Re: What Pope John Paul II said - Reality Check

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Posted by Pat ( on August 17, 2000 at 03:50:04:

In Reply to: Re: What Pope John Paul II said about Buddhism and check out the responses from Venerable Madewela Punnaji Mahathera's and Graeme Lyall. posted by Grace on August 16, 2000 at 14:07:18:

Actually the Pope is considered infallible only when (1) speaking as the leader of the Church (2) to all Catholics (3) on matters of faith and morals which Catholics must hold (4) as to their religion. Otherwise, he is just as "fallible" as any other human being.

This mistake about the limits of Papal infallibility is often made when discussing Catholicism. Popes are considered infallible solely and strictly in that narrow (but very important) sense. They are not "impeccable" (i.e. unable to sin) nor are they infallible in picking the winners or horse races or discussing other matters than the Catholic faith. Their opinions in that regard are to be respected only so far as they should bear weight under ordinary criteria (education, information, analysis, etc.). Needless to say, their persons and their office deserve respect as a matter of human courtesy.

Actually, the Pope does have friends, and many of them very old friends. In fact, it is a tenet of Catholic doctrine that God himself is a friend of every person, that Jesus Christ becomes the elder brother of every person by virtue of his sacrifice on the cross and the adoption of all men and women as children of God. This was a concept deemed very radical in antiquity. It is no surprise then that the Pope maintains friendships as well.

Even if the Pope is wrong in this matter of Buddhism (and I too considered him to be in error in a number of regards on the question of Buddhist faith which I won't go into here), he too should be accorded a modicum of respectful treatment and, shall we say, compassion. To err is human, all too human. I'm sure important Buddhists have erred in ways just as substantial as this in the past. I'm certain even H.H. the Dalai Lama would be among the first to admit he could be wrong, and wrong importantly on occasion.

What I have found most significantly in common among all the religions I have studied in some depth (including Lutheranism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and assorted others) is not error but rather that there is no shortage of spleen among their adherents.

There is a distinct lack of charity when treating anyone else's opinions when they are considered wrong or simply not agreed with. This too is very human and doesn't necessarily surprise me. What does surprise me, though, is that the speakers don't seem to see what they are doing.

What should be astonishing is that even those who profess a faith of nonviolence and compassion seem remarkably capable of venting mightily and acidly when their turn comes. In this regard we should keep in mind the cover photo of Buddhist monks with shouldered rifles marching down a Japanese street on Brian Victoria's "Zen at War" (New York and Tokyo, 1997). Not a particularly good image for a non-violent religion there. All religions, considering that their proponents are human beings (however divine their messages may be) have such dirty laundry to wash.

The point is that we should all remember our own fallibility and peccability when dealing with others. "He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone," as the Master said. It shouldn't take a Buddhist, or a Catholic, to point this out.



: I grew up as a Catholic so I can only say that the Catholic church may not publically oppose other religions or their leaders but this doesn't mean they agree or support the other's views. A smiling photo between the Pope and HH Dahli Lama means only that they agreed to pose together. To assume that it means they are good friends is unrealistic. The Pope doesn't have millions of people the Pope is the infallible representative of Jesue Christ here on earth.

: Peace to all,
: Grace

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