THis is evidence that the URI is NOT in line with Catholic teachings about ecumenism.

"United Religions" is not required by Christian commitment to unity

By Lee Penn

Summary:

This story shows that, despite the claims of United Religions Initiative (URI) supporters within and outside the Catholic Church, the teachings of Vatican II, recent Popes, and other Vatican authorities do NOT support Catholic participation in the URI.

Conditions of use:

This story is an extract from a book-length manuscript by me titled "False Dawn, Real Darkness: the Millennial Delusions of the United Religions and the New Age Movement." You may re-distribute this story by hard copy or electronically, and you may abridge or quote from this story - IF you give credit to Lee Penn as the author, and IF you include - in the body or as a footnote - the following statement:

"A shorter version of this information appeared in "The United Religions Initiative - A Bridge Back to Gnosticism", published in December 1998 by the New Oxford Review. You may order the complete story from the Review, or subscribe to the Review, by calling (510) 526-5374, or by writing to the New Oxford Review, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley, CA 94706."

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URI Board member Fr. Gerard O'Rourke, director of ecumenical affairs for the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, links the URI to the Pope's ecumenical efforts: "John Paul II is constantly calling us as people of the world to come together at the completion of this millennium. There is a new movement of the Holy Spirit for us to begin to talk to each other." (881) Hence, Fr. O'Rourke believes that "If you are a Catholic, you know that you are now mandated to be a part of united religions. That's not the United Religions Initiative; Paul Andrews [a URI staff member] would love if the Pope would say that in so many words, but he's saying it in other words." (882)

Bishop Swing's disingenuous quote from a Vatican II document

Bishop Swing himself quotes part of the Vatican II document Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate) to support the URI:

"The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men." (883)

This reference to the teachings of Vatican II was disingenuous. Bishop Swing did not quote the next sentence from Nostra Aetate:

"Yet she [the Church] proclaims and is in duty bound to proclaim without fail, Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn. 1:6). In him, in whom God reconciled all things to himself (2 Cor. 5:18-19), men find the fulness of their religious life." (884)

Inconveniently for Bishop Swing, this sentence from Nostra Aetate states that the Church must proclaim Christ, "without fail."

Vatican II: against false ecumenism

The other documents of Vatican II also argue against participation in the URI by Catholics (or by other Christians). Vatican II did not change our duty to evangelize and to follow Christ as Lord and Savior. The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) rejects the notion that all religions are equal as a means of salvation; (885) it states that "Each disciple of Christ has the obligation of spreading the faith to the best of his ability." (886) The Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio) - which deals with unity among Christians, not unity among all religions - says, "Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false irenicism which harms the purity of Catholic doctrine and obscures its genuine and certain meaning." (887) The Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae) says that the Church's support for religious freedom "leaves intact the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of individuals and societies towards the true religion and the one Church of Christ." (888)

Recent Popes' teachings against false ecumenism

Recent Popes reaffirm the teachings of Vatican II, restating Church opposition to religious syncretism or to compromise of the Faith. Pope Paul VI wrote in his first encyclical Ecclesiam Suam that "honesty compels us to declare openly what we believe, namely that there is one true religion, the Christian religion, and that we hope that all who seek God and adore him, will come to acknowledge this." (889) In 1990, John Paul II wrote to the bishops of Asia, reaffirming the duty of the Church to evangelize:

"Although the Church gladly acknowledges whatever is true and holy in the religious traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam as a reflection of that Truth which enlightens all people, this does not lessen her duty and resolve to proclaim without fail Jesus Christ who is 'the way, the truth and the life' (Jn. 14:6) ... The fact that the followers of other religions can receive God's grace and be saved by Christ apart from the ordinary means which he has established does not thereby cancel the call to faith and to baptism which God wills for all people. It is a contradiction of the Gospel and of the Church's very nature to assert, as some do, that the Church is only one way of salvation among many, and that her mission towards the followers of other religions should be nothing more than to help them to be better followers of those religions."(890) [The ellipsis is in the original text.]

In the apostolic letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, John Paul II prays "that unity among all Christians of the various confessions will increase until they reach full communion." (891) This is not the same as calling for unity among all religions. He also asks Christians to repent for their contribution to present-day evils:

"On the threshold of the new millennium Christians need to place themselves humbly before the Lord and examine themselves on the responsibility which they too have for the evils of our day. The present age, in fact, together with much light, also presents not a few shadows. How can we remain silent, for example, about the religious indifference which causes many people today to live as if God did not exist, or to be content with a vague religiosity, incapable of coming to grips with the question of truth and the requirement of consistency? To this must also be added the widespread loss of the transcendent sense of human life, and confusion in the ethical sphere, even about the fundamental values of respect for life and the family. The sons and daughters of the Church too need to examine themselves in this regard. To what extent have they been shaped by the climate of secularism and ethical relativism? ... Faith, already put to the test by the challenges of our times, is sometimes disoriented by erroneous theological views, the spread of which is abetted by the crisis of obedience vis--vis the Church's Magisterium. ... And with respect to the Church of our time, how can we not lament the lack of discernment, which at times became even acquiescence, shown by many Christians concerning the violation of fundamental human rights by totalitarian regimes?" (892)

URI documents and the statements of URI leaders promote the evils denounced by the Pope: " a vague religiosity, incapable of coming to grips with the question of truth and the requirement of consistency," "loss of the transcendent sense of human life," "confusion in the ethical sphere, even about the fundamental values of respect for life and the family," "ethical relativism," "erroneous theological views," and "acquiescence shown by many Christians concerning the violation of fundamental human rights by totalitarian regimes" (for example, URI acceptance of the state Church in Communist China). In the same encyclical, John Paul II says that in Church-sponsored dialog with "the leaders of the great world religions," "care will always have to be taken not to cause harmful misunderstandings, avoiding the risk of syncretism and of a facile and deceptive irenicism." (893)

In Ut Unum Sint, an encyclical dealing with unity among Christians, John Paul II says, "The unity willed by God can be attained only by the adherence of all to the content of revealed faith in its entirety. In matters of faith, compromise is in contradiction with God who is Truth. In the Body of Christ, 'the way, and the truth, and the life' (Jn. 14:6), who could consider legitimate a reconciliation brought about at the expense of the truth?" (894)

In August 1999, the Pope restated his warning against millennial religious syncretism and reiterated that Christ is the only Savior. In a letter to the annual meeting of the "Communion and Liberation" movement, John Paul II said:

" 'At the end of this millennium, men of different cultures do not succeed in hiding their concern in face of the approaching new century. A symptom of this unease is reflected in religious syncretism, arising in different parts of the world,' the papal message states. 'These promise harmony and peace stemming from man's new desire to save himself, to reconcile himself with offended nature, with evil itself and with other men. In fact, this promise demonstrates man's inability to do away with anxiety stemming from a life in which everything is weighed in favor of 'doing', concerned with a thousand things, but which in the end forgets the ultimate goal,' the Pope wrote. The letter, signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, explains that 'with the objective of self-improvement through techniques and technology, man has put aside the great questions of all times, the great desires for justice, beauty, and truth. Thus, an artificial and fragile harmony has been created, which becomes a crisis the minute dark phenomena like war, great social injustices, personal misfortunes, and natural calamities occur.' 'Why not acknowledge what man most needs?' the papal message asks. Man cannot redeem himself; Redemption comes from Christ. 'In looking toward him, one understands that the origin of everything is love. This is the mystery that creates and rules the entire cosmos.' 'Only by choosing this road can insecurity be vanquished, which is at the root of so much violence among men. Only in this way will every desire of man to discover the mysterious aspects of events, which could otherwise generate anxiety, be open instead to wonder,' the pontifical text concludes." (895)

The teachings of Vatican II and the recent Popes do not support the principles or practices of the URI. No Christian - of any denomination - ought to support the URI or view it as a legitimate means of attaining religious harmony, peace, or environmental preservation.

Vatican, 1999: reaffirming Rome's opposition to the United Religions Initiative

In June of 1999, the Vatican made this assessment explicit. In a letter to Homiletic & Pastoral Review, a magazine for priests, Fr. Chidi Denis Isizoh, of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (the Vatican body responsible for interfaith work) said:

"Religious syncretism is a theological error. That is why the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue does not approve of the United Religions Initiative and does not work with it. Indeed, when Bishop Swing came to the Vatican City in 1996 to solicit support from the Council, Cardinal Arinze clearly expressed his reservations about the proposal. As the United Religions Initiative develops, the reasons for not collaborating with it become more evident." (896)

Yes, indeed, "As the United Religions Initiative develops, the reasons for not collaborating with it become more evident."

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Footnotes

NOTE: Internet document citations are based on research done between September 1997 and August 1999. Web citations are accurate as of the time the Web page was printed, but some documents may have been moved to a different Web site since then, or they may have been removed entirely from the Web.

881 Interview by Lee Penn of Fr. Gerard O'Rourke, May 4, 1998 882 Transcribed by Lee Penn from URI-provided tape of the January 19, 1997 URI forum at Grace Cathedral 883 Bishop William Swing, The Coming United Religions, United Religions Initiative and CoNexus Press, 1998, ISBN 0-9637897-5-9; p. 17. Bishop Swing's translation of the sentence is as follows: "The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions, (and) has high regard for their conduct and way of life [sic] for those precepts and doctrines which, although differing on many points from that (which) the Church believes and propounds, often reflect a ray of that truth that enlightens all men." In the main text, I have instead used the standard Catholic translation of the sentence which Swing quoted. This translation is in Austin Flannery, O.P., General Editor, Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents, 1992 rev. ed., Costello Publishing Company, Northpoint, New York, ISBN 0-918344-15-8; Vatican II, Nostra Aetate, 28 October 1965, section 2, p. 739. 884 Austin Flannery, O.P., General Editor, Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents, 1992 rev. ed., Costello Publishing Company, Northpoint, New York, ISBN 0-918344-15-8; Vatican II, Nostra Aetate, 28 October 1965, section 2, p. 739 885 Austin Flannery, O.P., General Editor, Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents, 1992 rev. ed., Costello Publishing Company, Northpoint, New York, ISBN 0-918344-15-8; Vatican II; Lumen Gentium, 21 November 1964, sections 14-16, pp. 365-368 886 Austin Flannery, O.P., General Editor, Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents, 1992 rev. ed., Costello Publishing Company, Northpoint, New York, ISBN 0-918344-15-8; Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 21 November 1964, section 17, p. 369 887 Austin Flannery, O.P., General Editor, Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents, 1992 rev. ed., Costello Publishing Company, Northpoint, New York, ISBN 0-918344-15-8; Vatican II, Unitatis Redintegratio, 21 November 1964, section 11, p. 462 888 Austin Flannery, O.P., General Editor, Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents, 1992 rev. ed., Costello Publishing Company, Northpoint, New York, ISBN 0-918344-15-8; Vatican II, Dignitatis Humanae, 7 December 1965, section 1, pp. 799-800 889 Pope Paul VI, Ecclesiam Suam, as excerpted in Jacques Dupuis, ed. The Christian Faith in the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church, 6th ed., Alba House, 1996, ISBN 0-8189-0758-4; pp. 398-399 890 Pope John Paul II, Letter to the Bishops of Asia, January 23, 1990, section 4; as excerpted on p. 415 of Jacques Dupuis, ed. The Christian Faith in the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church, 6th ed., Alba House, 1996, ISBN 0-8189-0758-4 891 Pope John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente: Apostolic Letter to the Bishops, Clergy, and Lay Faithful On Preparation for the Jubilee of the Year 2000, Vatican translation, Pauline Books and Media, 1994, ISBN 0-8198-7381-0, section 16, p. 23 892 Pope John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente: Apostolic Letter to the Bishops, Clergy, and Lay Faithful On Preparation for the Jubilee of the Year 2000, Vatican translation, Pauline Books and Media, 1994, ISBN 0-8198-7381-0, section 36, pp. 41-42 893 Pope John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente: Apostolic Letter to the Bishops, Clergy, and Lay Faithful On Preparation for the Jubilee of the Year 2000, Vatican translation, Pauline Books and Media, 1994, ISBN 0-8198-7381-0, section 53, p. 56 894 Pope John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint: Encyclical Letter On Commitment to Ecumenism, Vatican translation, Pauline Books and Media; ISBN 0-8198-8029-9, section 18, p. 30 895 Zenit News Service, "Pope Sends Letter to Annual Communion and Liberation Meeting," Internet document, http://www.zenit.org/english/archive/9908/ZE990822.html, pp. 2-3 896 Fr. Chidi Denis Isizoh, letter to the editor, Homiletic & Pastoral Review, Vol. XCIX, June 1999, p. 60

 

 

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