A “very ironic” defense of the Pope

Marco Oliveira, author of the popular Baha’i blog Povo de Baha, has posted some comments on Youtube regarding the recent flap at La Sapienza University. (I embed his comments here, but I may at some point change this to a link to Youtube if I need more disk space in the future.) Here is Mr. Oliveira:

I agree with the spirit of his comments. Freedom of expression is a good and should be protected, and what the small group of radical students and professors at La Sapienza sought to accomplish was censorship and, as Mr. Oliveira put it, “an attack against freedom of expression”.

He offered two observations on the episode. The second one is very well put: “Fanaticism and radicalism do not only exist within religions. They exist also amongst those who think that religion is the source of all evil.” Consider how strange this is: opponents of Church teaching seek to silence Christians and prevent us from practicing our religion, all in the name of tolerance. Strangest of all, they seem to be entirely unaware of their own hypocrisy.

The speech the Pope had planned to make is available here in English translation. (Here is the original Italian, and here is the Portuguese translation.) In this speech the Pope states that reason and revelation go together, that you cannot have one without the other.

By the way, that has always been the position of the Catholic Church, and theologians throughout our history have expressed the Christian truth by means of human philosophy, such as Platonism and Aristotelianism. Recent theologians have used recent philosophies. For example, John Paul II expounded his Theology of the Body (a theological explanation of Christian sexuality) through the philosophical language of Phenomenology.

Many Christian groups accuse the Catholic Church of having corrupted the purity of the Gospel with human philosophies. They have a very narrow understanding of truth. Catholics believe that truth can be found throughout the world and in all human societies. Naturally human philosophies contain some error along with the truth, but it does not corrupt the Gospel to express Christianity in terms of a given philosophy or cultural paradigm. The truth of Christ remains, and all Christian theologians, philosophers, pastors and laymen, whether they lived in Ancient Rome, medieval Ethiopia or modern Peru, are all part of the same Catholic tradition because they all express the same truth.

This brings me to where I disagree with Mr. Oliveira. He claims that Benedict XVI is a member of a “conservative faction” in the Church. He further states that it is ironic for the Pope to be portrayed as a victim of censorship since he and his faction enforce censorship on others, giving as examples Hans Kung and Leonardo Boff.

Here Mr. Oliveira is applying a double standard. Given that he is a Baha’i in good standing and loyal to the Baha’i Covenant, he must have some appreciation for such Baha’i practices as literature review, administrative sanction and declaration of covenant breaking. Literature review ensures that literature written by Baha’is conforms to the teachings of the Faith. Critics of the Faith (notably the ex-Baha’is mentioned in Dr. Momen’s recent article) frequently claim that this practice amounts to censorship. Yet what the Church did with Hans Kung was milder even than literature review.

In literature review, all Baha’is without exception must get approval for any book or article they publish on the Faith. I’m not saying this is a bad policy; I have no problem with it. I point it out only for the sake of comparison. In Catholicism, there is no such literature review. If you are licensed as a Church theologian, though, it is expected that what you say about Catholic beliefs conform to Church teaching.

Hans Kung had such a license, meaning the Church endorsed him as qualified to explain Catholic doctrine. When he insisted on publishing ideas contrary to Catholic doctrine, the Church (more specifically Cardinal Ratzinger) revoked his license. He was not excommunicated, and he is still a priest in good standing.

If Mr. Oliveira regards this as censorship, then does he regard literature review as censorship? Will he speak as disparagingly of the disenrollment of Sen McGlinn, a harsher punishment than Hans Kung received?

The same goes for Leonardo Boff. In fact, these two theologians have some basic ideas in common. They both question the legitimacy of the Church’s hierarchy. They both question the divinity of Christ. They both question the effectiveness of the sacraments. But without these things, there is no Catholicism.

Imagine a comparable theologian in the Baha’i community – he questions the legitimacy of the Universal House of Justice, he questions whether Baha’u’llah really was a Manifestation. If he’s like Boff, he might promote worship of Bahiyyih Khanum as a goddess, or he might promote an alternate meeting in place of the Nineteen Day Feast, where the poor Baha’is can talk about the value of armed revolution to overthrow their wealthy oppressors, including members of the Baha’i administration.

Baha’is would naturally be horrified to see a Baha’i theologian expounding such views. But when a Catholic theologian does it, he’s just contributing to Christian diversity and to sanction him is censorship. Can someone explain this to me?

This double standard becomes even more stark when we consider Hans Kung. Kung’s approach to his faith is very much like that of the Baha’i dissidents discussed in Dr. Momen’s recent article. Do Baha’is think that it’s okay for the Baha’i administration to sanction dissidents, but it’s not okay for the Catholic Church to do so?

In short, would Mr. Oliveira characterize the members of the Universal House of Justice and the International Teaching Centre as a “conservative faction” within the Baha’i community?

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22 Responses

  1. ABOUT TRADITION AND DIVERSITY

    Maybe it is important to define what do we mean by a “Catholic tradition”. Do we mean a set of teachings that exist on the Bible? Do we mean a set of teachings plus several dogmas? Do we add to that several teachings produced by Church Councils and theologians?

    The mention of “a Catholic tradition” suggests that the Catholic Church is a monolithic block. Would that be so? When I ask the Catholics if their religion is a monolithic block, I get “yes” and “no”; such an answer means by itself that there is diversity within the Church.

    And in fact it would enough to compare Catholic Church in Portugal and in Spain to notice diversity. Although they share a common belief in Christ and they respect the same hierarchy in Rome, these Churches are different; the Portuguese are more tolerant and the Spanish more aggressive; we see that in what concerns relations with Government and with other religious communities. In Portugal, the Marian cult (Our Lady of Fatima) is imposing itself as a sort of popular religion, which has little to do with the Bible.

    In Spain, the Church has aggressive attitudes even towards the Catholics; for instance, 498 martyrs of the civil war were beatified last October. These were people killed during the civil war because of their connection to the Church. However, many Spanish question why the 16 basque priests executed by Franco troops were not beatified.

    And these are just differences between two neighbouring countries! The Catholics I kwon who have visited Catholic communities in countries like Brazil, Mozambique or India are always talking about even greater differences.

    Besides these national differences there are also Organizations within the Church that have their own culture and way to live their beliefs. The Jesuits have a very specific culture; and the Vatican doesn’t always understand them. When Pedro Arrupe was Superior General (and social justice and the preferential option for the poor emerged as dominant themes of the work of the Jesuits) he was said to have been ignored and humiliated by John Paul II. Now that Adolfo Nicolas (the new Superior General) has stated that the Society of Jesus must serve the “human nations of poor and excluded” Catholics have growing expectations towards him.

    So it obvious there is diversity within the Church. Not only a diversity of cultures, but also a diversity of ways to live a Catholic life, to serve society and to express their beliefs. One hardly could call these a single Catholic tradition. Ignoring such diversity is to close eyes to reality.

  2. ABOUT KUNG AND BOFF

    Hans Kung rejected the dogma of papal infallibility (a creation of the Council of Vatican I, 1870). Of the many Catholics I know – and my family, most my friends, and most population of my country – very few believe such dogma. It was because of such rejection that his license to teach was revoked. Still today Kung criticizes papal authority. And questioning papal infallibility has nothing to do with questioning the divinity of Christ!

    As for Leonardo Boff: until the 1980’s most Latin America countries were living under dictatorships; and there were huge differences between rich and poor. The Church was divided on what to do under such situation; would they cooperate with regimes (closing their eye to the suffering of the people) or helping the most poor and needed people in those countries. A similar situation (but with a lesser scale) happened in Portugal until the 1974 Revolution.

    Boff realized how enormous the distance between the Clergy and the social problems of Brazil was. According to him, the Church was very distant from the needs of the people in themes like women discrimination, divorce, abortion, and birth control. To provide what he considered a proper answer to such needs he developed the concept of ecclesial base communities. He never questioned the legitimacy of the Church; only it’s capacity to answer the needs of modern world.

    Both Kung and Boff have questioned several issues within the Church; but none of them has ever questioned the divinity of Christ. Unfortunately, it is a common to see religious institutions pretending to be has divine as the Prophets founders of their religion.

  3. THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE AND THE PAPACY

    It makes no sense to compare the legitimacy of Universal House of Justice with the legitimacy of the Pope. The House was instituted by Bahá’u’llah; the description of its functions are in the Baha’i Writings and the Writings of the Guardian. The Papacy is a human construction. Even if one claims it has divine guidance, it is a fact that it is not mentioned in the Bible. Furthermore, the Baha’i Administration aims to serve as model for a new world order; and the Catholic administrative structure was created having the Roman Empire administration as a model.

    Therefore questioning the infallibility of the Universal House of Justice is very different from questioning the infallibility of the Pope. The first is on the Baha’i Writings; it is not possible to be a member of the Baha’i Community and not accepting such teaching (unless a person wants to go against the Founders of the Faith!). The later is a dogma created during the Council of Vatican I Council (1870); it is not part of the Christian sacred writings. Unless one believes that a council-made-dogma has the same value as the Writings…

    So it makes no sense to compare the spiritual legitimacy of the Universal House of Justice with the one of the Pope. Such comparison makes no sense.

    Having in mind such spiritual legitimacy, the review of literature is something that Baha’is will have to live with for some more years. One may not understand it; but it was encouraged by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself and defined by the Guardian.

  4. ABOUT SEN McGLINN

    I don’t know what happened with Sen McGlinn and what were the true reasons for his being removed as member o the Baha’i community. In fact, in his website he says the reasons for this are not clear to him, and he prefers not to say anything he is not sure of. It is amazing how so many “unenrolled Baha’is” have an opinion on this; it seems they know more about the issue than Sen McGlinn, himself.

    But I plan to read his book. It is on my “must read list”.

  5. BENEDICT XVI

    When I say Benedict XVI is a conservative, I have in mind several of his opinions, namely on contraceptives, AIDS control, and women discrimination. His reconciliatory efforts with a Society of St. Pius X (a traditionalist and extreme right group) are also seen as a sign of his conservative mentality. What happened to the young and liberal theologian Joseph Ratzinger, who, during the Council of Vatican II, proposed that the Mass should be celebrated in national languages?

    These are critics made by Catholics. And the greater critics of Benedict XVI are Catholics!

    I was born in a catholic family. Most my friends are Catholics. There are several Catholic theologians I admire (and often quote on my blog). I believe Catholic Church still has a positive contribute to give to the world. But the Church needs to change. It needs another John XXIII.

  6. ABOUT TRADITION AND DIVERSITY

    The mention of “a Catholic tradition” suggests that the Catholic Church is a monolithic block.

    No it doesn’t. There is no reason why we can’t have a unified, coherent Church Tradition and at the same time allow for diversity of expression and practice. Like Baha’is, Catholics have the principle “unity in diversity”. It is ironic that you, as a Baha’i, would assume that if there is diversity in the Catholic Church, there cannot therefore be unity.

    ABOUT KUNG AND BOFF

    … the dogma of papal infallibility (a creation of the Council of Vatican I, 1870).

    You are mistaken. The definition in 1870 was based on long precedent, as the decrees of the Council make clear. It is wrong to assume that the date on which the Church formally defined a doctrine is the date on which that doctrine came into existence. There is no reason why the former must necessarily entail the latter. If you would like to learn more about the First Vatican Council, the article in the Catholic Encyclopedia, available online, is helpful and very detailed.

    He [Boff] never questioned the legitimacy of the Church; only it’s capacity to answer the needs of modern world.

    I don’t understand this sentence. What is the point of believing in something if you don’t think it is relevant to current needs? In any case, I fail to see how promoting tragedies like divorce and abortion is supposed to “answer the needs of the modern world”. As you know, the Baha’i Writings state that life begins at conception. It is ironic that you, as a Baha’i, should believe that abortion answers some need of the modern world when the Baha’i Faith implicitly condemns it.

    THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE AND THE PAPACY

    It makes no sense to compare the legitimacy of Universal House of Justice with the legitimacy of the Pope. The House was instituted by Bahá’u’llah. … The Papacy is a human construction.

    You seem to be arguing that an organization does not have the right to maintain standards of conduct unless it was founded by a Manifestation of God.

    Kung was a priest, and Boff was a friar. They represented the Church in an official capacity. Whether the Church was founded by God is irrelevant. It has a right to maintain its standards.

    Consider a baseball team. (I don’t suppose you follow baseball in Portugal, but you can probably understand the analogy.) Let’s say the owner of the team decides to change the rules of the game at his field. He changes the dimensions of the field, or he adds players to the roster, or whatever. The league has a right to sanction him or his team. The league wasn’t founded by God. It’s a human institution. But the league still has that right. No one would say that the owner is being persecuted, or that his right to self-expression is being taken away. Imagine if the owner said the league has no authority to tell him what to do, but he should still be allowed to play against other teams in the league. That would be ridiculous. People recognize that if some teams follow different rules from others, the league will have no unity, and no one can play the game.

    ABOUT SEN McGLINN

    I don’t know what happened with Sen McGlinn and what were the true reasons for his being removed as member o the Baha’i community.

    If only you were this judicious when talking about the Catholic Church.

    BENEDICT XVI

    His reconciliatory efforts with a Society of St. Pius X (a traditionalist and extreme right group) are also seen as a sign of his conservative mentality.

    Baha’is frequently criticize Christianity for lacking unity. But here a Baha’i is criticizing the Pope for promoting Christian unity. Again, seems kind of ironic.

    What happened to the young and liberal theologian Joseph Ratzinger, who, during the Council of Vatican II, proposed that the Mass should be celebrated in national languages?

    I’m not sure I follow. I assume you are referring to the motu proprio last July in which the Pope broadened the availability of the Tridentine Mass. If so, some clarifications are probably in order.

    Vatican II did indeed propose that Mass should be celebrated in the vernacular. But it did not do away with the use of Latin. On the contrary, it encouraged its continued use. See Sacrosanctum Concilium 36 and 54. (Sacrosanctum Concilium is the document issued by the Second Vatican Council dealing with the sacred liturgy.) Here is an example:

    “Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended.”

    Vatican II did not require that Mass be said in the vernacular. It allowed it to be used more broadly. Latin is still the standard. So there is no conflict between the Pope’s motu proprio and the Second Vatican Council.

    Critics of the Church frequently make these sorts of allegations, that Pope Benedict is undoing the work of Vatican II, and that the Church was opening up in past decades but is now becoming reactionary. When you question these critics further, you invariably find that they’ve never taken the time to actually read Vatican II (or Benedict, for that matter). Their knowledge of it, like their knowledge of everything else about the Church, is based solely on hearsay. What Moojan Momen said about apostate Baha’is perfectly describes disaffected Catholics and critics of the Church:

    “[Various episodes] are told and retold … and indeed have now become so firmly a part of the apostate mythology that they no longer need to be recounted in full, a single word or phrase is sufficient to invoke their mythological presence.”

  7. Jonah

    I think you are missing the point.

    I AM JUST TELLING SOME OF THE MOST COMMON CRITICISM I HEAR FROM CATHOLICS (I am not mentioning criticism from other Christians!). Lay people, thinkers, clergy,… Even from teachers of Theology at Catholic University I have heard strong criticism against the Benedict XVI. It is hard to find a Catholic who doesn’t criticize the Pope.

    Let’s be clear about one thing: the Pope is not a problem of mine. It is a problem from millions of Catholics. No one can not deny that! And I am not talking about a few dozen “unenrolled Catholics”…

    In my opinion this Pope as a great scholar (this seem to be a point Catholics don’t disagree about him!). As I said my understanding of religion and life is very different from his ones. My differences with him are on subjects like relativism, the Enlightenment, religious pluralism, theocentrism… these are good issues for a debate. I already wrote about that.

    As to other Catholic issues, don’t there is no use discussing it with me; you have to solve them with other Catholics.

  8. I AM JUST TELLING SOME OF THE MOST COMMON CRITICISM I HEAR FROM CATHOLICS

    Why?

    As to other Catholic issues, don’t there is no use discussing it with me; you have to solve them with other Catholics.

    It’s a little disingenuous of you to present yourself as a disinterested observer. If all you were saying was that there are different points of view among Catholics, then I would agree with you. And if that’s all you meant by the word “faction”, I would have no problem with it. But it’s clear you are going beyond that. You are making value judgments about what constitutes valid and invalid expressions of the Catholic faith. You are setting yourself up as a judge of Catholicism, determining what is genuine Catholicism and what is false, and judging Benedict accordingly.

    You presume to tell me that Kung and Boff are good Catholics simply because they believe in the divinity of Christ, regardless of what they wrote. You presume to tell me that you can disobey an ecumenical council and still be a good Catholic.

    What you are really saying is this: One must believe that ecumenical councils have no binding authority. If you believe they have binding authority, you are a bad Catholic because (according to you) Catholicism only accepts things that are in the Bible. One must believe that Kung’s and Boff’s versions of Catholicism are just as valid as Benedict’s. If one doesn’t believe that, one is a bad Catholic, because (apparently according to you) the definition of a good Catholic is someone who believes in the divinity of Christ.

    What authority do you have to say what the role of the Bible is in the Catholic faith, or the role of the pope or of ecumenical councils? Because you have Catholic friends? Knowing Catholics doesn’t give you that authority. By what measure do you determine that your Catholic friends are qualified to speak on Catholic theology? A lot of people who grow up in Catholic families have very little understanding of their faith. How do you know whether they know what they’re talking about?

  9. Be honest, Jonah! Where did I say one faction was valid and other wasn’t? You are distorting my words. What I say is that within the Catholic Church there are different factions, different ways of living Catholicism. And I also say that relations between these factions sometimes are not easy (and I presented the cases of Kung and Boff as examples). And yes, I am a disinterested observer. But that doesn’t mean I have to blind to what is going on in the Catholic Church. And it also doesn’t mean I should not have an opinion on the issues.

    The Catholics I know have different opinions about the importance of the Councils. That is not a problem for me, for I am not a Catholic. What I say (and repeat) is that the legitimacy of the Universal House of Justice is far more superior to the one of the Papacy.

    I am not an authority in religious issues. My opinions are not an encyclical or a fatwa. I just read, study and discuss religious issues (independent investigation of truth, remember?). I am free to do it. If I sound like an authority to you, then you have a problem.

    You should also have in mind that Jesus Christ is not an exclusive of Christianity (much less Catholicism!). Muslims have their own understanding of the divinity of Christ and the purpose of His Religion. And the same happens to baha’is, who also have an understanding of their own concerning Christ and the religion He founded. Accepting the divinity of Christ is not a problem for Bahá’ís. But we can not say the opposite. By the way: having Nostra Aetate in mind, how do you see the divinity of Bahá’u’lláh?

    Concerning my Catholic friends: I believe that a teacher of Theology at the Catholic University must be qualified to speak on Catholic theology. And the same goes for a priests and a theologian. And also some lay people from several Catholic organizations. But I also have other Catholic friends and relatives who are very ignorant about their faith.

    Just a final question: with your solid opinions about Kung and Boff, you probably must have read some of their books. Can you tell me which ones?

  10. Be honest, Jonah! Where did I say one faction was valid and other wasn’t? You are distorting my words.

    You said it several times in your comments on this thread. Let me take just one example, from your second comment (“About Kung and Boff”):

    Of the many Catholics I know – and my family, most my friends, and most population of my country – very few believe such dogma. It was because of such rejection that his license to teach was revoked. Still today Kung criticizes papal authority.

    All of the above are factual statements, and don’t indicate that you are taking sides. But then you remark,

    And questioning papal infallibility has nothing to do with questioning the divinity of Christ!

    This does not seem like the statement of a disinterested observer. You seem to be taking sides and defending Kung’s right to represent Catholic teaching. Am I misunderstanding you?

  11. You should also have in mind that Jesus Christ is not an exclusive of Christianity (much less Catholicism!). …

    By the way: having Nostra Aetate in mind, how do you see the divinity of Bahá’u’lláh?

    What is your definition of “divinity”?

  12. Just a final question: with your solid opinions about Kung and Boff, you probably must have read some of their books. Can you tell me which ones?

    I’ve read Jesus Christ Liberator by Boff. I don’t think I’ve read anything by Kung. Why do you ask?

  13. Jonah
    You wrote that both Kung and Boff “question the divinity of Christ.”; I said they didn’t. The fact they questioned papal authority doesn’t mean they questioned the divinity of Christ. You are mixing things.

    And I definitely don’t take sides. There are things I agree with Kung and Boff, but that doesn’t mean I support their factions within Catholicism. Just like there are things I agree with Benedict XVI, but that doesn’t turn me into a conservative. And there are also a couple of things I agree with Sam Harris, but that doesn’t make an atheist.

    ******

    Divinity – meaning: relation with God, spiritual legitimacy, station as Messenger of God

    ******

    I never read that one by Boff. The first I read from Boff was The Church’s Path along side with the Oppressed Ones [1988] (I don’t know how this title was translated into English). By the way: why did this book got the “Nihil Obstat”? Now I am reading “Virtues to another possible World“.

    I was wondering if you ever read “Spurensuche. Die Weltreligionen auf dem Weg” (I got the Portuguese translation – Religions of The World: In search of common issues). I imagine there must be an English translation. This would be a good book for a debate on religious pluralism… May be one day you will read it.

  14. Hi Marco,

    You write:

    “It is amazing how so many “unenrolled Baha’is” have an opinion on [what happened with Sen McGlinn and what were the true reasons for his being removed as member of the Baha’i community], it seems they know more about the issue than Sen McGlinn, himself.”

    Please provide some examples of unenrolled Baha’is having an opinion on Sen’s removal from membership so we know what you’re talking about.

    May I remind you that enrolled Baha’is like myself and Moojan Momen probably had equally strong opinions.

    For example, Moojan asserted in his recent Religion article that someone clearly identifiable as Sen had been declared not be a Baha’i because of his “persistent challenges to the Universal House of Justice.”

    So let’s not be having you picking on the unenrolled Baha’is, OK? :-)

    ka kite
    Steve

  15. You right, Steve. My mistake.

    I didn’t mean only “unenrolled Baha’is”; in fact I mean a small group of people (ex-baha’is, “unenrolled Baha’is”, baha’is-souding-like-Tablighate-Islami, …) whose presence on internet seems so have one main purpose: to complain about Baha’i Administration.

    BTW: Was Sen McGlinn declared not be a Baha’i, or removed from Baha’i membership? I think only Baha’u’llah may declare someone not to be a Baha’i…

  16. Hi Marco,

    I keep hearing about a small group of people who are causing trouble for the Baha’is, but their identity seems to be left up in the air. Even Moojan Momen has two slightly diferent sets of names and descriptions, depending on whether you read the “article” or “paper” version of his “Marginality and apostasy in the Baha’i community”.

    I do hope that you’ll shortly provide some quotes from your small group of people who normally complain about Baha’i Administration but in this case offer an opinion on Sen’s removal from membership, so we know what you were talking about.

    I’m with you regarding Sen’s status. Sen was removed from membership in the Netherlands Baha’i community. He was declared not to be a Baha’i by Moojan Momen, who wrote in Marginality about, “…a Canadian Baha’i and a New Zealand Baha’i living in the Netherlands, who have both, like [Alison] Marshall, been declared not be Baha’is because of their persistent challenges to the Universal House of Justice.” (p. 200). Moojan seems to have no evidence and no authority to make such a statement, and it appears Baha’i pre-publication censorship didn’t pick up his lapse.

  17. You wrote that both Kung and Boff “question the divinity of Christ.”; I said they didn’t. The fact they questioned papal authority doesn’t mean they questioned the divinity of Christ. You are mixing things.

    I never said they question the divinity of Christ.

    And I definitely don’t take sides. There are things I agree with Kung and Boff, but that doesn’t mean I support their factions within Catholicism. Just like there are things I agree with Benedict XVI, but that doesn’t turn me into a conservative.

    You take sides in this respect: you seem to believe that the pope does not have the authority to determine what constitutes Catholicism. Am I mistaken here?

    In the statements in the video, you say Cardinal Ratzinger “did censor several important Catholic theologians like Hans Kung or Leonardo Boff.” The word “censor” has a negative connotation in English. It implies that the one censoring is doing something morally wrong by stifling someone’s right to self expression. You can’t use the word “censor” and claim to be neutral on the matter. Maybe this is a misunderstanding based on a difference in language.

    You seem to be saying that Kung and Boff have just as much right to describe Catholicism as the pope does. Am I mistaken?

    Divinity – meaning: relation with God, spiritual legitimacy, station as Messenger of God

    I don’t believe Baha’u’llah is a Messenger of God, and I don’t see what Nostra Aetate has to do with it.

    The first I read from Boff was The Church’s Path along side with the Oppressed Ones [1988] (I don’t know how this title was translated into English). By the way: why did this book got the “Nihil Obstat”?

    The Nihil Obstat means a bishop has found nothing in the book morally or doctrinally contrary to the faith.

    I was wondering if you ever read “Spurensuche. Die Weltreligionen auf dem Weg” (I got the Portuguese translation – Religions of The World: In search of common issues). I imagine there must be an English translation. This would be a good book for a debate on religious pluralism… May be one day you will read it.

    What does it say about religious pluralism?

  18. Marco Oliveira said:

    You wrote that both Kung and Boff “question the divinity of Christ.”; I said they didn’t. The fact they questioned papal authority doesn’t mean they questioned the divinity of Christ. You are mixing things.

    And then I said:

    I never said they question the divinity of Christ.

    Actually, I did. I was just scanning the original post, and I noticed I wrote that. So I stand corrected.

    There are several theological schools of thought in the Christian world. These schools of thought don’t correspond to denominational categories, which can make things confusing to the non-Christian.

    One school of thought among Christians is very popular with Baha’is, because superficially it resembles the Baha’i concept of progressive revelation. These Christians believe that Christ was not unique, and that all religions have the truth, and they express the truth in different ways. These Christians strongly oppose the notion of dogma (even though they hold to dogmas of their own, without admitting that they’re dogmas). Among popular authors of this school of thought include John Shelby Spong, Marcus Borg, and Matthew Fox.

    I think that is what I had in mind when I said in the original post that Kung and Boff deny the divinity of Christ. I was grouping them with Spong and Fox.

    They claim, though, that they do believe in the divinity of Christ. So it all depends on your definition of divinity. From the perspective of Catholicism, their definition of Christ’s divinity isn’t very divine. These multiple and mutually contradictory definitions can be a source of great confusion in casual conversation.

  19. Sin lugar a dudas la alta jerarquía de la Iglesia Católica puede fijar sus reglas para establecer si una determinada exposición es fiel o no al magisterio de la Iglesia Católica. Otra cosa muy diferente es lo que esta pueda considerar respecto a si alguna enseñanza o alguna persona es realmente *cristiana* o no. La Iglesia Católica no es el cristianismo sino una versión del cristianismo.

  20. La Iglesia Católica no es el cristianismo sino una versión del cristianismo.

    It has been said of Protestants that they replaced the pope in Rome with a pope in their belly. And you are doing the same thing. By saying that the Catholic Church is not Christianity but a version of it, you are claiming to have the authority to decide what constitutes Christianity. Why should I believe you have greater authority than the Catholic hierarchy to say what Christianity is?

  21. Dear Jonah,
    I find your response here to be incongruent with your rationale in your response to my last post in “Independent investigation of truth,” where you stated the following:

    “We do have the right to evaluate whether a doctrinal assertion is consistent with Christianity or with the Baha’i Faith. ”

    Inherent in such an assertion is a claim to authority, through “doctrine,” as to what constitutes Christianity – which you call into question in the post immediately above.

    Another note of interest: why should anyone believe that the Catholic heirarchy has greater authority than anyone or anything else to say what Christianity is? In the times of Christ, following the authority of the religious leaders didn’t lead to the optimal outcome to put it mildly. As Christ stated, if the people of that time, professed believers in the Prophet Moses, had truly known Moses, they would have known Him. What makes you so sure that the Catholic Church as an institution really knows Christ? So sure that you feel compelled to make authoritative distinctions between what is “Christianity” and what isn’t?

    (*Faith as an answer here doesn’t justify a position that passes judgement in contradiction with the Bible – at least from the perspective of adhering to a Biblical injunction to not judge lest ye be judged)

  22. Eric, you misunderstand my comment. Let me translate Badi Villar’s comment so folks can understand the context of what I wrote.

    Mr. Villar wrote, “Undoubtedly the high hierarchy of the Catholic Church can make its rules for establishing whether a certain explanation is faithful or not to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. It is altogether different to be able to consider whether some teaching or some person is really “Christian” or not. The Catholic Church is not Christianity but a version of Christianity.”

    To which my reply is, choose your authority. Either you trust one person or you trust another. Christianity is not a thing you can hold in your hand and examine for yourself. It is a phenomenon embracing billions of people all over the world and spanning thousands of years. It is simply not possible to arrive at any comprehension of it whatsoever without relying on the word of others. Think about how you know what you know about Christianity. Some of it involves meeting individual Christians, looking at churches, flipping through the Bible, things like that. But probably the majority of what you know about Christianity is what other people have told you, either in conversation or in books, or by how they portray Christianity on TV and in movies.

    Now Mr. Villar comes along, with his set of images and facts about Christianity in his head, and has come to a conclusion about what Christianity is. And according to his conclusion, the Catholic Church is merely a version of Christianity.

    I have a different set of images and facts in my head, and they lead me to a different conclusion. Now Mr. Villar could have approached his comment differently. He could have said, “I see that you perceive Christianity one way, but I see it another way. Let’s talk about these differences and maybe learn from each other.” Instead, Mr. Villar acted like his perceptions are not perceptions but facts. He made a dogmatic assertion about the place the Catholic Church holds with regard to Christianity, and my response was to call attention to the fact that he was being dogmatic.

    Now let me come to Eric’s comment that I’m being inconsistent. If you think that, then you are fundamentally misunderstanding what this blog is all about. I write this blog in order to explain Catholic beliefs to Baha’is, and to tell Baha’is the Catholic perception of what they say when they’re teaching Christians. Note the words “beliefs” and “perception”. I am not here to persuade Baha’is that Catholicism is true. I am simply trying to explain what Catholicism *is*. Now, Catholicism involves believing that Catholicism = Christianity. That’s part of our belief system, and you are free to agree or disagree with that as you see fit.

    In my response to Mr. Villar, I was not calling into question anyone’s right to claim authority to define Christianity. Quite the contrary, I was simply calling attention to the fact that Mr. Villar was also claiming that authority, a fact that Mr. Villar would probably deny. To judge from the tone of his comment, he probably thought he was simply making a factual observation, an attitude you can also see very clearly in Mr. Oliveira’s remarks.

    The biggest obstacle to people thinking for themselves, in my opinion, is when they believe they see the world as it really is, without filters. They see other people looking at the world through filters, but they don’t see their own filters. I believe that if I am to educate people about what the Catholic Church is all about, I have to get people to see their filters. But it’s really hard to make people aware of them.

    Eric wrote:
    Another note of interest: why should anyone believe that the Catholic heirarchy has greater authority than anyone or anything else to say what Christianity is? In the times of Christ, following the authority of the religious leaders didn’t lead to the optimal outcome to put it mildly.

    It is not logical to say, “The Pharisees were wrong about Christ. The Pharisees were a religious authority. Therefore religious authorities are wrong about Christ.”

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