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Catholicism and Interreligious Dialogue$
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James L. Heft

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199827879

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199827879.001.0001

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Off the Map

Off the Map

The Catholic Church and Its Dialogue with Buddhists

(p.127) 5 Off the Map
Catholicism and Interreligious Dialogue

James L. Fredericks

Oxford University Press

This chapter contends that the dialogue between Catholics and Buddhists, more than any of the other interreligious dialogues in which Catholics are involved, “drives us off our theological road map of religions.” That road map, developed most extensively and authoritatively by John Paul II, may be described as an inclusive theology of religions. On the one hand, it avoids exclusivism, in that it rejects the claim that there is no salvation outside the church. On the other hand, it avoids relativism, in that it affirms the centrality of Christ and the universality of his saving grace made available in the church through the work of the Holy Spirit. That said, it is argued that even though the Catholic Church’s inclusive theology of religions is “adequate to the demands of Christian orthodoxy,” it is not that helpful in interreligious dialogue, at least in dialogue with Buddhists. The problem with the church’s current theology of religions is twofold. First, the inclusive approach tends to domesticate differences, making it very difficult to accept differences as differences and the otherness of the other as the other. Second, it is sectarian in that it assumes ultimately that everyone should be converted to the Catholic Church. The pastoral purpose of interreligious dialogue is neither conversion nor the confirmation of our theological presuppositions about other religious believers; its purpose is to establish bonds of solidarity with other religious communities.

Keywords:   Catholics, Buddhists, Catholicism, Buddhism, interreligious dialogue, John Paul II, inclusive theology of religions, Catholic Church

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