The Vatican is starting a series of dialogues with secularism and atheism. The goal is not apologetic or to refute skeptic rather to place the concerns of faith, revelation, and tradition into secular discourse. This grows out of the dialogue between Cardinal Ratzinger and social theorist Jurgen Habermas which enriched both sides. Habermas formulated his theories of post-secularization and Cardinal Ratzinger learned how to write for a secular social science audience.
Let’s imagine a Orthodox Jewish equivalent. Let’s say their would be a dialogue of Orthodoxy with secular thought at Harvard, Yale, Chicago, and Berkeley. Who would represent Orthodoxy if Rabbi Jonathan Sacks was not available? (And Rav Aharon Lichtenstein is not of debating age.) What would be the topic? Could any of this be possible? Who would debate non-Jewish scholars like Habermas or Sen? I think we would be sunk.
Would this dialogue be different than with another faith? Would both sides make theological compromises?
What would Orthodoxy have to gain in dignity? in honor? in credibility?
VATICAN CITY (RNS) A new Vatican initiative to promote dialogue between believers and atheists debuted with a two-day event on Thursday and Friday (March 24-25) in Paris.
“Religion, Light and Common Reason” was the theme of seminars sponsored by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture at various locations in the French capital, including Paris-Sorbonne University and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
“The church does not see itself as an island cut off from the world … Dialogue is thus a question of principle for her,” Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi told the French newspaper La Croix. “We are aware that the great challenge is not atheism but indifference, which is much more dangerous.”
The events were scheduled to conclude with a party for youth in the courtyard of the Cathedral of Notre Dame on Friday evening (March 25), featuring an appearance via video by Pope Benedict XVI, followed by prayer and meditation inside the cathedral.
The initiative, called “Courtyard of the Gentiles,” takes its name from a section of the ancient Temple of Jerusalem accessible to non-Jews, which Benedict has used as a metaphor for dialogue between Catholics and non-believers.