Saturday, April 23, 2005

MH - The Future of Ecumenism

Andrew at Holy Whapping has some intriguing predictions as to what we may see from our new Holy Father as far as ecumenism. Andrew looks at three specific areas:
  1. Intra-Church, that is, healing the split formed by the SSPX and other extreme conservative groups;
  2. Inter-Church Western, bringing the Anglicans back into the Catholic fold; and
  3. Inter-Church Eastern, laying the groundwork for eventual reunion with the Orthodox.

Read the comments section as well for some very interesting discussion regarding these points.

It's ironic; Benedict has been attacked on many fronts for driving a wedge between Catholicism and other Christian denominations, yet many non-Catholics seem overjoyed with his choice. Non-Catholic pastors in Germany have talked of how they've enjoyed working with then-Cardinal Ratzinger over the years. In certain cases, Cardinal Ratzinger had allowed communion to non-Catholics. And lest you think this is limited to the Christian faith, Jews look forward to continuing the progress made with John Paul, and the Jerusalem Post even defends Benedict against the "Nazi Pope" charges.

I remember hearing a talk from Fr. Joseph Fessio once; in answer to a question regarding ecumenism, he said that in his opinion, "the best ecumenism is conversion." I think this a very important point; we must keep inter-faith discussions open, we must find our common ground and build upon that, but at the same time we must never water down or sell short the teachings of the Catholic Church. One of the things I found so attractive about Catholicism when I converted was that this was a church that actually believed in something. People look for those kinds of certainties in life, now more than ever (see Peggy Noonan's column, referenced above). To the extent that the Church waters that message down to the lowest common denominator, it has and will continue to suffer the same decline as mainline Protestant denominations.

But I don't believe that's going to happen under Benedict. Those who predict that he will be "divisive" will be sadly mistaken, I think. Probably the only ones who will be driven away are those liberal "Catholics" who have already taken themselves outside the orthodox teaching of the Church.

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