"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)
Sunday, September 7, 2008
How would Protestants know when to come back?
How would Protestants know when to come back to the Catholic Church? This question came to mind when reading the 1994 document "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" and the "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification" worked out by Lutherans and Catholics in 1999. The question resurfaced when reflecting on Mark Noll's book Is the Reformation Over?, published in 2005. (See his interview here.)
The second question that came to my mind was about memory. Is there in Protestantism enough of a collective memory of the sixteenth century separation from the Catholic Church to be aware that should certain conditions be attained within the Catholic Church, conditions that were allegedly lacking so as to justify the separation, Protestants should seek to be rejoined to her in full communion?
The second question concerns me more than the first. Over a long period of time it is easy to forget our history, and thereby come to accept a state of schism as normal, ordinary, and acceptable. If the memory of the separation is lost, then the first question will not even be asked, and thus the desire to be reunited will be absent. Without memory of the separation, the separated state becomes the accepted, comfortable and presumed permanent state. When the very conception of visible unity is lost from memory, mere 'invisible unity' takes its place by default as the unity to which Christ calls His followers.
Any thoughts on these two questions?