Friday, May 30, 2008

Two New Vatican Documents

In the past week and a half two new documents have come out of the Vatican. The news today is the release of a new CDF document on women's ordination that was printed in L'Osservatore Romano just today. The General Decree is very brief and concise and reiterates the Church's disciplinary directives on the attempted ordination of women to the priesthood. Here is the Decree in its entirety:

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

General Decree

Regarding the offense of attempted holy ordination of a woman

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in order to safeguard the nature and validity of the sacrament of holy orders, and in virtue of the special faculty conferred upon the congregation by the supreme authority of the church (see canon 30, Code of Canon Law), in the Ordinary Session of December 19, 2007, has decreed:In keeping with the disposition of canon 1378 of the Code of Canon Law, both the person who attempts to confer holy orders upon a woman, and the woman who attempts to receive holy orders, incur the excommunication latae sententiae, reserved to the Apostolic See.

If the one who attempts to confer holy orders upon a woman or the woman who attempts to receive holy orders is subject to the Code of the Canons of the Eastern Churches, in keeping with canon 1443 of that code, that person will be punished with major excommunication, the remission of which is reserved to the Apostolic See (see canon 1423, Code of the Canons of the Eastern Churches).The present decree takes effect immediately from the moment of its publication in L’Osservatore Romano.

William Cardinal Levada, Prefect
Angelo Amato, s.d.b.
Titular Archbishop of Sila

As far as I'm concerned, this issue was settled forever with Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, where in one of the few clear and unambiguous declarations of his pontificate, John Paul II declared infallibly, "Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful." Nevertheless, this new decree is a good compliment to JPII's condemnation because it outlines the canonical penalties for such attempted ordinations and if very refreshing in its brevity.

Unfortunately, the second document to come out of the Vatican in the past two weeks was a bit more of a let down. On may 20th, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue issued a message to Buddhists honoring the Buddhist Feast of Vesak. Have you never heard of Vesak? Well, Vesak is the celebration of several events in the life of Buddha: first and foremost, his birthday, but also his "enlightenment" and death. In both Chinese and Japanese traditions, a statue of the baby Buddha is bathed with sweet tea by all those present, and there are street processions made up of elaborate floats that commemorate events from the Buddha’s life.

Why on earth would the Catholic Church want to wish Buddhists a happy Vesak? Isn't this like saying, "Hey, you're celebrating the "enlightenment" of your false-guru with anti-Christian philosophical mysticism. Good for you. You keep on doing that." What kind of a message is this? As is typical with most messages in interreligious dialogue these days, this document (which you can read here) never once mentions the name of Jesus Christ or insinuates that Buddhists ought to become Catholics. The crux of the brief document is "evironmental protection" and it goes on the talk about how Catholics and Buddhists need to work together on projects such as "recycling, energy conservation, the prevention of indiscriminate destruction of plant and animal life, and the protection of waterways."

A document issued from the hierarchy of Korea to the Korean Buddhists is also questionable. This document, signed by Archbishop Nicholas Cheong Archbishop of Seoul and Bishop Boniface Choi Ki-san of Incheon, praises Buddha and refers to both Buddhists and Christians as "believers:"

Buddha presented the world with a life of interior peace and liberation for all who suffer and are fatigued. Believers of all religions in Korea must faithfully practice their religion. If we believers respect and love one another the world will be a better place and we can offer to all hope and consolation. It is natural for us to live together in this land, to work for development and prosperity of the nation in mutual respect and understanding to lead people towards eternal values and in this way open the door for a bright future for the people of Korea.

Who does the document refer to when it says "if we believers respect and love one another"? It is obvious that it is referring to the "believers of all religions" mentioned above, whom the Archbishop encourages to "faithfully practice their religion." So Buddhists are encouraged to go on worshiping Buddha, animists to their totems and fetishes, and Muslims to their false god. No mention is made of Jesus or the one sheepfold (John 10), but Buddha is praised as a teacher who "presented the world with a life of interior peace and liberation."

Much has been said about this type of thing over the years by many Traditionalists and concerned Catholics the world over, but I will make but two observations here. First, in attempts to stave off any notion of evangelization (or "proselytism" as it is commonly called), such statements on interreligious dialogue inevitably wind up focusing on merely temporal, worldly affairs. A prime example is the Assisi prayer gatherings for "world peace." Like those gatherings, this document from the Vatican and the Korean statement focus on purely transitory and worldly goals: environmental protection and "development and prosperity" in Korea. While these goals are good, there is the danger that as they are continually brought up time and time again, and as the name of Jesus of the need for His grace is continually neglected, it comes to pass over the years that people believe the whole reason for interreligious dialogue is nothing other than the attainment of worldly goals, or worse, that people think that religion itself if about establishing world peace or environmental responsibility.

Second, interreligious dialogue, if we want to be anal about the Latin meaning, would be translated as dialogue among religions (inter = among, between). But nothing is more one-sided than Catholic interreligious dialogue. Where are the yearly documents from the Buddhists at Christmas, celebrating Jesus' birth and praising His teaching? Where are the statements from all the imams congratulating us at Easter time on the Resurrection of our Lord? Where are the statements of the rabbis and Jews of the world saying that the New Testament is truly an inspired book and that the New Covenant is a valid covenant? How about Hindu statements on the sublimity and majesty of the Holy Trinity? They simply don't exist. These other religions expect Christians to pander to them and give credence to every false god and superstition in their pantheons but stubbornly deny to give the same to Christ.

Not that Christ needs the same from them to be validated! For unlike these hyper-sensitive apostles of tolerance, we understand that Christ does not stand or fall depending on what the Jews or Hindus say about Him. Let them scorn Him! Let them revile! I'd rather they bend the knee, but I understand that Christ and Christianity are opposed to the world system and not part of it, which is a truth we need to reclaim. Unfortunately, modern interreligious dialogue in the Catholic Church seems to be more about convincing ourselves that we are not intolerant than about converting the nations or even about understanding their religions.

That is the true paradoxical failure of interreligious dialogue. Not only do we fail to win souls for Christ, but by glossing over differences and focusing on merely temporal goals, we fail to even understand the other religion that we profess to be wanting to learn about. Anybody who studied Islam objectively is capable of understanding its historical roots, its propensity to violence, and the vision of a world caliphate with all peoples subject to it. It is only when we become blinded by false unity in the name of tolerance that we are forced to set aside such obvious observations and create for ourselves not only a false Catholicism but a false Islam as well, one that is solely a "religion of peace." Thus, while giving our own patrimony and religious traditions away, we fail to understand those we are engaged with.What a tragedy.


Anonymous said...

"Believers of all religions in Korea must faithfully practice their religion."

Sorry, don't see a problem there.

Christ gave the same message to the Pharisees and Sad-U-Sees when He reminded them that if they only believed parts of the Scriptures, then they should at least fully believe that.

I have often used that approach with our Non-C brethren. We may not agree on OT books, but at least we agree on the NT. So, if we do, let's fully believe the NT together........... starting with John 6 (hehehe).

Let's see what comes from this action.


Boniface said...

Well, I wouldn't say Jesus exactly told them to keep on believing what they believed. He told Jews to respect the authority of ther Pharisees who, we must remember, were practicing God's true religion at that time, albeit in a perverted form.

But there is no where in Scripture where pagans worshipping false gods are told to go on worshipping their false gods. Quite the contrary, especially in the Book of Acts where the false gods are always portrayed as either demons or as hoaxes, and men are consistently called by Paul to repent and turn to Jesus, in whom alone one can be saved.

We may demand that Muslims, Hindus, etc. be consistent in expounding what they believe, but we can reaosnably demand that of any person we talk to, whether or not we agree. But demanding consistensy and saying that they should be faithful Muslims are not the same thing.

How about calling them to become Catholics? They may not heed the call, but the call at least need be made, and I don't see the Vatican making it.

Unknown said...

Boniface, you are so correct and on point. The insistence to maintain religious dialog with those who do not honor or respect the Roman Catholic faith is puzzling and, I believe, detrimental to our position as the one true faith. What is the purpose and where is the faith Tradition that supports this travesty?

Anonymous said...

All of this talk about believers and other religions, move over Boniface, I need to use the commode next. Even the Greeks and romans were believers. Not believers in the Truth, but believers none-the-less. Let's look at this believer issue. People believe in money, self satisfaction, self salvation, self self self. What do these other religions and beliefs really contain? Surely not the Truth. It's alright to believe in something, but when that something is not the Truth, then it's a lie. Pretty simple. What is being said here? What I see is a support for everything that isn't the Truth. Not much different than the "feel good" theology that we here in the Novus Ordo. Look at the art work in the N.O. Missal and compare it to the "Tridentine" Missal. Modern art versus reverent art. Clowns and stage plays during the liturgy versus devotion and true repentance. A meal versus a sacrifice. Protestant thinking versus Catholic thinking. And this is only within the Catholic(?) church. Other beliefs? Maybe we should all take time to read the Bible again, then go back and read Sts Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Augustin, and the others that brought our Faith through persecution and turmoil. Is all of this worth allowing those who died for our Faith to have died in vain? This is something I believe many, including many of our priests, bishops, cardinals, and the so called faithful (and I use the lower case on purpose) have forgotten. Respect for the individual is what we should have. Respect for a false Truth is intolerable. When those out there feel the pain and misery that our Lord feels when the church is being led astray, then maybe they will understand the self self self is a grave sin.