THE Catholic Church has been strongly criticised for harming ecumenism and sapping the morale of Anglicans by the Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher, Dr Michael Jackson.
Writing in the current issue of The Furrow, a Catholic periodical produced in Maynooth, Bishop Jackson highlights two recent documents produced by the Catholic Church which he describes as “obstacles to ecumenical activity”.
The documents, Dominus Iesus and One Bread, One Body “unintentionally have sapped our morale”, and “put intense strain on ecumenical relations”, writes the Bishop.
Dominus Iesus caused uproar when it was issued by the Vatican in 2000 because it said that Protestant Churches are not Churches “in the proper sense”.
One Bread, One Body, which was issued by the Catholic Bishops of Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales, reiterated the Catholic Church’s ban on Catholic and Protestants receiving Communion together.
“It is probably quite hard for a Roman Catholic person at ease with his or her tradition to understand this,” says Bishop Jackson, “but it seems to me that both of these documents, irrational though it may sound, dredge up the worst memories of Ne Temere as it was applied in Ireland as a blunt ecclesiastical instrument.”
It always amazes me that there are more Bishops commenting against the Church then there are those who comment against those laity and politicians who are not following the Church. The only thing that has sapped the morale of ecumenical relations is the burgeoning divide between orthodoxy and heterodoxy. Getting upset about releasing document that only restated what we have always believed is just plain mistaken. Are we suppose to water down doctrine and then when they come into the Church we go “Oh by the way…” A theological bait and switch scheme? This has all the signs of false ecumenism.
When I was in Navy Boot Camp in San Diego we were shown various programs that you could go into. After hearing a lecture and seeing a film on submarine duty I was attracted to that. The sense of sacrifice and difficulties in living in such a confined environment was appealing to me. Similarly when they showed films on the Seal teams that also attracted me. This is kind of funny since rocks have called me sedentary. The Navy did not present these programs as easy, but quite the opposite. Similarly if we present the raw truth of the Catholic faith people will also respond.
The only reason for someone to convert into the Catholic Church is for them to believe that it is true. You can mix one part Catholicism with ninety-nine parts secularism and you might initially influence some to come into the Church, but soon the weeds will choke them and they will fall away. Let us rejoice in what we share with the Protestant Churches, but not deny the differences. The Eucharist like all sacraments is a sacred oath. With the reception of Eucharist and discerning the Body and Blood Christ we are taking a sacred oath that we hold true what the Church teaches. To encourage those that only see it as a symbol or who might believe in the real presence but not the fullness of the Church is to invite people to swear a false oath. This is quite the opposite of charity.
In those parishes that are teaching the fullness of the Catholic faith and who help to spread the devotional life of the Church we see growth. They do no lack either vocations or new members. They are unafraid to preach against, abortion, contraception, divorce, homosexuality, etc for fear of offending someone. When challenged we will often respond to the challenge, but left to ourselves we seek the lowest level. We can take the approach like Jimmy Akin does in The Salvation Controversy where he shows that much that might seem to divide us we agree on. From there ecumenism can present the reasons for why we hold the differences to be true.
I go to a Church downtown where there really is not any close housing but only apartment buildings mainly for those retired. Yet you would not know that by the composition of the church. There are many young families and home schoolers that go there because the Pastor and other priests preach the truth, have confession before each Mass, a vibrant devotional life including a Carmelite and Franciscan community. Four Masses on Sundays that include both an indult Latin Mass and a Mass said in Spanish. Many that go there are theological orphans to their home parishes.
I saw the challenges of becoming a Catholic and they attracted me more than they repelled me. I knew there was much about myself that I had to change and much work to be done until my final breath. The full Gospel completes us and we should not worry that the truth of the Church might offend some who are currently not ready to accept it.
I recently finished reading G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy for the first time and one quote from it goes with the gist of this post.
“People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy”
Jeff – You miss the entire point of those who criticise the Vatican documents in question. It is not simply that the documents repeat old teachings, and those interested in ecumenism find those old teachings impolite.
Rather, those interested in ecumenism believe that that those old teachings were erroneous!
I know this will shock those who believe that the definition of orthodoxy is unquestioning adherence to whatever the Vatican currently teaches, but this is the issue.
The Vatican once taught – against the Franciscans – that it was heresy to believe that Christ was poor (Pope John XXII said so). The Vatican once taught that all forms of loan at interest were immoral, and I beleieve it was Pope Nicholas V was quite explicit that this includes loans from banks in a capitalist economy. Popes have supported slavery (see my own blog for supporting documentation). The Church condemned Galileo, and Pope John Paul II has admitted this was an error – and error committed by representaitves of the so-called “orthodox” heirarchy. The current CDF is the same office responsible for the Inquisitions! The Church called the crusades, burned witches, and so forth.
The Church has erred in the past when not exercising infallibility, and there is no reason to accept the documents in question as the final word on ecumenism
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger once said that that there is “deligitimate” tradition in Catholicism, as well as a legitimate one.
In the question of ecumenism, the KEY question is whether Protestants can be saved AT ALL without converting to Catholicism in this life.
You see, salvation can only occur by grace, and grace can only occur in communion with Christ. The Church, BY DEFINITION is the body of Christ.
If Protestants can be saved AT ALL, than this is only possible if they are ALREADY in some way united to the ONE TRUE Church.
But if they are already in some way united to the Church (as Vatican II taught), then there is something erroneous about claiming that the Roman Catholic Church alone is the one true Church.
The problem is that these Protestants who are being saved in some mysterious way are also members of the one true Church….
So, theologians involved in ecumensim are saying that there needs to a more nuanced position…one that is well researched and accounts for the phenomenom of salvation outside the institutional boundaries of the Roman Catholic Church.
Persoanlly, I am willing to say that the fullness of truth subsists int he Romna catholic Church. I am content with the Vatican II teaching that there is a heirarchy of truth, and perhaps some truths held by Catholicism are true, but not necessary to salvation.
But when speaking of the ONE TRUE CHURCH, we are speaking of the mystery of ALL people being saved, which may include not only Protestants, but Jews, Muslims and others as well.
Many theologians today would like to see the Vatican developing this doctrine of a one true Church, rather than repeating old formulas that clearly miss the mark.
Peace and Blessings!
I didn’t know that Michael Jackson was a bishop and a doctor….
And which parts of those documents are erroneous? They fall in line with both tradition and scripture. St Paul himself warned those who did not discern the body and blood reaps judgment upon themselves. And he also warned against those who did not examine themselves that they were profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord.
Where in Sacred Scripture or Tradition is their a basis that all can share in the Eucharist regardless of their beliefs? We can have development of doctrine where we come into a fuller understanding, but not to totally overturn previous teaching.
You use as evidence cases where the Pope was not teaching to the whole church something as being definitive Catholic Dogma. You seem to mistake infallibility with impeccability. Pope’s do and will continue to make mistakes on the execution of doctrine. But when they exercise their infallibility as defined by Vatican I when teaching ex cathedra on faith and morals. A Pope could not exercise this in the case of whether Jesus was poor or not since this is not in the area of faith or morals. As a Catholic you surprise me that you would bring up anti-Catholic chestnuts like Galileo or the Inquisition. Some in the Church made errors in how they handled Galileo, but he agreed to not teach as fact something that was not even proven until after his death. You might want to do some reading on the Inquisition from a non-Protestant source since it has been greatly exaggerated and for the most part was state run.
The Inquisition Myth: http://catholicleague.org/research/inquisition.html
Thre Real History of the Crusades http://www.crisismagazine.com/april2002/cover.htm
The Church does teach that all can be saved through Christ. The Church condemned the Fennyites who had a rigorist view on “No salvation outside of the Church”. Those that are saved are saved through Christ’s Church whether they know what that church is or not.
The Church also teaches that all religions have some aspect of the truth but only in the Catholic Church is the fullness of truth. We are all united in the truth that is understood. Through Baptism we become members of the mystical body of Christ, whether that is normal sacramental Baptism, Baptism by desire, or Baptism of Blood. Protestant’s become part of the mystical church through Baptism, but they are not member of Christ’s physical church on earth. The Baptism of desire is something that only God knows of individuals and those who would have been part of the church if they had known the truth would come under this. So others outside the physical boundaries of the Church can be saved even though they are not members of the physical body of Christ.
St. Paul also spoke of those who were outside the church but were ignorant of the truth through no fault of their own. The one true church is both physical and mystical. Protestants get it wrong by just spritualizing the Church. Fennites got it wrong by just making the Church a physical membership. This is another case of the Catholic Both/And. We should all strive for the truth and should wish that only the truth be taught. Either Baptism remits sin, or it does not. Either the Eucharist is the real presence or it is a symbol. These and many other examples are mutually exclusive. While we hope that all people of good will come to the truth, we should fervently desire that they should all be united in the one true church both physically and spiritually. In John Jesus prays the high priestly prayer that they all be one as he and the Father are one. That is also what we should desire.
You say many theologian today want to see clearer teaching on the one true Church. Who are these theologians? Are they just on the progressive side?
What I have found interesting in the comments above is the one about ‘lending money at interest’. C.S. Lewis comments about that very concept (and its inherent immorality) in Mere Christianity – have you read that one yet? Yet we are trapped in the golden handcuffs of capitalism.
Jeff, I did not read all the followup posts. I’m sure they made a number of good points. But to the original article, let me add my “Amen”.
It is lamentable when Catholic bishops comment against the Church, but it is should not be too surprising when Protestant bishops do so. Dr. Michael Jackson — if I am reading correctly — is a bishop of the Church of Ireland, which is Anglican.
I have never had a satisfactory answer as to why God allows totally random horrors to fall upon his “children”, and in many cases holds his children accountable for their earthly behavior while enduring lives of misery and pain. The bible is full of holocaust type atrocities encouraged by God. History has always been random and people have no choice as to when and where they are born. I can not understand how any sane person can worship a God that permits these things. I believe that the Christian religions exist as the political arm of many countries and that the doctrine of suffering on earth to earn glory in an afterlife is a scam run by the Catholic religion and other christian religions to subjugate and controll the population for political and economic reasons determined by whoever is in power at the time.
Several comments indicate much greater knowledge than I as a lay minister have. I found it both exciting and distressing to read that none of the posts I saw reflect the central role of the Comforter Jesus promised us when He ascended to heaven. It is the Holy Spirit that leads people to seek salvation, sometimes in spite of the institutioonal Church. That God-shaped hole in the hearts of each of us cannot be filled by fallible institutions no matter how apostolically derived. My observation as both a Catholic and as a Protestant is that: Jesus Christ will preserve His Bride against the onslaughts of the power seekers, demonic oppession, secularism, and heresy. When we all get to heaven, the content of the Mystical Body of Christ will have surprises for all of us.
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