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The Catholic Church's views of other faith groups

Reactions to Dominus Iesus (2000)

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About Dominus Iesus:

This is a document written by Cardinal Ratzinger who was at the time the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was ratified and confirmed by Pope John Paul II. It deals with the Roman Catholic Church's (RCCs) beliefs concerning other Christian denominations, and non-Christian religions. Of particular interest is the Church's views on the possibility of salvation for members of these other faith groups. More information on Dominus Iesus.

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Reactions from Protestant denominations

The RCC considers that these are not "churches in the proper sense."

The Religious News Service reported reaction to Dominus Iesus: 1

bullet Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, spiritual leader of the
worldwide Anglican Communion, called Cardinal Ratzinger's statements "unjustified." He said that they did:

"... not reflect the deep comprehension that has been reached through ecumenical dialogue and cooperation [between Catholics and Anglicans] during the past 30 years...the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion does not for one moment accept that its orders of ministry and Eucharist are deficient in any way. It believes itself to be a part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ, in whose name it serves and bears witness, here and round the world.

bullet The World Council of Churches warned that progress in ecumenical dialogue could be "hindered -- or even damaged" by what it called "language which precludes further discussion of the issues."

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Reactions to Dominus Iesus from within the Roman Catholic Church:

There were no public negative comments from officials within the church; they are prohibited from openly criticizing any church statement or doctrine. Some reactions were:

bullet Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore is very active in the church's dialogue with both the Orthodox churches and the Jewish groups. He said that the statement is "in full accord with what Vatican II has said." He said that he did not expect that the declaration would have a negative effect on ecumenical and interfaith dialog. 
bullet Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster, UK is the chairperson of the department of mission and unity of the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales. He said that the document:

"does not attempt to change the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding ecumenism...Certainly no slight is intended by its comments regarding other Christian communities...As Christians we share a common baptism, and the Catholic Church believes this brings us all into a real, if imperfect, communion. This was made clear in the documents of the Second Vatican Council, where it said that other Christians 'with good reason are accepted as our brothers and sisters.' 1

bullet Cardinal Jozef Tomko said during a homily on 2000-OCT-10 that "There has been much criticism of the Dominus Iesus declaration which has obviously not been given a proper reading or interpretation." He said that the new millennium calls for Christians to communicate the Gospel anew: "What is needed is bold proclamation, which neither despises nor rejects, but dialogues from the identify of our faith." 2

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Further comments on Dominus Iesus:

On 2000-OCT-2, at his regular Sunday address, Pope John Paul II said that the document Dominus Iesus had been misinterpreted. The Roman Catholic position did not display arrogance towards other faiths, as many non-Catholics had asserted. The pope said that other Christian churches contain "precious elements of salvation." He also said that

"... salvation is not denied to non-Christians." The pope indicated that the purpose of the document was to "clarify the essential Christian elements, which don't block dialogue, but demonstrate its basis, because a dialogue without foundation is destined to degenerate into empty verbosity." He said that he hoped that "this declaration, which is close to my heart, will act as a clarification and as an opening."

According to the Washington Post, "...many Jewish, Protestant and Muslim leaders took offense at a seemingly categorical presumption of inferiority of other faiths.

A symposium on the dialog between Christians and Jews had been scheduled to begin on 2000-OCT-3 at the Vatican. It was cancelled because two Jewish leaders had dropped out as a protest against the document.

Almost five years later, on 2005-APR-20, Navya Shastra, a global Hindu organization of scholars, practitioners and priests, congratulated the Church for selecting Joseph Ratzinger to be its new Pope. However, the organization expressed concern over Ratzinger's stance towards Hinduism. Vikram Masson is a co-chairperson of Navya Shastra. He wrote:

"Ratzinger has described Hindu meditative practices as 'auto-erotic' and has stated that the Hindu doctrine of karma is 'morally cruel.' Clearly he is misinformed about the central practices and tenets which bind the world's 800 million Hindus." 3

The news release continued:

"At a time when religions must work together to spiritually regenerate an increasingly secular planet, such doctrinal narrowness and lack of understanding of other traditions will only serve a divisive function." 3

Dr. Jaishree Gopal, is co-chairperson of Navya Shastra. She wrote:

"What is needed now is ecumenism and mutual trust. We hope that the new Pope comes to understand this, because religious difference and competition is causing mounting global conflict." 3

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Comment by a Catholic Monsignor in Australia about Wicca:

The information service "This is True" posted the following information about Wicca and Roman Catholicism in Australia:

"The fastest-growing religion in Australia is Witchcraft, census officials say, and the state of Victoria is considering repealing a 1966 law banning the practice of it and similar religions, such as Paganism. Census figures indicate that in the last six years, the number of witches has more than quadrupled to 9,000, and the number of pagans has more than doubled to 10,632, while most Christian denominations have seen decreases in followers. 'I'd be appalled if [repealing the law] implies some sort of approval,' says Monsignor Peter J. Elliot of the local Catholic Archdiocese. 'I think it reflects the collapse of values and sanity in our society that this mishmash of superstition and fraud is to be recognized.' (Melbourne Herald Sun) 4

"This is True" commented: "Funny, that's just what the witches say about Catholicism." 4

At first glance, this would appear to be a statement of intolerance by a Catholic leader against the religion of Wicca. However, deeper analysis shows that the state of Victoria, the census office, and the monsignor appear to be using the same word, "witchcraft" to refer to three very different and unrelated activities:

bullet The state of Victoria is apparently referring to an ancient law prohibiting fortune telling and the use of magic to recover lost items for people.
bullet The census office is referring to Wicca, an earth-centered religion which prohibits its followers from harming others.
bullet The Monsignor is apparently referring to two practices often translated as "witchcraft" in the Bible: women issuing spoken curses to harm others and murderers who use poison.

Needless to say, the three activities are unrelated. The solution to this type of problem is for the media to abandon the word "witchcraft" where there is any chance of confusion, and use unambiguous terms.

bullet The law could refer specifically to fortune telling and magick.
bullet The census office could refer to Wicca, rather than witchcraft.
bullet Christians could refer to evil sorcerers and murderers when talking about "witchcraft" in the Bible.

To do so would avoid a lot of confusion.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Peggy Polk, "Vatican declares only the Roman Catholic Church brings salvation," Religious News Service. Distributed by pcusaNews mailing list as Note #6183. Issued 2000-SEP-7
  2. "Cardinal Tomko says Dominus Iesus opens dialog," CWNews, 2000-OCT-11.
  3. Gautham Rao, "Hindu Organization Welcomes New Pope. Questions His Stance on Hinduism," Information release, 2005-APR-20. The Navya Shastra web site is at
  4. "This is True" mailing for 2002-AUG-3.

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Site navigation: Home > Christianity > Roman Catholic Church > Other churches > here

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Copyright 2000 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-SEP-12
Latest update: 2007-JUL-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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