GDC 197-198: “Catechesis in the context of ecumenism”

Ecumenism: ah! Let’s remember that when we speak of ecumenism, we refer to the relationships between Christian communities, not the exchanges of Christians with those outside faith in Christ. The note with the title of this section refers to no less than seven documents: the General Catechetical Directory 27; 1977 Synod of Bishops, Message to the People of God 15; Evangelii Nuntiandi 54; Catechesi Tradendae 32-34; Directory for the application of principles and norms concerning Ecumenism; Tertio Millennio Adveniente 34; and Ut Unum Sint 18.

197. Every Christian community, by the mere fact of being what it is, is moved by the Spirit to recognize its ecumenical vocation in the circumstances in which it finds itself, by participating in ecumenical dialogue and initiatives to foster the unity of Christians. Catechesis, therefore, is always called to assume an “ecumenical dimension” (Catechesi Tradendae 32) everywhere. This is done, firstly, by an exposition of all of Revelation, of which the Catholic Church conserves the deposit, while respecting the hierarchy of truths.(Cf. Unitatis Redintegratio 11) In the second place, catechesis brings to the fore that unity of faith which exists between Christians and explains the divisions existing between them and the steps being taken to overcome them. (Cf. Directory for the application of principles and norms concerning Ecumenism 190) Catechesis also arouses and nourishes a true desire for unity, particularly with the love of Sacred Scripture. Finally, it prepares children, young people and adults to live in contact with brothers and sisters of other confessions, by having them cultivate both their own Catholic identity and respect for the faith of others.

It is on this last point that many Catholics stumble, even self-styled orthodox ones. Successful formation would indeed “arouse” and “nourish” a desire for unity, and not just a half-hearted wish for mass “conversions,” let alone the smaller, purer church. Cultivation of Catholic identity only occurs in a positive light. Staking positions based on what non-Catholics do or don’t do is just seed on pavement. Note also the huge hint given here for a sharing of the Bible as both a means of achieving and an expression of the unity that, in fact, does exist.

198. In the context of different Christian confessions, the Bishops may deem opportune or necessary specific ecumenical co-operation in the area of religious instruction. It is important, however, that Catholics are guaranteed, at the same time, a genuinely Catholic catechesis, by specific provisions and with all the more care. (Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 33)

The teaching of religion in schools attended by Christians of diverse confessions can also have an ecumenical value when Christian doctrine is genuinely presented. This affords the opportunity for dialogue through which prejudice and ignorance can be overcome and a greater openness to better reciprocal understanding achieved.

Genuine presentation: this is the key. Most often, people of those “diverse confessions” will more ably present Christian doctrine from their own mouths.

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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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