The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, an interreligious organization composed of Islamic, Jewish, and Catholic members, called for May 14 to be a journey “for fasting, works of mercy, prayers, and supplications for the good of all humanity.”1
“I Have Accepted the Proposal of the Higher Committee”
During the May 3 Regina Caeli, in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis stated: “Since prayer is a universal value I have accepted the proposal of the Higher Committee for Human Fraternity.”
Based on this “prayer is a universal value” premise, regardless of people’s faith, intention, or way of praying, Pope Francis called on “believers of all religions” to heed the Higher Committee’s call, and hold a day “of prayer, fasting, and works of charity, to implore God to help humanity overcome the coronavirus pandemic.”
In closing, Pope Francis urged, “Remember: May 14, all believers together, believers of different traditions, to pray, fast, and perform works of charity.”2
“Everyone Prays the Way He Knows and Can, As Received From His Culture”
During Mass on May 14, the pope joined the initiative.3 He emphasized in his sermon that “Thanks to the courage that this High Committee for Human Fraternity has shown, we have been invited to pray together according to one’s own tradition and to hold a day of penance, fasting and also charity, helping others.”
Pope Francis himself pre-empted the objection that can properly be made to the interreligious initiative: “Maybe someone will say: This is religious relativism and cannot be.” However, the Pope denied the objection’s validity, and doubled down, saying, “But how can we not pray to the father of all? Everyone prays the way he knows and can, as received from his own culture.”
Now, to affirm that each one prays “as he knows,” “as he can,” according to his “own culture,” is to accept the essence of religious relativism, which consists in rejecting all objective norms and absolute truth. In short, it is to fall into complete religious subjectivism. That is all the more so since the Pope addresses “believers of all religions,” who pray “each according to his own tradition.”
Is God the “Father of All”?
Pope Francis seeks to justify this religious relativism saying that God is the “Father of all.” Thus, differences of belief or in one’s way of praying would not matter, implying that all religions are equally good, and all forms of praying equally commendable for they are addressed to the same Father.
This statement is absurd because God cannot be the father of all men in the same sense. He cannot be father equally of the just and the sinner, the believer and the unbeliever, the followers of the true Faith and those in heresy or the darkness of paganism.
According to The Catechism of the Council of Trent,4 one must distinguish between God’s paternity as “creator and a ruler” and His paternity “because He adopts Christians through grace.”
In the first case, God’s paternity as Creator, the analogy is with a person who establishes and maintains a family. In this sense, divine paternity can be applied to all men without distinction. In the second case, however, God’s fatherhood by adoption through grace, He is properly speaking only the Father of the righteous, who accept faith in Jesus Christ and remain in His friendship.
Saint John aptly illustrates this truth in the introduction to his Gospel: “He [the Word Incarnate] came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name” (John 1:11–12).5
Further, Saint Paul wrote to the Galatians, “For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26). In addition, he wrote to the Romans, “The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:16–17).
Therefore, adoptive divine filiation comes by faith and sanctifying grace. By destroying sanctifying grace in the soul, mortal sin causes the loss of adoptive divine filiation. Worse, the sinner not only ceases to be an adopted son of God but also becomes a son of the devil, as one reads in the First Epistle of Saint John: “Whoever sins belongs to the devil, because the devil has sinned from the beginning. … In this way, the children of God and the children of the devil are made plain; no one who fails to act in righteousness belongs to God, nor anyone who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:8,10).
Our Lord illustrated this truth when responding to the Pharisees, who called themselves sons of Abraham but sought to kill Him: “You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father’s desires” (John 8:44).
Not Every Prayer Is Equally Pleasing to God
Pope Francis affirms that “prayer is a universal value,” implying that all prayers have the same value before God.
Now, it is evident that God cannot be equally pleased with the prayer of the just and that of the sinner. Nor with that of the believer in the Blessed Trinity, and that of those who not only do not believe in it but fight to eliminate it.6 Or even with that prayer made through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, the Mediatrix of all Graces, and that which rejects her mediation.
Saint Thomas teaches that “prayer depends chiefly on faith,” because “it is through faith that man comes to know of God’s omnipotence and mercy, which are the source whence prayer impetrates what it asks for.”7
Prayer is a means of worshipping the Creator, as the same Angelic Doctor says, “man shows reverence to God by means of prayer, in so far as he subjects himself to Him, and by praying confesses that he needs Him as the Author of his goods.”8
But, how can a religion like Islam, which, as mentioned, refuses to accept the Blessed Trinity, or one like Buddhism, which rejects the notion of a personal God, pay due “reverence to God”?9
On the other hand, a sinner’s prayer is only answered by God when, due to a remnant of good in his soul, he asks for something helpful to his salvation. On the contrary, when he asks to remain in sin, God rejects his prayer as an abomination.10
The same can be said of the prayer of a non-Christian. In those moments when, enlightened by grace, he prays to God looking for the Truth, he will be answered.11 On the contrary, when he prays as a member of a false religion, according to its false principles, and willing the continued progress of its errors, God cannot heed the prayer without contradicting Himself.
Therefore, one cannot accept Pope Francis’s simplistic notion of prayer.
Does God “Want All Religions”?
According to Pope Francis, God, in His wisdom, wants the existence of all religions. He embraced this position when signing the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, on February 4, 2019, in Abu Dhabi, with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb. His meeting and signing of the Document with the Imam gave rise to The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, the source of the May 14 ecumenical prayer initiative.12
The Document states: “The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings.”13
The concept does violence to human reason, which has as one of its foundations the principle of non-contradiction. Thus, God in His infinite wisdom could never will to be worshiped in His Blessed Trinity and, at the same time, will to have this adoration considered idolatry and extirpated by Islam. Above all, the Abu Dhabi false concept contradicts divine Revelation and the First Commandment of the Law of God: “Thou shalt not have strange gods before me” (Exod. 20:3).
Given the scandal and reactions triggered by the Abu Dhabi Declaration,14 more than a month later, Pope Francis said at a General Audience that the existence of many religions is willed by God’s “permissive will.” After asking, “Why does God allow many religions?” he replied that is due “to God’s voluntas permissiva [permissive will].” He added that God “wanted to allow this reality: there are many religions.”15
He failed to explain that although God allows evil to exist in the world, “partly that greater good may not be impeded, and partly that greater evil may not ensue,”16 He cannot be the cause, even indirectly, of any evil.17
Pope Francis’s explanation is even more flawed as he adds that “Some [religions] are born from culture, but they always look to heaven; they look to God.”
The phrase is very ambiguous because false religions cannot seek heaven and God correctly and efficiently. Otherwise, the necessary conclusion would be that all of them are good and salvific. If that were so, all of them would exist, not by God’s permissive will but by His positive will and desire. Yet, this is the meaning of the disputed sentence in the Abu Dhabi document, which caused a great scandal for presenting a God contradictory unto Himself by wanting both good and evil, truth and error.
The Abu Dhabi document that Pope Francis signed and this prayer initiative of the Higher Committee that he joined intend to build a fraternity among men that abstracts from faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who makes us children of God and, therefore, true brothers.
Such an aspiration is just one more of the many naturalistic utopias of which history gives us many sorry examples.
A Universal Naturalistic Religion
The ideas Pope Francis preaches on an undefined universal religion are not new. Saint Pius X had already condemned them as part of the modernist heresy.
When condemning the modernist-inspired movement Le Sillon, that saintly pope denounced a veritable conspiracy within the Church to transform Her into a naturalist religion devoid of all dogmas. After pointing out that this movement had been the object of much hope before it went astray, the pontiff writes:
[This movement] is now no more than a miserable affluent of the great movement of apostasy being organized in every country for the establishment of a One-World Church which shall have neither dogmas, nor hierarchy, neither discipline for the mind, nor curb for the passions, and which, under the pretext of freedom and human dignity, would bring back to the world (if such a Church could overcome) the reign of legalized cunning and force, and the oppression of the weak, and of all those who toil and suffer.18
Submission to an Alien Power
In addition to the disturbing theological aspects of the various statements and initiatives discussed above, it was perplexing how the pope, holding the highest religious authority on Earth, one that was instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ, had somehow submitted to another religious power that is funded and dominated by Muslims.
An example of the bewilderment it caused is a priest’s letter to the Catholic journalist Aldo Maria Vale, who published it on his blog. The young priest writes: “I was immediately struck by the pope’s sort of obedience to an authority he seems to consider superior to him, whose name is a whole program: High Committee for Human Fraternity.”19
Is Francis, through this gesture, implicitly abdicating from the papacy? While this is a delicate question, it cannot fail to occur to many, especially since he recently renounced the use of Vicar of Christ as a papal title.20
Let us pray that light will shine amid so much confusion.
May Mary Most Holy, Seat of Wisdom, guide us in this situation and help us to remain faithful to the one true Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Vatican News, “Higher Committee of Human Fraternity Calls for Day of Prayer,” Vatican News, May 2, 2020, https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2020-05/higher-committee-human-fraternity-prayer-appeal-end-pandemic.html.
- “The Pope’s Words at the Regina Caeli,” Holy See Press Office, May 3, 2020, http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2020/05/03/200503b.html. (All emphases in article are mine)
- Celebrazione Mattutina Trasmessa in Diretta Dalla Cappella di Casa Santa Marta—Omelia del Santo Padre Francesco, “Giorno di fratellanza, giorno di penitenza e preghiera,” May 14, 2020, http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/cotidie/2020/documents/papa-francesco-cotidie_20200514_giornodi-fratellanza-penitenza-preghiera.html.
- The Catechism of the Council of Trent (Rockford, Ill.: Tan Books, 1982), 20–1. See also S. Gonzalez, S.J., De Gratia, III, c. 2, a. 3, nos. 208–19.
- Scripture quotations are from The New American Bible, 1983 edition.
- The Koran considers the Blessed Trinity as polytheism. At verse 9:5 it reads, “kill the polytheists,” meaning the Christians. See Luiz Sérgio Solimeo, Islam and the Suicide of the West: The Origin, Doctrine, and Goals of Islam (Spring Grove, Penn.: The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property—TFP, 2018), 51.
- Summa Theologica, II–II, q. 83, a. 15, ad.3.
- Ibid., a.3. corpus.
- “Buddhism is unique amongst the religions of the world because it does not have any place for God in its soteriology. … [I]t is positively anti-theistic because the very notion of God conflicts with some principles which are fundamental to the Buddhist view of the world and the role of humans in it.” A. Gunasekara, The Buddhist Attitude to God, accessed May 30, 2020, https://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebdha068.htm.
- Summa Theologica, II–II, q. 83, a. 16.
- See The Catechism of The Council of Trent, 486.
- The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity’s web site tells its story: “On February 4, 2019, Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar met in Abu Dhabi to sign the Document on Human Fraternity—a joint statement calling for the reconciliation of people of goodwill in service of universal peace. That bold act inspired us. With the support of the United Arab Emirates, who themselves are deeply committed to harmonious coexistence through dialogue and understanding, we formed the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity.” Accessed May 26, 2020, https://www.forhumanfraternity.org/.
- “A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” Feb. 4, 2019, in Apostolic Journey of His Holiness Pope Francis to the United Arab Emirates (Feb. 3–5, 2019), http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/travels/2019/outside/documents/papa-francesco_20190204_documento-fratellanza-umana.html.
- See Luiz Sérgio Solimeo, “Theological and Canonical Implications of the Declaration Signed by Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi,” TFP.org, Feb. 27, 2019, https://www.tfp.org/theological-and-canonical-implications-of-the-declaration-signed-by-pope-francis-in-abu-dhabi/.
- Pope Francis, General Audience, Apr. 3, 2019, http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2019/documents/papa-francesco_20190403_udienza-generale.html.
- Leo XIII, Encyclical Libertas Praestantissima, Jun. 20, 1888, no. 33, http://w2.vatican.va/content/leo-xiii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_20061888_libertas.html.
- See Summa Theologica, I, q. 19, a. 9.
- Pius X, Encyclical Notre Charge Apostolique, Aug. 15, 1910, https://www.papalencyclicals.net/pius10/p10notre.htm.
- Aldo Maria Valli, “‘Quanto resta della notte?’ Una strana giornata di preghiera e tante domande,” May 15, 2020, https://www.aldomariavalli.it/2020/05/15/quanto-resta-della-notte-una-strana-giornata-di-preghiera-e-tante-domande/.
- Maike Hickson, “Pope Francis Drops ‘Vicar of Christ’ Title in Vatican Yearbook,” LifeSiteNews, Apr. 2, 2020, https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pope-francis-drops-vicar-of-christ-title-in-vatican-yearbook.