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Thursday, February 09, 2017

All Roads Lead To Rome

At the beginning of the video, a minute-and-a-half long, the Pope cites the fact that the majority of the earth’s inhabitants profess some sort of religious belief. 
This, he said, “should lead to a dialogue among religions. We should not stop praying for it and collaborating with those who think differently.” 
The video goes on to feature representatives of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, who proclaim their respective beliefs in God, Jesus Christ, Allah and Buddha.
Some people are upset that Pope Francis recently taught yet another truth of the Catholic Faith: all religions ultimately lead to God. Many Catholics mistakenly believe this is an error. It is not.

Keep in mind that Jesus Christ is THE path to God - no one can come to the Father except through Christ. Likewise, the only way to fully know Christ is through the Catholic Church. But the point the Pope wanted to stress was simple: all roads lead to Rome.

Every pursuit of truth, no matter where it starts, if followed deeply enough, leads to Catholic Faith.

When I taught RCIA, I used the example of math to show how this worked.
When we are first learning math, we begin with arithmetic and progress through algebra, geometry, trig, calculus.

So, let us keep that in our hands as we recall some basic truths:
  1. All creation was made for, by and through Christ,
  2. The heavens, in fact, all created things, are telling the glory of God.
  3. Thus, anyone who starts to believe in God as a result of observing the natural world (as pagans do), has come to believe in God through the evidence provided by Jesus Christ.
That conclusion is a point of Catholic Faith. If you accept the first two points, you cannot deny the conclusion. Now, there are three ways to know God:
    1. Nature - the heavens are telling the glory of Christ. 
    2. The prophets - Adam, Abraham, Moses, etc.,
    3. Christ Himself. 
The natural world is not a person, so it doesn't explain much beyond "God exists and He rewards those who love Him." That's why pagan religions tend to have a lot of empty spots.

Prophets are persons, so they explain Who God is much more thoroughly, but like a matchmaker describing the Bridegroom to the Bride, even the prophets cannot explain all of it.

Ultimately, the Bride can only know the Bridegroom, through meeting Him. Only Christ Himself reveals the fullness of Himself.

Theology is formal science just like math. Since we have now laid out the basic truths, we can marry these truths to the formal science of math and see how all of it ties together:
  1. Pagans only understand the theological equivalent of arithmetic, and nothing beyond it.
  2. Islam is a haphazard conglomeration of Judaism, Christianity and paganism. It can get to theological algebra. It knows that God is All-Merciful, All-Compassionate. It knows that Mary is a sinless virgin mother. It knows Christ is sinless and the Judge on the Last Day. Islam knows that we are to submit ourselves totally to God, become a "slave of Christ" as Paul says, although Muslims would say "Allah" instead of Christ. But beyond these basics, Muslims cannot go. 
  3. The Jews understand geometry, they first gave us the theological measure of the universe. They know God is the Lawgiver, that God does not deceive, that He wants us to choose life, so that we and our descendants might live. Through the Jews, God revealed the importance of liturgy,  even though the Jewish liturgy was just "practice" and has no real effect. They taught us the central truth that is monotheism. 
  4. Non-liturgical Christians, like the Protestants, can do trigonometry. They know God is three Persons in one divine Substance, but they don't get any farther. They have two sacraments,baptism and marriage, but they don't understand very much about either of them. They don't understand liturgy at all. So, we can say they know a lot about triangles, but they don't know much about other geometric shapes or how everything fits together. 
  5. Liturgical Christians, such as the Eastern Orthodox and the Coptics, have access to the full spectrum of liturgical and sacramental life. Through the power of the seven sacraments, they plumb the measure of the infinite Godhead, doing the equivalent of single-variable calculus. That is, they understand how the Son works (to teach us), how the Spirit works (to sanctify us), but they don't fully understand how the Father works (to govern us).
  6. Only Catholics can plumb the divine infinity to its depth, only Catholics have mastered not only calculus but all the other branches of the theological spectrum as well. We understand, as fully as men can, the relations between the Father, Son and Spirit, we understand the full spectrum of how He has always intended to govern us (Father), to teach us (Son) and to sanctify us (Holy Spirit).
Thus, it is not that all the other religious faiths are wrong. Rather, none of the other faith systems can provide the comprehensive knowledge of Christ that only Catholic Faith can.

All religions, pursued deeply enough, lead to Catholic Faith.
The study of truth always leads to Truth.
Every ladder we climb, every road we walk, leads us to Rome.

That's why the Pope wants dialogue among religions. He wants the various peoples to help each other forward on the journey to Rome. We are supposed to help him get that done.

4 comments:

Confitebor said...

"all religions ultimately lead to God."

If all religions ultimately lead to God, then there is no need to journey to Rome -- one's particular religion will get you to God without converting to Catholicism.

"But the point the Pope wanted to stress was simple: all roads lead to Rome."

If that is the point he wanted to stress in that video, then why didn't he mention it even once, but instead presented Christianity as just one of several religions?

It's evident that "all roads lead to Rome" is the point YOU want to stress, but it's not what the Pope stressed in that video. And while it's not in fact true that "all roads lead to Rome" -- most roads lead to hell while the road to heaven is narrow and very difficult to walk, and the more ardently one adheres to false religion, the more likely it is one will end up in hell -- it's good at least that you believe Catholicism is true and all other religions are defective and erroneous.

While all religions do contain at least some truth, all religions but one mix truth with varying amounts of error. "All religions have at least some truth" is not at all the same proposition as "all roads lead to Rome" or "all religions ultimately lead to God." Most religions lead away from God, even when they profess to be aiming toward Him. This is why the Church prays in the Roman Rite "for heretics and schismatics, that our God and Lord would deliver them from all their errors, and vouchsafe to recall them to our Holy Mother the Catholic and Apostolic Church," that God, "who savest all, and willest not that anyone should perish" would "look down on the souls of those deceived by wiles of the devil, that the evil of heresy being removed from their hearts, the erring may repent and return to the unity of Thy truth," and "for the unbelieving Jews, that our God and Lord would withdraw the veil from their hearts, that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ," that God "who drivest not away from Thy mercy even the unbelieving Jews, hear our prayers which we offer for the blindness of that people, that, acknowledging the light of Thy truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from their darkness," and "for the pagans, that Almighty God would removed iniquity from their hearts, that forsaking their idols, they may be converted to the living and true God, and His only Son, Jesus Christ our God and Lord," invoking God "who desireth not the death but the life of sinners" to "deliver them from the worship of idols, and for the praise and glory of Thy name unite them to Thy Holy Church." Whatever point the Pope wished to make in that video last year, if he had meant to make the kind of point you made in your blog post, I would think he might have used language rather more like yours, or more like that of the ancient Roman Rite.

If we really wish to help the various peoples move forward on a journey to Rome, then we'll have to pray for them to be delivered from their errors and to be converted to the Catholic Faith. If we don't pray for that, we'll never get it(James 4:2).

Michael said...

Confitebor, I was just wondering what your success rate is in your attempts at evangelisation?

No offense, but it seems that your approach forgets the human-ness of people. I know my own frailty and limitations, and I've been graced with the Holy Spirit working greatly in me. Imagine what it would be like for people who haven't been graced with the same illumination. Does God not have any mercy or compassion for people in these circumstances? Or must they lift themselves up from there own bootstraps?

Where is the meeting people where they are at? Where is the understanding of the different backgrounds of people? Where are you allowing room for the Holy Spirit to move in people's circumstances, when you judge everyone as deficient?

Does God not see through the grime and the dirt on our face, and see us for who He created us to be? Or is His love conditional?

Does God not work good for those who love Him if there understanding of Him isn't complete? Or is it that we have to strive for His love and mercy?

The Church has a much greater success rate in conversion when they are not calling down fire and brimstone on heretics, but rather going out to meet the stranger.

I'd say that is why Our Holy Father doesn't explicitly mention "All roads lead to Rome". Your attitude is "Convert and we'll talk", his is "Lets talk and meet each other where we are at. Let's find a common denominator." That common denominator is the Love for others. Some people love more perfectly than others, but that is not necessarily based on their religion.

There is no threat of being made to feel inferior, when you meet as equals and are being listened to and valued. That is what creates dialogue, and builds rapport. And that can "Lead to Rome."

Confitebor said...

I don't see the specific relation of most of your (rhetorical?) questions and comments to the my own comments or Mr. Kellmeyer's remarks, and some of your comments don't have anything at all to do with what I said. But as for your inference regarding why Pope Francis didn't mention "All roads lead to Rome" in that video, I think it might have something to do with his personal opinion that, as he said on 13 Oct. 2015, "It is not licit to convince someone of your faith."

Michael said...

It has everything to do with it.

The article is ultimately about evangelisation; understanding where each religion stands on the spectrum of truth, so we can appreciate better where they're coming from. The final paragraph even makes that clear.

Your comments, that the Pope should have used your choice of words to better convey this message if that is what he was implying, show that rather than encouraging dialogue you seem to believe we should just pray for everyone from a position of superiority, rather then actually going out and actively meeting people.

I asked you a question about your approach to evangelisation and what your success rate is, because you said that "If we really wish to help the various peoples move forward on a journey to Rome, then we'll have to pray for them to be delivered from their errors and to be converted to the Catholic Faith. If we don't pray for that, we'll never get it(James 4:2)." So I was wondering what the next step is after you've prayed for them.

From your previous comments on this blog and your own blog, there seems to be contempt towards our Holy Father and his approach to conversion of the world. The rhetorical questions I asked you were talking points basically, and I wanted to know how they weighed in on your opinion and approach to evangelisation.