This is the question that numerous faithful have asked the Holy See, after reading the book of a well-known Belgian theologian on the topic of religious pluralism.
In response, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a "Notification" today, with the theologian´s approval, which clarifies some of the affirmations made by Jesuit Father Jacques Dupuis, on essential aspects of the Church´s message.
The document analyzes the book "Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism" (Orbis Book: Maryknoll, New York, 1997), written by the theology professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, who for decades has taught in India.
The Vatican congregation, responsible for safeguarding the integrity of the deposit of faith, in its Notification said it "found that his book contained notable ambiguities and difficulties on important doctrinal points, which could lead a reader to erroneous or harmful opinions."
The Vatican document, published in L´Osservatore Romano, is signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, prefect and secretary, respectively, of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It is the result of years of discussion with Father Dupuis, who from the very outset admitted that "his hypothesis may raise as many questions as it seeks to answer."
As both the author and the Vatican congregation acknowledge, the question lies in the fact that the book "is not simply a theology of religions, but a theology of religious pluralism, which seeks to investigate, in the light of Christian faith, the significance of plurality of religious traditions in God´s plan for humanity."
Therefore, it is about a new approach, and as all new arguments, confronts the author with "questions hitherto largely unexplored."
Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Bertone acknowledge "the author´s attempt to remain within the limits of orthodoxy in his study." The theologian has confirmed his attitude in a series of responses, which he offered to experts and consultors of the congregation June 30, 1999.
The Notification refers to the book´s arguments about the concept of salvation in Christ, which can lead one to think that any religion is, in itself, a valid way for salvation. However, anyone who believes that there is salvation outside of Christ, although he has the right to so believe, cannot regard himself with full knowledge as a Christian.
The Second Vatican Council taught that all believers of different religions are saved if they are faithful to their conscience; however, they do so in virtue of the salvation brought by Jesus himself.
In particular, the Holy See explains that the "points concerned the interpretation of the sole and universal salvific mediation of Christ, the unicity and completeness of Christ´s revelation, the universal salvific action of the Holy Spirit, the orientation of all people to the Church, and the value and significance of the salvific function of other religions."
In giving his acquiescence to the Vatican text, Father Dupuis, 76, has committed himself "to assent to the stated theses and, in his future theological activity and publications, to hold the doctrinal contents indicated in the Notification, the text of which must be included in any reprinting or further editions of his book, as well as in all translations."
The text of the Notification appears in today´s Documents section.