“In man’s present situation, the dialogue of religions is a necessary condition for peace in the world and it is therefore a duty for Christians as well as other religious communities. This dialogue of religions has various dimensions (…) Even if the fundamental choices themselves are not under discussion, the search for an answer to a specific question becomes a process in which, through listening to the other, both sides can obtain purification and enrichment. Thus this search can also mean taking common steps towards the one truth, even if the fundamental choices remain unaltered. If both sides set out from a hermeneutic of justice and peace, the fundamental difference will not disappear, but a deeper closeness will emerge nevertheless.”

— Pope Benedict XVI
Address on the occasion of Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia
December 21, 2012

The Polemic

In his official trip to the United Arab Emirates, Pope Francis has signed a joint declaration with the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, one of the leading authorities in Muslim Sunni world, laying the groundwork for a new stage of cooperation between Islam and Catholicism for a more fraternal and peaceful future.

This declaration, however, was strongly condemned by the usual papal critics, because of this isolated snippet (emphasis mine):

The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings”

— Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together

Many claimed this statement was heterodox, since they believed it affirmed that God willed other religions (“false religions“) besides the Catholic faith. Deeply ingrained conspiracy theories about the Pope being a freemason bent on creating a syncretic One World Religion started to emerge unashamedly in social media. And this polemic became another add-on for the usual litany of criticisms to be hurled against the Pope whenever he speaks or acts.

Completely overlooked was how this document meant that a leading Islamic authority had just conceded to strive for religious pluralism, when so many fellow Christians struggle with religious persecution in many Muslim countries. Just as it happens with Chinese Catholics and the Vatican-China deals, it seems like the constant human rights violations our brethren face everyday must yield to the concerns of armchair theologians in the West.

Also obfuscated were the references in the document for a joint religious front against our societal moral decay, abortion, euthanasia and infringement on the rights of families. It has become commonplace for some sectors to criticize the Pope for not addressing these topics, all the while ignoring his various (and orthodox) declarations on them.

Ignored as well was the fact that Pope Francis was the first pope to officially visit the Muslim-majority Arabian Peninsula, or how his visit allowed for the greatest Mass ever to take place in the United Arab Emirates.

This does not happen in a vacuum. Almost every official papal act by Pope Francis has been consistently attacked by the same Church sectors now criticizing the Abu Dhabi declaration. These critics view all of his actions and teachings through a hermeneutic of suspicion, so it’s no wonder that they would find something to complain about during this trip: one sentence to trump every good the Pope has achieved.

Of course, the Pope’s teaching office as Vicar of Christ means that he should not sign a declaration with heterodox statements on it, lest souls may be led astray from the true faith that brings them to salvation. The ends do not justify the means; we agree. However, the media cabal that these critics have been undertaking for years, with their obvious bias against Francis and eagerness to unearth anything to censure him day-in and day-out, should make us wary of accepting their criticisms at face value without checking first whether they conform with reality (as they often don’t). And, in fact, once again their concerns are misplaced. I plan to show in this article how the Pope’s declaration is solidly orthodox.

The Aftermath

During the in-flight press conference after this historic visit, and since the polemic had already exploded at the time, Pope Francis clarified that the document “does not pull away one millimeter from Vatican II.” This is typical of Pope Francis: while he acknowledges that there was a development (“[it is a] step forward that comes after 50 years, from the Council, that must be developed“) he assures us that each development (like Amoris Laetitia or the revision to the death penalty in the Catechism) has been made in continuity with previous teachings.

While the papal critics simply dismiss this continuity as impossible, some apologists have taken up the task of trying to find an accurate interpretative lens through which they could read this declaration in continuity with Catholic doctrine.

One of the justifications that gained more traction came from theologian Chad Pecknold, who made a distinction between God’s active will and permissive will. God actively willed Christianity (namely Catholicism,) but he only tolerated, on account of man’s freedom, the existence of other religions. Since everything that happens comes about through God’s will, we call this tolerance of evils “God’s permissive will.

However, it has been correctly pointed out that the wording of the Joint Declaration does not seem to lend itself to such interpretation. When one reads it, it seems more forceful than claiming that God merely tolerates this pluralism of religions.

In this line of reasoning, theologian Adam Rasmussen has published an article in our blog, arguing that God may actively will a plurality of religions, since all religions contain elements of truth in them (according to the Second Vatican Council and Evangelli Gaudium), and God, in His infinite wisdom, may have willed to use those elements to help people from many different settings and backgrounds to journey towards Him.

Very recently, however, LifeSiteNews published an interview from Bishop Athanasius Schneider in which he affirms that he asked for clarifications during his ad limina visit to Rome. Reportedly, the Pope has answered to Bp. Schneider’s questions by saying “that the diversity of religions is only the permissive will of God. He [the Pope] stressed this and told us: you can say this, too, that the diversity of religions is the permissive will of God.” I will deal with this clarification later on in the article.

However, as interesting as this debate is, I would like to draw attention to two details that categorically move the whole discussion into a completely different level. I really think that there is no need to discuss if and how God wills multiple religions, since I do not believe the document says that God wills multiple religions per se.

The Telos of the Document

As Adam Rasmussen says in his article (my emphasis): “Rather than being a doctrinal statement about what Catholics and Muslims believe, it takes Christians’ and Muslims’ shared belief in the one true God and Creator as a starting-point for a shared effort to promote a culture of dialogue, mutual understanding, social justice, human rights, and peace (…) This document on Human Fraternity wisely avoids all discussion of creedal doctrine. Nevertheless, Christians and Muslims (as well as other religions) hold many common values and beliefs, such as, for example, that God made the universe and that he commands us to protect the poor and marginalized. This is what the document is about, and it is beautiful. Read it!

Adam is right. The document is not about the doctrines of Muslims and Christians. It is not meant to establish if any of the two religions is true or not. So, all the talk about “false religions” is moot, since the word “false” necessarily entails a judgment over something’s truthfulness.

Rather, the Document on Human Fraternity (as its title suggests) was meant to lay a path of cooperation between Muslims and Christians for “world peace” and “living together” with “human fraternity.” Any mention to “teachings” in this declaration serves this purpose. Any doctrinal statement present in this text is meant to highlight the common teachings in both religions that may help further this goal… and nothing else.

What specific goal does the polemic sentence have in mind? To answer this, we should look not only at the context of the full document, but also to the context of the whole paragraph where the sentence lies. Here is the full quote:

“Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action. The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives. Therefore, the fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept”

It seems like the snippet is subordinated to the topic of freedom. Namely freedom of belief and freedom to be different. And it is also meant to condemn the imposition of particular cultures (namely religion) on people, in violation of their freedom.

In other words, the Joint Declaration:

  1. is not doctrinal, neither makes pronouncements on the truthfulness of any religion
  2. is more practical than theoretical, aiming to build cooperation between Muslims and Catholics and
  3. the paragraph in question deals with freedom as one of the aims of this interreligious cooperation;

In summary: The polemic sentence is meant to justify ways for Muslims and Catholics to collaborate so that everyone may enjoy basic freedom. So, we should read this sentence in accordance with its telos. Branching the discussion into theological debates that do not directly serve this telos is legitimate, but I sincerely believe that, if we want to interpret its true meaning, we should stick closer to the stated purpose of the text.

And here is where the second detail kicks in.

Pluralism versus Plurality

I noticed one crucial fact in all of the discussions about this polemic I’ve come across: everyone (both critics and apologists) is talking about “plurality” of religions. If you browse social media, you’ll see that this is the actual word that people are using: “plurality.” However, if you search the word “plurality” in the document, you will yield no results.

Rather, the word that has been employed has been “pluralism.” It may look like it’s the same thing, but it’s not.

Plurality of religions means that there are many religions. But pluralism usually refers to a philosophy whereby many different religions coexist peacefully within the confines of a single society.

Given what I said about the telos of the document, I believe that this interpretation is more accurate. The signing parties want to build a future together, where their religions can coexist and defend freedom of belief for everyone. In short, a pluralistic society and a pluralistic world.

It is interesting that people are discussing the declaration by criticizing or defending a word that does not feature in the text at all. I wonder how many people are aware of this unconscious faux-pas. No one seems to be using the word “pluralism” when debating… and that is astonishing for me.

The next word (“diversity“) can have a double meaning. On the one hand, diversity of religions may mean the existence of various religions (“plurality“.) But on the other hand, diversity of religions may also mean a diverse society in terms of religion (“pluralism“.) Given what I said before, I think the word “diversity” should be read in its proper context and, therefore, read as coming in tow with the same reasoning as the word “pluralism.”

A third interpretation…

It may very well be that God merely tolerates (“passively wills“) other religions on account of His respect for human freedom, as a kind of necessary evil. It may very well be that God wills other religions to exist so that their elements of goodness and truth may help people from other cultures find Him and, therefore, prevent the rise of widespread atheism. It may even very well be that these two interpretations are both true and not mutually exclusive.

Whatever it may be, one thing is for sure: many religions do exist today. It’s a reality we have to come to terms with. Since we, as people who live in reality and not in an abstract fantasy world, acknowledge that there exists a plurality of religions and that a worldwide full conversion to Catholicism is highly unlikely… what should we do? And, most importantly, what does God will us to do?

Isn’t it obvious that God wills us to come together as one human family to fight against the evils in our midst? If there are people whose God-given freedom is being attacked, doesn’t God will that everyone, even those from other religions, will stand up to their defense? Wouldn’t God will us to coexist in peace and harmony with people of other religions, as brothers and sisters?

In short, is it really heterodox to think that, in this current setting, God wills that everyone’s freedom of belief be respected, i.e. pluralism? Since many religions do exist, doesn’t He will a society with diversity of religions in it instead of one where people are persecuted to enforce one single religion against their consciences? And that God not only passively wills this (tolerates it,) but actively, sincerely wills us to act in this manner?

Is it really farfetched to proclaim that God wills a pluralism and diversity of religions in the United Arab Emirates and other Muslim countries? Or that  the USA’s First Amendment, preventing the Government from acts that infringe on religious freedom or from establishing a State religion, is something that pleases God? Isn’t that what we have been striving for all these years? Are Catholics really going to resist this significant victory on account of theological minutiae… or, worst of all, on account of their concerted mediatic attack on the Vicar of Christ, so as not to lose their influence on the Catholic Church’s affairs?

External validation

How do we know if an interpretation of the document is accurate or not? Fortunately there are external elements that may guide us into the truth of the matter. One of them is the Pope’s clarification as reported by Bp. Schneider and published by LifeSiteNews. However, I do not think this clarification is as conclusive as it was made out to be.

First of all, LifeSiteNews is not a credible news source, but has constantly been in the first line of the media war against Pope Francis, always spinning his words and acts in the worst way possible. Bp. Schneider also, is one of Pope Francis’ most prominent critics, and has publicly contradicted his disciplinary practice regarding Eucharist for divorced and remarried couples as stated by the magisterial document Amoris Laetita.

In this sense, we should note that we do not have access to the direct words of the Pope (and therefore, to all the content and nuances of the Pope’s clarification,) but only know what Bp. Schneider has chosen to relay according to his interpretation of what transpired. Since the “permissive will” interpretation is the only one deemed orthodox by a certain sector of the Church that Bp. Schneider and LifeSiteNews represent, we should factor in the possibility of bias in how this meeting has been conveyed.

From my reading of the events as described in the interview, it seems like Bp. Schneider kept pressing on this issue during the ad limina visit, while Pope Francis “answered in a more general way about principles of the Catholic Faith, but in the given circumstances we were not able to go into detail on the specific issues.” Given the bishop’s insistence, Pope Francis kept conceding various orthodox points, namely that “you can say that the phrase in question on the diversity of religions means the permissive will of God.” But “you can say” does not exclude recourse to other possible interpretations, especially if these are found to be more orthodox and less problematic.

I have no problem in acknowledging the “permissive will” interpretation and vouching for its orthodoxy. I just think that it has less explanatory power than the interpretation I put forth, since it makes the wording of the document awkward. As Bp. Schneider himself admits, if that’s the correct interpretation, then the polemic sentence lists in an indiscriminate way elements of diversity that are permissively willed by God (diversity of religions) and others that are actively willed (eg. diversity of sexes).

I’m sure LifeSiteNews would have no problem with this since part of the narrative advanced by this site is that every papal teaching they disagree with is confusing (which explains the triumphalistic title of the piece, that Bp. Schneider “wins a clarification“). But since I know from personal experience that this narrative is incorrect, and since it is highly likely that such a sensitive document would’ve been drafted very carefully, I must strive, if possible, to find interpretations that maintain a better internal cohesiveness of the document.

So, are there other elements of external validation for our interpretations, besides Bp. Schneider’s account? Namely, are there first-hand clarifications issuing from the Pope himself? Yes there are. As I mentioned previously, the Pope has conducted a plane interview during his return. In it he said, and I quote: “the document does not pull away one millimeter from Vatican II.” Granted, he says it’s a development, a step forward… but the fact remains that it does not deviate from Vatican II. More importantly, this sentence holds the interpretative key to know what the document means and what it doesn’t mean: We must go to the Second Vatican Council documents to inform ourselves.

Adam did just this, by understandably going to Nostra Aetate (NA), the Declaration on the relation of the Church with non-Christian religions. And surely enough, as Adam explains, NA focuses on the elements of truth contained in every non-Christian religion, including Islam.

But NA also has this to say (my emphasis):

“The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men

— NA, #2

And specifically about Muslims, it says:

“Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.”

— NA, #3

Which appears to tie very nicely with my point.

Also, if Adam has invoked the Council document on the relations of the Church with non-Christian religions, I would like to bring to your consideration another Second Vatican Council text… its Declaration on Religious Freedom, since, as I argued before, religious freedom seems to me to be the context of the sentence in question:

“This demand for freedom in human society chiefly regards the quest for the values proper to the human spirit. It regards, in the first place, the free exercise of religion in society (…) This Vatican Council likewise professes its belief that it is upon the human conscience that these obligations fall and exert their binding force. The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly and with power.”

— Dignitatis Humanae (DH), #1

And later on:

“This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits. The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself”

— DH, #2

This is by no means an exhaustive list. The whole Dignitatis Humanae (DH) deals with the topic of how Catholics should defend religious freedom. I urge all to read it in full.

However, if we refer ourselves to DH to know what the Abu Dhabi declaration means, we can also go to DH to know what it does not mean. And if we read DH in full, we will come across this quote:

“We believe that this one true religion subsists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which the Lord Jesus committed the duty of spreading it abroad among all men (…) Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ”

— DH, #1

If the Document on Human Fraternity is meant not to “pull away one millimeter from Vatican II“, as the Pope himself said, then it can never be read in a way that undermines the truth of the one Church of Christ. Religious freedom, so the Conciliar text says, leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine. Therefore, the Abu Dhabi Declaration also must leave untouched traditional Catholic doctrine. Thereby rendering all of the pope’s critics’ concerns moot.

And this ends up actually backing Bp. Schneider’s assertion. The Pope was right in conceding that one can indeed say that the diversity of religions is the permissive will of God. The polemic sentence does not change this one bit, so the “permissive will” interpretation is sound. Insofar as the document mentions diversity of religions, it indirectly makes allusion to the permissive will of God that allows such a diversity. However, we are talking on different levels of interpretation here. As I said earlier, the document does not purport to make judgments of value on the truthfulness of other religions (and, therefore, on whether they are willed by God or not.) Such considerations would be extremely inappropriate for a groundbreaking interreligious document such as this. Rather, the document acknowledges that many kinds of diversity exist (both permissively willed or actively willed, depending on the kind of diversity we are pondering) and urges us to find the best way to deal with it, by respecting everyone’s freedom. In fact, in an indirect way, the “permissive will” interpretation acknowledges this, for God only allows other religions because He scrupulously respects Man’s God-willed freedom.

Ergo, we can say that:

  1. God actively wills the existence of Catholicism, as the true religion He instituted
  2. Insofar as Man has free will, God permissively wills the existence of other religions
  3. Insofar as other religions exist, God may actively will that they contain some elements of truth in them that allow Him to bring good out of those religions
  4. Insofar as other religions exist on account of Man’s free will, then God actively wills us not to use coercion to impose what He Himself does not

I think neither of these four assertions contradict each other or the document, but I also believe that the document focuses mainly on the last assertion and that’s how we should read the sentence in question.


The papal visit to the United Arab Emirates was rife with successes that should make every Catholic joyful. Instead, the usual papal critics have tried to shift our attention into focusing in one single sentence from a History-making document, in order to further their campaign to undermine the current Vicar of Christ.

However, a textual interpretation of the document itself, in continuity with the Second Vatican Council documents (as the Pope urges us to do) shows that it is actually a very orthodox statement. And even though the debate has devolved into a very interesting discussion on whether God wills many religions or not, I think this argument is off-topic. The document is meant to ensure that Muslims and Catholics work together to ensure a pluralistic and diverse society, where everyone’s freedom is respected.

In this sense, it is right and proper for a Catholic not to focus on what divides us from our Muslim brethren, but to ally him/herself with all men of good will towards a common goal: pluralism and diversity of religions in each culture and country, so that no one will be forced to adhere to a religion against his/her conscience. God, Who created Man free, certainly wills this.

Liked this post? Take a second to support Where Peter Is on Patreon!

Pedro Gabriel, MD, is a Catholic layman and physician, born and residing in Portugal. He is a medical oncologist, currently employed in a Portuguese public hospital. A published writer of Catholic novels with a Tolkienite flavor, he is also a parish reader and a former catechist. He seeks to better understand the relationship of God and Man by putting the lens on the frailty of the human condition, be it physical and spiritual. He also wishes to provide a fresh perspective of current Church and World affairs from the point of view of a small western European country, highly secularized but also highly Catholic by tradition.

Pluralism and the will of God… is there another way to look at it?

30 Responses

  1. Ashpenaz says:

    “We believe that this one true religion subsists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church”–this doesn’t say the ROMAN Catholic Church. Does that mean that the one true religion subsists in, say, the Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran churches, in that they claim to be Catholic and Apostolic?

    • Mike Lewis says:

      In this context, the Catholic Church refers to the Latin (or Roman) Church, as well as the twenty-three Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Pope in Rome. Even though the vast majority of Catholics in communion with the pope are “Roman,” there are 23 other Churches with their own traditions and Rites and structures.

      We recognize the validity of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, as well as their sacraments, but they are not in full communion with the pope, so in this context they would not be considered Catholic.

      Anglicans and Lutherans are in a different category. We do not recognize the validity of their ordinations, due to a break in apostolic succession, and therefore do not recognize many of their sacraments.

      While we recognize a common baptism and regard members of these communities as brothers and sisters in Christ, we have many doctrinal differences. We do believe, however, that they hold a great deal of truth, and we affirm those truths.

      • Ashpenaz says:

        I appreciate your answer. I disagree with your phrase “in this context.” I suspect the writers were very careful. The context is actually the Nicene Creed, which does not single out the Roman church–in fact, the Council of Nicea does not name any particular church as the True Church. I think the writers of this document fully intended to say that the Catholic Church is not co-terminus with the Roman Church. I think that many who came after this document wanted to return to an earlier understanding of the Roman Catholic Church, but I think that in this document, in this context, the goal was to open up the doors to a wider understanding of the boundaries of the True Church.

        I think their intent was to even go further and include Islam and all other religions who sincerely seek after God.

      • Pedro Gabriel says:

        I sincerely believe that, if you think the writers of the document were very careful in how they wrote it, then your interpretation of it is highly unlikely (not to say impossible). The Catholic Church simply does not refer to itself as the Roman Church in its official documents, and assumes that whenever someone says “Catholic Church”, people understand it as “Roman”.

        If they wanted to include other churches (non-Apostolic at that, clearly contradicting the text) or even Islam, then the writers would’ve been much more explicit, since that would be a departure from what most people would read into that document if it wasn’t further clarified

      • Ashpenaz says:

        It’s an interesting question. On another point, Catholics do not have to believe that Lutheran or Anglican ordinations are invalid. The Document “Declaration of the Way” signed by Lutherans and Catholics discusses this issue. It’s possible for a Catholic to see other forms of ordination as “defective” or “irregular” rather than simply invalid. It’s also important to note that Pope St. John Paul II gave the Archbishop of Canterbury a pectoral cross, which is something limited to bishops, and Pope Francis welcomes the Archbishop using his official title. The ecumenical discussions between the Anglicans and Catholics are calling for a review of Apostolicae Curae for many reasons, including the fact that Anglican ordinations frequently include Old Catholic bishops, whose apostolicity is not in question. Lutheran ordinations also include Swedish Lutherans who retain apostolic succession.

        I still think that this document refers to the ancient understanding of the word “catholic” which did not mean “Roman.” I think that Vatican II reminds us that the Council of Nicea did not give Rome any special authority. Here’s Canon 6:

        Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges.

      • Mike Lewis says:

        You do raise many interesting theological and ecumenical issues – ones that I personally find very interesting, although I don’t think Francis deigns to speak for Christians who don’t accept his authority.

  2. Ed says:

    The following, written by Robert Fastiggi, answers the question to my satisfaction:

    “God positively willed that diverse religions would arise within various cultures, because the elements of truth and holiness found within them could serve as a “preparation for the Gospel.” This is a fundamental principle of the Second Vatican Council, one of its most significant contributions to the Church’s understanding of its relationship with other religions and its call to mission. Its principles are laid down in Lumen gentium, 16 and 17, and are further elucidated in Ad gentes, 3 and 11 (which speak of the “seeds of the Word”) and Nostra aetate, 2. To question this teaching is to question the authority of the Council itself.”

    • Pedro Gabriel says:

      A very interesting interpretation, but I already deal with it by proxy when I discuss Adam’s interpretation

      To clarify again, what I set out to do was not (as I explained) to refute the theological soundness of that interpretation, but rather to examine whether the document deals with those theological statements. The document is not concerned on whether other religions pave the way for the Gospel, it is concerned with promoting religious freedom

  3. Jane says:

    “The papal visit to the United Arab Emirates was rife with successes that should make every Catholic joyful. Instead, the usual papal critics have tried to shift our attention into focusing in one single sentence from a History-making document, in order to further their campaign to undermine the current Vicar of Christ.”

    The Creation of Adam and Eve and the bestowing by Almighty God, of His just and holy commands, was rife with successes and beauty that should have caused them great joy for all their lives in the Garden. Instead, the Great Critic, tried to shift their attention into focusing on one single part of a command from their loving God, twisting it, in order to further his campaign to undermine the Lord their God.

    Is there really anything new under the sun?

  4. carn says:

    It seems:
    ” I just think that it has less explanatory power than the interpretation I put forth, since it makes the wording of the document awkward. As Bp. Schneider himself admits, if that’s the correct interpretation, then the polemic sentence lists in an indiscriminate way elements of diversity that are permissively willed by God (diversity of religions) and others that are actively willed (eg. diversity of sexes).”

    “And this ends up actually backing Bp. Schneider’s assertion. The Pope was right in conceding that one can indeed say that the diversity of religions is the permissive will of God. The polemic sentence does not change this one bit, so the “permissive will” interpretation is sound. ”

    you nonetheless have to concede that the “polemic sentence” does list “in an indiscriminate way elements of diversity that are permissively willed by God (diversity of religions) and others that are actively willed (eg. diversity of sexes)”.

    What bothers you about conceding that?

    “since it is highly likely that such a sensitive document would’ve been drafted very carefully”

    Well, whatever one thinks of that claim of yours, it is certainly no article of faith which Catholics are to believe in; accordingly, i go with what i see, hear and read and conclude using my experiences in carefully drafting documents to conclude, that you are wrong to presume “highly likely”.

    I work in a field in which careful drafting of documents is daily buisiness and in which even small errors can be very, very expensive and often are even beyond any possibility of repair (just two months ago i was able to witness someone trying desperately to correct the error of having omitted a single crucial sentence in a 10 page document; no chance, the damage was done 5 years beforehand and no argument and experience could undo the error; which for me was quite fortunate, as it was the opposing side, which was in the desperate situation). And one gets so to say a “feeling” for people in principle more capable of the job and in principle less capable of the job to draft the documents in the field carefully (though of course it can be somehow compensated by experience and training).

    That “feeling” tells me since about 5 years that all the prelates Pope Francis keeps a distance from, demotes, etc. are of the type “more capable in carefully drafting documents”, while those he holds in high esteem, keeps close, promotes, etc. are of the type “less capable in carefully drafting documents”; i am aware that this is in a sense judging capabilities from a distance and based on limited text examples, so it is prone to error.

    But nonetheless i cannot avoid to conclude that it is likely that among those the Pope listens to the number of capable document drafters is a bit lower than one would wish for.

    • Pedro Gabriel says:

      It doesn’t “bother” me to concede that the document lists elements that may be permissively willed with others that are actively willed. In fact, I conceded it

      What I *did* say was that, if the *purpose* of the document was to state that something was permissively willed by God, then the wording gets awkward by listing it alongside actively willed elements without any distinction. Bp. Schneider seems to agree with me on that regard

      But if the correct interpretation is that God wills us to respect diversity on account of Man’s freedom, then it doesn’t matter if we list kinds of diversity that are permissively willed in tandem with kinds of diversity that are actively willed. It doesn’t matter how God wills them, what matters is that God wills *us* to respect them
      As far as your experience regarding drafting documents and precise wording, it is something we should take into account, but also, as you concede is subjective and “prone to error”

      My experience, on the other hand, is that no matter how well drafted a document may be, if people over-analyze each element, they will always find a way to make it unclear. Case in point, this article of mine was one that I wrote with more attention than usual and reviewed several times in order to make my claims clear. And yet, you claim that I was “bothered” to concede something I was not.

      A document may be unclear indeed… or it may be clear and “unclarifyed” in a lawyerly fashion because people do not want the document to say what it says, while at the same time claiming that they are following it to the letter. The latter is something that happens a lot, especially with our current pontiff

      In the end, I see nothing wrong with charitably assuming that the document was drafted with care, and then setting out to find an interpretation that may help solve the perceived inconsistencies. Especially if one succeeds. If that happens, then why cling to the idea that the document was problematic? It makes no sense

      Finally: no, the document is not an article of faith. Neither my claim that the document was worded carefully. I don’t think I ever said otherwise. But people are attacking the Pope for issuing an heterodox and sloppy document. So it makes only sense that, if I defend the Holy Father from what I think is an unjust attack, I would try to prove the document to be orthodox and well-worded. That’s what I set out to do

      • carn says:

        “It doesn’t matter how God wills them, what matters is that God wills *us* to respect them”

        I think that claim is false.

        Take the issue of man and woman; as God actively wills there to be two sexes, it would be in itself sinful to attempt to change that.

        Take the issue of plural religions being contradictory to each other; as God only permissively wills them, so only tolerates this due to freedom in the same way he tolerates adultery, blasphemy, greed, war, etc. then it would not be in itself sinful to attempt to change that; this is evident by the Great Commission being at least from its wording aimed at spreading a single religion across the entire world; accordingly it would be only sinful if means and/or motivation and/or actions connected and/or serious and known “side effects” to the attempt to spread only one religion across the world were sinful/problematic (which often they were).

        Accordingly, it does not seem that we are to respect the things actively and passively willed by God in exactly the same way; it might be permissible or even a duty to attempt to attempt to change the latter type.

        I do not think, that God does will us to respect if people are led astray by false gods.

      • Pedro Gabriel says:

        Your comment confuses “respect other religions” with “not evangelizing” instead of “not infringe on religious freedom.” The document in no way states that religions should be forbidden to preach or find new adherents, only that people should not be converted against their conscience.

        If you disagree with this, then you take issue with the explicit and clear teachings of the Second Vatican Council

      • carn says:

        “The document in no way states”

        In my comment i solely criticized your claim that regarding the respect we must offer there is no difference between actively and passively willed things; i did not criticize the document in any way, as – as far as i can tell – it does not discuss in any way whether there is any relevant difference between actively and passively willed things.

        Accordingly, this conclusion:
        “If you disagree with this,”
        is also false, as i am free to agree or disagree with your claim about there being no difference between actively and passively willed things regarding the respect we must offer, without this in any way being dissent from VII or any other Church teaching.

        You are aware, that not everything i criticize here is a critique of the Pope, the Magisterium or the Church?

      • Pedro Gabriel says:

        My article and comments were quite clear. Never did I say that there is no difference in the way we respect actively and passively willed things. What I *did* say was that, if the document didn’t focus on whether these diversities are actively/passively willed and if the document focused instead on whether we should respect those diversities, then the wording would not be awkward.

        Saying that God wills us to respect both kinds of diversity does not mean or imply that we should respect both *in the same way*

        And of course I do know that not everything you critique here is a critique of Pope Francis, in the sense that you like to say that any apologist’s take that may clarify things for you is just his personal opinion, so that you may keep clinging to the notion that every Francis teaching you may find disagreeable is due to him being sloppy and confusing, so you don’t need to accept it because you don’t know what he actually means.

        You are, of course, free to disagree with what I said and free to continue as you have done so far. I don’t think that will be conducive to your spiritual growth, and would sincerely like to change that for your own good. But unfortunately, since my successive clarifications amount to nothing, I must respect your God-given freedom to keep your course of action.

  5. M. says:

    Gold: “Just as it happens with Chinese Catholics and the Vatican-China deals, it seems like the constant human rights violations our brethren face everyday must yield to the concerns of armchair theologians in the West.”

  6. Chris dorf says:

    It still seems that many people still have a problem with Nostra Aetate from Vatican II on the relation of the Church with non-Christian religions… Or Fides et Ratio of Pope John Paul II when he speaks of the search for God through all the religions and philosophies of the world.

    • Pedro Gabriel says:

      Many of the dissent in this pontificate could be solved if people didn’t have an “all-or-nothing” approach regarding Christianity. In other religions and in the struggles of sinners there is always a core of good that should be preserved in order to allow for growth towards God. But people prefer to throw the baby out with the bathwater if there is any deviation from what they think should happen

      • Marie says:

        Such an excellent article! This constant over analysis is simply a means to having their view be the view. Why we can’t all just be humble enough to listen to the Vicar of Christ! Thank God for ‘Where Peter Is”. Lifesite News is like roadkill, you can’t help take a look, but you regret it every time!

      • Jane says:

        Oh Marie, how much I agree!! I used to LOVE LifeSite. Then Pope Francis was elected in 2013, he put the focus on the fact that all lives are sacred and needed protecting, it seemed like LifeSite began to think he was taking away their day-job. I said in the comments’s section: “Trust the Holy Spirit! He gave us this Pope! Let’s just try to listen to him and seek to understand what he is saying!” I did begin to understand our Holy Father Pope Francis, and now I see clearly what Father Frank Pavone once said, that, to paraphrase, the life of the abortionist is just as important as the life of the unborn baby. He /I respect and want to save and love them ALL! By Christmas-time 2013, I was booted from commenting on LifeSite.

        As I have seen these past 6 years, Pope Francis IS actually pro-life. He IS actually being guided by the Holy Spirit, and he IS guiding us and leading us.

        I think it’s funny too how you said that the website you mentioned is like roadkill, you can’t help take a look, but you regret it every time. How I had to laugh. I always have a pained look on my face when I go there. And then I come here to WherePeterIs, to detox 🙂

        Like you said Marie, why can’t we just be humble and listen to the Vicar of Christ!

        I’m with you sister, all the way. Can we pray for each other?

  7. M. says:

    In psychology it is called “splitting” and is a common defense mechanism, not trying to instruct just saying. I sometimes wonder how much pain these folks are carrying.

    • carn says:

      “I sometimes wonder how much pain these folks are carrying.”

      What pains me the most about the entire issue is the constant attempts at mind reading what motivates me and others and the nearly complete skipping of asking and answering questions instead of mind reading.

      Why not just ask here or over at some “dissident” place if something pains them and what pains them?

      But asking and answering questions is so last millennia.

      • M. says:

        Sadly, asking questions over at some dissident place nearly always results in an internet smackdown of epic proportions that would leave me psychologically limping around for awhile…. the other issue is that people don’t generally take kindly to being asked directly by strangers what pains them in the context of division in the Body of Christ. I suspect that if I were to try it with you, it may not go well… but let’s give it a shot…Why does it offend you for me to wonder aloud if these folks are carrying a lot of pain? Is something paining you? If so what is it?

      • carn says:

        “Why does it offend you for me to wonder aloud if these folks are carrying a lot of pain?”

        First, you did not wonder “if”, but “how much”; that is you presumed there is actually pain; second, you seemed to imply that the pain is reason for what the people do; but people can have pain reagrding some issue without being motivated by the pain about that issue.

        Asking “Is there something paining you?” is rather different from saying to someone, that he does certain things because of some presumed pain and that he should disclose that pain. The latter is rather condescending, as it presumes that the person himself/herself is too dumb to understand that he/she is just acting that way due to the pain and that all the reasons actually offered by the person are illusionary.

        Second, the pattern is a usual and blunt instrument in political discourse; the arguments of the opposing side are of little interest, but the actual reason for the opposing side is some underlying psychological condition/situation, which the oppositing side is not really aware of; so one presumes one knows the other side far better than the other side knows itself; examples are plenty, e.g. abortion opponents are in truth supposedly motivated by fear of women being equals and therefore use protection of unborn as a means to supposedly keep women in their place, while their opposition cannot ever be caused by abortion opponents having qualms about killing unborn humans.

        Third and more personally, i experienced the “pleasure” in concrete situations of people presuming certain motives for what i did, instead of accepting what i told and wrote them what my motives were/are. Apart from suffering some personal setbacks (which i consider minor issues anyway) this also has – at least as far as i can guess – as consequence the death of about one unborn human per week with the mother deeply regretting and weeping about this (so not even being “necessary” for women’s equality or such).

        That leaves me a bit on the sour side, whenever i see something looking like this the-motive-you-claim-to-have-isnt-your-real-motive-and-i-do-not-need-to-ask stuff. Though of course i can mistakenly perceive something to be that when it isn’t.

        “Is something paining you? If so what is it?”

        Apart from the internal strive in the Church and its repercussions that thing about maybe one unborn human dying per week due to some people trying and failing to mindread me, pains me a bit. But maybe the score will be different in the ongoing return match, though that cannot bring back to life those who have died so far thanks to the mind readers.

        Though i can already presume for nearly certain that in the return match the other side will argue that i am just continuing the issue due to hurt pride/pain/whatever, cause it of course has to be some emotion of mine that motivates me instead of the realization that due to me losing in the first match potentially maybe about one unborn human is killed per week.

        Another thing that pains me a lot is that these people even if they failed at mind reading might have averted that potentially the blood of about one unborn human per week is on their and my hands by simply answering the questions i asked them; and while i dislike mindreading quite a lot, mindreading and then not answering the questions of the subject of mindreading makes me actually quite angry (cause then things get really condescending; one treats young children like that, if at all).

        Though of course my pain and anger is irrelevant compared to the loss of human live that probably takes place.

        “asking questions over at some dissident place nearly always results in an internet smackdown of epic proportions that would leave me psychologically limping around for awhile”

        Some suggestions for questions?

        Maybe I find time and motivation to try and see how people at lifesite react.

      • M. says:

        Apologies at giving offence- my comments on splitting were not directed at you at all, in any case.

        I didn’t really understand your comments about abortion, which is an atrocity- I wasn’t sure how it related to the topic at hand, but I am sorry if my comment angered you, it was unintentional. Take care.

      • carn says:

        “Why does it offend you for me to wonder aloud if these folks are carrying a lot of pain? Is something paining you? If so what is it?”

        I tried to answer these questions; unfortunately, there must have been something in the text which caused a mod to decide not to let it go public.

        Please accept my apology for not providing you with answers to your questions.

        The same.

      • Pedro Gabriel says:

        Your last two comments were filtered for the spam queue for reasons unknown to me (why this last one was not sent to spam is something that my IT knowledge is insufficient for me to grasp)

        However, as you know, Mike has proposed a limit in the amount of comments a person may post per article, so as not to hijack the thread. I approved these last ones because you are defending and explaining yourself and not necessarily arguing, but from now on the limit applies. God bless

      • Marie says:

        Carn- With all due respect, isn’t mind reading precisely what is being done to everything the Pope says and does, and to anyone who dares to follow him? Surely you have read Lifesite news. Their entire existence, far from being a pro life site, is to search and destroy anyone who supports Pope Francis. They, and their followers (read the comments) are expert motive finders. This thinking follows through when interpreting doctrine, Canon law, the Catechism etc, picking, choosing and ignoring to fit a predetermined result.

      • carn says:

        “With all due respect, isn’t mind reading precisely what is being done to everything the Pope says and does, and to anyone who dares to follow him?”

        One thing is different: Pope Francis was and is asked questions; and his answers or non-answers get reported.

        E.g. dubia; e.g. Bishop Schneider and the recent interfaith document.

        I do not see any fundamental problem in trying to derieve various interpretations from a text and then based on that ask the author, what he actually meant.

        But you are right, that the number of mind readers multiplied in the places you named.

  8. M. says:

    “Splitting diffuses the anxiety that arises from our inability to grasp the nuances and complexities of a given situation or state of affairs by simplifying and schematizing the situation and thereby making it easier to think about; it also reinforces our sense of self as good and virtuous by effectively demonizing all those who do not share in our opinions and values.”

Share via
Copy link