It’s nice to take a weekend off from blogging, but let’s get back to one of Vatican II’s hallmark documents. Where we left off Friday, LG 14 spoke of the issue of membership of catechumens in the Church. The council bishops turn to an issue unforeseen in the early Church, namely Christians who profess Christ but have maintained traditions despite up to a millennium of separation from Rome:
The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter. (Cfr. Leo XIII, Epist. Apost. Praeclara gratulationis, 20 iun. 1894; AAS 26 (1893-94) p. 707.) For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. (Cfr. Leo XIII, Epist. Encycl. Satis cognitum, 29 iun. 1896: ASS 28 (1895-96) p. 738. Epist. Encycl. Caritatis studium, 25 iul. 1898: ASS 31 (1898-99) p. 11. Pius XII, Nuntius radioph. Nell’alba, 24 dec. 1941: AAS 34 (1942) p. 21.) They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities. Many of them rejoice in the episcopate, celebrate the Holy Eucharist and cultivate devotion toward the Virgin Mother of God.(Cfr. Pius XI, Litt. Encycl. Rerum Orientalium, 8 sept. 1928: AAS 20 (1928) p. 287. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl Orientalis Ecclesiae, 9 apr. 1944: AAS 36 (1944) p. 137) They also share with us in prayer and other spiritual benefits. Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them with His sanctifying power. Some indeed He has strengthened to the extent of the shedding of their blood. In all of Christ’s disciples the Spirit arouses the desire to be peacefully united, in the manner determined by Christ, as one flock under one shepherd, and He prompts them to pursue this end. (Cfr. Inst. S.S.C.S. Officii 20 dec. 1949: AAS 42 (1950) p.142.) Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that this may come about. She exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the earth.
Vatican II laid the groundwork for the Catholic effort of the modern ecumenical movement. Three things are asked of Catholics:
- The pursuit of Christian unity
- This pursuit should be marked by prayer and work, as well as an expectation of hopefulness
- Renewal benefits from the effort of purification and renewal
Many consider that ecumenism has lost its verve in the past decade or two. But I’d hazard the suggestion that liberals have lost hope and patience for the long view, substituting instead gestures that are too leader-heavy and too insubstantial. And many conservatives have simply neglected the Church’s teachings, substituting instead the demand for a practical reunion we may still be decades away from. Evidence would be satisfaction with the SCGS* model of Catholicism. And sorry, but prominent non-Catholics “swimming the Tiber” isn’t worth crowing about. Your average suburban parish draws more numbers, and there are a few thousand of them at least.
Vatican II asks, “What have you done for Christian unity lately?”
* Small Church Getting Smaller