"So, can one be a practicing Buddhist and a faithful, sacramental Catholic? You will find few traditional Catholics who would answer in the affirmative."
I knew a Carthusian who built himself a Zen garden and had himself a Zen master - a woman, no less. As far as I know, he is still a Carthusian and a Catholic. Thomas Merton was famously a student of Oriental mysticism, and although he said I want "to become as good a Buddhist as I can." - he remained a Catholic. Both of these men identified as Roman Catholic, both by religious profession and practice, yet I'm not sure it was their intention to identify themselves as distinctly Buddhist, or Buddhist Catholic.
This topic arose of course because Barbara Johnson was denied communion by Fr. Marcel Guarnizo. Fr. denied Communion because Johnson revealed to him she was a lesbian in a relationship with another woman - in so many words. Later it came to light that Johnson identified herself as a Buddhist, and in another situation, a 'student of Buddhist philosophy' - in addition to being a lesbian. Those of us who support Fr. Guarnizo's actions see this as further justification for denying Johnson Communion, although Fr. Guarnizo probably was not aware of those details.
Anyway - further discussion on the Guarnizo/Johnson Communion tussle is not my objective here. What I find interesting is the subject of BuddCaths - or Catholics who claim to be practicing Buddhists, and specifically, a quote I ran across from John Paul II on Buddhism:
The “enlightenment” experienced by Buddha comes down to the conviction that the world is bad, that it is the source of evil and of suffering for man. To liberate oneself from this evil, one must free oneself from this world, necessitating a break with the ties that join us to external reality — ties existing in our human nature, in our psyche, in our bodies. The more we are liberated from these ties, the more we become indifferent to what is in the world, and the more we are freed from suffering, from the evil that has its source in the world.
Do we draw near to God in this way? This is not mentioned in the “enlightenment” conveyed by Buddha. Buddhism is in large measure an “atheistic” system. We do not free ourselves from evil through the good which comes from God; we liberate ourselves only through detachment from the world, which is bad. The fullness of such a detachment is not union with God, but what is called Nirvana, a state of perfect indifference with regard to the world. To save oneself means, above all, to free oneself from evil by becoming indifferent to the world which is the source of evil. This is the culmination of the spiritual process. - “Crossing the Threshold of Hope,”
... Suffice it to say, on this point the pope drew a bright line between himself and many other Catholics who, essentially, argue that Vatican II completely embraced the “all religious roads lead to the top of the same holy mountain” approach to faith. - T.Matt, Get Religion.orgIs Buddhism compatible with Catholicism?
Is the nada of John of the Cross the same thing as the sunya of Zen? Not exactly. But what does the Church teach?
Catholics believe that the Church is the Body and Bride of Christ, the seed of the Kingdom of God, and the conduit of God's grace and mercy in the world. Buddhists believe that Church, or Sangha, is in the end, upaya, nothing more than the expedient means to ultimate extinction. Rather than the Beatific Vision, Buddhist teaching holds that non-existence is the only hope for escaping the pains of life.
Catholicism believes that truth, and the Author of Truth, can be known rationally (to a significant, yet limited, extent) and through divine revelation. In contrast, Buddhism denies existential reality; nothing, including the "self," can be proven to exist.
Dialogue and Danger
Romano Guardini, in his classic work The Lord, stated that Buddha would be the greatest challenge to Christ in the modern age. In an age of terrorism, such a statement may appear to be an exaggerated concern, but Buddhism offers Christianity serious and subtle challenges. Because it appears to be peaceful, non-judgmental, and inclusive, its appeal will undoubtedly continue to grow. Because it offers a spirituality that is supposedly free of doctrine and authority, it will attract hungry souls looking for fulfillment and meaning. "For this reason," the Holy Father states, "it is not inappropriate to caution those Christians who enthusiastically welcome certain ideas originating in the religious traditions of the Far East — for example, techniques and methods of meditation and ascetical practice." As he correctly observes, "In some quarters these have become fashionable, and are accepted rather uncritically."It seems to me that Buddhism may be a convenient religion in our relativistic culture. The authors cited above, noted:
Nostra Aetate, Vatican II's Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, states that "Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination." It continues to note that, "The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions" and believes that other religions, in certain ways, "often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men."
In Buddha’s final words to his disciples under the sala trees, he said, "Make of yourself a light. Rely upon yourself; do not rely upon anyone else. Make my teachings your light. Rely upon them; do not depend upon any other teaching." When the Fourth Evangelist described John the Baptist, he said, "He was not himself the light, but was to bear witness to the light" (John, 1:8). He continued by proclaiming that Christ "is the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world" (John, 1:9). Christ, the "true light," did not teach His followers to extinguish their fires, such as is meaning of nirvana, but to illuminate the world with His love, and to reflect the light of His truth. - Catholicism and Buddhism | Anthony E. Clark and Carl E. Olson
Another key appeal of Buddhism is its non-dogmatic and seemingly open-minded character. For those who reject the dogmatic and objective claims of Christianity, or who believe that Christianity should avoid an "exclusive" or absolute approach to truth, Buddhism offers an easier alternative. In addition, some Christians find solace in believing that their faith in Christ and Buddhism are compatible. - ibidH/T to PML for the GetReligion.org link.