Fundamentalism is the new “-ism” the church must fight

The Catholic Church is well known for its opposition to many important “-isms” over the years: it has risen up against secularism, materialism, communism and modernism with vigor and determination. Now it seems that Pope Francis has decided to oppose an “-ism” of another type.

For more than a year now, Francis has repeatedly returned to the issue of religious fundamentalism and condemned it, whether it is Christian, Muslim or Jewish fundamentalism.

The subject returned to his recent trip to Turkey. francis called for interreligious dialogue put an end to all forms of fundamentalism.

The pope sees dialogue as a way to deepen our understanding of how we agree and can pursue common interests. Cooperation should be based on respect for life, religious freedom, work to provide all the essentials of a dignified life, and environmental protection. He wants to see all the religions of the world working together to fight hunger, poverty and the marginalization of peoples.

Looking back some earlier papal commentaries can provide greater clarity on what concerns the pope with regard to fundamentalist groups of all persuasions. He goes to the very heart of fundamentalism when he sees it as a mental structure that is essentially violence in the name of God.

In the Middle-East, Francis condemned the violence in the strongest terms. He acknowledged that in the past Christians sometimes condoned violence in the name of God, but he says today such actions are unimaginable. He worries about bigotry and division, even questioning independence movements in Scotland and Catalonia. He calls the idea of ​​Holocaust denial “madness.”

But what is it about fundamentalism that Francis considers violent or worthy of such severe criticism? It seems to revolve around the rigid ideology found in all forms of fundamentalism. Francis says that fundamentalism is not healthy. He calls ideological Christianity a disease. In eloquent terms from one of his daily homilies, he comments“In ideologies there is no Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his gentleness.”

For Francis, ideologies are too often rigid. A rigid adherence to an ideology will likely prevent a person from reaching out to see the truth or value of what the other may have to say. Francis wants us to familiarize ourselves with reality through experience. He wants us to be on the periphery connecting with the world. The danger he sees is that Christians will become abstract ideologues.

A perfect example of what Francis is talking about can be seen in those at the recent synod on the family who refuse to even consider the possibility of change. Those who are totally absorbed in logical arguments based on school categories are not in touch with the concrete realities of those who live around them or on the periphery.

Pope Francis is asking for a big leap in the way business is done in the church, and it will no doubt create serious hardship for many. However, this is long overdue. We are in the 21st century and the old categories no longer work. More importantly, Francis’ path is a return to Gospel values ​​and to Jesus himself.

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