Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 25: Dialogue, Part 3, Commitment To Ecumenism

Pope John Paul II gives his statement on ecumenism:

In the light of the council and of the magisterium of my predecessors, whose precious inheritance I have received and am making every effort to preserve and put into effect, I can affirm that the Catholic Church at every level is committed to frank ecumenical dialogue, without facile optimism but also without distrust and without hesitation or delays.

Two “laws” are cited. It’s an interesting term for things that largely started as interpretations about internal matters, which later became magnified in attempts to define differences more clearly. I don’t want to make light of differences within Christendom, but there’s no denying a lot of hot-headedness got things started centuries ago. We’ve almost lost track of the details in our attempts to shout out the “heretic!” epithet. Sometimes heresy simply means: theological opinions I disagree with.

Point One:

The fundamental laws which she seeks to follow in this dialogue are, on the one hand, the conviction that only a spiritual ecumenism-namely an ecumenism founded on common prayer and in a common docility to the one Lord-enables us to make a sincere and serious response to the other exigencies of ecumenical action.(Cf Unitatis Redintegratio 7-8)

Prayer first followed by charity and justice: this has worked.

The other law is the conviction that a certain facile irenicism in doctrinal and especially dogmatic matters could perhaps lead to a form of superficial and short-lived coexistence, but it could not lead to that profound and stable communion which we all long for.

A very interesting premise given the approach to schismatics with Roman roots. It’s almost like this passage was neglected when John Paul II and his successor were dealing with the SSPX.

This communion will be reached at the hour willed by divine providence. But in order to reach it, the Catholic Church, for her part, knows that she must be open and sensitive to all “the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated (sisters and brothers)”;(Ibid., 4) but she also knows that she must likewise base a frank and constructive dialogue upon a clarity regarding her own positions and upon fidelity and consistency with the faith transmitted and defined in accordance with the perennial tradition of her magisterium. Notwithstanding the threat of a certain defeatism and despite the inevitable slowness which rashness could never correct, the Catholic Church continues with all other Christian (sisters and brothers) to seek the paths to unity, and with the followers of the other religions she continues to seek to have sincere dialogue.

After centuries, our resentments persist. It seems curious that in a document on penance and reconciliation, there would not be a confession on our part of the harms and insults we have delivered to our Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant sisters and brothers. Yes, I know: Catholic have been harmed too, even martyred. Check a hard-line confessor on his opinion on penitents going light on their own sins, and complaining about the theft, adultery, and abuse that “caused” their wrongdoing.

A test: can this prayer continue to be prayed in the face of battles within the Roman Church, and despite discouragement in the larger picture of Christianity? Let’s read and pray it:

May this inter-religious dialogue lead to the overcoming of all attitudes of hostility, distrust, mutual condemnation and even mutual invective, which is the precondition for encounter at least in faith in one God and in the certainty of eternal life for the immortal soul. May the Lord especially grant that ecumenical dialogue will also lead to a sincere reconciliation concerning everything that we already have in common with the other Christian churches- faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made (flesh), our savior and Lord; a listening to the word; the study of revelation and the sacrament of baptism.

This document is Copyright © 1984 – Libreria Editrice Vatican. The link on the Vatican site is here.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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