Saturday, February 13, 2010

Examples of Respect For Another's Beliefs

On the commemoration of Buddha's birthday, each year, a Korean bishop goes to the nearby temple to congratulate the monks, and spends some time chatting. At Christmas a monk from one of the temples comes to visit the bishop, and attends the Christmas Mass. This relationship between these two religions, in this one area of Korea, speaks to the hearts of many, but how do we go about developing such a relationship between religions is food for much thought.

Recent Popes have given us an example of what they would like to see among us Catholics: visits to Jewish Synagogues and Muslim Temples are examples hard to miss. We have, very hard to accept by many, the kissing of the Koran by Pope John Paul. What ever one chooses to make of this gesture, it is clear that our formost earthly Catholic teacher was telling us something very important with this act of respect. The teaching of the Church in the present is very clear: "through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, and in witness of Christian faith and life, acknowledge, preserve, and promote the spiritual and moral goods found among these men, as well as the values in their society and culture." (Vatican II, Non-Christian Religions #2) The dealing with other Christians is all the more a relationship of brothers and sisters united with Jesus. We do not need to go into the past, but look at what the Church wants us to do today.

A Catholic priest mentioned on one occasion watching a T.V. program in which a preacher was attacking the Catholic Church to a degree that left him speechless. When someone artificially attacks another's beliefs one-sidedly, he is not respecting the holder of those beliefs: attempting to show the supremacy of one's own religion by tearing down the other is of little value. It shows the shallowness of one's own faith life. With the lead given to us by the Popes we Catholics should never be seen belittling another person's sincerely held beliefs.

The priest mentioned the fear some have of accepting pluralism or relativism when dealing respectfully with other religions. When we are truly Christian we should have little difficulty in respecting another's beliefs. Faith is a gift of God; being open to others does not need to diminish our faith life but can increase it. God is the author of all life, other religions have received truths of the natural order and can add to our store of knowledge.

In this area we should be able to speak frankly on what we believe, and in discussion seek explanations of anothers' beliefs, have disagreements, and be critical of what other's hold, and allow them to be critical of our beliefs; always respecting the other. That might sound like double talk, but it's a possibility; a necessity in the world we live.

St. Peter tells us: "Venerate the Lord, that is, Christ, in your hearts. Should anyone ask you the reason for this hope of yours, be ever ready to reply, but speak gently and respectfully." (I Peter 3:15) This was good advice then and is good advice now when dealing with others with whom we do not always agree.