Sunday, August 19, 2007

Charity, Interpretation, and Pope John Paul II

Carrie has a post or two up at her place which constitute almost a textbook example in how to think the worst of someone else. I'll grant that certain infelicitous declarations by some bishops unfortunately muddy the waters, so that there is a sense in which the question has been confused. But it is pretty clear that the Catholic Church just can't win with her.
In the first place, she points us at the unfortunate story of the Dutch bishop who thinks we ought to start calling God "Allah". She goes on to quote CCC 841, as if to suggest that the Church teaches that Muslims can be saved without converting.

I should like it very much if the Church's critics could make up their minds. On the one hand they often (and falsely) say that the Church teaches that you must be Catholic in order to be saved. On the other hand, they do things like Carrie has done: ignore that the CCC also says that "The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation" (1257), so that they may (falsely) suggest that the Church teaches Muslims can be saved without converting. Which is it? The Church can't be both universalist and exclusivist at the same time. It's irrational, and anyway both are false since the Church is neither universalist nor exclusivist.

Carrie would apparently also like us all to be shocked by the fact that Pope John Paul II had charitable things to say about Islam. But being charitable is not the same as saying that they can be saved without being converted (see above). Approving of the true things in Islam is simple decency. We ought to approve the fact that they say that God is merciful. We ought to approve the fact that they say murder and stealing are evil. To approve these things is not the same as saying that Islam is good as a whole, nor that Muslims necessarily always set a good example of these things in action (that they do not live up to the demands of their religion is a criticism that may also be made of Christians at times as well).

All truth is God's truth. We ought to commend it wherever it may be found - even if truths be uttered by non-Christians (I suppose I ought to add - by way of avoiding the charge that I am being a relativist! - that what is true must be measured by the truth God has revealed in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition as interpreted by the Magisterium, so that not everything that man says is true really is). This is all the more necessary in cases where one is attempting to be diplomatic, as the Pope undoubtedly was. You don't have to say everything that you think at all times and in all circumstances. There is a time and a season for everything. Again, this is all the more needful if you are the Pope, and you are concerned for the well-being of Christians who live in Muslim countries.

Update: Carrie's answer to what kmerian and I said in response to these posts. Aside from availing herself yet again of the help I gave in fixing a post or otherwise improving her blog (not for the first time), what we received answer.

She says that I should read her "posts and comments" on "the Muslim thing" in order to learn what her "issues" bother her. There are just a couple problems with that, though. First of all, to my knowledge she never posted anything whatsoever on the topic of "the Muslim thing" before 15 August 2007. At this writing there are two such posts, and they are precisely the posts that kmerian and I have been challenging. But if kmerian "missed her point", as she would have us believe, there is no obvious indication of what exactly her point was supposed to be, and aside from saying he "missed" it, she gives us no hint in her single comment on that post as to what the "point" is supposed to be.

In the other post, she has a quotation from a bishop with a history of dissidence from Church teaching, followed by a quotation from the CCC (ripped from context so as to make it seem that the dissident bishop is actually not dissident on the subject in question). That's all. So if there is a "point" here (other than to make it seem that the Church thinks it would be a good idea to do what the Dutch bishop says), it is left up to the mind of the reader, since (aside from the post title) there is not a single word of Carrie's in it. Likewise in the comments, where before I joined the thread, her single comment on the topic of the post was to deny the idea that Muslims worship the same God as Christians. Of course, if that is her point in her "posts and comments" on "the Muslim thing", it is utterly absent from the two posts, and it's not really a "point" so much as an "assertion": she never defends this "point" at all in either of the two posts or their comments.

So how it can be said that I have "missed" her point and can have things cleared up by reading the same two posts and their comments again...well, it escapes me.

Lastly though: if there have been other posts by her in the past on this subject, it would be non-trivial to discover them, since she has no labels related to Muslims. And I see no reason why I should have to dig around to figure out what her point is. If she has a point, she ought to say what it is outright.

I have grown weary of attempting to reason with Carrie. She is not objective. She is not even-handed. There is only one point at her blog, and that is that her mission there is to paint the Church as a non-Christian institution. But this "point" is blindingly irrational.

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