White Robed Monks of St. Benedict

Truth, Christianity, and The Network's Mission: Compassion

Index of Topic Headings

True Religion
About Truth
Truth's Subtlety
Relational Topics
"The" Way, Truth, & Life
The Truth
The Network's Mission
Catholic Christians/
Christian Catholics

The Way of God

True Religion

Is my religion the true religion? Some religions claim they are the true religion. Some, from this claim, albeit benignly, have opened the door to the executioner's chamber for many who hold other beliefs. A scan of our human history lets us see that we humans have killed (not to speak of tortured and maimed) more people in the name of "God" (including the "Almighty Economic Unit") — by whatever name) than any other reality. Are these statements or observations true themselves? What is true? What is the truth of Christianity? The Truth of Catholicism? The Truth of Christ?
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The purpose of this paper is not to give an exhaustive philosophical or theological, linguistic or even phenomenological expose on truth. Its purpose is twofold. First, its purpose is to present the reader some information for quiet reflection into the essence of truth and the truth of one's own religious experience or spirituality. Its second purpose is to provide a point of departure for discussing the "catholic" mission of the White Robed Monks of St. Benedict in general, and the Benedictine Network in particular.
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The intention of this paper is not to make an absolute — once and for always — true statement about truth. Its general intention is to suggest a point of departure for uncovering the specific reality of the truth of one's own religious experience or spirituality — however one may define or explain such phenomena (cf. William James, Variety of Religious Experience). Once appreciative, we may better appreciate another's religious experience (or lack of it). Engendering a compassionate presence is, then, the specific intention of this paper.
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Observations About Truth

Let us consider some general observations about truth. First, we notice that we no longer identify truth by its ability to exclude or absorb other "truths." We might call this exclusive/inclusive truth eclectic or synthetic truth. Often we derive such "truth" by intellectual exercise. Exclusive/inclusive truth usually makes up our belief system.

Such truth is often the product of a speculative intellectual exercise. We engage in an intellection process to compensate for our alleged ignorance. Hence, we believe. Because we have allowed ourselves to be conditioned to believe we do not know, we do not know. There is an ever so subtle distinction between knowing that we don't knowand believing that we don't know. Yet, some of us do not know that we do not know. Yet, others of us believe we are right, simply because we so believe. A belief system, (affirming/denying a religion, including or excluding people, ideas, religious experiences) has very little to do with truth itself. The map, the belief system, is not the territory, the religion.

Second, we detect a specific subtleness about truth. We sense that what is true reveals itself as true mainly by being able to relate to other expressions of truth. It is able to grow through these relationships.1 What may be "true" today is not necessarily "true" tomorrow. We know now that the Earth is not flat, not the center of the universe. There is no "up" or "down" per se as anyone pointing "up" when standing either at the North or South Pole knows. There is no "up" or "down," except in relation to one's immediate position. Perhaps, the true relational truth of "up" is not "up" but "out" from the center of the Earth.
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The Subtlety of Truth

There is a subtle, yet specific truth in the relation of a mother and child. A problem may arise when we center on the absolute truth of "mother" or "child". This is MY mother.This is MY child. What is the truth? Short of DNA testing (which itself only demonstrates tendencies toward alleged fact by exclusion), King Solomon demonstrated the truth in the mother-child relation.

Remember the story? King Solomon was about to cut a child in two, giving both claiming mothers a half. The true mother in relation was willing to give up her child to the other claimant to spare her child's life.Your religion or my religion? Your belief or my belief? My God or your God?

Truth is not in relation to, as is the claim of situation ethics. Truth is only relation, nothing more, nothing less. King Solomon knew relation in truth. He knew that truth inherent in relation is relation inherent in truth. Matter is energy. Energy is matter. Emptiness is form. Form is emptiness.
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Relativism. Relativity. Relation. Relationality.

Relativity has little, if anything, to do with relativism. Relativism is a belief structure operating under the proposition: All is subjective. Its corresponding position is Absolutism: All is completely objective.

Relativity has everything to do with the dynamic tension between alleged poles, not either of the poles. For example, Einstein posits that the question is NOT one of matter (Relativism) and/or energy (Absolutism) as is the case in Newtonian physics. There simply is no question. Matter is energy. Energy is matter. Both are inherently the same, much like emptiness is form and form is emptiness.

At the level on which we generally see and touch things and each other, "we/they" look "solid" and feel "solid." A view of any "object," including ourselves, under an electron-scanning microscope would demonstrate, however, that "we/objects" are nothing other than an energy field of shimmering waves pulsing at tremendous speed. There is no "true" separation between "us" and "objects." Did not Christ pray: Father, may they all be one, as you and I are one, that they may be one in us? (John 17:11) Perhaps Christ was simply praying that we just awaken to our own sensate and innate unity, being created creators in God, being one.

How we identify either matter or energy, subjectivity or objectivity, truth or falsehood depends upon intra-relations. It is not a question of what is matter or what is energy, what is true or false, true or not true, false or not false. It is that matter is energy, true is false, false is true, not true is not false, not false is not true, an so on through the matrix of propositional logic.

The question of either pole becomes mute in the relativity of both. Hence, the Unified Field Theory in Quantum Mechanics/Particle Physics, Sunyata (Emptiness), and the Field of Grace in the Mystical Body of Christ.

So, we are not referring here to relativism (All is completely subject) or absolutism (All is completely objective). We are describing truth as relational, the relationality of truth, its own inherent relativity.

We can sense the vacantness of relativism (or absolutism) immediately when we affirm the position of relativism. If we assert: All is completely subjective we make relativism's position mute. If all is completely subjective, then the stand that all is completely subjective is itself completely subjective. And is that statement objective?

By positing the relativity of truth, we affirm that any human affirmation, and thus any truth, is relative to its own parameters and that we have no absolute truth, for truth is essentially relational. In affirming relativism, we destroy it. On the other hand, we presuppose relativity when we deny it.2

As we affirm the relationality of truth, we come to better appreciate what religion is and is not. Religion in itself does not matter. What matters, in terms of the inherency of religion, are human beings and their upliftment. The purpose of religion is human liberation. Christ even suggested that the Sabbath is for humanity, not humanity for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27) Translated into contemporary language, religion is for humanity, not humanity for religion.3
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The Way, The Truth, and The Life

We acknowledge and accept, that Christians do not believe in Christianity. Christianity, being a religion complete with dogmas, ritual, and law is like any other religion. Religion is a highly ambivalent historical reality. Hence, Christianity and by extension Catholicism (in any guise) is not the absolute religion. Christianity shows up in human history just as relatively as do all other religions. It is not Christianity or Catholicism or Protestantism, but Christ who may be, yet not necessarily have to be, the way, the truth, and the life.4 (John 10:6) for each individual as s/he chooses — either by nature or nurture or as is most often the case, a combination of both.5
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The Truth

What is The Truth, then? The only Absolute in the history of the word is The Absolute itself.6 The question, then, becomes: how does a Christian — a follower of Christ — demonstrate his or her way of life — Christianity — as true religion? A Christian demonstrates true religion by practicing what Christ taught on The Sermon on the Mount, by practicing true humanity, by practicing a solidarity of fellow humanity, including men and women from other religions. The Christian practices true religion in relation with (not to or for) other human beings.
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The Network Mission

Hence, the White Robed Monks of St. Benedict through the Benedictine Network (as but one vehicle of expression) acknowledge their solidarity by incorporating into their modus operandi the following plan of action (as put forth originally by Hans Kung):

  1. The Network forgoes religious wars, persecution, and Inquisition; it practices religious tolerance. In relation with other religions and Catholic jurisdictions, it substitutes for its collective egoism (ecclesio-centrism) a philanthropy, a solidarity of love and compassion.

  2. Instead of calculating a history of guilt among the People of God, religions and other Catholic jurisdictions, The Network practices forgiveness an dares every moment be a new beginning.

  3. The Network does not simply eliminate religious institutions and constitutions (often humanly divisive), but nevertheless 'relativizes' them for the welfare of itself and humankind.

  4. Instead of overt or covert power struggles among religio-political systems, specifically Catholic jurisdictions, The Network strives for reconciliation: not a uniform religion for the entire world, but peace and compassion among religions as a prerequisite for peace and compassion among the nations.7

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Catholic Christians/Christian Catholics

Hence, the more human a religion, specifically Christianity, is, as Christ put forth in his Sermon on the Mount, the more Christians will be catholic in their Christianity. Perhaps, ironically, the truth is that the more Catholic Christians are catholic in their practice of Christianity, the more others will perceive Catholicism as true religion.8 Then Catholic Christians become truly Christian Catholics and experience-in-practice Catholic Spirituality.
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The Way of God

Given the mores and customs of his day, Christ was open to all without question. He turned his back on no one. If anything, he presented himself and gave others the opportunity to turn their back on or to disagree with him. Likewise, given the mores and customs of the contemporary world, the White Robed Benedictines provide the Word and the Sacraments to all without question. Consequently, The Benedictine Network, by extension, provides a catholic context for any and all religions and jurisdictions without question. The Monks and The Network recognizes unconditionally that the life of God is in all in ways which God along knows.9 We are in remembrance of Christ's admonition: Be without judgment. (Matt. 7:1)
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  1. Leonard Swidler,"Interreligious and Interideological Dialogue: The Matrix for All Systematic Reflection Today" in Toward a Universal Theology of Religion, ed. Leonard Swidler (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1987), p. 12.
  2. Raimundo Panikkar, "The Invisible Harmony: A Universal Theory of Religion or A Cosmic Confidence in Reality?" in Toward a Universal Theology of Religion, ed. Leonard Swidler (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1987), p. 127.
  3. Anthony Fernando, "A Tale of Two Theologies," in Toward a Universal Theology of Religion, ed. Leonard Swidler (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1987), p. 117.
  4. Hans Kung, "What is True Religion? Toward an Ecumenical Criteriology," in Toward a Universal Theology of Religion, ed. Leonard Swidler (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1987), p. 247.
  5. Swidler, p. 12.
  6. Kung, p. 247.
  7. Kung, p. 248.
  8. Kung, p. 248.
  9. "Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity" (Ad gentes divinitus; Ecclesiae sanctae) #7 in Karl Rahner and Herbert Vorgrimler, Dictionary of Theology (New York: Crossroads, 1985), p. 15.
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Fernando, Anthony, "A Tale of Two Theologies." In Toward a Universal Theology of Religion, ed. Leonard Swidler. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1987, pp. 112-117.

Kung, Hans, "What is True Religion? Toward an Ecumenical Criteriology." In Toward a Universal Theology of Religion, ed. Leonard Swidler. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1987, pp. 231-250.

Panikkar, Raimundo, "The Invisible Harmony: A Universal Theory of Religion or A Cosmic Confidence in Reality?" In Toward a Universal Theology of Religion, ed. Leonard Swidler. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1987, pp. 118-153.

Rahner, Karl and Herbert Vorgrimler. Dictionary of Theology (2nd Ed.) New York: Crossroad, 1985.

Swidler, Leonard,"Interreligious and Interideological Dialogue: The Matrix for All Systematic Reflection Today." In Toward a Universal Theology of Religion, ed. Leonard Swidler. Maryknoll, N.Y.:Orbis Books, 1987, pp. 5-50.

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