Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Heretic or Separated Brother

One of the real developments in Christian thinking that has happened is with regards to other faiths. In the past Christian statements about other faith focused on what they had wrong. We pointed out the errors so the faithful would not embrace false teaching unknowingly. Vatican II put forward a new way of doing it. It said to start by affirming what they have right. Almost everyone has discerned some truth about God. So it is charitable to let them know that. I watched some videos by Fr Barron here.  I was struck by how he focused on the positives of pantheism, deism, and even atheism. But that is what we are called to do as Catholics. Point out the truth in the other person's teaching.

The reason this was not typically done before Vatican II was because people were afraid to leave the impression that heresy was OK. That everyone has some truth so it does not matter which belief system you follow. It turns out their fears were justified. Since Vatican II people have come to think this more and more. We created a culture where we anathematized all these errors and when we stopped doing it people got the impression that the errors had suddenly grow less serious or less offensive. That is not the case. So what is going wrong?

First of all, we affirm what can be affirmed as a first step.Ecumenical dialogue is not supposed to stop there. Too often it does. We just keep affirming each other and never get to a serious discussion of our differences. At the very least the affirming is done publicly and the discussion of differences is done behind closed doors. So even when the process continues to the next step the great majority of people still only see the affirming.

The second thing that goes wrong us that this process is extended to people within the church. That is when Catholics dissent from important doctrines many feel the need to avoid talking about those. Even when the individual has a position of teaching or authority in the church it is seen as bad form to simply call them heretics. But in that case the term is more appropriate. If they are professing to be in communion with the Catholic church and are contradicting that by rejecting some articles of the faith then strong words and strong action needs to be taken.

What we are seeing is a digestion of Vatican II. We have seen an embrace of the more positive attitude. But really an over zealous embrace of it. We got into a mode where we were so affirming of every belief out there we didn't know what the truth was anymore. But that is coming back. The hope is to end up in a better place than we started. To recover our confidence in the Catholic faith but to retain the ability to interact more positively with other faiths.

We are past the time when people are only exposed to Catholic sources of teaching. With mass media and global communications we can expect to meet people from all major faiths. Just knowing the dangers of false teachings is not enough. We need to be able learn from their experience of God while we show the beauty of the catholic faith. That is way harder than just affirming everyone in sight. It requires we know our faith well enough to see it even when described in strange terms. Then to describe the fullness of the truth in their language in an inviting way.

No comments:

Post a Comment