“An Overdue Reminder that Not All is Relative”

Bethell, Tom

Beliefnet, September, 2000

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“The Vatican has issued a document, written by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, reasserting that salvation is available only through Jesus Christ, and that ‘only in the Catholic Church’ does the church that Christ founded continue to ‘exist fully.’ If you are going to run a religion, in a world of many religions, you had better believe that yours is special. Because if you think there’s a better one out there, you might as well close up your shop and join it. If the leaders of a faith are not themselves filled with conviction that they possess the truth to a greater degree than anyone else, their followers won’t be, either. There are plenty of non-Christian true believers out there. In a world of timid leadership, the converts and the young will be attracted to those who do believe in the righteousness of their cause. That is why Muslim mosques are being built all over Europe as attendance at Christian churches declines drastically. To be sure, those who put their faith in ecumenism and ‘dialogue’ have reason to be disappointed with the Vatican’s confident assertion that the Catholic Church represents the fullest source of Christian revelation. The quote-circuit Jesuit, Thomas J. Reese, is said to be ‘dismayed.’ The Vatican statement ‘had practically no reference to the dialogue going on for the past 35 years between Catholics and Protestants,’ he said. Well, a dialogue that has gone on for so long and has not yet reached agreement deserves to be brought to an end. It’s true that, since the Second Vatican Council, the church has encouraged those who have placed their hopes in dialogue and ecumenism with other Christian groups. But documents on the subject from the council and the post-Vatican II popes indicate that what the council and the popes had in mind was not arriving at some lowest common denominator of faith, but the conversion of other Christian denominations to Catholicism.”