13 December 2006

My sort of Ecumenism

Through the post today, along with Christmas cards, music, an annual report on the persecution of the Church, and a Missal, came Aid to the Church in Need's "I Believe: A Little Catholic Catechism". My wife, who is not a Catholic, had added it to the order. It is based on the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" but is aimed at Catholics in areas of the world in which the Church is in great need. It is much shorter than the Catechism.

I have been particularly taken by a definition of Ecumenism that I have not seen before: bear in mind that the Imprimatur is by Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos.

"In obedience to the commandment of the Lord 'May they all be one' (Jn 17:21), the Church makes every effort to re-establish full communion with all these separated Christian brethren. In order to achieve this goal we have to learn to approach one another in mutual esteem and respect, while the theologians of the different churches and communities engage in dialogue with one another, in the hope that one day we may all be able to profess the same faith, that of the one Church. This movement is called 'ecumenism.'"

I really, really, like this. I grew up in a Church which would not sing "Away in a Manger" because it was thought to have been composed by Martin Luther. I live in a Church in which signing of Council of Churches statements on the Third World is taken as a shibboleth of orthodoxy. Yet here is a via media: I can go to choral evensong at the local Anglican Catedral and esteem and respect the tradition which underpins it, without subscribing to it; I can write my monthly article for the local Anglican parish magazine and never pull Anglican legs; I can call "heretic" the friend who tells me that I am but a lackey of the Roman Mission in England and Wales; meanwhile I can leave it to Rome to persuade the Archbishop of Canterbury that true union means that we all profess the one true Faith (I'll forgive ACN the lower case "f" in Faith.)

It also means that "fish and chips" ecumenism is a dead letter: lowest common denominator Christianity is not something we subscribe to. We can do something more Christian than pretend that "we all believe in the same thing fundamentally". We can esteem and respect, and even encourage, our separated brethren for the things they hold which belong to the Deposit of the Faith. But we can also, and at the same time, esteem and respect ourselves for those elements of the Faith which we hold and they don't.

This may mean that when things like "Christian Unity Week" come round, we decide that it would be untrue to our Faith to pretend that unity will come about just because we all gather together, and that therefore unity is on its way: we may decide to be a bit more honest about our ability "to profess the same faith, that of the one Church".

1 comment:

JARay said...

Well tony, I think that I can agree with everything you have written here. Sorry if it doesn't give you anything to chew over.