Papal Power Trip

Clergy says Interfaith relations strong in Valley


Pope Benedict XVI's recent endorsements of both the traditional Latin mass and a document asserting the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church have stirred international concerns about Catholicism's commitment to true ecumenism. But spiritual leaders here in the Treasure Valley doubt that these pronouncements will affect the interfaith atmosphere that many prefer.

Benedict's moves have raised the ire of groups that object to wording in the old Good Friday mass that refers to "the perfidious Jews," and prays that "they be delivered from their darkness." The reissued version of a text Benedict authored before becoming pope asserts that only the Catholic Church "has the fullness of the means of salvation."

Such disputes bring back bad memories for the Rev. Ed Keene, chair of the Interfaith Alliance of Idaho. A retired Presbyterian minister, Keene remembers times in the 1950s when, "I lost some playmates for a while," as a result of some priestly pronouncements.

"Some Roman Catholics have joked about what the pope has said, but in no serious way are they going to give up this interfaith participation," Keene said. "I don't see any disrespect or attitude that their version of Christianity is more important or superior to mine."

"I think it's jumping the gun to assume the worst in what the pope has done," said Denny Clark, a professor of philosophy and religion at Albertson College of Idaho and a former Lutheran pastor. .

The key thing to recognize is that the sacred always goes beyond what any doctrinal statement or religious practice is able to contain," said Clark. "Interfaith relations always depend on face-to-face conversations."

"For what it's worth, my short take on it is that this won't make a whole lot of difference in Jewish-Catholic relations at the grassroots level," said Rabbi Dan Fink of Boise's Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel. "It is a big problem on the national/international level, where all the heads of Jewish and Catholic organizations meet."

Fink said there are numerous examples of local-level church officials differing with the pope. "One or two papal statements cannot undo 40 years since Vatican II. I have very good relationships with local priests and monastic communities ... Those relationships are stronger and more significant in the long run, locally, than Pope Benedict's misguided, in my opinion, statements of triumphalism."

Father Joseph DaSilva, vicar-general of the Roman Catholic Boise Diocese, said he sees Benedict XVI as more of an academic than his predecessor. "The lived experience is that the claim that one must be Catholic to be saved is absurd, and this document does not say that," DaSilva said.

DaSilva said no local parishioners have asked for the Latin mass. Any such requests would be difficult to fulfill anyway, since the rite requires priests who understand the prayers and "of the people ordained in the last 40 years, 90 percent have not been immersed in Latin."


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