Unitatis Redintegratio 4b

As we continue with UR 4, note the emphasis for Catholic believers:

Catholics, in their ecumenical work, must assuredly be concerned for their separated (brothers and sisters), praying for them, keeping them informed about the Church, making the first approaches toward them. But their primary duty is to make a careful and honest appraisal of whatever needs to be done or renewed in the Catholic household itself, in order that its life may bear witness more clearly and faithfully to the teachings and institutions which have come to it from Christ through the Apostles.

Isn’t this interesting? Catholics are responsible for making the first approaches. We are also responsible for getting our own house in order, so as to reflect more clearly our faithfulness to Christ. Are we asked to be perfect? No; the council bishops are realistic. But the Catholic faithful are called to aspire to perfection:

For although the Catholic Church has been endowed with all divinely revealed truth and with all means of grace, yet its members fail to live by them with all the fervor that they should, so that the radiance of the Church’s image is less clear in the eyes of our separated (brothers and sisters) and of the world at large, and the growth of God’s kingdom is delayed. All Catholics must therefore aim at Christian perfection(Cf. Iac. 1, 4; Rom. 12, 1-2.) and, each according to his (or her) station, play his (or her) part that the Church may daily be more purified and renewed. For the Church must bear in her own body the humility and dying of Jesus,(Cf. 2 Cor. 4, 10, Phil. 2, 5-8) against the day when Christ will present her to Himself in all her glory without spot or wrinkle.(Cf. Eph. 5, 27.)

A certain freedom within the bounds of the “essentials” is to mark our “catholicity and apostolicity.”

All in the Church must preserve unity in essentials. But let all, according to the gifts they have received enjoy a proper freedom, in their various forms of spiritual life and discipline, in their different liturgical rites, and even in their theological elaborations of revealed truth. In all things let charity prevail. If they are true to this course of action, they will be giving ever better expression to the authentic catholicity and apostolicity of the Church.

It is also important for Catholics to concede the virtues of non-Catholics. In other words, to honor aspects obviously part of a spiritual heritage: vernacular worship and hymnody, Biblical scholarship, efforts in charity, and even Christian martyrdom:

On the other hand, Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated (brotyhers and sisters). It is right and salutary to recognize the riches of Christ and virtuous works in the lives of others who are bearing witness to Christ, sometimes even to the shedding of their blood. For God is always wonderful in His works and worthy of all praise.

Nor should we forget that anything wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated (brothers and sisters) can be a help to our own edification. Whatever is truly Christian is never contrary to what genuinely belongs to the faith; indeed, it can always bring a deeper realization of the mystery of Christ and the Church.

Nevertheless, the divisions among Christians prevent the Church from attaining the fullness of catholicity proper to her, in those of her sons (and daughters) who, though attached to her by Baptism, are yet separated from full communion with her. Furthermore, the Church herself finds it more difficult to express in actual life her full catholicity in all her bearings.

This Sacred Council is gratified to note that the participation by the Catholic faithful in ecumenical work is growing daily. It commends this work to the bishops everywhere in the world to be vigorously stimulated by them and guided with prudence.

The bishops shoulder this responsibility of stimulation and guidance. UR 4, though long, sets out the important core of Catholic teaching on ecumenism. It would seem this continues to apply to today’s situation four decades after the council. Any dissent? Or any other comments?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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