VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A U.S. Jesuit theologian said the best milieu for interreligious discussions with his Buddhist friends is over a hot plate of cheese enchiladas.
Jesuit Father James Fredericks, professor of theology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, said people often talk of interreligious dialogue as being based on big spiritual mysteries, "like the Holy Spirit or some transcendent reality, but no, the foundations of interreligious dialogue in Los Angeles are cheese enchiladas."
Sharing a meal is not only "the basis for dialogue, it’s the fruit of a dialogue" that even involves the Catholic food service workers at the university’s kitchens "who, in loving service, do the best job they can to cook these enchiladas for these monks from Sri Lanka," he told Catholic News Service Sept. 27.
Father Fredericks was one of dozens of experts invited to speak at a Sept. 25-28 conference marking the 40th anniversary of "Nostra Aetate," the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on interreligious dialogue.
The gathering, which brought together more than 350 people from more than 20 countries, was co-sponsored by Georgetown University in Washington, the Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Center for Theology and Ministry at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College and Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn.
Interreligious dialogue needs to be nourished by friendship and even "playful activity without an agenda," said Anantanand Rambachan, a professor of Sanskrit at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn.
He said "interreligious dialogue is an adventure of ideas without winners and losers" and cautioned that real dialogue does not result in either "conversion or convergence." [Source]
I seem to remember Jesus saying something like "That they may be one", not that they may have an adventure of ideas. What is the point of dialogue if it doesn’t result in conversion or convergence. Interfaith dialogue that does not remove barriers to true unity and that does not seek to clarify where we actually do agree and where we don’t is rather pointless. Of course I don’t expect much from groups like Georgetown and the Catholic Theological Union conducting a conference in Los Angeles where syncretism is more the order of the day. Being a syncretistic ecumenist is one the easiest jobs there is.
I think I like the late Fr. Hardon’s approach much better.
True ecumenism is the Christian unity that Christ Himself revealed. It is the unity which is not merely verbal but real. It is the unity which preserves all the essential elements of faith and morality prescribed by the Savior for those who are to be His followers in truth and not only in name.
True unity necessarily requires a clear and deep understanding of the premises of belief and practice required by the founder of the Church who died on the Cross because He refused to compromise with the truth. True unity is certainly animated by a deep Christian love. But this love must be founded on the truth which the Roman Catholic Church has preserved for twenty centuries and for which millions of her followers have shed their blood.
True unity is impossible without union with the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter on whom Christ promised to build His Church.