Monday, November 28, 2011

Is Traditionalism Redundant?

Today, the First Sunday of Advent, 2011, was truly a turning point for the Roman Rite. After forty-one years of lame-duck ICEL translations, we have finally gotten an English translation that (I believe) does justice to the Latin text. One can still say that the Latin text of the NO is inferior to the Latin of the TLM, which I agree; but you must also agree that we are way better off with the 3rd edition than the 2nd.

As we cross this new threshold, perhaps we ought to step back and look at what it means to be a Trad now, in the second decade of the new millennium during the pontificate of Benedict XVI. With the legalization of the Extraordinary Form, with a pontiff who has encouraged liturgical excellence, removed (some) of the leading liberal offenders from positions of influence within the Vatican, and with Tradition everywhere on the march and the forces of dissent and disorder everywhere in retreat, does it still make sense to be a Trad? To what degree do our grievances now converge with those of mainstream conservative Catholics? In other words, is Traditionalism becoming redundant?

Pro Multis?

For example, in the past, the translation of "pro multis" as "for all" was cause for serious alarm among traditionalists. Some, such as Rama P. Coomaraswamy in his book Problems With the New Mass, speculated that the translation "for all" actually invalidated the sacrament and that faithful Catholics were bound to refrain from attending masses that used this translation. But has not that difficulty dissolved over night with the new translation? We now have an English prayer that corresponds with the Latin and more faithfully teaches Catholic doctrine. The USCCB commentary on this is actually (surprisingly) helpful. It states:

"However, the more noticeable revision in those same lines is the replacement of “for all” with “for many.”  At the most basic level, “for many” is a faithful translation of the original Latin phrase, “pro multis.”  Turning to Scripture, Isaiah 53:12 prophesied that the Messiah would take away “the sins of many,” and Christ Himself at the Last Supper also said His Blood would be shed for “many” (Mt 26:28, Mk 14:24).

This does not mean that Christ did not die for the sake of all humanity, for that, too, is indisputable from Scripture.  We need only recall 2 Corinthians 5:15 – “He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”  Rather, “for many” upholds the reality that each individual must also accept and abide in the grace won by Christ in order to attain eternal life.  The recovery of this wording affirms that salvation is not completely automatic.

Nonetheless, it should not be interpreted as overly restrictive, either.  The fact that Jesus was addressing only the Apostles in the Upper Room while saying, “for you and for many,” implies far-reaching inclusion – that many more besides the Twelve would benefit from this new covenant."

For many years, this is what Trads were banging their heads against the wall about - that the rendering of "pro multis" as "for all" implied universalism. Now we not only have the offending translation gone for good, but the orthodox teaching on "pro multis" explained - and from the USCCB, nonetheless! These are strange times.

The Status of the Extraordinary Form

Another example, of course, is the Extraordinary Form. For decades this was the bedrock of what it meant to be a Traditionalist - that you were among a group of Catholics who, for whatever reason, were "attached" to the old rite and preferred to worship according to the 1962 Missal. Much Trad antagonism developed during the 80's and 90's as Trads fought tooth and nail for the right to have the Mass said in the old form. 

Since September, 2007, that Mass has been completely legalized and is available (in theory) to anybody who asks for it. No more can Trads accuse the pope or the Church or denying them this treasure; in fact, Benedict has gone out of his way to promote it. We can still list individual prelates who are trying to stop up the EF Mass in their dioceses, but with the power of the Supreme Pontiff behind it, things are moving in a very positive way for the Traditional Latin Mass. Does it still make sense to talk about the ecclesiastical "man" oppressing Trads when the pope has gone out of the way to accommodate us, even revoking the hated SSPX excommunications as a gesture of reconciliation?

Perhaps the movement known as "Traditionalism" will be simply absorbed into mainstream orthodox Catholicism? Perhaps "Trads", as we have come to know ourselves, will find less and less general problems to worry about and the label will be increasingly restricted to those who have a particular affiliation with the cause of the SSPX. Are we witnessing the end of Traditionalism?

Still a Long Way to Go

Even if some "legal" or rubrical matters have been set in place, there is still an enormous amount of work to be done that I think ensures that Traditionalist movement is not going anywhere. For one thing, the Extraordinary Form, though "legal", is not widely practiced. Only a few bishops have celebrated it publicly since Summorum Pontificum, and while the EF has gotten more attention since 2007, the vast majority of Catholics still either have not attended one or have no access to one. There has been some change, of course; my parish is a prime example. But basically, we have simply moved from a de jure restriction on the EF to a de facto restriction, which s unfortunately more difficult to overcome since it depends not on changing laws and norms but on changing hearts and minds. Changing rules is never enough on its own, though it is a good start. And, when the majority of conservative Catholics simply assert the goodness of the  remaining rules just because the rules exist (communion in the hand, altar girls, etc), we see there is still much to be done.

Furthermore, we still have the problem of faithless implementation - despite the pope's preference for communion on the tongue, communion in the hand is still the norm. Despite his preference and teaching on celebration of Mass ad dominum, versus populum is practiced in 99% of parishes in America. Despite all the directives of the previous two popes, EMHC are still in existence way beyond their necessity, Mass is still ad libbed in most parishes, and our Lord is abused in the Blessed Sacrament. This has always been a problem, and Trads as well as mainstream conservative Catholics have bemoaned it. As long as this state of affairs continues, Traditionalism will remain as a vibrant antidote.

Not to mention the problems at Vatican. Even though Benedict XVI has made some admirable, wonderful strides towards restoring tradition, he is still caught up in the reformist, post-conciliar mindset, as is most of the Vatican. The Magisterium still thinks it is a good idea to invite pagans to Assisi to pray to their false gods. Our prelates still shrink timidly before the rebukes of Jews and Muslims. Our Vatican committees still have faith in the secularist vision of a one world authority in matter political and fiscal. Darwinian evolution is still accepted as dogma in many otherwise orthodox circles, and even popular priests noted for their eloquent and orthodox exposition of the Faith are denying the historical existence of a literal Adam and Eve. This stuff is not going on among dissenters, but among those who classify themselves as faithful, orthodox Catholics, which is very troubling. And it is promoted and encouraged from the Vatican. There is a deep-seated mindset, a way of approaching the Faith, that needs to change at the highest levels before Traditionalism as a movement will fade.

Finally, I would mention that mainstream, conservative Catholicism still seems (in my opinion) to be too caught up in political conservatism; i.e., the Republican Right. While I think generally the Republican Right is a better fit for a Catholic than the Liberal Left, I heartily dispute that it is the best possible fit. We have always seen the greatest interest in Distributism and authentic Catholic teaching on social justice coming from Trad circles; this is beginning to broaden, but I think mainstream conservative Catholicism is still too enmeshed in the same mire as the Protestant Right in this country for Trads to merge with it.

So, while 2011 is a heck of a lot better than 2001 or 1991, we still have a really long way to go. The changes that have come down since Benedict took the papal throne have been extraordinary; more than I ever thought I'd see in my life. If anything, they have showed up that there is light at the end of the tunnel - that no matter how long we wander in the wilderness, there is a promised land to come into. But we are not there yet.

Benedict has done a lot of great stuff, but there is still a lot that he has left undone; in the words of the Scriptures, with reference to King Asa, "he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as his father David had done...nevertheless, he did not remove the high places" (1 Kings 15:11, 14). I think we could make a similar statement with regards to the current state of the Church - that Benedict XVI has done what was right in the sight of the Lord, freeing up the Extraordinary Form, making some needed administrative changes, encouraging ad orientem and communion in the tongue and the rails, but nevertheless, he has not turned from the deeds of his episcopal forefathers, nor has he removed the "high places" (interreligious dialogue sham meetings?).

As long as this remains the case, I think Traditionalism is here to stay.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

JustFaith's Marxist Tendencies

One of the most highly viewed pages on this whole blog is my February, 2011 expose of the dissenting agenda of the parish renewal program known as JustFaith, which was ironically something I reposted from another publication, the lay run watchdog Los Pequenos Pepper from the Diocese of Albequerque. I had the satisfaction recently of hearing from one priest how this article was instrumental in keeping JustFaith out of a parish where it was about to be instituted: deo gratias.

The folks at the Pepper have done a follow up to the original article delving into the Marxist, dissenting and New Age elements of JustFaith and are promising more to come in the future. Reprinted from Los Pequenos Pepper:

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), an annual collection that has consistently drawn criticism for the more than 40 years of its existence, has two components. The first component is grant-giving, which supports progressive political activism. [1] The second component is education, that is, it concerns the development and dissemination of programs that form – or deform – the conscience. [2] The most recent and most widely used of these programs is JustFaith [3], a 30-week “intensive opportunity to explore the Biblical tradition, the historic witness of the Church, Catholic social teaching, and the relationship between spirituality and justice.” [4] There are two versions of the program: one is a specifically Catholic version of the basic program that supposedly “explores the rich Catholic Social Teaching tradition of the Catholic Church.”[5]. Another version is designed to be used in ecumenical contexts or with Protestant congregations.

From the Catholic perspective, there are numerous red flags swirling about the program. One is that its founder and executive director, Jack Jezreel, has spoken in various progressive venues, such as the dissident-Catholic organization, Call to Action (CTA) and one of its affiliate members, Pax Christi [6]. Another is that JustFaith is not only a “partner” organization with CCHD (and Catholic Relief Services) but with both the CTA-related Pax Christi and Bread for the World, whose founding president was CTA’s ultra-liberal Bishop Thomas Gumbleton. Bread for the World does not feed hungry people. It lobbies American legislators and awards monetary grants to organizations such as CIDHAL, [7] a Mexican liberation theology women’s rights group that advocates for “reproductive rights.”

The JustFaith Board of Directors is another red flag. Catholic dissenters Gary Becker, a deacon and homilist in a “Catholic” feminist break-away congregation, and his wife Mary left the JustFaith Board last year after their presence on it became a public embarrassment to the organization but they have been replaced by new board members who are equally questionable. There’s Mary Kay Kantz who signed the pro-abortion Emily’s List petition to “Stop the War on Women,” [8] which includes any effort to reduce a woman’s access to abortion. [9] Or, there’s Jean McCarthy, the Episcopalian "priestess" who supports same-sex marriage. Or, Marie Dennis, who has been Co-President of Pax Christi International since 2007. There are others one might mention but the list becomes tedious. The point is that, from a Catholic perspective, these form a peculiar fellowship – namely one with an outlook that is distinctly not Catholic.

Another red flag is that the JustFaith newsletter has contained links to pro-abortion resources.

Yet another red flag is the JustFaith reading list. While the titles may change somewhat from year to year, in response to complaints, the listing has included dissenting writers who distort Scripture and Catholic teaching to “reveal” class antagonisms and a “need” to restructure society along Marxist lines.

These are disturbing signs. However, as has been pointed out by several people of good will, none of them prove that the program itself is corrupt – that is, that JustFaith is indoctrinating Catholic participants in anti-Catholic theology.

Fair enough. To do justice to JustFaith one must examine the materials it uses to form Catholics in social justice understanding. The syllabus overview of the basic program for 2011-12 is available at the JustFaith website, as well as co-facilitator notes and participant handouts. [10] Examining the materials being used this year in the JustFaith basic program isn’t quite the same thing as attending its 30 weekly sessions, which are undoubtedly colored by the inclinations of individual facilitators, but they do present a fairly good idea of what JustFaith intends a Catholic to carry away from the experience.

Opening the Program

The preliminary materials are largely organizational. They guide interested parties through the planning stages of advertising the program, setting its schedule, and obtaining the necessary commitment JustFaith requires. A “Recruiting and Planning Toolkit” includes sample fliers, bulletin inserts, a commitment statement, testimonies from satisfied JustFaith “graduates,” and discernment materials. One can understand why an overworked pastor would find the program attractive: “this program is designed to be facilitated and coordinated by program participants and does not require the time of the pastor or staff.” [11]

It is also stressed that the program does not require people with theological training or vast social ministry experience. “Co-facilitators are not asked to be the teachers; the books, videos, group discussions and occasional guest speakers are the educational tools.” [12]

This is an important point because it means that whatever perspective the JustFaith materials provide, coupled with whatever perspective participants bring to the table, is largely what participants will understand to be“Catholic Social Teaching.”

"Immersion Experiences"

In addition to weekly sessions during which syllabus materials are studied, there are four, mandatory “immersion experiences” – held about every two months –incorporated into the schedule. These events are designed to bring participants into a “personal encounter with people who have suffered the effects of poverty.” [13]

Participants are given some latitude concerning the kinds of immersion experiences they choose, so this component of the program could be extremely meaningful. However, given the inexperienced nature of co-facilitators and the many suggestions for assistance in arranging these experiences that the program offers, it’s likely they will be filtered through the JustFaith lens.

Furthermore, the third immersion experience is a “Journey to Justice Day” [14] a “specific” kind of immersion experience prepared by the CCHD. Journey to Justice is generally organized as a weekend parish retreat but is condensed to one day for incorporation into the JustFaith program. A forthcoming article will examine Journey to Justice materials separately but it is appropriate at this juncture to consider something of the program’s background.

Author Jeffry Korgen, [15] with long ties to the Alinskyian organizing network Interfaith Worker Justice, [16] refers to JustFaith and Journey to Justice as “Jesus conversion tools” and describes how the Journey to Justice experience brings new leaders into social justice ministry. [17] After warning that “we too often see [other people] as stereotypes, symbols, or statistics,” Korgen indulges in his own stereotype: “When middle – and upper-income Catholics encounter the poor and vulnerable in the context of learning about scripture and church [sic] teaching, the result can be transformative.” [18]

Irony aside, if the “transformative result” were to help disassociated Catholics see the poor as real people and, for the first time, inspire them to be responsive to their needs, Journey to Justice would have accomplished a holy end. However, this is not the “transformative result” sought. The “transformative result” Journey to Justice seeks is acceptance that the poor should be “organized for change, altering existing power relationships to give low-income people a place at the table of public life. They come to the door not to ask for a handout, but to work in partnership with middle and upper-income Catholics from the middle pew to build the kingdom of God…These are the empowered poor! If you can envision this scene, you already have a good idea of how the Journey to Justice retreat works.”[19]

And, as Jack Jezreel has written the foreword to Korgen’s book, we have a good idea of the transformative results JustFaith seeks, too. Developing this idea, then, JustFaith suggests that the fourth and final immersion “consist of a legislation advocacy experience.”[20]

Opening Retreat

There are also two, mandatory weekend-long retreats, held at the beginning and close of the 30-week program. The first “lays the foundation for community building and trust that is required in this formation process” and the second “ties together the conversion experience,” ascertaining that participants set concrete goals for future action. [21]

To that end, the opening retreat isn’t focused on social issues but “on the work of becoming church for each other.” [22] Much of what transpires is familiar, using language, for example, that contains invocations to the Holy Spirit or Jesus, which would make a Catholic comfortable. There are also ice-breakers, self-focused exercises, and readings – some from the scriptures and some from contemporary writers, such as four-page handout on the “Stages of Human Growth and Spiritual Development” adapted from the work of Ken Wilber, Chris Cowan, Don Beck, and Clare Graves, proponents of spiral dynamics, a theory of evolving core values, including spiritual values.

The JustFaith adaptation presents this material as eight “faith journey” stages. As the stages begin with the first typified by infancy (and late-stage Alzheimer’s victims) and the last is typified by Gandhi’s ideas of pluralistic harmony, it’s obvious that the authors have arranged the stages in a hierarchy, with the first stage being the most immature.

Participants aren’t told that this is not a Christian theory of human development but are simply instructed to find which stage “most closely reflects where you are on your spiritual journey.” Someone who believes he must be obedient to a rightful authority, which is exemplified, we are told, by religious fundamentalism, is at Stage D (the fourth stage), quite low down in the hierarchy of development. Stage F (the sixth stage) includes people who read “the Bible in solidarity with the poor” or are active in human rights campaigns. They are people who are comfortable with "complexity and chaos", and the implication is that they are more spiritually developed. [23]

These subtle toxins are massaged into the soul via exercises such as the “The Sacred Art of Listening,” taken from the title of a book by Kay Lindahl. [24] “Sacred listening,” participants are instructed, makes “no judgments,” has “no assumptions,” but “is in communion with the speaker,” and so forth. 

The stage is now set for the formation of a fellowship that seeks a “spiritual development” that has nothing to do with Catholic understanding of the human person. That’s a big problem for a Catholic program.

More on this in the future...

For my previous article on JustFaith, see here.


[1] Detailed accounts of recent grants can be read at and at
[2] For former (C)CHD educational programs and an in depth discussion of their liberationist perspective, see Catholic Media Coalition, USCCB, Dossier on Liberationism in the USCCB: or Stephanie Block, “Mopping Up the CCHD,” Spero
News, 4-14-10:
[3] CCHD has been a “key partner” of JustFaith since 2000. “The collaboration has allowed CCHD to contribute to the development of JustFaith programs and has improved CCHD’s communication with the Catholic community.”
[4] Press Release:
[5] JustFaith, “Getting Started: Overview,” 2010-2011, p. 2.
[6]These include: the 1996 Call to Action national conference; the 1997 Call to Action national conference,
“Spirituality of Commitment Making Promises, Friends and Justice”; the August 11-13, 2000 fourth West Coast Call to Action Conference, at San Jose State University, “Transformed People, Transformed Parish, Transformed World;” and the 2007 keynote at CTA-affiliated Pax Christi National Conference.
[7] See for example, Suzie Siegel, “Mexican women work for progress,” The Tampa Tribune, 3-8-96.
[8] See
[9] “Stop the War on Women – What’s at Stake:”
[10] JustFaith website:
John T. Williams, Faith
[11] “Getting Started: Overview…” p. 3.
[12] “Getting Started: Overview…” p. 14.
[13] “Getting Started: Overview…” p. 16.
[14] JustFaith, “Immersion Experiences – Catholic Version,” 2011-12, p12
[15] Korgen in currently Executive Director for the Diocese of Metuchen’s Department of Diocesan Planning.
[16] Korgen has, among other things, served on the IWJ Board.
[17] Jeffry Odell Korgen (foreword by Jack Jezreel), "My Lord and My God: Engaging Catholics in Social Justice Ministry", Paulist Press, 2007, p. 55.
[18] My Lord and My God…p. 56.
[19] My Lord and My God…p. 57.
[20] “Immersion Experiences …,” p13.
[21] “Getting Started: Overview…” p. 16.
[22] JustFaith, Catholic version, “Opening Retreat 2011-12,” p. 7.
[23] JustFaith, Catholic version, “Opening Retreat 2011-12,” Friday Night session, pp 11-14.
[24] Kay Lindahl is a Global Council Trustee for the United Religions Initiative, chair-elect for the North American Interfaith Network and president of the Alliance for Spiritual Community. She is also an ordained interfaith minister, founder of The Listening Center, and the author of several books.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Obscure Anglo-Saxon Saints: Cuthbert of Lindisfarne

St. Cuthbert's Chapel on the Inner Farne

It seems somewhat unjust to group St. Cuthbert amongst the sancti obscuri of the Anglo-Saxon period since he was renowned all over the kingdom during his life; Cuthbert has actually been called one of the most popular of all English medieval saints. Unfortunately, like many other Anglo-Saxon saints, Cuthbert's notoriety slowly faded after the Norman invasion and his cultus died out after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, though it could be argued that his renown never truly faded in the immediate vicinity of Northumbria, where he was that region's official patron.

St. Cuthbert life (634-687) is recorded in Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Book II, Chapters 27-32. Bede tells us that Cuthbert began his monastic vocation under the direction of St. Eata of Hexham, who instructed him in the Scriptures, and also of St. Boisil, Abbot of Melrose, where he began his monastic training.

During his time at Melrose Cuthbert led a very active life, traveling into the wild Northumbrian countryside to preach in the remote villages, St. Bede telling us that he preferred those that were especially inaccessible and squalid. Wherever he went crowds gathered to hear his preaching, and Bede, though he doesn't strictly say so, infers that Cuthbert may have been graced with the gift of reading hearts, as he states that none of who came to him for confession could hide even the smallest sin but willingly came forward and poured out everything. Bede tells us that he would be gone for weeks at a time, sometimes more than a month, on these journeys. We could thus draw a parallel between these expeditions and those of the "traveling priests" in the frontier days of our own country.

Cuthbert eventually removed himself to the remote Farne Islands (676), which lie nine miles of the coast of Northumbria. There he built for himself a small hut, chapel and subsistence farm where (after one year of a failed harvest) he grew barley in the second year. He surrounded his hermitage with a massive wall of earth so that he could see nothing but the sky above and there lived in blissful solitude for many years.

In 684 there was a regional Synod at Twyford which was called for the purpose of seeing to the administration of the Church in Northumbria, which had grown to such a degree that the diocese had been split in 678. The bishopric of Hexham had fallen vacant (as St. Eata was at that time Bishop of Lindisfarne). The king and the local church unanimously chose Cuthbert, though when they traveled out to the Farne to inform him of his election, he refused to leave is hermitage. It was only King Egfrith and a very large group of clerics came to the Farne and all knelt before him, imploring him in God's name to take up the bishopric, that he consented. However, Cuthbert was not familiar with the diocese of Hexham and instead arranged to take over Lindisfarne, which he had known since youth, and Eata transferred to Hexham.

Cuthbert served as a model bishop for only two years. In 686 he took ill and returned to his hermitage on the Farne, where he died the same day as his beloved friend Abbot Herefred (20 March, 687). He implored his followers to bury him on his island retreat, but shortly before death consented to burial in Lindisfarne Abbey. His tomb was the site of many miracles, some of which were recorded by St. Bede and are especially noteworthy since, unlike the tales of many of medieval miracles, Bede conducted thorough research into them by personally interviewing those who were the objects of Cuthbert's wonder-working, many of whom were still alive at the time Bede wrote his history.

When his body was disinterred in 698 and moved to an above-ground tomb, his body was found to be perfectly incorrupt. St. Cuthbert was perhaps the most beloved saint of northern England prior to St. Thomas a' Becket.

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).