Rocco whispered this link on his Twitter feed. I recall some recent discussion here and there on social media about proselytizing. It comes up again in the linked interview, but with a context. When asked about the best way to promote Christian unity, Pope Francis offered several opinions. Works of mercy, for one:
I believe that enthusiasm must shift towards common prayer and the works of mercy — work done together to help the sick, the poor, and the imprisoned. To do something together is a high and effective form of dialogue.
Agreed. The linking of common prayer with caritas isn’t an accident. There is a strong tradition of encountering Christ in serving others and acting with mercy, something not swept away with schism or political infighting.
I also think about education. It is important to work together and not in a sectarian way. There is a policy we should have clear in every case: to proselytize in the ecclesial field is a sin. Benedict XVI told us that the Church does not grow by proselytism, but by attraction. Proselytism is a sinful attitude. It would be like transforming the Church into an organization.
I know many of my Catholic sisters and brothers were bothered by a certain rejection of proselytism as they understood it. Perhaps it is galling to see Pope Benedict cited in this way. But the comment about “organization” gives useful background for the Holy Father’s thoughts here.
I wouldn’t say that energy expended on switches by Protestants to Catholicism has been wasteful. Every person must make a journey with Christ and toward Christ. There is always room to draw nearer. For some that closeness means moving from an uncommitted life to commitment. The secular world to religious life. One parish to another. One religious tradition to another.
Take Scott Hahn, for example. His high-profile discernment can’t really be called a conversion. He knew Jesus Christ before becoming a Catholic. His move was less a matter of ecumenism and more of discernment.
Christians waste time expending effort on other Christians. Is it sinful? I’m not sure it always is. But it seems lazy and uninspired to me. A person coming to a particular church or a particular tradition as part of an inner impulse for metanoia–that is a different matter entirely.
Speaking, praying, working together: this is the path that we must take. Look, in ecumenism the one who never makes a mistake is the enemy, the devil. When Christians are persecuted and murdered, they are chosen because they are Christians, not because they are Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans, Catholics or Orthodox. An ecumenism of blood exists.
I will have to ponder that last term, an “ecumenism of blood.”
The one remark on this topic from Pope Benedict that stays with me is that a marriage between Catholics and non-Catholic Christians is a “practical laboratory of unity.” When I think of “laboratory,” I think of testing, observing, and that sometimes-dreaded word: experimentation.
I make note of my one-time blogging partner’s essay on this last topic. Still fine reading. Pope Francis doesn’t mention it, but I wonder if he would affirm the opportunity. Meanwhile, any comments?