A few days ago I saw an article about a bishop in Northern Europe suggesting that his flock start referring to God as “Allah” as a small way to alleviate religious tensions. He said that God doesn’t really care what we call him, so long as we grow in relationship with him. It makes sense to me. I don’t know if there are any theological ramifications of this , but after reading The Faith Club a while back, I’m more convinced we’re all worshipping the same God.
A year into Pope Benedict’s papacy, the pope had a meeting with Hans Kung, dissident theologian and former colleague and friend of the Vatican II years. They avoided talk of contentious issues they disagreed about, but praised each other on areas of common ground. Kung praised the Pope on his efforts to get dialogue between religions, while Pope praised Kung’s efforts to show the moral human values through the dialogue between religions and Kung’s efforts to promote dialogue between religion and the sciences. It was a friendly encounter, but it must’ve been bittersweet for these two men who were at one time close friends and on the same side of the Vatican II reformist efforts.
Since then, the Pope has made a lot of flubs in his comments on Muslims and Protestants. And he’s had run ins with the liberal Catholic magazine America. In looking at what Pope Benedict and Hans Kung talked about two years ago, it’s sort of ironic that the Pope has gotten into some of the controversies that he’s gotten into. And Hans Kung has since then criticized the Pope for these and other matters. Benedict right now is showing his conservative side, but as time goes on I have a feeling he may be a lot more nuanced in his thinking than people realize.
In the early part of John Paul IIs papacy, I really didn’t like him. I thought his views on women’s ordination, homosexuality, birth control and family values were way too conservative and I worried that he would try to turn back many of the Vatican II reforms. As his papacy unfolded, though, I found myself admiring some of the stands he would take: I found out that John Paul II played an important part in fomenting dissent in the Eastern bloc Europen nations under communist control; he wrote some very strong critiques on capitalism and materialism; he worked tirelessly for the poor and for debt relief in Third World nations; he worked for interrelirious dialogue, especially with Jews and Muslims; and he opposed both Gulf wars and worked for peaceful resolutions to many of the conflicts of the world.
I may be reading Benedict wrong, but though their personalities are very different, I have a feeling his view of the church is very similar to John Paul IIs. From a liberal point of view, I have a feeling Benedict may be a mixed bag just like John Paul II. We’ll cheer him on in social justice issues, on efforts to alleviate the suffering of the poor, on efforts at interreligious dialogue. But we’ll moan his pronouncements on sexuality, on women’s ordination, on birth control, and on the traditional roles on women.