Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Too Many Christian Muslim Dialogues? Is this "Just Tauran being Tauran"?

A Reuters article earlier in the year quoted "one Vatican official" as saying "“That’s just Tauran being Tauran.”

Well, it appears that we have more "Tauran being Tauran" today, as the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue made this comment:
"In my opinion, there are too many Christian-Muslim initiatives. Everybody's doing it," he told Reuters in an interview. "One doesn't know where this will go. That proves there is a great interest, but it sows a bit of confusion.

"There's a risk of overlapping... It may be the price to pay for all this interest that interreligious dialogue incites."
Is he really suggesting that there should be LESS dialogue between Christians and Muslims? Surely not!

Perhaps the thing we need to clarify is the important difference between "too MANY" dialogues, and "too MUCH" dialogue. While there can never be "too much" dialogue - certainly not between private citizens - it is possible that if there are a lot of "semi-official" dialogues taking place at the same time, it can be unclear who is talking for who and the many "common statements" can get lost in the forest.

But here we need to understand something of the difference between structures in the Catholic Church and structures in the wider Christian and Muslim world. In general, Catholics have conducted their ecumenical dialogues through official channels. For instance, there is an official international Anglican Catholic dialogue (ARCIC) run by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and a national one (AUS-ARC) run by the Australian Catholic Bishop's Conference. We have a local dialogue too - but even that is run between the official bodies of the Catholic Archdiocese (us) and the local Anglican Diocese.

But the Christian world as such is much more multi-form than the Catholic Church alone. No one, not even the World Council of Churches, can speak for "all Christians". And when we move over into the Muslim world, the multiplicity of groups and authorities just increases ten fold. So, when dialogue takes place between Christians and Muslims in the world (something I am sure Cardinal Tauran does not want to see decrease), it is natural that the resulting "web of communication" is more of a cobweb than a neatly spun orb with a clear centre and lines of communication and hierarchy.

Nevertheless, it is certainly a sign for hope that there is now, at the highest level of the Catholic Church, an official dialogue opening up with Muslims. This has been enabled by the unprecedented unity of Muslim voices represented in the "A Common Word" statement. It is quite clear that in his comments, Cardinal Tauran does not want to close down this most promising development. More likely it is his hope that this "premiere" Christian-Muslim dialogue might in fact lead to some ordering of the great multiplicity of dialogues happenning elsewhere in the world - including here in the Glorious See of Melbourne, Australia.

10 Comments:

At Tuesday, November 11, 2008 11:31:00 pm , Blogger Louise said...

Is he really suggesting that there should be LESS dialogue between Christians and Muslims? Surely not!

I'd be more interested in "dialoguing" with them if they would stop lopping people's heads off.

 
At Wednesday, November 12, 2008 7:15:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

Ah, but as far as I know, Louise, neither the Vatican nor our Commission has ever dialogued with any one who has chopped anyone's head off.

 
At Wednesday, November 12, 2008 3:33:00 pm , Blogger Louise said...

I think you know what I mean. Not to put too fine a point on it, their religion sucks. Which is not to say that all Muslims are bad people.

 
At Wednesday, November 12, 2008 4:35:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Fr Christian Troll, who was one of the participants in the dialogue, noted that it was possible to translate the Golden Rule (common to both our faiths) along the lines of "Try to understand your neighbour's faith as you would like your own to be understood."

It is a good rule of dialogue, Louise.

 
At Wednesday, November 12, 2008 6:17:00 pm , Blogger Louise said...

That's quite reasonable and generally what I do in most cases. I also think it's a bit hard to do in that with all religions (even ours which has a magisterium) people have differing views of things in general and their religion.

So, as for Muslims, I have no doubt that there are many who are peaceable enough and would even make good neighbours, but the problem is that there are a very large number of them who are complete maniacs. Not only that, but I'm sure you will allow that most Islamic states do not reciprocate things like religious freedom. This poses a big problem for dialogue or anything even remotely civilised. I am, sadly, unconvinced at this time that any such thing can really come about. Maybe my faith is not as great as yours.

At any rate, if I were faced with a Muslim these days (I haven't had any contact with them since uni days) I would now ask them straight out, "what do you think of the terrorist activities conducted by your co-religionists in the name of your god?" I would proceed from there accordingly, but until such a person can admit that such things are wicked, I don't see how we could have a meaningful dialogue.

 
At Wednesday, November 12, 2008 6:18:00 pm , Blogger Louise said...

Christian Troll is one really cool name!

 
At Wednesday, November 12, 2008 11:06:00 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the Golden Rule (common to both our faiths) along the lines of "Try to understand your neighbour's faith as you would like your own to be understood.""


With all due respect this is an invitation to indifferentism. Muslims shouls understand our Faith as the truth, and we as Catholics are required to view Islam as an impediment for souls whose birth right is to be taught the salvific nature of Christ's passion. Treating Islam with respect as to its doctrines and traditions, as implied by your golden rule, undermines apostolic zeal and implicitly contradicts Christ's admmontion to make disciples of every nation.

Catholic countries do not have to abide with Islamic proselytism, but Islamic countries, according to the teachings of Catholicism, cannot rightly restrict the missionary activities of Holy Mother Church. This distinction seems to have been lost in the post-Vatican II lurch towards indifferentism.

Sincerely,

Marcel W

 
At Wednesday, November 12, 2008 11:44:00 pm , Blogger Louise said...

With all due respect this is an invitation to indifferentism. Muslims shouls understand our Faith as the truth, and we as Catholics are required to view Islam as an impediment for souls whose birth right is to be taught the salvific nature of Christ's passion.

Very true, but one can better evangelise womeone when you know where they're coming from and to that end it helps to know what their religion teaches. David would be the last person on earth to succumb to indifferentism!

Treating Islam with respect as to its doctrines and traditions, as implied by your golden rule, undermines apostolic zeal and implicitly contradicts Christ's admmontion to make disciples of every nation.

I don't think trying to understand Islam is necessarily going to undermine apostolic zeal, although it could. Both Chesterton and Belloc had a pretty good grasp of Islam, yet no-one would call them anything less than zealous in their apostolate.

Catholic countries do not have to abide with Islamic proselytism, but Islamic countries, according to the teachings of Catholicism, cannot rightly restrict the missionary activities of Holy Mother Church. This distinction seems to have been lost in the post-Vatican II lurch towards indifferentism.

I think this is a pretty good observation. Bring on the Catholic Confessional State!

 
At Thursday, November 13, 2008 1:24:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Oh deary me, you guys.

Louise, please don't use your suggested opening line re terrorism when you next (hopefully soon) meet a muslim neighbour.

It would be like someone starting a conversation with you, when they find out that you are Catholic, about pedophile priests.

Yes, I know you would handle it very well, but you are not the usual kinda gal.

You are much more likely to get somewhere in the dialogue if you show that you are not intent on starting a local vigilante group for possible terrorists but are intent upon understanding and caring for your neighbour.

Re evangelisation and dialogue, again... where to begin?

It should be plain that you can't speak the gospel to someone unless you understand their language. It might take a little longer to learn their culture and religion, but it is no less important to accurate communication.

Not every point of doctrine in every religion is false, either, and the evangelist should take the time to find out which beliefs among those held by his target group are false and which are true. Because the true ideas can be used as starting points for the proclamation of the gospel.

Eg. Islam believes in One God who is the creator of all, who is both just and merciful. That's a starting point for evangelisation. We don't want to condemn that.

 
At Thursday, November 13, 2008 6:46:00 pm , Blogger Louise said...

I've said it before David, you have the patience of a Saint.

Certainly I understand your point and I'm considering it. However, I am concerned about the reality wherever we find Muslims in large numbers. It bothers me that they have the kind of influence they do in the UK and other parts of Europe. Id on't think such a thing would be good for our society.

I don't see why it's so hard to acknowledge that there are serious problems with the practicalities of Muslims in Western nations and generally around the world.

My question need not be the opening salvo, but I can't see how it could be avoided in the long run.

 

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