Not who you thought he was

Not who you thought he was

The Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader believed by Buddhists to be the reincarnation of the Buddha, is a darling of the West’s glitterati, who fancy the Lama’s religion to be a light kind of spirituality that offers no moral judgments on their lifestyles. They’re sadly mistaken apparently. In an interview with the UK’s Telegraph, the Dalai Lama has some strong words for homosexuality and Western “values.”

On consumerism and materialism:

“It is fascinating,” he says, speaking in slightly stilted English. “In the West, you have bigger homes, yet smaller families; you have endless conveniences – yet you never seem to have any time. You can travel anywhere in the world, yet you don’t bother to cross the road to meet your neighbours; you have more food than you could possibly eat, yet that makes women like Heidi miserable.”

The West’s big problem, he believes, is that people have become too self-absorbed. “I don’t think people have become more selfish, but their lives have become easier and that has spoilt them. They have less resilience, they expect more, they constantly compare themselves to others and they have too much choice – which brings no real freedom.”

On promiscuity and marriage:

“Too many people in the West have given up on marriage. They don’t understand that it is about developing a mutual admiration of someone, a deep respect and trust and awareness of another human’s needs,” he says. “The new easy-come, easy-go relationships give us more freedom – but less contentment.”

On homosexuality and other perversions of sex:

Although he is known for his tolerant, humane views, he is a surprisingly harsh critic of homosexuality. If you are a Buddhist, he says, it is wrong. “Full stop.

No way round it.

“A gay couple came to see me, seeking my support and blessing. I had to explain our teachings. Another lady introduced another woman as her wife – astonishing. It is the same with a husband and wife using certain sexual practices. Using the other two holes is wrong.”

At this point, he looks across at his interpreter – who seems mainly redundant – to check that he has been using the right English words to discuss this delicate matter. The interpreter gives a barely perceptible nod.

“A Western friend asked me what harm could there be between consenting adults having oral sex, if they enjoyed it,” the Dalai Lama continues, warming to his theme. “But the purpose of sex is reproduction, according to Buddhism. The other holes don’t create life. I don’t mind – but I can’t condone this way of life.”

It’s funny—and this will drive the ecumenism conspiracy theorists crazy—but if you substituted the Dalai Lama’s name for Pope John Paul’s or Pope Benedict’s you’d have a hard time telling the difference.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
63 comments
  • I agree with your last statement, though it’s unlikely that JP II, B16 or Paul VI in Humanae Vitae would have used so indelicate a word as “holes” to drive home the point about being open to the gift of life.

  • I found out several years ago that the Dali Lama held this views, but the media is typically silent about it. Yet at the same time, the Catholic Church, the Pope and evangelicals like Falwell, etc. are bigots for not being more accepting and tolerant of the homosexual lifestyle.

    Our diocese’s newspaper has had an on-going debate in the letters-to-the-editor section about homosexuality and homosexual priest. Some use the argument that Jesus never spoke against homosexualiyt, and in doing so ignore 2000 years of Church teaching. They also argue the Jesus sides and befriends outcasts and that there are other sins too like drunkeness and fornication. “How come critics of homosexuality do not speak of these other sins.”

    This glosses over the Gospels, where Jesus shows his compassion to SINNERS who are asked to repent. In our pop culture world, homosexuals are viewed as only as “outcasts” not as sinners. And they are seeking that we, society and church, bless their lifestyle. I do not recall drunkards and fornicators demanding that the Church bless their lifestyles.

  • if you substituted the Dalai Lama’s name for Pope John Paul’s or Pope Benedict’s you’d have a hard time telling the difference.

    On the subject of sex, you may be right, but the Dalai Lama is a religious syncretist who supports United Religions Initiative, which I hope Benedict would not approve of.

  • I studied Tai Chi for years, and got seriously into it, including the full contact fighting versions, not your Grandmothers Tai Chi. The Instructor was a westerner who had studied in Taiwan extensively, and didn’t put any religion or philosophy into it, just the physical and mental. But after awhile people would get interested in the philosophy behind it. A lot of them may have dabbled in Buddhism or Hindu meditation before they tried Tai Chi.

    Well, I remember once in the advanced form class, full of liberal upper middle class people, very well educated, 65% female, that after much badgering, the instructor finally agreed to answer a number of questions about the Taoist/Tai Chi philosophical view of things. Things like Abortion, Masturbation, Homosexuality, etc.

    He sounded like Pope JP II. Later one of his Chinese teachers was even more firm in the no abortion, no masturbation, no homosexuality, all of these were wastes or offenses of “chi”, and therefore must not be done. (Imagine a little elderly chinese guy yelling “NO MASTURBATION” to a group of people holding the “Push” posture)

    There is a strong, strong strain of Natural Law in many of these oriental systems.

    I belong to a very liberal online community, and I am continually amazed at the number of gays there who consider themselves Buddhists. I can only shake my head. I blame THAT on Allan Ginsburg.

  • Natural law is written on the heart of all men of good will by God and this is a textbook example.

    I wonder if Richard Gere (sp?) has caught wind of this?

  • Little Gidding, you say that, and run right over the Mahayana school of Buddhism, which is not small. Your statements assume that Hinayana Buddhism is the majority of practice. On the contrary, there is quite a bit of Mahayana Buddhism around the world, and it does strive to teach people how to reach enlightenment outside of a monastary. Places such as Vietnam and surrounding areas. I am friends with children of immigrants from such places, and while the children often don’t whole heartedly embrace these teachings, there parents sure do. I have spoken with my friend and her parents about their beliefs, and yes they do have a pretty coherent system for a non-monastic way of life.

  • Ok, I misunderstood you. I was not talking about a “developed social theory” as you find in most other religions. From what I have seen Buddhists just usually don’t think like that. I agree with you that “the path is focussed on the individual’s actions, no matter if the motive is one’s own liberation or if it’s dedicated to all sentient beings.  But this is different than developing a theory, or even a vision, of how society should work.”  I think that’s exactly the point; they are focused on the individual, not on society as a whole. What I was trying to say was not that I thought that one group was more virtuous than another, but that there are a large number of Mahayana Buddhists who do have a very practical approach on how to live out their beliefs in a non-monastic setting. It is not set down or described in a broad fashion in a way that we would expect, but they definitely have very strong ideas about people with families and jobs striving to live this out.
    Sorry, I think I misunderstood some of what you were trying to say earlier.

  • Generally, I think, it ties into what Zhou said about saving or reserving the “chi” or “prana” or energy that would be dissipated in sexual intercourse and transmuting that energy in the body into spiritual energy instead.

    What you’ve said sounds like chastity; but as I understand it, unless Hindu Tantra is different from Buddhist Tantra, this “reservation” does include activities that we in America would call sexual, I believe. The “reservation” concerns either postponing or preventing the culmination of the act, but goes quite a way down the road torward that culmination.

    Google “Tantra” and the hits will be pornographic for the most part.

  • Could you clarify what is the difference between “spirit contact” or seances and oracles?  I don’t believe I understand what you are saying.  As you have described it, the oracle sounds like a channeled entity.

  • If the Dalai Lama is not a syncretist, he has a lot of explaining to do.  He has involved himself in the URI events, as Lee Penn reports.

    Fast Company also reports his involvement with URI.

    World Net Daily reports his involvement with URI in a review of Penn’s book about it.

    He took part in a program with URI founder Bishop William Swing in Israel.

    He worked with David Cooperrider, who was single-handedly responsible for putting together the program that put URI on the world map.

    He’s involved with the Synthesis Dialogues of the Association for Global New Thought. 

    Global New Thought is Theosophical.  It participates in channeling.  Notice Ernest Holmes mentioned on the website.  Holmes was a channeler.  (And what the heck is Focolare doing in there?)  You can get the flavor of New Thought from looking at the links on this website.

    So if the Dalai Lama wants us to believe he is not a syncretist, he had better start saying that loudly, clearly, very often, and to the people in high places who seem to think he is.

  • Nevertheless, I think Tibetans have had a “problem” with Theosophists ever since Blavatsky in that Theosophists, out of the needs of their own founding myths, have by and large been the Westerners most eager to promote Buddhism and Tibet.

    C. W. Leadbeater, a Theosophist and one of the founders,  wrote a Buddhist Catechism. He was accused of pedophilia.  According to a Theosophical Society message board, he may have been kicked out of the Anglican priesthood for the same reason.

    According to Lee Penn, the Theosophists are behind URI.

    That is a major publicity problem.  Roman Catholic leadership has kept clear of URI, though there are Roman Catholic members of the organization, and Cardinal Levada supported it.

    If the Dalai Lama thinks the Theosophists represent non-syncretistic American religion, he is badly mistaken.  The Theosophists worship Lucifer, the bringer of light.

  • one other thing. I became a fan of C.S. Lewis’ “Illustrations of the Tao” a few years back (from the Abolition of Man). However, when he did these illustrations, it was without the benefit of much of the eastern thought that has been translated and made available in the last few years (even if they are bad Thomas Cleary translations from Shambala).

    Many of these illustrations use christian and jewish sources, but also old norse, etcc. areas of his expertise.

    It would be nice to expand this with illustrations from hinduism, buddhism and taoist thought. If I had the intellectual cred, I might do that some day.

    http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/lewis/abolition4.htm

  • The first Parliament of the World Religions was the work of a Unitarian.  The Unitarian-Universalist IARF grew out of that 1893 Parliament.  Liberal Catholics were part of this movement. 

    Charles Leadbeater was one of the first bishops in the Theosophical Liberal Catholic Church.  Liberal Catholicism and Theosophy are hand in glove, and this is the source of the contemporary Ecumenical movement and URI.  IARF members were among the Protestant observers at Vatican II.

    Our present ecumenical outreach has a history in Unitarianism and Liberal Catholicism.  URI is an outgrowth of the 1983 Parliament.

  • Lewis was not in favor of a universal belief, in spite of his interest in the Tao.  On pg. 80 of ABOLITION he writes:

    There are progressions in which the last step is sui generis—incommensurable with the others—and in which to go the whole way is to undo all the labour of your previous journey.  To reduce the Tao to a mere natural product is a step of that kind.  Up to that point, the kind of explanation which explains things away may give us something, though at a heavy cost.  But you cannot go on ‘explaining away’ for ever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away.

  • Yup!  And that’s the company that the Dalai Lama is keeping.  So to argue, as RC does, that the Dalai Lama is not a syncretist denies a body of evidence too large to be denied.  And the fact that Tantra is a branch of Buddhism still leaves an open question about what Dom has cited as the Dali Lama’s beliefs about sexual activity.

  • Ironically, the Dalai Lama stayed in the papal apartments at Castegandalfo when he attended the Synthesis Dialogues that Focolare hosted in June 2004.

    When the papal apartments and residence are used for these Dialogues, how can one claim that the Pope has not given approval?  It would have been John Paul II who was Pope then.  Where does Benedict stand on these Synthesis Dialogues?  They are associated with The Association for Global New Thought.  Barbara Fields Bernstein is a member of the AGNT Leadership Council, is co-director of the Synthesis Dialogues with the Dalai Lama, and is a member of the board of Barbara Marx Hubbard’s Foundation for Conscious Evolution. 

    Global New Thought is associated with channeling and spiritualism.  Way into anti-First Commandment territory.

    What the heck is going on?

  • Benedict seems to be Catholic.  Were he and JPII both on the same side?  Is he still on that side?

    I no longer trust any Roman Catholic Church leaders.  Take them at their word.  If what they say sounds heretical, assume that it is.

    The Synthesis Dialogues sound heretical.

  • *sigh*…. then there is thing that is developing called “Tridentine Protestantism”….it’s calling your name….

    Il Papa’s Truth and Tolerance is very clear on this.

  • ohh, and yes, Dom, this topic did succeed in driving the ecumenism conspiracy theorists crazy…well done!

  • Dude, can we get a drum roll here? And maybe some trumpets? or is that outside the budget? ‘Cause I’m thinking that pronouncements this weighty need, like, some backup, man…

  • Lucis Trust World Goodwill Newsletter

    Scroll down to Club of Budapest where you will find:

    Honorary Members are recognised world leaders in their particular field of artistic or spiritual activity (these currently include Roger Anger, A.T. Ariyaratne, Thomas Berry, H.H. The Dalai Lama, Zubin Mehta, Robert Muller) and Creative Members are outstanding figures whose creative and innovative ideas and experience are considered “a vital asset for our common future”.  (emphasis mine)

  • No one is saying the Dalai Lama should be made pope or that all of his beliefs coincide with Catholic belief.

    But when they do coincide, it might just be an example of, you know, the natural law at work.

    Thank you all for proving me right on my original point. We were successful in drawing the ecumenical conspiracy theorists out into the open.

  • You missed my point. The Dalai Lama’s rejection of perverted sex is an area of agreement. The fact that he agrees with Catholic teaching in this particular area my be an example of the natural law at work.

    But saying he agrees with us in this one area does not mean that it’s an endorsement of everything he says and believes. I know enough about the URI and the theosophists. I know I don’t agree with it. But that’s not the point I was making.

    I’m not ignoring facts. What I’m ignoring is your overheated rhetoric and frankly your claims that the Church of Christ is not indeed the Church of Christ and that it has not been preserved from error by the Holy Spirit.

  • I didn’t say that the Dalai Lama is a spiritual leader worth following. That’s your straw man.

    I’m simply noting that it’s interesting that a guy held by Hollywood liberals as a paragon of liberal virtue and religiosity is himself opposed to the sexual perversions they applaud.

    You’re the one who came here with your own baggage and began to imply all sorts of motives.

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Time to put down the tin foil hat and just walk away. Take a deep breath.

  • Dom’s point, if you read his original post, is that a lot of liberally minded people turn to Buddhism because they think that it gives free license to their behaviour, and that it is interesting to note that the Dalai Lama refutes that. Instead of letting people do whatever makes them happy, and handing out blessings for it, the Dalai Lama made clear statements saying that these behaviours are unacceptable. Dom was making the comment that it is interesting that, on these points, the Dalai Lama is in agreement with Christian values.

    The idea of Natural Law which the Church holds, is that there are certain things that we all know are right or wrong, no matter what religion or culture you belong to. For instance, we all know that it is wrong to lie, to steal, to cheat, to commit murder or adultery or incest. These things are held to be true across culture and religious boundaries. These are truths that can be known without divine revelation. They are supported by divine revelation, but they are also known outside of it.

    You keep accusing Dom and others of believing things or saying things which they do not believe and have not said. He is not saying that we should follow the Dalai Lama or look to him for spiritual guidance. He is merely remarking that it is interesting that on certain points, the Dalai Lama happens to agree with Church teaching. Please stop putting words into people’s mouths. There is no need to be deliberately inflammatory or rude. If you have a point to make, you can make it without insulting everyone present or putting words into our mouths before denouncing them.

  • Dom blogged three areas where he would appear to think that the Dalai Lama agrees with Catholic doctrine:

    1. On consumerism and materialism

    2. On promiscuity and marriage

    3. On homosexuality and other perversions of sex

    While the statements quoted sound good, there is also evidence that he promotes Tantra, which is a form of sexual spirituality.  How can his teachings on sex, when they includes Tantra, be compatible with Catholic doctrine?  Even on the central subject of sex there is disagreement between Catholic doctrine and the teachings of the Dalai Lama.  That can’t be glossed over in an effort to find common ground.

    Also, the other matter that surfaced while looking at the material Dom blogged…Focolare’s sponsorship of the Synthesis Dialogues held at Castegandolfo, by an organization chaired by the Dalai Lama and the Executive Director for the Association of Global New Thought, a group wholly given to spiritualism which contradicts the First Commandment and Catholic doctrine. This is interreligious dialogue gone mad.

    I realize the second is a separate issue, but it is still important, especially since the Dalai Lama is the central figure to this present controversy.  It is therefore pertinent to this discussion.

    Look at the principles of Tantrism listed in this Buddhist website:

    The task of philosophy is enable us to transcend philosophy and to admit and practice the Tantric principles, which are as follows:
    – To treat the “truths” that appear in the course of perception with reservations.
    – A strong criticism of formal religious practice.
    – To include the idea “freedom is already present” in our existence.
    – To transform the “five poisons” into powers inductive of enlightenment (b: pancakamguna, h: pancamakara)
    – To include different methods of magic and occultism in practice.

    Can heaven and hell find common ground?

  • How can his teachings on sex, when they includes Tantra, be compatible with Catholic doctrine?  Even on the central subject of sex there is disagreement between Catholic doctrine and the teachings of the Dalai Lama.

    Because Dom isn’t saying that there is a one to one correlation between Buddhist and Catholic teaching. The point here is that there are some areas in which we agree, and that is a good thing. No one is saying that there is an exact match, nor that we should look to the Dalai Lama for guidance in these matters. The point is that there are more things on which we agree than liberals often think.

    Obviously there are huge swaths of ground on which Catholics and Buddhists disagree, and adamantly so. And we will continue to disagree on these points. We have a very developed theology on all of these issues, stemming from who we understand God to be, and what that means about our relationship with Him and with eachother, and we believe these things hold true, not just for Christians, but for all people, because we are made in the image of the triune God.

    Buddhists believe in a radically different conception of the universe, and what it means to be human. There are points of correspondence between what that means to them about how we should act, and what we believe about how we should live and act. We believe these things for different reasons. And we do not look to Buddhists for guidance, first because they do not follow Christ, and second because they have such a different understanding of what and why.

    But that does not mean that we can’t recognize that, they have recognized a part of the truth, and are teaching it. Yes it is only part of the truth, and it is clouded. But it is good that they have that much. And it is funny that so many people think they believe differently, and use try to justify their actions by being Buddhist, and then turn around and find that they are wrong, that the Dalai Lama does not condone their actions, but on a few points, he does agree with Christian teaching. No he does not agree on all points. Yes it is only in small areas where he agrees. But that doesn’t change the point that he does agree on some points. One doesn’t of course support everything that he does, but when someone gets something right, we ought to be glad that they got it right.

    And why are you surprised that Focolare got together with people of another religion, when a good part of what Focolare does is interreligious dialogue? I don’t particularly care one way or another about Focolare, but interreligious dialogue is not about telling people that they are doing a, b, and c wrong, but rather finding common ground so that both sides can begin to have a conversation. And honestly, as a side note, conversions happen that way much more easily then when one goes around telling people everything they are doing wrong. One has to start from common ground, or one gets no where.

  • Apparently it doesn’t bother you, theresa, that the Dalai Lama, who is called “His Holiness” stayed in the papal apartments which are to be reserved for the Holy Father who is also called “His Holiness.” 

    It bothers me.

    A lot.

    Because it gives the impression that Catholics believe that the Pope and the Dalai Lama are on an equal level. 

    We will simply have to disagree about that.

  • Yeah. I guess we will, because it doesn’t give me that impression. It wouldn’t ever occur to me to be bothered by that.

    Ah well. Different eyes I suppose.

  • Castegandolfo is a house. A very big house. It’s not like he was sleeping on the high altar at St. Peter’s.

    When I have houseguests I don’t ask them to renounce their beliefs first or proclaim themselves to be Catholic before entering the building.

    What he calls himself is irrelevant. It isn’t true. Having him sleep in a bed there isn’t an endorsement of it. Get over it already.

  • Dom, you are not the Pope.  When you do something it has no symbolic meaning. 

    A Pope, unlike you, is a public figure.  He must be more circumspect if he desires not to give the wrong impression.

    This conference is outrageous!

  • Wilma,

    Let me get this straight. If the Dalai Lama says the sky is blue he must be wrong. Because he cannot possibly say anything that contains a grain of truth in it. And if I concede that he has said one thing that agrees with one thing I believe then I am conceding that he is divine.

    How then is it possible for anyone to grow in an understanding of the truth if they have to accept the whole truth all at once, in a single swallow?

    The point of interreligious dialogue is to first find those places where we agree with those who do not know Christ and his Church and then build on those as a foundation. To do so is not to concede that they are right in everything or that truth is relative, but to recognize that even those people who have been deluded might still have fragments of the truth and that finding and building on those is the most productive way to procede.

    It is seldom effective to try to convert a person by telling them they are wrong. They shut down and stop listening to you at that point.

    Even St Paul begins his conversation with the Athenians by pointing to the altar of the unknown God. He was not saying they were right in their polytheism, but that they were right in acknowledging that there was something divine that they did not know or understand.

    Conversation is much more productive if you are willing to give people a little benefit of the doubt. When you do so, they are much more likely to actually listen to you.

  • Melanie, in the RCC we do not ordain women.  The reasoning for that is that Christ did not choose women apostles, and so we cannot do what Christ did not do.

    Now apply that same reasoning to the interreligious dialogue movement.  Did Christ gather up groups of Gnostics and invite them to His home in order to find in their religion elements that He could believe in?  Did the Apostles hold conferences with the Gnostics which placed the Gnostic religion and Christianity on an equal playing field?  You know that He and they did not.  What He did and what the Apostles did was speak of the faith that Christ founded to whomever was willing to listen.  That’s a far cry from what is happening in interreligious dialogue today.

    When I read Irenaeus, what I find is that he concentrated on what the Gnostics got wrong, not on what they got right.  Did Irenaeus fail because he didn’t tell the Gnostics how right they were in some of their beliefs?

    The Synthesis Dialogue conferences brought believers in channeling of disembodied spirits into the summer home of the man who represents Christ’s Church to the world.  It is a direct violation of the First Commandment to do what these channelers do.  How is it that you can’t see anything wrong with this?

  • Since there were no Gnostics until the second century, then no He didn’t.

    But what He did do was enter the homes of Samaritans and Romans—recall the scandal of Him talking with the Samaritan woman at the well—and He did talk with them on their terms.

    And Yes, the apostles did meet with pagans. Peter entered the house of Cornelius and ate with him, which scandalized the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem. From Acts 11:1-3: “Now the apostles and the brothers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles too had accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem the circumcised believers confronted him, saying, “You entered the house of uncircumcised people and ate with them.”

    Cornelius converted after Peter entered his home and ate with him. If Peter had listened to people like you, only Jews would have ever have been Christians and all the Gentiles would have been left out.

    Are bad things happening in the name of interreligious dialogue today? Undoubtedly.

    Does that mean that every word that comes out of the mouth of the Dalai Lama is a lie? No.

    My initial point which you have seem to have lost sight of is that if you had put the words of the Dalai Lama about consumerism or homosexuality in the Pope’s mouth, you would find no difference from Catholic teaching. His words in those very specific instances are compatible with Catholic teaching.

    Stay on point and stop reaching outside it to find areas of disagreement.

  • Ok, Carrie, You are reading way too much into what I said.

    Are bad things happening in the name of interreligious dialogue? Evidently. Do I agree with any of the stuff you cite? No. That’s a conclusion you jump to with no evidence from anything I have said. I obviously don’t know as much about the topic as you do.

    My point, which you seem to have missed is that it is unfair to tar everything and everyone with the same brush. Just because some bad things are happening does not mean that ALL attempts to dialogue are EVIL and should be shut down. That was my point.

    You are making broad generalizations and jumping to conclusions and putting words I never said into my mouth. Which was perhaps my real point after all. True conversation is impossible when you don’t stop to try to understand where the other person is coming from, if you don’t give them the benefit of the doubt, if you don’t first listen and understand before you speak.

    Consistently throughout this thread you haven’t listened to what people are actually trying to say. You interpolate and go off on tangents. It’s not possible to have a dialogue here because you don’t want to hear what I have to say.

    Maybe that’s the root of your problem with interreligious dialogue to begin with: You don’t understand how to have a real dialogue with a give and take of ideas with another person. At least that’s the only conclusion I can come to from the lack of communication that is going on here.

  • Gnostics predate Christianity.  The following is from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

    The beginnings of Gnosticism have long been a matter of controversy and are still largely a subject of research. The more these origins are studied, the farther they seem to recede in the past. Whereas formerly Gnosticism was considered mostly a corruption of Christianity, it now seems clear that the first traces of Gnostic systems can be discerned some centuries before the Christian Era.

    Gnosticism began in the Garden of Eden.

    We are not talking about eating with Pagans here.  We are talking about a formal program that places Gnosticism and Catholicism on a level playing field for the purpose of discussing religion, and does so in the Pope’s house, not in a Gnostic’s house.  That is not the same thing.

    Your original point, Dom, is your headline which reads:  “Not who you thought he was”.  I am taking issue with that headline.

  • See, this is what I think happens. When I hear a phrase like “interreligious dialogue” I think of the positive stuff I’ve heard: My sister sitting down with friends who are pagan or buddhist and having a conversation in which she asks them about what they believe and they ask her about what she believes and both come away knowing more about the other person. And perhaps the pagan or buddhist becomes more open to Christ because they’ve actually encountered Him in a member of his body in a real loving exchange.

    Evidently when you hear the same phrase it conjures up a completely different image: the loony fringe of people doing odd and contraversial things that I don’t consider truly to be interreligious dialogue or constructive. Your entire definition for the phrase is the stuff I edit out as being people who missunderstand what the phrase is supposed to mean.

    So I think it is really hard for communication to happen between us because we are using the same words in radically different ways.

    Same thing seems to be happening with Dom. He was making one point. You are making a completely different point. Communication isn’t happening.

    He was addressing liberal, especially non-Christian Hollywood types who embrace the Dalai Lama as a prophet, you’re addressing a completely different situation and a different group of people. I think you are reading his headline in a way that is not at all how he meant it.

    The “you” in Dom’s headline is the Hollywood buddhist wannabes. The “you” in your interpretation is you, Carrie. See why we aren’t communicating?

    For communication to happen we have to agree that the words we are using are referring to the same things. Otherwise we are talking past each other, not with each other.

  • Fair point, Melanie.  I wasn’t aware that the Hollywood types read this blog, but then I really don’t know who reads it.

    Cardinal Ratzinger saw the problem with interreligious dialogue when he wrote, “Only if my fundamental presupposition is that the other person may be just as much in the right as I am, or even more so, can any dialogue take place at all.  Dialogue, it is said, has to be an exchange between positions that are fundamentally equal status and thus mutually relative, with the aim of achieving a maximum of cooperation and integration between various religious bodies and entities.”  (TRUTH AND TOLERANCE, p. 120)

    What turned up in interreligious dialogue at Castegandolfo (or Castel Gandolfo) in the Focolare center is the same thing that turned up with Simon Magus in the New Testament.  You don’t dialogue with a Gnostic.  Either you leave him alone or you exorcise him.  Any exorcist can tell you what happens when you try to dialogue with someone possessed of a disembodied spirit.  It would seem, though, that some Catholics refuse to heed the lesson in Genesis.

    You can get a good idea of what Chiara Lubich/Focolare are about by reading her address titled “The Economy of Communion Experience:  a proposal for economic activity from the spirituality of unity.”

    If her “universal brotherhood” and “loving the other person’s country as we love our own” and “spirituality of unity” isn’t syncretism, I don’t know what is.  Apparently she was willing to extend her “spirutuality of unity” to an organization promoting Gnosticism in the name of interreligious dialogue.  I don’t think that is wise.  I expecially don’t think it should be taking place in the Pope’s summer residence. 

    It’s just one more scandal to add to all the others.

  • You know, I am really glad that St. Ambrose of Milan didn’t agree with you, or Augustine would never have converted to being Catholic, and we’d be minus a very important saint.

    We have to be able to sit down with people of other religons. We have to be able to extend to them a dignity and respect equal to that which we have for ourselves. If we don’t, they will know it, and they will never listen to us. The only way to extend the message of the Gospel to others is to take them seriously and treat them with respect, love and compassion, and it is only when we have done this that there is any possibility that they can begin to hear the Gospel from us.
    If we don’t approach people with love and compassion, they walk away. Of course, that assumes that we are even willing to approach them at all, to talk with them at all. We have Saint Pelagia because Nonnus was willing to talk with her even though she was a prostitute, we have Augustine because Ambrose was willing to talk to Augustine even while he was a Manichee.
    Yes it is very important to make sure that while we reach out to others that we do not lose our own identity or forsake our beliefs, that we do not forsake the truth. But we must be able to reach out in the first place. And that means listening, not just talking. That means showing respect before we demand respect.

  • It is a well-known fact that there are priests and nuns in our Church who are embracing heresy gleaned from other religions.  So the question becomes who is converting whom in this interreligious dialogue? 

    There are ten references to unclean spirits in the New Testament.  We had better find a way to figure out which spirits are unclean before unsuspecting Catholics become the victim of them, because they are out there, people of other faiths are seeking them, and the Church founded by Christ is the ultimate target.

    Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

  • Carrie,

    I understand your point that there are priests and nuns who embrace heresies. I too am troubled by them. I’m not convinced by your conclusion as to how they got into that position, I’d have to judge them on a case by case basis. What is the history of this individual, how was he or she so poorly formed that he or she was open to these distortions and false beliefs? I don’t have enough evidence to know for certain it is because they were engaged in dialogue with non-believers.

    (Additionally if you follow your own argument what does it say about your own readings on tantra and the occult, are you also being seduced by evil spirits?)

    Theresa won’t toot her own horn, so I’m going to do it for her, the privilege of a doting big sister. God seems to keep putting her into the position of making friends with non Christians who challenge her faith, asking questions, demanding answers.

    And as far as I can see her encounters with them have not shaken that faith, but made it more solid. In fact, I’m not sure but that it hasn’t been her need to more clearly explain herself to these friends that has lead her into the study of theology in school.

    In her time in college she has also now sponsored two friends in RCIA. So the fruits of her experience are two new souls that she has actively helped bring into Christ’s Church.

    Her buddhist friend is not actively seeking to become Catholic now. Nor do I think she will in the near future. But I will not be surprised if one day many years from now Christ doesn’t move her heart to convert. And if she does one of the roots of that conversion will have been Theresa’s patience and love and respect which never attacked her buddhist beliefs but strove to understand them and which when questions arose about what Christians believe corrected many misunderstandings she had because many of the “Christians” she’d met had not in fact been so Christian.

  • The thing is there are plenty of misconceptions out there that non-Catholics have about Catholics, that non-Christian have about Christians and one of the first hurdles Theresa has encountered is an outright hostility to the very idea of Christ. And I have witnessed a change in many of her non-Christian friends over the years. Because they have known my gentle sister, because she treated them with love and respect, they are more willing to treat Christians in general with love and respect. For many people conversion is a very long process. It can take years to get past bad experiences, prejudices and mistrust. The Church needs people to talk with non-Christians who are willing to listen before they talk. People whose faith is strong, whose prayer life is strong so that they will not weaken by the contact.

    One assertion you made that is troubling is that all gnostics are possessed by the devil. Can you point out where that assertion is backed up by Chruch teaching? As Theresa points out, St Augustine was a gnostic before he became Christian, read The Confessions. I understand gnosticism is not Christian and like all lies has its source in the Father of Lies. But saying that someone believes a lie is a far cry from asserting outright demonic possession. That’s a jump that it simply doesn’t make sense to make.

    You seem to be conflating two things: people who are in error and people who are possessed. While these categories overlap, they are not the same thing.

  • As far as Ratzinger’s statements about dialogue, You are misreading the book. It doesn’t say what you assert it does. You quote the latter part of a paragraph out of the full context. In the passage you cite, he’s talking about the shift in meaning of the word. He says that it has acquired a different meaning in a modern relativist context than it used to have in both the Platonic and Christian traditions.

    Just immediately before the sentence you quote he says:
    “dialogue in a relativist sense means setting one’s own position or belief on the same level with what the other person believes.” (also on p. 120, emphasis is mine) So in your quotation he is still using the word “dialogue” in the modified way of “dialogue in a relativist sense”. He’s talking about the error of relativism (a common them in Beneddict’s papacy) which warps the   idea of dialogue away from its philosophical roots.

    Ratzinger is making a specific point here that you are misapplying in the context of our current discussion.

    Rather, I would argue that what gets the priests and nuns you refer to in trouble in interreligious dialogue is in fact that they have adopted this relativist outlook on the world that Ratzinger condemns so forcefully.

    But their error is not the result of the kind of dialogue I am referring to. Rather it is a result of this modernist misuse of the term. If one has rejected a relativist position, if one holds that there is an ultimate truth and that that truth is Christ (who says that He is the Truth) then I would argue that true dialogue which can be constructive can result.

    True dialogue respects the dignity of the human person and respects that the erroneous ideas a person holds are arrived at by the same logical processes by which one has arrived at one’s own ideas. However, that either their values are different or the information they used in that logical process is different than one’s own.

    Thus a true dialogue seeks first to establish what are the other person’s values and what is the data they are using to come to their conclusions. Once you understand where a person is coming from, you can begin to correct false data with true data, false values with true values and correct logical errors by equipping your fellow conversationalist with the mental tools to form correct conclusions.
    Thus you can lead a person to a realization of the truth.

  • When a person who is not a relativist begins a dialogue with respect for a person’s ideas it is not to make the relativist’s error of saying their beliefs are just as valuable as my own. But it is to say that emotionally they are just as attached to their erroneous beliefs as I am to my correct beliefs. Therefore to begin a conversation by telling someone that they are wrong is to shut down the conversation before it has a chance to begin. Because once a person perceives themselves as being under attack, they stop listening and no progress can be made.

    However, one can engage in a dialogue with a devout buddhist by first saying: I respect your beliefs, even though I believe that you are wrong. I understand they are important to you and I want to understand what they are. By getting a person to talk about their values one can find that there are some areas of common ground: hmmm we both think that homosexuality is wrong, that murder is wrong, that abortion is wrong, etc. So we don’t disagree on everything.

    Once you have found common ground with a person emotional trust develops and you can begin to explore the places where your beliefs diverge. They are now willing to listen to you and respect what you have to say because you have done them the same courtesy. And if you trust that Christ is the truth you are willing to find that even non Christians who seek the truth are seeking Christ, even if they don’t know it. You can help them to discover the beauty of the fullness of the truth by emphasizing the truths they are currently able to grasp. The more you both are able to point to truths you agree on, the better able you will then be to discover places where you disagree and to understand the nature of their errors and to lead them gently out of the darkness and into the light.

  • Rather, I would argue that what gets the priests and nuns you refer to in trouble in interreligious dialogue is in fact that they have adopted this relativist outlook on the world that Ratzinger condemns so forcefully.

    Precisely.  As you admit, they are getting into trouble by the very method that Cdl. Ratzinger condemns, because that is the nature of dialogue.  It is not possible to dialogue with someone without offering them the respect that you have cited.  As you point out, they will not listen otherwise.

    But what do we tell them when we dialogue?  By the fact that we are doing it, we tell them that we believe there can be several gods and several religions all possessing truth.  We make of our faith a red M&M in a bag of red ones and green ones and yellow ones and brown ones.  All the same size and shape.  Just the colors are different.

    But what are we told to do in Scripture?  Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell us to do the same thing.  Matthew says it best:

    Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town.  Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. …Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.  Matt. 10:5-6 & 14

    And what were they to say? 

    As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  Matt. 10:7

    Jesus said nothing about dialoguing with them about their religion.  In fact the Church never recommended dialoguing until Vatican II.  Nearly 2,000 years of preaching, then suddenly we are supposed to dialogue.

  • True dialogue respects the dignity of the human person and respects that the erroneous ideas a person holds are arrived at by the same logical processes by which one has arrived at one’s own ideas.

    Certainly I have no problem with this.  Respect for another individual because that individual is a creation of God is central to our faith.  But how is it that you can accomplish this:

    I respect your beliefs, even though I believe that you are wrong.

    How does one respect error?  Do you respect errors in math, for instance, such as when the salesclerk shortchanges you?  Do you respect your doctor’s mistaken diagnosis?  Do you respect heresy when it is preached from the pulpit?  What do you mean by respect?

    (Additionally if you follow your own argument what does it say about your own readings on tantra and the occult, are you also being seduced by evil spirits?)

    You ask a question that I have asked myself countless times.  There is always the possibility of that when refuting any heresy, but does that mean that we should never do it?  If we run away from it in fear, who wins?

    If God has called your sister to reach out to non-Christians, then she must pursue that calling.  What you describe is not exactly a formal meeting with a committee arranging it so everyone can sit around a table and talk about how wonderful their different religions are.

    Re your question about channeling and Gnosticism…

    Are all Gnostics possessed?  Most likely not.  However, the goal of enlightenment is the indwelling of a spirit.  Some are more successful in accomplishing enlightenment than others. In some Gnostic groups only the inner circle are actually channelers.  The outer circle consists of their followers.  But the ultimate goal remains the same even when it is approached through degree initiation.

    Technically, is automatic writing, clairvoyance, skrying, clairaudience, out of body experience, etc. all a matter of being possessed?  I think only God knows the answer to that.

  • Well, theresa, there is little else in life that prompts me as strongly to believe in Catholicism as researching the occult.  Looking at the dark side convinces me in ways that nothing else can that what the Church teaches is true, in spite of the evil done by some of Her members.

  • On this point, I agree with you. The darkness of such things does indeed serve to show even more strongly that the Catholic Church is true. Which is why I think it is so important to not walk away from people in error, but to reach out to them.
    My friend has stopped messing around with spirits and magic in large part because of the Christian influence around him. But it wasn’t the influence of people just telling him he was wrong and throwing bible verses at him, it was people who respected him as a person and treated him with dignity, gave him a chance to explain what he thought and believed. And because of that he was then able to listen to what we think and believe. It was that respect and love which allowed him to listen to us in the first place. It is what allowed other friends of mine to become open to the influence of their Christian friends, influence which eventually converted them away from such dark and damaging things as magical and occult practices to their Catholic faith. 
    It is the influence of people who stood strong enough in their faith that they were able to be a friend and example which led some of my friends to be able to think of turning from paganism to Catholicism.

  • Theresa, do you think that what you and your friends did was the equivalent of creating an organization or a network of religious leaders who get together to tell each other what they believe, and demonstrate how well they can all get along despite their differences, all in the name of peace?  Or do you think what you did is closer to what the missionaries, beginning with the apostles and continuing down through the centuries of the Church, were doing?  In other words, were you evangelizing or were you synthesizing?  Because they are not the same thing.

  • Carrie,

    I respect your beliefs, even though I believe that you are wrong.

    How does one respect error?  Do you respect errors in math, for instance, such as when the salesclerk shortchanges you?  Do you respect your doctor’s mistaken diagnosis?  Do you respect heresy when it is preached from the pulpit?  What do you mean by respect?

    You are right, I put that badly. What I meant to say is not that I respect the belief per se, I need to make it clear that as a CAtholic I believe it is wrong. Rather, what I should say is that I respect that their belief is important to them and that to attack it can seem like I am attacking the person.

    I respect that in order to treat them with dignity as a person and to win their respect in return, my engagement with them on this subject must be calm and reasonable and respectful, that a shouting match in which I just say: “you are wrong, you moron!” won’t get me anywhere.

    Usually the person holding a mistaken belief doesn’t do so out of stupidity or malice, but because they have been misinformed, misled. I respect that it will take time and courtesy to unravel a web of errors and that the best way to do that is with their cooperation.

    I think the math analogy might work best to explain my point. How do I treat an error in math by a child? I don’t yell at him, but try to discover why he made the error. Perhaps his teacher didn’t explain the concept well and he needs to be retaught. Or maybe he skipped a step and by going over his work with him, I can help him discover the source of his error so that he doesn’t make the same mistake twice. Or maybe the child has a learning disability and needs extra help. Maybe he is not developmentally ready to do long division and we need to go back and spend more time on addition and subtraction before he is ready to tackle this kind of work.

    I think Christian charity demands that we treat people who are in error with the same kind of respect with which we treat a child who makes a mistake. We calmly try to help them discover the source of their errors. We lovingly lead them to the truth. And we recognize that they may not yet be ready for everything we have to say, we respect that they might move towards the truth at a pace that does not suit our own desires. Above all we trust that when we are engaged in evangelizing it is not we, but Christ who is really doing the work.

  • I should add that anyone who has dealt with children knows that you get nowhere when you condescend to them or talk down to them, they see right through that. You get their respect when you treat them with the same respect you treat an adult. Likewise, by suggesting that we treat persons with who we disagree as we treat children, I need to emphasize that this does not mean we belittle, demean, or talk down to them.

  • As you admit, they are getting into trouble by the very method that Cdl. Ratzinger condemns, because that is the nature of dialogue….

    You are still missing the distinction that Ratzinger is making between classical dialogue as a philosophic tool that fits well within the Christian tradition and the “relativist dialogue” which he condemns.

    There is a place for dialogue, but he warns us we must be careful that we are grounded in the teaching of the Church and not being swayed by the “dictatorship of relativism”. 

    Ratzinger argues that much of what is happening in the Church in the name of “dialogue” is not true dialogue at all but “relativist dialogue”. (The examples you bring up are “relativist dialogue”.)
    However, he is quite careful not to outright condemn all dialogue. Rather he is calling for a reform, a return to an awareness of our roots that rejects relativism and engages in true, Christian dialogue that insists that Christ is the truth while extending a Christ-like charity toward those who do not know Christ.

    I respectfully disagree with your contention that it is not possible to have a dialogue with someone with whom one disagrees in which you simultaneously show them respect and at the same time make it clear that you respect their person while disagreeing with their ideas.

    I acknowlege, however, that in today’s world it is very difficult and that most people, sadly, do not have the intellectual formation to do so. The dictatorship of relativism has misshapen our educational system, people do not know the difference between the sloppy relativist “all ideas are equal” and the true philosophical, respectful dialogue.

    It is true that Christ told the twelve not to preach to the pagans. But that was before his death and resurrection and before Pentecost. After Pentecost they were commissioned to go out and convert the pagans. And in fact the Psalms and the prophets continually remind us that the reign of the messiah will be over all nations, not just Israel. We have to read the passage you cite in the context of the entire scriptures. In context, his prohibition seems to arise from the fact that his kingdom had not yet begun and the Church had not yet been formed.

    Unless our ancestors were Jews, all of us are descendants of pagans that were converted. How did this happen unless someone went out to convert them? St Paul, the disciple to the gentiles, was called to do precisely that.

    It is false that dialogue doesn’t happen until Vatican II, in fact Paul’s encounter with the Athenians in the agora is the perfect example of the beginning of a long Catholic tradition of philosophical engagement (or dialogue) with pagans.

    St Thomas Aquinas is another fine example, he adopts the philosophical methodology of the pagan Greeks, aka dialogue, and shows that indeed Christians can use reasoned discourse as a tool to communicate with non-Christians and heretics.

    What Pope Benedict focuses on in much of his teaching is a redirecting of the Church’s efforts away from false dialogue in a relativist model (that as you point out was one of the false fruits of the so-called “spirit” of Vatican II) toward a true Christian dialogue whose goal is to preach Christ, the Truth.

  • I have no disagreement with what you have written, Melanie, except that I would not call it “dialogue.”  I would call it missionary work.  Dialogue is something entirely different in the minds of all non-Catholics who take part in these dialogue events.

    What you describe is not what took place at Castegandolfo.  At least that is not what non-Catholics saw there.  A first-hand account of the event was given in an article by Craig Hamilton, titled “Reaching Toward Synthesis.”  You can read it here.

    If you read it you will discover that Focolare did not chair the Synthesis Dialogues III.  Rather it was a conference run by Barbara Bernstein, an executive of The Association for Global New Thought.  You will read that the aim was the “establishment of a ‘meta-mind”, and that the goal was “to realize our deep, common, profound oneness.” 

    Performing at the conference was New Thought Gospel diva Rickie Byars Beckwith.

    A continuing program to promote these ideas was established at the conference.

    If that sounds to you like a program with the purpose you have outlined, I will have to conclude that we have reached an impasse.  To me it sounds like the formation of the One World Religion foretold in the Book of Revelation.  How such a program could take place in the papal residence is beyond my comprehension.

    The Focolare International Center was given to them by John Paul II.  Must we try to assume that he was ignorant of their motives when he did that?  Papal apologies can only be stretched so far before one concludes it was papal cooperation.  I have reached that point.  Perhaps you are not there yet.

    This is as bad as Assisi.  Paganism has been brought into the house of God once again.  There is no spin on this that will change my opinion here, so perhaps we will have to agree to disagree.

  • Here’s what Cardinal Ratzinger said about Assisi—and specifically interreligious prayer—in Truth and Tolerance:

    There are undeniable dangers, and it is indisputable that the Assisi meetings, especially in 1986, were misinterpreted by many people. It would, on the other hand, be wrong to reject, completely and unconditionally, multireligious prayer of the kind I have described. To me, the right thing in this case seems to be, rather, to link it with conditions corresponding to the demands of inner truth and responsibility for such a great undertaking as the public appeal to God before all the world. I see two basic conditions:

    1. Such multireligious prayer cannot be the normal form of religious life but can only exist as a sign in unusual situations, in which, as it were, a common cry for help rises up, stirring the hearts of men, to stir also the heart of God.

    2. Such a procedure almost inevitably leads to false interpretations, to indifference as to the content of what is believed or not believed, and thus to the dissolution of real faith. That is why—as was said in point 1—these procedures must remain exceptional and why a careful explanation, of what happens here and what does not happen, is most important. This explanation, which must make clear that there is no such thing as “the religions” altogether as such, no such thing as a common concept of God or belief in God, that difference not merely exists in the realm of changing images and concepts but involves ultimate decisions—this explanation is important, not only for those participating in the even itself but for all who witness it or learn about it in some other way. What is happening must be so clear in itself and to the world, that it does not become a demonstration of that relativism through which it would nullify its own significance. (p 106)

    I don’t think we really disagree, Carrie. We both agree that certain events have been very problematic in that they presented a false idea to the world and caused great confusion and misunderstanding, even loss of faith.

    Where we seem to be talking at odds is in a fine point rather than the big picture. I would argue that the intent of the event was perhaps good but that it has been, as Ratzinger puts it “misinterpreted”. In fact, I would even agree with you that for that reason the event as it was executed was seriously flawed because the planners did not heed Ratzinger’s two conditions.

    I will conceed with Ratzinger that such events are by their very nature open to misinterpretation and thus must be handled much more carefully than they have been in the past. But I think it is important to note that he says it is wrong to reject the idea of such encounters unconditionally. I think that in the right conditions, with the proper safeguards such encounters between Christians and non Christians could happen. 

    I’m not saying it’s been done successfully in the past. In fact I agree with you that attempts thus far have been carried out ham-handedly and have done more harm than good. But I do not rule out the possibility that they could be done in such a way, with such conditions as Ratzinger outlines.

    In other words, you are talking about unconditional rejection. I’m looking for a way the goal could be accomplished under the right conditions. Does that make sense?

  • When I read TRUTH AND TOLERANCE, I was very happy to see what Ratzinger had written.

    What I don’t see in the Church is any curb on the kind of events that prompted him to write the book in the first place.  Nor do I see any indication from Pope Benedict that a curb will be placed on them in the future.

    The Synthesis Dialogues apper to be associated with the same monks—Teasdale especially—who were working with the Gurdjieffian Church in Texas.  Certainly that church was not Catholic.  It is possible that the centering prayer the monks teach is an introduction to channeling.  And now I see that a group that practices channeling has made itself at home in Castel Gandolfo.  Has anything been done to stop the monks?  Does Focolare still work with them and with AGNT?  I don’t have the answers yet, but those questions need answers.

    A program that would appear to be an outgrowth of either the Synthesis Dialogues or at least the same mindset is called Economy of Communion.

    If you go to the website, you will see that Chiara Lubich has contributed to this effort.  One of her papers is linked there, titled “The Economy of Communion Experience: a proposal for economic activity from the spirituality of unity.”  In this paper she talks about “universal brotherhood” and “silencing one’s selfishness”.  Definitions would become of prime importance here.  “Universal brotherhood” is the goal of Freemasonry and of occult brotherhoods.  “One’s selfishness” might be defined as the desire to adhere to one’s own religion and not join a common religion.  That interpretation will certainly be put upon it by New Agers who hate Catholicism.

    In any case what she seems to be proposing is the same sort of economic enterprise that occult groups are also promoting.  The Shamballah people are well into this sort of thing.

    There is a passage in Revelation that speaks of the mark of the beast necessary for buying and selling.  It is easy to see how this sort of economic community could be the basis of such an arrangement.  Some groups already issue their own scrip.

    The title of the paper alone is enough to give a Catholic nightmares.  “Spirituality of unity” indeed!  Base communities in South America were a failure.  Our unity will come when Christ returns, and the spirituality of that unity will be life with Him.

    In the meantime, Benedict will have to keep very close tabs on the moles in his own backyard.

  • It would appear that the Association for Global New Thought is a Gurdjieff organization.

    I’ve blogged some quotes from a Gurdjieffian book if anyone is interested.

    Relativism is definitely on the Gurdjieffian agenda.  And so on the Focolare agenda as well?

    Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

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