July 30, 2008

Dolan misses, then makes, columnist's point

Timothy Dolan, who is the Archbishop of Milwaukee, in purporting to address a question posed by one of the Journal-Sentinel's community columnists, completely sidestepped it and answered a different one, a question that wasn't even asked.

The columnist wondered, where does religious fanaticism come from, and Dolan replied, religious belief does not equal fanaticism.

But the columnist, Thomas Zachek, never said that it did.

Interestingly, Dolan is sympathetic to most of Zachek's critical observations pertaining to all those other religions, until Zachek gets to Dolan's particular religion of choice, Roman Catholicism.

In the meantime, Zachek correctly observes that "most believers are pretty sensible and not given to [fanatical] extremes." Despite that clear enunciation, Archbishop Dolan inexplicably accuses Zachek of "reduc[ing] all religious belief to fanaticism."

Zachek invoked Joseph Ratzinger, a.k.a. Pope Benedict XVI, and the latter's admonition that Roman Catholicism is the only one "true" religion, and that all the other religions are in some way defective.

But that's not the same as saying that Roman Catholicism is fanatical per se, only that bold claims to the one true religion are the seeds of fanaticism. Much unfortunate history supports this.

Thomas Zachek certainly wasn't the first person to point that out:
Pope Benedict XVI reasserted the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released Tuesday that says other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches and Catholicism provides the only true path to salvation.
And those claims say nothing — which is to say, quite a lot indeed — about all the non-Christian religions, none of which, by definition, are "true" paths, according to Ratzinger.

Nor is Zachek the only one to have challenged Ratzinger's assertions:
The statement brought swift criticism from Protestant leaders. "It makes us question whether we are indeed praying together for Christian unity," said the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, a fellowship of 75 million Protestants in more than 100 countries.
Dolan didn't rebut Zachek's point, he reinforced it.


Tom said...

I'm always amazed that people are shocked that the Catholic Church has not swayed from her 2000 year old position. I like C.S. Lewis' analogy that 2+2=4, and while some churches claim that 2+2=5 or 2+2=6, they're much closer to the truth than those that claim that 2+2=100. The Catholic Church holds that while Protestant churches having strayed into the 5 or 6 range for the mathematical equation, they're far closer to the truth than other faiths ... and as such, are most definitely Christian.

What's amusing is that the Protestant churches object to the Catholic church's position (feigning hurt feelings), all the while remaining steadfast in their "protest". If there was nothing to "protest", they'd all be Catholic.

As for religious fanaticism and its origins ... it comes from the ego. "I'm right, AND YOU'RE WRONG!". I'd contend that PZ Myers (and his flock of sheeple) are fanatics, yet they're all atheists.

illusory tenant said...

Right, but I hardly think Zachek's column is itself an expression of fanaticism, which is how Dolan is attempting to portray it.

Terrence Berres said...

Mr. Zachek writes of Pope Benedict XVI, "This man preached ... that those who do belong to the church must adhere to its tenets."

The alternative would be to treat these as illusory tenets.