Pope Francis is making his flirtations with religious relativism more and more explicit. During his trip to the United Arab Emirates this week, Pope Francis signed a joint declaration with his Islamic hosts on "human fraternity." It contained a statement his predecessors would have found shocking: "The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings."
His predecessors would have called that an endorsement of false religions, an endorsement made worse by enlisting God's "wisdom" in such an endorsement. The multiplication of flawed religions is willed by God? That's not what the Bible tells us. In the Gospel of John, Jesus Christ speaks of the will of the father, that all humans "may be one": "As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me."
Many popes have condemned the "indifferentism" on display in the statement Pope Francis signed. In the 19th century, Pope Gregory XVI already saw the seed of religious relativism growing within the Church:
Now we consider another abundant source of the evils with which the Church is afflicted at present: indifferentism. This perverse opinion is spread on all sides by the fraud of the wicked who claim that it is possible to obtain the eternal salvation of the soul by the profession of any kind of religion, as long as morality is maintained. Surely, in so clear a matter, you will drive this deadly error far from the people committed to your care. With the admonition of the apostle that "there is one God, one faith, one baptism" may those fear who contrive the notion that the safe harbor of salvation is open to persons of any religion whatever. They should consider the testimony of Christ Himself that "those who are not with Christ are against Him," and that they disperse unhappily who do not gather with Him.
Imagine what Pope Gregory XVI would say today. Pope Francis frequently implies during his interfaith meetings that morality, or what he calls "social justice," is more important than "doctrine." In his extreme ecumenism, the pope is conforming perfectly to the lowest-common-denominator culture of a post-Christian age.
Pope Francis has great enthusiasm for "religion" in general while subjecting his own religion to dismissive critiques. He regularly caricatures the most fervent members of his religion as heartless "Pharisees" or dangerous "fundamentalists." Meanwhile, while in the company of truly dangerous fundamentalists on his stops in Islamic countries, he flatters them with descriptions of their religion as one of "peace."
As typical of the religious order from which he comes, the Jesuits, Pope Francis exudes enthusiasm for non-Western religions and the most liberal branches of Western ones. He is famous for telling a group of Protestant pastors: "I don't want to convert you." The left-leaning Religion News Service has been so impressed by the pope's lack of interest in Catholic evangelization that it once asked in a headline: "Is Francis the First Protestant Pope?"
Islamic leaders are eager to invite him to their countries because they see him as a propagandist for a non-threatening and hollow religiosity that makes it easier for those leaders to stay in power. They have also warmed to his embrace of Islamic immigrants in Europe and his complete lack of interest in reviving a Christian Europe. When he has been asked about the historical Christian roots of Europe, Pope Francis has struck a negative note.
"We need to speak of roots in the plural because there are so many," he has commented. "In this sense, when I hear talk of the Christian roots of Europe, I sometimes dread the tone, which can seem triumphalist or even vengeful. It then takes on colonialist overtones."
European liberals have applauded him for such comments. In 2016, a group of left-wing Europeans conferred upon him the misnamed "Charlemagne Prize," misnamed insofar as it honors not Charlemagne's influence on Christian Europe but the liberals who have diluted it. In his acceptance speech, Francis sounded less like a pope than John Lennon: "I dream of a Europe where being a migrant is not a crime but a summons to greater commitment on behalf of the dignity of every human being."
The tribute to religious relativism he signed this week will only make the re-Christianizing of Europe harder and make the prospect of "Eurabia" more likely. Religious relativism has been good for Islam and bad for Christianity. The theme of many of the pope's globe-trotting visits is "hope," but it is not a hope in the final revelation of Jesus Christ. It is a decidedly temporal and political hope, which is to say, an empty and delusional one.
The Western experiment of a "Christianity without Christ" has been a complete failure, engendering not "fraternity" but the deepest possible divisions amid an imploding culture of suicidal secularism.