Ctime438 17th September 2000
CREDO FOR THE EDITOR, CATHOLIC TIMES, FROM FR FRANCIS MARSDEN
Any respect I still retained for the BBC evaporated over the weekend of the World Youth Day in Rome. They gave young Euan Blair headline status for disturbing guests at a Tuscan hotel. In a brazen act of news-filtering, they ignored the gathering of two million youngsters from 160 countries in Rome with the Pope. Can one deduce they are no longer interested in the real world out there – only in personal soap stories?
Anonymous, unelected censors with all the hallmarks of the intolerant secular liberal take it upon themselves to suppress encouraging religious news. The BBC and the commercial TV channels apparently report religious news only when it is scandalous or controversial, or when they can drag up a sour angle on a joyful event.
In contrast, CNN, the American, German and Italian channels were full of the Papal Youthfest. God forbid that such happy and inspiring scenes from Rome should impinge upon the sad, cynical, secular population of Britain. They might suggest that Christianity is the creed for the future, not an odd relic of the past.
With such an anti-Christian mass-media one begins to feel slightly trapped, a slight taste of what Christians in the USSR must have felt. Positive Christian news is not allowed to seep in from the outside world. Only the failures, the perversions, the oddities of Christianity are reported. The tabloids lust after shock-horror headlines uniting sex and religion in an unholy embrace of the “Bonking vicar ditches wife for Thai teenager” variety.
Lest any Catholic personality be left unsullied, the BBC trawls through old newsreels to dig up paedophile dirt on Archbishop Cormac, and uses its World Radio services to pump out feminism, pro-contraception and pro-abortion propaganda to the old Empire and the new Europe.
Perhaps as in communist Poland, the British Christian press will emerge as one of the few places where objective rational discussion of serious moral and religious issues remains possible, not swept away by the flood of sentimentalism, fashion and political correctness.
We made a serious mistake in imagining that the Catholic Church would ever get fair treatment from the British mainline media. We should have been setting up our own radio stations and campaigning for Christian TV. Time to tune in to Mother Angelica and EWTN!
Turning to the new document from Rome, Dominus Iesus, the Press hyped up a story about Catholics being forbidden to call Anglicans and other Protestants “sister churches.” Oddly enough, that phrase does not even appear in the document – perhaps it is in some confidential Bishops’ memo. The document is a solidly written critique of relativism.
Modernist currents have long suggested that Christ is only one messenger from God among many, or that Christianity is one pathway to Deity amidst a pantheon of religions. Dominus Iesus rejects such religious indifferentism and pluralism.
These approaches are often posited in the most broadminded language: How can we really claim that Christianity is the perfection of divine revelation, when we have not explored all other religious avenues? How can we believe that Divine Truth was communicated in its fullness in the medium of a culturally conditioned first-century Jewish sect? How can western man rule out the more symbolic and mystical religions of the East as equally valid carriers of the Divine Reality? How can we assert that Christianity, which may be relatively true for us, is also true for members of other religions, who surely find God in their own faiths? Perhaps there are many pathways because it is not possible to know religious truth in its perfect form?
In his presentation, Cardinal Ratzinger noted: "In the lively contemporary debate on the relation between Christianity and other religions, the path is open to consider that all religions are equally valid roads to salvation for their followers. This is a widespread conviction today not only in theological environments, but also in ever greater sectors of Catholic and non-Catholic public opinion, especially those most influenced by the cultural orientation that prevails in the West today, which can be defined, without the fear of contradiction, by one word: relativism."
However, if everything is relative, if all religions are comparable, the logical consequence is: "Refusal to identify the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth with the very reality of God, the living God." Relativism leads to the abolition of the Christian concept of Christ and his Church. Furthermore, a false idea of tolerance leads "to marginalizing those who are determined to defend the Christian identity and to spread the universal and salvific truth of Jesus Christ."
"This false idea of tolerance is linked to the loss and renouncing of truth, which today is regarded by many as a second class, irrelevant question," the Cardinal lamented. This tolerance, which accepts everything, and is not concerned with truth, is disguised by the malformation of concepts such as democracy, dialogue, or meeting of cultures. This is the weak spot of contemporary culture: as there is no seeking for truth: "Faith is no longer distinguished from superstition, and experience from illusion."
"Without a serious search for truth, appreciation for other religions becomes something absurd and contradictory, as there is no criterion to find out what is positive in a religion, as opposed to what is negative or the fruit of superstition or deception." If everything is relative, not only Christianity but all religions are no more than useless theoretical musings.
While the Catholic Church respects whatever is good and true in other religions, it does not attribute to them “a divine origin, or an ex opere operato efficacy, which is proper to the Christian sacraments. . . Other rituals, insofar as they depend on superstitions or other errors, constitute an obstacle to salvation.” (DI 21)
Catholics must firmly believe that “the Church .. is necessary for salvation: the one Christ . . . explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism, and thereby affirmed . .the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door.” God wills to save all mankind, and the Church is His instrument for doing so.
For those outside the Church, “Salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church . . . enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is a result of His sacrifice, and is communicated by the Holy Spirit.” (DI 20)
One has to hold together two truths: God’s will to save all, and the unique role of Christ and his Church in that plan.
Christian theological faith is distinct from religious belief in other religions. Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by Him. It involves adherence to God, and to the truth which He reveals. This infused grace “makes it possible to penetrate the mystery in a way that allows us to understand it coherently.” (DI 7)
In contrast, in the other religions, belief is “that sum of experience and thought that constitutes the human treasury of wisdom and religious aspiration, which man in his search for truth has conceived and acted upon in his relationship to God and the Absolute.” Belief in other religions is a human achievement, not a divine gift.
We must not speak of the “sacred books” of Hinduism etc as “inspired texts”. This description is reserved to the Old and New Testaments, which “teach firmly, faithfully and without error, the truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.” Non-Christian writings may “reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men”, but they are not “inspired texts” in the Biblical sense.
Vatican II’s teaching on the Church is re-iterated: “The Catholic faithful are required to profess that there is an historical continuity – rooted in the apostolic succession – between the Church founded by Christ and the Catholic Church.” This single Church of Christ, “the pillar and mainstay of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15), “subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him.”
In the separated denominations “many elements of sanctification and truth can be found.” These derive their efficacy from the Catholic Church. The Orthodox churches retain the valid Episcopate and full Eucharist, whereas the bodies derived from the reformation do not. Vatican II described these Protestant groups as “ecclesial communities”, not Churches, because they lack some of the essentials of Church – the episcopacy and priesthood, apostolic succession, and the valid Eucharist (the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Real Presence).
Archbishop Carey responded “Of course, the Church of England, and the world-wide Anglican Communion, does not for one moment accept that its orders of ministry and Eucharist are deficient in any way. It believes itself to be a part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of Christ, in whose name it serves and bears witness, here and round the world.”
This poses difficulties. The historical documents
show that the Tudors, in founding the C/E, intended it to be something quite
different from the Church which had existed in Britain for the preceding 1400
years. If the Anglican communion wishes once more to be “part of the one, holy,
Catholic and apostolic Church of Christ”, it should jettison its modern
deviations, and seek re-union with Rome as urgently as possible. We pray it may