Professor D'Costa began his talk by elucidating the attitude of the Catholic Church towards Islam, which has been interpreted in a multiplicity of ways (even so far as to be perceived as an acceptance of Islam as a path to Salvation). Professor D’Costa focused on the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church and in particular the Second Vatican Council (noticing how the attitude prior to the council had been one of beneficence towards the Jewish faith but ambivalence with regard to Islam – and the fact that without Arab pressure there would have been no statement on Islam). He explained how the Catholic Churche's exclusivist teaching on the derivation of salvation solely through the Church was tempered by the necessity that one must know and reject this fact before one can be excluded from salvation. In this context the professor argued that the meaning of the Second Vatican Council's pronouncement on Islam can only be seen in the light of Aquinas's claim that sinnera and unbelievers are potentially united to Christ (as is every person). However, not everyone actualises their potential in relation to Christ – in the case of sinners they clearly fail to do so but we cannot know whether unbelievers will be saved. Unbelievers may acknowledge the creator and accept theism but a purely natural knowledge of God – derived from reason – cannot deliver salvation according to the First Vatican Council. However another view believes that Muslims are in some way party to the revelation, yet if one accepts Muslim revelation then one has to give authority to the teachings of Muhammad or the Qur'an and this is unacceptable to the Catholic Church. Despite this, Professor D’Costa argued that from the position of the Catholic Church, Islam shares a common Abrahamic tradition which justifies an inclusive theology (insofar as it follows Abraham’s idea of submission). To conclude, Professor D'Costa stated that although Muslims worship the true God, Islam is a heresy instead of a path to salvation as it denies the Incarnation and the Trinity. Questions from the audience included the reaction of the Islamic world towards the Second Vatican Council, the "gravely deficient" nature of other religions and the role and authority of the Pope.

Ben Evans PBS