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Catholic Hierarchy Makes Interreligious Dialogue Difficult

I converted to Catholicism as an adult. I specialize in interreligious dialogue and world religions. I was enrolled in undergraduate studies at what I would later learn was a liberal Catholic university. I thought what I experienced there in classes and masses represented Catholic teaching as a whole. I was in for an awakening when I went on to graduate school and then to teach in a Catholic secondary school. The phrase "one, true Church" has come to a specific and difficult meaning.

Interreligious dialogue requires participants to place their beliefs up front for all to see. Here is one of my primary beliefs: the "Divine," "Creator," "God" or whatever name/incarnation (Christ, Krisna, Allah . . . ) one applies, embraces people of all faiths and that whether one seeks salvation or liberation or enlightenment, the Source and Goal of all life welcomes us and aids our return to our true home with love. Yes, I experience a process of purgation, cleansing my selfishness as I tread my spiritual path, frequently wandering into dense tundra of delusion. But, that does not negate God's love. Sadly (to me), the Catholic Church and much of the rest of Christianity do not extend such a universal appeal of divine love. I know other religions have the same issues. I am merely qualified to address the teachings of the Catholic Church on the ultimate value of the world's great spiritual traditions. Catholic documents address sister Christian churches as well as non-Christian religions. In recent documents, the teaching authority (Magisterium) has decreed that even non-Catholic Christians are not in full communion with God. For a tradition the name of which, "catholic," means "universal," the hierarchy certainly manages to segregate itself from every other system of belief. Catholic documents are difficult to read for the lay person. One must wade through dense theological language. However, the central exclusive message is not obscured.

I am singling out the Catholic Church. There seems to be a universal human tendency to division, an "us versus them" addiction to power. Since I am human, how do I engage in dialogue when I am as likely as anyone to think that my way is the right way and, therefore separate myself from others who disagree with me? For now, I will paraphrase something from His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama: He said that when one person thinks that she is right and everyone else is wrong, she should imagine herself standing alone, facing everybody else. What a lonely image.

I am a writer and teacher with a Master's degree in Systematic Theology. I specialize in Interreligious Dialogue and World Religions. My blog is http://www.writingup.com/blog/IWrite54.

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