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‘Hare Krishna’ in a Catholic Church?

Jesus wept! That’s a group of Hindu devotees chanting “Hare Krishna” this fall in Our Saviour Roman Catholic Church in New York City. They chanted for an hour as part of an “interfaith prayer service.”

Our Saviour used to be pastored by Fr. George Rutler, who was transferred out by Cardinal Dolan. The new pastor, Fr. Robbins, removed much of the iconography that Fr. Rutler had installed. This is definitely a video taken inside Our Saviour, where I have been on several occasions. It was uploaded on November 6. The description says:

Published on Nov 6, 2015
Devotees conduct kirtan in a Christian church, New York (1 min video)
In late September, a few friends and I were asked to organise and participate in an interfaith prayer session in New York City. Members from The Bhakti Center led kirtan for an hour.

The Bhakti Center [1] is an ISKCON (Hare Krishna) establishment in lower Manhattan.

Does anybody have anything more on this? If this really happened with the approval of the pastor, he ought to be sacked, and the church reconsecrated. If he were a Russian Orthodox priest, he would be defrocked too. This is really an unspeakable desecration. An hour-long prayer service to a non-Christian god, in a Catholic church! You aren’t surprised anymore when you hear of such abominations in an Episcopal Church (the Cathedral of St. John the Divine held a praise service for pagan gods back in 1993 [2]). But a Catholic parish?

I hope there’s a good explanation for this. Readers?

UPDATE: It appears that this was part of an interfaith prayer vigil for action on climate change, as part of Pope Francis’s visit to New York. Not clear yet if this particular form of prayer was approved by the pastor (though hey, if it’s “interfaith” and it’s a “prayer vigil,” shouldn’t everyone invited be able to pray as they wish?). Whether it was approved in advance by the pastor or not, that church might need to be reconsecrated. Not sure what Catholic canon law requires in such a case.

146 Comments (Open | Close)

146 Comments To "‘Hare Krishna’ in a Catholic Church?"

#1 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On November 9, 2015 @ 6:15 am

Eugenio Scalfari, the guy that wrote that the Pope told him on the phone that after the synod communion would have been available to all divorced, [3]

[…]In his final speech [of the Synod] and in the General Audience of Oct. 28th the pope had underlined a specific sentence: “God wants all men to be saved”. The Pope has also recalled a few fundamental guidelines from the [Second Vatican] Council, which I report here: “The increasing interdependency of peoples, the human quest for a meaning of life, suffering and death, are part of our path. The common origin and the common destiny of humanity, the unicity of the human family, the benevolent attention of the Church on other religions: the Chuch doesn’t reject what is beatiful and true in those religions; the Church looks at the believers of others religion with respect, appreciating their spiritual and moral commitment.
It’s not hard to understand the meaning of those quotations: is the affirmation of the unique God, whom no religion entirely owns and to whom all religions come by different ways, different liturgies and the different Scriptures that constellate their history, including the history of the different Christian denominations, and even within the Catholic Church.

(Translation mine – you can find the pdf of the full article in Italian attached [4].)

#2 Comment By Angocat On November 9, 2015 @ 8:08 am

Others have touched on the fact that Pope John Paul II–to Roman Catholics, that’s Pope St. John Paul II–himself authorized and himself participated in interfaith services with non-Christians at Assisi, as well as at Lourdes.

Here’s a piece on Assisi: [5]

As an ex-Roman Catholic Episcopalian, I’m a touch surprised at the fact that among members of my former church commenting here, the authority of the Pope is routinely thrown overboard the minute anyone disagrees with a decision (or, in the Douthat-Francis spuddle, a suspicion about a decision) by a Pope. First Francis, now JP II.

I’m not arguing for abject submission, mind you, but as someone who was persuaded to leave the RCC in part by conservatives telling me, “if you can’t obey the duly constituted hierarchy of the Church, you should go elsewhere,” I’m a bit surprised at the sudden protestantism and “sola scripture” that breaks out when positions are reversed.

[NFR: For the eleventy-billionth time, Popes are themselves bound by Tradition and Canon Law. — RD]

#3 Comment By John On November 9, 2015 @ 8:09 am

If someone wants to have an interfaith service, at least don’t do it in a Catholic Church. Unlike some buildings where people worship on Sundays, Catholic Churches are not supposed to be used for stuff like secular concerts, etc. That’s for the parish hall.

On this Feast of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, we should recall the respect we should give to the physical house of God in our incarnational religion, and also the respect we should give to our bodies as buildings of God.

As St. Paul says: “Brothers and sisters:
You are God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it.” 1 COR

#4 Comment By Turmarion On November 9, 2015 @ 8:15 am

Hector, thanks for the thoughtful comments. You are correct, of course, that even a demonic culture can produce, good, even noble people. Certainly Hannibal was far worthier than the deity after whom he was named (“Hannibal” means “Grace of Ba’al”, where the han- root is the same as that in “Hanna”–“grace–which becomes “Anna” or “Anne”, and in “Yohanan”–“Grace of YHWH”–which becomes “John”). In my mind, (as I discussed somewhat [6]), there’s something harsh and a bit creepy in pre-Jewish Semitic religions, some nasty “vibe” I don’t get with Greco-Roman, Persian, or Indic religion. There are also creepy things in some forms of Tibetan Buddhism and in some West African religions (the origins of Voudun, aka Voodoo). I wouldn’t deny there are demonic things at large in some religions–I just don’t think the demonic predominates.

You’re also right that the treatment of Hindus varied over time with the particular Muslims in charge; but even at the worst, they were much easier on Hindus that on Buddhists. Buddhism in India, while not extinct, was moribund; but the Muslims pretty much eradicated what was left of it.

As to what is “really” Hinduism, I take the point; but look at American Christianity. Surveys show that about half the population doubts evolution to some extent; [7] of the population believe some form or other of YEC; [8] think the world will end within their lifetime; I know from personal experience that many Evangelicals are very weak and muddled in their understanding of the Trinity; even though the Creed clearly says that we “look forward to the resurrection of the dead,” lots of Christians view the afterlife as the abode of disembodied souls and/or that the dead become angels (most of my CCD students seem to think this, and I suspect a lot of parents do, too); and so on.

All of these beliefs are not in line with Creed and none of them are endorse by any mainline denomination or by the Catholic or Orthodox Churches, none of which have a problem with evolution or an old Earth (some small Orthodox jurisdictions may vary–I know there are some bishops that are anti-evolution, but that’s not an official church-wide policy). So do we define the “real” teachings of Christianity as “what the people actually believe and practice” or as “what the churches actually teach”? Even in the Catholic Church there are issues that have never been defined, and the practice (especially in Latin American countries) is often wildly different from official teachings, and despite that is more or less tolerated.

There’s no clear answer to this question; but in general (being an elitist, I guess), I’d side with the philosophical or Magisterial or “official” teachings. Christianity is Trinitarian even if [9] of Christians hold what are basically heretical views of it; so likewise, Hinduism is monist/monotheist regardless of what hoi polloi think or do.

I’d say that the actual truth is a sort of dialectic between elite, philosophical belief and the beliefs of the masses; but that’s a pretty complicated issue that can’t be done justice here.

David J. White, interesting comments. I’d only add that I always read that “temple” was etymologically related to tempus, the Latin word meaning not just “time” but which implied the layout of the stars and even “weather”. The idea is that the temple on the ground is a reflection of the heavenly configuration. The Greek root is possible, too, of course–I don’t know enough about it to know. It’s true that templum is used in Latin for church buildings, but it’s less usual to translated it thus than in Orthodox contexts; or so it seems to me.

As to desecration, here are the relevant canons:

Can. 1211 Sacred places are violated by gravely injurious actions done in them with scandal to the faithful, actions which, in the judgment of the local ordinary, are so grave and contrary to the holiness of the place that it is not permitted to carry on worship in them until the damage is repaired by a penitential rite according to the norm of the liturgical books.

Can. 1212 Sacred places lose their dedication or blessing if they have been destroyed in large part, or have been turned over permanently to profane use by decree of the competent ordinary or in fact.

So, aside from physical destruction or the church being seized for non-religious purposes (as in the old U.S.S.R.), it seems to be a judgement call for the bishop.

#5 Comment By DRK On November 9, 2015 @ 9:27 am

“As I noted, many Hindu temples (including perhaps the most famous in the world) would not even allow you to enter, or allow you to enter the inner sanctum, without making a declaration of faith. ”

Same thing with Mormons, which makes it tough on the “Gentile” in-laws who are not allowed to attend their own child’s wedding.

#6 Comment By Bernie On November 9, 2015 @ 9:31 am

As a Christian, the bottom line to me in this discussion is that people of all faiths can pray together without expressing deference to or belief in the same deity. For example, after 9/11, when all Americans were asked to pray for the victims of the attack, there were gatherings of people of different faiths on the streets, in homes and in churches to pray together.

For me, this issue has nothing to do with a person being a “purist” or “supremacist”. The First Commandment says: “I am the Lord your God; you shall not have strange (or other) gods before me.”

Academic debates can argue endlessly about the historical roots of the Abrahamic religions, the documents of Vatican II, etc., but it boils down to this: Christians are being burned alive in cages, lined up to be shot in the back, having their heads slowly sawed off, etc., to remain faithful to their belief in the Christian God. They obviously don’t believe Allah is that God, or they would be proclaiming allegiance to him. There are times in this life when academicians can be too clever by half. I won’t pledge my allegiance, through a prayer service or in any other way, to a deity I don’t identify as the Christian God as revealed by Jesus. As Christians we are commanded to do this. It’s simple, and it’s an act of love and obedience.

#7 Comment By KD On November 9, 2015 @ 9:51 am

Tashlan Rules!

#8 Comment By KD On November 9, 2015 @ 10:00 am

The thing about devotion is that it is unique and personal. A person doesn’t love women (or humanity for that matter), you love your wife, as a unique person. You have your own, unique way of expressing your love and fidelity to your wife. Your ways may be similar to others, but they are unique.

A religion that is based on devotion is incompatible with other religions based on devotion. It’s just the way it is. Moreover, a religion without devotion is a sickly and feeble thing–you might as well be an atheist.

There is nothing to say that devotion to some Hindu God or Goddess could not bring spiritual benefit. But it has no place in true Christianity, which is first and foremost a cult based on exclusive devotion to Jesus Christ, and second a “religion”.

#9 Comment By Brian On November 9, 2015 @ 10:31 am

CatherineNY wins the thread (since we’re voting). Calm down please.

Fr. Rutler is like an all star sports figure; when your team trades him, you feel the loss.

I doubt that he’s whining about it in his new parish.

#10 Comment By CatherineNY On November 9, 2015 @ 10:32 am

Rod writes: “Not clear yet if this particular form of prayer was approved by the pastor (though hey, if it’s “interfaith” and it’s a “prayer vigil,” shouldn’t everyone invited be able to pray as they wish?).” As I have commented on other threads about this devil in human form, Father Robbins, he is a very elderly Catholic priest. When he hears “interfaith prayer service to support the Pope,” I’m going to guess that “Hare Krishnas” is not the first thing that pops into his mind, so I’m guessing he did not sign off specifically on this form of prayer. Also guessing that he was not in the pew grooving at whatever hour of the night this particular prayer took place. The fact that he is an elderly priest may account for the fact that he does not like icons, which one just did not see in Catholic churches when I was younger, and prefers what he’s got in the church now, i.e., lots of statues and traditional Western Catholic paintings. These continual attacks on Father Robbins’s minor changes to Our Saviour’s appearance put me in mind of the current internet outrage over Starbucks’s removal of reindeer from their holiday coffee cup design. Silly, in other words.

#11 Comment By panda On November 9, 2015 @ 10:39 am

“So … if a person is an interfaith believer, then by all means he needs to attend interfaith prayer gatherings and, speaking in the idiom of his own personal religious background, offer prayers to the deity that is worshiped by all interfaith believers regardless of their different backgrounds or idioms.

Christians, however, should pray to no god but the one Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and should not join in any prayers offered to other gods. Interfaith believers can pray to all of the gods of all of the religions because they do not actually believe in any of them. Christians, however, believe in one very particular God and can pray to no other.”

But, as some people on this thread pointed out, people like Benedict and JP2 promoted, permitted, participated and even presided over interfaith prayers. Does this mean these two “don’t actually believe” in the Christian deity?

#12 Comment By CatherineNY On November 9, 2015 @ 10:43 am

For the fact-based members of our little community, here is info on just how common term limits for pastors are, and have been, in American dioceses:

[10] “Term limits in the Chicago archdiocese date to 1973, when the Vatican granted permission to the archdiocese to define terms and impose limits.”

Debate over term limit for a Bronx priest back in 1997: [11] (funny relevant bit from the article about how Catholics are not used to icons: ‘Inspired by an empty brick wall in the rear of the gold-domed, 97-year-old basilica, he commissioned a huge mural based on a 14th-century Russian monk’s painting of Christ that looks nothing like the sweeter images familiar to most Roman Catholics. When two weeks went by and no one reacted, he stopped a woman on the street and asked: ”What do you think?””Feo,” she answered. ”Ugly.”’)

[12] Example of another parish in NY that lost its pastor due to term limits.

#13 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 9, 2015 @ 11:28 am

[NFR: It’s not “nothing.” There was a prayer service to a strange god held inside a Christian church, defiling it. You may not understand why that is defiling, in which case I invite you to walk into a mosque eating a BLT, and see what happens. I will stand to the side cheering for the Muslims for defending their sacred space. — RD

+1000. Rod, if you changed ‘sacred space’ to ‘safe space’, then you’d have a good chance of convincing the SJW WEIRDoes. ‘Safe Space’ seems to be the one inviolable principle for these people.

In any case, is polytheism necessarily less intellectually defensible than monotheism or atheism? At least in ethical terms, I find polytheism more persuasive, as most of the ethical quandaries one finds oneself in are not conflicts between good and bad, but between different goods; e.g. is it more important to show compassion for refugees, or to ensure the continued existence of European civilisation

I think this is very true, and it’s worth pointing out that the model of the Trinity that I believe in is Swinburne’s ‘Social Trinitarianism’, which pushes the Trinity about as far as you can go in the direction of distinctness of the persons (at the expense of their unity) as you can get before breaking.

I also think you make a good point that Hinduism is not fundamentally about doctrine in the same sense that Christianity or Islam is. ‘Hindu’ is an exonym that originally meant something to the effect of ‘the religion of the people beyond the Indus River’, and it includes a lot of people practicing what we could consider a form of neo-animism, as well as some people following the more philosophical religion of the Upanishads. It would be a mistake to consider the Upanishads ‘real Hinduism’ though, and the folk practices of placating the smallpox goddess so that you don’t get sick to be ‘corrupt Hinduism’, because the second is at least as old as the first.

The two major parties were both theoretically Marxist and were nearly indistinguishable in terms of ideology (the minor party was also Marxist), but one was Soviet-aligned and represented the Indian Guyanese, and the other was neutralist/anti-Soviet and represented the Afro-Guyanese

Actually, by the 1970s it seems like Burnham’s party (along with the other two) had gone pro-Soviet and quasi-communist as well, which makes the point even stronger. Three nearly indistinguishable, ideologically Marxist parties which differed almost entirely in terms of which racial group they represented. Sometimes ethnicity really does matter more than ideology to people.

#14 Comment By Stubbs On November 9, 2015 @ 11:33 am

Question from a non-Catholic: is the entire church building considered consecrated space (requiring re-consecration if it is defiled), or just the sanctuary?

I’m asking a “technical” question. I’m not arguing that whatever happens at the CYA dance in the basement is okay in front of the altar.

#15 Comment By CatherineNY On November 9, 2015 @ 11:49 am

@Giuseppe Scalas, Scalfari may think that this proves Pope Francis favors “world religion,” whatever that might be: ‘In his final speech [of the Synod] and in the General Audience of Oct. 28th the pope had underlined a specific sentence: “God wants all men to be saved”.’ Because the Pope is, you know, Catholic, I suspect he may be thinking of “all men being saved” in the context of this prayer: “Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Bring all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of your mercy.” For non-Catholics, that is a prayer that the Blessed Mother gave to the children of Fatima during her apparitions there, asking that it be said after the Glory Be in every Rosary. Pope Francis, of course, has consecrated his entire Papacy to Our Lady of Fatima, to whom he has a great devotion, and has announced that he will visit Fatima in 2017 for the 100th anniversary of the Virgin’s apparitions there: [13]. This, sadly, is not the kind of story about the Holy Father that you are likely to read on Rorate Caeli.

#16 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On November 9, 2015 @ 12:04 pm

@Darth Thulhu, I’m honored that my post elicited such a reply.

To answer your question. No I have no idea what prayer is for. From my POV it doesn’t seem to do anything.

#17 Comment By dominic1955 On November 9, 2015 @ 12:45 pm

The problematic norms come from Rome, unfortunately. When I was in the seminary, there was a group of Anglican monastics that were allowed to use the student chapel-including the altar and vessels, for their liturgy. A number of us protested, and the powers that be pointed this out to us-

“103. The term “sharing in spiritual activities and resources” covers such things as prayer offered in common, sharing in liturgical worship in the strict sense, as described below in n. 116, as well as common use of sacred places and of all necessary objects.”


Now, I don’t know if that particular curial council had that sort of “sharing” in mind, but it does sound an awful lot like they did. Now, I have no problem with dialog and working together for certain common goals. Hell, I would go so far as to say I don’t even mind a joint Evensong/Vespers once in a while. But using a Catholic altar and Mass vessels to do what is, at the very least objectively, an invalid imitation of the Mass and would constitute a sacrilege-again, objectively at least.

But, at the local levels, all the ecumenism and interfaith stuff just seems like the Catholic party kowtowing to the non-Catholic party in embarrassing displays of self-abasement in the name of “unity” or some such. Its the ecclesiastical version of white elites groveling shamefully for all the “privilege” and “oppression” that they are supposedly guilty of. Its unbecoming to person with self-respect and conviction.

That said, even the ecumaniacs have limits. I remember from that same monastery (its not uncommon for monasteries to run seminaries) a story from back in the 70s when the Father Director of Ecumenical Affairs (or whatever silly title he had) made a big to do about welcoming this Buddhist monk into the monastic community for a period of dialog and what have you and how great this is going to be for interfaith efforts, blah blah blah. The Buddhist monk was this fat stinky white guy, wasn’t like he was even from Tibet or somewhere, just one of those people riding the New Agey spiritual wave of the 70s. There is a name for it, though I can’t remember it right off but basically he was a modern version of the bad monks that would wander from monastery to monastery just to loaf and get free stuff and then wander off once they overstayed their welcome. Even the ecumenical director decided it was time for him to hit the bricks.

Same with those Anglicans (or some other pseudo-monastic group, I can’t remember who) who came over to play monks and nuns for the weekend. Lots of people visit Catholic monasteries for lots of different reasons. Some people come as spiritual tourists-either they think that monasteries have good vibes or they like to indulge their fantasy of living back in the Middle Ages (with all the conveniences of modern life, of course). Some come out of just old fashioned devotion. Some of the non-Catholic clergy/monastic types come (at least to the monastery I have in mind) so they can wear their collars or habits around a Big Catholic Institution and hope to have Senpai notice them. I think the group I’m talking about fit into the last category. They eventually got a little overly familiar and would go into the monastic enclosure, which a real visiting monk (as far as we are concerned) could do. The real monks were not too happy about that and put an end to it post haste. They didn’t mind them coming over to play monastery and using the chapel and consecrated altar/vessels for their liturgy time but when they violated the monk’s enclosure, that old school pre-Vatican II Catholic exceptionalism came out tooth and nail. Oh well, at least they got rid of them and thus fixed the problem.

#18 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 9, 2015 @ 1:21 pm

We walked out of a Mennonite Church, when the invited speaker actually had the congregation chanting “Om” as a part of her pagan worship order, heavily indebted to her westernized and bowdlerized New Age eclectic.

Now that the Mennonite Church is splitting, we can see that this was one of a number of earlier indicators that the state of belief in Christian faith among leadership was declining and no longer considered very important.

Religious traditions that are reliant for membership upon communities based on ethnic affiliation, or being born into membership, are peculiarly subject to this effect. That is because membership is not just made up of those who have accepted Christ, but many who never have or believe contrary things. They then believe that because of their ownership of the church by birth, that they have the right to change its beliefs to suit themselves.

#19 Comment By Harvey On November 9, 2015 @ 1:28 pm

“If this really happened with the approval of the pastor, he ought to be sacked, and the church reconsecrated.”

If the idea of ‘religious liberty’ is to have any significance, then one thing it necessarily implies is that religious leaders get to do things that everyone else finds ridiculous, and the rest of us have to tolerate that behavior.

Kim Davis? religious liberty. Pharmacists refusing to fill birth control? Religious liberty. Hobby Lobby? Religious liberty. Inter-faith services in a church? If you’re calling for the pastor to be fired, then you didn’t really mean religious liberty all along, you meant your own view of religious liberty.

That’s special pleading. And it’s tremendously damaging to your case. After all, what makes you so special?

#20 Comment By Erin Manning On November 9, 2015 @ 2:09 pm

I haven’t weighed in on this, because it seems to me to be a local matter, and those are always subject to misunderstanding.

But I do appreciate Turmarion sharing the relevant canons. They seem to support what I already suspected: that there has to be an intent to desecrate before desecration can be said to have occurred. The particulars of non-Christian prayers being said during an interfaith service in a Catholic church, even if unfortunate or unwise to have permitted (assuming it was known this would happen–I defer to CatherineNY on the question of whether the pastor would likely have been aware or not), do not seem to rise to the level of conduct so gravely injurious/scandalous to the faithful or to the holiness of the place as to require re-consecration. I would as always be interested in the opinion of actual canon lawyers on these sorts of questions.

As to the broader question of ecumenism, while I realize that people in my generation tend to make our “ecumenism faces” when these things come up (as I did just yesterday when I found out our parish choir has been invited to come and sing at an interfaith Christmas celebration at the local Mormon place of worship), I realize that younger Catholics don’t carry our baggage on these matters. Our girls started the Catholic Club at their college, and the bishop visited just last week. At first, he assumed all in attendance were Catholic, but he quickly found out that about half of those attending were my girls’ Protestant friends from an interfaith campus group (and the bishop got off a pretty good joke about how the Protestants had all sat up front while the Catholics were clustered in the back–“It’s just like church!” he said). My oldest daughter was talking about working with other faiths this Sunday, and her points were simple: we respect each other’s real differences, but at this point in human history those of us who have any common ground at all had better work together as much as we can, because the world isn’t as much divided among sects of believers anymore: it’s divided between those of us who believe in any transcendent reality at all, and those who don’t. Seems to me I’ve heard something like that along those lines before, maybe even on this blog…

Oh, and Darth: I really liked all of what you had to say here.

#21 Comment By panda On November 9, 2015 @ 2:47 pm

“[NFR: For the eleventy-billionth time, Popes are themselves bound by Tradition and Canon Law. — RD]

But, again, in this case, we have a practice that 3 different Popes, one of them your personal hero, seem to be engaged here, and that’s getting very little push from anyone inside or outside the Church- unlike, say, the communion for the divorced issue. I mean, in the end Tradition and Canon law only mean something if the people in charge, or at least some element of the people in charge, say that a given practice violates Tradition and Common Law. If Tradition and Common Law only mean that any schmoe can decide that the entire Church hierarchy is in error, how is this any different from Protestantism?

[NFR: When did Benedict do this? As I recall, Cardinal Ratzinger, as head of the CDF, opposed JP2’s going to pray with animists at Assisi. I don’t object at all to interfaith dialogue, especially when it occurs between Franklin Evans and me over beer, but if a pope sanctions a prayer to any other than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob inside a Christian church, he is wrong. — RD]

#22 Comment By KD On November 9, 2015 @ 3:21 pm

This might be a place to point out the difference between a Christian and a secular view of the Good life.

For the Christian, the Good life is experienced and expressed through love, worship, and devotion to Jesus Christ. This is not only beyond, but above, any nominal ethical duties one might otherwise have.

It is also beyond and above something like philosophical theology, because it is fundamentally about relation to a distinct and individual person, Jesus Christ, the God-man. So it is not enough to believe in a propositional sense in God or the immortality of the soul, any more than to follow the rules.

The knowledge of God flows through the direct experience of a unique relationship (a life of prayer if you will), not through syllogisms or propositions. For this reason, although Muslims and Jews both believe in the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, they are not Christians, and will never be Christians. To make Judaism, Islam, and Christianity the same can only happen by destroying the unique essence of Christian faith, and pretending that they are the same, can only create confusion and misunderstanding.

Perhaps Christian exclusivism makes Christianity inferior in the eyes of some. But perhaps it is the case that to know and to love someone deeply requires an exclusive relationship (even if we suppose that God has many faces, or what have you).

Rod had the contradict bumper sticker on display a few days ago. The issue is not contradiction of fact (Christians don’t disagree with Muslims on the boiling point of water) so much as fundamental differences in language conventions. Christians have different conventions from Muslims, so there are some things Christians say (and think) that Muslims cannot say (and think), and vice versa. So no translation is possible–you can’t even render two rival hypotheses. (It is similar to the difference between the biological sex people and the “your sex is what you feel it is” people–it is a battle between two rival linguistic conventions.)

Christians say Jesus was the only begotten Son of God. That is a rule for Christian speech. Muslims do not say that–there is no equivalent convention in Islam. So if we speak of our personal experience as Christians, drawing on the linguistic conventions of Christianity, in some sense the Muslim cannot understand us. The only way to avoid this problem is by eviscerating the language.

#23 Comment By Eamus Catuli On November 9, 2015 @ 4:26 pm

@Darth Thulhu:

MH – Secular Misanthropist wrote:

I have to ask the obvious question. What is the point of an interfaith prayer service?

To collectively worship the transcendent Eternal that absolutely no one present is capable of fully understanding.


@Erin Manning:

Oh, and Darth: I really liked all of what you had to say here.

So I’m in agreement with Erin for the second time in a single week. I wonder what’s going on. The Cubs didn’t win the World Series, or even get into it, so it can’t be that hell has frozen over. 🙂

@Giuseppe Scalas:

Re: Jesus looked on with kindly bemusement

This is a reaction encompassing so many human vices – detachment, snobbery, condescension, that I doubt it fits our Savior.

Jesus was no snob, obviously, since he consorted with lepers and prostitutes and publicans, but his disciples were fortunate that he was as detached and condescending about their many foibles as he was. We humble sinners who are living today can only hope that he’ll do the same for us.

#24 Comment By Fr. James On November 9, 2015 @ 4:45 pm

I once concelebrated at this parish with the former pastor. It has fallen apart. The pastor should be removed immediately.

#25 Comment By red6020 On November 9, 2015 @ 5:24 pm

“Pope Francis, of course, has consecrated his entire Papacy to Our Lady of Fatima… This, sadly, is not the kind of story about the Holy Father that you are likely to read on Rorate Caeli.”

But that’s exactly what HAS been said by Rorate Caeli. ???

#26 Comment By KD On November 9, 2015 @ 5:29 pm

I think it is ignorant to claim that God has exclusively revealed himself to Christians, or even only the Abrahamic faiths. Moreover, I think that there may be many spiritual and philosophical insights to be found in non-Western and non-Christian traditions, and Christians may benefit from studies and dialogue with other traditions.

However, God has chosen to reveal God’s Self in its fullness through Jesus Christ [Col. 2.9], and at the end of the day, that is what matters.

[In Spanish, there is a distinction between conocer v. saber, and we can talk about the knowledge of God in terms of both verbs, with the knowledge of God’s Fullness in terms of the first verb.]

#27 Comment By CatherineNY On November 9, 2015 @ 5:50 pm

@Fr. James writes: “I once concelebrated at this parish with the former pastor. It has fallen apart. The pastor should be removed immediately.” Father James, the attacks on Father Robbins began as soon as he took over as pastor. He started in August 2013. I received my first emails attacking him shortly thereafter. After that, the attacks got worse and worse. If you google the parish, you get negative story after negative story, all on conservative Catholic sites. A good and unintentionally revealing article is this one from First Things which appeared in September 2013, after Father Robbins had been in place for less than two months: [17]. A key quote: “Assuming that Our Saviour was losing the Tridentine Mass too, I asked him whether I could post a sign-up sheet in the vestibule so that those of us who regularly attend could join to present ourselves as a “stable group” (see below, about Summorum Pontificum ) to the new pastor and request that the Mass be continued. No sign-up sheet would be necessary, he said, because Fr. Robert Robbins, the new pastor, wanted to keep the extraordinary form. Fr. Rutler indicated that it might not last long, however, because the congregation (60 to 80 people) for it was relatively small and the collection-plate offering per congregant was low.” Please note again: the congregation for the EF of the Mass was only 60-80 people, and their parish donations were low. This was a revelation to me, because so many of the attacks on Father Robbins that I have seen have accused him of putting the parish in financial jeopardy by driving away the most supportive parishioners, i.e., the ones who attended the EF Mass at Our Saviour. Of course, that is not the only line of attack. There have been multiple accusations. If the parish is indeed in trouble, I have to assume that the attacks launched before Father Robbins was unpacked have something to do with that.

#28 Comment By Andrew W On November 9, 2015 @ 7:29 pm


He’s not asking for the government to remove the priest. This is not “special pleading”.

#29 Comment By Anglocat On November 9, 2015 @ 7:30 pm


“Popes are bound by Tradition and Canon Law.”

I’ve seen you say this, though not eleventy billion times, Rod, but not with a citation. With respect, I don’t believe you are correct on this point, as a matter of Roman Catholic ecclesiology, though I am open tpo correction. The Apostolic Constitution that precedes the 1983 Code of Canon Law describes the promulgation of Code itself as “an expression pontifical authority, and is therefore invested with a primatial character.”


The Code itself states that it abrogates customs (traditions) that are contrary to its terms unless they are immemorial *and* tolerable in the judgment of the ordinary *and* cannot be removed due to circumstances. (Canon 5.)

Moreover, Canon 331 provides that the Pope “possesses supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely.” Succeeding canons (332-335) make clear that the Pope has power “not only over the universal Church but also obtains the primacy of ordinary power over all particular groups of churches and groups of them.” (Canon 333 S 1). He is in communionn with bishops, but he has the right to determine how to exercise his office. (Id., S 2) “No appeal or recourse is permitted over a sentence or decree of the Roman Pontiff.” (Id., S 3).

This is consistent with the old (but well researched) Catholic Encyclopedia, which describes the authority as “plenary” allowing him to bind and loose in individual cases or in general, annulling his own laws or those of his predecessors, with or without the assistance of a council.


So, again, I don’t think you’re right that the Pope is bound by canon law (of which he is the source) or tradition, which he may annull. In Roman Catholic canon law, at any rate. But I’m open to persusasion, if there are other sources to the contrary.

#30 Comment By Darth Thulhu On November 9, 2015 @ 7:46 pm

Rod wrote:

I would invite you to consider that there is a world of difference between a university and a temple. Think teleology here. Think about what a university is for, and what a temple is for.

Both are places to remember God and explore Truth. All places are places to remember God and explore Truth, but Universities and sanctuaries most especially.

To the degree that the infinite names of God include such attributes as “The Light”, “The Guide to the Right Path”, and “The Patron”, the enlightenment duty of a University to educate people (rather than just mindlessly bestowing credentials on people) is a Sacred Duty to God. With that understanding, the present nonsense erupting at Yale, and the decades of corporatization of “free” and “public” universities, and the false worship of sports teams at the expense of Teaching Truth, are all desecrations of God (and Truth, same thing) in our society vastly more significant than some Hare Krishnas getting their woo on at a Catholic church they were invited to at the behest of an event supporting the present head of the Catholic hierarchy.


In my Faith tradition, moreover, true consecrated sanctuaries are both 1) quite rare, and 2) meant to serve others, not ourselves. The formal name for a proper and completely-dedicated house of worship (as opposed to a mere space people gather to do stuff for the Faith), translates roughly to “Dawning Place of/for the Remembrance of God”. Anyone is welcome, and any of the rather large number of religious branches that are acknowledged as worshipping God (in some quasi-coherent fashion) are allowed to offer up prayers to God (as their tradition understands it). The Faith’s own prayers end up being a huge runaway majority, of course, just because everything else is so diluted, but there is no concept that other people offering sincere pleas to the same Eternal Divinity Transcending All Creation are even capable of somehow “desecrating” the space by worshipping “another” god.

That said, there aren’t even a dozen of those on the entire planet, roughly [20] and a couple extras so far. Everyone else meets for gatherings in homes, rented spaces, “centers”, funeral parlors for funerals, and so on. The major houses of worship are pilgrimage sites far more than they are prayer spaces for the locals of the Faith.

Moreover, whether in or away from sanctuaries, prayer in the Faith is almost always personal, not communal, and thus group gatherings are nearly always Devotionals rather than liturgies. Once people are offering individual prayers of Devotion without a set order, it really is not difficult nor remotely contrary to the Holy Spirit to add in a sura toward Allah, a Zoroastrian exaltation of Ahura Mazda, a Hindu glorification of Brahman, a Jewish chant to the LORD, a Sikh penitence, the Christian Lord’s Prayer, and so forth.

Such stuff comprises maybe 10% to 20% of any given Devotional, unless the point of the larger gathering is explicitly world history or modern geography. Quite often, such deliberately-broad offerings will juxtapose two eerily-similar prayers in two radically different traditions before offering one of the Faith’s own prayers that naturally nestles directly between the other two. This makes the Faith’s arguments of Unity of God’s Revelations, Unity of the Races, Unity of the Sexes, and of the Faith being both a bridge between and a rising atop these many other dispensations of God.

I understand that this is not your present Faith tradition, but it isn’t incomprehensible Scientology either. Moreover, all of it preceded the Western hippy zeitgeist by over a solid century. Given that, I simply cannot relate to how you imagine a Hare Krishna is worshipping a God different than God, nor see how it is possibly somehow a worse blow against God’s Truth than what the people at Yale and Mizzou are doing to their institutions of higher learning.

[NFR: I really have nothing to say to this. — RD]

#31 Comment By Darth Thulhu On November 9, 2015 @ 7:59 pm

MH – Secular Misanthropist wrote:

@Darth Thulhu, I’m honored that my post elicited such a reply.

My pleasure. You’re worth it. (Everyone’s worth it, of course, but you take my meaning.)

To answer your question. No I have no idea what prayer is for. From my POV it doesn’t seem to do anything.

Fair enough. Three answers:

1) It is actively attempting to communicate with Eternity. As communication, it is not just talking, but also listening.

2) You would be wise to consider the magnitude of you POV in being able to perceive this present moment in the universe, as well as the magnitude of your POV in being able to perceive the sweep of time of the universe. You are a mote, you will be dead very soon, your senses are few and fallible, and your perceptions of what you are (or are not) doing with regard to Eternity are far outside of your capacities to fully assess.

3) Making yourself open to Eternity, with regularity, will change you. That is what it is for.

#32 Comment By Turmarion On November 9, 2015 @ 9:04 pm

Here’s what’s weird about this thread: No one could ever claim that dominic1955 and Erin are flaky liberals or New Agey woo-woo types or heterodox. Certainly, neither of them sees this incident as peachy keen and hunky dory. However, when all is said and done, both of them are quite sanguine about it. Sort of, “Sigh, what new wackadoodle thing is it now,” but keeping perspective.

Rod, on the other hand, who is no longer Catholic is having the freakout of the Western world over this, shrieking about sacking priests and desecrated churches and foreign gods (in a tone of voice that makes it sound like it’s Moloch, not Krishna–whatever one thinks of pagan gods, Krishna is a darn sight better than Moloch), and making dark hints about the bishop who is apparently shirking his job, etc., etc. Hell, even I’m not approving this incident; but relax, man! I don’t think fire and brimstone is about to rain down on NYC.

#33 Comment By James Kabala On November 9, 2015 @ 9:12 pm

Giuseppe Scalas: In this case, the actual words of the Pope clearly do not match the paraphrase.

#34 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 10, 2015 @ 12:49 am

NFR: For the eleventy-billionth time, Popes are themselves bound by Tradition and Canon Law. — RD]

But, quies custodiet ipses custodes?

Is every Catholic their own Pope now?

#35 Comment By panda On November 10, 2015 @ 12:54 am

“[NFR: When did Benedict do this? ”

“WASHINGTON (CNS) – When Pope Benedict XVI comes to the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington for an early-evening interfaith prayer service April 17 with Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and representatives of other religions, space will be at a premium.
There will be room for only about 200 people, according to Father James Massa, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. Of those, about 50 will be reserved for Catholics, he added, with the rest allotted to representatives of the non-Christian religions participating in what is expected to be a 45-minute service.”


#36 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On November 10, 2015 @ 9:21 am

@Darth Thulhu, I think your Baha’i faith focuses on the commonality of God and even supports interfaith marriage. So the concept of collectively worshiping a transcendent Eternal that absolutely no one present is capable of fully understanding makes sense to you.

But many of your coreligionists don’t view God in that way. They believe their religious tradition makes specific and exclusive claims about the nature of God, and that they have some understanding about its nature. So the likely reason Rod and Hector are trouble by this is they see it as comprising on their religion’s truth claims.

My POV is that the concept of a transcendent Eternal is too squishy a concept to claim to be understood or acted upon, and is essentially meaningless. But it takes up mind share from more rigorous truth claims. In a sense ecumenicism contributes to a loss of the sacred in mankind, not an enhancement of it.

Sure I can see the social utility by encouraging a go along to get along mindset. So if I was really an anti-theist I’d applaud it, but I’m actually not. I think humans need to make specific truth claims and find a way to test them. In this sense there’s more overlap between Hector and I, then Hector and you, which is probably why he liked my post.

#37 Comment By dominic1955 On November 10, 2015 @ 10:33 am


“This is consistent with the old (but well researched) Catholic Encyclopedia, which describes the authority as “plenary” allowing him to bind and loose in individual cases or in general, annulling his own laws or those of his predecessors, with or without the assistance of a council.


This is true, the Pope is not bound by Canon Law. It is fitting for him to follow it, and/or allow it to work as intended but if he sees fit, he can abrogate or amend it. I think it would be unfitting and scandalous for him to dump all of it and start over, though I think he has the power to do so.

“So, again, I don’t think you’re right that the Pope is bound by canon law (of which he is the source) or tradition, which he may annull. In Roman Catholic canon law, at any rate. But I’m open to persusasion, if there are other sources to the contrary.”

He’s not bound by Canon Law but neither is he really the “source” of it. Canon Law stretches back to time immemorial, such that no one pope can be properly described as the source of it.

However, the Pope being bound to Tradition (i.e. “capital T” Tradition, not traditions as described in Canon Law or commonly understood), as in the handed on Word of God (which does not merely mean the Bible either) which the Pope and the Church is the custodian but not the masters of.

Fr. Hunwicke is a former Anglican minister who converted to Catholicism and was ordained a priest. He has some excellent commentary on this matter, one example I will post below.


#38 Comment By MikefromED On November 10, 2015 @ 2:35 pm

Wikipedia tells me that there are at least 28 different meanings of NFR. Such as Non-Functional Requirement. Doubt you meant that. Or Naturally Fractured Reservoir. Doubt you meant that. Or NATO Financial Regulations. Doubt you meant that. Or No Further Requirement? Notice of Findings and Recommendations? No Further Resuscitation? Nearly Faithful Reproduction? Or, maybe, Notice of Final Rulemaking. That sounds possible. Please could you tell us what your NFR actually stands for?

[NFR: “Note From Rod,” to distinguish my commentary from the reader’s within the reader’s comment. — RD]

#39 Comment By Samuel J. Howard On November 10, 2015 @ 5:46 pm

“CatherineNY” is certainly a tireless anonymous apologist for Fr. Robbins, but she has a poor grasp of the facts.

Fr. Robbins first claimed he intended to continue the Latin Mass, but then lambasted its allowance under Fr. Rutler as “schizophrenic”. Calling the use of an approved rite of the Church “schizophrenic” is a) wrong in itself and b) not the way you act if you intend to keep it going.

Just after Fr. Robbins arrival, hanging lamps over the altar were removed allegedly for “cleaning” but have never been returned.

“CatherineNY” claims that she saw “icons” when she was in Our Saviour a few weeks ago, but it’s actually “icon”… all but the apsidal painting have been long removed. Meanwhile, the parish (i.e. Fr. Robbins) claimed their removal was necessary to restore the historic appearance of the church, yet at the same time, they’ve removed an original side altar tabernacle, installed a new baptismal font, installed lighting that isn’t consistent with the original lighting, and now have announced the installation of new stations of the cross to replace the ones that have been in the church for decades. The new stations may be great works of art, but they’re in a different style than the Church… the very reason that was used to remove Ken Woo’s paintings.

#40 Comment By Anglocat On November 10, 2015 @ 7:50 pm

Dominic1955, thank you for your helpful response.I followed the link, and read Fr. Hunwicke’s essay. It seems to me that the Pope may be bound by capital-T Tradition, but that he is its principal interpreter. Which sets a pretty high bar for those challenging the exercise of papal authority.

Many thanks for your reply; it’s appreciated.

#41 Comment By CatherineNY On November 11, 2015 @ 10:57 pm

@Samuel J. Howard, I’m not an apologist for anyone. I’m disturbed at the campaign of villification that has been launched at an elderly priest. If you don’t like the account of how Father Robbins dealt with the issue of the TLM at Our Saviour, please take it up with First Things. The facts came from their story, including the fact that Father Rutler told the author that the congregation for the TLM at Our Saviour was very small and did not contribute much to the parish per capita. I actually went to the trouble to take photos when I was in the church a couple of weeks ago. I looked at them just now, and yes, I see more than one icon, so you don’t have to put “icons” in quotes, as if I am lying. There is the apsidal painting of Christ, there are angels on the arch in front of the painting, and there is an icon on each pillar. Icons.

#42 Comment By CatherineNY On November 12, 2015 @ 4:32 pm

By the way, the reason some new (well, new old) art is appearing in Our Saviour is that it is being moved from Father Robbins’s former parish, Our Lady of the Scapular and St. Stephen, which was closed by the Archdiocese: [23]. I can see from photos on the web that they moved the baptismal font from that church to Our Saviour, so I assume that the Stations came from there as well. My son was baptized in the previous font at OS back in 2007. That is one of many reasons I take such an interest in the church. In related news, there is concern about what will happen to the 45 fantastic 19th century paintings in Our Lady of the Scapular and St. Stephen’s by Constantino Brumidi, the artist who decorated the dome of the US Capitol: [24]. I have seen rumors that at least some could be transferred to Our Saviour. I can’t believe that anyone, including Father Rutler, himself an immensely talented artist, would think that would be a terrible outcome. This is another reason why I take an interest in the controversies that have swirled (or been ginned up, to be more accurate) around OS. It will take resources to preserve and move the Brumidi paintings, which are true treasures the Archdiocese should preserve for future generations.

#43 Comment By CatherineNY On November 12, 2015 @ 5:17 pm

More on the tragedy of St. Stephen’s — let us hope that the Archdiocese will find the will and means to save the art from this church: [25] ‘The biggest loss is the closure of St. Stephen’s, founded in 1848 and several times restored. Thousands, maybe millions, may have worshiped there until August 1st. In recent years, worshipers were without a full-time pastor and were served by a few dedicated retired priests who temporarily resided in an oversized rectory. The church was one of the many that fell under the Archdiocesan public-relations centered program of downsizing known as “making all things new.”
The façade of the St. Stephen’s Church is an official landmark whose architect was James Renwick, also known for designing St. Patrick’s Cathedral further uptown and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. There are many frescoes throughout the interior and a massive depiction of the crucifixion behind the white marble altar painted by the Roman artist Constantino Brumidi, best remembered for painting the interior of the rotunda in the Capitol building in Washington DC. The numerous stained glass windows cover two levels and were purchased from Franz Mayer of Munich, a Pontifical Institute of Christian Art. Not even the Munich Cathedral has such magnificent windows.’

#44 Comment By Darshana DeviDasi On January 7, 2017 @ 1:12 pm

Im a Hare Krishna and I dont mind if anyone comes to my temple to say our father and hail mary etc. Why does it matter, god is everywhere

#45 Comment By GraceLand On June 24, 2017 @ 3:41 am

Darshana DeviDasi,

KD mentioned “rival liguistic conventions,” which I think will need to be navigated in attempting to respond to your comment.  Hopefully, I can answer your question in a cogent way.

You say it’s no matter to you if people say Our Fathers, and Hail Marys at the Krishna temple, and ask why it matters since (you believe) god is everywhere.

There are three important points to note here:

1.  According to the Bagavadgita, Krishna eventually receives all praise.  So if a Christian says an Our Father, in the case of your belief system, that prayer goes to Krishna.  If a Hail Mary is said, in the case of your belief system,  it would go to Rhadarani (the feminine principle of Krishna).   If a person worships Shiva or sings songs in praise of any other deity, in the case of your belief system, it’s all okay because it all goes to Krishna in the end.  In the Bagavadgita, this is acceptable to Krishna.  However, THAT is Krishna.

2.  The God of the Bible, who I would argue quite emphatically is not the same as Krishna (for many reasons), tells His name to Moses.  It was so sacred that it was only spoken once a year by the High Priest.  It was not chanted over and over. That name was not Krishna, nor any name of Indian origin or meaning. 

Furthermore, the God of the Bible gave the Ten Commandments, the first of which states His name, and then “Thou shalt not have any strange gods before me.”  “Strange” meaning “foreign.”  The God of the Bible made/makes Himself known in no uncertain terms, and He didn’t/doesn’t  accept the worship of other gods as a proxy .  He actually killed two of the high priest’s sons because they brought “strange fire” to His altar.  God doesn’t mess around when it comes to His people worshipping other gods (especially in the Old Testament period).  He let His people be taken into captivity for hundreds of years by rival nations that worshipped foreign gods in order to break His own people of serving strange gods.  Again, that does not sound like Krishna.  The God of the Bible, the One whom Jesus calls Father, is very serious about it when strange gods receive His due worship.   And, according to how God reveals Himself in the Bible, Krishna would belong in the category of  “strange gods.”

So it does matter when the people from the Krishna temple chant the mantra (which is believed by Hare Krishnas to be Krishna himself) for an hour in the church sanctuary.  It can be seen as bringing a strange god into the church. 
(It was pointed out in another post that no desecration may have occurred because no desecration may have been intended.  I myself am very willing to believe that no desecration was intended).

3.  In the first two points, I believe that I’ve given a response along the lines of “Christian linguistic convention”.  Because it’s possible the translation did not occur, I’ll also attempt to use an example within the Hindu temple context.

Let’s say it’s Sunday, Darshana DeviDasi, and you invited people from the church to the Krishna temple where you worship.  You mention there will be a feast.  So, to your delight, the church people actually come, and some of them, wellmeaning, thought to bring some food to share.  They bring hamburgers that are wrapped in an aluminum foil container into the temple room.  You can’t see it, but you can smell it.  They attempt to set their food at the altar with all the other food they see up there.  What would your response be at that moment?  According to what I’ve heard, Krishna loves cows and doesn’t want people killing them; they’re sacred.  Also, one of the tenets of the devoted Krishnas is to not eat meat.  So, something that would be extremely offensive to Krishna is in the temple room, and to partake of the hamburger would be a violation of one of the main tenets of the devoted Krishna worshippers.
THAT is what it is like to have Hare Krishnas singing mantras in the church sanctuary.

In the Hindu temple context:  All names of any gods are acceptable because the praise will go to Krishna through the gods.   However, the wrong food can cause great offense.

In the Christian church context: Any food source is permitted without creating offense.  However, singing praise to anyone but the God of the Bible, is not acceptable to God, and is offensive as it goes against His top commands.

As opposite as East and West.  I do hope I was able to coherently address your comment.

And, if I might add one more crucial word, Darshana DeviDasi…  Jesus Christ is WAY more than the Hare Krishnas ascribe to Him.  Please consider that Jesus Christ said that He sits at the right hand of the Father.  Jesus is not on some separate planet.  And He is more than a path to liberation, HE is eternal salvation.  He is WITH the Father, and One with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  And the Father, as I’ve already mentioned, is not Krishna/Krishta.

#46 Comment By Bryan Naidoo On September 2, 2018 @ 6:40 pm

I am saddened by what I read in this column.
If it is Hara Krishna or even a Muslim priest is chanting in a church, who have gathered fir an interfaith prayer, it is their way of seeking and worshiping.
Who are these people, they are those who are sincerely seeking God, and they do it in their way. If the church believes
It is following the light, let the church display the light so that all men May see and follow.
May I ask, how else is the world going to come to know the truth unless the church displays the truth.
It is my belief that their is but only one God,the creator of heaven and earth, thus God would reveal himself to those that seek him diligently. In their search for the truth these devotees
who seek will find him.