Sandro Magister grasps the Doctrinal Note on Evangelisation by the short and curlies…

Sandro Magister of www.chiesa has a much better grasp of the recent Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelisation than Martin Teulan.

He accurately identifies the four main reasons for the CDF to issue the statement:

Above all, there is the idea that every religion is a way of salvation as valid as all the rest.

Then there is the conviction that proposing Christian truth to others is an attack on their freedom.

Then there is a conception of the Kingdom of God that is not identified in the person of Jesus Christ, but in “a generic reality that overarches all the religious experiences or traditions, toward which these should incline as toward a universal and indistinct communion of all those who seek God.”

Then again there is the idea that “the pretense of having received as a gift the fullness of God’s Revelation conceals an attitude of intolerance and a threat to peace.”

Magister recognises (as any reader must) that part of the document addresses the situation of the Church in Orthodox Russia, and another part addresses the situation in Muslim countries.

(Incidentally, no-one has yet commented upon the absense of any mention of evangelisation to the Jews, given the controversy stirred up several years ago by a USCBC committee which declared that the Church did not have a mandate to evangelise the Jews. While diplomatically not mentioning the Jews by name, it is quite clear that both Jews and Gentiles are included in the document’s insistence that the Gospel be preached to ALL people).

But it seems that many out there have a vested interest in downplaying the radical call to faithfulness in the new Note as much as possible. I blogged on Martin Teulan’s statement below, but I have also found the Gerald O’Collins article in the Tablet to which he referred.

O’Collins, like Teulan but unlike Magister, fails to see that this latest “Note” is fully in line with the previous “notes”, “Dominus Iesus” and “Responses on the Doctrine of the Church”. O’Collins titled his article “Softly, Softly”–a clear indication that he too wishes to pull the teeth from this document. How about this rather snide aside:

While honouring the non-negotiable claims of truth (how could the CDF do otherwise?)…

O’Collins also inverts the emphasis of the Note by commenting upon its emphasis on imporance the witness of life, but completely ignoring the even more strident emphasis upon witness of Word:

St Francis of Assisi…is remembered as saying to his followers: “Preach the Gospel and sometimes use words.” The CDF follows suit: “The witness of holiness is necessary, if the light of truth is to reach all human beings” (n. 11).

Indeed, but the Note also quotes Pope Paul VI who said that even the most exemplary witness of holiness will be useless if it is not accompanied with the clear and forthright proclamation of Christ.

At every turn, O’Collins, like Teulan, tries to soften the harsh words that the CDF has to say about the failure of Catholics to fulfill our duty of evangelisation. Try this paragraph on for size:

Secondly, this theme of sharing the benefits of Christian faith is repeatedly specified as a sharing in fullness. Those who have not yet heard and accepted the Gospel already enjoy some grasp of truth and some means of salvation. What they have not yet received is “the fullness of the gift of truth” and the “fullness of [the means of] salvation” (n. 10).

Do you see how subtley the emphasis is changed? O’Collins would like to divert our attention away from the fact that the Note emphasises that Christ has gifted his Church alone with the truth of the Gospel, towards that favourite old assertion of the last forty years that there is already truth and salvation in the lives of the people Christ wants us to evangelise. Note especially the sneaky way that he puts in “the means of” into the above quote. Do you think that changes its meaning? I do.

[As an aside, I also discovered this note from Mgr Keith Barltrop of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales which gives this most bizarre interpretation of the Note’s teaching on the Kingdom of God:

Any sense that the Kingdom of God is somehow above or beyond particular religious traditions must be resisted.

Que? “Particular religious traditions”? The Note insists that the Kingdom of God is linked to one and only one “particular religious tradition”, namely the Catholic Church!]

Finally, one must take issue with the way O’Collins takes issue with the July document, “Responses on the Doctrine of the Church”. His objection is that the word “fully” (as in “the Church of Christ exists fully only in the Catholic Church”) was omitted in that document. Do you see where he is going? Salvation is available through other religions. Salvation is available through other Churches. They only need the Catholic Church if they want the “fullness” of the means of salvation. But they can get along fine enough as they are without us interfering. In other words, he has not heard what the CDF is saying at all.

It takes some nerve to reduce the roar of the Holy Inquisition to the soft squeak of a mouse.

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