Not All Dialogue Works, Says Philosopher

Author Warns of a False Respect for Pluralism

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MADRID, Spain, SEPT. 17, 2004 ( Francisco Javier de la Torre thinks it is futile to marginalize the religious element in decision-making international forums — or to try to build world peace apart from religions.

The philosopher-theologian states his case in a book, «Demolish Borders. World Ethics and Interreligious Dialogue,» recently published by Desclée De Brouwer.

De la Torre, professor of philosophy of law, juridical deontology and business ethics at the San Pablo-CEU University’s School of Law, says that the «borders» mentioned in his book are of two kinds: internal and external.

«The internal ones are all our inabilities to engage in a profound dialogue with all men,» he told ZENIT. «Dialogue, beyond being a fashionable word, is not an easy task and requires an interior asceticism to integrate the truth of the other within my own.»

«The fact is, there are not many who have the gift and the grace to be able to do so in depth, to inhabit border lands, to leave their own land, although as Pope John Paul II tells us in ‘Redemptoris Missio,’ 57, all the faithful and the communities are called to engage in dialogue, although not at the same level or in the same way,» de la Torre said.

«The external borders are the arbitrary and sharp divisions with which we parcel out and divide the world and the action of the Spirit in it,» he continued.

In this connection, de la Torre in his book criticized «the ‘liberal’ models of dialogue which under a false respect for plurality impose modern uniformity. This reductionism can be discovered especially in John Hick’s position and, to a lesser degree and in a different measure, in Paul Knitter’s.»

These authors state that «religions are different masks that cover the reality of the only mystery; they are like different paths that lead to the center, different valleys that lead to the center, or different branches that lead to the trunk. Thus religion is a mere means, a garb that envelops genuine religious experience that is profoundly interior,» de la Torre said.

«We think this scheme is to be rejected for many reasons,» he explained. «To simplify and summarize: The first reason is the reduction of religion to a mere myth that must be demythologized to arrive at real profundity. The language, rites and religious acts are peripheral, masks [and] shells as opposed to the center and nucleus which is a common experience of the mystery.»

The second reason «is the reduction of religion to a mere practical truth to the degree that the religion itself is true, to the extent that it distracts us or frees us from pain, poverty and the deterioration of the environment. Myths are valuable because of the practice they engender,» according to these liberal conceptions, de la Torre contended.

«Paradoxically,» he added, «this pluralist model is uniforming and morally sterile» and, therefore, «does not help the encounter and dialogue among different religions.»

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