My Photo

I am a Third Order Franciscan of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The problem of dialogue and ecumenism

One of the problems that I have with the popularity of the word "dialogue" in religious discussions is that often the goal of at least one of the participants is not truly "dialogue" but instead is "talk to me until I wear you down and you agree with everything I want."

Here is an example - the first paragraph of the article reads:

A rebel traditionalist Roman Catholic group wants to launch theological discussions with the Vatican in the hope that Pope Benedict may help find ways to resolve a 17-year-long schism separating it from Rome.

This is the second paragraph:

However, the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), which rejects the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and sticks to the old Latin mass, is in no hurry and will not negotiate away its defence of traditional Catholicism, its leader says.

So, dialogue does not mean negotiation. Ironically, the head of the SSPX - at the same time that he wants greater dialogue with Rome makes the assertion:

''The problem with ecumenism is that the other side profits,'' he argued. ''Ecumenism is a Protestant word.'' [Bishop Bernard] Fellay said he believed Benedict wanted to bring the SSPX back into the Church but doubted he would do enough to resolve what the group sees as a crisis caused by the reforms of the Vatican Council.

I agree, the problem with bad ecumenism is that one side enters the dialogue seeking to ensure that only it profits and that the other side must concede everything. Apparently at the present time dialogue with the SSPX is "bad ecumenism".

I note the same problems in terms of dialogue with other groups. For example:

Ecumenical delegates to a Vatican meeting of bishops urged the church to more readily allow non-Catholic Christians to receive Communion, saying it could help foster unity.

The delegates told the Synod of Bishops that the Vatican's position on so-called intercommunion "pains" or "saddens" them. [source]

Because the purpose of ecumenism is not Church union, but rather, to make everybody happy.

There are two problems with this approach that I wish to note - The first is that theological unity precedes eucharistic unity. This is why reception of the eucharist follows - not precedes baptism into the faith and the acceptance of the faith either by the individual or by their parents. When the priest/deacon/extra-ordinary minister says "Body of Christ" does the individual truly believe what the Catholic Church believes in saying "Amen" - if not, the reception is for show and without meaning.

The second is that opening Communion to all Christians [and why stop there - perhaps there are pained and saddened non-Christians as well] will pain and sadden groups such as the SSPX - should the Catholic Church not concern itself with their feelings as well?

What the Catholic Church should do is to take their beliefs and the beliefs of other Christians seriously enough to say that differences in the faith matter - that these differences in the faith matter enough for us to make the effort to work them out and not gloss over them in an attempt for some illusory union.


Post a Comment

<< Home