Double Vision

Beyond Compare
St. Francis de Sales and Sri Vedanta Desika on Loving Surrender to God
Francis X. Clooney
Georgetown University Press, $34.95, 288 pp.

In the fall of 2000, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a declaration titled Dominus Iesus, reaffirming the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the centrality of the church in the plan of salvation. The declaration criticized “the eclecticism of those who, in theological research, uncritically absorb ideas from a variety of philosophical and theological contexts without regard for consistency, systematic connection, or compatibility with Christian truth.”

I have no quarrel with criticizing the breezy relativism that sometimes passes as tolerance today or the superficialities of those who dabble in “Eastern religions” without sustained study and devotion to serious spiritual practice. The Vatican congregation’s complaint about eclecticism, however, prompts an important question: What about Christians who are in fact absorbing truths from other religious traditions with great regard for “consistency, systematic connection, and compatibility with Christian truth”? I am thinking of Catholics who have been engaged in serious dialogue for many years with those who follow other religious paths—Buddhists and Jews most prominently, but increasingly Hindus and Muslims—learning their languages, studying their sacred texts, and, in some cases, sharing in their religious practices. The seriousness with which these Catholics are responding to the diversity of religions cannot be dismissed as “eclecticism.”...

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About the Author

James L. Fredericks in the theology department at Loyola Marymount University.