Sunday, November 14, 2010


I was just watching PBS's weekly religion show as I get ready for Sunday. There was a segment on Buddhist chaplains in hospitals.

In an interfaith seminar on hospital chaplaincy, a Buddhist chaplain asked a Catholic Sister-Chaplain if it was okay for him to make the "Sign of the Cross" when praying with a Catholic.

Her answer was "YES." "The Catholic will like that you identify with him/her and they might even think they are converting you." Of course she said that with a smile.

What do you think? Should a non-Christian make the Sign of the Cross which implies belief in the Most Holy Trinity and Jesus Christ who is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity who Himself has two natures, human and divine and through whom all prayer is addressed to God the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit; and by whom those who acknowledge Him are saved and no one is saved except through Him? Or is it just play acting on the part of the non Christian and thus an act of benign mockery and thus the antithesis of ecumenism and interfaith dialogue?

Your thoughts.


Gene said...

You can't post my thoughts. This is equivalent to gang members wearing Crucifixes as symbols of gang loyalty. This nun needs some 13th century correction.

SqueekerLamb said...

Other cultures are not offended when a 'guest' participates in their religious devotionals. On the contrary, they feel honored.
So for a Buddist to make a Sign of the Cross is, in his mind, a caring act of ecumenism. That is a far cry from gang members wearing Crucifixes. The intent is totally different.

However, a non-Christian chaplain in a hospital is in a 'power' role with the patient being in the vulnerable role. It could have the effect of elevating him in the eyes of the patient and blurring the important Christian/non-Christian distinction in the eyes of the patient. Thus not working toward his conversion to Catholicism, but rather a dilution of the patient's Cathoicism.

When all is said and done, it probably not a big deal. Hospital interactions between Chaplain and patient are short lived and limited. God works through all of humanity, and perhaps if the Buddist sees enough Catholic patients, and makes enough Signs of the Cross, then he will indeed be moved toward conversion.
Ya' know, Jesus always gets the 'last laugh'.

Gene said...

So, Lamb, where do you draw the line? Should we give Masonic secret handshakes to make them feel good? Should we salute all military officers to indicate our respect? Should we bow to Muslims (as our occupant of the White House did)? Should we try to speak jive to hip hop Blacks in order to affirm them?

We already have people making the oracular gesture at Mass (inappropriately)...I guess that is to make the Priest feel good?

Why should not the Buddhist take Communion in order to affirm us in our Catholic faith? Why should I not take Communion at the Methodist church for the same reason?

I believe such behavior is disingenuous and based upon a lie. In an age where our Catholic identity is chipped at in every little way, such concessions are not only insincere they are dangerous.

Anonymous said...

Other cultures do, indeed, feel offense at someone presuming to display or participate in some acts, not in others. The error of the Monk was in thinking that the nun knew the difference in her own faith.

I would not feel offended by the question, but honoured that he cared. She could have asked the Monk if he usderstood that Sign was an outward sign of belief in the Triune nature of God, and that the resurrected Christ was the one path to God. Even Christopher Hitchens knows that.

I do not believe the nun is that ignorant of her faith. I do believe that she suffers from the same spiritual acquiescence that prevents Catholics from standing up for their faith and identifying right and wrong out loud.

"..and what I have failed to do."


Mr. A. said...

I find the Buddhist making the sign of the cross "for my benefit" patronizing. I'd rather the Buddhist, Mason, or whomever simply say, "I don't believe in your Trinitarian God, but I will pray to whatever it is that I believe in on your behalf." That, after all, is what we should do for them isn't it? Pray to The Father for the soul of the nonbeliever?

"My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I beg pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You."

Gerbert said...

This is misguided, it is not ecumenism at all. The ecumenical movement is built on our Lords request "May they all be one" which is a call to all Christians to restore full visible, and doctrinal unity of the Body of Christ. Interreligious dialogue is not ecumenism. It is true that most of the worlds religions express certain amounts of truth, they do not have the fullness of the truth, fullness exist in the Catholic Church. This action is hypocritical and can cause damage to the patient. While it might be fine to have a Buddhist monk to comfort the patient, with out imparting any spiritual thoughts counter the patients beliefs. It is deceptive and hypocritical for a Buddhist, Jew, Muslim, Mormon or Jehovah Witness to make the sign of the cross. The signing of the cross expresses a belief in a triune God which those groups among others do not believe. I think the nun needs a few good Catechism classes.

Templar said...

Of course it's easy for the Buddhist to offer the sign of the cross as a method of caring, they probably believe all religions are equal.

I'm much more concerned about the Nun who gave the wrong answer.

I frequently have non-Catholic people with me in Mass and in Church and I make it a point to tell them not to genuflect, or make the sign of the cross without knowing what it means and implies. then I explain it to them, and after that some have still chosen to done it, and have later ended up converting to the True Faith.

Charity doesn't mean giving soup to the poor, it means being forthright and honest, and not allowing people to err through ignorance. Be outspoken in the Faith and the Lord will not disappoint. Be weak and wishy washy and well, you'll have Nuns telling Budhist Monks to make the sign of the Cross.

SqueekerLamb said...

I did NOT say that the Catholic should do Buddhist actions! And I warned against the patient's Catholicism being diluted by the ecumenical actions of the Buddist chaplain.

I have no idea why so many Cathloics these days make the oracular gesture at stricks me as folks wanting to have a Charismatic prayer meeting during Mass. I fold my hands prayerfully...don't even hold hands.

Taking Communion by non-Catholics and the taking of Communion by Catholics at non-Cathlic churches is another WHOLE matter completely unrelated to making the gesture of the Sign of the Cross.
Because other religions don't realize that, we are obligated to, if necessary, explain why they shouldn't and why we don't.

Now I'm not saying that we shouldn't also educate that Buddist chaplain, and others like him, about the significant devotion behind the Sign of the Cross, and what he is really saying when he makes that gesture. If he understood, then if he is an honest man he simply couldn't do it any longer.

I also believe that such behaviour is disingenuous and based upon the pull of secularism and the 'Im OK, you're OK' mentality...I guess it has watered down other religions too.

So many Sisters these days have laicized themselves that they have long since forgotten what it is to truly be Catholic, much less be an apologetic for the Church.

Bishops have warned against this distorted ecumenism.

Dan said...

It seems to me that the Buddhist would be a better Buddhist if he/she weren't "pretending." Why not just be him/her self?

Gene said...

Sorry Lamb, I misunderstood you. We are on the same page, I believe. You are, not surprisingly, a bit more generous with regard to other people's motives than I am.

SqueekerLamb said...

aaw shucks, Pin

M. Felix said...

Once again, the Straw Man ariseth.

This conversation between Nun and Buddhist is not en example of ecumenism or interreligious dialogue, yet is it presented as such so as to engender a negative response toward both.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Perhaps the better title should have been, "Ecumenism that leads to false ecumenism run amuck"?
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Strawman?

M. Felix said...

Fr. McDonald: A Catholic and a Buddhist cannot engage in ecumenism. Ecumenism is dialogue between/among Christian.

The last time I checked, Buddhists were not counted among the Christian denominations.

There's the Straw Man. You misrepresent ecumenism in order to tear it down.

Bad intentions lead one to hell as surely as good.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Perhaps my headline should have been "Confused ecumenism leads to interfaith debacle caused by confusion run amock!" Yes you are correct, good and bad intentions pave the way to a very ecumenicaland interfaith infiltrated hell.

Gene said...

Felix/Ignotus: Inter-religious dialogue is exactly the sort of thing as the Buddhist/Nun. Perhaps you meant "intra-religious." It does not matter how the nun/Buddhist example is presented; the point is that such phony, feel-good encounters (whether ecumenical or inter-religious)diminish both parties and are a part and parcel of the secularizing, relativizing trends in our culture.

You imply that Fr. deliberately misused the term "ecumenical...I doubt it. He was using the term loosely, as it is often used by many, or in its true Greek meaning of "universal" or "of/from the whole world," which would indeed imply cross religious dialogue.

You need to learn the Latin Mass and begin saying it for your parishioners. It would keep you busy, be a blessing to your flock, and we would be spared your cynical asides on various subjects.

M. Felix said...

No, Pin, I do not think Fr. McDonald used the term "ecumenical" deliberately. I believe he simply forgot - a momentary laspe of consciousness, perhaps - that "ecumenism" and "interreligious" are not the same thing. And if many use it incorrectly, it is still incorrect.

The use of terms "loosely" is not a good idea. I hear lots of folks from your perspective rant and rave when "Eucharistic Minister" is used in place of "Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion." Like it or not, in these matters, proper terminology matters.

Gene said...

Well, Felix/Ignotus, "loosely" and "incorrectly" are not the same thing. The definition I gave is straight form Webster, which I checked by my dusty Greek Lexicon. So, to use the term "ecumenical" in the sense in which he used it is not, technically is, in theological company, an imprecise
usage(isn't this fun?*).

A loose usage would be like me saying, "Felix/Ignotus has a chip on his shoulder." That is a loose colloquialism. The more correct statement would be to say, "Felix Ignotus has a neurotic need for an antagonist." There are certain even looser attributions that fall within the definition of "slang" which Fr. would not post.

Anonymous said...


Do you have any interests in life other than nitpicking Father's blog in search of disputation points?

No offense, but your Intro- to-Logic-class-show-off schtick is wearing thin.

Anonymous said...

Felix, You make a valid point poorly. However accurate the use of 'ecumenism' is in this case would depend on the perspective of the nun, who made a mistake regardless of her intentions. One could ask sincerely if she was guided by a misunderstanding of ecumenism. It seems more charitable than to speculate on any other motivation or cause.