"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Sunday 1 May 2011

ECUMENISM WITHOUT COMPROMISE: Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Protestantism (with Peter Kreeft and Metropolitan Kallistos Ware) mp3.

Listen to this excellent talk on ecumenism, please click here
to hear Peter Kreeft on ecumenism between Catholicism and Protestantism.

Listen to this equally brilliant talk by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware on Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism.  Please click here.

Protestantism is such that, once a Protestant understands Catholicism or Orthodoxy and comes to see that his deepest convictions as a Protestant have their true home in Catholic Tradition, then he becomes either a Catholic or an Orthodox.  This is because, whatever the original reformers intended, Protestant churches are voluntary organizations of people, each individually converted to Christ, each with his individual convictions about what is important for Christians.  The teaching of their churches  is simply the product of the individual beliefs of their members.   Both the speakers are converts, one from Calvinism to Catholicism, the other from Anglicanism to Orthodoxy. 

  The relationship between Catholicism and Orthodoxy is more complicated.   Each tradition enjoys the fullness of Catholicism in the Eucharist but we are not  united with each other.  To use the vocabulary of C.S. Lewis, we are joined at the centre, but not at the edges.  We celebrate the identical Eucharist, but we celebrated it apart.   For each of us, Tradition expressed in a liturgy as it has been handed down in a continual process from the the time of the Apostles and of which we are a constituent part as con-celebrants,  is an organic reality formed by the Holy Spirit   For us, belief, church order and worship form an organic whole across time and space.   However when we go to the edge and look across the ecclesiastical fence at each other, what we see is a bit strange, and we cannot fully agree with what we see.   So we leave the edge and go back to the centre where we participate in the same sacrifice and become the same body of Christ as the other does.   The problem is that both our identity in the Eucharist and the differences we see from across the fence must be accepted as real, even when they pull us in different directions.  That is our tragedy; that is our sickness which only Christ can heal.   Meanwhile, we must get to know and love one another in synergy with the Holy Spirit.

It is said that a camel is a horse designed by a committee, and the Church of England has camel-like qualities.  It was brought about by parliament to suit the crown.   It adopted the Protestant reformation with its accent on individual conversion but retained the pre-reformation Catholic structure; it expressed Protestant beliefs in the 39 Articles, but wanted as many Catholics to join as could be persuaded to do so; it stripped the altars but retained the churches with their built-in Catholic memories.   The result is doctrinal chaos, with people believing in everything and anything. Neverthess, communities and individuals down the ages, people like Lancelot Andrews, George Herbert, John Wesley, John Keble, Newman before his conversion and C.S. Lewis, lived marvelous Christian lives, and their spirituality manifests a balance and a profundity that can only be the fruit of the Holy Spirit. 

The Anglican dilemma is shown in the present Archbishop of Canterbury.   He probably believes in practically everything that I do and understands it better than I.  He is a world authority on St Maximos the Confessor.   To know my faith better, I would gladly sit at his feet.  Yet his belief does not arise out of his membership of the Anglican Church but is the result of his own individual spiritual journey.   As Archbishop, he does not teach his convictions to the faithful, confident in the knowledge that they too belong to his same tradition so that he can reasonably expect their agreement, as does Pope Benedict to the Catholic faithful and the Orthodox patriarchs to their own.   Rather, as Archbishop he is a referee whose job is to keep the peace among conflicting convictions.   This is because all convictions, including his own Catholic ones, are the fruit of private judgement.   Anglican tradition is not an organic whole as in Orthodoxy and Catholicism.   Hence, organic reunion is impossible, and entry into the Catholic or Orthodox churches can only be the decision of individuals, because the Anglican Communion has neither a common mind nor a common voice.

However, if that is true, it is not the whole truth.   There is such a thing as Anglican tradition, even if it is formed out of the combined convictions of individuals; and this tradition is not just a human construct but real evidence of grace.   The ecumenical task then is to integrate Anglican tradition into the Latin tradition from which it was untimely ripped at the Reformation.   This will give to it the organic dimension which, by its very nature, it requires, and which the Anglican Church, by its very nature, cannot give. 

   Pope Benedict XVI's solution is the Ordinariates.   He cannot give them an "Anglican Rite" because such rites are not invented but have a continual history from the time of the Apostles to the present day.    Both sides are enriched by the ordinariates and God is glorified in the unity of his children.   These ordinariates may become models for receiving other Protestant groups.   They will be received as individuals because, only in Catholic communion will they share a common mind; but, in this way, they will preserve all the riches of grace that they have received since the Reformation, and by so doing, will enrich the whole Catholic Church by their entry, and they too will benefit because their Christian lives and the truths they have held as Protestants will find their true home.

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