Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cardinal Levada On Ecumenism

Whispers in the Loggia just reproduced a Salt and Light text of some interesting comments from Cardinal Levada in a talk he gave about the new Anglican initiative. I'm not sure what I think about them just yet.

Union with the Catholic Church is the goal of ecumenism—one could put, “we phrase it that way”.

That sounds awesome.

Yet the very process of working towards union works a change in churches and ecclesial communities that engage one another in dialogue, in actual instances of entering into communion do indeed transform the Catholic Church by way of enrichment.

This is not so awesome. He qualifies it quickly, but this is the kind of vague statement that folks latch onto and abuse. There's a reason why Cardinal Ottaviani's motto when he was with the Holy Office was Semper Idem (Always the Same). Talking about the Church changing is dangerous.

Let me add right away that when I say enrichment I am referring not to any addition of essential elements of sanctification and truth to the Catholic Church. Christ has endowed her with all the essential elements. I am referring to the addition of modes of expression of these essential elements, modes which enhance everyone’s appreciation of the inexhaustible treasures bestowed on the Church by her divine founder.

This ecclesiological view is something else that's bothered me. It makes the Body of Christ sound like something that isn't really whole unto itself. It's more like something that comes to exist once you have all these certain pieces in one place at the same time. Granted, this is a better phrasing that what you normally hear, as His Eminence shows that the Church is endowed with these elements, rather than saying She "consists" of them, which doesn't make any sense, but is still popular terminology for some.

The new reality of visible unity among Christians should not thought of as the coming together of disparate elements that previously had not existed in any one community. The Second Vatican Council clearly teaches that all the elements of sanctification and truth which Christ bestowed on the Church are found in the Catholic Church.

This makes more sense to me, even though the "visible" adjective for "unity" is weird. We really didn't have any unity with these Anglicans before, visible or otherwise. Maybe he's appealing to "imperfect communion" type stuff. I'm not sure.

The great thing is that this refutes the post-conciliar idea that unity came about through convergence rather than return to the Church. We've talked about this before and it sort of fits with the Hegel post below. People were saying that unity would come about when all the different denominations sort of mashed together in some bizarre Teilhardian merger, instead of just having the separated folks return to the One Fold.

The point is that unity already exists. The Church is One. It cannot be otherwise.

What is new then is not the acquisition of something essential which had hitherto been absent. Instead, what is new is that perennial truths and elements of holiness already found in the Catholic Church are given new focus, or a different stress by the way they are lived by various groups of the faithful who are called by Christ to come together in perfect communion with one another, enjoying the bonds of creed, code, cult and charity, in diverse ways that blend harmoniously.

This is good, too. I can vouch for this type of effect in seeing Catholics who know only the Pauline Mass go to Eastern liturgies. Their eyes get opened to a whole world they didn't even know was there. Rightly or wrongly, there is stuff that gets forgotten and/or de-emphasized. It happens. The infusion of faithful from traditions who haven't let this happen can be good. I just don't think it should be called a "transforming" of the Church.

Skipping down a bit:

There is always an element of mystery in our knowledge of God and God’s work. Therefore, we fully expect that, while we may accurately know what can be truthfully said, the full knowledge of what that means is enhanced by the contemplation of many groups of people on the same mystery.

Sort of, I think. As long as they are contemplating within framework of the Magisterium's Truth.

This contemplation is not just an academic exercise. It is also a necessarily an exercise of worship. That is why the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, Lumen Gentium, closely associates elements of truth with elements of sanctification. Worship enables one to penetrate divine truth with the clarity of lovers, who have gotten to know their beloved, through his love of them. And worship thus impels believers to study, just as their sturdy strengthens their love of the God whose goodness they have come to learn.

As long as it is true worship, as in, the Mass. Given that those separated from the Church are hindered by their lack of Truth (or else they wouldn't be separated), what is the validity of the worship in question? As we'll see when we talk about Lumen Gentium, it's pretty clear that these "elements of sanctification" do not operate as such outside the Church. They merely "impel to Catholic unity."

Rather, visible union with the Catholic Church can be compared to an orchestral ensemble. Some instruments can play all the notes, like a piano. There is no note that a piano has that a violin or a harp or a flute or a tuba does not have. But when all these instruments play the notes that the piano has, the notes are enriched and enhanced. The result is symphonic, full communion. One can perhaps say that the ecumenical movement wishes to move from cacophony to symphony, with all playing the same notes of doctrinal clarity, the same euphonic chords of sanctifying activity, observing the rhythm of Christian conduct in charity, and filling the world with the beautiful and inviting sound of the Word of God. While the other instruments may tune themselves according to the piano, when playing in concert there is no mistaking them for the piano. It is God’s will that those to whom the Word of God is addressed, the world, that is, should hear one pleasing melody made splendid by the contributions of many different instruments.

In other words, everybody has to agree with the piano. He should have mentioned that Pope Benedict is a piano player. I wonder if +Levada is a Tolkien fan. If you haven't read The Silmarillion, the symphony description above is close to JRR's myth of the Fall of Satan. In a nutshell, Tolkien portrayed God as singing the universe into creation with the angels, the highest of which, Melkor (later Morgoth), decided he wanted to sing his own song, not the harmonies of God. Bad things happen, and the rest is history.

The Catholic Church approaches ecumenical dialogue convincedm as the Second Vatican Council’s degree of ecumenism states, that, and I quote here: “Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God.”

One of the most ignored statements in all of Vatican II.

Just as there is one Saviour, so there is one universal sacrament of Salvation, the Church. The Eastern Churches that are united to Rome are enjoined to preserve their distinct institutions, liturgical rites, ecclesiastical traditions and way of Christian life. By so doing, the Second Vatican Council teaches they do not harm the Church’s unity, but rather, make it manifest.

I'm sure Cardinal Kaspar loved that first bit. And this next part as well:

Nevertheless, a strict comparison between the Anglicans and the Eastern Church and Catholic Churches would not be correct, I hasten to add. The Eastern Churches, like the Ukrainian Catholic Church so numerous in Canada, are in the fullest sense of the term “Churches” since they have valid apostolic succession and thus valid Eucharist. They are therefore called Churches “sui juris” because they have their own legal structures of governance, all while maintaining bonds of hierarchical communion with the Bishop of Rome. The term Church is applied differently to the Anglican Communion for reasons rehearsed over a century ago by Pope Leo XIII in Apostolicae curae.

It is remarkable how the Church leaders who have been spear-heading this whole movement have, in many ways, thrown much of ecumenical caution to the wind. The constant drumbeat in affirming the nullity of Anglican orders has been astounding to me, though maybe it shouldn't have been. After so many years of treading lightly around our differences with these other religions, I'm just amazed at how the Holy Father and Cardinal Levada have basically come out with a gas can and blowtorch for anything that has even suggested there is a legitimate Anglican priesthood. I haven't even seen reference to the possibility of valid orders from the Old Catholic lines of Anglican ordination.

Anyways, I'm probably nitpicking on my concerns above. Good stuff overall.

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