"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)

Monday, December 31, 2007

One year blog birthday

Today is the one-year birthday of this blog. May the Lord continue to eliminate all schisms, and bring His bride into perfect unity.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Britain has become a 'Catholic country'

According to this article in the Telegraph, there are now more practicing Catholics in Britain than practicing Anglicans. That follows yesterday's news of Tony Blair's conversion to Catholicism. From a Catholic point of view, it is not entirely surprising that Anglicanism is in decline. In 1896 Pope Leo XIII ruled in Apostolicae Curae that "ordinations carried out according to the Anglican rite have been, and are, absolutely null and utterly void". Any organization lacking valid orders must eventually collapse. Those who reject Apostolicae Curae to become or remain Anglican are implicitly determining that the [Anglican] Archbishop of Canterbury (or whichever Anglican bishop in Africa under whom they have placed themselves) has more authority than the episcopal successor of St. Peter. One of the factors leading me out of Anglicanism was that I could not justify the claim that some Anglican bishop has more authority than the bishop of Rome.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization: Ecumenical Implications

Excerpted from "Doctrinal Note on Some Aspect of Evangelization" released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on December 3, 2007.

12. From its beginnings, the ecumenical movement has been closely connected with evangelization. Unity, in fact, is the seal of the credibility of missionary activity and so the Second Vatican Council noted with regret that the scandal of division “damages the most sacred cause of preaching”.[43] Jesus himself, on the night before his death, prayed “that they all may be one.. so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21).

The mission of the Church is universal and is not restricted to specific regions of the earth. Evangelization, however, is undertaken differently according to the different situations in which it occurs. In its precise sense, evangelization is the missio ad gentes directed to those who do not know Christ. In a wider sense, it is used to describe ordinary pastoral work, while the phrase “new evangelization” designates pastoral outreach to those who no longer practice the Christian faith.[44] In addition, there is evangelization in countries where non-Catholic Christians live, including those with an ancient Christian tradition and culture. In this context, what is required is both true respect for the tradition and spiritual riches of such countries as well as a sincere spirit of cooperation. Catholics, “avoiding every form of indifferentism or confusion, as well as senseless rivalry, through a common profession of faith in God and in Jesus Christ before all peoples – insofar as this is possible – may collaborate with their separated brethren in social, cultural, technical and religious matters in accordance with the Decree on Ecumenism”.[45]

Different dimensions of the work of ecumenism can be distinguished: above all, there is listening, as a fundamental condition for any dialogue, then, theological discussion, in which, by seeking to understand the beliefs, traditions and convictions of others, agreement can be found, at times hidden under disagreement. Inseparably united with this is another essential dimension of the ecumenical commitment: witness and proclamation of elements which are not particular traditions or theological subtleties, but which belong rather to the Tradition of the faith itself.

Ecumenism does not have only an institutional dimension aimed at “making the partial communion existing between Christians grow towards full communion in truth and charity”.[46] It is also the task of every member of the faithful, above all by means of prayer, penance, study and cooperation. Everywhere and always, each Catholic has the right and the duty to give the witness and the full proclamation of his faith. With non-Catholic Christians, Catholics must enter into a respectful dialogue of charity and truth, a dialogue which is not only an exchange of ideas, but also of gifts,[47] in order that the fullness of the means of salvation can be offered to one’s partners in dialogue.[48] In this way, they are led to an ever deeper conversion to Christ.

In this connection, it needs also to be recalled that if a non-Catholic Christian, for reasons of conscience and having been convinced of Catholic truth, asks to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church, this is to be respected as the work of the Holy Spirit and as an expression of freedom of conscience and of religion. In such a case, it would not be a question of proselytism in the negative sense that has been attributed to this term.[49] As explicitly recognized in the Decree on Ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council, “it is evident that the work of preparing and reconciling those individuals who desire full Catholic communion is of its nature distinct from ecumenical action, but there is no opposition between the two, since both proceed from the marvelous ways of God”.[50] Therefore, the work of ecumenism does not remove the right or take away the responsibility of proclaiming in fullness the Catholic faith to other Christians, who freely wish to receive it.

Monday, December 10, 2007

"Our Work Toward Unity Is According to the Will of Christ Our Lord"

That phrase is from Pope Benedict XVI's letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, dated November 23, 2007.

I have encountered some Christians who strongly oppose efforts toward Christian unity. They view such efforts as intrinsically and necessarily requiring sinful compromise. Their opposition, I think, may be due in large part to a limited imagination, for they seem not to have imagined any other way of achieving genuine Christian unity than through sinful compromise. We can hold out to them the possibility of a holy, passionate, unrelenting effort to achieve genuine unity with other Christians that does not require any sinful compromise. We can help them perceive the possibility that in the course of dialogue resulting from ecumenical effort of this holy type, all participating persons may come to see changes they can make in themselves that are not sinful, but are in fact obedient to Christ.

Other Christians treat ecumenical efforts as worthless or unimportant. These persons tend to think either that unity is already present and perfect, because they think Christian unity is invisible and entirely effected and perfected merely by belief in Jesus, or that true Christian unity is something that will be achieved only in heaven, and that therefore it is foolish to try to bring about Christian unity in this life. Those who think Christian unity is already present and perfect have adopted a view of Christian unity that is far short of the unity Christ prays in John 17 that His followers would have. It is a gnostic conception of unity from which all material unity has been stripped away, the barest of formal unity left remaining. No family with only that sort of unity would be thought of as unified, for it is entirely compatible with bitterness, division, separation, and fragmentation. Christians holding this notion of unity need to be shown that the unity Christ seeks for His followers is far greater than mere "belief in Jesus".

Those Christians who think that there is no point striving for Christian unity in this life should be shown that we are called by Christ to pursue unity in this present life with all our brothers and sisters in Christ, to seek to heal present schisms, and to be reconciled with our separated brothers and sisters, so that by our unity and mutual love for each other all the world will see the love of God the Father for Christ Jesus. Love cannot be perfected when we do not seek unity, for it is the very nature of love to seek unity. Therefore he who does not seek genuine unity with his separated brothers and sisters does not love them as he ought. That is the ecumenical equivalent of saying to the poor, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled". (James 2:16) Let us say instead to our separated brothers and sisters, "I come in peace; I commit myself to pursuing peace and unity together with you, for this is the will of Christ our Lord."

Sunday, December 9, 2007

St. Thomas Aquinas on faith vs. individualism

"Neither living nor lifeless faith remains in a heretic who disbelieves one article of faith.

The reason of this is that the species of every habit depends on the formal aspect of the object, without which the species of the habit cannot remain. Now the formal object of faith is the First Truth, as manifested in Holy Writ and the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth. Consequently whoever does not adhere, as to an infallible and Divine rule, to the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth manifested in Holy Writ, has not the habit of faith, but holds that which is of faith otherwise than by faith. Even so, it is evident that a man whose mind holds a conclusion without knowing how it is proved, has not scientific knowledge, but merely an opinion about it. Now it is manifest that he who adheres to the teaching of the Church, as to an infallible rule, assents to whatever the Church teaches; otherwise, if, of the things taught by the Church, he holds what he chooses to hold, and rejects what he chooses to reject, he no longer adheres to the teaching of the Church as to an infallible rule, but to his own will. Hence it is evident that a heretic who obstinately disbelieves one article of faith, is not prepared to follow the teaching of the Church in all things; but if he is not obstinate, he is no longer in heresy but only in error. Therefore it is clear that such a heretic with regard to one article has no faith in the other articles, but only a kind of opinion in accordance with his own will." (Summa Theologica IIa-IIae, q. v, art. 3)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

"Official of Russian Orthodox Church likes his meeting with Pope Benedict XVI"

Metropolitan Kirill, the top foreign relations official in the Russian church, recently held private talks with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. (See here.) The Reuters story can be found here.
(Reuters photo)

"Lack of Unity Between Christians Openly Contradicts the Will of Christ"

That was the title of Pope Benedict's Thursday address to the Baptist World Alliance. He was quoting from Unitatis Redintegratio. For the text of Pope Benedict's Thursday address, see here. The corresponding news story can be found here.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

"Our current Ecumenical Situation"

Cardinal Kaspar delivered this address to the cardinals on November 23, 2007.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

"We Share the Same Emotions and the Same Intentions of Brotherhood"

Patriarch Bartholomew I's Letter to Vatican Delegation on November 30, the feast day of St. Andrew, the brother of St. Peter.

Monday, December 3, 2007

St. Leo the Great: Christ's foundation on Peter abides

"It is from this ultimate inexhaustible source of security that we have received strength in our apostolic task; for his activity is never relaxed. The powerful foundation upon which the whole structure of the Church rests is never shaken by the weight of the temple that presses upon it. That faith which Christ commended in the prince of the apostles remains forever unshaken. And, just as Peter's faith in Christ endures, so does Christ's foundation upon Peter. The structure of truth persists; blessed Peter retains his rock-like strength and has not abandoned the helm of the Church which he took over. Peter is called the rock; he is declared to be the foundation; he is made doorkeeper of the heavenly kingdom; he is made judge of what is to be bound or loosed, and his judgments remain valid even in heaven; in these various ways, he is assigned a rank above the others. By reflecting on the hidden meaning of these titles of his, we can come to appreciate how close he is to Christ. In our day he carries out his trust over a wider field and with greater power; he attends to every department of his duties and responsibilities in and along with him who gave him that dignity. And so, if I do anything well, if my judgment is sound, if I obtain anything from God's mercy by my daily prayer, all this is due to the achievement and the deserts of Peter; it is his power that lives on in his See, it is his prestige that reigns. This, beloved, is the outcome of that profession of faith which God the Father inspired in the apostle's heart. That declaration rose above the doubts of all merely human opinion, and took on the solidity of a rock unshaken by any outside pressure. For, in the world-wide Church, every day Peter declares: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, and every man who acknowledges the Lord is enabled to proclaim what those words mean." – St. Leo the Great (395-461 AD)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Fourth US Episcopal Bishop to Join Catholic Church

Just last week the fourth US Episcopal bishop this year announced his intention to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. See here.