Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ecumenism And Blessed John XXIII

In a recent Zenit article, Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, had the following exchange:

Q: The pontifical council recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of its foundation. Is the spirit that inspired its birth with Pope John XXIII still alive?

Bishop Farrell: Yes, in fact, on this past Nov. 17, we held a solemn public ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, which John XXIII intensely desired and instituted along with the other commissions charged with preparing the Second Vatican Council. Convinced that the council's entire work had to be impregnated with the desire to re-establish unity, he wished, as a clear sign of that desire, to have the presence of observers from other churches and ecclesial communities at the council.

It seems almost like a miracle of Providence that more than 2,000 bishops came to Rome to start the council in 1962, many of them formed in a theology of "exclusion," according to which the Orthodox and the Protestants -- schismatics and heretics, in the terminology of that time -- were simply outside of the Church, and three years later they produced the decree "Unitatis Redintegratio," which recognizes a real, although incomplete ecclesial communion among all the baptized and among the Churches and ecclesial communities. This renewed perspective, in perfect harmony with the old ecclesiology of the Fathers, had enormous consequences for the new way that Catholics related to other Christians and with their communities, and for the irrevocable adherence of the Catholic Church to the ecumenical movement.

John XXIII spoke of a "step forward," a way of seeing the old tradition with new eyes, thus opening up new ways for the Church to move toward that visible unity that is her own. This transformation has largely been due to the intense work of the first president of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Agustín Bea, and his coworkers -- along with the grace of the Holy Spirit, of course.

Basically, I'm not sure how the italicized portion is anything other than an insult to the thousands of saints, not to mention Fathers and Doctors of the Church, who stated time and time again that individuals ascribing to heresy and schism are, in fact, outside the Church. Apparently, these people (and every other Catholic) lived in darkness until the magnificent light of ecumenism was shone upon them, and we could all shed the errors of our "theology of exclusion."

Moreover, this is an insult to Blessed John XXIII himself. Let's take a look at the Pope's own words, from his own autobiography, Journey of a Soul (see page 5 of the linked chapter):

Meanwhile, this (his conversations with a young Protestant who had left Catholicism) has convinced me of my tremendous obligation to thank God for the great gift of faith: one has only to talk to a Protestant for a few hours to understand all the importance of thus (sp). Therefore, forever, "his praise shall be continually in my mouth" for this gift too, indeed for this gift above all else. AS FOR THESE POOR UNFORTUNATES OUTSIDE THE CHURCH, we must feel sorry for them, poor children pray hard for them, and work with all our hearts and strength for their conversion.

Well, geez, I guess Blessed John was infected with this same erroneous "theology of exclusion." Is Bishop Farrell even familiar with the summons to the Council, Ad Petri Cathedram? If you don't want to check out the whole thing, see our post here, which goes into a few details. Needless to say, it's chockful of the "theology of exclusion."

Something tells me that the "step forward" Bishop Farrell speaks of isn't what Blessed John was talking about. If anything, we know from his own hand that Pope John's dream was for the return of those outside of the Church to the Catholic Faith. This kind of mis-characterization is annoying and leads to the appearance of Vatican II as some sort of theological trump card for 2000 years of Church teaching.

I'm not even going to touch the rest of the above article's WooHoos regarding the accomplishments of post-conciliar ecumenism. I'll just say that Bishop Farrell must be observing a way different reality that what I've been looking at. Everyone agrees that Catholic Faith isn't even being taught any more (hence the new Pontifical Council for Re-Evangelization). It seems absurd to suggest that we are making all this progress on bringing those outside the Church back to the Faith, when we can't even get Catholics to buy into the Faith.

1 comment:

Aileen Ruane said...

It seems like a problem, which you've mentioned before, with people actually admitting and owning up to the fact that they are members of an organized religion. If we didn't really and truly believe that the Catholic church is the Truth, then why be a member? If it's all the same, and just a different perspective, then why bother?

I think people are just not being honest with themselves in this respect. The end goal of this push for Christian unity is for everyone to return to the Catholic church, not a never-ending conversation about how we all are good and blah blah blah.