Saturday, November 13, 2010

Remember That Middle Eastern Synod?

If you do, then you probably thought I'd forgotten about it. Well, you were right. It wasn't until the new apostolic exhortation came out that I was reminded. Anyways, here are the propositions that came out of it.

I wonder sometimes what the point of these things is supposed to be. If you read through the propositions, there's nothing extraordinary in there. Banal, I think, is a good description. Whatever problems there are in the Middle East, I'm not sure how this stuff is supposed to do them any good. Such meetings do provide prelates a chance to get together and swap ideas about what they are personally doing that's yielding progress. I suppose there's merit in that. Occasionally, you also get some good interventions on various topics, like this one Rorate provided from Bishop Raboula Antoine Beylouni:

Sometimes dialogue occurs here and there, in the Arab countries, such as in Qatar, where the Emir himself invites, at his expense, personalities from different countries and from the three religions: Christian, Muslim and Jewish. In Lebanon the Télélumiere and Noursat networks, and other television networks, sometimes broadcast programs on Islamic-Christian dialogue. Often a topic is chosen, and each side explains or interprets according to their religion. These programs are usually very instructive.

With my intervention, I wished to draw attention on the points that make these encounters difficult and often ineffective. It should be clear that we are not discussing dogma. But even the subjects of a practical and social order are difficult to discuss when the Koran or the Sunna discusses them. Here are some difficulties which we have faced:

- The Koran inculcates in the Muslim pride in being the only true and complete religion, taught by the greatest prophet, because he was the last one. The Muslim is part of the privileged nation, and speaks the language of God, the language of Paradise, the Arabic language. This is why, he comes to dialogue with a sense of superiority, and with the certitude of being victorious.

The Koran, supposedly written by God Himself, from beginning to end, gives the same value to all that is written: dogma that supercedes all law or practice.

In the Koran, men and women are not equal, not even in marriage itself where the man takes several wives and can divorce at his pleasure; nor in the heritage where man takes double; nor in the testifying before judges where the voice of one man is equal to the voice of two women, etc...

The Koran allows the Muslim to hide the truth from the Christian, and to speak and act contrary to how he thinks and believes.

In the Koran, there are contradictory verses which annul others, which gives the Muslim the possibility of using one or the other to his advantage, and therefore he can tell the Christian that he is humble and pious and believes in God, just as he can treat him as impious, apostate and idolatrous.

The Koran gives the Muslim the right to judge Christians and to kill them for the Jihad (the holy war). It commands the imposition of religion through force, with the sword. The history of invasions bears witness to this. This is why the Muslims do not recognize religious freedom, for themselves or for others. And it isn’t surprising to see all the Arab countries and Muslims refusing the whole of the “Human Rights” instituted by the United Nations.

Faced with all these interdictions and other similar attitudes should one suppress dialogue? Of course not. But the themes that can be discussed should be chosen carefully, and capable and well-trained Christians chosen as well, as well as those who are courageous and pious, wise and prudent... who tell the truth with clarity and conviction...

We sometimes deplore certain dialogues on TV, where the Christian speaker isn’t up to the task, and does not give the Christian religion all its beauty and spirituality, which scandalizes the viewers. Worse yet, when sometimes there are clergyman speakers who, in dialogue to win over Muslims call Mohammed the prophet and add the Muslim invocation, known and constantly repeated: “Salla lahou alayhi was sallam”.

Powerful, powerful stuff. Especially in light of the recent massacre in Iraq. Not content with merely pointing out the problems, His Excellency all provided a potential solution:

Finally I would like to suggest the following:

Like the Koran spoke well of the Virgin Mary, insisting on her perpetual virginity and miraculous and unique conception in giving us Christ; just as Muslims take her greatly into consideration and ask for her intercession, we should turn to her for all dialogue and all encounters with the Muslims. Being the Mother of us all, she will guide us in our relations with the Muslims to show them the true face of Her Son Jesus, the Redeemer of mankind.

If it pleased God that the Feast of the Annunciation was declared a national feast day in Lebanon for Christians and Muslims, may it also become a national feast day in other Arab countries.

Of course, this being a good idea, none of it is reflected in the synod propositions, which outright ignore the problems he brought up in the first place. Consider:

Propositio 40
Interreligious dialogue

Christians in the Middle East are called upon to pursue dialogue with the followers of other religions, bringing hearts and minds closer together. For this to happen, they, along with their partners, are invited to work to fortify interreligious dialogue, to strive for the purification of memory through the forgiveness for the events of the past, and to seek a better future together.

In their daily lives, they are to endeavour to accept one another in spite of their differences, working to build a new society in which fanaticism and extremism have no place.

The synod fathers would like to see drawn up a formation plan which helps people to be more open, for use in teaching establishments as well as in seminaries and novitiates. This will help build a culture of dialogue based on human and religious solidarity.

Propositio 42

The Declaration of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Nostra aetate, alongside the pastoral letters of the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs, serves as the basis for the Catholic Church's relations with Muslims. As Pope Benedict XVI has said: "Interreligious and intercultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is in fact a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends" (Pope Benedict XVI, "Meeting with representatives of Muslim Communities", Cologne, 20 August 2005).

In the Middle East, Christians share a common life and a common destiny with Muslims. Together they build up society. It is important to promote the notion of citizenship, the dignity of the human person, equal rights and duties and religious freedom, including both freedom of worship and freedom of conscience.

Christians in the Middle East are called to pursue a fruitful dialogue of life with Muslims. They are to take care to show an attitude of esteem and love, leaving aside every negative prejudice. Together, Christians and Muslims, they are called upon to discover their respective religious values. They are to offer the world an image of a positive encounter and a fruitful collaboration between believers of the two religions, combating together every sort of fundamentalism and violence in the name of religion.

Perfectly revolting fluff.

What makes this even worse is that at least half a dozen of the other propositions all focus on the problems related to migration of people. Gee, I wonder why all these people are migrating. Maybe it's because of that whole issue of being murdered if they stick around. Instead of discussing the substance of the matter, it turns into a social justice lecture.

Oh, and let's not forget the item from our prior report:

Propositio 39

The biblical and theological wealth of the Eastern liturgies is at the spiritual service of the universal Church. Nonetheless, it would be useful and important to renew the liturgical texts and celebrations, where necessary, so as to answer better the needs and expectations of the faithful. This renewal must be based on an ever deeper knowledge of tradition and be adapted to contemporary language and categories.

Just freaking great. It's ironic that the theme of the synod was "Communion and Witness," given this proposed course of action that has such potential to destroy their communion and water down their witness.

Shouldn't we have learned the dangers of liturgical experimentation by now?

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