Printer Friendly

Rifts, trust, and openness: Pope John Paul II's legacy in Catholic intra- and interreligious dialogue.

Trying to assess the legacy of Pope John Paul II in Catholic intra- and interreligious dialogue can be a precarious task. Fidelity to the deceased pope remains (justifiably) high. He was respected, if not beloved, by many Catholics and non-Catholics throughout the world. He also played a substantial role in a wide range of ecumenical and interfaith documents, gestures, and actions. Peter Phan has written, "To appreciate John Paul's achievements in interreligious dialogue, it is necessary to consider both his activities to promote interreligious harmony and collaboration and his theology of interreligious dialogue." (1) I concur that both components are intertwined and must be assessed but also contend that, to evaluate best his impact in these areas, we need to turn to some of his non-Catholic dialogue partners (and critics). (2) A failure to listen to and heed such words would be to sully John Paul's general openness to the Other and to partake in an insular, closed approach. To many of those chanting (and praying) "Santo Subito!" (Sainthood now!), however, Karol Jozef Wojtyla is a saint, further affirmed after his successful anointing as Blessed on May 1,2011. (3)

To suggest a possible critique of him in certain circles is to have one's Catholic loyalty and orthodoxy questioned. Yet, the Other usually has the best authority to judge how we impact him or her. Catholics can profess that they have changed in their relationship with the Jewish people, for example, but, without Jewish affirmation, the claim can seem self-serving and hollow. Consider, then, these fairly representative words from Rabbi James Rudin's 2011 work, Christians and Jews." Faith to Faith: "[John Paul's] extraordinary contributions to building mutual respect and understanding between Catholics and Jews are historic in nature, and he will be remembered as the 'best pope the Jews ever had.'" (4) Rudin also remarked that John Paul "had earned an imperishable place in Jewish history, because his leadership had strengthened Christianity's reconciliation with its Jewish 'elder brother."' (5) His praise is high and deeply touching. Rudin, however, is still critical of certain words and actions of John Paul or the Vatican during his papacy. (6) While John Paul's commitment to Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life pervades his writings, words, and actions, I will also assess whether some ambiguity remains for a space for the beliefs of the Other. (7)

In this essay I will first examine three areas where greater intra-Church dialogue during John Paul's pontificate was--and is--needed: the child-abuse scandal, liberation theology, and women and the Church. I will highlight how the viability of the Church's role in interfaith dialogue is dependent on the health and richness of intra-Church dialogue. I will then examine the complexities of juxtaposing and seeking a coherent message between John Paul's shepherding of the World Day of Prayer at Assisi and his support of the declaration Dominus Iesus. Are these instances part of a contradictory or a coherent narrative? After presenting some prominent Muslim and Buddhist views of John Paul, I will then look at his impact on Jewish-Christian relations, especially in his advocating of the irrevocable viability of the Jewish covenant. In the conclusion, I will seek to summarize the legacy that he has left in Catholic intra- and interreligious dialogue and will present two principal paths for the future of the Church and interreligious dialogue amid the reality of our religiously pluralist world.

Catholic Intrareligious Dialogue: Three Needed Ongoing Conversations

There is an intrinsic connection between the viability of Catholic intrareligious dialogue and Catholic participation in interfaith dialogue. If there is paltry dialogue within the Church (or any institution) and insufficient means for all its members to weigh, discuss, and critique various positions, dialogue with the Other will be feeble and convoluted. The three areas I will highlight below testify to a church in need of a deeper, ongoing conversation and solidarity among believers that need not entail complete, unified consensus. In many ways, we should fear that day of total agreement, for dissent, the minority voice, and the skeptic are often desperately needed as a checkpoint to overcome our theological blind spots and failures to read "the signs of the times." (8) John Paul's Ut unim sint was a watermark ecumenical gesture in this regard--inviting "Church leaders and their theologians to engage with [him] in a patient and fraternal dialogue" that evaluates the Petrine office. (9) While the threads of the dialogue need to be studied further (and, perhaps, implemented) among Catholics and other Christians, the dialogue among Catholics is as crucial and cannot be overlooked.

Sadly, deep rifts remain within the Catholic Church, where on certain issues there is little respect and compassion, let alone dialogue. Rifts need a context to be fully evaluated. Some rifts are healthy; some disagreements, a sign of the Living Word that seeks an authentic, maturing faith. While a rift is most often thought of as a cleaving or break in friendly relations, it is also defined as an "open space, as in a forest or cloud mass, or a clear interval." (10) What is worrisome is not necessarily these rifts themselves (whether deemed positively or negatively in connotation) hut the levels of resentment, frustration, and hostility that some Catholics feel for those who are not as liberal or orthodox as they apparently should be.

In very broad terms, one Catholic camp rests in the firm conviction of the transcendental truth, whose fullness is established in the Church of Christ that subsists in the Catholic Church, is unequivocally anchored within the life and teachings of Jesus, and is guided by the Holy Spirit. (11) Pope Benedict XVI wrote in the context of Jesus' high priestly prayer (John 17) that
   we can say that the founding of the Church takes place during this
   passage, even though the word Church does not appear. For what else
   is the Church, if not the community of disciples who receive their
   unity through faith in Jesus Christ as the one sent by the Father
   and are drawn into Jesus' mission to lead the world toward the
   recognition of God--and in this way to redeem it? (12)

Another no-less-Catholic camp yearns for (or cannot ignore the need for) some ambiguity, space, and unanswerable questions amid their devotion to the life and teachings of Christ. The former group tends to speak in objective, exclusivist, triumphalist claims; the latter often highlights the role of subjectivity, potential bias, pluralism, and fallibility. Although these polar views obviously need further nuancing and refining, they contain elements shared by many Catholics to varying degrees. Moreover, while other issues could be raised, the following are meant to examine areas in which intra-Church silence or a lack of dialogue during the papacy of John Paul may have had severe negative consequences for all Catholics.

Hearing the Cries of the Child? The Abuse Scandal

In the Online Etymology Dictionary, we read the following definition of "trust": "c.1200, from [Old Norse] traust 'help, confidence,' from [ProtoGermanic] traust- (cf. [Old Frisian] trast, [Dutch] troost 'comfort, consolation,' [Old High German] trost 'trust, fidelity,' [Germanic] Trost 'comfort, consolation,' [Gothic] Trausti 'agreement, alliance')," (13) What is striking is the emphasis on help, comfort, and consolation. In highlighting three paradigmatic areas where intra-Church dialogue was wanting during John Paul's papacy, I begin with the child-abuse scandal--an instance of trust severely betrayed. The ongoing scandal is a chilling embodiment of Protestant Pastor Martin Niemoller's famous poem, with its well-known conclusion: "Then they came for me / and there was no one left / to speak out for me." (14) When Catholic children are abused and deafening silence reverberates in the Church, what other victims are left to speak out for? What may only be "new" are the types of victims. Church-inspired--if not Church-orchestrated--persecutions of heretics, Jews, Muslims, and the indigenous peoples and cultures of the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Oceania are deeply linked here. Sadly, such persecution turned inward is not surprising.

The scandal, therefore, is not only germane to the legacy of John Paul but also to the viability of the entire Church. It is, above all, a failure to listen to the victims and to the many laity and sisters who brought initial allegations to their local bishop or priest. Equally noxious are the systemic cover-up and inadequate responses that have plagued the Church and blinded it to the faces of these innocent victims, encircling them with stumbling blocks (Mk. 9:42). While more recent words and actions by Benedict may show signs of realizing the enormity of the problem, the papacy of John Paul seems tarnished by its general silence and its weak addressing of the issue. (15) As a well-known March, 2010, editorial in the National Catholic Reporter argued: "The first reported clergy sex abuse stories, dating back in NCR to 1985, focused on the misconduct of priests who had been taken to court by parents of molested children--parents who had gone to church officials, but received no solace. Instead, what they received from church officials was denial and counter accusation." (16)

While John Paul should be praised for seeking to redress many historical failures by Christians through his public apologies, we must always remember the words of the thirteenth-century Jewish philosopher and rabbinic sage Maimonides: "What is repentance? It is when a person abandons his sin and casts it from his mind, and decides not to repeat it." (17) Moreover, as John L. Allen, Jr., wrote, referring to the infamous case of the scandal involving Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ:
      In the eyes of critics, the Maciel case illustrates a pattern of
   denial and obstruction of justice on sex abuse during the John Paul
   years. In cases where local bishops attempted to formally expel
   abusers from the priesthood, in a process known as 'laicization,'
   Rome often counselled caution. Vatican authorities until very
   recently turned a blind eye to 'mandatory reporter' policies that
   would have obligated bishops to report these crimes to police and
   civil prosecutors.

      The extent to which that pattern has been
   reversed under Benedict XVI may be open to debate, but that it
   largely describes what happened under John Paul is, by now, a
   matter of record. (18)

Not everyone, of course, would agree with such a statement. In an interview in the National Catholic Register about his 2010 biography of John Paul, George Weigel responded to the question of the role of John Paul and the sex-abuse crisis by saying: "So what could seem like indifference or inattention was in fact a very bad line of communication between Washington and Rome. Finally informed of what was in fact happening, the Pope acted, decisively." (19) Moreover, Tim Drake, while not mentioning John Paul, argued that Benedict "as Cardinal and prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ... did more than anyone previously to prevent the problem." He closed his article with a quote from "Matthew Bunson, editor of The Catholic Answer magazine," that "It's safe to say that the Catholic Church is, today, the safest environment for children than any other [sic] institution in the U.S.... So much so, that the Catholic Church is a role model for other institutions dealing with the same exact problem." (20)

Based on the range of disagreements and the less than charitable comments from supporters and critics alike posted below Drake's article on the National Catholic Register website, one can see that the assessment is heated and ongoing. Meanwhile, the victims and their families still suffer.

Hearing the Cry of the Poor? Liberation Theology and Its Silencing

A no-less-crucial issue is John Paul's initial treatment and accusations against liberation theology and the subtle but ongoing critiques or silences of many liberation theologians by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and in the writings of Benedict. Such sustained criticism and subsequent cooptation of many of the key terms of liberation theology may become a devastating missed opportunity that the Church will lament for many generations to come.

At its best, liberation theology illumines a way forward for the Church, in continuity with the prophets of the Tanach, including Micah and Ezekiel; the table fellowship of Jesus; and the saints of the poor such as St. Francis, Blessed Marie Rivier, and Blessed Mother Teresa. Of its many fruitful attributes are the following: seeking dialogue and justice in the midst of the irruption of the poor; identifying and aiming to dismantle systemic evils and exploitation; highlighting economic and political concerns within the Bible; advocating an option for the poor; emphasizing a God of the destitute, oppressed, and marginalized; striving to seek the reign of God on earth without neglecting people's basic needs; establishing base communities, especially among the poor; and raising conscientization among the poor and all peoples of the Church. Liberation theology is an arduous, cathartic path in solidarity with the voiceless and peripheral, which is believed to be sustained by the working of the Spirit. There should never have to be a debate of whether liberation theology was just a moment that has passed. (21) If it has, Catholics will have a lot of explaining to do for future generations.

The Magisterium's undermining of liberation theology is another unfortunate issue to raise, especially in light of John Paul's deep concern for the destitute and disregarded, as highlighted in his tireless work toward lifting Third World debt during his Jubilee 2000 advocacy. Countless passages from John Paul's writings testify to his concern for the oppressed and forsaken. For example, in Sollicitudo rei socialis, we read: "There are many millions who are deprived of hope due to the fact that, in many parts of the world, their situation has noticeably worsened. Before these tragedies of total indigence and need, in which so many of our brothers and sisters are living, it is the Lord Jesus himself who comes to question us (cf. Mt 25:31-46)" (22)

The language resonates with much of the core of the writings of liberation theology, (23) but how one analyzes poverty and how one interprets the role theology (and a political reading of the Bible) can play in that alleviation remain at odds. The tendency to depoliticize (or, for some, to restore) the message of the gospel is summarized in Benedict's claim in the second volume of his Jesus of Nazareth:
   In his teaching and in his whole ministry, Jesus had inaugurated a
   nonpolitical Messianic kingdom and had begun to detach these two
   hitherto inseparable realities from one another ... But this
   separation--essential to Jesus' message--of politics from faith, of
   God's people from politics, was ultimately possible only through
   the Cross." (24)

Benedict then rightly spoke of kenosis and a stripping of external power. Such kenotic love, however, need not be estranged from the aims of liberation theology. Especially in despotic, colonial, and neocolonial contexts, Jesus' nonviolent praxis is highly political, as los campesinos of Solentiname were well aware. (25) Marcelino (a young man from the Solentiname archipelago) commented during a Bible study: "I don't agree. Christ was a political liberator who came to free us from oppression. Because to free from sins means to free people from selfishness, to make people love each other. And if people love each other there's no more oppression. And so Christ came to give us political freedom too." (26)

Hearing the Cries of Women? The Role of Women and the Church

The third area where intra-Church silence was more characteristic than dialogue during John Paul's papacy is the role of the laity--and especially women--within the Church. As a theologian born a decade after Vatican II, I find what was once deemed revolutionary and progressive in the Council to be banal and outdated. The majority of my students are even more unimpressed. Sadly, the documents of Vatican II dealing with other faiths can seem uninspiring, if not insulting. Nostra aetate, rightly hailed in so many circles in the 1960's and 1970's for its progressiveness, turns dim and dull today after a close reading by those who, while Catholic, have Hindu neighbors as best friends, a Jewish partner, Muslims on one's soccer team, and so on.

In this vein, the "question" of women's ordination has been deemed a closed issue. As John Paul wrote in Ordinatio sacerdotalis, "I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful." (27) Yet, the topic here is dialogue, and something about closed matters is very odd, especially one that seems confounding, oppressive, and, if I may add, quaint. I do not raise my daughter and sons by invoking gender-specific (and, so, culturally formed) expectations, duties, and roles. Simply, they all must be kind and considerate to all living beings.

If ever my feisty five-year-old daughter says she wants to be a Catholic priest, I know I could not look her in the eyes and mention "in persona Christi." (28) Such a phrase is insufficient and unpersuasive, especially with our deepened sense of our unconscious selves, the systemic challenging of gender as constructs of culture and society, our greater cognizance of so-called "masculine" and so-called "feminine" traits within the holistic human person, and the multiple layers of our ethnic, linguistic, cultural, and national identities. (29)

We are more and more both/and, rather than either/or beings. Harriet Luckman wrote in "Vatican II and the Role of Women": "Perhaps the next step, following the trajectory of Vatican II and related documents, is to move beyond the idea that biological maleness is the only or most appropriate way to image Christ. The church of the future faces the challenge of making real Paul's words, 'in Christ there is neither male nor female' (Gal 3:28)." (30)

While John Paul repudiated acts of violence and blatant discrimination against women, one cannot ignore the Vatican's controversial doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the CDF's criticisms of both Elizabeth Johnson's Quest for the Living God and Margaret Farley's Just Love. While these 2011 and 2012 Vatican actions obviously took place years after John Paul's death in 2005, their impetus finds roots during his papacy. (31) The lack of transparency, partnership, open dialogue, and trust in these--and similar--proceedings are a grave matter of concern for the vitality and growth of the Church.

Ultimately, before one approaches interreligious dialogue and the question of the role and status of the Qur'an--let alone Muhammad, the eternal Jewish covenant, or the Buddha--one must get one's own house in order. In short, how can there be supposed openness and dialogue of these issues if such areas as women's ordination are, for all intents and purposes, closed?

Coherence or Contradictions? Dialogue and Evangelization--Prayer Day at Assisi and Dominus Iesus

"Openness" was mentioned above. It is a word similar to "humility" that is derided in some circles for being easily co-opted--a pliable word that, without qualification and clarification, is innocuous to the point of mediocrity or, worse, indifferent to clear wrongs. To maintain such an integral word as "humility," I always refer to its needed scrappy and rugged attributes. Such humility calls for a person to acknowledge one's need for God and the Other but will cry out and keen whenever the dignity and life of that Other and one's self are trampled and disregarded. Recall: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Mt. 5:3). The meek can indeed rule, but humbly.

Openness, as I envision it, is like the principled pluralism advocated by Jewish theologian, Rabbi Irving Greenberg: "In principled pluralism, practitioners of absolute faiths do not give up their obligation to criticize that which is wrong (or what they believe to be wrong) or that which leads to less than full realization of truth, found in other faiths." (32) Such is to say that theological openness on issues of doctrine and faith is not like a store on the web open twenty-four hours a day. There must be limits, boundaries, and points of closure. Two points are essential. The first entails an awareness of the potentially flawed criteria one uses to close (and then silence) certain matters. The second is an acknowledgement, no matter how painful, that the majority view today may become the minority view in the future, as the Talmud and other rabbinic writings beautifully illustrate. For example, R. Yehuda commented: "The minority view is recorded [in the Mishnah] along with the majority view so that it is available to become the applicable law whenever the circumstances are appropriate." (33) Of course, one will say that the Church is not a democracy. No, indeed, but a Church that is the People of God, enlivened by the sensus fidelium, has more in common with the quote from R. Yehuda than some may want to admit.

Scrappy humility and principled openness: These are qualities that one could also apply to John Paul. What ultimately, then, was his view of interreligious dialogue, and how should one assess his impressive global travels to bring the message of Christ to all peoples and cultures? Consider first his 1986 gathering at Assisi for a world day of prayer in which those of numerous faiths came together at his request. John Paul was clear that this was not a syncretistic event, but here was a pope open to an occasion in which people prayed, meditated, or were silent in their various expressions and interpretations of prayer. As action, spectacle, and symbol, the gathering testified to his genuine partnership with all those seeking to bring peace, charity, and justice to all. He proclaimed, "To build the peace of order, justice and freedom requires, therefore, a priority commitment to prayer, which is openness, listening, dialogue and finally union with God, the prime wellspring of true peace." (34)

Understandably, those who are secular humanists, atheists, or of various atheistic (or agnostic) Buddhist, Confucian, or Hindu traditions would not fully ascribe to John Paul's prayer in their name that refers to a union with God as the foundation for any lasting peace. Here is where examining the words and not merely looking at the photos can accentuate a more complicated picture.

Although this should not be surprising, John Paul was a staunch Catholic pope who did not waver from the standard teachings set forth in the CDF's declaration, Dominus Iesus. According to Ilaria Morali, "[D]uring the course of the Angelus on October 1, 2000, John Paul stressed that the Declaration had been approved by him 'in a special way' and had been conceived as an invitation to all Christians to renew their confession of Christ as 'the Way, the Truth, and the Life."' (35) I quote the opening words of the declaration, followed by my interpretation of its significance in analyzing John Paul and interreligious dialogue:
   The Lord Jesus, before ascending into heaven, commanded his
   disciples to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world and to baptize
   all nations: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to
   every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; he
   who does not believe will be condemned" (Mk 16:15-16); "All power
   in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and teach
   all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the
   Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I
   have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end
   of the world" (Mt 28:18-20; cf. Lk 24:46-48; Jn 17:18,20,21; Acts
   1:8). (36)

The words, of course, are predominantly quotes from the Gospels, but how would a non-Catholic Christian read those opening, all-or-nothing lines? (37) The tone, assertive and exclusive, seems to offer little space for the Other. Why not begin with quotes of humility, or choose this passage from Mark instead: "Whoever is not against us is for us" (9:40)? Fortunately, if non-Catholics continued reading, they would then notice the declaration's momentarily seeking to continue in the spirit of Nostra aerate, stating that
   the Church's proclamation of Jesus Christ, "the way, the truth, and
   the life" (Jn 14:6), today also makes use of the practice of
   inter-religious dialogue. Such dialogue certainly does not replace,
   but rather accompanies the missio ad genres, directed toward that
   "mystery of unity", from which "it follows that all men and women
   who are saved share, though differently, in the same mystery of
   salvation in Jesus Christ through his Spirit". Inter-religious
   dialogue, which is part of the Church's evangelizing mission,
   requires an attitude of understanding and a relationship of mutual
   knowledge and reciprocal enrichment, in obedience to the truth and
   with respect for freedom. (38)

Views of Dominus Iesus vary widely. Anthony A. Akinwale titled his essay on the declaration "A Timely Reaffirmation and Clarification of Vatican II." (39) Mary Boys, in her essay, "The Nostra Aetate Trajectory," instead contended that "Dominus Iesus is written from [a] metaphysical perch; it assumes a position of omniscience for which the experience of dialogue and interreligious friendships are irrelevant." (40) What is most striking about her comment when applied to John Paul is that he not only maintained interreligious friendships and supported interreligious dialogue and partnership but also deeply supported the generally uncompromising message of Dominus Iesus. Regardless, the selection from Dominus Iesus above includes some of the inclusive spirit of Nostra aetate by acknowledging much good in other traditions outside the confines of the Church.

It also stresses that this good originates in the working of the Holy Spirit, best exemplified within the sacramental and ecclesial life of the Church. These other faiths reflect a ray of the truth but are not themselves the source of truth.

John Paul remarked in Crossing the Threshold of Hope, "Thus, Christ is the true active subject of humanity's salvation. The Church is as well, inasmuch as it acts on behalf of Christ and in Christ." (41) Indeed, Christ is the sole and unique mediator of God and salvation. (42) He continued, "Although the Catholic Church knows that it has received the fullness of the means of salvation, it rejoices when other Christian communities join her in preaching the Gospel." (43)

When one reflects upon these statements, one should not be surprised to hear that mission and dialogue are conjoined by John Paul. They are said to share in similar ends in which dialogue is a means of witnessing one's faith. Though interreligious dialogue is not strictly an act intended to convert someone to the Catholic fold, one must always be open to this possibility. As John Paul remarked in Redemptoris misssio:
      Inter-religious dialogue is part of the Church's evangelizing
   mission.... All of this has been given ample emphasis by the
   Council and the subsequent Magisterium, without detracting in any
   way from the fact that salvation comes from Christ and that
   dialogue does not dispense from evangelization.


      ... Dialogue should be conducted and implemented with the
   conviction that the Church is the ordinary means of salvation and
   that she alone possesses the fullness of the means of salvation.

Dialogue with other faiths is therefore praised, but clear boundaries are set, and the fullness of salvation subsists in the Catholic Church. Any ambiguity on some of these lines is further clarified in the CDF's "Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization," published after John Paul's death, but it resonates with much of his writing and thought and amply cites him throughout. The "Note" rebukes those who believe that
   it would only be legitimate to present one's own ideas and to
   invite people to act according to their consciences, without aiming
   at their conversion to Christ and to the Catholic faith. It is
   enough, so they say, to help people to become more human or more
   faithful to their own religion; it is enough to build communities
   which strive for justice, freedom, peace and solidarity.
   Furthermore, some maintain that Christ should not be proclaimed to
   those who do not know him, nor should joining the Church be
   promoted, since it would also be possible to be saved without
   explicit knowledge of Christ and without formal incorporation in
   the Church. (45)

According to this "Note," interfaith dialogue and events have their limited place, but there is always the ultimate aim of mission and evangelization of the gospel. Any interreligious encounter would seem to be incomplete until, or unless, conversion of the Other occurs. Questions proliferate: What level of meaningful dialogue can flourish under these conditions? How should power imbalances within relations be addressed? Moreover, how does such mission stay faithfully cognizant of the tragedies committed in the past and avoid a triumphalism that displays paltry spiritual awareness of the depth of the Other's beliefs and views? I will return to these questions in the conclusion.

Some Muslim and Buddhist Views of John Paul II

Building upon what was said above, I will briefly examine some critiques of John Paul's approach to other faiths by some prominent Buddhist and Muslim thinkers and then turn more extensively to Jewish voices.

In his Living Buddha, Living Christ, Buddhist Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat H anh referred to John Paul's Crossing the Threshold of Hope, quoting passages such as "Christ is absolutely original and absolutely unique. If he were only a wise man like Socrates, ... if he were 'enlightened' like Buddha, without any doubt He would not be what He is. He is the one mediator between God and humanity." (46) Nhat Hanh then subsequently remarked: "This attitude excludes dialogue and fosters religious intolerance and discrimination. It does not help." (47) Other Buddhists were also critical of additional passages in Crossing the Threshold of Hope, including one passage that claimed that "both the Buddhist tradition and the methods deriving from it have an almost exclusively negative soteriology. (48) Buddhist scholar Jose Ignacio Cabezon, moreover, acknowledged the diverse range of Buddhist visitors to John Paul, but he wrote, "The distorted picture of Buddhism in John Paul's more recent writings arises from what is an increasing fear of Buddhism as a competitor in the spiritual, especially the contemplative, sphere." (49) He also suggested that this negative depiction of Buddhism "emerges out of the Pope's inability to see the other 'as it really is."' (50) Again, both Nhat Hanh and Cabezon lauded the life and socialjustice values embodied in John Paul but have been justly critical of his portrayal of their faith.

In light of the aftermath of Benedict's 2006 Regensburg address, however, many Muslims may have looked with yearning for John Paul. Writing for the Brookings Institute in 2005 after the pope's death, Muqtedar Khan remarked: "Today, through the efforts of John Paul as a pioneer in interfaith bridgebuilding, Muslims, too, feel as though Catholicism has started to reciprocate and recognize Islam and Muslims as partners in spirituality." (51) This is quite a promising claim, especially after the criticism leveled at the pope's comments on Islam in Crossing the Threshold of Hope. Mahmoud Ayoub would be one representative voice for rebuking the pope's views on Islam, especially John Paul's statement, "In Islam all the richness of God's self-revelation, which constitutes the heritage of the Old and New Testaments, has definitely been set aside." (52)

Nevertheless, in light of the great clashes and tensions between the so-called Christian and Muslim worlds, John Paul's engagement with Muslims was refreshing and is of major importance in our current geopolitical situation. Recall in particular his words in Kazakhstan a few weeks after the attacks on America in September, 2001 : "In this context, and precisely here in this Land of encounter and dialogue, and before this distinguished audience, I wish to reaffirm the Catholic Church's respect for Islam, for authentic Islam: the Islam that prays, that is concerned for those in need." (53) His various apologies in the name of Christians, including actions committed by Christian Crusaders (though not the Crusades themselves), were also steps in the right direction for many Muslims.

A Ray of Hope? The Covenant Never Revoked: John Paul II and Judaism

John Paul had a deep love and reverence for Judaism and has played a key role in the history and future of Jewish-Christian dialogue. As Marianne Moyaert and Didier Pollefeyt have written: "During his pontificate the Church condemned anti-Semitism, reflected on the roots of Christian anti-Judaic attitudes and prayed for the forgiveness of sins committed by 'some sons and daughters of the Church."' (54) Often referring to the Jews as his brothers, John Paul most importantly maintained that the Jewish covenant had never been revoked. Founded on Romans 11, it is a statement that has yet to be fully developed by the Catholic Church but one that holds great promise, not only for Jewish-Christian dialogue but also for the Church's attitude toward and relations with other faiths. (55)

John Paul's acts of repentance and his seeking forgiveness for actions of Christians in the past toward Jews were other important signs of a change within Church teaching. Alan Berger, however, was correct to remark: "That might be possible in a corporate sense and in certain forms of Catholic Christianity, but it is just not the way forgiveness works in the Jewish tradition." (56) Maimonides's "Laws of Repentance" was invoked earlier and should be a primary document for any Christian who is seeking a greater understanding of Jewish forgiveness and why Catholic apologies for the Shoah were met with less than enthusiastic views in many Jewish circles. Of greatest importance here may be the document "We Remember," in 2000, which Greenberg deemed "a split document emotionally and theologically." (57)

In addition to such critiques, there was also ample Jewish disagreement with John Paul's support for Pope Pius XII and the canonization of Edith Stein. Some of these tensions remain. (58) Nevertheless, one needs to recall from whence the dialogue had come. Jewish theologian Michael Kogan has quipped: "Pope John Paul II has declared that the very existence of Jews today as a flourishing religious community demonstrates this people's fidelity to God and God's fidelity to them. Fifty years ago a pope would have said how stubborn and stiff-necked the sons and daughters of Jacob were in their refusal to accept Jesus. Quite a change!" (59) It is a harmless little joke; we may not even crack a smile. Such a reaction testifies to changes that many of us who were born in the last few decades take for granted, such as the claims that supersessionism is a sin; that God's covenant with the Jewish people is living and irrevocable; that the deicide charge against the Jewish people is wrong; that Jesus, along with major Gospel figures such as Joseph, Mary, and Peter, were all devout Jews; that Christians can deepen their faith and their experience of Jesus through learning about Jews and Judaism; and that no systemic conversionary attempt of the Jews should be undertaken.

John Paul was instrumental in spreading this discourse to the Catholic faithful and to the greater world. Edward Kessler in An Introduction to Jewish-Christian Relations, for example, has written: "When Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) led the Vatican to recognise the state of Israel in 1994, he overturned centuries of teaching that tied Jewish eviction from their land to the sinful rejection of Christ." (60)

Rabbi David Gordis may, perhaps have struck the right tone when he concluded:
      The next steps in Catholic-Jewish relations may require a John
   XXIV. But if what we seek is a world of authentic interreligious
   understanding, in which religious traditions will not contribute to
   the pathologies of hatred, vilification, and persecution but to
   their alleviation, then each of our religious communities will
   require such a figure, combining the good will of a John Paul II
   with a prophetic vision and courage. Until those figures emerge, we
   can be grateful for John Paul II's considerable achievements. (61)

Conclusion: A Mixed, but Promising Heritage

What could Gordis mean by "a prophetic vision and courage"? For Gordis such characteristics were not fully realized in the vision of John Paul. Is this because the pope's belief that the "fullness of salvation" subsists in the Church closed any possibility for the full acceptance of other faiths on those faiths' terms? And, yet, John Paul's reiteration of the eternal Jewish covenant raises some very interesting and crucial possibilities. As Moyaert and Pollefeyt wrote, "Israel is and remains God's chosen and beloved people, even if it can not accept Jesus as the promised Messiah." (62) John Paul never articulated those exact words, but what, in fact, does the viability of the eternal covenant mean for the Jewish people if not the sense that their path is through a love and service of God and one another as embodied in the Tanach and the Talmud? So, too, would this recognition entail a refusal for systemic conversionary attempts of the Jewish people as advocated by the ecumenical document "A Sacred Obligation" (63)?

While John Paul's legacy in Catholic intra- and interreligious dialogue is most promising within Jewish-Christian relations, that heritage seems stalled, if not undermined, today. Benedict has made strides to maintain, if not advance, relations with non-Catholic groups. Such strides, however, have often been undermined by unhelpful or misinterpreted actions by the Magisterium, such as the Bishop Richard Williamson fiasco. (64) Benedict's focus on intercultural dialogue and his published criticisms of the viability of interreligious dialogue have also not been helpful. (65)

Moreover, Benedict's reworking of the Latin Good Friday prayer has been another unnecessarily divisive move. While his reworking is a vast improvement of the 1948 one that called for the conversion of "the perfidious Jews," it still departs drastically in spirit and tone from the 1970 Good Friday Prayer that speaks of the Jews in positive terms and does not pray for the conversion of Jews to Christ. (66) The 2008 prayer states:
   Let us pray also for the Jews. That our Lord and God may enlighten
   their hearts, that they may acknowledge Jesus as their savior of
   all men. Almighty, ever living God, who wills that all men be saved
   and come to the knowledge of truth, graciously grant that all
   Israel may be saved when the fullness of the nations enters into
   your Church. (67)

In a 2008 interview with Der Spiegel, German Rabbi Walter Homolka stated:

[The pope] indicates that he believes that the path to salvation, even for Jews, can only go through Jesus, the savior. This opens the floodgates for the conversion of Jews. The Internet is already full of comments by conservative, right-wing Catholics who say: "Wonderful, now we finally have the signal to convert the Jews." This kind of signal has an extremely provocative effect on anti-Semitic groups. (68)

Thankfully, Benedict has sought to limit such thinking. Kessler noted in his review of the second volume of Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth, "The Pope rejects the idea that 'the Jews killed Christ' and also suggests that Christianity should not concern itself with the conversion of Jews." (69) As Kessler noted, one hopes that Benedict's interfaith overtures to his Jewish dialogue partners, including the generally positive (though still not lucid enough) comments in the second volume of Jesus of Nazareth, will silence such radical groups.

At the core of these missteps and miscommunications is the fraught relationship between interreligious dialogue and evangelization; how, then, can this impasse be overcome? The Church, via John Paul, has consistently spoken of interreligious dialogue's serving mission and evangelization. What results is a clashing cacophony of images, sound bites, and texts: Dominus Iesus and the World Day of Prayer at Assisi. Two principal approaches remain; one is always to be clear, candid, and consistent: The church has the fullness of salvation; salvation is only through Christ; and other paths are deficient. Such an approach contends that dialogue can be a practical means to achieve a certain level of understanding among religions and faiths for the sake of achieving a practical peace in this world. Such dialogue may also remind the Church of inoperative or unfulfilled sources of good that have so far been better reflected in other paths. Ultimately, however, the aim of such dialogue is to attest to the fullness of salvation offered within the sacramental and ecclesial life in the Catholic Church and to seek to bring people to this truth for their own good and salvation.

This position may, in fact, be where the Magisterium has been heading in the recent decades since Vatican II, spearheaded by the writings of John Paul and carried further and more systematically by Benedict. Aiming for clarity and rooting out confusion or misunderstood ambiguity, such a position may be more helpful to interreligious dialogue than a protean, conflicting, and nebulous one. Questions asked are concisely and uniformly answered. While there is little to no room for dissent and questioning, this staunch position avoids cheap unity, false hopes, and mixed messages. Doubt, angst, and uncertainty would thus have little place. Crucially, such a firm, confident theological belief is by no means opposed to the healing and mending of injustice in this world as embodied in Catholic Social Teaching.

The second approach is a principled religious pluralism that can celebrate the depth and holiness of one's living faith but is also acutely aware of the failures, fissures, and caesuras within one's religious beliefs, doctrine, and praxis. It also acknowledges that there is still so much to learn and develop within one's own tradition, let alone to claim complete knowledge of another path or tradition. Such a position perhaps requires what Dominus Iesus refers to as "an attitude of understanding and a relationship of mutual knowledge and reciprocal enrichment." (70) Moreover, has any religion sufficiently answered the theodic challenges of a world where life can be so cheap, where genocides erupt, and where a nasty combination of human carelessness, apathy, and greed are joined with forces of nature to unleash havoc and destruction outwardly in the form of hurricanes and earthquakes and inwardly in the form of disease and plagues? (71) What is the great fear of admitting and keeping open a possibility that one may not be fully right or, just as likely, that another path may also be viable? Such a position maintains that language bathed in terms of "only," "unique," "sole," "final," and "fullness" often does little to sustain and develop one's faith but is instead more likely to lead to mostly negative consequences, such as the following:

1. An awareness of the wide gap between the exclusive, superior religious rhetoric and the reality. The child-abuse scandal is one of many areas in this regard.

2. A failure to appreciate, accept, and truly love the Other. While a belief in the superiority of one's faith need not mean the denigration of an Other, such a result seems more likely than an approach that hopes to have found complete truth but also acknowledges ongoing learning, seeking, and development from the Other.

3. The paradoxical result of supporting and strengthening other paths. Accentuating the lack and flaws of other religions rarely endures when one encounters the living faith and beauty of other major religious traditions.

4. Disillusionment and a deeper doubt of the viability of one's faith. As exclusive language becomes more difficult to uphold in light of institutional failure and genuine interreligious encounters, a loss of faith becomes more plausible if the framework is a drastic all-or-nothing.

5. A closed-minded, myopic, defensive, walled-in mentality. Every other voice is an attack or a challenge that must be put down, hereticized, and castigated. Isolation, whether in a political or a religious sphere, is never a long-term solution.

Certitude, no matter the cost, may be an elixir for many. It is not easy to live in a world of much doubt, confusion, seeking, and multiple paths and identities. The challenge is how to uphold and maintain one's core religious identity and beliefs and to see interreligious dialogue as a tremendous honor, opportunity, obligation, and challenge. Such encounters should be embraced. They are a means to test and live out one's orthodoxy and orthopraxy while learning about and partnering with those of other or no faith traditions. Such partnerships and dialogue will likely nurture and stimulate further questioning, re-envisioning, seeking, and learning. These are often signs of vitality and needed development. It is a process mutually enriched by intra-Church dialogue.

It is worth again repeating the vital connection between Catholic intra- and interreligious dialogue. When Catholic intra-Church dialogue suffers or is characterized by polarity, rancor, and distrust, then genuine interreligious dialogue is an impossibility. Where differing views within the Catholic community are met with high-handed ostracizing, silence, and rebuke, there can be little hope for mutual learning and trust when in dialogue with those outside the Church. Catholic participation and progress in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue will go only as far as such progress and participation is reflected within Catholic intra-Church dialogue.

Solid, committed faith can thrive under such open, searching, and pluralist contexts. In fact, the more I encounter and teach as a Catholic in the field of interreligious studies, the more my personal anchor remains the life and teachings of Christ. I also recognize my need for a greater silence toward--and appreciation of--distinctive paths and ways for others. Such silence and admiration demand more interreligious encounters and further sustained study and reflection on the terms and worldviews of those other paths. Trust in the goodness and justice of God is also paramount.

Like the scrappy humility noted above, such an attempt is an example of a principled openness that is willing to cite boundaries and markers and limits--but only where the love of God and one another is threatened. If such a criterion seems expansive, fuzzy, permeable, pluralist, and overly trusting, so be it. If our true aim is to seek, find, and spread the Reign of God in our midst, then we will have to endure, if not embrace, some ambiguity and pluralist ways. We need to be as open to both/and formulations as to either/or ones.

What of the legacy of John Paul in Catholic intra- and interreligious dialogue? The criterion cited above is not usually linked with John Paul. In turning one last time to the interfaith prayer gathering at Assisi and the generally exclusivist tone of Dominus Iesus, can both testaments be woven into a unified message, and is such a unified message even fruitful? Perhaps, in the apparent contradictions and conflicts, there remains some space, some room for development and needed uncertainty. Such ambiguity, as noted above, is exemplified in John Paul's never-developed, Pauline-based statement on the eternal covenant of the Jewish people. Such a statement remains committed to Christ and yet leaves open a space and a path for the Jewish people in covenant with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. At present, this truth remains underdeveloped by the Magisterium.

While perhaps feared in some circles, promoting the eternal Jewish covenant nevertheless heralds the promise of deep renewal in the Church. Such a stance demands humility, courage, nuancing, and openness. With Holocaust survivor and Jewish theologian Kasimow, such ambiguity or undeveloped statements allow one to be "amazed by Pope John Paul II's strong commitment to interfaith dialogue," (72) while also, with Gordis, hoping and waiting for a figure "with a prophetic vision and courage." (73) In the meantime--and amidst the rifts within and outside the Catholic Church--we seek to face these ruptures and open spaces for the Other with humble, faith-filled interreligious gestures, hopes, and trust.

* I wish to thank Dr. Caroline Renehan for her acute comments on an earlier version of this essay, as well as the anonymous reviewers for J.E.S.

(1) Peter C. Phan, "John Paul II and Interreligious Dialogue: Reality and Promise," in Gerard Mannion, ed., The Vision of John Paul II: Assessing His Thought and Influence, A Michael Glazier Book (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2008), p. 236.

(2) Unless otherwise noted, I will use "Catholic Church" and "Church" intercbangeably. Also note that the Magisterium often refers to various types of interreligious dialogue. E.g., in an address to the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, John Paul remarked, "Although dialogue can take on other forms--the 'dialogue of life', the dialogue of co-operation, and formal dialogue or exchanges among experts--all of which are important, the dialogue of spirituality can contribute a depth and quality which will preserve these from the danger of mere activism" ("Address of His Holiness John Paul II to Participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue," no. 4, November 24, 1995; emphases in original; available at

(3) Joseph Pronechen, "John Paul II Beatified on a Family Day," National Catholic Register, May 2, 2011; available at For the view of a survivor of child abuse, see Thomas C. Fox, "Clergy Sex Abuse Survivor Pleas No Sainthood for Pope John Paul II," National Catholic Reporter, April 15, 201 I; available at The survivor is Robert Wilford, and the article includes the letter he sent to Benedict XVI prior to John Paul's beatification.

(4) James Rudin, Christians and Jews--Faith to Faith. Tragic History, Promising Present, Fragile Future (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 2011), pp. 193-194. See also Harold Kasimow, "Introduction: John Paul II and Interreligious Dialogue, An Overview," in Byron L. Sherwin and Harold Kasimow, eds., John Paul 11 and Interreligious Dialogue, Faith Meets Faith Series (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1999), p. 1.

(5) Rudin, Christians and Jen,s, p. 197. See also Shmuley Boteach, Kosher Jesus (Jerusalem: Geffen, 2012), p. xv.

(6) Rudin, Christians and Jews, p. 196. Rudin cited the issue of the wartime records of the Vatican in relation to Pope Plus XII.

(7) See Peter C. Phan, "Peacebuilding and Reconciliation: Interreligious Dialogue and Catholic Spirituality," in Robert J. Schreiter, et al., eds., Peacebuilding: Catholic Theology, Ethics, and Praxis (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2010), p. 339.

(8) Gaudium et spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World), no. 4, available at For my examination of dissent, see Peter Admirand, "'My Children Have Defeated Me!': Finding and Nurturing Theological Dissent," Irish Theological Quarterly 77 (August, 2012): 286-304.

(9) John Paul II, Ut unum sint (That They May Be One: On Commitment to Ecumenism), no. 96; available at See also James F. Puglisi, ed., Petrine Ministry and the Unity of the Church (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1999); James F. Puglisi, ed., How Can the Petrine Ministry Be a Service to the Unity of the Universal Church? (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2010); and Fergus Kerr, Twentieth-Century Catholic Theologians (Oxford, U.K.: Blackwell, 2008), pp. 172-175.

(10) Jess Stein, ed., The Random House College Dictionary, rev. ed. (New York: Random House, 1984), p. 1136. One could also weave in the musical notion of a rift as a means for cohesion.

(11) For the Church's use of "subsists in," see Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church"; available at

(12) Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Jesus of Nazareth, Part 2: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, tr. Philip J. Whitmore (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2011 [orig.: Jesus yon Nazareth, vol. 2, Vom Einzug in Jerusalem bis zur Auferstehung (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011)]), p. 101.

(13) Douglas Harper, "trust," in Online Etymology Dictionary; available at index.php?search=trust&searchmode=none.

(14) Martin Niemoller, "First They Came for the Jews," in Hilda Schiff, ed., Holocaust Poetry (New York: St. Martin's, 1995), p. 9.

(15) See "Interview of the Holy Father Benedict XVI with the Journalists during the Flight to the United Kingdom," September 16, 2010; available at

(16) Editorial, "Credibility Gap: Pope Needs to Answer Questions," National Catholic Reporter, March 26, 2010; available at These claims were also echoed by Hans Kang; see his open letter to the Catholic bishops, printed in The Irish Times under the heading "Church in Worst Credibility Crisis since Reformation, Theologian Tells Bishops," April 4, 2010: available at

(17) Maimonides, "Laws of Repentance," in Marc D. Angel, ed. and tr., Maimonides--Essential Teachings on Jewish Faith and Ethics: The Book of Knowledge and the Thirteen Principles of Faith, Annotated and Explained (Woodstock, VT: SkyLight Paths, 2012), p. 109 (2.2).

(18) John L. Allen, Jr., "Fast-Track Saint: Why Is the Vatican Rushing the Beatification of a Pope Who Oversaw Its Worst Scandal in Centuries?" Newsweek, April 17, 2011; available at

(19) Joan Frawley Desmond, "George Weigel Talks about His New Biography of Pope John Paul II," National Catholic Register, September 14, 2010; available at

(20) Tim Drake, "Did Pope Benedict XVI Drop the Ball?" National Catholic Register, July 27, 2010; available at

(21) See the excellent collection of essays in Patrick Claffey and Joe Egan, eds., Movement or Moment? Assessing Liberation Theology Forty Years after Medellin (Bern: Peter Lang, 2009). See also my chapters on liberation theology in Peter Admirand, Amidst Mass Atrocity and the Rubble of Theology: Searching for a Viable Theodicy (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2012), pp. 133-166.

(22) John Paul II, Sollicitudo rei socialis, no. 13; available at See also Charles E. Curran, Kenneth R. Himes, and Thomas A. Shannon, "Commentary on Sollicitudo rei socialis (On Social Concern)," in Kenneth R. Himes, et al., eds., Modern Catholic Social Teaching: Commentaries and Interpretations (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2004), pp. 415-435.

(23) The primary text of Latin American liberation theology remains Ignacio Ellacuria and Jon Sobrino, eds., Mysterium Liberationis: Fundamental Concepts of Liberation Theology (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1993 [abridged and adapted from Mysterium Liberationis: Conceptos Fundamentales de la Teologia de la Liberacion, 2 vols. (Madrid: Editorial Trotta, 1990)]). For a concise overview, update, and further recommended readings of liberation theology, see Elizabeth A. Johnson, Quest for the Living God." Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God (New York: Continuum, 2011), pp. 70-89.

(24) Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, pp. 170-171.

(25) The text contains some problematic assertions of the Jewish faith (at least in the time of Jesus) and a sometimes problematic linking of Jesus and the role of revolutionary violence (that is not love), but the work should still be required reading for any Catholic Christian today. See Ernesto Cardenal, The Gospel in Solentiname, vol. 1, tr. Donald D. Walsh (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2010 [orig.: El evangelio en Solentiname (Salamanca: Ediciones Sigueme, 1975); E. T.: Orbis, 1976]).

(26) Quoted in ibid., p. 13 (pp. 21-22 in 1982 paper ed.). The group was discussing Mt. 1:18-25.

(27) John Paul II, Ordinatio sacerdotalis, "On Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone," no. 4; available at See also the editorial, "Ordination Ban Not Infallibly Taught," National Catholic Reporter, May 23, 2011; available at

(28) During a Catholic mass in the summer of 2012, my (then) five-year-old daughter and 1 had the following (quiet and obviously rushed) exchange: Kaitlyn: Can women be priests or only singers? Me: They can be priests but not in this Church. Kaitlyn: Why? Me: Well, it's a silly rule but it will change some day. Kaitlyn: What if it never changes? Me: That would be silly. Kaitlyn: And mean. Especially for women who want to be priests and go to this Church.

(29) Other types of multiple identities, such as religious, could also be added. For a helpful explanation of the Catholic Church's historical use of the phrase "'in persona Christi," see Caroline Renehall, I Am Mary, I Am Woman (Blackrock, Dublin: Columba, 2010), pp. 105-109. The relevant literature on some of the other issues touched upon in this subtopic is vast, but here are several other useful resources: Laura E. Donaldson and Kwok Pui-lan, eds., Postcolonialism, Feminism, and Religious Discourse (New York: Routledge, 2002); Leonard Swidler, Jesus Was a Feminist: What the Gospels Reveal about His Revolutionary Perspective (Lanham, MD: Sheed & Ward, 2007); Ivone Gebara, Out of the Depths: Women's Experience of Evil and Suffering, tr. Ann Patrick Ware (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2002); Maura O'Neill, Mending a Torn World: Women in Interreligious Dialogue (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2007); Elyse Goldstein, ed., New Jewish Feminism: Probing the Past, Forging the Future (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 2009); Kwok Pui-lan, ed., Hope Abundant: Third World and Indigenous Women's Theology (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2010); and Mary E. Hunt and Diann L. Neu, eds., New Feminist Christianity: Many Voices, Many Views (Woodstock, VT: SkyLight Paths, 2010).

(30) Harriet A. Luckman, "Vatican II and the Role of Women," in William Madges, ed., Vatican II: Forty Years Later, The Annual Publication of the College Theology Society, 2005, vol. 51 (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2006), p. 91.

(31) Consider, e.g., John Paul's support and approval of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious. See, in particular, the Council's self-description in the "About Us" section on its homepage, at See also Thomas C. Fox, "Bishops' Move against Women Religious a Hard Sell. Indeed," National Catholic Reporter, June 5, 2012; available at

(32) Irving Greenberg, For the Sake of Heaven and Earth: The New Encounter between Judaism and Christianity (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2004), pp. 207-208.

(33) Asher Maoz, "Contemporary Application of Jewish Values in Other Jurisdictions," Revista Dionysiana, vol. 2 (2008), pp. 92-93. The quotation is from Tosefta, Eduyyot, 1:4; see

(34) John Paul II, "Address of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to the Representatives of the World Religions," Assisi, January 24, 2002; emphasis in original; available at

(35) Ilaria Moreli, "Salvation, Religions, and Dialogue in the Roman Magisterium: From Plus IX to Vatican II and Postconciliar Popes," in Karl J. Becker and Ilaria Moreli, eds., Catholic Engagement with Worm Religions: A Comprehensive Study, Faith Meets Faith Series (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2010), p. 137.

(36) Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Declaration 'Dominus Iesus': On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church," no. 1; emphasis in original; available at

(37) For a representative sample, see the essays by non-Catholics in Stephen J. Pope and Charles Hefting, eds., Sic et Non: Encountering Dominus Iesus (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002). See also the three-part blog entry of Francis Clooney in America magazine, "Dominus Iesus 10 Years Later," Part 1, August 28, 2010, available at; Part II, August 31, 2010, available at entry_id=3238; and Part III, September 3, 2010, available at

(38) Dominus Iesus, no. 2. For my examination of the "relationship" between mission and interreligious dialogue, see Peter Admirand, "Mission in Remission: Mission and Interreligious Dialogue in a Postmodern, Postcoloniat Age," Concilium (2011.1), pp. 95-104 (and five other language editions); and idem, "'Overcoming "Mere Oblivion': Mission Encountering Dialogue (A Reflection in Five Acts)," Search. A Church of Ireland Journal, vol. 34, no. 1 (2011), pp. 30-38.

(39) Anthony A. Akinwale, "A Timely Reaffirmation and Clarification of Vatican II," in Pope and Hefting, Sic et Non, pp. 169-178.

(40) Mary C. Boys, "The Nostra Aetate Trajectory: Holding Our Theological Bow Differently," in Marianne Moyaert and Didier Pollefeyt, eds., Never Revoked: Nostra Aetate as Ongoing Challenge for Jewish-Christian Dialogue, Louvain Theological and Pastoral Monographs 40 (Leuven and Walpole, MA: Peeters; Grand Rapids, MI, and Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2010), p. 152.

(41) John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, ed. Vittorio Messori (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), p. 139; emphasis in original.

(42) John Paul wrote, "It is therefore a revealed truth that there is salvation only and exclusively in Christ" (ibid., p. 136; emphasis in original).

(43) Ibid., p. 141; emphasis in original.

(44) John Paul II, Redemptoris misssio (On the Permanent Validity of the Church's Missionary Mandate), no. 55; emphases in original; available at See also the Pontifical Council for lnterreligious Dialogue, "Dialogue and Proclamation"; available at councils/interelg/documents/rc_pc_interelg_doc_1905199_l_dialogue-and-proclamatio_en.html.

(45) Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization," no. 3; available at

(46) John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold, pp. 42-43; emphases in original (quoted without emphases in Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ [London: Rider; New York: Riverhead Books, 1995 and 2007], p. 193).

(47) Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ, p. 193.

(48) John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold, p. 85; emphasis in original.

(49) Jose Ignacio Cabezon, "A Buddhist Response to John Paul 11," in Sherwin and Kasimow, John Paul II and Interreligious Dialogue, p. 120.

(50) Ibid., p. 117.

(51) Muqtedar Khan, "Pope John Paul II: He Helped Build Interfaith Bridge," April 5, 2005; available at

(52) Mahmoud Ayoub, "Pope John Paul II on Islam," in Sherwin and Kasimow, John Paul II and Interreligious Dialogue, p. 182, quoting John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold, p. 92.

(53) John Paul II, "Address at the Palace of Congress, Astana," September 24, 2011, no. 5; available at (from L 'Osservatore Romano, weekly ed. in English, September 26, 2001, p. 7).

(54) Marianne Moyaert and Didier Pollefeyt, "Introduction: The Covenant Never Revoked--Remembering the Conciliar Courage to Dialogue," in Moyaert and Pollefeyt, Never Revoked, pp. 2-3.

(55) See, e.g., the essays in Philip A. Cunningham, et al., eds., Christ Jesus and the Jewish People Today: New Explorations of Theological Interrelationships (Grand Rapids, MI, and Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2011).

(56) Alan L. Berger and David Patterson, with David P. Gushee, John T. Pawlikowski, and John K. Roth, Jewish-Christian Dialogue: Drawing Honey from the Rock (St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2008), p. 199.

(57) From a discussion on November 27, 1998, between Alan L. Berger and Irving Greenberg, cited in Alan L. Berger, "Post-Auschwitz Catholic-Jewish Dialogue: Mixed Signals and Missed Opportunities," a presentation at "Remembering for the Future," at Florida Atlantic University in July, 2000: available at See also ibid., pp. 157-163.

(58) Adam Gregennan, "Response: Jewish Theology and Limits on Reciprocity in CatholicJewish Dialogue," Studies in Jewish-Christian Relations, vol. 7, no 1 (2012); available at

(59) Michael S. Kogan, Opening the Covenant: A Jewish Theology of Christianity (Oxford, U.K, and New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 176-177. (60) Edward Kessler, An Introduction to Jewish-Christian Relations (Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 9.

(61) David M. Gordis, "John Paul II and the Jews," in Sberwin and Kasimow, John Paul II and lnterreligious Dialogue, pp. 137-138.

(62) Moyaert and Pollefeyt, "Introduction," p. 4.

(63) The Christian Scholars Group on Christian-Jewish Relations, "A Sacred Obligation: Rethinking Christian Faith in Relation to Judaism and the Jewish People," September 1, 2001; available at See also Tikva Frymer-Kensky, et al., eds., Christianity in Jewish Terms (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2000); and Mary C. Boys, ed., Seeing Judaism Anew: Christianity's Sacred Obligation (Lanham, MD: Sheed & Ward, 2005).

(64) Richard Williamson garnered infamous headlines in 2009 for publicly denying the Holocaust. He had been consecrated as a bishop by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, of the Society of St. Plus X (SSPX), which has opposed many reforms of Vatican II. After ongoing dialogue with the Vatican, Benedict lifted the excommunication of Williamson and the other consecrated bishops of the Society in 2009 (but does not officially recognize their status as bishops). The Vatican then claimed they were unaware of Williamson's (well-publicized) anti-Jewish stance denying the Holocaust and called for him to retract those views. He has not satisfactorily done so. Williamson has subsequently been expelled from SSPX (though his Holocaust denials are not cited as reasons). See, e.g., Alessandro Speciale, "Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson Booted from Traditionalist Group," The Washington Post, October 24, 2012; available at

(65) See Benedict's letter addressed to author Marcello Pera, in Corriere della Sera, November 23, 2008; available at In the letter, Benedict praised Pera for his contention "that an interreligious dialogue, in the strict sense of the word, is not possible" and highlighted the urgency of intercultural dialogue. The quote caused a range of critical responses and press coverage, including Rachel Donadio's article, "Pope Questions Interfaith Dialogue," The New York Times, November 23, 2008: available at Perhaps due to such criticism or confusion, Benedict revised these lines, as can be seen in his Foreword (dated September 8, 2009) in the U.S. ed. of Marcello Pera, Why We Should Call Ourselves Christians: The Religious Roots of Free Societies (New York: Encounter Books, 2011 [orig.: Perche Dobbiamo Dirci Crtstiani (Milan: Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, 2008)]), pp. viii-ix. Also see my examination of parts of the Regensburg Address: Peter Admirand, "Amidst Fractured Faith and the Fragility of Reason. "New Blackfriars 92 (May, 2011): 268-284.

(66) See Marianne Moyaert and Didier Pollefeyt, "Israel and the Church: Fulfillment beyond Supersessionism?" in Moyaert and Pollefeyt, Never Revoked, p. 178.

(67) Available at See also ibid., p. 176.

(68) "Leading German Rabbi Condemns Pope's Good Friday Prayer," March 21, 2008, interview conducted by Alexander Schwabe, tr. Christopher Sultan; available at

(69) Edward Kessler, "Review: Jesus of Nazareth Part 2," The Jewish Chronicle Online, March 28, 2011; available at Here, one may cite the positive legacy of John Paul.

(70) Dominus Iesus, no. 2.

(71) See Admirand, Amidst Mass Atrocity, pp. xv-xxvi.

(72) Kasimow, "Introduction: John Paul II and Interreligious Dialogue," p. 1.

(73) Gordis, "John Paul II and the Jews," p. 137.

Peter Admirand (Roman Catholic) has been a full-time lecturer since 2011 in the School of Theology at Mater Dei Institute of Education, Dublin City University. In 2008-11, he was a staff member at the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College, Dublin, serving in 2009-11 as a research associate in Interreligious Theology and International Peace Studies and in 2008-09 as a lecturer and coordinator of the M. Phil. Programme in Ecumenical Studies. In 2009-11, he was also an adjunct lecturer in theology at St. Patrick's College, Drumcondra, Ireland, and in 2008-09, an adjunct lecturer in the School of Religions and Theology at Trinity College. In 2002-05, he taught in the University Skills Immersion Program and English Dept. of York College, City College of New York, in the English Depts. of St. John's University, Queens, NY, and of Queens College, CCNY. He previously taught English at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY, and Lasell College, Newton, MA. In 2000-01, he taught religion at St. John's College High School, and in 1999-2001 was a teaching assistant at Georgetown University, in Washington, DC. He served in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, 1998-99, as program coordinator/teacher, Free-to-Be, for Catholic Charities in Santa Rosa, CA. He published Amidst Mass Atrocity and the Rubble of Theology (Cascade, 2012), and he edited the forthcoming "Loss and Hope: Global, Interreligious, and Transdisciplinary Trajectories." His articles appear in seven edited collections and in a dozen professional journals. He has presented papers at more than thirty scholarly conferences and public forums throughout Europe and in Morocco, Turkey, and the U.S.
COPYRIGHT 2012 Journal of Ecumenical Studies
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Admirand, Peter
Publication:Journal of Ecumenical Studies
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Sep 22, 2012
Previous Article:Western rite orthodoxy as an ecumenical problem.
Next Article:Ecumenism from the bottom up: a Pentecostal perspective.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters