Leonardo"s Notebook by Mattheus Mei

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Avery Dulles on Ecumenism

The past couple of weeks have been auspicious in terms of the leaps and bounds made in the realm of Christian Ecumenism. From the joint statement issued by the Catholics and Orthodox to the revelations and requests of Anglican Bishops, Congregations, and entire Communions seeking full, corporate, sacramental union with Rome it has been a precipitous period of time. Keeping all of this in mind I came across an article at First Things by Avery Cardinal Dulles on "Saving Ecumenism from Itself." As always the Cardinal has brilliant insights on the subject of Ecumenism, and it's worth reading. He dissects the way that ecumenism has been approached over the past half century.

“The principal instrument of ecumenism over the past half century has been a series of theological conversations between separated churches. Proceeding on the basis of what they held in common, the partners tried to show that their shared patrimony contained the seeds of much closer agreement than had yet been recognized.”

Most of this discourse he says is possible because of the general acceptance of the modern historical-critical method. But he says that this particular method has its limits. Reductionism is what this tends to amount to. Churches, though finding common ground, begin to loose identity and this has potential to lead to abjurement and reconfessionalization. Instead the good Cardinal offers a different model that he says was born of the suggestion of the late Pope JP the Great “…an ecumenism of mutual enrichment by means of testimony.”

Let me, or rather the Cardinal, elaborate:

“With this mentality, Catholics would want to hear from the churches of the Reformation the reasons they have for speaking as they do of Christ alone, Scripture alone, grace alone, and faith alone, while Catholics tend to speak of Christ and the Church, Scripture and tradition, grace and cooperation, faith and works. We would want to learn from them how to make better use of the laity as sharers in the priesthood of the whole People of God. We would want to hear from evangelicals about their experience of conversion and from Pentecostals about perceiving the free action of the Holy Spirit in their lives. The Orthodox would have much to tell about liturgical piety, holy tradition, sacred images, and synodical styles of polity. We would not want any of these distinctive endowments of other ecclesial families to be muted or shunted aside for the sake of having shared premises or an agreed method.

Conversely, Catholics would not hesitate to go into the dialogue with the full panoply of beliefs, sustained by our own methods of certifying the truth of revelation. We are not ashamed of our reliance on tradition, the liturgy, the sense of the faithful, and our confidence in the judgment of the Magisterium.”

Sound familiar? It should, it's more or less akin to the process that brought about the agreements of the recent rounds with the Catholics and Orthodox. The Cardinal's vision as to what kind of unity is best sought is somewhat different than what most idealist would envisage. Where as many would like to look back and have the cohesion of the conciliar church (Nicea, Constantinople, etc) Cardinal Dulles understands the historical complexities and the organic theological developments over the past millennium that won't take us back to that iconic and idealized image. Rather through continued ecumenism "“...can lead the churches to emerge progressively from their present isolation into something more like a harmonious chorus. Enriched by the gifts of others, they can hope to raise their voices together in a single hymn to the glory of the triune God. The result to be sought is unity in diversity.” E Pluribus Unum.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: