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

Friday, January 25, 2008

Day 8 of the Church Unity Octave

Today is the last day of the Church Unity Octave. Today is also the feast of the conversion of St. Paul the Apostle. The conversion of St. Paul shows us that God is capable of turning opposing hearts toward Him in truth. After his conversion, St. Paul worked harder than all of them, though it was the grace of God working in him. (1 Corinthians 15:10) May our Lord Jesus raise up such figures today, to bring unity to all His followers.

Pope Benedict gave an address on Wednesday titled: On Christian Unity.

He closed this week of prayer for Church unity by speaking of the history of the advance of ecumenicism (Benedict XVI: Ecumenical Cause Is Advancing), and pointing to the role that prayer has played in that advance (Pope Says Prayer Got Ecumenical Wheels Turning).

May the Lord unite all His people, in true unity. With God all things are possible.


Grifman said...

The problem as I see is that, if I can create a metaphor here, Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall. "Christendom" no longer exists. Catholics are found of blaming Protestant "individualism" but that's not really just a Protestant problem at all - after all, there are Catholics who have left the Catholic Church and formed their own "Catholic" churches, individual Catholics joining Protestant churches, and even within the Catholic Church, there's a great deal of dissent on issues such as the ordination of women and papal infallibility. So people choosing to believe what they want to is not just an issue for Protestants, though Catholics like to believe that.

The problem, if it exists (and I don't think it is one) is that most people deeply value religious freedom. That's what I meant above when I said that "Christendom" no longer exists. The church (whether Catholic or Protestant) no can rely upon inquisitions, crusades, and secular authorities to eliminate "heresy" or enforce belief. And without that, people will be free to believe whatever they want to if there is something they don't like or feel is missing in their current church.

And in the end, I think this is for the best for several reasons. One, I think it is wrong to coerce religious belief. I don't think Christ had inquisitions, burnings the stake, drownings of "heretics" in mind when he took the cross upon his shoulders. Secondly, the church can't be lazy. The Catholic Church only reformed at Trent after the Protestants shook it up. One can argue whether Protestants should have gone about it the way they did, but I doubt many would agree that the Catholic Church didn't need some serious shaking up at the time. Thirdly religious freedom eliminates the chaff. There's enough dead wood already in both Catholic and Protestant churches - do we really need any more people who really don't care about the church, who dilute our faith and witness?

Therefore, for better or worse unity as defined by Catholicism (all Christians submitting to Rome) isn't going to happen. All the pope's horses and all the pope's men can't put Humpty Dumpty together again.

Bryan Cross said...


Thanks for your comments. I haven't intended to made any comments about Christendom. So let's set that matter aside. I agree that individualism is a problem *within* the Catholic Church; persons who call themselves "Catholic" but believe whatever they want are actually Protestants. I'm not advocating any coercion. I'm advocating a *free* and *voluntary* return to our true ecclesial authorities. You seem to be thinking of 'freedom' in the sense of 'freedom from'. But there is another sense of freedom, 'freedom to'. When a bride or groom says "I do", do they lose freedom? No. They acquire a greater freedom, a freedom to love more deeply, with greater trust and self-disclosure.

No one disputes that the Catholic Church needed cleaning up at the time of the Reformation. But Luther went beyond "cleaning up", to outright rebellion, heresy, and schism.

As for your prediction about ecclesial unity, I hear you, but I don't agree. I have hope that we will see the imperative implicitly laid out in John 17 in Christ's pray, that we untiringly pursue unity with one another. If we all took the attitude that achieving Church unity is hopeless, it wouldn't happen. In order to work for it, you have to believe it can happen. I believe it can happen, and that is why I am committed to working for it, and hope to win others to working for it as well.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan