Sick and Distorted Forms of Religion
Over the past two weeks, Pope Benedict XVI has made reference to the Second Vatican Council in various addresses and written documents.. A number of these were collected by Sandro Magister, the Italian Vaticanista, in his blog. One of these caught my eye for the interesting turn of phrase quoted in the title of this post. Writing about the decree Nostra Aetate, the Pope wrote
The task that it involves and the efforts that are still necessary in order to distinguish, clarify and understand, are appearing ever more clearly. In the process of active reception, a weakness of this otherwise extraordinary text has gradually emerged: it speaks of religion solely in a positive way and it disregards the sick and distorted forms of religion which, from the historical and theological viewpoints, are of far-reaching importance; for this reason the Christian faith, from the outset, adopted a critical stance towards religion, both internally and externally.
What, precisely, does the Pope mean by this, and why is this a “weakness” in Nostra Aetate? While I can think of a few things he might be referring to—such as the fundamentalisms which affect both Christianity and Islam—I wonder if he does not have further things in mind. What do you think, from the perspective or religious freedom, he has in mind?
Moreover, what do you think the Pope means when he says Christianity has “adopted a critical stance towards religion”? Indeed, until Dignitatis Humanae and Nostra Aetate, I think it is fair to say that the Catholic Church was quite uncritical of itself in this regard.