Important statement by Pope on religious vilification

It went completely under the radar of the press, but the Holy Father, in his general audience on October 11, was talking about the rather strong invective used in the NT Letter of Jude, especially verse 8-13. This passage has been often raised by opponents of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act here in Victoria, as they have used it as a scriptural example of religious vilification. One can hardly believe that Pope Benedict did not have the recent spat over the Regensburg address in mind when he said the following:

Today we are no longer in the habit of using such controversial language, which nevertheless tells us something important: That in all the existing temptations, with all the currents of modern life, we must preserve the identity of our faith. Of course the path of indulgence and dialogue, which the Second Vatican Council has felicitously undertaken, will surely be continued with firm constancy. But this path of dialogue, so necessary, must not make us forget the duty to rethink and to witness always with as much force the guiding lines of our Christian identity that cannot be given up.

It is important to keep very present that this, our identity is not to be toyed with on a simply cultural plane or on a superficial level, but requires strength, clarity and courage given the contradictions of the world in which we live.

He interprets his own comments when, in English, he later summarises his point: “In the letter of the New Testament, traditionally attributed to the Apostle Jude, a strong emphasis is placed on keeping true to our Christian identity. Sustained by the grace of Christ, we must be steadfast in our faith and moral values, while respecting others and remaining open to dialogue.”

In both this address and the Regensburg lecture, Papa Benny has pointed to “rather brusque” expressions of the past, and used them–not as demonstrations of how we should speak to one another today–but of commitment to truth and reason.

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