Sunday, 1 June 2008

Interreligious Dialogue - a risk or an opportunity?

This is the title of an article by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. It is adapted from a lecture, with the same title, that Cardinal Tauran gave at Heythrop College on 27th May 2008. The article can be found at Thinking Faith, the on-line journal of the British Jesuits and the text of the lecture can be found on the website of the English and Welsh Bishops Conference.

I would recommend the article for study. It contains a careful articulation of what constitutes authentic dialogue and, though its context is most immediately interreligious dialogue, its thinking on this could be extended to dialogue between religions and non-believers.

What is dialogue? It is the search for an inter-understanding between two individuals with a view to a common interpretation of their agreement or their disagreement. It implies a common language, honesty in the presentation of one's position and the desire to do one's utmost to understand the other's point of view .... Each religion has its own identity but this identity enables me to take the religion of the other into consideration. It is from this that dialogue is born. Identity, otherness and dialogue go together.

And, in a very nice phrase, Cardinal Tauran says:

But be careful: we do not say "all religions are of equal value". We say "All those in search of God have equal dignity".

The situation of Marriage Care (see post of yesterday) and of some Catholic Childrens Societies responding to equalities legislation seems to raise the question of whether or not their kind of "arms length" relationship to the Church represents a genuine form of dialogue between the Church and secular society. A similar question arises from the position of non-Catholic students following courses at Catholic schools or colleges.

I think what I am trying to suggest in this post is that all these situations should be seen as examples of where the Church is in dialogue with society. The evaluation of particular forms of activity should then be undertaken using an idea of what constitutes authentic dialogue. Cardinal Tauran's article provides useful principles for what this authentic dialogue is.

No comments: