement teaching that prayers of pagans are actually addressed to demons or condemning contrary opinions.

I don't know if you have a degree in theology, but if you do (specially if it is from a pontifical university) and if you actually think that what Benedict XVI did at Assisi was encouraging prayer to demons, then I think that you should write to the CDF and let them know your opinion. If you don't have the degree, you could at least write to them asking for clarifications.

BONIFACE said...

I do indeed think he was encouraging prayer to demons, simply by the fact that he encouraged them to pray, but did not tell them to pray to Christ.

By the way, I have written to the CDF. No surprise, they did not respond.

Alcuin said...

Hopefully if we ask a Hindu (for instance) to pray for world peace, we are praying that God will answer them.

Sometimes I despair that any of my words or actions will bring anyone in the Church. This is especially true if a person is hardened against the true religion. But, perhaps if the Hindu would open up their hearts to the closest thing they know to God, He will do what I cannot.