September 6, 2000
volume 11, no. 162

NEWS for Wednesday, September 6, 2000

VATICAN, Sept. 5 (

    At a Vatican press conference on September 5, introducing the new statement Dominus Jesus, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said the document was a necessary response to "the theology of religious pluralism," which is growing "not only in theological circles, but also more generally in Catholic public opinion."

    Cardinal Ratzinger, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, explained that there is a growing body of opinion suggesting that other religions can offer an important complement to the teachings of Christianity. This is an erroneous belief, he said, and his Congregation prepared the new statement to affirm "the full and definitive revelation of Christ."

    The cardinal pointed out that many people today view the Church's traditional claim to be the unique and universal means to salvation as "a bit of fundamentalism which is an attack on the modern spirit and a menace to toleration and liberty." Because of that attitude, he continued, many people see ecumenical dialogue as an end in itself. "Dialogue-- or rather the ideology of dialogue-- becomes a substitute for missionary activity and for the urgency of an appeal to conversion."

    This mistaken notion of dialogue, Cardinal Ratzinger observed, emphasizes not a search for objective and absolute truth, but a desire to put all religious beliefs on the same plane. And such dialogue gives rise to a "false idea of tolerance," which allows respect for other beliefs because it rejects the possibility of any objective truth.

    Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, observed that Dominus Jesus does not contain any new teaching, but "reaffirms and restates the doctrine of the Catholic faith" in answer to contemporary problems and theories. He emphasized that because it comes from the Holy See, with the explicit authorization of the Pope, the document must be viewed as the teaching of the Magisterium, rather than just another theological opinion.

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