Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The error of inclusivism

There has been a call recently for a 'syllabus of errors' following Vatican II, and here is one I'd like to add to the list: inclusivism, as articulated in an opinion piece by Fr Ron Rolheiser OMI, brought us courtesy of Cath News' interesting selection of opinion pieces.

What is inclusivism?

Inclusivism is the idea that rules, beliefs and practices are irrelevant and divisive, because:

"What ultimately characterizes a genuine faith and a big heart is not how pure our churches, doctrines, and morals might be, but how wide is the embrace of our hearts."

And pesky things like doctrine, morals and practices are irrelevant because everyone will get to heaven:

"One of the marks of a Christian heart is the desire for inclusivity, the desire to ultimately be in communion with as many people as possible..."

The desire to bring souls to heaven is holy

Now of course it is certainly true that the desire to bring as many souls into heaven is a truly christian characteristic.  But wishful thinking, or worse, ignoring sin, won't make it happen. 

Fr Ron correctly points out that actually the rules do matter:

Our Christian scriptures and our subsequent tradition warn clearly that there are certain rights and wrongs and that certain attitudes and actions can exclude us from the God's Kingdom, heaven.

And it's true too, as he points out that God wants all to be saved:

But those same scriptures make it equally clear that God's salvific will is universal and that God's deep, constant, passionate longing is that everyone, absolutely everyone, regardless of their attitude and actions, be somehow brought into the house. God, it seems, does not want to rest until everyone is home, eating at the same table.

He then provides three scriptural stories from Luke 15 to illustrate the zeal we should have to bring the lost sheep back into the fold, or welcome the lost back when they return or are found.  True enough.

The problem of course is that while God calls all to be saved, he gives us free will.  So that while everyone can choose salvation, in fact Christ died 'for many'.  We have to accept that God's gift to us of free will would be meaningless if no one could actually say no to God and not have that 'No' stick.

Relativism rules

More, the comforting idea that there are multiple paths to heaven and that we don't need to insist on the one the Church lays out for us has no basis in Scripture or Tradition.  Fr Ron claims that:

"Our own love, truth, and worship are often unconsciously predicated on making ourselves right by making others wrong. Too often we have an unconscious mantra which says: I can only be good, if someone else is bad. I can only be right, if someone else is wrong. My dogma can only be true, if someone else's is false. My religion can only be right, if someone else's is wrong. My Eucharist can only be valid, if someone else's is invalid. And I can only be in heaven, if someone else is in hell."

He is right in suggesting that there is a false duality in this of course: what God actually wants is for everyone to be good, for everyone to believe what the Church teaches, for everyone to follow the only true religion! 

But in the meantime, yes Father, some people do do right, others do the wrong thing. 

The dogmas taught by the Church are true, those condemned by it are false. 

The Catholic religion is the only true one. 

The Eucharist is only valid where the requirements set out by the Church are met. 

Build your house on the rock, and ignore the ravening wolves

What Fr Ron omits to mention in his retelling (and creative rewriting) of the Scriptural stories in Luke 15 is that in the story of the prodigal son, the son actually repents, to the point where he is willing to accept again his father's rule, and take even the lowest position amongst his father's workers. 

In the story of the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to go after the one lost, he returns it home on his own shoulders, not some other mysterious way.

And the moral is this.  Unless we are working to persuade all those other lost sons and sheep to likewise repent, to return to the sheepfold, and yes, obey those pesky rules, and believe what must be believed, we are leading them to perdition not heaven.

Because as hundreds of visions of the saints attest, the idea that hell is empty is just wishful thinking...

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