- Interfaith Dialogue: A Catholic View
John Borelli and Michael Fitzgerald have given us not just one Catholic view on interfaith dialogue, but several perspectives in this collection of articles ranging from 1996 to 2004. The authors' deep ecclesial engagement at the highest levels of interreligious dialogue gives the book real credibility as a "Catholic" approach: Borelli in the United States with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1987 to 2003, and Fitzgerald as president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue from 2002 to 2006. The entire collection is animated with insights gained from rich careers of concrete dialogical experiences.
The chapters vary widely in topic and theme but are organized into three parts: "Dialogue in General," "Christian-Muslim Relations," and "Wider Horizons." The approach of the Second Vatican Council and the experience of the post-conciliar Church inform the studies throughout. A major component of the book is the Christian-Muslim dialogue, but there is evident in the book as well a pastoral concern for the many dialogical opportunities that present themselves to the Church today, including encounters with Judaism and Buddhism as well as the connection between interfaith work and Christian ecumenism. Other chapters include theological reflections on religious pluralism, historical synopses of interfaith encounter and their implications for the present, Catholic exemplars of interfaith encounter, and regional studies of dialogue that present a rich field for contextual comparison. The book's particular strength and contribution lies in its emphasis on the laity in dialogue. Fitzgerald's essays titled "Pluralism and the Parish" and "The Role of the Laity," and Borelli's inspiring story of his involvement in Catholic dialogue as a lay person entitled "Forty Years Ago: Vatican II, Dialogue, and Lay Leadership" are reminders that the mission and work of Catholic interfaith dialogue must be realized among all the faithful. Given that the book is coauthored by two of the foremost official [End Page 166] representatives of Catholicism in dialogue, this example provides a powerful witness to the truth that Catholic interfaith dialogue is not limited to formal meetings, conferences, and clerical authorities.
The first part of the volume, "Dialogue in General," examines dialogue in its most basic theological, sociological, and pastoral dimensions. The theological insights are most interesting here. Both Fitzgerald's "Theological Considerations of Pluralism" and Borelli's "Religious Pluralism in the USA Today: A Catholic Perspective" move quickly to the traditional christological and ecclesiological affirmations of Christian faith: that Jesus is the Savior of all humanity on account of the mystery of the Incarnation and his death and resurrection, that the fullness of divine revelation about God has been communicated in Jesus, and that other religions cannot be equated with the "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church". But in a marvelous turn, both display the transformation that occurs when such universalistic articles of faith, seemingly antithetical to dialogue, are situated in a dialogical context. For Borelli, the facticity of religious difference calls for an interreligious encounter that does not accept that all religions are the same, but an approach that focuses upon specificity and uniqueness. The Church must proceed in dialogue by way of a deep engagement with the very difference that obtains between "maximal" and "thick" traditional self-understandings. Fitzgerald for his part converts the high claims of Catholic faith into an internal self-critique. Fitzgerald extends the proviso of Pope John Paul II that the recognition of the presence of "elements of truth and grace" in other religions be tempered by the admission that the unity of humankind has been rent asunder by the evil of religious difference to the morally vulnerable Church. Both the Church and other religions are in need of purification and have contributed to the disunity of the human community. Dialogue is a privileged space wherein this process can be reversed. Conversion in this sense is not necessarily the changing of religious allegiance but a call to all of God's pilgrim people for renewal and repentance. This communal sense of conversion within the context of dialogue lends new meaning to Louis Cameli's phrase...