Editorial: Why the spotlight on Scientology?
Our focus on the Church of Scientology did not come by pulling an arbitrary name out of a hat; they are, frankly, in the news.
So, in addition to belief, our concerns about Scientology involve behavior. Some have stated in the comments section that, as Catholics, we should address our own bad behavior. At Catholic Online, we have. Furthermore, that does not preclude us from looking at others. (Above photo - Scientology's leader David Miscavige)
Our focus on Scientology did not come by pulling an arbitrary name out of a hat at an editorial meeting, nor did it come because any of us are ex-Scientologists.
They are, frankly, in the news. Whether it´s the renunciation of affiliation by a celebrity member, conviction of fraud by the French courts, harassment of defectors or depositions regarding forced abortions that have shown up on the web, the spotlight has been turned on.
These are not isolated occurrences. The activities of this group, founded by Science Fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, have increasingly been in the headlines in recent years regarding a variety of issues.
Scientology is not new news. Major newspapers and news networks have, from time to time, covered stories regarding problems with organization. Books have been written both for and against dianetics and Scientology. Most of the world had heard about it but few really understood it.
In June 2009, however, the St. Petersburg Times wrote an extensive three-part series on Scientology that brought a number of issues concerning beliefs, practices and the actions of the group with respect to its members or former members.
The spotlight, at that point, grew brighter. The world of Scientology, which before had been primarily the focus of expatriates and groups like Anonymous, were now being brought into the mainstream of attention.
While Catholic Online was one of the few Catholic voices to cover Scientology, a hard-hitting article appeared this week in America Magazine´s online edition, entitled "Scientology at the Dock."
In this piece, Father John Coleman, S.J., who served as a Professor of Social Values at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles until last year, took a careful look at the organization and its recent track record. Fr. Coleman´s concerns mirrored those of Catholic Online, when he stated, "Recent allegations about Scientology rely less on the organization´s belief system… The recent attacks on Scientology focus mainly on its behaviors."
"I suspect with so much smoke," Coleman writes, "somewhere there must be a real fire. While the organization hates the term, it is a totalitarian ´cult.´ It just may also be criminal."
As Catholics, there is no doubt that we take issue with the system of belief embraced by the Church of Scientology. No amount of good works can offset the fact that the group proposes doctrines that are irreconcilable with Christianity. From a Catholic perspective, they are not a legitimate religion.
Catholics certainly must respect individuals who are involved with scientology because we respect the dignity of every human person. However, the teaching of the Organization is a different matter. In addition, allegations concerning their practices and treatment of members are certainly appropriate to examine if human dignity is allegedly disregarded and human freedom is not respected.
I was recently offered an invitation to visit a Scientology Church in Washington, D.C.. Whatever I might find during such a visit could never alter the fact that the truth claims found within the teaching of Christianity and the claims of Scientology cannot be somehow glossed over. We can never simply "agree to disagree" concerning the claims of our Christian faith and the claims of Scientology.
However, Scientology does now claim to be a religion. They are most certainly not a Christian religion or community so the use of the word ecumenism in reference to any relationship between us is inappropriate. Perhaps, such a dialogue might be viewed as "interreligious dialogue"?
As Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, wrote in "Dominus Iesus" concerning "interreligious dialogue."
Inter-religious dialogue, therefore, as part of her evangelizing mission, is just one of the actions of the Church in her mission ad gentes. ("to the nations") Equality, which is a presupposition of inter-religious dialogue, refers to the equal personal dignity of the parties in dialogue, not to doctrinal content, nor even less to the position of Jesus Christ — who is God himself made man — in relation to the founders of the other religions.
Catholic Online is, by intention, a Catholic news organization. We are compelled to explore and explain the belief systems of such groups as well as underscore the areas where they depart from orthodox Christian faith as revealed in Sacred Scripture and Tradition and taught by the ...
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