Avery Dulles on Ecumenism Print
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 22 November 2007 21:37
I am using my holiday morning to play with my new Mac, sitting in my dining room table looking out on our snowy garden with the Thanksgiving sun pouring in over me. I've added my new Windows for Mac which gives me my accustomed working software and we finally go my e-mail up and running. I thought that my first serious attempt at anything would be a blog post. hours later - alas the day got away from me and I still haven't finished the post. So here goes.

Cardinal Avery Dulles' new essay , Saving Ecumenism From Itself in the December First Things is a fascinating and challenging look at the history and possible development of ecumenism.

It is a long work and should be read in its entirety but I wanted to start by quoting the four main insights regarding the Church's relationship with other Christians that Dulles says emerged from the Second Vatican Council.

1) "First of all, the scandal of Christian division posed difficulties for the Catholic Church’s own missionary work. It was a stumbling block that impeded what the council called “the most holy cause of proclaiming the gospel to every creature.”

2) "In the second place, the Catholic Church recognized that the divisions among Christians impoverished her catholicity. She lacked the natural and cultural endowments that other Christians could have contributed if they were united with her. Catholicity required that all the riches of the nations should be gathered into the one Church and harvested for the glory of God."

3) "the fullness of Christianity in Catholicism did not imply that all other churches were devoid of truth and grace. . . The council taught, in fact, that non-Catholic churches and communions were “by no means deprived of significance and importance for the mystery of salvation” because the Holy Spirit could use them as instruments of grace. Vatican II, therefore, represents a sharp turn away from the purely negative evaluation of non-Catholic Christianity that was characteristic of the previous three centuries."

4) the Catholic Church, insofar as she was made up of human members and administered by them, was always in need of purification and reform. Through ecumenical contacts, other Christian communities could help her to correct what was amiss, to supply what was lacking, and to update what was obsolete

Dulles points out that "Vatican II taught that every valid baptism incorporates the recipient into the crucified and glorified Christ, and that all baptized Christians were to some extent in communion with the Catholic Church. Their status, therefore, was quite different from that of non-Christians, although these, too, could be related by desire or orientation to the People of God.

Relying on the new ecclesiology of communion, Catholic ecumenists now perceived their task as a movement from lesser to greater degrees of communion. All who believed in Christ and were baptized in his name already possessed a certain imperfect communion, which could be recognized, celebrated, and deepened. The ecumenical movement aspired to the full restoration of the impaired communion among separated churches and communities. Paul VI felt authorized to declare that the communion between the Catholic and Orthodox churches was “almost ­complete.'"

(Sherry's note: I don’t think anyone today would agree that is the case today)

More tomorrow.