Letters to the Editor

Statement without sin

Originally Appeared in : 9907-3/28/19
Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, signed a Document on “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” during a Global Conference on the topic in Abu Dhabi, on February 4, 2019, as reported in the Southern Cross in the February 14 edition.
A letter regarding the Pope’s trip and the document appeared in these pages on February 28, accusing the Holy Father of having committed the grave sin of apostasy: “The Pope broke the first Commandment!”: “You shall have no other gods beside me” (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7). I am puzzled by the “logical leap” from this paper’s coverage of a papal initiative to establish peaceful ties with a receptive Muslim entity to an accusation of apostasy on the part of the Bishop of Rome.
I surmise that something in the Document suggested to the writer that the pope had contradicted the maxim extra ecclesiam, nulla salus (“outside the Church there is no salvation”). This maxim, coined by Saint Cyprian of Carthage in the third century, is “often used as shorthand for the doctrine that the Church is necessary for salvation.”
Perhaps the following sentence in the Document was judged dubious: “The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings.” The Holy Father explained to reporters on the flight back to Rome that he understood the verb “willed” to refer to God’s “permissive will” (“that which he allows”), rather than his “jussive will” (“that which he commands”). If that Catholic distinction does not exist in Islam, it may represent an instance of two parties understanding an agreed-upon phrase in two very different ways. Such an agreement may be questioned respectfully, without imputing sin to either party.
Father Douglas K. Clark    

Letters published do not necessarily reflect the views of the Southern Cross or of the Diocese of Savannah.

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