Ultra-Traditionalism


Religious Freedom and Assisi

Religious Freedom has been one of the most hotly debated topics among Catholics since the proclamation of Dignitatis Humanae by Pope Paul VI during the Second Vatican Council. In this dialogue, Robert Sungenis and John Pacheco discuss whether Dignitatis Humanae and other Church documents supports the inter-religious events at Assisi.

Sungenis comments in red. Pacheco responds in blue. Selections from Dignitatis Humanae are in purple.

First Round: "RS" / "JP"
Second Round: "RS2" / "JP2"
Third Round: "RS3" / "JP3"
(latest)

On CAI's website, you will read Robert's latest response which is prefaced by "RS3". For those who have been following this discussion, I have inserted Robert's third response ("RS3") below and added my rebuttal, "JP3".


Dialogue on Religious Liberty and Assisi

RS: As for Assisi being justified by DH, first, apparently you have had a major shift in thinking since the last time we talked about this less than a year ago, and second, would you mind telling me what statement in DH supports the idea that Catholics are to direct pagans to pray to their gods for world peace?

I hope, John, that since you offered DH as the justification, that you won't be tempted to dismiss my inquiry with a "I don't want to get into a discussion right now" kind of statement. If you really believe DH supports Assisi, I think you're obligated to show why, especially since you took an opposite view not to long ago.

JP: Well, I guess you could say that I asked for it, huh? OK. Kimosabe. Let's start with your statement above. You said: at Assisi "Catholics are to direct pagans to pray to their gods for world peace."

Where exactly did the Church "direct" pagans to pray to false gods? Let's be precise about this. There is a difference between "directing" and "permitting". If you insist on the "directing", then this discussion likely cannot go any further since it is a question of fact. I don't believe that the Church "directed" the pagans to pray to false gods. It did, however, TOLERATE them doing so.

RS: First, the fact that you know that "directing" them to pray to their false gods would be wrong, you admit the potentiality of an abomination at Assisi. Hence, you are now forced to prove that there was no "directing" at Assisi. If you can't, then you have just indicted the pope.

JP: Sure, there is a potentiality in many things. But we are not dealing with potentiality but actuality :)

RS2: Of course, the actuality comes when you can’t disprove that the pope was directing the pagans to pray to their false gods, which, as you will see later in this dialogue, you admit to.

JP2: I hate to break this to you, Kimosabe, but the onus is not on me to "disprove the pope's direction" but on you to prove it. I'm the defense. You're the prosecution. Imagine if you got up in a court of law, as a prosecutor, and used the line you just did on me? "Your honour, our case is air tight. The defense cannot disprove our allegations!" Sorry, Robert, that's not how it works. I am defending the Pope. Ergo, the onus is on you to prove your case. For what it's worth at this point, I never conceded anything of substance at all so I am bit puzzled at your comment. The Vatican might have hosted the event, but that is a far cry from saying that it agrees with the false views of its participants - which is what you are trying to convince us of.

RS3: The fact remains that if you have no evidence for making a distinction between “directing” pagans to pray to false gods, and “inviting” them to come to Assisi to pray to their false gods, then you have no basis for saying that the Vatican was not directing pagans to pray to false gods. The fact that you resort to such hairsplitting distinctions (between “directing” and “inviting”) in order to justify Assisi shows how desperate your position is.

JP3: So what you are saying, Robert, going back to the original exchange, is that you had no business in shifting the burden of proof, right? Right. So it is really you (and not me) who must prove your case.

And as far as “hairsplitting distinctions” goes, Catholicism is all about distinctions. You just simply refuse to accept this particular one. The Church never directed or invited anyone to practice a false religion. Instead, it recognized that, in accordance with DH, man has an intrinsic religious need to pray, and this need cannot be subverted or coerced in anyway by any human power. As such, while it is necessary to always witness to the truth of the Gospel, the Church must nonetheless live in civil harmony with those who profess a different faith. In order to do so, adequate provision must be made to respect the right of everyone to exercise their religion. If this right is not respected, no civilization can hope to survive. At Assisi, the Pope tried to live up to this by making an authentic provision for this religious liberty. He showed the world that men of different religious confessions can still live together, and indeed worship along side of one another, while still disagreeing with one another. If this foundation is not understood or acknowledged, what possible hope do any of us have? Have you ever thought of the reprecussions for Christians living in Muslim lands if the Pope had preached the “repent or be damned” gospel? You’re a smart guy, Robert. I don’t think I need to draw you the picture.

RS: Also, when you say "tolerate," this means you know instinctively that praying to a false god is wrong, otherwise there would be no reason to "tolerate" it, since we only "tolerate" things that are not good.

JP: Of course.

RS: As for the distinction between "directing" and "permitting," because the Church recognizes by divine revelation that man has a free will, she has always "tolerated" the fact that pagans pray to their false gods. Outside of preaching the gospel to them (which states that praying to false gods is wrong), there is little the Church can do to stop them. She has no right to force them.

JP: Agreed.

RS2: So then, you are agreeing that praying to false gods is wrong.

JP2: Yes. But restraining someone from exercising their conscience (provided that public order is maintained) is also wrong.

RS3: So you agree that praying to false gods is wrong, yet you believe it is not wrong for the pope to invite pagans to pray to their false gods. For the audience, that is now part of the record. Further, it is amazing to see how you can make such a fine- line distinction between “directing” and “inviting,” yet fail to make the same distinction between the Church “allowing” a pagan to pray to his false god in his own land and “inviting” the pagan to pray to his false god at Assisi. In other words, when its convenient you make distinctions, but when its not convenient, you dispense with distinctions.

JP3: Robert, you are operating under assumptions that you need to recognize. The Pope is not preaching to a bunch of American fundies with Jack Chick pamplets in their shirt pockets, OK? You operate under a rubric which ASSUMES the security of your person and the right for you to speak without the fear of punishment or even death. You need to wake up and recognize the assumptions behind your arguments. If you were looking at the GLOBAL situation, your tune would quickly change from “repent or be damned” to “let’s start to have a little respect around here and please don’t rip out my tongue after I preach to you.” The latter comes before the former.

And if you think John Paul II's apparent ambivalence to the explicit Gospel message is "unprecedented" in certain forums, go and read about what happened to Catholics when Pius XII became a little too vocal in his opposition to Naziism. People live and die by what the Pope says.

RS: But when you give a formal invitation to pagan religions to come to a holy Catholic place, under the auspices and authority of the Catholic Church, and request that they publically pray to their false gods for a physical blessing;

JP: But Robert, the Church has never directed anyone to pray to a false god. Rather, at Assisi, the Church directed persons of different religions to come and pray to the one true God, while tolerating the misconception of who that one true God is.

RS2: So what you are saying, John, is that the Church now directs pagans to pray to the true God by telling them to pray to their false gods.

JP2: No. The Church does not "tell them to pray to their false gods." That is simply a mere assumption on your part, Robert. As you are fond of telling me: prove it. Give me the text where the Holy Father or the Vatican TOLD the pagans to do this. This is what you need to do in order to establish your case. If you cannot, then please desist from spreading false information about the Church. As far as I can tell, what the Vatican did was simply to TOLERATE their false conception of God. You are all for being precise when it suits you, but not so concerned when precision looks favourably on the other guy.

RS3: I don’t know what happened to you between JP and JP2, but you certainly have an air of condescension about you. From my perspective, you’re the one in hot water, since you are condoning praying to false gods, which is a direct violation against everything we have ever been taught in Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium. Second, please show us how it is possible to conclude that, when the pope directed each false religion to go to separate rooms and pray to their false gods, that this is NOT “telling them to pray to their false gods.” Please tell us where the pope said something to the effect: “I’m not going to tell you to pray to false gods, but here is a room where you can do so. And if you do, being the good Catholic I am, I will ‘tolerate’ your abomination.”

JP3: If the Church allows the Muslim to do his thing in Iran, why should he not be able to do the same thing at Assisi? Your big solution to this question is simply to not invite the pagans to Assisi. But, here’s the thing you need to consider. Our mission is to preach the Gospel to ALL of the world, right? And how, pray-tell, do you expect to go into nations of the Muslim world which are not receptive to Christianity? Are you going to air drop missionairies with AK-47s? How about just strolling up to the border with a bible in your hand and letting them know that you are a Christian bible thumper who wants to share the Good News with them? Do you think that will work? Please. Let’s get real here. We need a foundational approach that will allow the Gospel to be preached in these countries in the century ahead without the threat of violence.

RS2: In other words, you are telling me that the Catholic Church has a new way of teaching people to approach the true God that has never been taught in all of Catholic history. The new way is: we can now dispense with the formality of removing the false gods and actually begin promoting their use in order to have quick access to the true God for personal favors. And thus, for two thousand years we’ve been doing it all wrong when we told the pagans to destroy their idols and stop praying to them.

JP2: Robert, there is no "new way of teaching at all." Why are you setting up a caricature which does not exist. No one "directed" the Assisi participants to pray to false gods so I categorically reject your presentation. The participants showed up to pray for world peace, or have you forgotten St. Peter's message?

So is it your belief that God-fearing people who do what is right are not accepted by God?

RS3: You’re wrong, John. Acts 10:1-4 says that Cornelius was praying to God, not to false gods. It is precisely because he was praying to God that God answered him with an angel visitation. Besides, you already admitted that the pagans of Assisi were praying to false gods, and that praying to false gods was wrong, and that the only reason it could be tolerated was not because God listens to prays made to false gods, but only that the pagan had the “religious liberty” to pray to his false gods, which we Catholics must “tolerate.”

JP3: You are dodging. The point is that Cornelius was not a Jew. He was not a Samaritan. He was not a Christian. He is simply described as a “God fearing gentile”, which is more or less what a Muslim is. Is it your position that God will not hear a “God fearing” Muslim? On what basis? And how is that substantially different from the case of Cornelius? Appealing to what the bible does not say about Muslims does not cut it.

RS2:John, I have to tell you, I am absolutely flabbergasted by your views. You were with CAI just about a year ago telling everyone that, of all the things the pope had done which were questionable, the one thing you could not tolerate was the Assisi event, and you were helping to organize “Jeremiah’s Call” against it. But now you turn 180 degrees the other way. It’s like you are another person whom I don’t know. It seems you have been so throttled by people like Pete Vere into thinking that anything the pope does cannot be questioned, that you resort to the absurd rationalizations that I read above. My heart breaks for you, John, because you have simply lost your way. Pete Vere is a modernist bureaucrat who will never change. But you? I’m in shock.

JP2: Robert, none of this is germane to the topic at hand. We all change our views from time to time. I bet you that there are former Protestants who you used to associate with that are "shocked" that you went from the Reformed confession to the Catholic one. That's a long trip, Robert. At least my journey has never led me away from professing the same Faith. As for Pete, he's a good guy who's already been where you are and then some. In due time, you might do the same thing he did and bail on the views you now hold as a Traditionalist. He's a good guy, and you come up now and again in our conversations. He inquires about you and genuinely cares. I know that him being a "modernist bureacrat", you don't consider that really important, but I thought I would share that bit of information with you just the same. You can think badly of both of us if you like, but that doesn't change the fact that we love you and want you back DEFENDING us instead of attacking us 'cause that's what ROMAN Catholic Apologists do, remember?

RS3: I’m not going to defend pagan idol worship, and I will continue to speak out against people like you and Pete Vere who support it.

JP3: Oh please, spare me. We do not support or promote pagan idol worship. We support the right of people to search for the truth of Jesus Christ unencumbered by civil or ecclesiastical coercion. If that begins in a different religious confession, then so be it. Not everyone is born Catholic. And we also support the mandate to preach the Gospel to all nations, recognizing that some situations require delicate and shrewd moves to make the Gospel’s explicit proclamation a reality in due time. What we don’t support is the isolationist and insulationist fantasy that you can blindly apply the same approach across centuries, civilizations, cultures, and religious traditions in a foolish, irresponsible, one-size-fits-all approach. THAT’S WHY WE HAVE A CHURCH TO GUIDE US FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE. It's not all about paper dogma. God takes an active role in the affairs of the Church also.

I told you this before and I will tell you again. Unless you are personally prepared to preach the fire and damnation gospel in Algeria and forfeit your life and the lives of thousands of Christians, then you really should be less confident in your one-size fits all evangelization program.

RS3: I can conclude nothing except that you and Vere have resolved in your mind that whatever this pope does in public must be defended, whether it is right or wrong. You have completely dismissed the possibility that he may be wrong. Canon Law, Vatican I, and all the saints and doctors who wrote on this subject say that he indeed can be in error. In fact, Alexander VII, in 1665, condemned the notion: "Although it is evidently established by you that Peter is a heretic, you are not bound to denounce [him], if you cannot prove it." You, on the other hand, are simply playing the “all or nothing” game that Vere forced you into, and thus we have two John Pacheco’s to deal with now: one who drafted Jeremiah’s call, and the one who has been convinced that the pope can do no wrong.

JP3: And who is to say whether the Pope is right or wrong on any particular question? Robert Sungenis? Of course! How many people have fallen into this same trap throughout the centuries? The hermeneutic you should operate under is the one you used to indict Honorius: a future pope and council will make that decision. Until then, you are playing Russian roulette with your soul, and gambling away your salvation. If you are not sure about any particular teaching or action of the Pontiff, then raise it discreetly. If you are still unsatisfied with an answer, say nothing about it but pray. And wait for as long as it takes. Obedience comes before understanding. God wants a docile, obedient son before He grants the treasures of knowledge sought after. Or perhaps you think this maxim is unbiblical? You know, Robert, there is really only one difference between a Catholic and a Protestant. The Catholic is obedient and is a team player. The Protestant is neither. The doctrines that separate us are simply the product of this one simple rule. Which one do you fall into?

RS2:Being Catholic for you is no longer searching for the truth, it is merely working under the premise that the pope is to be followed in everything he does, whether it is right or wrong. And if it looks wrong (as you said of Assisi was last year) you will now do your best to make it look right.

JP2: I am sorry that you think this way about me, Robert. I do concede, however, that I'm pretty impressed with your ability to read souls. What's next for you - stigmata and bi-location? :)

RS3: 1 John 4:1: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 John 9-10: If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.

JP3: “We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said.” (Acts 15:24)

RS2: If a Protestant has organized something akin to Assisi you would be on him like a wet blanket, and I’ve seen you do it.

JP2: Sure. That might very well be. I don't dispute that, but then again that's why I believe in the papacy and I am guided by and obedient to not only the office but the officeR. Catholicism is about obedience and faith...and humility. I am very proud to sing a different song if the Lord asks me to - otherwise I'm just my own Pope.

RS3: No, this is not about whether you or John Paul are the pope, but about whether you can admit that John Paul may be wrong on certain things he says and does. It is precisely because you have failed to make the distinction between the “office” and the “officer” that you are now taking the position of defending Assisi. St. Paul made that distinction when he upbraided Peter for false ecumenism with the Jews (Gal 2:10), but you seem to be incapable of doing so, and try to disguise the inability by calling it “loyalty.” Quite frankly, John, you’ve just admitted that the rationale for your defending Assisi is blind obedience to the pope. Hence, I’m sure you would have been first in line to agree with Honorius that Jesus only had one will, and agreeing right along with John XXII that saints don’t enjoy the beatific vision. You would have denounced anyone who spoke against the pope’s teaching because, as you say, you believe in the “officerR.”

JP3: When you can claim some apostolic authority for yourself and show me your pallium, I’ll be all ears, Robert. Until then, you’re just blowing in the wind. As for the two examples you cited, your position on Honorius is not at all established. I have a different view of the events. And John XXII eventually recanted his view, if I am not mistaken. Do you think that John Paul II is likely to recant, Robert – especially considering all of the V2 material he uses to draw on for his teaching? Dream on. It’s time for you and the rest of the traditionalist crowd to clue in. The Church and many, many subsequent Popes in this millenium will use Vatican II and JPII’s teachings as the foundation of the new evangelization. You need to hit the “fast forward button” on the show, and quit wasting your formidable talents. You could continue doing so much good for the church, and instead you want to cook up sola scriptura again with an integrist side dish of tradition.

RS2:But let the pope do it, and suddenly you think we are being showered from heaven with “new insights” and “new methods” and “new development of doctrine.” I believe your problem is the same thing that appears in the way you argue this present discussion about Dignitatis Humanae - you consistently fail to make the proper distinctions.

JP2: I have no problem with distinctions, Robert. In fact, that's why I am winning this debate. Here is one distinction that you need to deal with: tolerating error vs. embracing error.

RS3: I can always tell when my opponent is desperate – he starts claiming victory in the debate. If you’re so in favor of making distinctions then why didn’t you make the proper distinction, as I pointed out above, between the Church “allowing” a pagan to pray to his false god in his own land and “inviting” the pagan to pray to his false god at Assisi?

JP3: Because that distinction is completely bogus! That is what I have been trying to get you to understand. You seem to think that geography has some kind of mystical power behind it like some kind of Middle Age magic. The “pagan land” that you keep referring to is right across from your house, Robert, at the local mosque. The Church is merely acknowledging that the pagan’s right to practice his religion supercedes this silly geographical anachronism which you are irrationally clinging to.

RS3: As for “tolerating error vs. embracing error,” I’ve already made the distinction. We, as a Church, can tolerate a pagan praying to his false god in his own land. Apart from preaching the gospel to him that such practices are wrong, there is little we can do to stop him. But we don’t invite the pagan to our sacred grounds to pray to his false god. When you do such things, John, then you have more than “tolerated” their error. You have “embraced” their error.

JP3: This is just proves my point. You said “there is little we can do to stop him”. Is that how the Church defines its teaching? By what She can or cannot do? Good grief, Robert. Can’t you see how silly your position is? To be consistent, you should say that the pagan does not have a right to practice his false religion REGARDLESS if the Church can stop him or not! And anyway, what kind of “toleration” is that? There is no significance to “toleration” if the Church is not present in these “far away lands” because the Church is not there to tolerate them! Toleration ONLY has meaning when the Church is confronted with error in “Christian lands”. Your position essentially amounts to tolerating the Muslim worshipping in Iran but not in New Jersey or Assisi, for that matter.

By the way, how do you define “embracing”? Simply by the act of tolerating the error irrespective of geographical location? I hardly think that is a legitimate argument. Embracing the error would mean subscribing to its teachings. Show us where the Church has done this. And please, be specific.

Also, you keep going on about allowing these people to pray on “our sacred grounds”. But that is what Pius XII allowed in monasteries and convents during the Second World War, so what is the problem?

RS2:In regards to the pope, you consistently fail to distinguish when he is teaching truth from when he makes mistakes. In regards to DH, you consistently fail to make the proper distinctions between the civil right to religious freedom and the morality of it.

JP2: In regards to the former, who is to say when he is doing either? You? Is that what the Catholic faith teaches? No, that is not what it teaches at all:

RS3: Lumen Gentium says we submit to “authentic teaching authority,” not the pope’s personal opinions. If and when the pope makes an authoritative declaration that inviting pagans to Assisi comes under the “authentic teaching authority” of the papacy, then we are required to submit to it. But so far, Assisi is about as “inauthentic” as papal actions come. Not only has the pope not made any authentic authoritative statement about Assisi, but he has contradicted every “authentic teaching authority” of past popes, councils, saints, doctors, and Scripture on the subject.

You might be able to see the distinction between a pope’s “authentic teaching authority” and his personal opinions if you read the rest of Lumen Gentium 25. After “decisions made by him,” the part you cut out says, “conformably with his manifest mind and intention, which is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated.” In other words, John, “authentic teaching authority” is when the pope is teaching a “doctrine,” not when he is giving his personal opinion or engaging in his own personal actions. I don’t know anywhere the pope has declared that Assisi is a “doctrine” of the Catholic Church.

JP3: The Pope did not merely give his “personal opinion”. He involved the Church and spoke on behalf of the Church at Assisi. If it were merely “personal”, he would not have involved the Episcopacy in it. In regards to his “manifest mind and intention”, can you honestly say that you submit to John Paul II’s decisions with “sincere assent”? I don’t think so. As far as Assisi being a “doctrine of the Church”, the relevance comes into yielding to Dignitatis Humanae, Nostra Aetate, Ad Gentes, and Evangelii Nuntiandi along with other Encyclicals which support Assisi:

All of these sources taken collectively are clearly pointing to Assisi. Robert, do these latter two encyclicals qualify as an “authentic exercise” in the Pope’s Magisterium? Yes or no? And if they do, then how can you possibly divorce these teachings from the events at Assisi which are a mere reflection of the words written in these Encyclicals? For instance, RM 57 above has Assisi written ALL OVER IT.

JP2: As to the latter, religious freedom is not merely a civil right, but a moral one, having its foundation in the intrinsic dignity of man which is given to him by His Creator. Mind you, I am not saying that religious error is a moral right, only his freedom to choose is. There's another distinction for you :)

RS3: Freedom to choose is certainly a God-given right, but freedom to choose a false religion is not a moral right, unless, of course, you can tell us where Vatican II said religious freedom is a moral right. The only thing I find in Dignitatis Humanae is that “This right of the human person to religious freedom must be given such recognition in the constitutional order of society as will make it a CIVIL RIGHT” (The General Principle of Religious Freedom, Chapter 1, #2)

JP3: Robert, I have already cited the texts time and time again. I’ll cite it again for you:

There is NO SUCH THING as a civil right without an underlying moral right – otherwise you would be saying that the Church condones civil laws without the underlying moral foundation to them. If you read the paragraph carefully, you will see that freedom is based on the dignity of the human person AS KNOWN THROUGH THE REVEALED WORD OF GOD. That makes it a moral right having its foundation in Sacred Scripture. Having established the moral right to religious freedom, the Council goes on to insist that this moral right be recognized as a civil right by the State. One follows the other.

If you don't think so, ask one of your Trad buddies. I guarantee that they will agree with me on this point. Your position is heretical.


RS2: First of all, the passage doesn’t say anything about the Catholic Church inviting Muslims to a holy Catholic place and directing them to pray to Allah so that they can think they are making contact with the true God.

JP2: Here we go again with something that was never done. But, since you're on this kick, Robert, let's go full throttle with this one. Can you please explain how Cornelieus' prayer to "Allah" was heard?

Cornelius was not a Jew. Nor was he a Christian at the time. So how and why did God hear his prayer?

RS3: God heard his prayer because the text says he was praying to God. You don’t know anything about Cornelius to say anything different. Apparently, he was told by someone to pray to the true God. He was not told to pray to a false god, nor told that praying to a false god was the same as praying to the true God. Here is what the text says: “Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually.” You don’t see anything there about praying to pagan gods, do you John? And you don’t see anything in the context about Peter telling Cornelius to pray to a pagan god or that he had the “religious freedom” to do so, do you? No, what you see is Peter giving the rest of the gospel to Cornelius, Cornelius giving a profession of faith in the Christian God, and Peter baptizing him – something the pope hasn’t done for the 16 years between Asissi 1 and Assisi 2, and has no intentions of doing. What’s more, John, is that you have just trapped yourself, for in appealing to Acts 10 you are now stuck with it. If it doesn’t support what you are contending, then the very passage you cite will condemn you.

JP3: Now why would I want to run away from Acts 10? Acts 10 completely destroys your objection, Robert. You are simply not being a good sport and conceding that I might have a point. The fact is that Cornelius was praying to “God”. But Cornelius was not a Jew or a Christian. Therefore his conception of God was at least somewhat limited and incorrect. Now then, how is that substantially different from a Muslim? How is it that you can categorically say that God is not hearing a Muslim-Cornelius? The simple fact is: you can’t. You are simply limiting God’s grace and love to one non-Christian arbitrarily who just so happens to be described in Sacred Scripture. The fact that the bible only mentions one man DOES NOT mean that there cannot be others, especially considering that there are likely many Cornelius’ throughout the centuries.

Did you catch that, Robert? Now, what was that about the Pope not preaching baptism and repentance?

RS2:Furthermore, CCC 841 is quoting from Lumen Gentium 16. Paragraph 16 is dealing solely with groups of people who have not had the opportunity to hear the Gospel as yet. The first sentence of Lumen Gentium 16 says: “Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways.” It is talking about people who, residing in their own lands, through no fault of their own, have not had the opportunity to hear the Gospel from Catholic missionaries. So the question comes back: What is to be done with these people who have had no opportunity to hear the Gospel? Do they still have the opportunity to be saved? The answer is yes, because at least they acknowledge the Creator and adore him. God, of course, will determine the rest.

JP2: Agreed. But here is something that you need to come to terms with. For these people who adore the Creator, what is your disposition towards them before they accept the Gospel? Before they are culpably responsible for rejecting the Gospel? You've just said that they "adore the Creator". Is their current adoration a sin? Is it an abomination? No. It is not. It only becomes an abomination when they are convicted of the truth of Jesus Christ, but not before. Until then, they are not culpable for their false worship and must be allowed to fulfill their religious impulse which is placed their by the Creator.

RS3: The issue is not whether the Muslims are culpable, but whether John Paul II is culpable. Since Lumen Gentium specifies their condition as “not receiving the Gospel,” it is the pope’s responsibility to preach the Gospel to them, not, when he meets them, to continue to pray to their false gods. As Jesus says in Mt 18:7: “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!”

JP3: Suppose that you’re evangelical friend convened a meeting of some neighbours for the express purpose of discussing some neighbourhood municipal issue. Suppose further that 1 minute into the meeting, he started giving those assembled the Evangelical shpeel about faith alone, the errors of Catholicism, etc. etc. Would you be particularly impressed with him? Would you respect his “religious zeal”? I know wouldn’t. He’s an ass for suckering you there on false pretenses. Likewise, Assisi must be understood, not as a dialogue where some real evangelism can go on, but for an expressly different purpose: to foster respect among religions so that, after everyone departs, there is a basis for evangelization.

RS2: But this has absolutely nothing to do with Assisi. Lumen Gentium and CCC 841 are speaking ONLY about those who have never heard of Jesus Christ and the Gospel of salvation.

JP2: Robert, the point of me citing the passage was not to deny that they have the objective necessity to convert to the Catholic Faith, but simply that the Catholic Church recognizes they too "worship with us the one and merciful God," and although they have a misconception of who He truly is, the Church is not directing them to worship ANOTHER God or a "false god". For, if She were so doing, then she would HERSELF be worshipping a false God! The error does not rest in the "one God" but in the false worship of Him.

RS3: If the Church says the pagans have a misconception of who He truly is, then it is the Church’s responsibility to inform them of the right conception. That is called the GOSPEL, John. It’s the same thing Paul told the pagans on Mars Hill after he found them with a wrong conception of God. Unfortunately, our pope hasn’t done this from 1986 to 2000 in his Assisi gatherings. In fact, he has reinforced their ignorance on “who He truly is,” because they are still left with the impression that they can pray to Allah for worldly favors and never have to submit to Jesus Christ. Why? Because the pope didn’t tell them otherwise.

JP3: Oh please. The Pope has been proclaiming Christ to the world throughout his whole Pontificate. Everyone knows what the Pope represents. He said it at Assisi many times. He told them that Jesus was God, and that He was their peace. This is totally appropriaate considering that the purpose of Assisi was not to engage in formal theological dialogue. If the Pope omits proclaiming the “repentance” Gospel in a dialogue situation, you do indeed have a point. And the Pope himself seems to agree:

You can hardly accuse the Pope of failing to preach a Gospel of repentance, Robert. You are simply refusing to accept that there are some venues which are appropriate and other that are not. Why can’t you see this?

RS2: At Assisi they had ample opportunity to hear the Gospel, and in fact, you later claim that “Christ” was preached to them, so you automatically disqualify them from Lumen Gentium 16.

JP2: Well, then, if you are going to use LG 16 against me and rely on me saying that "Christ was preached to them", what is your complaint? You've just conceded that Christ was preached to them! It seems to me that you have won the battle but lost the war :)

RS3: No, I am not saying the Gospel was preached to them. I am merely pointing out the contradiction in your own argument, since you use Lumen Gentium 16, which speaks about those who haven’t heard of Christ, and then you claim that the pagans of Assisi HAVE heard of Christ. That is a contradiction, John. Don’t try to lay YOUR contradiction on me.

JP3: Lumen Gentium 16 is dealing with the general approach to Evangelization. It does not cover every single event the Church engages in. Do you think it would be appropriate to preach the “repent and be baptized” message to a group of Muslims who have come to the Vatican to discuss ways of halting the U.N.’s population control program? Yes or no? Or what about your Evangelical friend on the abortion picket line, Robert? Go on…preach Unam Sanctum to him while you are walking up and down the sidewalk in front of the abortuary. Learn what Our Lord means when He says: “everyone who is not against you is for you.” You need to admit what is obvious to everyone else: there are times and places for everything. Even Our Lord did not actually preach “repentence” in every recorded interaction in the Gospels, did He? As you can see, your position becomes more and more untenable as we start to pick at it.

RS2:Nevertheless, that Lumen Gentium 16 is indeed telling the pope to preach the Gospel to the pagans at Assisi is proved by its reference to Acts 17. The rest of paragraph 16 says: “Nor is God remote from those who in the shadows and images seek the unknown God, since he gives to all men life and breath and all things (cf., Acts 17:25-28, and since the Saviour wills all men to be saved (cf., 1 Tim 2:4).”

Since Lumen Gentium uses Acts 17 as its basis for argumentation, then Lumen Gentium would have no objection to seeing what happened in Acts 17. Did Paul tell the Muslims to continue praying to Allah, or the Buddhist to Buddah, or the animist to the Great Thumb? Did he tell them to go pray to their false gods on one side of Mars Hill while he and the apostles prayed on the other side? Did he send them home with the idea that they could still pray to their false gods without the slightest compunction? No, not at all. He told them that the “unknown God” (which means that they did not know who God was) was the Christian God, and that their worship of other gods was to be stopped. He told them that God once overlooked such ignorance but is now declaring that all men everywhere should repent (which included repenting of their ignorance of praying to false gods) because he has fixed a day in which he will judge the world by Jesus Christ, and has proved this by raising him from the dead.

So as Lumen Gentium is quoting Acts 17, then Lumen Gentium is cognizant of the fact that the pagans of Mars Hill can no longer claim ignorance and pray to their false gods, for the Gospel has indeed been preached to them. As St. Paul did, when the opportunity arises as it did at Assisi, the Church MUST preach the Gospel to the pagans. She cannot leave them in ignorance. But she indeed DOES leave them in ignorance when she doesn’t say one word about repentance, Jesus Christ the judge of men’s sins, or that God is no longer tolerating praying to pagan gods.

JP2: Robert, since later in this discussion you have "called me out" on the Holy Father's speech at Assisi, I obtained a copy of both of his speeches from 1986 and 2002. I can tell you, quite plainly, that I think that the Holy Father did indeed proclaim the Gospel message. And he did so with more frequency and vigor than I originally expected. This particularly true of the 1986 encounter. We shall discuss the text of his speech later on to see if the mandate of preaching the Gospel was fulfilled. I hope you have read the 1986 text in considering your indictment.

RS: ...and you promote such pagan prayer by removing the crucifixes from their designated prayer rooms; and, instead of prayers of repentance, you tell them to recite their ancient pagan incantations and use their own implements of worship, in that case, you are no longer merely "tolerating," rather, you are "directing" them to do such things.

JP: No, rather you are respecting their freedom to worship as Dignitas Humanae commands us to do without any kind of veiled coercion. You wouldn't like the Big Thumb placed in one of our chapels, would you? Do not give what is holy to dogs.

RS2: John, listen to what you are saying. You are admitting that there is false worship going on in the room, and you are condoning it!

JP2: No, Robert. I AM NOT CONDONING IT. Just like YOU are not condoning the false worship going on just down the street from you at the local Mosque.

RS3: You can respect their “religious freedom” to worship their false gods all you want. Just don’t invite them to do it on holy Catholic ground and think that you are promoting religious freedom. All you are promoting is worshiping a false god. If you don’t make this distinction, then there is no distinction between idol worship and Christianity, and all the passage in the Old and New Testaments that condemn idolatry are superfluous.

JP3: No, Robert. We are simply recognizing that religious freedom exists in Iran and across from Robert Sungenis’ house in Alexandria. You can’t stop it at the border. :)

RS2:Instead of teaching the pagan that he shouldn’t be praying to the Great Thumb, you actually give him a room to do it, and one in which you even take the emblem of the Gospel (the cross) out of his way so that he doesn’t have to be confronted by its meaning.

JP2: Give me a break, OK? These people are coming from all over the world to a Catholic Cathedral, Robert. D'ja think they won't be confronted with Catholicism up to their ying yang? They probably got a Crucifix in their loot bag for all we know. There's no reason to rub their noses in it when they try to worship according to their consciences. This was not Our Lord's approach. Why should it be the Church's?

RS3: I hope God gives you a break, John, since from everything you’ve said thus far you’re going to need it. Perhaps when you feel the awkwardness about saying that giving them the gospel is “rubbing their noses in it,” then perhaps you will see the truth. As for “Our Lord’s approach,” please tell us where he ever invited pagans to pray to their false gods, or where he refrained from giving his audience the Gospel of salvation and judgment, that only He was the way the truth and the life who could provide it. Please show us, John.

JP3: The Pope did not refrain from telling those gathered at Assisi that Jesus was their Saviour and their peace. In fact, which is closer to Assisi? Acts 17 or John 4?

The Pope:

RS2: And then you try to rationalize this by saying that we wouldn’t like a statue of the Great Thumb in our Catholic Church. What kind of convoluted logic is this? Since when have the sentiments of a pagan worshiper become the standard of measurement for how we do things in the Catholic Church?

JP2: Excuse me? We respect their freedom of worship by not imposing the Gospel, JUST LIKE we would expect the same from them! The Gospel is to be received with genuine sincerity - not forced down their throats by insisting that they worship in front of a religious symbol they do not yet accept. Is this your idea of religious freedom?

RS3: Stop the demagoguery, John. No one is “forcing” Christianity down their throats. They can have all the “religious freedom” they want, in their own lands. Unfortunately for you, “religious freedom” has become a religion in itself. You hold “religious freedom” on a higher plane than you do the Gospel itself.

JP3: Don’t be ridiculous, Robert. Religious freedom is intrinsic to the Gospel. That’s what DH teaches us (DH,2), but unfortunately for you, you can’t seem to understand that. And you still have a hard time understanding that your evangelization program is stuck in the Middle Ages (“in their own lands”) instead of the 21st century:

RS: You are taking the role of organizer, promoter and facilitator. The fact that you have promoted this same act twice at Assisi, and a half dozen other times around the world, means that you have an agenda to make sure that these things continue to happen, at your direction. That's what "directors" do, John. They make sure everyone plays their part and does so on que.

JP: Yes, I guess you could say that the Church is a director of sorts. So what? Somebody has to direct when you open up the lines of communication.

RS2: Well then, you just indicted the pope. In case you forgot the opening of this dialogue, here is what was said:

RS2: First, the fact that you know that "directing" them to pray to their false gods would be wrong, you admit the potentiality of an abomination at Assisi. Hence, you are now forced to prove that there was no "directing" at Assisi. If you can't, then you have just indicted the pope.

JP:Sure, there is a potentiality in many things. But we are not dealing with potentiality but actuality :)

RS2: Of course, the actuality comes when you can’t disprove that the pope was directing the pagans to pray to their false gods.

JP2: Again, Robert, the burden of proof is on YOU to prove your case. It is not on me to disprove something. You're the prosecution, my good friend. It is your assertion that the Pope directed pagans to pray to false gods. I conceded "directing to pray to the one true God" but not to "false gods".

RS3: There is no escape, John. You have just indicted the pope by saying that he “directs” people to pray to the true God by telling them to keep praying to their false god. Please show us where, outside the personal beliefs of John Paul II, that the Fathers, the Medievals, saints, doctors, other popes, councils or Scripture has ever taught that we are to direct prayer to the true God by telling pagans to keep praying to false gods.

JP3: The Pope did not tell them to keep praying to their false gods. He tolerated them doing so in a venue that was not appropriate for direct evangelization. Such an event is what Nuntiandi properly terms “pre-evangelization” which is, according to the same document, is evangelization in a “true sense”. You need to get out of the “either/or” approach, Robert. It’s both. We can sow seeds AND directly evangelize as the circumstances warrant. There is a Protestant grandmother sitting in prison right now for standing up to our reprobate government. She was arrested for picketing an Abortion clinic. I’ll be sure to let her Catholic friends and visitors know that it is absolutely necessary for them to preach Unam Sanctum to her.

Oh yes, and as for the “Medieval Popes” you keep going on about, here is something for you. Pope Gregory VII made the following statement to Muslim King Anazir of Maurentania:

Robert, under your rubric, why is Pope Gregory VII given a pass but John Paul II refused one? Why didn’t the Pope tell the King to repent, be baptized, and reject his pagan god? Is Pope Gregory a modernist?

RS: Moreover, when the Catholic Church invites them to pray to their false gods she is sending a clear signal that there is nothing wrong with praying to false gods,

JP: No. I don't think that is a fair statement at all. Rather, she is telling these people, as she has always done, that there is one truth and one faith, but that our God is merciful and patient and respects their freedom as human persons.

RS2: Really? I’m sure God just loves it when, after he’s told us that he doesn’t tolerate men praying to false gods any longer in Acts 17, and which message has been repeated over and over again by previous popes and councils, but John Paul II decides that God was much too quick and impatient to enforce his intolerance on the pagans. The pope is going to be more patient than God himself, and thus, for 16 years, he’s not going to mention a word about the pagans forsaking their idols.

JP2: So I get it. He's supposed to single out every single religion there and tell them all that unless they repent, they are going to be judged and go to hell?

RS3: He can do it as nice as he wants, just as long as he does it. Read how Paul did it in Acts 17:30-31. He got several converts out of that message, as Acts 17:32f tells us.

JP3: And what I am telling you is that you are dogmatizing an approach to evangelization which is not necessarily the best way of converting people. The Catholic faith appeals to people because it touches almost every aspect of human endeavour. In order to draw people in, the best approach is to speak the gospel in terms that they can relate to, keeping in mind the circumstances you find yourself in. If you take your approach to its logical extension, Robert, you would have to say that every single person you come in contact with – from the grocery store clerk to the dry cleaner – should be told in no uncertain terms: “repent or be damned”. Do you do that?

JP2:Is this the message that wins people over, even when they really don't know what they are really converting to? Good Grief. There are so many glorious truths of Catholicism which draw people into the faith. It's all about pushing the right buttons.

RS3: There you go again, John, trying to make preaching the gospel into a grudge match. All you need tell them, with sincere love, is that Jesus Christ died for their sins and He wants them to follow Him. It’s not really that hard. But I guess your “right buttons” are telling them to pray to false gods for world peace. How many converts did that make, John? Did you find any of the Buddhists or Muslims or witch doctors converting to Christianity after that message?

JP3: Uh huh. And do you seriously believe that threatening people with hell fire would make them more or less receptive to the Gospel so that they are scared into the Father’s love? I suggest to you that most participants came away more open to the Gospel of Jesus Christ under the Pope’s approach than the one you are proposing.

JP2: And to be honest, Robert, I trust the Holy Father to know which buttons to press which will lead people into the faith. This conference was about peace so the Holy Father went with that theme and incorporated the Gospel message of peace into the conference. The people assembled wanted to hear about what each religion taught about peace. Well, the Gospel has a lot to say about that.

RS3: The Gospel is about the most important Peace. That is, making peace with God (Romans 5:1). If you don’t think so, then show us where Jesus speaks about seeking “world peace” as part of the Gospel. There is, of course, a world peace that men preach in place of peace with God, as Ezekiel 13:10f tells us. They say “Peace, Peace,” and cover over the house of God with whitewash.

JP3: Making peace with God MEANS making peace among men. Or perhaps you disagree with this simple maxim?

Remember, Robert, the Pope said that JESUS was our peace.

JP2:To me, that's how to attract these pagans to the Faith. Fire and brimstone can come later once they understand what the Church teaches about love and peace BECAUSE THAT'S THE GAME IN TOWN. For all we know, some hell-bent preacher dressed in white is only marginally better than what elder Witchdoctor "Mufuulu" tells them back home.

RS3: Some attraction. Can you tell us anyone who has converted to the Christian faith from 17 years of Assisi meetings, John? I don’t know of any, nor does the Press. As for “fire and brimstone,” why don’t you stop trying to caricature the Gospel as if Jonathan Edwards were doing the preaching? This just shows me how desperate you are to excuse yourself from not having to tell them the truth. I suggest you read what Paul said to the pagans of Mars Hill in Acts 17:30-31, and there you will find the balance you need: “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

JP3: Here is the context of Acts 17:

From the beginning of this discussion, you've been trying to play Acts 17 against Assisi like its some kind of trump card when it is not. Notice the setting in Acts 17 involves the philosophers "taking and bringing" Paul to the Areopagus and asking him what the Christian faith was about. That is not what happened at Assisi. At Assisi, the Pope invited non-Catholics to assemble for a completely different purpose. The non-Catholics did not invite the Pope to the Areopagus to teach them about Christianity.

JP2: Let me ask you something, Robert. Suppose you were asked by your local Pro-life Group to give a short talk on the biblical basis for opposing abortion and contraception. And further suppose that included in that group were a good number of Evangelical Protestants. Now, then, in order to win them to the Catholic Faith, which approach do you want to choose:

If you want to win souls for the Church, preach #1. If you want to be right and be very unsuccessful, try #2.

RS3: I only wish you were so logical when it came to condemning praying to false gods.

JP3: Sorry. I didn't get your answer, Robert. Which approach would you use? Your answer implies that you would favour #1. Is that right? If it is, then you just conceded the Pope's approach.

JP2: Moreover, you don't seem to understand that the Church considers the preaching of the Gospel is to be done, in some cases, in a gradual way. Once you can appreciate that reality, then your difficulties can be set aside. Here is some text from Ad Gentes which confirms this:

RS3: And where does Ad Gentes suggest that these "beginnings" or "leading strings toward God" are to be accomplished by telling pagans to pray to their false gods? If you can't answer that, perhaps you can tell us when the pope plans on preaching the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ and asking them to accept Him to the pagans of Asissi. It's been 17 years. Many of them have died already without hearing that Gospel. The pope himself may die soon. When does he plan on following through?

JP3: Who said anything about the POPE following through? Why is it necessary for the POPE to follow through? He may or he may not. That's not the point at all. The point is whether the CHURCH will follow through, and to this command the Holy Father is very clear:

Ever heard of "good cop/bad cop"? And by the way, what is worse? The Holy Father's pre-evangelization approach at Assisi or having Muslim countries KEEP their doors closed to Jesus Christ, century after century as we watch millions of Muslims die year after year because of a refusal to adapt our evangelization strategy? Robert, if you want to indict the Pope for not converting the Muslims at Assisi, that’s fine. But then let’s play fair. When I ask you to show your cards on penetrating Muslim countries, I see the Holy Father holding a Straight Flush. You, on the other hand, don’t even have a Pair.

JP2: Also, as for imputing to me that Ad Gentes "telling pagans to pray to their false gods", this is ridiculous and you are simply is side stepping the issue: evangelization takes TIME:

"...she experiences beginnings and degrees in that action by which she strives to make God's plan a reality.

RS3: Oh, but didn't you tell us already that the pope DID preach the Gospel at Assisi, especially in 1986? Here are your words: "I can tell you, quite plainly, that I think that the Holy Father did indeed proclaim the Gospel message. And he did so with more frequency and vigor than I originally expected. This particularly true of the 1986 encounter." If you believe that is the case, John, then why did you give the reference above to Ad Gentes 3 and 6 which both assume the Gospel hasn't been preached to them yet? Sounds like you're contradicting yourself again.

JP3: The contradiction only exists in your mind, Robert. Nobody else has a difficulty understanding it. Let me repeat it for you again. I have always maintained that Assisi was indeed "evangelization" but only the beginnings of it. You know, like Evangelii Nuntiandi says:

JP2: And here are some selections from Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975), by Pope Paul VI saying the same thing:

RS3: Wonderful, John. Now, can you tell us where Paul VI says that “pre-evangelism” consists of telling the pagan to pray to his false god for worldly favors? Can you tell us where Paul VI ever recommended that we send pagans home, for 16 years, without ever telling them of their responsibility to accept Jesus Christ and to repent of their sins? In fact, the last statement of Paul VI more or less indicts John Paul II, since for 16 years between 1986 and 2000 John Paul II has “withheld from these non-Christians the proclamation of Jesus Christ.”

JP3: Proclamation of Jesus Christ? Did you not read the text of the 1986 text? Here are a couple of proclamations:

“I profess here anew my conviction, shared by all Christians, that in Jesus Christ, as Savior of all, true peace is to be found…”

"I humbly repeat here my own conviction: peace bears the name of Jesus Christ."

RS3: And if you think John Paul II is not guilty of this, please notice the TYPE OF PREACHING that Paul VI tells us must be done. He writes: “To reveal Jesus Christ and His Gospel to those who do not know them has been, ever since the morning of Pentecost, the fundamental program which the Church has taken on as received from her Founder. The whole of the New Testament, and in a special way the Acts of the Apostles, bears witness to a privileged and in a sense exemplary moment of this missionary effort which will subsequently leave its mark on the whole history of the Church.”.

JP3: Just listen to yourself, Robert! Pitting Pope VI against John Paul II! Good grief. Ask your traditionalist buddies if that makes any sense. And as for citing the Encyclical, please try and put it within the context of the ENTIRE citation which mentions “pre-evangelization” and “complex and delicate situations”.

RS3: John, I suggest that you look at the “Acts of the Apostles.” I did a study on this a few years ago. I was among people who just wanted to be “nice” to everyone and not preach the gospel of sin and repentance. What I found was that, in every instance that the Acts records the Apostles preaching the Gospel, the issue of sin and repentance was included. Every time. (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 8:22; 10:42; 11:18; 13:24; 17:30; 19:4; 20:21; 26:20). And that’s just in the book of Acts.

JP3: I see. So, in your opinion, you don’t think the Holy Father was preaching a Gospel of repentance to those assembled in the slightest way? I think he was. I don’t necessarily see a Buddhist being pro-life do you? How about the rest of the Eastern religions? Do they have a Christian life ethic? No they don’t. Yet what do we see? We see the Holy Father preaching the Christian life ethic to them – in effect, giving them the Christian gospel of respect for life:

RS3: In fact, look at Acts 10:42-43, the very chapter in which the Apostles are dealing with Cornelius. Peter says to Cornelius: “And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” Notice that Peter says he was “ordered” to preach the Gospel of Jesus as the “Judge of the living and the dead” and that “everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” That’s the same Gospel that Paul preached to the pagans of Mars Hill in Acts 17:30-31. Tell me, John, has the pope ever preached this to the pagans at Assisi? Is he really following Paul VI’s words? I don’t think so. The only “mark on the whole history of the Church” that John Paul II has left is that praying to pagan gods is now acceptable as praying to the true God.

JP3: I guess, then, he is in good company in his approach:

RS2: Be that as it may, if your concern is telling people “there is one truth and one faith, but that our God is merciful...” then for heaven’s sake, John, preach the GOSPEL to them. What better way to tell them of “one truth and one faith” than to preach about Jesus Christ and his desire to save them from their sins and that judgment day is coming soon? Why are you so afraid of preaching the Gospel to them, John? Take a lesson from St. Paul. He wasn’t fearful at all. His first order of business was telling them to repent of their sins and that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and will be their judge.

JP2: Like I said above, Robert. You need to speak to the crowd you are addressing. St. Paul assessed the situation he was in, and opted for the hard sell approach. I don't second guess him on that, obviously. I'm all for a little kick-ass approach at times :), but I also admit that it's not a one-size fits all solution. The Gospel includes many great teachings. The key is finding out which truth best appeals to your audience, and magnifying the Gospel's teaching on it so that it starts the ball rolling on sincere inquiry.

RS3: So John, tell us where the Gospel, in its “great teachings,” says that its okay to tell pagans to pray to their false gods for worldly favors? Tell us where the NT says that Paul merely used the “kick-ass approach” (whatever you envision that as being). According to your criterion, it would be perfectly all right for the pope to tell teenagers to use an Ouiji board at Assisi, or allow fortune tellers to use Tarot cards at Assisi, or have Anton Levay perform a black mass at Assisi, since these are all expressions of “religious freedom” that need to be exercised for the sake of the Gospel. That’s what your new position amounts to, John.

JP3: The Pope did not invite any of the aforementioned groups. Anyhow, poor Anton kicked off a few years back. And take note that there were no Western representatives of the non-Christian religions present.

RS2: THAT was the message that made them think. He didn’t coddle them and say, “Okay, you can still pray to your false gods, because in that way you will still be praying to the true God, and we won’t have to talk about you submitting to Jesus Christ right now. In fact, we won’t have to do that for the foreseeable future, since all we are interested in is unity and world peace right now. We’ll let your soul take care of itself. In fact, since you can already pray to God through your false gods, then you have as much access to God as you need, and indeed are already part of his salvation.” in fact, you probably know Jesus Christ already through your false gods, since if you can access God for favors through your false gods, and Jesus Christ is God, then why do I have to bother leading you to Christ?” Is that what he told them, John? Be honest. He said just the opposite, and Assisi said just the opposite of what St. Paul did in Acts 17.

JP2: Robert, this is a PASTORAL approach to a question of evangelization. I don't agree with you that fire and brimstone is necessarily the FIRST truth of Catholicism you need to relate to your audience. And guess what? Most loyal Catholics would probably agree with me. Damnation is certainly not something we should run from if and when we are confronted with an inquiry into it, but we are dealing with delicate situations. You do understand that there are truths better left for a later time, don't you? We don't want the little bird to fly away before getting a chance to eat the premium grade seed it likes. We need interest, catechesis, and then context.

RS3: See my above comments.

RS2:And please don’t use the excuse that “Acts 17 doesn’t apply to Assisi.” That has already been disproved by the fact that CCC 841, which you used above, is quoting from Lumen Gentium 16 which refers specifically and directly to Acts 17.

JP2: I already explained this to you above. The point of citing the Catechism was to simply point out that the Muslims adore the "one and merciful God WITH US". In other words, they are not worshipping a false god.

RS3: And I already explained to you that the onus is not on the Muslims, but on the pope for failing to preach the Gospel to the Muslims when he was supposed to do so. At 83 years old, he has still not yet preached the Gospel to the Muslims, or to any other pagan group that came to Assisi.

JP3: No further comment.

JP2: And as far as my contention that Mars Hill and Assisi are different settings, yes, they are. Paul was called to defend the beliefs he was propagating in front of a mostly hostile crowd of Epicureans and Stoics who "scoffed at the Ressurection" (Cf. Acts 17:32). The former believed that God did not concern himself with man while the latter thought that man did not need God. This is hardly the setting of Assisi - quite the opposite actually. All of the participants acknowledge the need to pray for peace. This is why at Mars Hill, the setting was more appropriate to the hard sell. And frankly, the precocious pricks in the Areopagus deserved St. Paul's boot. At Assisi, however, we have an assembly of men of good will where there is already a movement toward the Gospel message of peace, and where the Church is in a setting conducive to witnessing to Our Lord.

RS3: Wishful thinking, John. Not only does your assessment go against Vatican II’s quoting of Acts 17 in the context of ecumenism, but the men at Mars Hill open to finding the true God, which is why they made a statue to the unknown god. As for the resurrection, tell me how many Hindus at Assisi do not also scoff at the resurrection. I didn’t hear about any of them renouncing their belief in reincarnation.

JP3: Maybe not, but then again the Holy Father had a captive audience in communicating that Jesus was divine; that He is our salvation and our peace; and that we must respect human life and dignity. How many Popes have preached to such a captive audience? Won’t you agree that it is a start? Won’t you agree with Ad Gentes:

JP:Furthermore, all of the religions present believe their own creeds are correct - and the others are false - at least to a certain extent. So no one there, and certainly not the Church, is telling the other guys that it's "OK" to worship something that is false. On the contrary, those assembled are coming together to show the world that people and religions can live together without blowing one another up.

RS2: Sounds like you’ve been talking with Mark Shea, John. He always tried to minimize praying to false gods by claiming that at least no one was going to be blown up if we all got together and prayed. Is that what our goal is now - just that we don’t blow each other up? Is that the distinctive Christian message we have for the world - “The Gospel of Jesus Christ: Ten Easy Ways Not to Get Blown Up.” I thought our goal was to get to heaven? What happens when you get blown up and your soul ends up in hell?

JP2: The Gospel includes fostering and promoting peace among men. Or perhaps you disagree with Our Lord's opinion of peacemakers?

RS3: Who is against peace, John? Certainly not me. Please get this clear. I am against telling pagans to pray to their false gods in order to obtain worldly peace. In Mt 5:9, Jesus was speaking in the context of acknowledging the true God through Himself, since only He was the way, the truth and the life.

JP3: Oh , do you mean the peace that comes through Jesus? So if you had to formulate that in the form of a proclamation, would the following be acceptable to you:

RS2: Be that as it may, has the pope really stopped the blowing up of people, John? Not at all. If anything it has increased since his Assisi efforts, and there is more tension in the world. If you really want peace, then you need to stop preaching a false gospel, because the only thing you are doing by telling pagans that they have access to God through worshiping their false gods is making God angry, and he will not allow you to have peace when he is angry. As Our Lady of Fatima said, be obedient to God first, and then he will make peace come (cf. Ezekiel 13:10-16).

JP2: Robert, if I am preaching a false gospel, then so is Pope John Paul II. If you are telling me that the Pope is preaching a false gospel, then you are simply a proto-Protestant. Yes, I know. On paper you're still Catholic. But functionally, you are no different from any Protestant apologist who says the same thing. And as far as getting favours through "false gods", under your rubric, Cornelius worshipped a false god. Why did God listen to him?

RS3: No, Cornelius did not worship a false god, since the text says he prayed to the true God. We’ve already been over this. As for your accusation that disagreeing with the pope equates to being a “proto-Protestant,” and merely Catholic “on paper,” I suggest you read Canon Law 212 and read the lives of the saints who helped and corrected the pope. Your name-calling doesn’t phase me in the least. It just shows how weak your arguments really are.

JP3: Canon Law 212? Hey, I know a good canon lawyer that can help you with that section :)

JP:And that society has an obligation to protect the right to religious expression. This is what DH teaches. And this is what Assisi attempts to put into "practical application":

JP: We shall discuss this paragraph more fully below.

RS2: So in your opinion the real issue is “freedom to worship and pray to whom you desire”, rather than worshiping and praying to Jesus Christ. The be-all and end-all of our existence is “freedom” not Jesus Christ.

JP2: That's a silly and obtuse caricature of my position. We do not have the moral right to "pray to whom we desire". On the contrary, we have the right and the responsibility to submit to what we believe to be the truth EVEN IF IT IS NOT WHAT WE DESIRE.

RS3: Silly caricature? Perhaps you want to read your own words you wrote a few paragraphs ago. Here’s what you said: “As to the latter, religious freedom is not merely a civil right, but a moral one, having its foundation in the intrinsic dignity of man which is given to him by His Creator.” So tell me how, as you say above, “we do not have the moral right to pray to whom we desire,” yet in a preceding paragraph you say, “religious freedom is not merely a civil right, but a moral one”?

JP3: Let me clarify what I meant. As a Catholic, I am not free to worship “what I desire”; in the sense of capitulating to my sinful nature. Likewise, a Muslim believes the same thing. He does not have the option of believing what he might like to believe, but he is bound to the truth as he understands it. In other words, every human person is bound to follow what he knows to be the truth.

JP2: Before the objective truth becomes known (i.e. Catholicism), man's religious nature must be fulfilled somehow, and this is where man must be allowed to pursue religious truth unencumbered. I am with John Paul II: freedom to pursue religious truth is a moral right, but with this dignity comes the equally grave responsiblity to submit to it once it becomes known. That, Robert, is what Catholicism is about, and that is what I believe.

RS3: Please tell us where any council, pope, or even Vatican II said that man has the moral right to pursue any other religion than Catholicism. And if your caveat is that John Paul holds that they must “submit to it,” then please tell us where John Paul has demanded that the pagan submit to the Christian God.

JP3: They do not have an objective right to error. But, because of original sin, man’s vision of Catholic truth is dimmed and obscured. As such, God is patient and tolerant of man’s search for the truth and his pursuit of it. This pursuit may not lead to finding the fullness of truth immediately, but may take him through many religious confessions before he arrives at the fullness of truth in the Catholic faith. I am sure you can appreciate this, Robert, since you have made a little journey YOURSELF. So, in other words, man has a moral right to take that journey, unencumbered by state or ecclesiastical coercion of any kind. For your schema to be valid, it presupposes that man has full and complete knowledge of his choice. This presupposition does not square with the Church’s teaching on original sin or God’s patient and merciful nature.

RS2: This is what you’ve done, John - you’ve made “freedom” your religion. Unfortunately, yours is the typical modernistic interpretation of Vatican II that has gotten the Church into so much trouble.

JP2: Catholicism is my religion, Robert. And freedom is a big part of it. Read the account of Adam and Eve again with this in mind. Here are some of my observations:

As for my "modernistic interpetation", are you talking about the interpretation of the Pope here? Is the Pope a modernist, Robert? Tell us, frankly.

RS3: Your analysis of Adam and Eve does not help you. Of course they had freedom. Where have I said man didn’t have freedom? Here’s the difference. Did God tell Adam to pray to or cooperate with the devil as a means to acknowledge or worship God? Obviously not. He told him to avoid the devil at all costs, and give his allegiance totally to God alone.

JP3: Of course he did not say that. But the freedom ITSELF was a positive good willed by the Creator. A Muslim prayer to God is NOT an abomination. It is only an abomination if he does so in full knowledge of the truth. This is totally consistent with Catholic teaching as Fr. Alfredo Morselli points out:

So it’s ridiculous to suggest that “pagan worship” is NECESSARILY an abomination. It cannot be a sin to pray as best you can. As such, the freedom to worship is an intrinsic good which can never be denied since there is always a yearning in man’s heart to worship. At the same time, the Church’s responsibility is to always witness to Christ. The forms of this witness, however, need to be placed within the context of each situation.

RS3: As for John Paul II, you tell me, John. In his book Sign of Contradiction, written in 1978, he says that: “This God is professed in his silence by the....Buddhist too, wrapt in contemplation as he purifies his thought, preparing the way to Nirvana,” and he quotes quite favorably all the popular liberal and modernist theologians, including Protestants, of the last few decades, e.g., Karl Rahner, Hans Kung, Henri de Lubac, Walter Kasper, Teilhard de Chardin, L. Feuerbach, Rudolph Otto, Martin Heidegger, Albert Camus, et al. He does not quote one conservative theologian in the entire book.

JP3: So what you are trying to say is that the Pope cannot refer to liberals who might have something valid to offer, even if they are wrong on other issues? If that is your criteria, then why do you refer positively to one of Rahner’s positions in Not By Faith Alone?

RS2:From your misinterpretation of CCC 841 and Lumen Gentium 16, you now do the same thing to Dignitatis Humanae, and you turn the Christian religion on its head. DH never taught that we invite pagans to a holy Catholic place nor tell them to pray to their false gods so that we can make a “practical application” of “the right to religious expression.” DH simply said that peoples in other lands who have not heard the Gospel have the civil right not to be coerced into accepting another religion. That’s all, John. You, on the other hand, are trying to make that civil right into a moral and soteriological right, and, in fact, into another religion altogether. Your religion has become freedom of religion, and you promote it by directing the pagans to practice their freedom of religion in our sacred buildings just so you can make a point about freedom.

JP2: No, Robert. That's not all DH teaches. Let me repeat it for you again:

Did you catch the second sentence, Robert? It is distinct from the first. No one is to be restrained from worshipping according to his conscience. This is not a mere civil right but a moral one as well. Freedom of worship involves a person's conscience which belongs in the moral sphere. It is time for you to submit to the plain reading of the text. Now, let me repeat the question for you: explain to me how the Vatican can restrain the Muslim from praying at Assisi and be faithful to DH?

RS3: That I would even have to explain this to you is truly disheartening. If the pope would have listened to Vatican II, and every other council, he wouldn’t be inviting the pagans to Assisi in the first place, since it is not the Church’s mandate to foster pagan worship. The only thing DH stated was that individuals should be immune from coercion, not that the Church encourages them to practice their false religion, especially in Catholic holy places.

JP3: Just listen to yourself, Robert. “If the pope would have listened to Vatican II, and every other council….” Take a hint from Pius IX who said that “he was Tradition”. Sorry to rain on your parade, Robert, but John Paul II is Vatican II.


RS2: John, did you bother reading the paragraph from which the above citation appeared, or are you just into prooftexting to make a point?

Here are the three paragraphs of the context:

“As the spiritual authority appointed by Christ the Lord with the duty, imposed by divine command, of going into the whole world and preaching the Gospel to every creature, the Church claims freedom for herself in human society and before every public authority. The Church also claims freedom for herself as a society of men with the right to live in civil society in accordance with the demands of the Christian faith.

When the principle of religions freedom is not just proclaimed in words or incorporated in law but is implemented sincerely in practice, only then does the Church enjoy in law and in fact those stable conditions which give her the independence necessary for fulfilling her divine mission. Ecclesiastical authorities have been insistent in claiming this independence in society. At the same time the Christian faithful, in common with the rest of men, have the civil right of freedom from interference in leading their lives according to their conscience. A harmony exists therefore between the freedom of the Church and that religious freedom which must be recognized as the right of all men and all communities and must be sanctioned by constitutional law.

In order to satisfy the divine command: ‘Make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19), the Catholic Church must spare no effort in striving ‘that the word of the Lord may speed on and triumph’ (2 Th 3:1).” (Flannery edition, which is worded a little different than Abbots).

And I suggest your read the remaining paragraphs as well.

You will notice that the section in question opens up with a command to preach the Gospel and closes with that same command. That in itself puts you at odds with DH, since you are the one arguing that we don’t necessarily have to preach the Gospel to the pagans for the 16 years between Assisi 1 and Assisi 2.

JP3: But, Robert, I am not disputing that the document clearly teaches that the Church has freedom. We both acknowledge that, for heaven's sake. I am talking about THE REST OF THE DOCUMENT which clearly affirms "religious freedom" and DOES NOT LIMIT "RELIGIOUS" to the Catholic Faith. If you are saying that it does, then it looks like Alexandria has looser pot laws than Ottawa.

And I never said that we don't have to preach the gospel to the pagans. That is you silly distortion of my position. I simply asked you to consider that there are times and places for everything, and that the manner of preaching that gospel varies between these times, places, and PERSONS. You know the saying, don't you? - Preach the gospel. If necessary use words.

JP: No, Robert. I never said that. I said that a particular part of the Gospel (the death and damnation part) might be better placed down the road a little. The Gospel has many facets to it, and a good number of them were preached at Assisi.

RS3: Really? Some Gospel. Please tell us how many pagans it converted in the last 17 years. And please tell us why you are so reticent to tell the pagan about God’s “damnation” for the 16 years between Assisi 1 and 2, if that is indeed part of the Gospel. Please tell us where the Church or Scripture gives you the right to start dissecting the Gospel to suit your own tastes. Please tell us

JP3:

As far as “dissecting the Gospel”, well, yes, even the Gospel writers themselves did that with their audiences! Some writers emphasized things the other writers did not in order to make the Gospel more appealing to their audience while still remaining within the confines of the truth. And if you are going to judge John Paul II on numbers of pagan converts to the Catholic Faith, let us measure his efforts (and those of his successors) with fairness, knowing that his strategy cannot be assessed in mere years but rather many decades. Remember, Robert, failing to penetrate these Muslim countries for centuries is AS MUCH a failure on the part of the Church as what you are accusing the Pope of.

RS2:You will also notice that the “sincerely in practice” applies first and foremost to the “Church” who, the council declares, has the civil right to worship the way she chooses without interference from anyone. Thus, when the Catholic Church practices her religion, as it has been taught for 2000 years, she is making a “sincere and practical application” of her religious freedom. If the Church were to kowtow to the government and cease preaching the Gospel because the government said so, she would not be applying a “sincere and practical application.” That is the thrust of the passage, John. It is not even remotely suggesting that pagan religions be invited to practice their pagan prayers under the roof of the Catholic Church in order to make a “sincere and practical application” of religious freedom. In fact, “religious freedom which must be recognized as the right of all men and all communities” only comes as the last sentence in the paragraph and appears as a mere afterthought in the DH section we are discussing.

JP2: Is that the best you can do, Robert? That's pretty weak, if you ask me. DH is making it clear that the Church expects religious freedom from the civil authorities AND THEN goes on to EXTEND that right to all men and communities in order keep a level playing field. Sorry, Robert, you are caught. You cannot escape this statement. "A mere afterthought" will not cut it with anyone reading this dialogue.

RS3: Until you can tell us where DH tells us to invite pagans to Catholic places to pray to their false gods, YOU are the one who has the “weak” argument. Further, labeling it as an “afterthought” does not mean I am denying its application. I’ve already said that I hold to religious freedom for all men and all communities. If it’s a civil right, I’m not against it. How could I be? What I am against is inviting pagan religions to Catholic places, under the guise of religious freedom, and telling them to pray to their false gods for worldly favors. THAT is an abomination. Holding that they have religious freedom by civil right is not an abomination.

JP3: Sure it is, Robert. Tell us the underlying authority for a civil right? What is the foundation of a civil right, if not God? If it’s not God, then from whence does this “civil right” come from – man? Did God make a distinction between a civil right and a moral right to religious freedom in the Old Testament when he dealt with Israel’s sin? I don’t think so. It seems to me that you have a little difficulty here in asserting that religious freedom is a civil right but not a moral right. My position holds that ALL “rights” – civil or otherwise – ultimately come from God. Do you agree? Yes or no?

RS3: Conversely, you have claimed that praying to false gods under “religious freedom” is also a MORAL right. Please tell us where Vatican II said so.

JP3:

I don’t know how it can be ANY clearer.

RS2:So again, John, as you did with CCC 841 and Lumen Gentium 16, you have totally misconstrued Dignitatis Humanae 13, and as a result, you have turned it into a ten-headed monster that doesn’t even remotely resemble what the Council was saying. This just proves once again that you have become the victim of the blindness of our age, taking the most sublime and simplest passages and turning them into modernistic theology.

JP2: How about this? We'll leave our audience to determine who is running away from the "most sublime and simplest passages", and we'll stick to arguing for our respective positions. Deal?

RS3: I have the right to voice my opinion about your views. Appealing to the audience isn’t going to lessen the charges. The only thing that will lessen the charges is when you deal correctly with Dignitatis Humanae 13.

JP3: DH 13 rightfully deals with the Catholic Church’s freedom. So what? What you need to deal with is the rest of the document that nullifies your position, in particular this false dichotomy between a civil right and a moral right. Take the hint from your more right wing Trad friends, Robert, and admit that your position ultimately leads to appointing a Catholic King for the world.

JP:Communication is a two way street, Robert. If you really respect the human person, then you listen to what they have to say. This is what dialogue means. Two fisted Christian apologetics doesn't work because the other side(s) won't show up. It's a dead game where we preach to the converted. We're out for souls - not to hear the sounds of our own voices. We must be as gentle as doves but wise as serpents.

RS2: Polarizing the two sides into extremes is not going to work, John. You have tried this stunt before. Of course we can communicate and dialogue, but we also confront the enemy with his error, and we do both in love, but the point is that we do them both.

JP2: But this just summarizes my whole problem with your approach. The persons participating at Assisi cannot be ASSUMED to be our enemies. Some of them might be, but the majority are probably people of good will who are seeking peace. Here are a couple of selections from Nostra Aetate:

RS3: I’m all for peace, John, but you don’t get there by telling pagans to pray to their false gods. Unfortunately, you refuse to accept that distinction, since you know it will indict the pope. I don’t have a problem with Nostra Aetate, nor any document of Vatican II. I DO have a problem with this pope who does things that Vatican II never taught.

JP3: Here we go again, Robert. Were you at Vatican II? Did you play an influential part in drafting its documents? Have you been the guy appointed by God to put its documents into practice? John Paul II is Vatican II, Robert. You need to realize this. Why don’t you discuss Vatican II with Davies, Ferrara, or the rest of the gang and ask them if they have any problems with DH or the other documents of Vatican II? Have you read the Remnant lately? At least they are consistent in a Camelot kind of way. At least they don’t try and absurdly put a wedge between Paul VI and John Paul II or Vatican II and John Paul II. You have got to be the only guy on the planet who has ever attempted to do it. But all it goes to show is that you can’t ride this fence forever. You gotta choose.

RS2:My greatest thrill in life is getting hundreds of letters, emails and phone calls every year from former Protestants who have read my apologetics books, especially Not By Faith Alone, and have converted to the Catholic faith because someone explained the Catholic doctrine so that they could understand and accept it. That’s what apologetics is, John. So please don’t try to make a caricature of it by calling it “two-fisted Christian apologetics.”

JP2: OK. I get it now. Let me ask you something, Robert. How many sales have you made to Saudi Arabia? How about the Sudan? Iran? Maybe Algeria is a hot market for CAI right now. Tell you what, though. I'll pass the hat around and we'll collect enough airfare to send you to Mogodishu, Somalia. We'll set up a soap box in the middle of the town, gather all of the clerics and people around you, then we'll let you loose. Go get 'em. They'll tear you to pieces, and that will be the end of it. And guess what? The "gospel" won't advance a stitch. What do you think religious discussions are like in Somalia? Just to fill you in...they don't use microphones to shoot down an opponent.

RS3: John, you’re making a fool out of yourself. Please don’t stoop to such manufactured scenes to assert your position. As for CAI, we get letters from all over the world, including some of the countries you mention above, which have benefited and converted to Catholicism because of our work.

JP3: Really, like which ones? Which countries of the ones named above do you get letters from? I’m genuinely interested. And furthermore, how does your material get into these countries? Or is it just by the internet? Do you get many? Is that the extent of the evangelization you are hoping for in these countries? Where those who are sending you these letters are risking their lives to do so?

The fact of the matter remains, Robert, that the first step in evangelization is to learn how to DIFFUSE hostile territory. I am amazed that you do not recognize this as a valid first step in preaching the Gospel.

JP2: Now contrast this to what the Holy Father is trying to do. He is trying to gain the trust and respect of the leaders of these religions in order to give Christianity a fair hearing, to develop a culture of civility so that the Gospel can be heard without violence or intimidation. In short, Robert, he is trying to create a civilization so that YOU CAN GO to these countries, sell your books, give talks, and even debate. Do it now and you and the gospel are dead. Do it later at the appointed time, and the ball game has changed completely. And the bonus is...you can even keep your head attached to your shoulders! But hey, every man has to do what he thinks is right. By all means, get on that flight and preach the gospel, Robert. Just be sure to take out a hefty life insurance policy before you do so. Or perhaps you would encourage some "Catholic missionary" to do the dirty work for you? I hope you are seeing my point. When you go and debate James White, you expect that you will have the use of your tongue when you go and speak. In some of these countries, that is not something a Christian missionary can necessarily count on, if you catch my drift.

RS3: I wish you would stop the sarcasm and taunting.

JP3: And I wish you would simply admit that I might have a point – at least to some extent. You are not even willing to concede the necessity of such a basic and rudimentary approach. This is what makes this dialogue so frustrating.

JP2: You are coming from an APOLOGETICS background where your greatest thrill is refuting your opponent. But that is not always the setting in which the Church finds Herself. My argument is simply that Assisi is not an apologetics setting. Robert, your whole life is centered around argument and debate, and proving your side is right (which is a good thing, by the way, I am not putting your work down obviously). But the Church's mission, while certainly including this facet, encompasses more than just winning an argument. She must seek to co-operate and foster a culture of respect for the human person with those who do not share her Faith. This is also a necessary aspect of evangelization, and, I would argue, an essential foundation for our kind of work to really flourish and bear fruit.

RS3: Yes, we are all seeking to foster a culture of respect for the human person, but we don’t do it by telling the pagan to pray to his false god for worldly favors. Please stick to the topic, John.

JP3: I am sticking to the topic because that is what Assisi was about!

RS: ...and that the invitees can go back to their own nations and continue to pray to their false gods without the slightest compunction. They would have no compunction because, in the 16 years between Assisi 1 and Assisi 2, not one word of the gospel of sin, repentance and conversion to Christ was mentioned to them.

JP: I don't think that's true at all. When the Holy Father had his shot, He spoke with the authority of Christ and the pagans heard the gospel perhaps for the first time in their lives. If you have to tolerate their error and babblings for the sake of getting a captive audience, why is that not a fair trade off? We are the Church of Jesus Christ. We're not going to crumble because we have to listen to error. That's life, Robert. The Church has to be patient and suffer with Our Lord. There is no other way if you want to reach them. On the contrary, it is they who are most at risk of losing their false religion, and not the other way around.

RS2: John, I’m not interested in what you “think” is “true at all.” I’m only interested in what you know for certain, and apparently, you haven’t studied Assisi too well, or perhaps you forgot what you said when you drafted the “Jeremiah’s Call” paper, but there was no preaching of the Gospel at Assisi, either at the 1986 Assisi or the 2002 Assisi. If you think there was, please give us the citation and the wording the pope used.

JP2: OK. Here goes. I am going to cite excerpts of both 1986 (Assisi I) and 2002 (Assisi II) speeches. (I will comment on Assisi I now and Assisi II later.) You can read the 2002 speech here and the 1986 speech here.

Oct. 27, 1986 Address

JP2: The Pope says this right off the bat of his speech, Robert. Not exactly a push-over, is he? Like St. Paul, he appears to "gets right down to business", as you like to say. Remember what I was telling you earlier about this meeting being about peace and the Pope incorporating the Gospel message about peace into his speech? Tada!!!

RS3: I’m all for peace, John. I’m just against telling pagans to obtain it by praying to their false gods. As for the pope not being a “pussy,” perhaps you should read the verse before Eph 2:17. Here’s what it says: “and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.” Wasn’t it the pope who took the crosses out of the rooms he told the pagans to pray to their false gods?

JP3: Robert, you have become a critic about everything. The Pope said that Jesus was “our peace” and the “saviour of ALL”. That means that everyone is saved by Him, obviously. You are simply fishing for something negative to say in order to salvage your protestantism.

JP2: But wait...that's not all...

JP2: Lots of goodies here too, I would say. Again, the Pope is masterfully communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the conference's theme of peace: in the proclamation to the Shepherds, the Beatitudes and through Our Lord's resurrection, and even St. Paul's message that Jesus Himself is our peace! Seems to be a lot of good ol' time religion in just three sentences, if you ask me.

RS3: There is no Gospel there, John. All the pope is doing is prooftexting passages about peace, but he is avoiding the context of those passages, as most modernists do. The context of Ephesians 2 begins with pagans who were “dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” Are you going to tell me that the voodoo witch doctor is not in trespasses and sins, and not walking according to the course of this world and guided by the prince of the power of the air? If so, then you obviously don’t know the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian. Eph 2:14 is speaking to Gentiles who have already become Christians mixing with Jews who have become Christians. It is not talking to pagans.

JP3: So the Pope is a “modernist”, Robert? You’ve already admitted that he is acting like a modernist. Careful, now, you don’t want to get tooooo close to saying that. You’ve been awfully careful so far. Don’t want to go and blow it now. As for there being “no gospel”, are you kidding? He is READING RIGHT FROM THE GOSPELS! Oh yes, one more thing. The Pope’s speech touched quite a bit on the Catholic teaching on human life - you know that “civilization of love” you and the rest of the Ferrara boys have so much contempt for. Now, here is a little project for you: go and find out how many of those Eastern religions present had a sound pro-life ethic. Hint: Not too many.

JP2:Oh yes, one more thing. In light of our discussion about Acts 17, do you not find it ironic that both St. Paul and John Paul testify to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ?

RS3: Ironic? Hardly. St. Paul used the resurrection of Jesus as proof that God was going to judge pagans for worshiping false gods if they did not repent of it after their meeting with Paul. They could not claim invincible ignorance once Paul preached the gospel to them. If you’re so keen on using St. Paul as the model for John Paul’s gospel preaching, please tell us why he never so much as mentioned a word about God’s judgment upon pagan idol worship.

JP3: OK. Time to get out the mirror. At the end of each of your talks or debates in front of Protestants, have you EVER made it a point to say, in clear and unmistakable language, that “unless you repent and convert to the Catholic faith, you will be damned to hell”? I have listened to 90% of your tapes, Robert, and I don’t EVER recall you saying that. So then, please explain how you can require the Pope to do as much, but have the audacity to exempt yourself from such a requirement? Heck, why stop there? You know where the Muslims and Buddhists congregate, don’t you? Go and preach to them. You don’t need an invitation.

JP2: Robert, is this not part of the gospel?

RS3:Sounds little different than what you would hear at a Kawanis meeting or Robert Schuller’s self-help sermons. The Gospel, as you have been told so many times in these dialogues, begins with preaching the issue of sin and repentance. You were the one who quoted Paul VI’s reference to “Pentecost,” remember? At Pentecost the message was, “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you for the forgiveness of your sins.”

JP2: Robert Schuller or Kawanis, eh? When was the last time you heard either of these parties talk about protecting innocent human life? I never have. And what, in heaven's name, do you think the Pope is doing when he preaches on the gospel of life? Is he not really telling everyone to "repent"? Of course he is! He calls these things "inner imperatives of the moral conscience". He does not have to say the word "repent" to get his message across when the message itself bears witness to an imperative to repent. He by-passes people's pride and goes right to their consciences.

JP2: How about this one, Robert? Does the above witness qualify as "the Gospel"?

RS3: I think you ought to define what the Gospel is before you start asking whether the above qualifies as the Gospel. The peace of God in Jesus Christ, as Ephesians 2 states, is peace with God through Jesus Christ which removes us from being “children of wrath.” Peace with God comes from being justified by faith in Christ, not by praying to false gods for world peace.

JP2: Notice again how the Holy Father draws from our tradition in communicating the Gospel's message of peace?

RS3: Notice how he fails to mention that St. Francis and St. Clare received their peace from God by serving Jesus Christ and him only, not by praying to false gods, or by them telling pagans to pray to false gods. At Assisi, John Paul II is only interested in worldly peace, not peace with God in salvation. St. Francis’ peace and austerity was not an end in itself, but a result of his total submission to Christ. A pagan can’t even begin to know peace unless he submits to Christ, and he certainly won’t be doing so since the pope never told him he must. Rather, the pope told the pagan to obtain peace by praying to his false god. St. Francis or St. Clare never taught such a thing.

JP3: And neither did the Pope. On the contrary, he told them where true peace might be found, didn’t he?

JP2: As you have conceded earlier, the above testifies to Church's witness of Jesus' divinity.

RS3: Merely mentioning the name of Jesus Christ without telling the pagans what it all means is NOT the Gospel. The devil can use the name of Jesus Christ. Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses use the name of Jesus Christ. If the pope wanted peace in the world, he should have called all the bishops together to pray to the Lord of history, not rely on pagan incantations to false gods.

JP3: The pope is not relying on “pagan incantations to false gods”. He is relying on the grace of God to work through the error and sin of man. Have you not read the Gospels? Like a good Catholic, the Holy Father is counting on God’s gracious mercy and men of good will to fulfill St. Peter’s revelation:

And while were here, let’s take a look under your facile notion you have of the 21st century papacy. In your sober opinion, is it your view that the Pope, in his capacity as Bishop of Rome and the center of Christian unity, can simply say anything he wants – no matter how potentially inflammatory? Is it your opinion that you and the Pope are in the same political, social, cultural and moral position to preach the gospel of sin and damnation? Is that what you really think? Oh please. Think about it for just a second. You can preach that gospel almost with impunity because your audience is silly Protestant fundamentalists, the occasional heretic, and the unchurched. Your encounters, at least to my knowledge, with Muslims, Jews and other pagans have been rather minimal if not virtually non-existent. So the way I’m looking at it, you are in no position to lecture the Pope on his approach to these people.

One more thing. Let’s imagine what would have happened if the Pope had given the audience the “sin and damnation gospel”. Let’s go to Al Jazeera Television to see what they are reporting….

Al Jazeera Reporter: “The Pope has just given a stinging admonition to those present at this interreligious gathering. He has told the participants that they must repent of their sins and be baptized into Jesus Christ or face eternal damnation in hell. There seems to be a lot of commotion in the room. Wait….the Muslim and Jewish delegations are getting up. Yes, they are leaving the assembly visibly upset and shaking their heads violently. Let’s see if we can get one of them to comment….sir….sir….yes Muhammed there. No, not you, the other Muhammed. Yes, that’s right, you. Can we get your comment for our Al Jazeera viewers. ‘Yes. I am completely shocked and upset that this Pope of Rome wants to use this event as a way of converting us to Christianity. He told us that we were coming here to be a sign to the world that all of us believe in peace and not violence. Instead, he has used this opportunity to damn us to hell unless we convert. We are very upset.’ Can I ask, sir, what impact you think this will have back home. ‘Well, we don’t know yet, but I can tell you it’s not a positive sign. Christians in Muslim lands have always been persecuted and still are. I can’t imagine what is going to happen now. As far as I can see, the Pope has consigned many of them to incredible suffering and certain death. I know some members of my family who are very close to Osama. He didn’t like the Pope as it was. I can’t imagine what’s going to happen now. The Pope wanted to damn us to hell. Now we are all going to live in it.”

RS2:Perhaps I can save you the trouble. For 16 years between Assisi 1 and 2, the pope mentioned Christ one time to the pagans. He referred to Christ being divine. That’s it.

JP2: Well, as the above suggests, that is not entirely true, is it?

RS3: Not entirely true? Perhaps you can tell us where in any of his speeches John Paul’s words resemble what was said at Pentecost or at Mars Hill. The fact that the above is all you could produce from his 1986 Assisi speech does more damage to your case than before. You have made it clear to all who read this dialogue that there is no message of the Gospel of salvation in the pope’s speech. There are just glib references to some Bible passages about peace, which are taken out of context. There is not a word about sin, repentance, judgment, receiving God’s grace, baptism, forsaking idols and worldly ways, etc, but those were the items preached at Pentecost and Mars Hill. Thanks for proving my point.

JP3: No further comment.

RS2:There wasn’t anything even remotely resembling what St. Paul said in dialogue with the pagans of Mars Hill. And unlike the pope, at least St. Paul make some converts by his preaching of the gospel, as we read in Acts 17:32-33. Unfortunately for the pope, there hasn’t been one person, in 16 years of interreligious prayer gatherings, who has forsaken their pagan religion and become a Catholic Christian. Not one.

JP2: You don't think so, eh? Ever heard of Gerald Depardieu, the French Actor? Go read about his meeting with the Pope and then find out what this guy did in public afterwards. Careful how you judge, Robert. You simply have no clue about the impact that the Pope has had on people and this certainly includes Assisi. How could you?

RS3: Perhaps you can tell us what Gerald Depardieu did, John, since I can’t seem to find any reference to a conversion to Catholicism in the records. The only thing I found was that he recited some texts from Augustine at the request of the pope. Are you trying to tell us that Depardieu converted to Catholicism because of Assisi? Please tell us how you arrive at this conclusion. And is one person, in 16 years, all you can find, if he did convert? Of all the thousands of people who attended Assisi, you pick someone who wasn’t even in attendance and who has no information about a conversion?! And I am supposed to acknowledge what an “impact” the pope had on that gathering as an example of conversion?

JP3: This is quite sad. Are you the Pope’s judge? Do you think there is a papal statistician going around the world collecting these statistics? You are judging the way MAN judges. My own pastor became a priest precisely because of John Paul II, for heaven’s sake.

JP2: Protestants are not the only ones who can commit the sin of presumption. And the sin of presumption could be mortal. Guard your heart, Robert.

RS3: If I were you, I’d be much more worried about the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit than I would be about presumption.

JP3: I’m with the Pope. Who are you with? Chris Ferrara?

RS: It is one thing to "tolerate" men's use of their free will, but it is quite another to do so by means of a formal invitation to pray to their false gods under the auspices of the Catholic Church. St. Paul in Acts 17:25-31 said that God tolerated praying to a false god in old times ("he winked at such ignorance") but "he now commands ALL men everywhere to repent of their sins, for he has set a day in the future when he will judge all men." Hence, according to St. Paul, the Church has no business inviting pagans to continue such ignorance, rather, the Church has a direct command from God to tell them to repent of their sins (which includes giving up their false worship) because Judgment Day is coming. But again, there has not been one word about sin, repentance or Judgment Day preached to the pagans of Assisi for 16 years. Instead, they were told to go home and continue praying to their false gods.

JP: First of all, the Church did not invite them to pray to false gods. She invited them to pray to the one and only God but tolerated their false view of Him. Big difference.

RS2: Yes, a big difference without a big distinction. Until if and when you can prove that either the Magisterium, Scripture or Tradition has ever taught that we are to tell pagans to use their false gods as a medium in order to pray to the true God, as opposed to telling them to forsake their false gods and pray the prayer of repentance to the true God directly, then you don’t have a case, John. As it stands, no pope, no council, no saint and no doctor has ever said such a thing. You can’t even find it in Vatican II. The only one who has claimed it is the case is John Paul II, and even then it was against the advice of some of his top cardinals, and certainly not under the domain of infallibility.

JP2: Lumen Gentium states the following:

Did you catch that, Robert? It says that God does not "deny [them] help necessary for salvation". And how do you suppose that God grants this help if not through prayer on their part? Are you suggesting that God grants the pagan His help without their prayers because He considers them an abomination? Does this make sense to you? It does not make much sense to me. Or perhaps you think God arbitrarily apportions His Grace, completely ignoring and perhaps even "getting angry" at a sincere prayer from a pagan? Something along the lines of Calvinism, perhaps? Is this consistent with God's movement toward Cornelius? I think not. RS2: Yes, a big difference without a big distinction. Until if and when you can prove that either the Magisterium, Scripture or Tradition has ever taught that we are to tell pagans to use their false gods as a medium in order to pray to the true God, as opposed to telling them to forsake their false gods and pray the prayer of repentance to the true God directly, then you don’t have a case, John. As it stands, no pope, no council, no saint and no doctor has ever said such a thing. You can’t even find it in Vatican II. The only one who has claimed it is the case is John Paul II, and even then it was against the advice of some of his top cardinals, and certainly not under the domain of infallibility. JP2: Lumen Gentium states the following: "Nor does divine providence deny the help necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not arrived at an explicit knowledge of God, but who strive to live a good life, thank to His grace." (LG,16) Did you catch that, Robert? It says that God does not "deny [them] help necessary for salvation". And how do you suppose that God grants this help if not through prayer on their part? Are you suggesting that God grants the pagan His help without their prayers because He considers them an abomination? Does this make sense to you? It does not make much sense to me. Or perhaps you think God arbitrarily apportions His Grace, completely ignoring and perhaps even "getting angry" at a sincere prayer from a pagan? Something along the lines of Calvinism, perhaps? Is this consistent with God's movement toward Cornelius? I think not.

RS3: That’s right. God does not deny them. That’s why he sends people who know the Gospel to them so that they can have all the help they need. It’s a shame that, when they have the opportunity to hear the Gospel from the Roman pontiff, he fills their ears with lessons about praying to their false gods for worldly peace rather than giving them the message of salvation that Lumen Gentium wished they would receive. As for Cornelius, I already went over this. He wasn’t praying to a false god, and was never told by Peter to pray to a false god. You are in error because you haven’t comprehended the story in Acts 10.

JP3: No, you are simply refusing to accept the plain reading and implication of Scripture. Cornelius was a God-fearing pagan. God HEARD his prayer BEFORE he became a Christian. Those two simple facts completely obliterate your position. If you dispute the first statement, then please explain what Cornelius’ religion was. Was it Jewish? Christian? Samaritan? If it wasn’t any of these, then what was it? Unitarian?

JP2: Besides, all of this "false god" stuff is baloney. The Pope never counselled anyone to pray to something that was false.

RS3: Giving a pagan a room so that he can pray to the Great Thumb and telling him to do so for the cause of world peace is not really “counseling” him to pray to something that is false??

JP3: Giving “a pagan a room” has the same import as the Church affirming society’s duty to preserve the civil right to freedom of worship. If you deny this connection, the onus is on you to explain the difference between the two actions.

JP:Secondly, Assisi was not a religious dialogue or set in an evangelical context. It was convened to call attention to a threat to world peace which happened to include various forms of religious expression. As such, it was an entirely different context than the one St. Paul found himself in. When I am carrying a sign which reads "Abortion kills children" and I see a Protestant pastor doing the same, I might choose not to confront him with the truths of the Catholic faith at the time. There are times and places for everything.

How many of the participants at Assisi would come to such a gathering if they understood that the Pope would use the venue to "damn them to hell unless they repent"? Not many, I should think. Likewise, I don't think the young lady a young man is courting would be too thrilled with the honeymoon pad he has picked out for the marriage night. First things first. First some appetizer, then salad, then dinner, dessert, coffee. Maybe a little dance, and then...who knows what the evening will bring?

RS2: John, you’ve become a prodigy of modernism, complete with making a caricature of the Gospel in order to make it look old fashioned and judgmental. We don’t “damn them to hell.” We gently and lovingly preach the gospel of salvation and judgment to them, just as Scripture and Tradition tell us (2 Cor 2:16), and then we patiently wait for their response. In the meantime, we show them all the love we can so as to encourage them to repent of their sins, but we don’t tell them to keep praying to their false gods in the dim hope that perhaps they may see the light and figure out that praying to false gods is wrong. You simply tell them, gently and kindly (I’m sure the pope could do that if he tried) that praying to false gods is wrong, and that if they really want to know the true God, they can find him in the Catholic Church. It’s really very simple, John. It was real simple for St. Paul on Mars Hill. You and the pope are just afraid to do it for some reason.

JP2: No, we are not afraid to do it at all. We just recognize that "fire and brimstone" need a proper context and a proper catechesis. A short one (two?) day conference on world peace is hardly the place for it. If the Holy Father had failed to preach other parts of the Gospel relevant to the conference or failed to mention Christ, then you would have a point. As it stands now, however, it is you who simply do not have a case.

RS3: Wishful thinking. You’ve only exposed that the pope said nothing of the Gospel in his speech, except glib references to “peace” taken out of context. Not only was the Gospel not preached, but an anti-gospel of praying to false gods as a means to petition the true God for worldly favors was introduced into Christianity – an act unprecedented in 2000 years of Catholic history. “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance.”

JP3: You should trust God more, Robert. He’s always asking people to do “unprecedented things”. We wouldn’t have many of the things we have today if there were not “unprecedented things”. It keeps the relationship with His people fresh and exciting, and deters those, thinking they have God “all figured out”, who wish to lock Him into a box. Take the hint from St. Peter and eat the meat (Cf. Acts 10: 9-16).

RS2: As for other issues , you seem to know all the excuses and you use them when convenient. Did you ever wonder why we can’t seem to make headway against abortion, even though Protestants and Catholics have been waving signs for 28 years? Do you ever wonder why we have a world-wide homosexual scandal in the Church, or about a dozen other debaucheries and heresies for the last forty years? Did you ever stop to think the reason is that God has shut his ears to our prayers because of the abominations we have been doing in his sight? That’s what Scripture tells us. When the Church goes after idols and promotes prayer to them, that is an abomination of the highest order, and God will not listen to our prayers (Is 1:15; Jr 7:16; 11:14; 14:11; Rev 2-3). The point is, until if and when you start honoring and worshiping God the way he has told us to do so, you can pray all you want and carry all the signs you want, but it won’t make a bit of difference. The same with the pagans at Assisi. Unless you follow the prescription laid out in Scripture and Tradition, proclaiming the Gospel loud and clear (as DH so clearly said to do in the very context of the “sincere and practical application” you cited), then you won’t have peace. What you’ll have is a Mr. Feel Good kind of peace, the same peace that Israel thought they had when the cried “‘Peace, Peace,’ when there was no peace,” and instead whitewashed their sins and pretended they didn’t exist. Here are the words of Ezekiel 13:10-16:

JP2: Robert, this is all irrelevant to the question at hand. The Church has never counselled anyone to pray to false gods so all of this bluff and bluster is non sequitur. The Gospel WAS preached at Assisi. You just don't like the fact that the damnation part was not given prominence. Tough. You don't know the actors and you're not the director.

RS3: I didn’t say the Church counseled them to pray to false gods. I said John Paul II did. Vatican II didn’t, and neither did any other council or pope. John Paul II stands alone. And if you don’t believe he counseled them to pray to false gods, then there is no hope for you. There was no Gospel preached at Assisi, since you can’t find anything resembling what was said at Pentecost or Mars Hill about sin and repentance. As for “directors,” God is the director, and the pope is the actor, although he’s not following the script laid out for him, and he will be judged accordingly, as his own papal oath states: “I vow to change nothing of the received Tradition, and nothing thereof I have found before me guarded by my God-pleasing predecessors, to encroach upon, to alter, or to permit any innovation therein; To the contrary: with glowing affection as her truly faithful student and successor, to safeguard reverently the passed-on good, with my whole strength and utmost effort; To cleanse all that is in contradiction to the canonical order, should such appear; To guard the Holy Canons and Decrees of our Popes as if they were the Divine ordinances of Heaven, because I am conscious of Thee, whose place I take through the Grace of God, whose Vicarship I possess with Thy support, being subject to the severest accounting before Thy Divine Tribunal over all that I shall confess.

JP3: “I didn’t say the Church counseled them to pray to false gods. I said John Paul II did.” This seems to be a constant theme in your polemics, Robert. First, it’s the Pope against Catholic tradition, history, saints, etc. then it’s the Pope against Vatican II, then it’s the John Paul II against Paul VI, and now it’s the Pope against the Church herself. The Church was not involved in Assisi, but the Pope and a whole bunch of bishops were. You know…kinda like what the SSPXers say: you have “modern Rome” on the one hand and “eternal Rome” on the other. They are, after all, TWO SEPARATE things.

JP2: You are all for appealing to St. Paul in Acts 17 and applying it to Assisi, but you are not so open to considering something like John the Baptist in Matthew 3.

RS3: I won’t consider it? John, read the verse. It says “'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” Who between us has been saying that the Gospel is a message of “Repentance” for one’s sins? Me, not you. You keep telling me that Assisi had the Gospel, but you haven’t shown me one instance in which the pope preached like John the Baptist.

JP3: John the Baptist is important because he represented a preparation for the full Gospel, which is what Assisi represented.

JP2: As LG 16 says about these other religions: "whatever goodness or truth is found among them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the gospel. She regards such qualities as given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life." The Holy Father is our John the Baptist, Robert. He has come preaching a gospel of peace and repentance and has testified to Jesus Christ repeatedly throughout his speeches...

RS3: Sorry, John. There wasn’t one word about “repentance” at Assisi. Just a lot of encouragement to pagans to pray to their false gods for world peace.

JP3: There was a message of repentence, Robert. It was the first message of repentance: turning from violence. That is repentence. Repentence means turning from evil. Don't you think violence is an evil?

JP2: ...and he has done so in such a way that in Muslim countries where he has celebrated mass, there are more Muslims in attendance than Christians!

RS3: Where? Name the place and time and verify the statistics.

JP3: I don’t have it handy. I believe one country was Egypt. I saw it on television.

JP2: The Gospel says to "go and preach the Gospel to ALL the nations", Robert. THIS MEANS YOU HAVE TO GET IN FIRST. And this is why when the Pope tells Saudi Arabia to open the doors to Christ, he carries some moral authority with them precisely because of these kinds of inter-religious efforts. God and the Church operate under the horizon of centuries, Robert, not weeks. It takes time to plant the seeds and prepare the foundation for more open and direct evangelization. Rome was not built or converted in a matter of weeks.

RS3: So you’re trying to tell me that they let him in because he allows them to pray to their false gods?? Which Bible are you reading, John? Which pope or council told us to do such things?

JP3: I am telling you that they let him in because he is perceived as being non-threatening. They are not afraid of him because he is not some yahoo coming in there and causing a bloody religious civil war. Or perhaps you don’t think this is a very good possibility under your new Pentecost. Yeah...there'll be fire alright. The real kind burning everybody to smitherenes.

RS2:As for Acts 17 being an “entirely different kind of context,” as I stated earlier, not according to Lumen Gentium 16. Lumen Gentium 16, as I noted above, quotes from Acts 17 in the context of how we are to approach pagans. And since you quoted CCC 841 for support, that means you necessarily accept Lumen Gentium 16, since CCC 841 quotes from Lumen Gentium 16 in the context of the Muslims.

JP2: No further comment. We've beaten this horse senseless.

RS2: But I think the real problem is that you’ve entirely lost sight of the Gospel, John. That’s why you think Acts 17 doesn’t apply. You’ve been deceived into thinking that someday, perhaps, it will be the right time to preach the Gospel to the pagans.

JP2: Yes, Robert, I've lost sight of the Gospel and so has the Pope. Just listen to yourself! Just so you are under no misunderstanding, I never said the Gospel was never preached. In fact, as I have shown you from the texts of the above speech, it was! I simply said that the damnation part of the Gospel has a place (and a very important one, mind you) WHEN the time is right.

RS3: Sorry, John. Neither the Gospel of salvation or damnation was preached. THAT is precisely the problem with Asissi. Only the message of world peace was preached, and the pope attempted to accomplish it appealing to pagan prayer.

JP3: Salvation bears the name of Jesus Christ.

JP2: People do not respond to threats and judgement. They get their backs up and give you the finger.

RS3: You are crude, John.

JP3: Am I? Sorry to offend you, but that is precisely what you are called to redeem.

JP2: Remember when the Jewish conspiracy thing happened and the threats that you received about canonical action and the rest of the crap? Did that endear you to those people? Did it make their "gospel" more or less attractive? Are you starting to understand my point?

RS3: The correctness of a position is not judged by how many people accept it, but on whether God has said it is true. God never told us to tell pagans to pray to their false gods. He told us to preach the Gospel of salvation and judgment. Understand my point?

JP3: He also told us to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves.

JP2: If you are really interested in winning souls for Jesus Christ, you preach love, forgiveness, peace, mercy and the rest of the things the Pope preached. You do this because the world already knows all about damnation. We are damning each other to hell every day. The world needs to hear about God's MERCY too and not just about judgement. That's why we have a feast of Divine Mercy. We are talking about a tactical way of winning converts to the faith. The over bearing hermeneutic of damnation that you operate under is not as effective today as it once was.

RS3: Scripture and Church teaching have changed, right? You have a better way to preach the Gospel – telling pagans to pray to their false gods as preparatory for God’s mercy. St. Paul is turning over in his grave.

JP3: Scripture has not changed, but our approach can and must change.

RS2: Not only is that NOT the way Scripture and Tradition teach us to preach the Gospel (per Acts 17, which shows that St. Paul immediately told them the truth), but modernism has no intention of ever preaching the traditional Gospel to these pagans. Think it out for yourself. If between Assisi 1 and Assisi II there hasn’t been a message of sin, repentance, baptism and future judgment coming from the pope’s mouth to these pagans, do you think its going to come some time in the future, considering now that he is 83 years old? John, don’t fool yourself. It’s not going to come. The pope thinks they already have access to God and salvation through their own religions. That is the gospel of modernism pure and simple - that pagans are already on the path to salvation but they just don’t know it for sure yet, and we are there just to reassure and confirm it for them.

JP2: Well, since we are talking about self-deception, then I have one for you too, Robert. Pick up the phone and call your local Mosque. Tell them that you want an audience with them. Make sure that you mention that the subject of your talk is "Jesus Christ: Accept Him or Be Damned!" See, if you get in the door. Now, then. How has your non-appearance helped advance the Gospel with these people? You have become irrelevant to an increasing part of society - all because you won't preach that part of the Gospel which will open their hearts to accepting all of it.

RS3: You have to resort to caricaturing the Gospel to make a point?

JP3: What “caricature” have I made? It’s bang on, if you ask me.

JP: Furthermore, have you ever considered that John Paul is using his papal office to speak influentially to people of other religions? He does so by forging alliances with the leaders of these religions in order to consolidate and protect the Christians from extreme elements within these religions. This is how geo-politics works. We have no way of knowing the imminent dangers and threats which exist in these religions. Islam and Hinduism are hotbeds of extremism right now, and the Pope knows better than anyone else that this sucker might blow us all to smitherenes. And this is not just hot air, Robert. Just this week I heard a very high prominent Muslim cleric telling Muslims to cool their jets against the Christians and guess who he cited for his comments? Drum roll please...John Paul II. Don't kid yourself. We need action. Yes, I know. We should rely on prayer. But Catholicism is also about prudent and political action. They go together. They always have. Catholicism is about deep prayer and then tangible, concrete action. When it's time to roll, we roll.

RS2: I’m all for understanding geo-politics, John. Please don’t try to polarize me to win an argument. But using geo-politics in place of the Gospel and God’s commands is wrong.

JP2: No, Robert, it's not being used in place of the Gospel but along side of it. If you think otherwise, please point out how the Pope's rather forceful witness to Christ backs up your indictment above.

RS3: Forceful witness?? Please. My nine year old son has spoken more boldly about Christ, and I know he would never tell a pagan to pray to this false god.

JP3: And neither did the Pope. I bet your nine year old never stopped anyone from praying, either.

RS2: Making alliances with pagan nations while you ignore what God has said is an abomination upon which God’s wrath will come.

JP2: Really? So when the Vatican and the Muslim countries joined forces to put down the United Nations Population Control efforts to make abortion a human right, you have the bizarre idea that such a coalition is an "abomination"? You would rather have left the Vatican by itself as the abortion train went rolling by? God knows the "Catholic" countries were no where to be found. Below you seem to suggest that you have no problem in co-operating with people of other religions to further the Gospel's social goals, yet curiously your remark above betrays that conviction. Well, which is it? Are they an abomination or allies in the service of the Gospel of Life?

RS3: Obviously, your ploy is to avoid what I am really saying.

JP3: Answer the question, Robert: is co-operation with these countries an “abomination” or not?

RS2: Read Isaiah 30:1ff to see what such “alliances” can mean in the eyes of God.

JP2: Here's a better one for you, Robert:

RS3: As usual, John, you take verses out of context. This verse is referring to God giving the Gentiles the Gospel in the New Testament. St. Paul quotes from this passage in Romans 9. He further states that those Gentiles who accept Jesus Christ are grafted into the olive tree of salvation. It has NOTHING to do with geo-politics.

JP3: And who do you think the “Gentiles” of today are?

RS2: Geo-politics is one thing. Preaching the Gospel is quite another. I’m not against geo-politics, I’m against inviting pagans to a holy Catholic place to pray to their false gods and thinking that by doing so one is fulfilling a long-lost mandate to consider pagans as “redeemed” individuals who have complete access to God just like Christians.

JP2: No one has said that they have complete access to God "just like Christians." Furnish your proof. Cornelius had access to God, but not like Jews or Christians did.

RS2:I’m against the idea that we don’t have to preach the Gospel to pagans and Jews any longer because, as the pope believes, “Vatican II redefined the nature of the Church.”

JP2: Assisi did not teach either. As I showed you already, the Pope did preach the Gospel. You simply refuse to accept it.

RS3: I didn’t say “Assisi” did. I said John Paul II did. If you don’t believe me, then read his own words in Sign of Contradiction “The Church of our day has become particularly conscious of this truth; and it was in the light of this truth that the Church succeeded, during the Second Vatican Council, in redefining her own nature.” As for the pope preaching the Gospel at Assisi, if you think glib references to “peace” in the world are preaching the Gospel, then you don’t know what the Gospel is, which is probably the crux of this whole discussion.

JP3: Yes and the implication, if you are brave enough to admit it, is that the Pope falls under the same indictment of not “knowing what the Gospel is”. Why aren’t you courageous enough to JUST COME OUT AND SAY IT? Why don’t you take this opportunity to publicly repent of your kneeling before John Paul II, a man who has obviously lost touch with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and now promotes a pseudo-eco religion of man?

RS2:I’m against the pope going against his papal oath in which he promised not to change or add any new doctrines to our faith.

JP2: Like what? Is the Pope even still Catholic, Robert? Now that he has "gone against his papal oath", as you say, can we now not consider that he has vacated his See? Are you so sure you want to debate against the Dimond brothers? Seems to me that you are more than half-way to their side already.

RS3: Innuendo and sarcasm seems to be your standard fare, John, but I’m not going to entertain you. Obviously, if I’m debating the Dimond brothers I don’t agree with them. Anyone with any sense can see that. They are at one extreme, because they condemn everything the pope does, even when he’s right; you are at the other extreme because you accept everything the pope does, even when he’s wrong. I would debate you just as much as I would debate them, because you are both wrong.

JP3: I accept what the Pope does because, chances are, his view of Catholicism and his spirituality are leagues above mine. He is from above. You and I are from below. The difference is that I can see where I am. You cannot.

RS3: Be that as it may, here is what the papal oath says:

“I vow to change nothing of the received Tradition, and nothing thereof I have found before me guarded by my God-pleasing predecessors, to encroach upon, to alter, or to permit any innovation therein; To the contrary: with glowing affection as her truly faithful student and successor, to safeguard reverently the passed-on good, with my whole strength and utmost effort; To cleanse all that is in contradiction to the canonical order, should such appear; To guard the Holy Canons and Decrees of our Popes as if they were the Divine ordinances of Heaven, because I am conscious of Thee, whose place I take through the Grace of God, whose Vicarship I possess with Thy support, being subject to the severest accounting before Thy Divine Tribunal over all that I shall confess; I swear to God Almighty and Savior Jesus Christ that I will keep whatever has been revealed through Christ and His successors and whatever the first councils and my predecessors have defined and declared. I will keep without sacrifice to itself the discipline and the rite of the Church. I will put outside the Church whoever dares to go against this oath, may it be somebody else or I. If I should undertake to act in anything of contrary sense, or should permit that it will be executed, Thou willst not be merciful to me on the dreadful Day of Divine Justice. Accordingly, without exclusion, We subject to severest excommunication anyone – be it ourselves or be it another – who would dare to undertake anything new in contradiction to this constituted evangelic Tradition and the purity of the Orthodox Faith and the Christian Religion, or would seek to change anything by his opposing efforts, or would agree with those who undertake such a blasphemous venture.”

And here is what John Paul II said about Vatican II:

Indeed, the extent and depth of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council call for a renewed commitment to deeper study in order to reveal clearly the council’s continuity with tradition, especially in points of doctrine which, perhaps because they are new, have not yet been well understood by some sections of the church (Ecclesia Die, 5).

The Church of our day has become particularly conscious of this truth; and it was in the light of this truth that the Church succeeded, during the Second Vatican Council, in redefining her own nature. (Sign of Contradiction, p. 17).

JP3: C’mon, Robert. That is hardly a strike against the Pope. The Church’s “nature” changed when she allowed Gentiles into the Church, for Pete’s sake! What does he mean by this statement? You can hardly be taken seriously when you don’t even seek to understand what he might mean by it.

RS2: I’m against pretending that the threat of other religions is caused by our not being “nice” to them, when in reality, God is stirring them up against us because we have forsaken his truth.

JP2: Or maybe God is sick and tired of the liberal trash in the Church and He is calling those "who are not His people" to be "His people."

RS3: God doesn’t do it by leading the pope to tell pagans to pray to false gods. Telling pagans to pray to false gods for worldly favors is precisely a product of liberal theology, the very thing that Pius X warned us was coming in the 20th century.

JP3: I should think that St. Peter dispensing the Church from Jewish dietary laws was a real hummer back then too.

RS2:I’m against having the Church formulate Gospel preaching based on the current winds in geo-politics. I’m against people like you who constantly rationalize every misstep of this prelature as if it’s a message sent directly from heaven.

JP2: And I am sick and tired of traditionalists complaining about everything the Pope does - especially where there is not the slightest inclination to try and understand, much less submit, to his (and Vatican II's) strategy for evangelization.

RS3: We don’t complain about “everything.” I’ve never done that, and never will. As for “strategy for evangelization,” if that involves telling pagans to pray to their own gods and sending them home without ever requesting that they forsake their idols and submit in repentance to Jesus Christ, then it is a man-made gospel, not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

JP3: Who has more success with his message? A Father or a Stranger?

RS2:The only way to push back the threat of Islam is to be obedient to God. History shows us this. Every time the Muslims made incursions in the Middle Ages it was because the Church was doing things she shouldn’t have. It was the same way with Israel. When they were obedient to God, God beat back their enemies. When they were disobedient, he allowed the enemies to overrun them.

JP2: Robert, we do not live in the Middle Ages. We live in the 21st century with a 21st Century Pope. One of the reasons for a Church and a Pope is to be able to CORRECTLY APPLY the Gospel to PARTICULAR circumstances in the 21 Century. And not, as you have done, pick out something applicable in the Middle Ages and apply a "one size fits all approach". That's one of the reasons Sola Scriptura does not work. Learn to connect the dots.

RS3: Here’s three dots you can connect: “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8).

JP3: So, apparently, is your protest against the Vicar of Christ. And while we're connecting the dots, make sure you have 262+1 of them.

JP2: Here is an article from Christianity Today. Even the Protestants understand the need for careful proclamation of the Gospel. You should read it. It's not long at all. Here is a selection:

And how easy is it going to approach a Muslim mother of a son who died in religious conflict? Will she be open to hearing the "Gospel" message?

RS3: Oh, so the way to show tact is to tell the pagans to pray to their false gods?

JP3: I haven’t heard you talking about “great tact and cultural sensitivity” like Mr. Frazee has. Or perhaps you think that your view, from a nice soft seat in Alexandria via CNN, is better informed to assess the situation than Mr. Frazee’s? Or maybe your vantage point is obviously more attuned to the world situation than some isolated and remote location like the Vatican?

RS3: Sounds like you’re the one on the extreme.

JP3: Not so fast. Aren’t you advocating the kind of evangelization Mr. Bonnke engaged in? Of course you are, Robert. That’s what you’ve been proposing during this whole discussion. You know: “I am with St. Paul getting right down to business and the Pope is a modernist eco-religionist.” All you need to do is replace your name and credentials above, and you can see first hand the fruit of your labour. Congratulations. You da’ prophet now!


Here are a few selections from DH which I believe support my view...

RS: First, let me say at the outset that, any interpretation you purport to give to Vatican II that is contrary to any dogmatic teaching of the Church, then your interpretation is, ipso facto, incorrect. This is because the Church cannot contradict herself. So, if you are going to try to use Vatican II to justify the Assisi prayer meetings, you are also going to be required to show where such an interpretation of Vatican II is supported by previous dogmatic teaching, or, how your interpretation does not contradict previous dogmatic teaching. If you can't do either of these, then your interpretation of Vatican II is just that -- your personal interpretation that has no basis in fact or precedent for support.

JP: That's fine. We'll deal with your objections as they come up. On my side, however, you will not be able to sloff off areas where the Church has not spoken clearly on in the past and does so now in DH. Because certain points might very well indeed legitimate points of development, no explicit previous teaching will be available to you and so you must accept ipso facto the words set before your eyes.

RS2: It really doesn’t matter whether you read current teaching in light of past teaching or past teaching in light of current teaching. The point is they cannot contradict each other. The development of a doctrine does not contradict the earlier stages of that doctrine, rather, it just makes them clearer, and, in effect, reinforces the earlier concepts of the doctrine with more precise language.

JP2: Agreed. And that is why you need to adopt the language of Dignitatis Humanae and Nostra Aetate. If you are honest, you will admit that the language used in these documents and the disposition that they foster for Evangelization are not exactly compatible with "Trad-speaK".

RS3: I don’t know what “Trad-speaK” is, John. Perhaps if you dispense with labeling those who have a different opinion than you, you might begin to understand them better. Dignitatis Humanae certainly wouldn’t authorize the pejorative language you’ve used throughout this dialogue. You are certainly not a model of what Vatican II was trying to say.

JP3: Please, Robert. Don’t talk to me about “being pejorative”. Remove the log out of your own eye before you look for the sliver in mine. Have you checked your website lately? It reads like some cheap tabloid going after virtually every Catholic Apologist you can hunt down on the internet. At least I am not openly attacking the Vicar of Christ, accusing him of failing to uphold the gospel of Christ and being complicit in the “gospel of man”.

JP:There is a tendency among your crowd to read only current teaching in light of previous teaching. I reject this approach. We must be faithful to the past but ALSO read previous teaching in light of CURRENT teaching. And because the current teaching touches upon the culture and society we live in today, it is given just as much if not more weight.

RS2:Considering the way you have misinterpreted CCC 841, Lumen Gentium 16 and Dignitatis Humanae 13 in order to sanction the Assisi events, it is precisely this danger which “my crowd” sees happening constantly among “your crowd.” You constantly take things out of context, you inject ideas into Vatican II that were never intended, you misconstrue the simplest teachings so as to coincide them with modernistic theology, and you fail to bring the weight of 1960 years of dogmatic teaching to bear on your interpretation of Vatican II. In short, you and “your crowd” have made an absolute mess of conciliar teaching, not only Vatican II, but every other council we’ve had. You have virtually made a new religion because somehow you think the modern world shouldn’t have to hear the traditional Gospel any longer. They, so you think, are too sophisticated to hear that kind of message any longer. It’s all about geo-politics now and just getting along with everyone else, and if the time and place are right, well, perhaps we can mention a word about salvation.

JP2: No, that's not what it's about, Robert, and I think deep down you know that is simply not true. It's about fostering respect for persons of faith so that the Church can create a stable environment to preach the truth about salvation in Jesus Christ. It is far easier to preach the gospel among people who respect and trust you, than it is among people who do not. Or perhaps you disagree with this simple maxim?

RS3: No, I quite agree with it, but the way to open them up to the Spirit is not to tell them to pray to their false gods, nor is it confining the Gospel to messages about worldly peace. The “truth about salvation in Jesus Christ” that you mention above has never been preached to the pagans at Assisi. Perhaps you’re going to tell me that a “stable environment” hasn’t been created for the past 17 years since 1986? Tell me, is that what St. Paul said was his criterion in Acts 17, the very passage that Lumen Genium 16 quoted? Did Paul wait for 10-20 years for the pagans of Mars Hill to receive the Gospel? No, certainly not. St. Paul and all the Apostles were expedient about the Gospel. That’s why Paul baptized the jailer in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, you’re too caught up in geo-politics and being “nice” to understand these things.

JP3: Don’t be so provincial. We live in the 21st century with a 21st century papacy whose role has expanded to address a number of complex religious and cultural issues around the world which require diplomacy and delicacy. John Paul’s papacy is not Peter’s. Different time. Different worries. Different pressures. You don’t want to acknowledge this because you are stuck in the first century. The Holy Father does not have to do THE SAME KIND OF EVANGELIZATION that you do. He merely has to prepare the ground work for it. He doesn’t tell you how to do your job. Don’t tell him how to do his.


DH: Truth, however, is to be sought after in a manner proper to the dignity of the human person and his social nature. The inquiry is to be free, carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue, in the course of which men explain to one another the truth they have discovered, or think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the quest for truth. (3)

RS: Notice the words "carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction." You certainly can "dialogue" with someone, John, but in that dialogue there must be the "teaching or instruction" in the Catholic faith. The foremost part of that teaching is that it is morally and spiritually wrong to pray to false gods for worldly favors, just as St. Paul said to the pagans on Mars Hill. You "teach and instruct" them that, in the past God "winked" at such ignorance, "but now commands all men everywhere to repent...for Judgment Day comes." If you don't tell them these things (as John Paul II has failed to do for 16 years), then you are not really on a "quest for truth." In fact, you have deceived the pagans into thinking that they already have a divine relationship through their false gods, and can continue to pray to their false gods without ever having to acknowledge and accept the tenets of Christianity.

JP2: The point of the passage was to show that dialogue is not a monologue, and that persons of other religions should be allowed to exercise their conscience and their religions WHILE receiving the Gospel message - just like what happened at Assisi.

RS3: Sure, John. Tell them to pray to demons while you give them glib messages of worldly peace. Some Gospel.

JP3: I don’t believe I saw Anton, there. Did you?

JP: No one has said that, Robert. Where has the Pope said that they do not have to accept Christ? He has not.

RS2: Don’t try to twist it, John. The bare fact is the pope has NEVER invited them to receive Christ as the way of salvation. In fact, he took the crucifixes out of their rooms, so that they didn’t have to be confronted with Christ. He has NEVER told them that they are sinners in need of repentance. He has NEVER told them that praying to their false gods is wrong. When you don’t do these things, going against the very mandates of Vatican II we just saw in DH 13-14 that the Church’s main job is to preach the Gospel, then you have indeed denied them the very Christ that can save their souls.

JP2: Here is some excerpts from of Assisi II:

Jan. 24, 2002 Address

JP2: Robert, are you telling me that the Pope's witness above to Christ is not "the Gospel"?

RS3: You forgot one important thing in this excerpt, John. The message was addressed to CHRISTIANS, NOT PAGANS. Read the first line of the second paragraph. It says “I turn now in a special way to you, my Christian Brothers and Sisters.” Obviously, the pope was not speaking to the pagans.

JP3: Yah. But it can’t hurt if they are in the same room, right?

JP: Furthermore, his goal in these particular events is not to show them the fire and brimstone. Again, there are times and places for everything. I still remember John Paul II at the Denver airport at 1993 World Youth Day. The Holy Father hammered Clinton on abortion, and slick Willy didn't look so slick in the background. So please. Don't accuse the Pope of not burning ass when he has to. He is a better geo-politician than you or I will ever be. If he chooses to pull his punches at certain venues, then that is between him and God. If his main goal in these meetings is to put a little water on a raging religious inferno, then please don't turn off the tap by accusing him of not turning his hose on another kind of fire across the street.

RS2: John, it seems you are much more a politician and are less and less an evangelist. You are a man of the world, not a preacher of the Gospel.

JP2:

RS3: Funny, I don’t remember hearing the words “pardoned for your sins” and “you will be born to eternal life” from the pope’s mouth to the pagans at Assisi.

JP3: He read the above speech to the 1986 gathering. What are you looking for exactly, Robert? A Drill?

RS2:Moreover, you simply don’t know this pope as well as you think you do. The fact is, he has never, in the 25 years of his pontificate, preached a message of fire and brimstone upon the world for its sins - not to pagans, not to Jews, not to anyone. So your appeal to a “time and a place for everything” is quite misplaced.

JP2: Is it now? Let me tell you a little story. When I was about 12 or 13, I was watching a documentary on the Pope's visit to Central America in the early '80s. Central America at that time was a hotbed of liberation theology. Anyhow, speaking before thousands of young adults who were screaming for sexual liberation, the Pope got a little upset because not only were they screaming for license but they were being rather rude. So the Pope, in his strong voice, shouts out "Silencio, Silencio". No response. He does it again and again. Finally, after the mob starts to quiet down a bit, the Pope starts to methodically pick apart sexual liberation and ends with this line in a very stern and shall we say, condemnatory, voice:

RS3: I commend him. Thanks for finding at least one place in 25 years where he has dared to preach a Gospel of damnation against sin. And it seems that you like that preaching, right John? So what happened to it? If you think it was so effective in Central America, where has it been in the rest of the world? What stopped the pope from preaching this Gospel? Could it have been too much emphasis on ecumenism, an emphasis that brought him to the point of commending pagans for praying to idols rather than telling them the rest of what 1 Cor 6:9 says, namely, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals...” Why are only “fornicators” singled out by the pope, John? Paul is just as adamant about the condemnation of idolaters, not to mention homosexuals which the pope is also soft on.

JP3: First of all, my example only shows just how ridiculous your disposition toward your spiritual Father is, Robert. You kept taunting me to provide you with ONE example, and I did it. Once I provide it to you, you go on to cry about something else. There are plenty of similar footages like that one. In fact, just last month I saw a hatchet job by the CBC on the Holy Father. Those leftist pigs did the same thing that you are doing – except they come at him from the left. (Then again we all know that the cross needs somebody on the left and the right to hammer those nails.) They showed one of his visits to his native Poland in front of a massive crowd. Let me just say this: he was infuriated at the moral degeneracy his country had fallen into. In fact, in one flurry, he was shaking with so much anger that his mitre almost fell off. I am sure he had a few “damned” things to say! As for “idolators”, we have a new idolatry in our world. It’s called materialism and consumerism. And he has plenty of nasty things to say about that. That’s the REAL game in town – the one that affects the majority of the Western world.

RS2:Even on the abortion issue - has the pope ever told those who hold to abortion that they are on their way to fire and brimstone? No, not once. Slick Willy never got that message. Do you know why, John? Because the pope also believes that hell may turn out to be empty.

JP2: Do you know why he has not preached fire and brimstone? Because LIKE IT OR NOT, MAN IS NOT CONVINCED by threats. And winning someone to Christ by threats of fire is not exactly my idea of the fullest expression of the Gospel message...If it were, Jesus would have simply come to earth told everyone to believe or be damned and left it at that with nothing else. Slick Willy would have simply shrugged off the Pope and gone on his way.

RS3: Stop speculating. You are not a prognosticator. It has become very obvious why you believe what you believe – because you don’t know how to preach the Gospel. You keep making a caricature of it rather than keep it in balance. It is both salvation and judgment (2 Cor 2:16). I suggest you reread the Gospels and notice how many times Jesus brings damnation to the fore as one of two principle elements of the Gospel. The Gospels are just dripping with that message, but apparently you have turned a deaf ear to it, and thus we have this dialogue. We have gotten to the core beliefs of John Pacheco – he’s a man of the world who is afraid to tell people they are going to hell if they don’t stop sinning. That is what this is all about.

JP3: Is that your standard? Fine. Go and tell the cashier at the grocery store, your mail man, the gas station attendant, and everyone else you meet what you just told me. And make sure you “get right down to business”. In fact, be sure to tell every living soul you don’t know: “stop sinning or you are going to hell.”

RS2:Speaking of abortion, I’m not impressed any longer seeing people appeal to the pope’s stance against abortion as being a convincing emblem of his faithfulness. Every decent person knows that abortion is wrong. I know even non-religious people who think abortion is wrong. The question is: What is he doing about it? Has he excommunicated anyone in the Catholic Church for holding to abortion? I can tell you this: If he started excommunicating politicians and clergymen for their views on abortion then they would know he is serious. Right now, they are all laughing at a father who doesn’t know how to discipline his children. It’s one thing to speak against preventable physical death occurring in the world, but quite another when you promote spiritual death in your own Church.

JP2: I see. If that is your approach, then please explain why God did not do the same with Israel throughout her faithless history? He should have cut them off after three strikes or even one strike. Did He? Why not?

RS3: John, apparently you’re going to keep making excuses for the pope no matter what he does wrong. Loyalty is one thing, but blind obedience is quite another. Again, this is an all-or-nothing game for you. You won’t reason these things out, and this is typical of the mentality of Peter Vere which you have adopted.

JP3: Leave our friendly canonist out of this. This is between you and me. And yes, this is an all or nothing game for me. So what? Better that than pretending to be some kind of “loyal opposition.” Take a look around you, Robert. Do you think that you are the only guy who thinks he is “defending the truth” against the Pope? Hey man, you’re late on the scene. Have a seat and take a number.

DH: In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience in order that he may come to God, the end and purpose of life. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience, especially in matters religious. (3)

RS: Notice the words "not to be forced to act." The issue is "force," not "preaching." As Dignitatis Humanae makes quite clear, Vatican II was concerned about the force a certain body may try to impose on someone to worship only the god they put in place (as occurred, for example, when Caesar required his citizenry to worship him as a god). The same is true for the Church. She has no right to "force" someone to accept Christ. St. Paul certainly didn't "force" the pagans of Mars Hill to accept Christ. Rather, he gently but directly told them that they had a free will to accept or reject Christ, but if they rejected Him, then God would hold them responsible for that decision at Judgment Day.

JP: Robert, you missed the whole point of the paragraph. The key word in the paragraph is restrained. You did not address this, and you must because this might be the most important thing you need to understand. The declaration is clearly saying that we cannot restrain or prevent these persons from worshipping in their own religious tradition. If the Church is going to demand that society not inhibit or restrain other religions from practicing their faiths (under the understanding that public order is maintained), then She herself cannot impose limitations and subtle coercions within her own civil boundaries. You need to face this teaching squarely.

RS3: I didn’t miss the “whole point of the paragraph.” You simply are confused as to what “restrain” refers to. It is not referring to inviting pagans to Assisi to pray to false gods, and then saying to yourself, “Oh, we’re stuck. Vatican II said we can’t restrain pagans from religious freedom, so I guess we’ll have to let them pray to their false gods, even though we don’t want them to.” Vatican II’s reference to “restrain” refers to the pagan in his own land, not on the doorstep of the Vatican at the invitation of the Vatican. DH has absolutely no reference to inviting pagans to pray under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church. If you think otherwise, then please show us the text. You keep making assertions without any proof. You are totally distorting DH and I think you know it. You are simply trying to find some way to justify the pope’s action, and you will do anything, even twist Vatican II’s words, in order to accomplish your goal.

JP3: Robert, this little dance does not help you. You are only hurting yourself. DH does not say they are not to be restrained “in their own land”. That is YOUR imposition on the text. I have already picked apart this geographical farce you are trying to push. Again, I insist: deal with the clear and compelling meaning of the text and stop the slam dance.

RS2: I already faced it “squarely.” Perhaps you missed it. I never said the Church had the right to go into the pagans country and forceably restrain him from praying to his false god. The only thing the Catholic can do is preach the Gospel to the pagan and tell him that praying to false gods is wrong, and then wait to see what his decision is going to be. I made that quite clear in my last post. But this has absolutely nothing to do with Assisi - an instance in which the Church formally invited the pagan to continue his false worship, and rationalize it by saying that by praying to the false god he is actually praying to the true God.

JP2: Not so fast, Robert. It does indeed have EVERYTHING to do with Assisi. While it is true that you never said that "the Church had the right to go into a pagan country and forceably restrain him from praying to his false god", you are holding to a position which implicitly does not allow him to exercise his conscience. And that is theological hyprocrisy of the highest order. That's the point. Moreover, after you preach the gospel to him and he does not convert from his religion immediately, what is your reaction when he says it's time for his prayers? What do you tell him when he says that he will ask God to reveal your teaching more clearly to him?

RS3: He doesn’t pray to God, remember, John? He prays to false gods. As for “theological hypocrisy,” it is you who is engaging in it, since you can’t find ANYWHERE in Vatican II’s documents where it teaches that the Catholic Church is to invite pagans to its holy ground to pray to their gods. Vatican II NEVER mentions prayer and pagans in the same sentence. So for you to claim that it is now okay to do so is, I’m sorry to say, a “theological hypocrisy of the highest order.”

JP3:

RS2: As I said before, John, you have turned freedom of religion INTO a religion. You have totally misconstrued Vatican II to mean that the Church should now foster pagan religions simply because pagans cannot be forced into rejecting their pagan religions. This is a perversion of the highest order, and, I’m sorry to say, a great apostasy occurring in the Church, and it seems you have become part of it.

JP2: If a pagan cannot be forced into rejecting their pagan religions, and this includes any kind of veiled coercion or restraint, then what is your complaint? And how is this apostacy on my part? I am not relinquishing my responsibility or right, for that matter, in witnessing Christ to them. Far from it. Unfortunately, Robert, your hermeneutic has expanded itself to not only include fear and condemnation but suspicion and paranoia as well.

RS3: Suspicion and paranoia? Humm. Here we have come for 1985 years and no pope or council has ever initiated a gathering of pagans religions on Catholic ground to pray to their respective false gods, and you think that I’m merely “suspicious and paranoid”?? Then again, perhaps you’re right, John. I’m very suspicious and paranoid about people like you, especially when you thought the same way I did not more than a year ago, and now, because you’ve received untold pressure from the likes of Peter Vere and other neo-Catholics who threatened to cut you off, suddenly you change your mind. You’re like a reed blowing in the wind, John.

JP3: I’m blowing in the wind? As you like to say…man is this a gas. Robert, let me fill you in on something. I have been a “Novus Ordo” Catholic all the days of my life on this earth, save the first 3. What’s your track record been? And I resent your implication about my character folding under “untold pressures”. I’m the guy who stuck around during your trip to the moon, remember? I stuck by you until the bitter end when I could not in good conscience continue with CAI. Have you ever considered that the wind that’s blowing is the Holy Spirit and you are simply refusing to bend? Is that not a possibility? I think it is.

DH: Injury therefore is done to the human person and to the very order established by God for human life, if the free exercise of religion is denied in society, provided just public order is observed. (3)

RS: Of course. If this wasn't true, then the Catholic Church would not be able to exercise her own religion, for without freedom of religion she would not be able to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without governmental or other interference. Each person has the civil right to practice their own beliefs, but this does not mean they have the moral right before God to do so, which moral right Pius IX in Quanta Cura said did not exist. The pagan may have the civil right not to be forced to worship in someone else's religion, but that doesn't mean that the pagan is morally correct in worshiping his false god. Civil allowance and moral correctness are two entirely different things, and it is only the former that DH allows.

JP: Robert, again, in regards to my reason for citing the passage, it says that the free exercise of religion should not be denied in society. Yet, please explain to me how you can maintain that society preserve this right, but when the Muslim crosses into the Vatican City State he loses this right? I guess what's good for the goose is not for the gander?

RS3: I didn’t say he loses the right when he walks into the Vatican. I said the Vatican should not be inviting pagans to come to the Vatican to pray to their false gods. You keep missing the essential distinctions in this dialogue, John, and that’s why you never understand. If they invite pagans to come, it should be for one reason only – to preach the Gospel to them as St. Paul did on Mars Hill. If one of them wants to pray to his snake god, there’s not much we can do about it. Perhaps we won’t invite him back, seeing how he rejected our message of not praying to false gods. But the one thing we don’t do is foster his pagan idol worship by giving him a cubicle to practice his arts. That is an abomination, and you will be held responsible for promoting it.

JP3: So what you are saying is that we cannot associate with people of other religions and discuss matters of common concern? And then deny them facilities to allow them to fulfill what nature commands them to do? When the Muslim delegation is invited to the Vatican to talk about thwarting the UN’s latest initiative on population control, your strategy is to do what again?

RS2: No, he doesn’t lose the right when he crosses in the Vatican City State. A pagan might offer a secret prayer to Buddah right in St. Peter’s square. Rest assured, Cardinal Ratzinger won’t come running out and have the Swiss guard arrest the Buddhist. The Buddhist simply says his mantra in private and moves on.

JP2: But that is not what DH teaches:

DH: The fact is that men of the present day want to be able freely to profess their religion in private and in public.... This council greets with joy the first of these two facts as among the signs of the times...(15)

This is what you must face, Robert. You want him to bury his religion in the closet, saying his "mantra in private" and then to move on quietly. Yet, as you can clearly read above, DH is NOT ONLY affirming his public expression of it, but greeting it with joy! Do you know why? Because the best way to defeat error and promote the Gospel is for all of the cards to be placed on the table.

RS3: Unfortunately, you’re not working with a full deck. You, as you have continually done in this dialogue, have twisted and distorted the teaching of DH to your own liking. Perhaps if you would not be so prone to cutting out the significant passages you might not get so confused. The second paragraph of DH 15 says: “But there are forms of government under which, despite constitutional recognition of the freedom of religious worship, the public authorities themselves strive to deter the citizens from professing their religion...” DH is talking about the GOVERNMENT and PUBLIC AUTHORITIES, not the Catholic Church inviting pagans to pray to false gods. Nowhere does DH, or any other document in Vatican II, tell the Catholic Church to invite pagans to Catholic ground to pray to their false gods.

JP3: Yeah, OK. You are really making a lot of sense here. It’s OK for the State to allow the public expression of a non-Catholic religion, but once these guys walk on to our property and ask for the same thing that the Church HERSELF has granted society, THAT is OBVIOUSLY wrong. What kind of moral paradigm are you working under, Robert? A very strange one indeed, I should say. According to you, there is one rule for the State and another for the Church.

RS2: But the distinction you are missing is that it is not the Catholic Church’s place to foster and promote pagan worship by formally inviting pagans to come to the Vatican and tell them to pray to their false gods, and add that when he prays to his false god he is really praying to the true God, and never tell him that Christ is the savior and demands repentance and allegiance from the pagan. The Catholic Church is not to direct organized prayers to false gods under any circumstances. Our tradition is quite clear about that.

It’s real simple, John. Don’t make it complicated. I think you know exactly what I’m talking about, but you think that if you can avoid being forced to make the necessary distinctions then you can get the pope off the hook. Without such distinctions, then you should invite the Buddhist who lives down the street from you to come to your Church this Sunday for the purpose of obeying, as you see DH, “promoting religious freedom and expression.” This is not an option for you. You must do it in order to obey what you think DH is telling you. Have him offer up his incantations to Buddah while the priest is doing the consecration (provided you have a wall between him and the priest, of course!). And have the priest give a homily about how inviting the Buddah obeys the mandate of DH to always and everywhere to give a “sincere and practical application” to religious freedom.

JP2: Robert, you're not scoring here with me. I was the one who threw this argument at Vere, remember? So I know where you are coming from and where you don't want to go. But I am going to take you where you don't want to go, whether you like it or not (Cf. John 21:18).

You mentioned at the beginning that it's "real simple". In many ways, you are right. It is quite simple. If the Church is going to permit the public expression of religion, then it is implicitly recognizing it as a good, having as its foundation the dignity of the human person. And this is no great leap since She has already said so at Vatican II:

So, to answer your question, yes, I would permit it in my house, PROVIDED that certain criteria were met i.e. the prudence of doing so, the unavailability of facilities for their worship, impracticality of holding it somewhere else, and other factors. The most important criteria for me is whether I would get a shot at preaching the gospel to them.

RS3: It’s not a matter of whether you “would permit it” in your house, but that, if your interpretation is right, you MUST do it. You have no choice, John. Delay or reticence in doing it means you are disobeying. If it’s such an important step in Catholic evangelization, something that is given to us by Vatican II “redefining her nature,” then you should be shouting this from the housetops. Your website should be filled with promoting Assisi-type meetings, telling all your Catholic brethren to invite their Buddhist, Muslim, Mormon, Jehovah Witnesses and even Wiccan witches to your house, or even better, to the Catholic Mass on Sunday. After all, you DO want to foster PUBLIC worship of their religious freedom, don’t you John?

JP3: No, I don’t HAVE to do it. I simply MAY if I was called to do so - if the circumstances warrant it. That is a big difference you need to appreciate. Religious freedom in this country is coming under attack like never before. And guess what? Such a gathering might not be such a bad *tactical* move at all. There will come a time in this country where the State will wage a war on the Catholic Church and all other religions which affirm what the Catholic Church affirms on certain issues. That includes the Muslims and orthodox Jews. And suddenly these guys are put into a position of being our allies whether WE LIKE IT OR NOT. The Pope recognizes that the REAL WAR is now being waged by the Godlesss, and he has to consolidate his forces among other religions if there is any chance at winning WHILE still maintaining the Church’s traditional teaching. You think that is easy? It sure ain’t with people like you scandalizing and separating the faithful even more. But I know…I know…you ‘da prophet. You gotta set the Pope straight.

RS3:As for your comment about “preaching the gospel to them,” tell me, John, was that a criterion the pope ordered, or is that just your way of appeasing your own conscience? I don’t remember the pope saying the Gospel had to be preached to the pagans in order to have them come to Assisi. He only said he wanted them to come to Asissi so that they could pray to their gods for world peace. In fact, John, weren’t you the one who said a few paragraphs ago that the Gospel might offend them? Don’t they have the “religious liberty” to refuse to come to your house if they know you are going to preach the Gospel to them? What kind of “religious liberty” would you be promoting if you laid down conditions that they could pray to their false gods only as long as you got the opportunity to preach the Christian Gospel to them? That’s not religious liberty, John, that’s coercion. You’re coercing them to listen to your Gospel since, as you said yourself, “The most important criteria for me is whether I would get a shot at preaching the gospel to them.” Apparently, if you don’t get that important concession, then they don’t get invited to your house, and thus John Pacheco is stifling “religious freedom” and disobey the mandate of the pope, all because he insists on preaching the Christian Gospel. How bigoted of you, John! You should be ashamed of yourself!

JP3: Don’t be ridiculous, Robert. I am laying no conditions other than what the Pope had in mind; namely, the right to speak to them about Jesus.

JP2: As for the priest's homily, I would recommend a healthy dose of the necessity of preaching the Gospel with love and respect. And guess what, Robert? After it is all said and done, I had my shot at preaching Jesus to them. And you? You're at home thanking God that they have stayed "in their own lands".

RS3: No, I’m sending missionaries to their lands to preach the Gospel to them, just like the Church before me did for the 1985 years before Assisi. I’ll tell them the same thing St. Paul told the pagans at Mars Hill: “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” But you’ll be in Ontario in a home filled with incense to the Great Thumb and listening to pagans tell you that they have the “religious liberty” not to listen to news from your Christian God.

JP3: But see, they will BE LISTENING to me speak about Jesus and his love for them – even if I have to tolerate their error when it’s their turn. And you? You’ll be like Rheinhard soaking the blood of the innocents in Algeria.

RS: Unfortunately, this civil right has now been turned into a moral right by modernists who have misinterpreted Vatican II's teaching. They have taken the ambiguity of Vatican II's language and turned it into teaching that is contrary to previous dogmatic teaching, since no previous dogmatic teaching ever taught or implied that pagans had a moral right to pray to false gods. Rather, the Church, although recognizing man's free will to accept or reject the God of Christianity, has always and everywhere sought to inform the pagans' conscience that praying to false gods is wrong. Unfortunately, that has never been done at Assisi. The exact opposite has been done.

JP: Pagans do not have a moral right to pray to false gods, but they do have a moral right to exercise their freedom. God might not agree with their choice but He permits it just as the Church has. Answer this question: when the pagans showed up for Assisi and asked for facilities to pray, what would you say? There's no room at the inn? If you say no, then you are not permitting them to exercise their freedom, are you? No you are not. You are implicitly imposing the Gospel on them because you will only tolerate one religion to be practiced, right?

RS2: John, I feel like I’ve got to go back to first grade with you and start at page one of catechetical instruction. You are asking questions that are so basic to the faith that I wonder just how far off you really are in your thinking. My children could answer these questions better than you can.

As to your question, perhaps you missed it up until now, but let me reiterate it: I WOULDN’T HAVE INVITED THEM TO ASSISI IN THE FIRST PLACE. In trying to be a faithful Christian, I would insist that, if they want to pray to their false god, then they should stay in their own lands and do so.

JP2: Oh, I see. "In their own lands". And what lands might that be? The lands about 50 feet from your house where the local Mosque is, Robert? This is not the Middle Ages. Please try and see the incoherency of your position: you don't want them to pray at Assisi, but you'll tolerate them doing it on "unholy ground". New Jersey, perhaps?

If the Church promotes the right of a Muslim to exercise his religious conscience in worship in one part of the world, then she does so everywhere (within due limits).

RS3: You’re right. As I said before, Cardinal Ratzinger isn’t going to run out into Vatican square and upbraid a Buddhist for offering a prayer to Buddah. But one thing he’s not going to do is INVITE the Buddhist to come to Catholic holy ground and tell him to pray to his false god. You keep missing the most crucial distinction in this whole dialogue, and I think I have figured out that it is quite deliberate. Since you can’t find anywhere in Vatican II’s teaching that the Catholic Church is to invite pagans to pray to false gods, you keep ignoring it so that you will have room to get the pope, and yourself, off the hook. Where did you learn that kind of argumentation, in New Jersey?

JP3: I’ve already explainted that the Pope did not invite them to pray to “false gods”. What you need to understand is a very simple statement: if you fail to pray, you SIN against the natural law. So if the Pope told them NOT to pray, then he would be advocating a sin against man’s religious nature. If you reject this, then you have rejected a teaching which is right in line with Thomist thought. And this kind of argument applies everywhere – even in Alexandria!

RS2: I’m not going to encourage them to worship false gods in any place, but I can’t stop them if they want to do it in their own lands, in places where they take full responsibility for their actions.

JP2: And they don't take full responsibility at Assisi? The Church is not "promoting" pagan worship. It is recognizing it as a reality and making prudent provision so it does not occur in places it should not - much like the Church tried to do with regulating wars among warrior knights in the middle ages. It did not agree with violence, but it made pragmatic policies to deal with it. I know that you are not a big advocate of dialogue since, as you quietly state above, YOU WOULDN'T HAVE INVITED THEM TO ASSISI IN THE FIRST PLACE. That, in itself, puts you at odds with Nostra Aetate:

RS3: “The Church is not promoting pagan worship”? Tell us, John. What is it called when you invite pagans to worship and pray to their false gods? Perhaps you can think of another name for it besides “promoting” to soften the blow. Let me know what you come up with.

JP3: Inviting pagans to pray is called recognizing the natural law. Cornelius can tell you a little about that. I think you should have a chat with God about granting Cornelius his prayer request since he was, by formal definition, a pagan.

RS3: As for Nostra Aetate 2, there you go again, distorting the text to your own liking. NA 2 says “dialogue and collaboration,” not prayer.

JP3: But wait a minute. If it’s OK for us to talk to them, what are you going to do when it’s prayer time? Are you going to say that their natural inclination to prayer is a sin? Is that what you are saying?

RS3: Vatican II never said anything about the Catholic Church fostering pagan prayer. Prayer is a sacred act, and act done by those who are in covenant with God. This is precisely why you don’t get it, John. You refuse to make the proper distinctions. Talking to a pagan about being peaceful is one thing. Asking him to pray to his false god to accomplish it is quite another. St. Paul told us to “be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). But when it came to pagans and Christian worship, he made no compromises (1 Cor 10:20 – “No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons”).

JP3: No cigar, Robert. 1 Cor 10:20, as you well know, is in the context of the mass and communion. So it hardly applies to what happened at Assisi. As you are so quick to remind me: they even had SEPARATE rooms.

RS2: My first obligation is to God not to allow a mixing of the holy and the profane on his holy soil. They can have all the “freedom” of expression they want within their own borders, but I’ll kindly ask them not to do it on my turf. The only God we worship is the Christian God. If they don’t like it, they have the religious freedom to go somewhere else.

JP2: Like New Jersey. :)

RS3: Perhaps, but maybe your house in Nepean Ontario might be better, since you seem to welcome it so much. I’m sure your wife and two little girls would love to see all the incense and hear all the mantras.

JP3: Yes, it would certainly be an educational experience for them. It would give them a whole new perspective on what each of these religions are about and how they differ or are similar to the Catholic Faith. It would teach them that, although we have our DIFFERENCES, we are civil enough to come together and begin legitimate DIAlogue, and allow another person to express his religious conviction - whether in creed or worship. This would teach my children RESPECT for their human and moral right to express a religious conviction without coercion or repression. Unlike you, I’m not a walking contradiction: I don’t demand of society something I myself am not willing to concede in my own home. I expect society to affirm what I affirm. I expect society to embrace the Catholic faith once its glorious truth becomes manifest, but I also respect and accept those who are still on that journey who, through the consequences of the Fall, have recognized some truth but not all of it. I do not propose, as you do, that the State can allow them to do something that I myself am not willing to grant them. I don’t believe in the kind of vacuous form of separation of Church and State that you do.  

DH: What is more, this doctrine of freedom has roots in divine revelation, and for this reason Christians are bound to respect it all the more conscientiously. (9)

RS: Of course we are. Divine revelation has stated quite clearly that man has a free will to accept or reject the God of Christianity, and we do well to "respect" that, otherwise, God will judge us. But that doesn't mean that we now encourage pagans to continue praying to their false gods. Rather, we "teach and instruct" them, informing their "consciences" concerning the correct way to worship and pray so that they, in turn, can use their free will to accept our message for the purpose of saving their soul, as St. Paul did with the pagans of Mars Hill.

JP: But Robert, surely you understand that this is a process. It's not slam-bam-shake-it-up instant conversion. Conversion sometimes takes years, decades, lifetimes. It's not "Hi, I'm Pope John Paul II. Jesus came to save you. If you don't believe in Him, you're going to hell. Now, then, who's first in line for baptism?" You speak the Gospel in language and ideas they can understand. And, when it's time for the Muslim to take a break from your instruction (the Pope did speak about Christ during Assisi, by the way) to pray to Allah, what are you going to do? Sell him a plane ticket to Iran?

RS2: There you go again. Trying to win an argument by making a caricature of your opponent. No, we don’t engage in “slam-bam-shake-it-up instant conversion.” We simply preach the Gospel to them, with love and kindness, and then wait to see if the Spirit moves in their heart. But you can’t get to that point, John, unless you preach the Gospel to them, which hasn’t been done at Assisi for 16 years.

JP2: Baloney. Go read the text from Assisi I. There's plenty of good ol' time religion in there. Plenty. As far as my "caricature" goes, I think it's basically spot on. You shake it up, preach the gospel, and if they don't bite before their next prayer session, then they're obviously possessed. This is immature and a fruitless approach to evangelization. Robert, you need to deal with the "interim period" between preaching the Gospel and their eventual conversion (if ever). You need to come to grips with YOUR disposition and attitude towards them during this period.

RS3: John you need to stop distorting your opponent’s perspective. Tell the truth. It works a lot better. As for your position, show us where John Paul II preached like Peter did at Pentecost or like Paul did at Mars Hill. I’m not interested in glib references to "peace," at least without telling the pagans that real peace is peace with God from your sins. How many conversions from Assisi have been produced? Not one that I know of. The reason? Because the Gospel wasn’t preached. You can’t expect people to convert if they are not given a message of conversion. How long is the pope going to wait till he preaches the Gospel of sin, repentance, baptism and the other things that are part of the Gospel? It’s been 17 years, and he’s 83 years old. I’m sure many of the participants of Assisi I have already died. Too bad they didn’t get to hear the Gospel of Christianity when they were alive. Too bad they were told they could pray to their false gods, both at Assisi and when they went home to their pagan lands. Maybe you ought to get on a plane and go talk to the pope, John.

JP3:Get on a plane and visit the Pope? Didn’t you get that chance a few months back? Yeah…actually you did get that chance.  

Click on this link and cursor to the third picture

In fact, as this picture clearly shows, you got a chance to get all snuggly wuggly with the Pope and whisper sweet nothings in his ear. Tell us Robert, what did you tell him? C’mon here is your big chance to tell the world. How did you begin your conversation with him? Let me guess. You started to severely rebuke him in the strongest possible language for all of his capitulations to modernism. Then, as you got rolling, you upbraided him for his liberal views on the Old Covenant, Universal Salvation, Theistic Evolution, Changing the Nature of the Church, and Going Against His Papal Oath. And, as the Swiss Guard were coming into remove you from the premises, you hit the climax of your admonitions by nailing him with the virtual apostacy of Assisi. Considering the stakes in leading so many millions of Catholics down the garden path and your role as prophet, priest, and king, we all know that you would certainly not shirk away from your responsibility of telling him the truth about his exploits. Everyone knows, after all, that you are certainly no papal idolator. In fact, you realized during your encounter with him that you had the sacred duty to admonish his liberalism in not preaching the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Canon 212 says so. In fact, you had the same duty to him and to the rest of the Catholic World as he did to the pagans. Isn’t that what the saints before you did? We all know that you told him straight up because you ‘da prophet and do not bow to any man. We all knew that this scene would be reminiscent of Galatians and you would be our Pauline hero.

We all knew that, considering the enormous stakes in such an encounter and our absolute trust in your forthrightness, you would not let such an opportunity pass. A little disregard for being polite and "nice", as you like to say, and following Vatican protocol would surely not outweigh the sacred duty of rebuking the scandals of this papacy. Incredibly, somebody who did not know you so well had heard that you simply accepted the Pope’s blessing and a possible gift from His holiness like everyone else who was in that audience. Obviously, they just had to be quite mistaken because we all know that, given your disposition towards Assisi throughout this dialogue, you would not consider using such a lame excuse as "appropriateness" to shirk your responsibilities.

So tell us, then, how’d it go? What was the Pope’s reaction to your criticisms? Did the Swiss Guard handle you OK? Did you get roughed up? Did you get it on tape? Have you any other pictures?

RS2:As for your comment that “You speak the Gospel in language and ideas they can understand,” yes, I’m all for that, John, but unfortunately that simplicity doesn’t consist of telling the pagan to pray to his false gods and pretending that he is praying to the true God. It consists of telling the pagan, gently and patiently, as St. Paul did on Mars Hill, that God will not tolerate such ignorance any longer and that he now commands all men everywhere to accept Jesus Christ. You can write him a love note, or invite him to a nice quite dinner, or have an intimate conversation with him on the phone, or any number of kind and patient ways of telling him about Christ. But for heaven’s sake, don’t tell him to keep praying to his false gods simply because he has the “religious freedom” to do so, and think by that action that you are being kind and patient with him. You aren’t being kind at all. You are being quite hateful, because you are depriving him of the very thing that he needs to save his soul. Why are you so afraid of this, John? For all you know, God may lead the pagans to fall on their knees immediately to accept Jesus Christ if the Gospel was preached to them when they came to Assisi. But no, you have a better idea. Let’s warm them up by telling them to continue to pray to their false gods, because they might be unduly offended if we mention Christ too early to them. That is modernism, John.

JP2: And for all you know, Robert, preaching a place of eternal torment without the proper catechisis before hand can warp his view of Christ for a very long time.

RS3: That’s the Pacheco psychoanalysis-Gospel, but it’s neither the message or the psychology of the Bible and our Catholic faith. Both salvation and judgment are ingredients of the Gospel. We don’t oppose one for the other. Read the words of Jesus in Matt 10:28-34: "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 "So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

Unfortunately, the pagans of Assisi got neither from the pope – neither a message of salvation or judgment. That’s because he already believes they are saved. Here’s what he’s said in his encyclicals.

JP3: Robert, is this the best you can do? Dumping from some silly war chest of the Remnant crowd? Give me a break. The Holy Father is not teaching that everyone is saved. He is saying that salvation is open and available to all – which is obviously authentic Catholic teaching. In any case, can I take it from your citations above that you do not consider Redemptor Hominis and Redemptoris Missio AUTHENTIC teaching from the Pope? So what you are saying is that RH and RM are encyclicals which do not fall under the auspices of Lumen Gentium, 25?

JP2: Instead, as I have been trying to explain to you, you introduce the Gospel in such a way that he becomes INTERESTED in what Christianity has to say about peace and WHY it says these things about peace. THAT is how the Gospel is preached to these PARTICULAR people. That is the approach that I use with people. Some of my co-workers are fascinated by the Church's teaching on sex so I go with the flow and talk to them about THAT. If I started talking about being damned to hell if they don't accept Jesus and get baptized, they simply smile, smirk, and go back to their work. Don't believe me? I've seen it happen with the local fundies. And that's why they are virtually useless in confronting a secular society. Because they don't speak the gospel in relevant terms to these people. And, yes, I do EVENTUALLY get around to hell since that topic does come up, but the fear of hell doesn't make anyone love God. But what does make them love God is telling them that they are more than just a masturbation receptacle; that they have value before God, and that they are loved by the Father. This is what changes hearts. Only with this foundation and context can repentance and salvation start to mean anything. Right now, they are fantasies with little meaning to these people.

RS3: Attempting to caricature Gospel preaching and polarizing those who disagree with your methodology is not going to convince anyone of anything. Take a lesson from your own method. You’re not a very good model of it.

JP3: Maybe not. But then again, I am not talking to someone who is swayed by being "nice" either.

RS2:As for the comment “(the Pope did speak about Christ during Assisi, by the way),” why don’t you tell everyone what those words were?

JP2: I did earlier in the piece. I think you should mention your sin of papal slander (by implying that he is a modernist) the next time you are in the confessional, and get on your knees and beseech God for mercy. And I think you should take your own advice too. Repent.

RS3: I wouldn’t expect anyone like you who has made the pope a god, rather than the fallible vicar of Christ he is, to understand anything I’ve said. If you condone pagans praying to false gods under the guise that they are praying to the true God; if you condone the pope not giving them the message of Christian salvation and judgment for the 17 years since Assisi 1 (as opposed to St. Peter and St. Paul did) but think that glib references to worldly peace is Gospel preaching, then, of course, you’re going to resort to name-calling and false accusations and telling me to "repent" in order to impress the audience. But you’re not impressing me at all, John. You’re just showing me how powerful the devil really is, and how he has grabbed someone like you, who believed precisely the opposite only a year ago, away from the truth.

JP3: And you were a Calvinist for 18 years of your adult life who did a complete 180. What’s your point, that people can change their minds? You seem to think that by obstinately holding on to a position no matter how weak, you gain "credibility". Well, you don’t. The longer you wallow in the mud of papal slander and attack, the less credible you become as a Catholic. You’re in the same boat as the sola guy who is content to preach to his own little sect, and happy to be the obvious prophet that the rest of the dips on Peter’s barque have missed.  


DH: In turn, where the principle of religious freedom is not only proclaimed in words or simply incorporated in law but also given sincere and practical application, there the Church succeeds in achieving a stable situation of right as well as of fact and the independence which is necessary for the fulfillment of her divine mission. (13)

RS: Of course. After you preach the gospel of sin and repentance to the pagan you then wait, "in right as well as fact," for his "independent" free will to make a "sincere and practical" decision as to how he is going to respond to the gospel. You don't "force" him, for that wouldn't be a "stable situation" or be "independent" of coercion, all of which would be against "divine revelation" which has told us that man must act freely.

JP: Robert, you are missing my emphasis. My point is simply that in order to give sincere and practical application to this Declaration, the Church cannot, on the one hand, tell society to defend religious freedom but, on the other hand, deny that same freedom within the confines of her own civil boundaries. That's absurd and hypocritical.

RS3: No, I think it’s the other way around, John. You are being absurd and hypocritical, since you refuse to make the distinction between conceding that a pagan be uncoerced by the government as opposed to fostering pagan idol worship in the name of Jesus Christ. And that’s because you have been blinded by the spirit of this age. You will twist any explanation or distinction brought to your attention so that you can be relieved of having to object to the pope’s actions at Assisi – the very thing that Canon Law allows us to do. The "sin" is yours, John, since you are the one denying concerned Catholics the right that Canon Law gives to them.

JP3: OK. A Catholic is known by his obedience to the Church. Here’s a challenge for you Robert. If you’re Catholic, I want you to prove your obedience to the Church and submit your interpretation of Canon 212 and your approach to Papal criticism to a panel of 3 Canon Lawyers. We can negotiate how we are to select them. How about it?

RS: But all of the above has little to do with what happened at Assisi, wherein the gospel was never preached in order to see if the pagan would turn to Christ in a "sincere and practical application" of its power. Instead, the pagans of Assisi were given only one option to exercise their "independence," that is, they were told to continue to pray to their false gods, and were sent home without a word of the gospel preached to them. And they are back in their countries still praying to their false gods, and teaching their children to do the same. As far as John Paul II is concerned, they have no real need to hear the gospel of salvation, since they already have a divine relationship through their false gods, and they will never know any different.

JP: Actually, Robert, this is not my understanding. The Pope did speak about Jesus Christ as being the truth to those assembled.

RS2: Tell us what he said about Jesus Christ, John, and let us determine if the Gospel was really preached, or if it was just some token gesture.

JP2:

Is this a "token" gesture?

RS3: You said it yourself. If you think out-of-context and casual references to "peace" is preaching the Gospel…

JP3: Robert, he said: "…in Jesus Christ, as Saviour of ALL, true peace is to be found…" There is no false dichotomy between "world peace" and "peace".

RS3: …especially since Assisi was promoting WORLD peace, not the spiritual peace that comes from in salvation, then either you don’t know the Gospel, or you are so insistent on condoning John Paul’s actions that you will make a liar out of Jesus Christ rather than of John Paul.

JP3: Well, there you have it, folks. He’s said it. Either Jesus or John Paul II is a liar. Some choice. I am sorry to say this to you, Robert, but you have just lost the last remaining vestiges of credibility that you had as a Catholic Apologist.

JP: As far as leaving an impression on those participating, I don't know if I share your sentiments. I know that if I were a pagan, I would be more inclined to listen to a Christian preacher precisely because of Assisi. One thing is for sure: I would be less inclined to listen to him if the second phrase out of his mouth were: "...or else you'll be damned." I don't put much credence in baboons from the Reformed confession who utter such screeds right off the top so why would I want my Holy Father to do it?

RS2: Just can’t resist those caricatures, can you, John? Tell me, do you know of any place in the pope’s writing or speeches in which he has stated that a pagan is under God’s judgment and damnation unless he turns to Christ? Do you know anyplace the pope has said that about any religion of the world? I can tell you this, John: you won’t be able to find it. In fact he says just the opposite.

JP2: No, he doesn't. But what he does do is affirm LG,16:

RS3: Stop reading Lumen Gentium with your horse blinders on, John. That paragraph, as you’ve been told before in this dialogue, is speaking about those who have never heard of Jesus Christ, and have never had the opportunity. According to you, that is not what Assisi displayed. Further, after saying all those things, Lumen Gentium then gives the solution for their ignorance. It says in the last sentence: “HENCE, to procure the glory of God and the SALVATION OF ALL THESE, the Church, mindful of the Lord’s command, ‘preach the Gospel to every creature’ (Mk 16:16) takes zealous care to foster the missions.”

JP3: Horse blinders? Now that’s choice. John Paul II, from his papal throne in Rome, has “horse blinders on”. You, on the other hand, can see far and wide from your basement in Alexandria. You need to understand that the Gospel was preached. Its tone and content were delivered in such a way as to address the theme of the event.

RS3: In Lumen Gentium 17 it continues: “Mt 28:18-20. The Church has received this solemn command of Christ from the apostles, and she must fulfill it to the very ends of the earth (Ac 1:8). Therefore, she makes the words of the apostle her own, ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel’ (1 Co 9:16), and accordingly never ceases to send heralds of the Gospel until each time as the infant Churches are fully established, and can themselves continue the work of evangelization...By her proclamation of the Gospel, she draws her hearers to receive and profess the faith, she prepares them for baptism, snatches them from the slavery of error, and she incorporates them into Christ...”

Unfortunately, John Paul II has never done ANY of this for the 17 years since Assisi 1.

JP3: Of course not:

JP2: The most you can say is what Pius XII said:

Note carefully what the Holy Father said, Robert. He said they cannot be sure of their salvation. He did not say they were already damned. Huge distinction.

RS3: Stop taking passages out of context. The above statement is speaking to Christians of denominations who have already been baptized. It is Pius XII’s wish that they come into the Catholic Church. Assisi was filled with pagans who were told to pray to their gods for world peace. No one was told to be baptized or to put away their false gods. No one was ever invited into the Catholic Church. Instead, they were told to go back to their lands and continue practicing their pagan arts.

JP3: So what you are saying is that when Pius XII said that “they could not be sure of their salvation”, that only meant baptized Christians? So does that mean everyone else is automatically damned? That sounds like Feenyism to me.

RS2:As for the “impression,” I’m not really interested in your subjective judgment as to what the pagan may respond to. If you want to be a psychologist instead of an evangelist that is your prerogative. St. Paul didn’t do so. He just simply and politely told the pagans that praying to false gods was wrong, and that God was not going to tolerate it anymore, and that they should turn to Jesus Christ.

JP2: Robert, has anyone ever told you that there is more than one way to skin a cat? Maybe, though, you can clear up something for me. If a Muslim can sincerely pray in his "own land" where the Gospel has not been preached, tell me, does God consider such a prayer an "abomination"? Yes or no? Please explain your rationale in answering. If He doesn't consider it an abomination in the Muslim's "own land", then why would he consider it an abomination at Assisi? Is there something particular about Assisi's geographic location which would cause God to do so?

RS3: The abomination is when the pope invites the Muslim to the Catholic Church and fails to tell him that praying to Allah is not the prayer the Triune God of Christianity is looking for. The abomination is when the pope, while telling the Muslim to pray to Allah, fails to tell the Muslim what Lumen Gentium 16-17 commanded of the pope: “HENCE, to procure the glory of God and the SALVATION OF ALL THESE, the Church, mindful of the Lord’s command, ‘preach the Gospel to every creature’ (Mk 16:16) takes zealous care to foster the missions...By her proclamation of the Gospel, she draws her hearers to receive and profess the faith, she prepares them for baptism, snatches them from the slavery of error, and she incorporates them into Christ...” The Muslim, in his own land and never hearing of Christ or His demands, can certainly be in invincible ignorance in praying to Allah. As Paul said, God “winks” at such ignorance (Acts 17:30) but “He now commands all men everywhere to repent because He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world.” How is the Muslim going to know to “repent” if the Gospel of repentance is never spoken to him? If he is only given directives to pray to Allah for world peace, then the Gospel has not been preached to him, and he will not be prepared for judgment day. The words are very clear, John. It’s just that you have a bad habit of dismissing them so that you can engage in papalotry.

JP3: Robert, what you need to understand is that Our Lord’s command is a GENERAL one. This means that the Church has an obligation to begin the PROCESS of evangelization, but She recognizes that the full message of the Gospel needs fertile soil in order to grow. Cornelius’ prayers PREPARED HIM for his encounter with the full Gospel message. This is what the Holy Father is trying to do. He is counting on God’s grace to touch these people through their own traditions so that they may become properly disposed to hearing the full Gospel.

DH: The disciple is bound by a grave obligation toward Christ, his Master, ever more fully to understand the truth received from Him, faithfully to proclaim it, and vigorously to defend it, never-be it understood-having recourse to means that are incompatible with the spirit of the Gospel. At the same time, the charity of Christ urges him to love and have prudence and patience in his dealings with those who are in error or in ignorance with regard to the faith. (14)

RS: Of course. As you preach the gospel to the pagan in "love," you use "prudence and patience" in doing so. That's what St. Paul did on Mars Hill. He told the pagan, in love, that God wanted to save them from worshiping and praying to false gods, that the true God was the one in whom "we live and move and have our being." He then told them, in love, to give up their pagan idols because God, in love, wasn't going to tolerate that "ignorance" any longer. St. Paul told them, in love, that God has set a day in the future to judge them if they did not forsake their false gods.

JP: Prudence is in the eye of the beholder and is dependent on the circumstances. Are you suggesting that Assisi and Mars Hill were identical or even similar? I don't think so. I can tell you what I think, though. Telling the Jewish rabbi that he'll have to convert this minute and will not be permitted to worship according to his conscience is hardly "compatible with the spirit of the Gospel."

RS2: John, you are making up your own rules of how to preach the Gospel. Unfortunately for you, Pope Peter didn’t have the same ideas. In Acts 3-4 he didn’t hesitate to tell the Jews that they needed to accept Jesus Christ and turn from their sins. He let God do the rest of the work. As it turns out, some accepted his message and some didn’t. Of those who didn’t, do you think Peter was wringing his hands, saying to himself, “Gee, if I had only waited a year or two, or even 16 years, before I told those Jews of Jesus Christ. Why was I so impatient? I know! If I had only invited them to practice Judaism in their synagogue perhaps they would have said, ‘Oh, what a nice guy Peter is for allowing us to worship the way we want to without having to be concerned about following Jesus Christ right now.’” If you believe that, John, you’ve been deceived, bigtime.

RS3: It just so happens that Lumen Gentium, as we saw in my last post, quotes from Acts 17 in the context of preaching the Gospel to pagans. So, if you don’t think Assisi is following Acts 17, then you have no right in quoting Lumen Gentium in support of Assisi. And while we’re on the subject, please tell us where Vatican II directs the Church to tell pagans to pray to their false gods under the guise that they are praying to the true God, and tell us where Vatican II teaches that the Church is to pray together with pagans for world peace.

JP3: Sure I do. I cited Lumen Gentium to show you the objective fact that the Muslims adore the One God with us. Acts 17 is not a blanket prescription to preach the Gospel in the manner St. Paul did in EVERY situation. You are simply dogmatizing an approach without considering that different contexts call for different approaches!

RS3: And while we’re on the subject, please tell us where Vatican II directs the Church to tell pagans to pray to their false gods under the guise that they are praying to the true God, and tell us where Vatican II teaches that the Church is to pray together with pagans for world peace.

JP3: No further comment here. We’ve been over this ad nausea. Tonight, pray to Cornelius.

RS3: As for the Jewish rabbi, apparently distortion is the name of the game for you. No, we don’t tell the Jewish rabbi “You must convert this MINUTE or you will perish.” Stop trying to win points by exaggerating your opponents position. This kind of distortion just tells me that you don’t WANT to hear the other side of the story. You don’t want to be told that you could be wrong. The Vere crowd has so frightened you that you resort to the above caricatures, as you have done throughout this dialogue.

JP3: Yes, I’m just quaking in my boots. The point stands: evangelization is a multi-layered endeavour which requires consideration of the situation you are in. Otherwise, I’ll warn that grocery store clerk you will be having a chat with her quite soon.

JP2: Robert, as I have already told you, the context of the two scenarios is completely different. The Pope made it clear in his 1986 speech that the intention of the gathering was not to evangelize them:

RS3: Oh really? Earlier you claimed the pope “preached the Gospel” at Assisi, and now you tell us that he had no intention of “evangelizing them.” Apparently, your “Gospel” is not for evangelizing. Can you tell us where the Church or Scripture has taught that novel concept, John? And yet you quote Lumen Gentium, the very document that tells the pope that it is his job to evangelize pagans with the Gospel (‘Woe if I do not preach the Gospel’). You are certainly a confused person, John.

JP3: My gospel is ALL FOR evangelizing. I just don’t condemn the Pope for not doing it in the WAY you want in EVERY situation. I TRUST him. YOU need to trust him too, instead of playing lone ranger.

RS3: The reason John Paul II did not “evangelize” the pagans is that he has no intention of ever evangelizing them. That is why he hasn’t evangelized them, as you say, for the 17 years since Assisi 1986. That’s because he thinks they are already on the path to heaven. This is his “NEW evangelization.” Why do you think he calls it “NEW”? It’s “NEW” because the Church has never done this before. It is “NEW” because Karol Wojtyla thinks that Vatican II “redefined the nature of the Church.” The Church of John Paul II is no longer in the business of seeking to save pagans, but telling pagans that they are already saved, and that salvation is theirs to lose. That’s why they can pray for “world peace,” because salvation is not a pressing concern right now. Don’t you get it, John? It’s staring you right in the face. The only reason you’re not seeing it is that your compadres have frightened you into not seeing it, because they are all part of the deception.

JP3: How many “deceptions” can one man possibly push as a fact? There’s the “Coverup involving Fatima”. That’s a deception. Nasa is another deceiver. The Jews have a conspiracy against us. Now its Pete Vere conspiring to fool you. Good grief, man. The sedevacantists don’t look so bad after all.

JP2: Of course, although that was the stated intention, the Pope did make it rather plain where peace was to be found |--->Jesus Christ. Please remember, Robert, many of these participants would likely go throughout their whole life without Jesus being "preached" to them AT ALL. How many times have you seen a Jewish rabbi or Muslim Iman listing to a Christian preacher proclaim that Jesus is their peace? So what's better? A little gospel message or none at all. Because THAT is the choice you are faced with. You might not like the fact that the Pope was not as forceful in presenting the Gospel, but your objection should be more moderated and tempered, in my opinion.

RS3: Assisi was for the purpose of demonstrating to the world that the pagan was on the same par with the Christian. That is why they could both pray for “world peace.” It was for the purpose of demonstrating to the world the “new evangelization” of John Paul II – an evangelization that does not seek to evangelize but to inform the pagan of his God-given status, and send him home with the resolve that he doesn’t need to convert to Christianity in order to be saved.

JP3: This is all baloney and you know it.

The Pope made it very clear in his speech that your allegation of putting Chritianity on par with pagan religions was clearly to be rejected:

But, I suppose that doesn't matter to someone who has so very little regard for the distinctions that the Pope himself has made, but yet has the audacity to ask everyone to respect his own distinctions.

RS: Then, in "prudence and patience," St. Paul left them to think about his message. Lo and behold, some of them said "We will hear you again on this matter" [of the resurrection], and certain men began following him, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris (Acts 17:32-33). Notice that they responded to the GOSPEL St. Paul preached, and Paul wasted no time in telling them the gospel. It was his first order of business. But for 16 years under John Paul II, not one word of the gospel has been preached to the pagans of our world, and John Paul II has no intention of doing so, since he believes the pagans already have access to heaven in their own religions without the need to convert to Christ.

JP: Robert, you don't know any of this. Do you have a log of people who attended Assisi who have not converted to the Catholic faith? St. Paul was able to attract two people to the faith with fire and brim stone. I don't think that it is unreasonable to believe that the Holy Father was able to match that and perhaps even surpass it by his example and preaching, do you?

RS2: I don’t deal in speculations, John. It is a fact that no participant in Assisi has ever converted to the Catholic faith. If there had been one, you can rest assured that the Assisi organizers would have made it big news. The sad fact is that they are in their pagan lands thinking that, not only do they have the civil right to pray to their false gods, but they also have the moral right to do so as well, since no one in John Paul II’s pontificate has told them any differently.

JP2: No, Robert. That is also a speculation and an assumption on your part. The participants there are mature enough to realize that the ultimate message of each of their creeds still has a moral claim on the other. Once everybody recognizes this, then the danger you describe becomes moot. The Pope expressly stated this at the outset.

RS3: You live in a dreamland, John.

JP3: Better than the “Land of 101 Conspiracies”. At least, I woke up from the dream of Camelot.

DH: The fact is that men of the present day want to be able freely to profess their religion in private and in public.... This council greets with joy the first of these two facts as among the signs of the times...(15)

RS: Of course. If the Council didn't "greet with joy" this civil right then she would be signing her own death warrant, since without the civil right to worship without governmental interference she would not be able to practice her own faith. The Church would have to give the same advice for the Muslim world. If a Muslim in an Arab country wanted to convert to Christianity, the Church must teach that he has the civil right to do so, and that the Muslim government has no civil authority from God to prohibit such a conversion. By the same token, if the Muslim rejects our message of Christianity and prefers to remain a Muslim, that is his prerogative because he has a free will given to him by God. This has always been true in the Christian religion, since we are not mandate to force anyone to accept our faith.

JP: Yes, and if the Muslim demands the same right in a Christian state, then he should be permitted to exercise it. This is what the declaration says. It does not limit the freedom to Catholicism only as your answer suggests. It's a two way street.

RS2: The declaration says nothing about promoting the pagan to practice his religion in a Christian state. You are simply reading into the declaration what you want to see, as you have done consistently in this dialogue.

JP2: No Robert. That is hardly fair. It is YOU who are imposing a limitation on the document where none exists.

Religious communities are not only Catholic ones as the whole document makes very clear so BY THIS VERY FACT, your assertion above is false.

RS3: DH says nothing about inviting these “religious communities” to Catholic ground to pray to their false gods. It is merely saying that they have the right, uncoerced by the government, to practice their own religion without interference. If you want to know what the Church is supposed to do with pagans, then go back and read the sections of Lumen Gentium 16-17 that I typed for you. It says that the Church is to “procure the glory of God and the SALVATION OF ALL THESE, the Church, mindful of the Lord’s command, ‘preach the Gospel to every creature’ (Mk 16:16) takes zealous care to foster the missions...By her proclamation of the Gospel, she draws her hearers to receive and profess the faith, she prepares them for baptism, snatches them from the slavery of error, and she incorporates them into Christ...”

JP3: You are not addressing my rebuttal. I pointed out to you that your belief about religious freedom in a Christian state was faulty and totally unsupported by DH. Go back and read my JP2 response.

RS2: And I am not limiting religious freedom to Catholicism. I specifically said it applied to everyone. The distinction I made, which you are ignoring, is that the Catholic Church should not be formally fostering pagan worship on religious Catholic grounds. Tolerating the pagan’s right to worship as he chooses in his own land is one thing. Promoting false worship of pagan gods by inviting them to exercise their freedom in a holy Catholic place is quite another. The fact that you can’t see that distinction means you have lost your understanding of the Gospel and of holiness.

JP2: It is not "fostering" pagan worship. Rather, it is recognizing worship as a universal calling placed there by God.

RS3: We’ve been over this before, John. I suggest you look back at the first time you quoted this passage. In short, the passage is no different than what occurs in Acts 17:22-24 when Paul spoke about the Unknown god of the Athenians. But the question is: what did Paul do after he recognized that they were seeking God? He told them that God was not to be worshiped or prayed to by using gods from their own religions. He told them, as Lumen Gentium says of Acts 17, to relinquish their false gods and seek God in his true self, Jesus Christ. He told them that the way to do so was to “repent” of their sins and seek God’s mercy. Again, that’s what Lumen Gentium 16-17 told the pope to do: “HENCE, to procure the glory of God and the SALVATION OF ALL THESE, the Church, mindful of the Lord’s command, ‘preach the Gospel to every creature’ (Mk 16:16) takes zealous care to foster the missions...By her proclamation of the Gospel, she draws her hearers to receive and profess the faith, she prepares them for baptism, snatches them from the slavery of error, and she incorporates them into Christ...”

JP3: Man, does this sound like a broken record or what? Do you have any other tunes?

JP2: Worship, even a false one, is not necessarily a bad thing. It only becomes bad when it is being done against the service of truth and a conviction by truth. THEN and ONLY THEN does it become an abomination. Without this distinction, God becomes a monster - more in line with the Goid of Calvinism than the merciful God of Catholicism.

RS3: False worship is not a bad thing? Now you sound like Tim Staples – another person who thinks that defending Assisi makes him a good Catholic. Alas, it is inevitable that both of you will end up saying that false worship is not a bad thing, since you have no other choice. At least you are consistent in your error.

JP3: Are you still a Calvinist, Robert? Tell us plainly what you think a merciful God does with “false prayer” from the ignorant.

JP: So, Robert, in light of the above selections from DH, do you believe that the Church can insist that society protect a person's right to express a false religion on the one hand, but insist that these pagans not practice their faiths inside the Vatican on the other hand? How is this not an act in theological hypocrisy? (What I mean here is that no one has a moral right to a false religion but only a civil one. Everyone, however, has a moral right to religious freedom)

RS: There is no "hypocrisy," John, that is, once you make the distinction Dignitatis Humanae made between civil rights and moral obligation. The Church, because of man's free will, cannot coerce anyone into accepting Christ, nor does the Church want anyone else to do so. But the Church must continue to preach that the pagan has the moral obligation to reject his false gods and accept the God of Christianity, for, as St. Paul said, God will judge him on that basis. The only "theological hypocrisy" taking place is the refusal to preach the gospel to the pagan. Instead the pagan is led to think that it is not merely his civil right, but also his moral right to pray to his false gods. Teaching pagans it is their moral right to pray to false gods is a "theological hypocrisy" of the highest order, since the Catholic Church has never taught such things. If you think Vatican II is teaching such things, then you are simply misinterpreting it, as is plainly obvious by your failure to take into account the above principles and distinctions.

JP: First of all, you have not answered the most important question in this dialogue so far. Here it is again: please explain how the Church can insist on the State preserving all religious expression on the one hand, while, on the other hand, exempting itself from such teaching when the band comes marching on to its own property?

RS2: Your so-called “important question” was only posed in this present dialogue, not the previous one, so I am not avoiding anything. As to the answer, I’ve already explained it above.

JP: Secondly, no participant is under the delusion that he has a moral right to pray to his false gods. Each participant, presumably, believes that he is right. Of course, he understands that the others do not agree with him, but that is a different question. The Muslim is not leaving Assisi, thinking to himself, "Boy, that John Paul II - what a great guy he is! He lets me believe in error!" On the contrary, he leaves, saying to himself: "Boy, although he disagrees with my religion and believes it to be false, he has enough respect for me as a human person to affirm my right to exercise my conscience. I wonder where he gets these ideas. Perhaps its from his religion. I shall have to examine it more closely in the future."

RS2: John, stop speculating to your own advantage. You have no idea what the pagan is thinking. For all you know he could be thinking: “What a puzzling person John Paul II is. He is selling out Catholicism for a mess of pagan pottage by allowing pagans to worship their gods on his holy ground. If this man will sell out 2000 years of his own religion to make room for us, what might he do to us down the road? Perhaps he will turn on us, too, since he seems to have little regard for what was said in the past.”

JP2: OK. Well, we'll leave it to our readers to determine which is a more credible disposition of these people.

RS2:The bottom line is this: Vatican II, Scripture, Church Tradition, the Fathers, the Medievals, the popes, the councils never taught what John Paul is teaching at Assisi.

JP2: The Pope was proclaiming Jesus Christ in line with Dignitatis Humanae, Nostra Aetate, Ad Gentes, Evangelii Nuntiandi. I rest my case.

RS2:No one has ever taught that the Catholic Church should be telling pagans to pray to a false god so that he can pray to the true God. No one has ever refrained from preaching the gospel to pagans on the basis that they have “religious freedom.” No one has ever told pagans that they are on the path to salvation.

RS3: None of those documents direct the pope to invite pagan religions to Catholic holy ground to pray to their false gods. None of them say that the Church should seek the help of pagan prayer in obtaining world peace. They say only that the pagan has the civil right to practice his religion, but that the Church must preach the gospel to them.

JP3: It really just comes down to the Pope’s interpretation of these documents versus the spin you want to put on it. That’s the bottom line. And surprise! In Catholicism, that means you lose. If you want to play proto-protestant, then start your own Church and elect yourself pontiff.

RS2:No one has ever taught that the Catholic Church should be telling pagans to pray to a false god so that he can pray to the true God. No one has ever refrained from preaching the gospel to pagans on the basis that they have “religious freedom.” No one has ever told pagans that they are on the path to salvation.

JP2: You are right, Robert. No one has done that.

RS3: Reread these statements by John Paul II: “The finite, human categories of time and space are almost completely secondary. All men, from the beginning of the world until its end, have been redeemed by Christ and his cross” (Sign of Contradiction, p. 87). Later he writes: “But in this same reality, in this dimension of every dying person – be he a centenarian or two-day old infant – there remains present the promise, the ‘guarantee of our inheritance’ given to us in Christ...every man has inherent in him the mystery of a new life which Christ has brought and which he has grafted on to humanity. Every human death, without exception, has this dimension....As all men are sanctified ‘in Christ Jesus’ their death means a prolongation of this life ‘in Christ’” (Sign of Contradiction, p. 160). In a December 7, 1978 General Audience he stated: “...therefore in Jesus’ human nature, and therefore, the whole of humanity is redeemed, saved, enobled to the extent of participating in divine life by means of grace.” In May 1980, he stated: “Christ obtained, once and for all, the salvation of man – of each man and of all men”( L’Osservatore Romano, May 6, 1980). In a homily of April 27, 1980 he stated: “He obtains once and for all the salvation of man, of each man, and for all, of those that no one shall snatch out of his hand. Who, in fact, could snatch them?” In the work, An Invitation to Joy, he writes: “Christians and Muslims...Both of us believe in one God...and we know that after the Resurrection he will be satisfied with us, and we know that we will be satisfied with him” (p. 129). In the encyclical Redemptor Hominis 11 and 13 he states: “...for the dignity that each human being has reached and can continually reach in Christ, namely the dignity of both the grace and divine adoption....Man...destined for grace and glory...the mystery in which each one of the four thousand million human beings living on our planet has become a sharer from the moment he is conceived beneath the heart of his mother.” In the 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio 4 he writes: “The Redemption even brings salvation to all, for each one is included in the mystery of the Redemption and with each one Christ has united himself forever through this mystery.”

JP3: Another broken record. What’s that now? 3 or 4 times you’ve cited this dump from the Trad database? I’ve already answered this. The Pope did not say that everyone was saved, and neither do these documents.

RS2:Assisi is an unprecedented and completely novel act in the history of the Catholic Church, and it is an abomination in the sight of God.

JP2: Well, then, why do you want to be known as a Catholic then? Why do you want to bear the name and belong to a body which practices an "abomination in the sight of God"?

RS3: If you have to ask that question then it is obvious why you have been so obtuse in this dialogue. Go back and read the papal oath. It states the following:

“I vow to change nothing of the received Tradition, and nothing thereof I have found before me guarded by my God-pleasing predecessors, to encroach upon, to alter, or to permit any innovation therein; To the contrary: with glowing affection as her truly faithful student and successor, to safeguard reverently the passed-on good, with my whole strength and utmost effort; To cleanse all that is in contradiction to the canonical order, should such appear; To guard the Holy Canons and Decrees of our Popes as if they were the Divine ordinances of Heaven, because I am conscious of Thee, whose place I take through the Grace of God, whose Vicarship I possess with Thy support, being subject to the severest accounting before Thy Divine Tribunal over all that I shall confess; I swear to God Almighty and Savior Jesus Christ that I will keep whatever has been revealed through Christ and His successors and whatever the first councils and my predecessors have defined and declared. I will keep without sacrifice to itself the discipline and the rite of the Church. I will put outside the Church whoever dares to go against this oath, may it be somebody else or I. If I should undertake to act in anything of contrary sense, or should permit that it will be executed, Thou willst not be merciful to me on the dreadful Day of Divine Justice. Accordingly, without exclusion, We subject to severest excommunication anyone – be it ourselves or be it another – who would dare to undertake anything new in contradiction to this constituted evangelic Tradition and the purity of the Orthodox Faith and the Christian Religion, or would seek to change anything by his opposing efforts, or would agree with those who undertake such a blasphemous venture.”

Not only is this language rather foreboding against any pope who would dare change or introduce something new into Catholic teaching, the italicized portions show that it is certainly a possibility that the pope himself could indeed disobey the oath and thus introduce new teaching, otherwise there would be no reason for him to take the oath if he was immune from such transgressions. Hence, our thesis is proved at the outset – the very oath required of the pope indicates that it is possible for the pope to err, and indeed, on the very issues of the faith he chooses not to protect under the domain of infallibility.

JP3: Under your rubric, Robert, you would allow every malcontent and whiner to blow that hole wide open into virtual anarchy. Can you imagine such a disposition? Everyone would go around demanding an ex-cathedra definition for everything the Pope says and does before they submitted. That’s not how the Catholic Church works, Robert. You are tempting God by doing that.

JP2:If you are going to argue that the Church is complicit in pagan idolatry because of Assisi, then how can you seriously call yourself a "Roman Catholic Apologist"?

RS3: Because a “Roman Catholic Apologist” defends the Catholic faith – the faith that all the predecessors of John Paul II, except for a few, upheld. A “Roman Catholic Apologist” defends ALL of Catholic teaching, including all the councils. A “Roman Catholic Apologist” rightly interprets Vatican II in line with all previous Catholic teaching. A “Roman Catholic Apologist” studies Scripture and shows Catholics how faithful the Church has been to it. And lastly, a “Roman Catholic Apologist” pays attention to Canon Law, especially those parts where it says that we have the “right and duty” to bring our objections to the pastors of the Church.

JP3: And a Roman Catholic Apologist submits to a LIVING AUTHORITY. Which LIVING AUTHORITY DO YOU SUBMIT TO? You’re simply a Protestant stretched out a little bit. You still have a problem with obedience. That’s what this is all about. If I’m wrong, prove it and submit your views to the brethren IN AUTHORITY.

JP2:How many converts will you make when you tell them that the Catholic Church engages in pagan idolatry? The first question that I would have is: "Then why are YOU Catholic?"

RS3: Because there are 262 popes prior to John Paul II, some of which, like him, fell into error and immorality, but the glory of the Catholic Church is that it survives people like John Paul II, since God is greater than all of them.

JP3: Of course. How convenient for you! How very Protestant! You obey every Pope EXCEPT the one who has been placed over you by God. That’s another way of saying: “I don’t accept papal authority.” That means you are not really Catholic. Tell ya what, though. If you are truly Catholic, then name 3 bishops…strike that...name 1 bishop in your country who endorses the views as expressed on your website. If you can’t find one, what does that tell you of your Catholicism? That it exists on paper and not in REALITY. You and your traditionalist friends like the idea of episcopal authority, but you don’t like living under it. How biblical and historical is that? How convenient is that? Can you imagine everyone taking the approach which you do? – following their own notion of Catholic Tradition and accepting virtually all previous papal teaching EXCEPT the current ones you don’t like. We would descend into Protestantism over night.

JP2:And, frankly, I wouldn't be too impressed with the legal gymnastics that you would have to go through to justify belonging to a religious body that is complicit in pagan idolatry. Being a Popeless Catholic is an oxymoron, paper objections aside.

RS3: Again, it’s an all-or-nothing game with you. You’ll never understand because you refuse to make the proper distinctions – the very thing you have done throughout this dialogue in an attempt to obfuscate the issues.

JP3: Please don’t talk to me about not making the proper distinctions. You have skirted the ones which I have tried to make while refusing to admit that some of the ones you propose are baseless, and one of them, even heretical.

JP2:Either you are with Peter and his predecessors, including Paul VI and Vatican II, or you are not. To be frank with you, it's time to get on with it or get off the pot. Sedevacantism is more logically consistent than the schizophrenic position that your camp espouses.

RS3: You are not my judge. I am with Peter and his successors. That’s why I can debate against a sedevacantist. But being with Peter and his successors also means taking advantage of the allowances that Peter gives me in Canon Law. Peter says I have the “right and duty” to bring him my objections for the betterment of the Church. That’s the same thing Paul did to Peter in Galatians 2:10f. That’s not schizophrenic. It is recognizing that even a pope can make mistakes, as our history so clearly tells us. But you can choose to ignore all this and be a lackey like Pete Vere and develop the “Roman mind-set” (aka “sticking your head in the sand”). As Joshua said to the Jews, you can worship Buddha or pray with an animist, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

JP3: But that’s just it, Robert, you are not with Peter and his successors. Because you reject the current successor’s TEACHINGS which are totally in line with his actions at Assisi. You have tried to separate many things in this dialogue, but at least you have not tried to do so with John Paul II’s papal teachings and his actions at Assisi. That means, Robert, that you are conceding that one follows another. Now if you could just see the futility in trying to argue that he is wrong in his interpretation of not only of Catholic Tradition but Vatican II. Vatican II, Robert – the very Council he played a pivotal role in. You have set up a silly and un-catholic kind of “broken succession” where the Pope’s application and writings of Vatican II can be questioned at will and dissented from. What kind of Catholicism is that? A Catholicism where you can construct a ficticious border between an Ecumenical Council’s documents and the Pontiff’s sovereign moral right to interpret them and expect the laity to submit? Sorry, that schema would not work BEFORE Vatican II and it certainly won’t work afterwards. You need to wake up from this pseudo-Catholicism and learn to submit to the Vicar of Christ. He can loose and bind. You can’t. You and your traditionalist friends are all for the binding, but you have one heck of a problem with the loosing part.

And as for the “bad popes”, if Honorius and John XXII are the best you can do, then, frankly, that’s not much of offensive on your part since the former’s “error” has always been hotly disputed and the latter recanted before his death. That’s hardly a solid track record to run on, if you ask me.

RS2:That you now refuse to see this after you saw it in your heart of hearts just a year ago, means that this is an all or nothing game for you. That kind of “Catholic” apologetics is not apologetics. It is papalotry.

JP2: No it is not. It's called being docile to the Church and the Pope - yes and that means John Paul II.

RS3: Docile”? Was St. Paul being “docile” when he upbraided Peter for false ecumenism with the Jews? Was he being “docile” in Gal 1:8-9 in saying that he, and angel, or even the pope could “preach another gospel contrary to the one you received”? Docility is required when, as Lumen Gentium says, when the pope gives us “doctrine” from an “authentic teaching authority.” That didn’t happen at Assisi.

JP3: No, but it didn’t happen when you were on your knees in front of the Vicar of Christ, either. What’s your complaint? Anything you say about the Pope’s “cowardice” equally applies to you. In apologetics, that’s what we call: “fair game”. Or, perhaps you would like to “tell the world” what a heretic John Paul is on your website, but inexplicably lose your tongue when you are in front of his face. If you need help summoning up the courage for a next possible encounter with him, I believe your trad buddies put out a book called “We Resist You to the Face.” Maybe it can give you some pointers.

JP2: God divides the obedient sons of the Church who defend Her Head from the false ones who refuse to see that obedience only has value when it goes against what they believe. And to borrow St. Paul's writing style: Otherwise obedience is not obedience; it's just convenience.

RS3: I suggest you try being obedient to what the pope said in Canon Law 212 about the “duty” you have to raise objections to things he does that are not good,

JP3: I'm all for that, but not the way you do it. Like I said, let's assemble a kangaroo court and let a few canon lawyers decide. Or are they out to get you to?

RS3: "...and being obedient to what Vatican II said in Lumen Gentium 25 about obeying “AUTHENTIC” teaching, not personal opinions;

JP3: You mean like the ones in RH and RM?

RS3: ...and obedient to what Lumen Gentium 16-17 said about the requirement (“Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel”) of preaching the gospel to those who are ignorant and pray to false gods. I suggest you be obedient to the implications of the papal oath, which warns us that a pope may indeed introduce something new into the Church, and will be held accountable to God for his actions. I suggest you be obedient to Pius X who warned us in no uncertain terms of the threat of modernism in the Catholic hierarchy. I suggest you be obedient to the whole history of the Church which is clearly against Assisi-like events...

JP3: Boy, you are on quite the obedience kick, Robert. Keep going! What you need to understand is that Catholic obedience exists in the flesh and not just on paper. Obedience on paper without submitting to a living man is what we call "Protestantism".

RS3: ...and stop resting your entire future on a decision that even the pope’s top cardinals were telling him not to do.

JP3: Oh yes? And have you heard anything from them since? Do they have websites denouncing the Pope? Are they preaching against him, making outrageous accusations constantly? If you want to bring up their disagreement with the Pope, then that's great. (And we really don't know why they objected to the gathering. It could be for the simple reason that the event might cause confusion, and not necessarily because they thought the idea was immoral or wrong.) We are all entitled to differences of opinion on such events, BUT if you want to bring up these cardinals, then go the whole nine yards with how they handled their differences of opinion with the Pope. Learn how to disagree and yet remain faithful and obedient at the same time. You agree with the Cardinals? Great. Now, take the advice of Our Lord: "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:37).

John Pacheco
The Roman Catholic Legate
July 14, 2003