Written by Sherry
Sunday, 25 November 2007 21:04
There is a sort of lyrical passion that comes through when you read John Paul II's encyclical on ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint. It has opened my eyes to an aspect of the Church's teaching and life that I had always skipped over before.
Partly for lack of time and partly because of a combination of unconscious factors: lingering suspicion from my evangelical days mixed with 20 years of exposure to an embattled Catholic community that is equally likely to regard ecumenism as a cover for theological sloppiness and dissent. We wanted sharp, clear doctrine and yield-no-ground apologetics: distinction, not dialog.
I knew enough to know that I should look into it - but it was never urgent enough until now. And you know what? I've discovered a goodly amount of sharp, clear Church teaching about ecumenism that means that I have some repenting to do and some actions to take.
Which I know may strike some of you as strange since I'm from a Protestant background, am fairly ecumenical by St. Blog's standards, and have been attacked by traditionalists a number of times for being insufficiently Catholic.
But the Holy Spirit, through the Church, is asking us for so much more. This is not about jettisoning or softening the truths of the faith (as all the major documents on ecumenism make abundantly clear).
It is about jettisoning our knee-jerk suspicion, which for most conservative US Catholics is focused upon Protestantism rather than Orthodoxy. We need to shed our fear, our tendency to dismiss non-Catholic, non-liturgical prayer as automatically shallow and non-Catholic non-liturgical worship as meaningless entertainment,to make (and listen to without protest to)a steady stream of snide comments about Protestants of any variety, Anglicans, main-line, evangelicals, Pentecostals, to exalt when they are weak in an area of our strength and to scorn the idea that we could learn anything from them. Even if you are a refugee from some form of terribly dysfunctional Protestantism who is profoundly relieved and grateful to be Catholic, the Church is calling us to something else, to something more.
Consider this passage from Ut Unum Sint, 15:
"Each one therefore ought to be more radically converted to the Gospel and, without ever losing sight of God's plan, change his or her way of looking at things. Thanks to ecumenism, our contemplation of "the mighty works of God" (mirabilia Dei) has been enriched by new horizons, for which the Triune God calls us to give thanks: the knowledge that the Spirit is at work in other Christian Communities, the discovery of examples of holiness, the experience of the immense riches present in the communion of saints, and contact with unexpected dimensions of Christian commitment.
In a corresponding way, there is an increased sense of the need for repentance: an awareness of certain exclusions which seriously harm fraternal charity, of certain refusals to forgive, of a certain pride, of an unevangelical insistence on condemning the "other side," of a disdain born of an unhealthy presumption. Thus, the entire life of Christians is marked by a concern for ecumenism; and they are called to let themselves be shaped, as it were, by that concern."
I have hardly ever given ecumenism a second thought, much less sought to have my entire Christian life shaped by it. How about you?
Ut Unum Sint, 2:
No one is unaware of the challenge which all this poses to believers. They cannot fail to meet this challenge. Indeed, how could they refuse to do everything possible, with God's help, to break down the walls of division and distrust, to overcome obstacles and prejudices which thwart the proclamation of the Gospel of salvation in the Cross of Jesus, the one Redeemer of man, of every individual?