So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Christian Unity. Let's get real.

Attempts to facilitate gatherings involving various groups during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity are proving an interesting challenge.

As one priest friend confided, there isn't even agreement on what to call such a gathering. Some non-Catholics have challenged the use of the word 'unity" and have called for the use of 'diversity' instead. Ergo, the Week of Prayer for Christian Diversity. Hmm,... I don't recall Jesus ever praying for diversity. Perhaps we should all just sit in a circle, eyes closed and imagine unity?

The language wars reflect one of the many reasons why unity between the sects and the Catholic Church is a project that must be founded on an absolute trust in the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit informing dialogue, imagine trying to bring together people who hold diametrically opposed views about the person of Jesus Christ.

The problem is that some of those so-called followers do not believe Jesus is Who He says He is, nor do they accept the orthodox teaching about the Holy Trinity. Should Catholics and our non-Catholic eastern brethren water down the Apostolic Faith to accommodate heretical notions that roughly fall under the umbrella of 'Jesus was a nice guy but hardly the Messiah and sole redeemer of mankind'? The answer to that question should be an obvious 'no', never, nope.

If the quest for unity is founded on speaking the language of the Apostles and early Church Fathers, efforts to engage in dialogue would appear to be better directed to our non-Catholic eastern brethren of the national churches. Those churches are real churches with real sacraments: the Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, etc. There may be significant differences with regards to the manner in which theological nuance is expressed, but as conversations between Catholics and our eastern brethren have affirmed, the Faith is the same. Other than unfounded grudges and historical prejudices that have little to do with theological precision, and the question of the Papacy, what obstacles remain to unity?

Dialogue? Yes, but... .

With so many protestant groups slipping farther and farther away from orthodoxy, should we attempt to engage them in what is seemingly a useless endeavour that wastes resources of one kind or another? The answer is a qualified 'yes'. We should continue our efforts to engage and propose the Catholic Faith with charity to anyone who will listen. We have a duty to propose in and out of season the Truth spoken with love. Our efforts should not be limited by what others may or may not think about the Catholic proposal. As Blessed Teresa of Calcutta reminds, we are called to be faithful, not successful. What we should not do is follow any model of dialogue that has Catholics virtually abandoning the truth in favour of some feel good moments among people of varying degrees of conviction to the truth, i.e., that Jesus Christ is the only Son of God and sole redeemer of mankind. Our invitations to dialogue and conversion, if they be true to Jesus, will expose those who reject the call to unity which Jesus Himself prayed for to the Father.
I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.—St. John 17:20-23
Suffer the heretics separated brethren?

How do we know what others sincerely believe unless we listen and talk with each other? Catholics have a duty to propose the Faith undiminished so that others can measure their belief and witness against the Faith received from the Apostles. Others might claim conformity to said Faith, but the proof must amount to something much more than mere conviction. Proof is guaranteed by authentic communion with the See of Peter, for that is the historical standard by which a follower of Jesus Christ is confirmed in the Faith.
The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful. For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered. 
The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head. As such, this college has supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff. 
Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 882, 883
Authentic diversity is called... Catholicism.
The Greek roots of the term "Catholic" mean "according to (kata) the whole (holos)," or more colloquially, "universal." At the beginning of the second century, we find in the letters of Ignatius the first surviving use of the term "Catholic" in reference to the Church. At that time, or shortly thereafter, it was used to refer to a single, visible communion, separate from others.—Catholic Answers.
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"We must hold to the Christian religion and to communication in her Church, which is catholic and which is called catholic not only by her own members but even by all her enemies. For when heretics or the adherents of schisms talk about her, not among themselves but with strangers, willy-nilly they call her nothing else but Catholic. For they will not be understood unless they distinguish her by this name which the whole world employs in her regard" (The True Religion 7:12 [A.D. 390]).

"We believe in the holy Church, that is, the Catholic Church; for heretics and schismatics call their own congregations churches. But heretics violate the faith itself by a false opinion about God; schismatics, however, withdraw from fraternal love by hostile separations, although they believe the same things we do. Consequently, neither heretics nor schismatics belong to the Catholic Church; not heretics, because the Church loves God, and not schismatics, because the Church loves neighbor" (Faith and Creed 10:21 [A.D. 393]).—St. Augustine.
Recall that the Catholic Church includes 22 distinct (sui juris) eastern churches in communion with the Successor of Saint Peter, the Vicar of Christ.*** Those churches are quite distinct from the Latin Rite. That true diversity is one reason why it is inappropriate to refer to all Catholics as Roman Catholics. One may be a Latin Rite Catholic, and most Catholics are of the Latin Rite, but we are all Catholics: Maronites, Melkites, Syromalabars and Syromalankars, Chaldeans, Copts, Ukrainian Greeks, etc. Members of the Anglican Ordinariate are Latin Rite Catholics.

*** UPDATE!—h/t NLM: Pope creates new sui juris church!

Sign, sealed, delivered.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity could be a time during which all Catholics make the Sign of the Cross with renewed conviction. May the making of the Sign be a witness to the Catholic and Apostolic Faith.

Saints Peter and Andrew: pray for us.

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

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