“Christianity and the World Religions,”
the Incredible Document From The International Theological
For the first time in history, a pope makes
an official visit to a synagogue.
its issue of April 6, 1997, Documentation Catholique
published the document, "Christianity and the World
Religions," [hereafter abbreviated CRW] prepared
by the International Theological Commission (ITC) with the
approbation of its president Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger,
the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
to the Pontifical Year-book, the International Theological
Commission "...is composed of theologians from diverse
schools and nations, renowned for their knowledge and their
fidelity to the magisterium of the Church,...." up
to a maximum number of 30, named by the Holy Father on the
proposal of the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for
the Faith, after consultation with the Bishops' Conferences.
The Yearbook says that:
task of the Commission is to aid the Holy See, and specifically
the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in examining
the most important doctrinal questions.
order that the "dialogue among religions may bear fruit,"
the ITC proposes in its document, "Christianity and
the World Religions," to establish "some theological
principles" which may help "to clarify how religions
are to be evaluated theologically" (CRW, §31).
The document explains that it is not a matter of establishing
"if men can attain salvation even if they do not belong
to the visible Catholic Church" or, more exactly, if
each man can belong to the Church in all invisible way and
thereby attain salvation. This possibility is in fact already
"considered as theological certain" (CRW,
§64). On the contrary, in "Christianity and the World
Religions," it is a matter of establishing if the religions
as such [i.e., in themselves - Ed.]
can have a value in the order of salvation (CRW,
§§81,82). [The emphasis on "as such" is by the
author of the article - Ed.] This is to say that
the evaluation concerns itself not with the subjective level
of the good faith or of the invincible ignorance of the
individual, but with the objective level of religions considered
in themselves, precisely "as religions."
document concludes (CRW, §§118,119) that inter-religious
dialogue [that is, the dialogue with the false religions
- Ed.] raises anew the question of "evangelical
preparation." According to "Christianity and the
World Religions," the function of inter-religious dialogue
is not to be compared to that of the Old Testament, which,
in fact, "was the preparation for the very coming of
Christ," but that the non-Catholic religions “as such”
can act as a preparation for "the salvific event already
accomplished." That is to say, the false religions
in themselves can be quite as much "teachers as the
Christ" (St. Paul). Like the Old Testament! This is
enough to leave one dumbfounded.
RELIGIONS, BUT APOSTASIES FROM THE ONE TRUE RELIGION
the members of the International Theological Commission
were really what they ought to be, that is, theologians
"renowned for their knowledge and their fidelity to
the magisterium of the Church,” they would know that the
evaluation of false religions ''as such" was given
by God Himself in Sacred Scripture and that it has been
given, with perfect fidelity to the Word of God, for 2000
years by the Holy Catholic Church. The Church's evaluation
is absolutely negative, and the International Theological
Commission's favorable evaluation in "Christianity
and the World Religions" is in manifest contradiction
to it. What are the false religions "in themselves"?
They are the fruit of apostasy [in the literal sense of
the word, i.e., defection - Ed.] from the
one true religion, either in its original revelation or
in its definitive revelation.
Revelation tells us (see the Book of Genesis) that, from
the very beginning, God revealed the one true religion to
Adam, then to the patriarchs who transmitted it, along with
the promise of the Redeemer, to their posterity. In the
general corruption of society which followed, since mankind
had lost even the knowledge of the true God by creating
for itself false gods to adore, God chose a people that
He would govern with a special providence in order that
the one true religion could be preserved on earth until
the coming of the Savior, who would perfect it and entrust
it to His Church until the end of time.
which is attested by Sacred Scripture concerning the original
revelation is amply confirmed by studies of religion in
the earliest times. Monotheism, and not polytheism, is the
highest stage of religion. Polytheism appears afterwards
as a degeneration of the original monotheism.2
the false religions of the pagans, polytheists and idol-worshippers
(Buddhism, Hinduism, etc…) are the fruit of the estrangement
from the early divine revelation, the other false religions
(Judaism, Islam, heretical and/ or schismatic sects, etc.)
are the fruit of the total or partial rejection of the divinely
defined revelation, that is, of the Christian revelation.
The Pope meets with Muslim leaders.
JUDGMENT OF SACRED SCRIPTURE AND THE CHURCH
Scripture (see the Book of Wisdom, chaps. 13,14) teaches
that the cause of the false religions lies in the darkening
of reason and the disorder of the passions. It renders a
very severe judgment of what the false religions are "in
themselves." They are the worship of non-existent divinities
"introduced into the world by the vain thoughts of
men" (Wis. 14:13-14); "sources of impiety"
and of "corruption of life” (Wis. 14:12), because all
false religions are a way of "thinking false of God"
(Wis. 14:30). St. Paul will go on to say that the pagans
are "unjustifiable because they have exchanged the
truth of God for a lie" (Rom 1:25) and erroneous knowledge
of God leads to moral perversion just as the true knowledge
of God leads to a recovery of morality (Wisdom, chaps. 14,15;
Romans, chap. 1).
evaluations of the false religions "as such,"
the Fathers and the Doctors of the Church do not, as we
shall see, deviate in the least from those of Sacred Scripture.
The Church has always taught that false religions "in
themselves" are effectively sins against the first
that they are not "religions,” but rather are vices
opposed to the virtue of religion, which requires that the
divine worship be rendered only to the One to whom it is
due and in the manner in which it is due.4
In reality, the false religions are institutionalized superstitions
and organized manifestations of infidelity (or incredulity)
by means of an improper external worship. After the hatred
of God, they are objectively the most grave sins because
they do grievous injury to the rights of God over man.5
IS THE CHARACTERISTIC PROPERTY OF FALSE RELIGIONS
among so many errors, one finds bits of the true and of
the good in the false religions, it is a matter either of
reflections of sound reason (which is the light of the Word
in the natural order) or of residue
from the original revelation or from the Christian revelation
(which is the light of the Word in the supernatural
order). This residue, however, clearly does not belong to
the false religions "as such," but rather it belongs
legitimately and in its own right to the Catholic Church,
to whom it had been given as a deposit in trust. About the
great Greek philosophers, St. Justin wrote, "All the
good thing, they have taught belong to us, to us Christians!"
(Apol. II, §10). One must say the same thing, a
fortiori, of the residue of revealed truths, of Sacred
Scripture, and of the sacraments still traceable in the
heretical and/ or schismatic sects and of the residue of
the true and the good that one finds in the Qur'an. Thus,
even though God may use this residue of truth to impel certain
individual souls toward salvation, it can never be said
that He utilizes the false religions "in themselves."
Rather one must say that He uses the elements of the true
religion which had survived in the false religions.6
That being said, it must be noted that the Church has always
relied little on this residue of truth in converting false
religionists, and that she has always deployed her missionary
zeal, without sparing the blood of her most generous sons.7
only the errors by which they distinguish themselves and oppose
themselves to the true religion belong by right to the false
religions "in themselves." The false religions
''as such” are an obstacle, not a preparation
for the Gospel, as the International Theological Commission
would have it. The following, which one can read in the
same document (CRW, §§78,79), is alien and injurious
to the Catholic Church:
the extent that the Church recognizes, discerns, and makes
her own the true and the good that the Holy Spirit has
accomplished in the words and actions of non-Christians,
she becomes more and more the true Catholic Church.
implies the Catholic Church is not yet fully the true Catholic
Church and the Holy Spirit has accomplished something among
the non-Christians that He has not accomplished within the
The Pope with leaders of the Orthodox
including the Patriarch of Constantinople.
ITC, to avoid the foreseeable objections, strains to establish
a continuity between its novelties-fruit of Vatican II -
and the tradition of the Church. In fact, one of the subtitles
in "Christianity and the World Religions" is "Motifs
from the Tradition Cited in Recent Statements of the Church's
Magisterium." It pretends to discover in the false
pagan religions those "seeds of the word" of which
the Fathers of the Church spoke.
this subtitle, the document says:
semina verbi, "seeds of the word," can
be found outside the limits of the visible church and
specifically in the different religions:…
support of this, three documents of Vatican Council II are
cited (Ad Gentes §11,15; Lumen Gentium §§16,17;
Nostra Aetate §2) and the encyclical letter Redemptoris
Missio of John Paul II (§56). Concerning these citations,
nothing more is said. Immediately afterwards, however, it
is affirmed that "[T]he theology of the seeds of the
word stems from St. Justin Martyr." The document also
cites Clement of Alexandria and St. Irenaeus. We vigorously
dispute that St. Justin, St. Clement of Alexandria, and
St. Irenaeus can be invoked in support of the affirmation
that "the seeds of the word" can be found in a
concrete manner in the false religions! In fact, those Fathers
of the Church, when they spoke of "the seeds of the
word," were not speaking of the false religions, but
of sound philosophy, and precisely of "that small number
of the elect...who have a sound and upright philosophy"
(St. Clement, Strom. I. c. XIX), and, far from identifying
it "in a concrete manner" with the false religions,
they opposed this sane and upright philosophy to the false
religions and used it to combat them.8
CONTRADICTIONS OF THE DOCUMENT
appear throughout "Christianity and the World Religions"
of the ITC, which, however, does not seem to perceive them.
with the polytheism of the Greek world, Justin sees in
philosophy an ally of Christianity since it has followed
St. Justin places sound philosophy, which has followed right
reason, in opposition to the false religions, which are
a deviation from that right reason which is always capable
of ascending from the knowledge of created things to the
one true God, their creator (Romans, chap. 1; Wis. 13:1-5).
document quotes St. Clement of Alexandria:
God has been sowing since the beginning of time, so that
different parts of the truth are to be found among the
Greeks and among the barbarians, especially in philosophy
considered in its totality, even though alongside the
truth there has been darnel as well (CRW, §43).
St. Clement, accordingly, speaks of the natural light of
reason, which among the pagan ancients (Aristotle, Socrates,
Plato, et al.) especially manifested itself in their
do not accept without distinction all the philosophers,...but
only that small number of the elect...of whom Socrates
speaks in Plato,...those of whom Socrates said had a sound
and upright philosophy (Strom., op. cit.).
Clement said elsewhere, "Philosophy in the sense which
we intend it is that which attains the truth in philosophizing"
(Strom. VI. c. XVIII). What he is referring to is
the matter of the religious truths accessible to natural
reason [i.e., the existence of God, His oneness,
the immortality of the soul, etc. -Ed.] which constitute
the preambula fidei, otherwise understood to be the
bedrock upon which the truth can be built, and which then
can serve as a preparation for the Gospel. Clearly, the
saints are not supporting false religions in themselves,
against which these same Fathers justly oppose the right
usage of reason.
Justin says that Socrates, in order to remain faithful to
right reason, was not concerned about being considered an
"atheist" in the idolatrous milieu in which
he lived (Apol. I, §46):
drove out of his republic the malevolent demons and the
deities who were committing the offences described by
the poets, and he turned men away from them and exhorted
men to seek, through the use of reason, to recognize that
God which they did not know [Apol. II, §10).
Clement of Alexandria also said that even "for those
who were righteous men according to philosophy [that is
to say who followed the rule of reason and the natural law
- Ed.] it was still necessary not only to have faith
in the Lord, but also to renounce idolatry" (Strom.
VI. c. VI.,P.G.,t.IX,col.265).
NOT VERY HONORABLE PRECEDENT
does not see how the ITC can call upon those Fathers to
support its unorthodox thesis, according to which
universal significance of Christ has been expressed in
different ways in the church's tradition from the earliest
times…The semina verbi, "seeds of the word,"
can be found outside the limits of the visible church
and specifically in the different religions;... ["Christianity
and the World Religions," (CRW, §40)].
This thesis has foundation neither in Sacred Scripture nor
in Tradition, but contradicts both of them. Its only foundation
rests on the texts of Vatican Council II and of Pope John
Paul II cited in the document. It has a precedent which
certainly does not do honor to the members of the ITC, that
is, the program of the modernists in which they initially
take things out of context (specifically from St. Justin
and St. Clement), play on "ambiguities," and seek
to justify their heterodox thesis that all religions are
true in themselves.
HERESY OF UNIVERSALISM
and the World Religions" promotes another falsehood:
Son of God has united himself to every man
(cf. Gaudium et Spes, §22; Redemptoris Missio,
§6, among many other places). The idea is repeated frequently
in the fathers, who take their inspiration from some passages
in the New Testament…."The Word became flesh and
dwelt among us" (Jn. 1:14), has also been interpreted
on not a few occasions in the sense of dwelling "within
us," that is to say, within each person; from the
idea of his being in us one can go easily to that of being
in him. Containing us all in himself, he can reconcile
us all with God the Father. In his glorified humanity
we can all find resurrection (CRW, §46) [emphasis
ITC goes on to cite a text of St. Gregory of Nyssa in which
the lost sheep (cf. Mt. 18: 12-24; Lk. 15: 1-7) "is
identified with the erring human race, which
Jesus has come to seek out (CRW, §46) [emphasis added].
Is it possible that it has escaped the theologians of the
ITC that it is one thing to speak of "every man,"
and quite another to speak of the "erring human race"?
Certainly, by the Incarnation, our Lord Jesus Christ joined
together (in action) His own individual humanity and (in
authority) the entire human race as His Mystical Body, but
the latter only in authority. That is to say that each man
can save himself (objective universal redemption), but to
truly save himself he must make this union actual by his
personal and free adhesion to the Savior (subjective individual
redemption). It is not possible to confuse two plans so
totally different without falling into the heresy of "universalism"
or "the restoration of all things." [This is also
known as the heresy of Apocatastasis, which was initially
the heresy of Origenism, then of certain Protestants, and
is now that of the "New Theology." These promote
universal unconditional redemption of all men whether they
will it or not, and whether they are aware of it or not.9
DOGMA DOWNGRADED AND A CHRIST SEPARATED FROM HIS CHURCH
worst thing about the document is the fact that it downgrades
the dogma that there is no salvation outside the Church
to a simple exhortation or preaching applicable solely for
Catholics. Therefore, one reads in "Christianity and
the World Religions":
this way the [Second Vatican Council] aligned itself in
continuity with the teaching of Pius XII, but emphasized
more clearly the original parenthetical character of this
expression (CRW, §67).
is the conclusion of the International Theological Commission
following upon the conception of Vatican Council II:
the original meaning is restored to the expression extra
ecclesiam nulla salus [outside the Church there is
no salvation - Ed.], namely, that of exhorting the members
of the church to be faithful (CRW, §7O).
is to deviate from the original sense of the Church since
she has always declared that it is of faith
that belonging to the Church is necessary for all, from
a necessity of means [not of precept - Ed.], in order to
attain salvation. The true sense of extra ecclesiam nulla
salus is taught in two Church councils (Lateran IV and
Florence III, see Denzinger [hereafter abbreviated Dz]
430, 714; The Sources of Catholic Dogma) and in repeated
acts of the Magisterium (Innocent III, Dz423; Boniface
VIII, Dz468; Clement VI, Dz470b; Benedict
XIV, Dz1473; Pius IX, Dzl647; Leo XIII, Dz1955;
Pius XII, Dz,2286,2288).
the members of the ITC do not believe in the infallibility
of the Church.
DOGMA OF SUBSTITUTION
what is the new "dogma" proposed by the International
Theological Commission? Read again the first sentence of
§70 from the document and the sentence which concludes it:
the original meaning is restored to the expression extra
ecclesiam nulla salus, namely that of exhorting the
members of the church to be faithful. Once this expression
is integrated into the more universal extra Christum
nulla salus [outside of Christ there is no salvation
- Ed.], it is no longer in contradiction to the universal
call of all men to salvation (CRW, §7O).
ask: when was this? The Catholic Church has always preached
the call of all men to salvation as well as the necessity
for all to belong to the Church, without ever believing
it was obliged to eliminate the second dogma to keep the
first one in existence. It is a question solely of stating
precisely the manner of belonging.
those who know the Church in her nature and her requirements,
there is need of a visible and explicit belonging. For those
who, in good faith, do not know it, and are of good will,
belonging "in voto " can suffice, that
is to say a belonging of desire, even implicit, by means
of supernatural faith and charity .10
The distinction between these two modes of belonging having
been made, it remains true that for all, and not merely
just for Catholics alone, there is no salvation outside
the Church. In fact, those who eventually work out their
salvation in the sects or in the false religions, are saved
by virtue of the one true Church, in which dwells the only
Savior, and notwithstanding their visible belonging to a
sect or a false religion.11
this Catholic doctrine does not allow us to value the other
religions "in themselves." That is why the ITC
has dealt with it in such a manner. It has paved the way
for a Christ heretically separated from His Church. Such
is the heresy of Tielhard de Chardin:
general convergence of the religions towards a universal
Christ, which, in the main, satisfies them all: such seems
to me to be...the only form imaginable for a religion
of the future.
is the heresy of De Chardin that his supporters were circulating
in France in the years preceding Vatican Council II.12
The Teilhardians of today, in power in the Church since
the Council, impose it from on high.
are in agreement with the ITC on one thing only, and that
is where it declares "the truth of the Faith is not
at our disposition." That is as it ought to be and
the ITC ought to obey its own declaration. "For we
can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth,"
as St. Paul wrote (II Cor. 13:8). Unfortunately the whole
of the document "Christianity and the World Religions"
is there to give the lie to this solemn affirmation.
"Interreligious dialogue" is dialogue with
the "non-Christian" religions. With the "Christian"
religions the dialogue is called "ecumenical."
Today it is given as a certainty that the heretical and/or
schismatic sects also are the essence of the Christian religion
and therefore, of the Catholic Church, which is to be restructured,
in consequence, starting with the primacy of the pope.
With the document that we have just analyzed, the International
Theological Commission has said it intends to put a check
on the explosion of "ecumenical" heresies which
go so far as to deny the unique and indispensable mediation
of the Word Incarnate. We make the observation that one
does not combat error by opposing it with other errors,
even if they be lesser errors, but in opposing the truth
to it. One does not combat merely with theoretical declarations,
but uses the coercive power which Christ has given to His
Church to fight against the pertinacity of the heretics.
from Courrier de Rome, Sept., 1997; edited by Rev.
Fr. Kenneth Novak)
designations are taken from the version of "Christianity
and the World Religions" published in Origins (Aug
14, 1997, vol.27, no.10).
Schmidt, Der Ursprung der Gottes idee, Munster, 1926-1936,
and by the same author, Manuale di Storia comparata delle
religione, Brescia, 1938; see also R. Bocassino, "La
religione dei primitivi" in I'Histoire des Religions
of Fr. Tacchi Venturi.
lone, Compendio di Teologia Morale, ed. (Marietti,
Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Ila-llae, Q,94.
IIa-llae, Q,94, a.3.
de théologie catholique, under the word "Infideles,"
co1. 1912 and co1. 1914sq.
E. Hugon Hors de l'Eglise point de salut?ed. Clovis,
the "seeds of the Word" in St. Justin, St. Clement
of Alexandria and St. Irenaeus, see Dictionnaire de thiologie
catholique, under the word "Infideles" col. 1806sq.
See Si Si No No, (Italian ed.) Apr. 15, 1993, pp.1sq.
Letter from the Holy Office to the Archbishop of Boston,
Apr. 8, 1949.
See R. Garrigou-Lagrange O.P. La nouvelle théologie où
Courtesy of the Angelus
Press, Kansas City, MO 64109
translated from the Italian
Fr. Du Chalard
Via Madonna degli Angeli, 14
Italia 00049 Velletri (Roma)