It’s alternately funny and sad to see conservative Catholics attempting ecumenism. Just as reform2 is sometimes an attempt to recover some idealized golden age of liturgy, I get the sense that for some Catholics, ecumenism is all about standing on the Tiber beach, encouraging swimmers to stroke faster. Maybe they’re ready with a towel.
The biggest fallacy in this view is that is concentrates on the top-down approach (let’s see how many disaffected Anglicans we can lasso in) and has no clue about the day-to-day exchanges between fractured Christians.
It is also relentlessly rational, assessing Christian separation as a fault of the intellect. We Catholics have proven we’re the One True Church. The CDF backs us up. Everybody else just needs to haul their butts back in line. Such limited views ignore the human reality of emotions, of cultures, or even of human sinfulness.
I see a lot of cheering that the Orthodox are so close. Lots of disaffected Catholics admire the Eastern liturgy. They dig it that they even share the same name, with just the difference of a capital “O.” Somebody tried to convince me the obstacle to East-West reunion is that Roman liturgy sucks. Not to mention our biblical scholarship. I wonder how a decentralized system would go down if Catholics started looking more Orthodox. Somebody has to draw the line for everybody else to stand on, right?
Why are you so embittered, they ask me, about separated Christians escaping feminists and homosexuals and coming home to Rome? I don’t feel bitter about people with issues becoming Catholic. I was raised in a Protestant home and became Catholic myself, remember? But the expectation that the burden of Christian unity is all on the non-Romans is not how the Church defines ecumenism.
One commentator insists grass-roots ecumenism is dead. Funny, but last time I checked we have millions of Catholics married to non-Catholics. Neil blogged on these “laboratories of unity” most expertly last summer.
Yet we still have Catholics, even priests, who look upon such families with disdain. Unless the non-Catholic partner opts for RCIA or keeps their mouth shut.
On the horizon, we Roman Catholics could find some concern for the opening rifts among our own. I have a worry there’s a little too much rejoicing in divisions among Catholics. It’s a given that among a billion believers, we’ll have lots of different ways to approach worship, pastoral care, catechesis, and the other essentials of living the faith. But stressing unity as a folksy gathering of anti-feminists (or anti-gay or anti-iconoclsm, or whatever) strikes me as a rather sandy foundation for an edifice that should aspire to Christ and his example of love and sacrifice.