While on his return from Africa, Pope Francis said that fundamentalism is “a disease of all religions.” Though he included the Roman Catholic Church, he was primarily though not exclusively referring to the violence of radical Islam. “Fundamentalism is always a tragedy. It is not religious, it lacks God, it is idolatrous,” he said. He called on Christians and Muslims to end “sectarian conflict” in the Central African Republic. “Together, we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself,” he said.
But Francis said Islam was not the only religion to suffer from violent extremists. “We Catholics, we have a few, even many fundamentalists. They believe they know absolute truth and corrupt others,” he said, adding: “I can say this because this is my Church.”
This is not the first time that Pope Francis has condemned fundamentalism. During his speech to the U.S. Congress in September, he said. “We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every form of fundamentalism, whether religious or of every other kind.”
What is fundamentalism? The dictionary defines fundamentalism as a movement in Protestantism in the early part of the 20th century that stresses the infallibility of the Bible in matters of faith, morals and also as a literal historical record. Of course, there are broader definitions that include a strict adherence to any set of beliefs or ideas. In other words, the pope is saying that fundamentalism must be avoided. That would include Protestant, Islamic, Hindu, Nazi, Communist, etc. And he lumps them all together and links them to extremism.
The pope would argue that Catholicism is not a fundamentalist religion, because it does not believe in the literal application of scripture, or of its sacred oracles. All Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other persecuting religions must moderate themselves to minimize differences and join in ecumenical projects to avoid the label of fundamentalism. Other Christian groups, such as Evangelicals, Baptists, Adventists, Pentecostals, etc., must also become more ecumenical. If they do not, they will eventually be considered to be fundamentalist because they adhere to scripture as the foundation of their faith. The pope, remember, is aiming for all Christians to join together at the communion table in visible, sacramental unity.
Pope Francis is essentially saying that those Christians who hold to the Bible will be considered religious fundamentalists and extremists. Of course, right now he is talking about the violence of Islamic extremism. But just like in every other field, Muslim extremists are the excuse to justify removing Biblical fundamentalism too. Ecumenical collaboration, he is saying, is the only way to prevent fundamentalism from dividing society. “We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good,” though he says we should “respect our differences and our convictions of conscience.”
Jesus said to the devil, “It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4. These words apply to the true followers of Christ in every age, and in the last days especially.