Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Future of Interreligious Dialogue

A few thoughts in response to the 11/24/08 New York Times article, “Pope Questions Interreligious Dialogue,”  discussing Pope Benedict’s letter to Marcello Pera about his forthcoming book, “Why We Must Call Ourselves Christian,” including Pope Benedict’s comments that  “interreligious dialogue in the strict sense of the word is not possible,” and then later, comparing interreligious dialogue with intercultural dialogue, “a true dialogue is not possible without putting one’s faith in parenthesis.” 


I have the full text in italian from the Corriere della Sera, but will wait to see how the official translations of the full texts spin out rather than venture into the tricky waters of parsing this.  In the meantime, three thoughts that might tie into our Catholic social thought project.


First, it seems that however this is parsed, it will have to be reconciled with Pope Benedict’s very official and very public statements over the last few years, and especially when he was here in the US in April: in effect, at least as I read them, that interreligious dialogue is an important expression of the Church’s life, and is here to stay.  For good summary of those statements, take a look at Francis Clooney’s 4/25/08 entry on the America Magazine blog.  Perhaps the question becomes whether while he was here whether he was talking about interreligious dialogue in the “strict sense” of the word, or something else; and if not, for me the question becomes whether interreligious dialogue in the “strict sense” is all that interesting or helpful, especially for our project here in the US.  Maybe not.


Second, a somewhat technical question about authority.  What is the authoritative weight of a letter from the Pope to an individual commenting on that individual’s book, and published in an Italian newspaper?  And how would that weight compare to public statements that were probably vetted and re-vetted by more than one Vatican entity?  Considering the future of interreligious dialogue, my instinct would be to give much more weight to the more public and more official, but I’d welcome other’s insights on this question.


Finally, a silver lining: following up on my previous work to reconcile evangelization and dialogue, this latest controversy is the perfect introduction for my current writing project, which is actually a term paper to conclude my last course in the Theology Masters program here at Fordham (“Mary in the Christian Tradition” with Brian Daley, a wonderful Jesuit visiting here from Notre Dame).  The working title is “Mary, Model of Dialogue.” 


I’m right in the midst of parsing a text from Chiara Lubich on how Mary at the foot of the cross, precisely in her capacity to let go of her Son, and of her identity as his mother (“Woman, behold your son”), becomes the Mother of all humanity.  How might this model of faith—which includes the capacity to let go—inform the question of “putting one’s faith in parenthesis”?  Similarly, might the cry of Jesus himself on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” be itself a “parenthesis” which paradoxically generates identity in the most profound sense—redemption and resurrection? 


A little taste from one of Lubich’s texts (published originally in Italian, Saper Perdere [Knowing How to Lose], and this specific text is also included in Lubich, Heaven on Earth: Mediatations and Reflections):

“Mary Desolate! One can have lost everything, one can not be attached to anything, but there can still remain something that we believe we can possess, that we must show and take pleasure in: the gifts of God!  If the Desolate sacrificed God for God, we have to know how to lose the gifts of God for God.  Therefore, we should not stop to consider them, or fill our soul with spiritual pride as we admire them, but empty ourselves to as to be filled with the Spirit of God.  If one has gifts, these are talents to be placed in the sun of charity that must always envelope everything.  But it is best then to forget, to let go, in order to be only love in front of souls and the works of the Church.  Love thinks of the beloved, not itself.”


Uelmen, Amy | Permalink

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