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28 April 2005



I felt similar anger upon hearing his ignorant statments but I am now learning to let that go and realize that his statements can not treaten or hurt me. Thank-you for this post.


As a Christian (Presbyterian), I too am unspeakably weary of the disdainful things Christians all too often say about other traditions. This statement from the former Cardinal Ratzinger is new to me, but not surprising, given his hyper-orthodoxy and the Vatican office(s) he held accordingly.

I think a way of dealing with statements like these, is to try to imagine oneself into the mindset -- the thought processes -- that produced them, and, if possible, then to address the *mis*understandings that grew out of those thought processes. Not that I know what went/goes on in the new pontiff's mind -- I certainly do not -- but I'd hazard a *guess* that the comment about "spiritually self-indulgent eroticism" comes from Buddhism's intense concern and focus on mindfulness (of body and mind in particular). So much of Christianity in general has seemed to be so *anti-* body ... perhaps this is where the misunderstandings arise. That, anyhow, would be my guess ... and if I were privileged (or cursed!!) to be in a dialogue with the new pontiff, and/or any other Christians who expressed an opinion like that, that's probably where I'd start -- by asking them what led them to that conclusion (if it were possible), and otherwise my making that kind of guess and then trying, gently, patiently, to address that.

I so frequently see persons of other faith traditions make a summary statement about my own, and even when their intentions are the most generous imaginable, it is *so* easy to see how and where that person is an "outsider." If you add in the Pope's religio-centrism (did I just make that phrase up? :-P), i.e. *not* particularly generous attitude toward differing traditions, it's going to be even more obvious.


I think the quote is surprizingly crude, and bracing for that reason.

I do wonder what comprises his sense of Buddhism. If Ratzinger was attempting to be forthright, then I cannot, myself, disrespect his words.

I think that Buddhism in the West can seem to be facile and decadent to outsiders whose knowledge is limited to unfortunate glimpses.

The Pope has nothing directly to do with Buddhists, and since he is there for life, I think he should be given Buddhist Absolution. I am sure Benedict recognizes that his new job requires that he find the better angels of his nature. I hope they are there to be found.


Below is the Buddhist Peace Fellowship's response to the new Pope: -

BPF's Letter to Pope Benedict XVI

May 1, 2005

Your Holiness,

As you assume leadership of the Catholic Church, we at the Buddhist Peace Fellowship would like to offer you heartfelt congratulations and our warmest wishes for the future. This is a critical time in history, and wise leadership in all our religious traditions is necessary. What a wonderful, rare, and challenging opportunity you have to serve as a compassionate shepherd during these troubled times — not only to Catholics, but to people of many religious and secular backgrounds throughout the world.

The Buddhist Peace Fellowship, founded in 1978, is an affiliate of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation. Our mission is to be a catalyst for socially engaged Buddhism, and to help all beings liberate themselves from the suffering we experience in our lives, in our relationships, institutions, and social systems. Through the years many of us have participated in interfaith conversations, including Buddhist-Christian and Zen-Catholic dialogues at all levels. We have a great appreciation for the beauty of the Catholic faith and for many Catholics’ passionate dedication to the work of peace. In particular we acknowledge the spiritual healing work of your predecessor, the late Pope John Paul II.

We come together from many diverse Buddhist heritages to wish you a long, productive, and blessed incumbency. Some of us were born into Buddhist traditions, but, particularly in the West, we often come to Buddhism from other faiths and creeds. Our path is, as you may know, a way of life that aims to end suffering. We have tools of faith, devotion, and meditation that are old and well fashioned. The Buddhist path is complete unto itself, but we recognize that many practitioners wish to honor and continue their own precious and long-held faith traditions. Some of us were raised as Catholics, and some continue to adhere to our Catholic faith at the same time that we bring Buddhist practices such as mindfulness and meditation into our life.

While there are ways in which our religious traditions and beliefs are different, those who follow Buddhist teachings share fundamental commitments with Catholic sisters and brothers. We affirm our solidarity with your opposition to war. In our tradition, we frequently refer to the Buddha’s teaching, “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but by love alone does it cease.” We share a profound "reverence for life," as Schweitzer put it so well, and bear the mutual wish that precious human life not be taken from anyone in the name of the state. There are many other areas in which Catholics and Buddhists shall continue to work together, including ending the death penalty, supporting nonviolent methods for resolving conflicts, and ending poverty.

We also know that there are wonderful teachings which many Western Buddhists can learn from the Church — commitment to the poor and the ceaseless work of charitable organizations; well-developed systems of education, healthcare, and other social services; and countless ways in which the Church has freely offered her deep wisdom and great compassion in the lives of millions.

We express our special gladness that you have chosen the name Benedict. The living heritage of Pope Benedict XV has special significance for the Buddhist Peace Fellowship — Benedict XV’s strong voice for peace during World War I coincided with the beginning of our parent organization, the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, founded in 1919, as a response to the horrors of war in Europe. We are heartened to know that the Catholic Peace Fellowship and other religious peace fellowships are partners with us in working toward a more peaceful and just society.

There is much we can say to each other. We acknowledge that in the past there have been misunderstandings between our traditions, as there have been among the world’s other great religions. We offer this letter in the spirit of affirming a dialogue already well-begun, grounded in
loving speech and understanding. In the words of your first blessing as Pope Benedict XVI, may we together continue with perseverance and good works.

We include you in our daily meditations and will send blessings in the spirit of lovingkindness — as we vow to awaken, together, to the truth of our interconnected nature.

Sincerely and respectfully,

BPF Executive Director

Maia Duerr

BPF Staff

Diana Lion

Rev. Hozan Alan Senauke

BPF Board Members

Joshin Althouse

Trena Cleland

Anushka Fernanadopulle

Anchalee Kurutach

Sozan Schellin
BPF International Advisory Council Members
James Baraz

Michele Benzamin-Miki

Sylvia Boorstein

Melody Ermachild Chavis

Zoketsu Norman Fischer Roshi

Rev. Tova Green

Jill Jameson

Kenneth Jones

Ruben Habito

Rev. Taigen Leighton

David Loy

Rev. Patricia Enkyo O’Hara

Ven. Pomnyun Sunim

Caitriona Reed

Donald Rothberg

Thanks to Gary Gach and Alan Senauke for input on this letter.

"Separation of Church and State" means: Civil Marriage is a Civil Right
and Religious Marriage is a Religious Choice. "Separate but Equal" is a
myth of the fearful.


Whatever is not nailed down is mine. Whatever I can pry up is not nailed down.
-- Collis P. Huntingdon, railroad tycoon


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