Courageous Witness?


Robert P. Imbelli

Few areas in contemporary Catholic theology are as challenging and important as interreligious dialogue. One of the leading American voices in that conversation is that of Fr. James Fredericks of Loyola Marymount University. He is uncommonly knowledgeable and balanced. His recent Commonweal article “No Easy Answers: The Necessary Challenge of Interreligious Dialogue” (January 15) conveys, by its very title as well as its content, the qualities that commend him to the careful attention of colleagues.

There is much in Fredericks’s article that I agree with, in particular the concluding “practical suggestions.” I would especially highlight his drawing upon Pope John Paul II’s appeal to “the virtue of solidarity” as a moral imperative, especially in a globalized world. And I very much concur with Fredericks that such solidarity does not imply “shallow agreement on general matters.” Nor does it preclude “dialogue and opposition,” for, as he admits, “In some important respects the religions of the world are radically incompatible.”

What follows, then, are not so much disagreements as comments and qualifications. I place them under two headings: rhetorical and theological (though the line between these is flexible).

The article initially deploys a rhetorical strategy that contrasts the approach to...

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About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.