Blog Template Theology of the Body: Ecumenical Acumen: A Beautiful Sermon and a Surprising Twist

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ecumenical Acumen: A Beautiful Sermon and a Surprising Twist

These reflections by Fr. Ray Ryland were passed on to me via Marcus Grodi's March 2010 newsletter.

The question is, how are we Christians to be united in our Lord Jesus?

Not only does Jesus will that His people be one- He has provided the means by which they can be one- indeed, the only means.

In the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church XVIII, we read 'Jesus Christ...set up the Holy Church by entrusting the apostles with their mission as He Himself had been sent by the Father... He willed that their successors, the bishops... should be shepherds in the Church until the end of the world... in order that the episcopate itself... might be one and undivided, He put Peter at the head of the other apostles, and in him He set up a lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity both of faith and of communion.' And so, as successor of Peter, the Roman Pontiff is 'the perpetual and visible source of the unity... of the bishops of the whole company of the faithful.' soon as someone breaks with the papacy and starts his own denomination (like Martin Luther and John Calvin) that denomination starts to break apart... there is no end to that proliferation. There are at least 39,000 separated denominations in the world today. And several hundred new ones are being created every year.

(Thus) the goal of the Catholic Church's ecumenical endeavor is quite clear. As the Decree on Ecumenism XXIV states, 'this holy objective (of the Church's ecumenical efforts) is the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ.' Repeatedly in her magisterial statements, the Church makes it plain that the Roman Catholic Church is 'the one and only Church of Christ.'

The Catholic approach to overcoming Christian disunity is unique. The Church declares that Christian unity is not something to be achieved, but something to be 'the unity of the one and only Church, which Christ bestowed on His Church from the beginning. This unity...(exists) in the Catholic Church, as something she can never lose.' (Decree on Ecumenism IV)

...We Catholic need what many Protestant can offer us... (they) have much to teach us about personal witness and evangalization... (yet) so long as they remain apart from the Catholic Church's communion, they will always be hopelessly divided... they can never know Christ on His terms until they allow themselves to be drawn into the communion of Christ's one true Church, (so that they can) listen to and obey Jesus Christ speaking to them directly through His Church."

Edit: Check out this April 22 article in Christianity Today, which describes a recent attempt at the Wheaton Theology Conference to get the bottom of Protestant Christian divisions, which the author rightly lumps together as "schisms." I like that kind of clarity. Even more striking is the article's report of a statement made by N.T. Wright, celebrated Pauline scholar and current Anglican episcopal figure. Within weeks of reporting his retirement from that position, Wright responded to loaded questions at the Wheaton conference by stating that "nothing justifies schism." Could Wright's decision to leave his schismatic position in Anglicanism be related to this astute and proper claim? It might be interesting to watch what happens.