Assisi III: Too Much and Not Enough

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 28, 2011 — 49 Comments

Large interfaith gatherings can often be fraught with long-simmering tensions, just ask the folks who put on the Parliament for the World’s Religions, but it is generally thought that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. That getting leaders and clergy of the major religions in the same room to find common ground and common understanding will bring dividends of lasting peace (or at least bring about greater tolerance). Yesterday, in Assisi, Italy the Catholic Church sponsored a massive interfaith gathering, the third such gathering to directly involve a sitting Pope (hence, “Assisi III” in Catholic circles), and the 25th anniversary of the first such meeting. In his address to the gathering, Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged that Christianity has used violence to achieve its ends, and that this is against the spirit of his faith.

“As a Christian I want to say at this point: yes, it is true, in the course of history, force has also been used in the name of the Christian faith. We acknowledge it with great shame. But it is utterly clear that this was an abuse of the Christian faith, one that evidently contradicts its true nature. The God in whom we Christians believe is the Creator and Father of all, and from him all people are brothers and sisters and form one single family. For us the Cross of Christ is the sign of the God who put “suffering-with” (compassion) and “loving-with” in place of force. His name is “God of love and peace” (2 Cor 13:11). It is the task of all who bear responsibility for the Christian faith to purify the religion of Christians again and again from its very heart, so that it truly serves as an instrument of God’s peace in the world, despite the fallibility of humans.”

Benedict has long been categorized as skeptical of interfaith efforts such as these, and famously criticized the first Assisi gathering, saying that it could lead to the impression that all faiths are valid. As a consequence, great pains were taken to avoid the impression of unified prayer at this event, and to assert that profound theological differences exist between the world’s faiths.

“In the 1960’s a theologian wrote (and I paraphrase as I can’t seem to find my copy of the work this morning), “Polytheism was half-right. It understood that God was immanent in the world. But, it missed the fact that God also transcends the world.” The theologian? Joseph Ratzinger of course. If one of the reasons to gather religious leaders of different faiths together was to focus on the first half, the part polytheists got right, that is well and good. But, for Benedict, we cannot neglect the other half, nor the fact that we Catholic Christians do not pray to the same God as our polytheist brothers.”

However, these measures weren’t enough for some Catholic traditionalists, who felt the very gathering together  of religious leaders with the Pope was a blasphemy too far.

“…the very nature of a pan-religious event with representatives of the world, most of them pagan, is to foster religious indifferentism and religious relativism.  Yet in the months leading up to the third major Assisi affair, we have been told repeatedly by Vatican officials that this latest manifestation of religious relativism will actually be an attack on religious relativism. That this manifestation of religious indifferentism will actually avoid religious indifferentism. Such a promise does not correspond to realty. The only way to avoid religious indifferentism in a pan-religious event is to not hold the event.”

Also unhappy with the event were agnostics and atheists, who, while invited to the event, were also singled out for criticism in the Pope’s address to the gathering.

The Vatican made a big publicity push out of Pope Benedict XVI’s personal initiative to invite atheists to this week’s interfaith dialogue at Assisi, Italy. It was supposed to be a day of reflection and dialogue, but Benedict XVI, with four atheists in attendance at his invitation, turned the meeting into yet another attack against atheists. “God’s absence”, the Pope argued, would lead to violence and even concentration camps, because denial of the Divine “corrupts men, deprives them of restraint, making them lose their humanity”. By contrast, said the Pope, use of violence in the name of religion would only be “an abuse of the Christian faith.” “Again and again the Pope reveals himself as an ‘atheophobe’” says Raffaele Carcano, head of the Italian Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics (UAAR), an International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) member organization. “His attacks against atheists, and his pretension to acquire agnostics, are a clear attempt to demonize the unbelief that’s increasingly spreading throughout the world, as acknowledged by the clearly worried Pope himself.”

It seems pretty clear from his statement that Benedict invited the four agnostics “so that God, the true God, becomes accessible” to them. Perhaps I am wrong about this, but it seems like one step forward, two steps back, in regards to outreach with agnostics and atheists.

From a personal perspective, I applaud the spirit of Assisi, interfaith gatherings that have been taking place every year since 1986 and made this anniversary celebration possible. I also think that the current Pope will always be caught between too much and not enough. Any move towards reconciliation and understanding with non-Christians will be seen as a betrayal by traditionalists and hardliners, while his outreach toward bringing extremist groups like the Society of St Pius X back into full communion, and his track record of hostility towards indigenous and non-monotheistic faiths will ensure outreach half-measures bring as much criticism as praise. He is fundamentally limited by his very role and purpose, unable as an individual to bring healing while existing as the living embodiment of his faith. Any step too far in one direction would rupture the Catholic world, destroying a balance that has allowed it to become one of the world’s largest faiths.

So, what, if one believes in the power of interfaith work, can be done? I honestly believe that interfaith can’t be a top-down affair, at least not in today’s world. The heads of the dominant monotheisms are all immobilized by the same problems that haunt Benedict, while the non-monotheistic world faiths, being largely decentralized, have no single leader that guides them all. I think the best leaders and clergy can do is to simply allow interfaith work to happen, through projects like the Parliament for the World’s Religions, or the United Religions Initiative,  so that the ground can shift under them. The absence of persecution for interfaith involvement may not seem like much, but is a core building block for future change. In 25 years a Cardinal hostile to interfaith became a Pope willing to meet and talk with the world’s faiths (albeit with restrictions), what will the next 25 years bring? If we allow the interfaith movement to grow, I’m hopeful we can see massive advances in my lifetime.

I also think that Pagan intrafaith (and intramovement) work needs to become a far more serious consideration. As a diverse movement of unique and individual faiths we have allowed too much to be taken for granted, and made far too many assumptions, threatening to create permanent divisions between natural allies. We need to stop building councils and start building Pagan gatherings that engage in the hard work of actually listening to one another. The days when any small handful of individuals could speak for our now-global movement are over. I think we are ready to emerge as a much-needed perspective in world events, but it can only happen if we respect our own nature and reality.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • http://www.facebook.com/TheZeroBoss Jay Allen

    “We need to stop building councils and start building Pagan gatherings that engage in the hard work of actually listening to one another. The days when any small handful of individuals could speak for our now-global movement are over.”

    Well said.

    A similar kerfuffle occurred recently in the Buddhist community over the Maha Teachers Council (http://notwoo.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/the-new-improved-buddhist-council-now-with-more-enzymes-lather-and-added-vitamins/). Who gets to decide who “leads” a religious tradition in an age of diversity and religious pluralism? Open discussion and consensus are preferable – especially in our increasingly connected world – to selection of experts based on their book sales.

  • Jack Heron

    I think they’ve taken a wise step in the organisation of this event. Praying separately rather than together might seem a step backwards, but it’s a good way of acknowledging our differences while still engaging in dialogue. The trouble with interfaith events that try above all to find shared ideas and common factors is that they all too often fall prey to ‘other religions are valid insofar as they’re compatible with my own’ thinking. And that’s an attitude that doesn’t help the cause of pagans, because pagan views are so different from the dominant monotheistic faiths.

    Gathering together but praying separately emphasises that we wish to have dialogue despite our differences rather than because of our similarities. And that’s a lot more inclusive.

    (Besides, there’s nothing more boring than going to an interfaith event and listening to those boring attempts at universal prayers. And/or clauses don’t belong in worship)

    • http://www.facebook.com/TheZeroBoss Jay Allen

      That’s why I could never be a UU. :)

    • jhamm77

      right on!

  • http://twitter.com/ThornCoyle T. Thorn Coyle

    Jason, interesting perspective. With another Parliament set for Brussels 2014, it would be great if some Pagan intra-faith and polytheist/magick-worker/pagan inter-faith gatherings might be organized in various regions over the next couple of years. All it takes is a few people to get it together – we can have many small gatherings of this sort.

    At the Parliaments, no one is said to speak for a whole, yet that does not mean that individuals bringing broader intra-faith, inter-tradition perspectives might not be a boon to the larger conversation.

    • Harmonyfb

      it would be great if some Pagan intra-faith and polytheist/magick-worker/pagan inter-faith gatherings might be organized in various regions over the next couple of years.

      I would love to be able to attend such a gathering (especially if there are lectures on worldview and practices of different faiths).

    • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

      Perhaps we might use as a meeting point the existing gatherings such as Pagan Spirit Gathering and Pantheacon.

  • James Broach

    Funny how of late anytime people have opposing views one of them bust be phobic about it. Why can it not be a simple case of not agreeing?

    • http://sonneillon-v.livejournal.com/ Sonneillon

      When you use your disagreement to participate in the oppression of a minority group, then it’s not a simple case of not-agreeing.

      • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

        But James has a point. It shouldn’t matter if the other group is a minority. A person has a right to what they believe, especially if said minority has a goodly bit of of political clout or isn’t really a minority in terms of world demographics.

        Look, it is wrong to oppress another person. I believe this with all my heart, but the term “something”-phobic is little more than BS. These days, the term “phobic” gets thrown around so much towards what certain groups don’t like. We’ve replaced the religious concept of sin with the scientific concept of disease, but we haven’t changed the function. Now the “morality” is defined by the “Health” of a person. Hate the fact that much of Islam teaches that women are second class beings, that pagans should be slaughtered till they convert and so on, and you’re an “Islamophobic.” Aren’t entirely comfortable with some of the aspects of homosexuality, and you’re “homophobic.” Or how about that Dianics group that wanted only natural born women, they were called “transphobic.”

        We left behind the concept of “sin” as defined by the Monotheists, we need to leave behind this concept of “disease” that is currently being used the same way. “You’re a —-phobic” is no different from “You’re a sinner!” It’s used to control us, and to make us behave a certain way that others would have us behave.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          I doubt that anyone uses the term [whatever]phobic in a clinical sense these days. It’s a political tag, intended to parallel the target’s attitude with racism and give it the same moral onus.

          Fifty years ago I would have agreed with you. Imperial Freudianism was riding high at the time and I would have resisted its implicit extention into the political realm. This is no longer the case.

          As non-Abrahamics we should be glad the tag “sinner” has been retired for this purpose and replaced by something less odiously sectarian.

          • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

            “Fifty years ago I would have agreed with you. Imperial Freudianism was riding high at the time and I would have resisted its implicit extention into the political realm. This is no longer the case.”

            So, are you saying that you do not agree it is being used this way or are you saying that you no longer have an objection to its use in this manner? Your wording was a bit confusing.

            Are the terms used clinically? Maybe, maybe not, I haven’t spent much time in the field with psychologists. However, the term is used as if it has scientific weight. In this “modern/post-modern” era where in Science functions (and has replaced to an extent) as Religion did in the social consciousness, and thus in the regulation of acceptable behavior (something I as an alchemist find rather odious), I fail to find it any form of acceptable.

            Indeed, science functions too much like religion, at least in the socio-political arena.

            Being “irrational” is the same as being “unfaithful/doubting.” Of course the “rational” stance is determined by those who legislate our “scientific” understanding of the world, and those who question this “dogma” or reject it are dismissed as the “irrational” or the “ignorant.” For only the scientist (priest) is allowed to legislate the mysteries of our world that we are to know.

            Should one protest against the functional dogma, they are further labeled irrational, or in the case of it being about a certain group “(blank)phobic” to further cast them out and remove their voice from the public forum. Indeed, even the historical accounts, which normally would be viewed as part of the sciences, is considered to be unacceptable unless it is the “approved” version. The fact that often it is the group “attacked” is the one to legislate who and what is “phobic” further complicates and in my opinion invalidates much of the “phobic” argument.

            So my question Baruch, is if you do find the use of “science” in this manner acceptable, why?

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            It’s been a long time since I’ve discussed whether science is, or wants to, replace religion. I’ve never had any problem with the question; science and religion are quite distinct and operate in different spheres, though they do have some overlap of subject — eg, the Big Bang as a creation myth. Of course, I spent a week every summer for 25 years at a conference on religion and science, so I may be more relaxed about this.

            Every so often I encounter a “scientist” in the sense of a person indulging scientism, an absolutism about the role of science. Eg, those who want to suspend use of herbal remedies until they’re tested in the lab, when no drug company is motivated to do so. I fight them on the political level; engaging them philosophically is a waste of effort.

            I do not object to the current use of terms like “homophobia” because I no longer see Freudianism as a marching imperial philosophy, not because I have accepted that imperialism.

        • Anonymous

          This issue that I take with your comment is that your criticisms of the terms “homophobia” and “transphobia” do not take into account how similar pathologizations existed and were institutionalized well before “homophobia”, “transphobia”, “homosexual”, “homophile”, “gay”, “queer” or similar words were even coined.

          Before the development of the sciences apart from religion as a primary means of investigating and ascertaining the nature of the universe, the preferred words were “crime against nature”, “carnal sin of the flesh”, “(sexual) deviant”, “(sexual) pervert”, etc. These existed in so-called “sodomy laws” well before the sciences realized that secularization of previously-religious ideas. This is how those who happened to be in love with someone of the same sex were described and treated in centuries past, when Abrahamic religion weighed more directly upon the law and the nascent sciences.

          And one of the most interesting results of this secularization and scientification of various aspects of the law is the reclaiming and de-pathologization of previous “sins” and “diseases” as “immutable traits” carrying “inalienable rights”. This was almost never possible with the Abrahamic concept of “sin”, and it famously runs counter to Christianity’s (or Islam’s) ideological permanencies. This is how “deviants” and “perverts” became “homosexuals”, “M2F/F2M transgender people”, people of different “sexual orientations” and “gender identities”.

          And, testifying to the amendable nature of the sciences’ approach to human traits and conditions, today you have groups which advocate for recognition of “Neurodiversity”, and press against pathologization, for people on the autistic spectrum. Disability rights activists advocate for the “differently-abled”. I can go on, but I’m sure that someone gets what I’m saying.

          So I request that you recall that pathologization and demonization was done for far longer – centuries – and with greater intensity – legally-sanctioned violence and executions – against people like me than the modern concept of disease could ever possibly do to those who “aren’t entirely comfortable with some of the aspects of homosexuality”. I also ask, if I may, that you give the modern sciences their credit: at least they’re more amendable in (self-)descriptive terminology than Abrahamic faiths.

          If you advocate for your immutable characteristics long and hard-enough to the scientific establishment, you can ultimately get the state to stop treating you along the terms of an Abrahamic faith and start treating you more like a human being.

          • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

            “This issue that I take with your comment is that your criticisms of the terms “homophobia” and “transphobia” do not take into account how similar pathologizations existed and were institutionalized well before “homophobia”, “transphobia”, “homosexual”, “homophile”, “gay”, “queer” or similar words were even coined.”

            Actually, I am aware, and that’s where I’m having my issue. I’m taking such things into account and noticing that it is simply a continuation of the same pattern.

            Where once Homosexuality was the “sin against nature” no it is homophobia. What was once considered a psychological disease is now accepted as completely natural and what was viewed as completely natural is now viewed as the psychological disease. All that has really happened is that we’ve reversed the situation. We haven’t really made anything more equal or accepted, all that’s happened is that the pathologizations are reversed to meet the political or social needs of those in power, regardless to any actual truth or scientific fact.

            Now, let me state before people go off on me, I haven’t got any issues with homosexuality. Who and what people find attractive or want to do is not really my business until it starts harming me.

            Now, let’s look at another example of this same pathologization: Islamophobia. One would think standing up for human rights, gay rights, and women’s rights against a totalitarian monotheistic religion would be laudable. After all, much of modern paganism rose up in just those same circumstances, where we stood up for human liberties and cast off the cross. Now, we are closer to actual gender and racial equality than has existed for a thousand years, if not longer. Yet, those who currently currently speaking out against the violations of these rights by certain sects of Islam (many of which have power or are gaining power through out the world) are called “Islamophobic” and “Racist” pathologizing said people as having a mental illness. Suddenly, it is a “crime against nature/race/religion” to criticize and call for the very things that a decade ago were considered laudable.

            I am aware of how homosexuality, sexual perversions, and any number of other things were treated as crimes against nature. I’m a historian, I read about a lot of it. What I find unacceptable is the continuation of this tradition of pathologization under the auspices of legislating the morality of an action by labeling one side or the other as “mentally deficient” in the same way that they were once labeled “sinners and heretics.”

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Alchemist, I empathize with your historian’s distaste for seeing bad historical patterns repeated. I had the same reaction when some feminists began railing against pornography in the Seventies. We as a culture had barely gotten out from under the rule of comparable sentiment from conservatives.

            But I didn’t let that sentiment poison me on feminism generally.

          • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

            And I’m not letting such actions turn me against science (though I do question much of it and its efficacy at times. When the cure is worse than the disease…)

            The problem is that we can’t simply let it lie, or settle for distaste. If something is distasteful and repressive, it should be questioned, examined, and then if need be, discarded. Yet too many simply let this slide, or embrace it to attack those they don’t like. :P

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Norse Alchemist: “If something is distasteful and repressive, it should be questioned, examined, and then if need be, discarded.”

            I’m not sure what’s repressive in what we’ve been discussion. IIRC you complained about too-ready application of the label “Islamophobia.” If you want to expand on why that’s distasteful and repressive, I urge you to start a fresh thread under this post. The comment format is making this exchange hard to follow.

    • Pagan Puff Pieces

      Usually there’s a lot more to it than just simply not agreeing.

  • http://egregores.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

    Four important questions are raised by Ratzinger’s statement concerning the use of “force … in the name of the Christian faith.”

    1. Is this really just part of Christianity’s past, or are force, coercion, and deception still part of the overall Christian strategy?
    2. Is the employment of force, coercion, and deception really an aberration, or is it a fundamental characteristic of Christianity qua Christianity?
    3. If the use of force, coercion, and deception is all in the past and was only an aberration, what concrete steps are Christians taking today to atone and make restitution for these past sins?
    4. Is the use of force, coercion, and deception (a) unique to Christianity, (b) found equally in all religions, or (c) found more in some religions than others, with Christianity being a prime example of the kind of religion where force, coercion and deception are prevalent?

    • Anonymous

      :)

    • Nemesis

      Interesting questions Apuleius. Allow me to respond with comments, and some questions of my own, if I may:

      (1) You probably know that the pope’s comments are not part of an “overall Christian strategy”, since Protestants and Orthodox do not accept papal leadership. Unless you have a copy of the Protocols of the Elders of the Vatican, this “question” sounds more pejorative than serious. So stop asking it or I’ll have to report you to the Jesuits. They’re everywhere, you know.

      (2) I’m going to guess “No”, since the majority of Pagans live in relative security and comfort in predominantly Christian societies, with most Christians supporting their right to worship as they please. On that note, has the employment of human sacrifice been an aberration, or is it a fundamental characteristic of Paganism qua paganism?

      (3) I will wash your car once a week for a whole month. That should make us square. By the way, how are Pagans planning to make restitution for religiously motivated human sacrifice that was practiced worldwide by a variety of different Pagan belief systems? What steps is Religio Romana taking to make restitution to Hellenismos for persecuting followers of Dionysus (tens of thousands of Pagans killed by Pagans), as well as the slaughter of the Priests of Isis in Rome several centuries (?) later, not to mention what they did to the druids? What about making restitution to the Jews for religiously persecuting them during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes?

      (4a) Move to Pakistan and inform the people you meet of your beliefs. You’ll soon have your answer.
      (4b) See (4a)
      (4c) See (4a)

      • http://www.paganawareness.net.au Gavin Andrew

        Some interesting points you raise, Nemesis.

        1. No need to report to the Jesuits, as they no doubt already have Apuleius on file, copiously :-)

        2. An excellent point about our ability as Pagans to practice freely (more or less) in majority-Christian societies, although I think that has to do with Enlightenment-era free-thinking also. However you spoil a very pertinent point with the specter of pagan human sacrifice – since you open that door, let me point out that Christianity has its own record of human sacrifice to deal with. What else are we to make of the scapegoating, appeasement of divine anger and ritualism evident within the execution of witches and heretics in the Middle Ages?

        3. I am sure we will get on that shortly after the Pope recants the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (papal bull Inter caetera) that gave European nations full blessing to conquer, enslave and forcibly convert indigenous peoples around the world.

        4. Yes, no question, but that’s Abrahamic monotheism by another name.

        Thank you for contributing to the discussion!

      • http://egregores.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

        For now I’ll just address you first point, Nemesis.

        The Pope does not speak for all Christians obviously, just the half of all Christians who are members of a Church that requires them to accept his absolute authority.

        But, and this is also quite obvious, Protestant and Orthodox Christians are no different in regard to their attitude toward other religions. In fact, Catholicism has had a significantly more flexible attitude toward “indigenous” beliefs and practices (including those of Europeans) than the Protestants. Indeed, opposition to this flexibility was part of the core motivation for the Protestant “Reformation” in the first place.

        The overall Christian strategy transcends these petty divisions, though, for it was spelled out and aggressively pursued from the early days of Christianity: the complete extirpation of all other religions.

        • Merofled Ing

          “In fact, Catholicism has had a significantly more flexible attitude toward “indigenous” beliefs and practices (including those of Europeans) than the Protestants.”
          Yes, but please realize why. The utter contempt behind this is staggering. It may have helped Pagan customs to survive, but these were only accepted as the peasants engaging in them were counted as too insignificant and too stupid to understand what the true faith was about, so they had (have) no right to really being taught about it lest they ask questions. In papal view this doesn’t matter, as stupidity, ignorance, and acceptance of the priests’s authority will get you to heaven anyway.
          And if you begin to understand the distortion to any form of Mother Goddess by what became “Mary”, once you read what the dogma on her is (and it’s not the virgin birth that troubles me) you see what they tried to do to Pagan faiths.
          To people who don’t live in states where the Catholic church has traditionally held all, as in ALL, the power, the faith and the organisation may seem more benign than say Southern Baptists (who I have yet to meet). Ratzinger aka Benedikt has not had or voiced a single intellectually decent thought in his lifetime. When he says things like “purifying” he doesn’t refer to “the blood of the lamb” or whatever associations come to mind from a radical protestant framework. He means: the purer, the smaller, the better herd, when everybody who is slack or does not absolutely accept papal supremacy in all walks of life has left, and only the true and elitist right sort of Catholic is left. That is also why he called for the Church to less state-dependent in Germany, where many organizations are funded by the state by up to 90% and more, and they still count as “religious” with all forms of religious privilege. Since that priviledge does no longer extend to the abuse of children or the embezzlement of funds, i.e. since state inspectors are supposed to take a closer look, the arrangement seems to have become less attractive. He wants his own pure circle, Opus Dei to inherit what the Church owns, and the “idiotic footsoldiers” (i.e. peasants with their ill-understood semi-pagan semi-catholic customs) funding this.

      • Merofled Ing

        Nemesis, it’s not the Jesuits, it’s the Dominicans.
        I fail to see what your comments have to do with Apuleius’ points, given his post is about Christians in general and not about Catholics in particular.
        I have also never understood and never will understand the point about this race to the bottom about who is or was worse. Yes, as decent and historically aware people we need to look at our own (bloody) histories, be that the histories of our nations or of our faiths, but why or how that is supposed to make any crime less hurtful is beyond me. That is not to say that I count all of the crimes or pasts as equal, I don’t, but anyone coming third or fourth in that race is nothing to be proud of.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Welcome back, Jason!

    I’m usually optimistic when it’s an option, but I can’t shake the suspicion that polytheism and Goddess veneration are not represented at activities like Assisi, not only because of our lack of pan-movement leadership, but because participants in the likes of Assisi do not regard our paths as religious. They hold toward us the same attitudes they held toward each other 500 years ago.

    That being said, I think Pagan intrafaith work is very possible if we don’t try to make it a “Pagan Assisi.” It could be embedded in a Pagan weekend festival, where there is already intrafaith mixture and where most of the time the attendees are having fun. We don’t need to pray separately because we don’t fear acknowledging the validity of one another’s paths; we can share ritual and rotate the ritual leaders among the paths present. Break the mold.

  • http://hellenicpolytheist.wordpress.com/ Pythia Theocritos

    I always feel like the cynic when it comes to these kinds of attempts, primarily because the “Christianity as the way and the light” mentality is a key part of the religions doctrine. The bible is filled with stories of pagan villages and peoples either converted or killed; to believe the Pope could eschew this cornerstone of the faith to appease the sensibilities of others is borders on wishful thinking. That’s just my opinion, however.

    I do applaud these events for what they attempt to do, but seeing as how religion is so personal, which in and of itself makes it highly divisive, I tend to think that only minds who walk in open are going to learn anything or even alter their thought patterns. As Mr. Heron said, in the end the majority religious presence looks for “alternative” faiths to validate their existence to them; it doesn’t look as if they are attempting to understand where these various perspectives come from.

    I also agree that Pagan intra-faith gatherings would be a wonderful way of starting to build towards these kinds of interfaith discussions. In the end, however, we need to insure we can handle dealing with the differing views within our own community before attempting to venture out elsewhere.

  • Obsidia

    I think of St. Francis of Assisi with Goddess traditions that were filtered through the Troubadours and the Cathars and Mary Magdalene. The Goddess’s Love was a part of this tradition. Beautiful.

  • Lori F – MN

    No Pagan groups were invited, or individuals respected within the community, but the pope personally invited 4 who were either agnostic or athiest.
    Too many people hold that the agnostic or athiest are immoral because they don’t have to answer to a higher power. Because they take responsibility for their actions.
    I know that many Pagans take responsibility for their actions and I don’t believe any Pagan sect believes in blaming their diety for their actions or for redemption of their ‘soul’ after death if they will only profess being sorry for said action.
    Wish more people lived that way.

  • AnonGuest

    http://www.mostholyfamilymonastery.com/JP2apostasywithpagansidolatersandinfidels.php
    Assisi 1986.
    Some may be curious how many people felt about previous attempts at actual ecumenism/interfaith dialogue. It ticked some people off quite a bit, at least in those people determined to see wickedness in everything and everybody.

    I like St. Francis (though he was no friend of Islam, so location choice for interfaith dialogue was interesting). I used to read the “Little Flowers” translation by Rachel Brown. Some of the Italian story-telling flavor was retained rather than ripped out from that translation, so you can still sort of sense the oral tradition/theater in it. I liked the Brother Juniper stories. Also Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon

  • kenneth

    Attempts to engage in high-level interfaith relations with this church is less than worthless. I have nothing against the fact that they want to note the fact that all religions are not the same, or not to appear that they’re engaging in prayers foreign to their theology. The pope proposes to engage in “interfaith dialogue”. Dialogue is a sham without good faith. It’s worse: It’s a power play and a propaganda game. The pope (and other bishops), extend a hand in apparent invitation but they are seething with contempt and condescension. The entire Assisi event is a calculated ploy to get people to come there on their home turf, and then take every opportunity to remind them and the world who the “real” religion is. Pagans or any other faith leaders who attend this or similar meetings are allowing themselves to be played for fools, plain and simple. It’s possible and worthwhile to engage ordinary followers of any religion who show mutual respect, but not these vipers.

  • Anonymous

    The anger of powerful Spirit is often assuaged by the vulgar [common] claims of humankind to possess understanding… because of the humor!

  • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    I don’t know why Pagans and others keep subjecting ourselves to this… being invited to a party only to be treated as undesirables. Whyn’t we associate with people who accept us, and stop grovelling at the feet of those who don’t?

    • AnonGuest

      Why are people looking for gentle tolerance out of this particular Pope, those who appointed him wanted a hard-ass who’d be unkind but not wrathful – ie. wouldn’t kick out the more corrupt and evil elements.
      They got him, and the results are going to be unpleasant.

      Why not just be happy we’re not Catholic?

  • Pagan Puff Pieces

    Well, I guess it’s like anything else dealing with relations with someone who used to run everything and tell you what to do. It’s always going to feel like going just too far and asking too much of them, but you have to keep being an annoying little thing and insisting on your rights.

  • http://sari0009.xanga.com/ Karen A. Scofield

    It’s not meetings of the minds between monotheistic and other religious leaders that will get you very far — we can’t solve problems with the same (warring top dog religious leader) mentality that caused them.

    Besides, interfaith stuff and decency toward one another involves way more than using religion as a lens to understand and change things.

    For many of monotheism’s leaders, their belief-based identity clash mentality means interfaith meetings are just religious war opportunities in disguise and they’ll purify their behavior later.

    That’s what damage control is for, right? It’s part of that old nice-nasty-nice-nasty game we all can recognize from the domestic abusers and toxic people in our lives.

    Education-based “slow movements” aimed at deeply and demonstrably understanding equality (what it means and what it doesn’t mean) and treating each other with mutually earned courtesy and respect will get you farther, I think. Such things usually need small constellations of genius to give them impact and momentum. But they can establish deep and widespread roots. Then there is more hope.

  • Kilmrnock

    I agree with others here . It’s difficult to have interfaith dialog w/ those who openly say thier way is the only way and have for over a millenia been opressing and eliminating your kind and ways. Altho some Pagan beliefs were represented ,no European or American pagans were invited.Until the Catholic Churhes policies torwards paganism and thier One Way idealology changes meaningful discussions are impossible . And with the current Pope the church has actualy taken a few steps back . The Catholics are now doing exorcisms again.This guy is a hard liner and has made many statments about false religions . In his mind anything other than Roman Catholism is False . Not to Even mention what they think about us . Until the Catholic church changes alot we can’t really talk to them , i don’t see that happening any time soon. Kilm

    • ml

      what else would you expect from a pope who was a member of the Hitler Youth

  • Kilmrnock

    In responce to nemesis. The stance of retribution is absurd as the US Govt paying retribution to ex slaves .The Confederate States goverment is gone.The people that did the deed and their victums are no longer living and hav’nt been for centuries. Now if the Vatican , an oppressor that still exists , would make a real opology and change it’s policies and stance about other world religions maybe we could sit down w/ them and have a meaninhful dialog.

    • Nemesis

      “The stance of retribution is absurd as the US Govt paying retribution to ex slaves”

      The US government permitted slavery for many years before the Confederacy even existed, and the US government still exists. The US government explicitly supported slavery for about 1/3rd of its history. So how much of your tax dollars, Kilmrnock, do you want used for reparations?

      Religio Romana exists. What of their restitution to Hellenismoi and Kemetic Pagans, not to mention druids and Christians? Hellenismoi still exists. What of their restitution to the Jews for the Hannukah incident? As for me, I’m still pissed off over Lindisfarne.

      I’ve often encountered Pagans saying they can have no real dialogue with Christians unless the latter give up their belief in the uniqueness of their God. This is an unacceptable precondition. This would be like Christians saying we won’t have dialogue with Pagans until they admit that their gods are lesser spiritual beings that were actually created by our God and have since “gone rogue” (some Christians would call them demons). My own rule is dialogue without preconditions on either side, or no dialogue. Don’t ask me to believe Yahweh is a megalomaniacal deity for claiming to be the One and Only, and I won’t ask you to believe Aphrodite is a demonic whore.

  • Kilmrnock

    Nemisis all i’m saying on the matter of retribution is that the perpitrators and the victums of it are long gone . i believe asking us now to pay for things that happened 150 yrs. ago , even b/f my family arrived here is not resonable or fisable . Just as i don’t expect or wouid even want retribution from the Romans /Catholics for what happened to my ancestors. And all i really would like to see from our Catholic friends is a more reasonable stance towards other world religions , no one wants them to abandon thier basic beliefs , just learn to play with others better.respect us not try to dominate or vilify us . Kilm

  • Star

    things are actually worse, now the pope is urging people to fight witchcraft in Africa…read here http://www.news24.com/World/News/Fight-witchcraft-Pope-urges-bishops-20111029#
    How long until this Nazi convinces the government to ban witchcraft and make it punishable??
    At least here in Italy the goverment is a lackey of the Vatican

    • Nemesis

      The Catholic leadership wants to ensure that people freely practising Catholicism have freed themselves from practices that it considers incompatible with Catholicism, such as witchcraft, in much the same way that commenters on this and other Pagan blogs have criticised (and even attacked) fellow Pagans for still having some monotheistic baggage cluttering up their thinking. Haven’t you ever read any Pagan commentary as to why Pagans would should not honor Yahweh and Christ, because that is incompatible with the worship of their gods?

      • Star

        I sincerely doubt the “freely” part at least for a lot of them, or haven’t you ever studied history?
        The pope is still crushing the native religions as we speak

      • Merofled Ing

        It is one thing for the Catholic (or any other) church to tell its members that it doesn’t think certain practices are compatiple with their faith and to explain to their members why they then shouldn’t engage in these. It is quite another matter to extend that to others.
        It also matters where, and how, people voice their ideas on e.g. “witchcraft”. In Europe or in the USA too strong a stance against witchcraft would make many people laugh, the church would appear hopelessly outdated, as in “do they really believe that?” This reaction is not exactly pleasant for Pagans either, but it keeps the church in check. In countries where people murder their neighbors or family members, including children for alleged “witchcraft”, I expect a more considered response.
        I have yet to find Pagans who call for govenment involvement or who want to use/manipulate the infrastructure to prevent other Pagans from harboring monotheistic relics in their worship.
        Pagans “attacking” other Pagans for “wrong” practices – please do get me the finishing list in our race to the bottom – I kindly, or unkindly ask them to stop. But then I can ask them to stop, because they can’t ban me, or define my sort of worship. They aren’t “Pope”.
        Interfaith meetings … I’d rather call them “constitutional” meetings. That leaves enough room for conflict and for understanding or debating religious views and their consequences, but “equality” and “freedom” would not be part of the debate. They’d be a pre-condition.

  • Anonymous

    In the interfaith circles I frequent, the Assisi gatherings are generally regarded as important, yet fundamentally meaningless, events. They’re important because they focus some attention on the interfaith movement & give it a certain credibility; but they’re mostly meaningless because the Vatican’s resistance toward real interreligious dialogue, as well as its very blatant agenda in organizing these events, means that nothing substantial ever really happens at them.

    At the same time, the posts suggesting that non-Catholics who attend these conferences are simply fooling themselves fail to take into account that quite a few of those delegates go there with their eyes wide open and with their own very particular set of agendas, which can end up subverting the Vatican’s designs (four friends of mine participated in the recent gathering).

    Pope Benedict is typically disingenuous in his comments on religious violence, as if it were a thing of the remote past. The Vatican, at least implicitly, continues to encourage & cover up acts of violence against indigenous peoples and Catholic dissenters, particularly in Third World countries. And Benedict himself — during his tenure as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger — has been accused of complicity by survivors of the persecutions against liberation theologians throughout Latin America, which resulted in the imprisonment, torture, assassination or disappearance of dozens of nuns & priests.

  • Caliban

    Leaderless organizations and movements make top-down thinkers nuts. Who speaks for me as a Pagan? I speak for me as a Pagan. Who else?

    I am currently ambivalent about interfaith initiatives. The people who need to listen don’t attend. Those who do attend may learn a little about other beliefs, but they are already converts to tolerance.

  • Kilmrnock

    I need to correct a mispoken line in my previous comments . I meant restitution rather than retrubution Kilm