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A ‘supermarket of religions,’ God’s will, and the wisdom of a tweaked declaration

AC Wimmer   By AC Wimmer for CNA

Pope Francis speaking at the Seventh Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Nur-Sultan (Astana), Kazakhstan, Sept. 13–15, 2022. / Vatican Media

A sensitive passage in the final declaration of the congress that brought Pope Francis to Kazakhstan Sept. 13–15 appears to have been changed after it found the approval of attendants.

Initially, point 10 of the declaration said: “We note that pluralism and differences in religion, skin color, gender, race, and language are expressions of the wisdom of God’s will in creation. Thus any incident of coercion to a particular religion and religious doctrine is unacceptable.”

A changed wording — apparently made after the approval of the declaration by its participants and the subsequent publication — instead said the following:

“We note that pluralism in terms of differences in skin color, gender, race, language and culture are expressions of the wisdom of God in creation. Religious diversity is permitted by God and, therefore, any coercion to a particular religion and religious doctrine is unacceptable.”

This new wording was published by the congress website and local media on Sept. 15, apparently hours after the previous version, which was streamed by Vatican News and EWTN — and can still be found online.

The congress declaration almost verbatim drew on the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, signed by Pope Francis and a prominent sheik in Abu Dhabi in February 2019, which states: “The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings,” as per the version published by the Vatican.

Speaking to EWTN on Sept. 14 in Kazakhstan, Bishop Athanasius Schneider said the congress attended by Pope Francis risked giving the impression of a “supermarket of religions.”

While praising the congress for promoting “understanding, harmony, and peace,” Schneider warned, reported the National Catholic Register, “there is also a danger that we the Catholic Church should not appear simply as one of the many religions.”

“We’re not one of the many religions, we’re the only one true religion which God commanded to all people to believe,” Schneider told EWTN’s Alexey Gotovskiy. “There is no other way to salvation.”

Schneider is auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Astana, Kazakhstan, and actively took part in the papal visit. He has previously raised concerns about the wording of the Abu Dhabi document that God wills a “pluralism of religions.”

In what appears to be an answer to these concerns, Pope Francis said in a general audience in April 2019: “Why does God allow many religions? God wanted to allow this: Scolastica theologians used to refer to God’s voluntas permissiva. He wanted to allow this reality: there are many religions. Some are born from culture, but they always look to heaven; they look to God.”

“But what God wants is fraternity among us and in a special way, this was the reason for the trip, with our brothers, Abraham’s children like us, the Muslims. We must not fear differences. God allowed this. We should be afraid were we to fail to work fraternally to walk together in life,” the pope added.

The Second Vatican Council, “[b]asing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition,” teaches “that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation.”

At the same time, “Lumen Gentium,” the dogmatic constitution on the Church, states that “the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind.”

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  1. Pluralism: from “cafeteria (c)atholics” now to the “supermarket of religions!”

    On the dialogue among religions (and between these natural religions and the Faith?), it might help to simply better understand the orientation of Islam as a natural religion—however much clothed with ideas borrowed and refashioned from the Pentateuch and the Bible… From the hadiths (the actions and sayings of Mohammad) it is said that:

    “There is not a child that he or she is born upon this fitrah, this original state of the knowledge of God [natural law?]. And his parents make him a Jew, a Christian, or a Zoroastrian . . . and if they are Muslims, Muslim.” (This fitrah is variously defined as the “natural disposition, constitution, temperament, e.g., what is in a man at his creation, a sound nature, natural religion, (and) “the germ of Islam”.)

    Clarification requires precision (a Scholastic approach, but also reasoning!). Might the conversation get off first base if we supposed that Islam sees itself more as what in the Western and Christian articulation is known as the inborn Natural Law? In Islam, distorted of course by early and intermingled Arabian trappings such as polygamy, the warrior code (jihad), exclusionary tribalism (dar al-Islam/dar al-Harb), and by the muting of the last six and prohibitive Commandments. (Converging today, it seems, with the post-Christian and leveling (im)morality of the German “synodal path.”)

    The sticking point in two-way interreligious dialogue, then, is the default position within Islam, ever since the mid-9th century, whereby the “dictated” Qur’an allows no margin even for a gifted (and therefore responsible!) freedom of human autonomy, as not really opposed at all to the autonomy of God, not really blasphemy.

    Again, it’s the irreducible event of the Incarnation, crowning our expressive natural religions with the self-disclosure (!) of God, whereby the additional mystery man is also revealed to himself: “The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light . . .Christ the Lord…by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear” (Gaudium et Spes, n. 22).

    Clarification and differentiation rather than the leveling dilution and mutual assimilation of the Abu Dhabi Declaration. To what degree do the words (e.g., “fraternity”) even mean the same thing to sincere Christians and to sincere Muslims?

    • Should we add indigenous idolatry to the supermarket mix? Perusing ancient essays one stood out, Fr Stravinskas’ 7.12.2018 Stravinskas makes the connection between Amazonia and the growing movement toward apostasy in Germany. He Identifies Cardinal Claudio Hummes OFM [we can’t blame it all on the Jesuits] and two other German prelates Bishops Erwin Kräutler, Fritz Lobinger, all deeply immersed in indigenous ritual, the idea of viri probati. “What do they have in common? The German connection! All three have German roots and, surprise, surprise, the major donor to the Church in Brazil [and all of Latin America] is the German episcopate. Follow the money” (Stravinskas).
      October 2019 Pachamama was worshipped on the Vatican lawn Pope Francis presiding. Soon followed by [at least] a form of enshrinement, Pachamama in canoe, carried, adored, chanting, prancing cardinals all into the sanctuary of St Peter’s Basilica. Dec 2019 under the guidance of Cardinal Marx the SynodalWay was launched.
      Synodalweg has come a long way like a bad dream continues to startle, leave us [some of us at least] aghast. It hasn’t been effectively addressed by His Holiness. The instrumentum laboris for the 2018 Amazonia synod is ideologically consistent with aims [at least in part] identified in the recent instrument published by the Synodalweg, and with the ideas bandied about by Cardinal Pierre Hollerich SJ Synod on Synodality relator. If ritual, and worship, mock or real of idols have consequences – what if they do if we take the Apostle Paul to heart? – then Pachamama idolatry must be given serious consideration, especially for it’s apparent volatility, as religious supermarket produce. Of the dark kind. Humor aside, I fear there is indeed an evil influence in all this. it’s all too sudden, too severe.

  2. The Pope should know he cant have it both ways. His knowledge ( or lack of it) regarding the Battle of Lepanto should be the most obvious example of that. Islam makes a point of having it’s perceived enemies be regarded as literally expendable. Hence the recent violent attack on author Salman Rushdie, long on the Islamic hit list for WRITING A BOOK. Women are routinely suppressed and denied basic rights such as a simple education and gays are routinely murdered, as are women who (often rape victims themselves) are murdered in honor killings. If the Pope wishes us to be seen as equals, or no better than such an ideology, he is far off the mark.

  3. Drawn from Christ’s last commandment, Go out to all the world and teach the Gospel to every person (Mk 16:15), Lumen Gentium 13 reaffirms, “All men are called to belong to the new people of God”.
    We can argue a point like Pope Francis emphasizing God’s permission [rather than the more definitive will] for religious plurality and peaceful coexistence, and likewise we may rightly argue, as does Bishop Athanasius Schneider for the exclusivity of Catholicism. It all depends on accent.
    Search the early Fathers and we find this, by Cyprian Bishop and Martyr, to soon to be martyr, Cornelius Pope and martyr [today’s feastday] in a letter to Cornelius, “Since you have one heart and one voice, it is the Roman Church as a whole that has borne witness”. Cyprian, Archbishop of Carthage, speaks to Cornelius in praise of one faith [heart] one witness [voice]. If we wish to analogize to today, we find this, as a measure of where the truth of the matter lies. His Holiness says in Desiderio desideravi [a recent papal statement made the day Nancy Pelosi was received by His Holiness, and received communion at a Vatican papal Mass], “To be admitted to the feast all that is required is the wedding garment of faith which comes from the hearing of his Word”.
    Studied in context we don’t find accent on our faith [not the slightest] in His Holiness’ statement. Schneider signed a petition, a form of admonishment of the Holy Father over his declarative statement on worthiness of holy communion simply requiring faith. Bishop Schneider is standing with the witness of the martyrs of our faith, today Cyprian and Cornelius who shared the same universal faith, similar in Carthage as in Rome. Rome perceived during the 3rd century as the chair of the universal Church. Rome, whose bishop should emulate Cornelius, not Martin Luther.

    • “Bätzing announced that he would nevertheless implement the rejected basic text on sexual morality in his diocese, he even expects other bishops to do the same. He will also bring the text to Rome and to the worldwide synodal process. Although he did not legally get a majority according to the statutes of the Synodal Way” (neuer Anfgang).
      Germany’s NewWay, the largely lay counter org to the Synodalweg announced the German Bishops who favor same sex ‘blessings’, normalization of homosexuality imposing their will on their diocesan constituents. Again, it appears that what occurs in the Synodalweg portends what will occur through the Synod on Synodality as led by relator Cardinal Hollerich.

  4. Humankind is privileged to be journeying together on God’s Holy Ground. Hindus, Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Jains, Agnostics, Atheists, practitioners of traditional religions – are all brothers and sisters ceaselessly thanking the Creator for the common gift of life. Filled with joy and stamina, they keep serving one another, and singing praises to the living God everywhere – in their synagogues, monasteries, temples, churches, mosques, gurdwaras, etc. Indeed these are unforgettable times of constructive interreligious happenings bringing about inter-cultural harmony.

    • We ask one another, is Jesus Christ our saviour? He is the saviour of the world, yet many will not come to Him for forgiveness and guidance.

      John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

      Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

      John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

      Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

      James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

      If His words mean nothing to a man, how can a man be a profitable servant? How can he proclaim what he does not know or believe? Those who have faith in our Lord have an obligation to proclaim the Good News. Let all believers be doers of the word and share Jesus Christ with those we encounter.

      God bless you.

    • Dear sir:

      Perhaps you can explain, for a start, how you have attained the knowledge that atheistic and agnostic people, who identify themselves by, respectively, their disbelief and then indifference to the belief in God, are despite their own expressed rejection or indifference, “ceaselessly thanking the Creator for the gift of life”?

      Serious communication makes it incumbent upon you to explain yourself, when you post such a seemingly incoherent assertion on behalf of others who protest the opposite.

    • And add of course to the people you misrepresent the Buddhist people, who like atheists profess there is no God.

      It is wrong and indefensible to assert a belief in God against the professed disbeliefs of atheists, agnostics and Buddhists.

  5. This statement, seems heretical, but is it instead the Divine Will in the end times? Any person of non-catholic religion could perceive in it the justification to never convert or have to convert! Being thus vindicated, also stuck, in their election incomplete. Is the door of the Divine Mercy a parable and now quickly closing…?

    Someone might ask why one’s religion is catholic and not another. He must know more than Huston Smith, and would be able to explain why others faiths (to him), though partially given some small or partial purchase on the truth, are also ultimately and finally incomplete, since Christ alone is the Door to the Only Father.

    Does our Pope, for whom we must pray every day, have a stationary vision of conversion, a pan-religiosity that should remain in some kind of tidy human equilibrium, rather than discover the continually unfolding ever ungraspable Kingdom of Divine Grace, which draws all souls to Itself even while no two paths to Him are ever the same?

  6. Remember when “Is the pope Catholic?” used to elicit affirmation? Not so much any more. Francis puts the denominations that have subtracted from Church teaching to form their own churches on par with the Church established by Jesus Christ when He said, “You are rock, and upon this rock I build My Church.” It’s as if Francis hasn’t ever heard the Gospel.

  7. At Creation there was no “willed religion” as is being asserted for such a thing. Adam was in a relation with God Who walked with him and no-one else, in a state of original innocence ordained for it. In His Providence, at the same time, God willed the Redemption of man in Jesus Christ, foreseeing from all eternity, the fall of man and Predestination.

    The Holy Father eschews correction and as a result he has ensnared himself. Whatever he set out to declare was not the faith and neither is the “amended document”.

    It is yet just another occasion and forum where he has not witnessed to the faith. His “accompanying” the vocalized declaration did nothing and his “listening” as the amendment that was then entered over his signature, only attests error.

    And once again he instead adopts the anthropomorphization “religion” and “history of man” ideas, belonging to a marketing ploy of powerful forces -all contrary to the faith. Whether or not it achieves some “authentic eclectic” only matters for whatever the sense is that will the group will deem as suitable and expedient.

    I surmise that this resisting correction is not new to Fr. Bergoglio. He merely displays now openly as Pope what his practised disposition was even before the alleged Eucharistic miracle in Buenos Aires. For him the miracle confirms for him what he has had to do and his way of making it the presentation. His circle has been affirming him along that way.

    • Important questions posed. Through good popes and otherwise the church is promised the gates of hell will not prevail. Certainly there will be attempts (as there have been in the past) yet, God is faithful and we can take comfort in His promises.

      2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

      1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

      Galatians 2:16 Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

      Romans 10:9 Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

      Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

      Prayers for Papa and appreciation for your work.

  8. The only reason we scrape and bow to Muslims is because we are concerned they will kill Christians. They have absolutely decimated us anyway. The pope trys to be woke and diplomatic but has the Church in a tailspin. He does no one any good.

  9. Why all the ecumenism misdirection?

    Jesus said, “On This Rock I Will Build My Church”? (Matthew 16).
    Jesus also said, “I am the truth, the way, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6) and “For unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).

    What more can be said?

  10. Clear as mud. The usual Jesuit-speak word salad. Everything is everything.
    This pope fears islam, loves Caesar and is embarrassed by many things Catholic. Bet on it.

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