The following report about Catholics in Argentina who publicly voiced objections to an inter-faith event in a Catholic cathedral raises interesting questions about the means – if any – open to concerned Catholics who object to Catholic churches and cathedrals being used for ecumenical and inter-faith gatherings. Read on, and then share your thoughts. Is public protest in the context of ecumenical and inter-faith events something in which Catholics should engage? Should we be asked for our opinions on the way ecumenism and inter-faith meetings are conducted, as we’re being asked for our opinions about the way the Church deals with the divorced and remarried, cohabitation, same sex unions? The Scots bishops have just launched their questionnaire on these topics, in preparation for next year’s Synod on the Family, so is it time for a Synod on Ecumenism & Inter-religious dialogue, in order that we may offer our opinions on the use (or misuse) of our churches and cathedrals?
Buenos Aires rosary protest: the facts
In reaction to some inaccurate reporting by the Associated Press on a demonstration during an ecumenical inter-religious event in the Catholic cathedral of Buenos Aires in Argentina, SSPX.ORG interviewed Fr. Christian Bouchacourt, District Superior of South America, to offer some clarifications on the matter, which we make available here.
Demonstration in Buenos Aires Catholic cathedral — the facts
The Jewish community has played an important part in Buenos Aires since the city’s foundation. In 2012, Cardinal Bergoglio (now Pope Francis), hosted in the Cathedral of Buenos Aires an inter-religious prayer ceremony that includes representatives of the Jewish community as well as Methodist, Lutheran and Presbyterian churches to commemorate the 1938 Kristallnacht and the deportment of Jews into concentration camps. During the first ceremony held in the Catholic cathedral and organized by the Jewish group, B’nai, B’rith, Rabbi Alejandro Avruj joined the ceremonies, lighting the menorah with Bergoglio and presenting him with a siddur.
The Argentina cathedral once again hosted the inter-religious ceremony on Tuesday, November 12th, during which a small group of around 50 Catholics prayed the Rosary before the evening’s ecumenical event began. One of the men also took the opportunity to use an open microphone to denounce the inter-religious act in a Catholic cathedral.
In reaction, some members of the audience stood up and repudiated the rosary-praying Catholics to their face, even spitting on them. Buenos Aires Archbishop Mario Poli attempted to appeal for calm in the cathedral saying: “Let there be peace. Shalom,” while urging everyone to retake their seats for the inter-religious ceremony that would be led by Rabbi Abraham Skorka.
The police eventually arrived, at which point the protestors calmly left the cathedral while singing the Salve Regina. Archbishop Poli also said:
Dear Jewish brothers, please feel at home, because that’s the way Christians want it, despite these signs of intolerance. Your presence here doesn’t desecrate a temple of God. We will continue in peace this encounter that Pope Francis always promoted, valued and appreciated so much.
In response to some questions during the interviews with Radio La Red and with cn23tv, Fr. Bouchacourt made some very pertinent points about the Catholic motive behind the cathedral protest:
The protesters have a right to feel outraged when rabbis preside over a ceremony in a Catholic cathedral.
We recognize the authority of the pope, but he is not infallible [in everything he does] and in this case, he does things we cannot accept.
This wasn’t a desire to make a rebellion, but to show our love for a Catholic church, which has been built for the Catholic Faith.
A Mass isn’t celebrated in a synagogue, nor in a mosque. The Muslims don’t accept it. In the same way, we Catholics cannot accept the presence of another faith [practiced] in our church.
The churches are built for Catholic worship and historically, the Church condemned those who allowed other religions to celebrate in Catholic churches. …This is a reaction of faithful who are scandalized. ….The popes in the past have always condemned this type of [inter-religious] meeting. This is a violation of a Catholic church.
Fr. Bouchacourt later published a press release on the South America District website which we reproduce below.
Press Release of Fr. Christian Bouchacourt, SSPX District Superior for South America
The Society of St. Pius X recalls the Catholic doctrine taught in the Encyclical Mortalium animos of Pope Pius XI, as it can be found on the official website of the Vatican:
2. …For since they hold it for certain that men destitute of all religious sense are very rarely to be found, they seem to have founded on that belief a hope that the nations, although they differ among themselves in certain religious matters, will without much difficulty come to agree as brethren in professing certain doctrines, which form as it were a common basis of the spiritual life. For which reason conventions, meetings and addresses are frequently arranged by these persons, at which a large number of listeners are present, and at which all without distinction are invited to join in the discussion, both infidels of every kind, and Christians, even those who have unhappily fallen away from Christ or who with obstinacy and pertinacity deny His divine nature and mission.
Certainly such attempts can nowise be approved by Catholics, founded as they are on that false opinion which considers all religions to be more or less good and praiseworthy, since they all in different ways manifest and signify that sense which is inborn in us all, and by which we are led to God and to the obedient acknowledgment of His rule.
Not only are those who hold this opinion in error and deceived, but also in distorting the idea of true religion they reject it, and little by little turn aside to naturalism and atheism, as it is called; from which it clearly follows that one who supports those who hold these theories and attempt to realize them, is altogether abandoning the divinely revealed religion.
Without any kind of resentment against any other religious community, the Society of St. Pius X adheres to this immutable doctrine and firmly disapproves of the planning of any interreligious ceremony in Catholic churches.
Fr. Christian Bouchacourt, Buenos Aires on November 13, 2013