Choose a topic from Vol 5:

Awareness of God

Awareness of God

The Faith of Israel

The Faith of Israel

The Importance of Man

The Importance of Man

Origin of the Gospels

Origin of the Gospels

The Divine Redeemer

The Divine Redeemer

The Catholic Church

The Catholic Church

The Papacy

The Papacy

The Biblical Tradition

The Biblical Tradition

The Blessed Virgin Mary

The Blessed Virgin Mary

Liturgy and Sacraments

Liturgy and Sacraments

Moral Problems

Moral Problems

Final Realities

Final Realities

The Ecumenical Movement

The Problem of Disunity
Reactions Among Non-Catholics
Bewildered Catholics
Combined Unity Services
Mutual Bible Study
Prospects of Reunion

Bewildered Catholics

784. What did St. Paul mean, in Ephesians 4:1-6, where he says: "There is one body and one Spirit... one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all"?

In his book "Ephesians-Colossians," p. 140, an Anglican scholar, the Rev. Bede Frost, has explained that passage in a way that cannot be faulted; and his explanation should be taken as a basis for all ecumenical efforts to restore the unity of Christendom. Here are his words: "St. Paul, in common with other New Testament writers, knows nothing of 'Churches' in the modern sense of the term as used by various organisations separated from one another, and professing widely divergent beliefs and practices. The divisions which exist amongst professing Christians are neither the intention nor the work of God . . . and are a barrier to the fulfilment of the prayer of Christ and to the attainment of the end for which He founded the Church. 'I beseech you, brethren, through the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you.' The essence and core of Christian unity is the holding of the one Faith in love, without which any amalgamation of 'Churches' can avail nothing." To realise that such is the teaching of the New Testament is, of course, one thing; to bring about the unity of all professing Christians within one and the same Church, quite another. To do that is at least the long-term aim of the Ecumenical Movement.

785. I know very little about Eastern Rite Churches separated from Rome and would like to know at least something of them.

The Catholic Church has to conduct her ecumenical activities on two fronts, one with the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the other with the various Protestant Churches of Western Christendom. Normally, English-speaking Catholics are more in contact with the latter and correspondingly unfamiliar with Eastern Orthodoxy. The first thing to be noted is that not all Eastern Rite Churches are separated from Rome. There are about twenty groups of Eastern Orthodox Churches existing as national Churches in a state of separation from Rome and independently of one another as regards authority or jurisdiction. So we have the Greek Orthodox Church, or the Syrian, or Russian, or Rumanian, or Bulgarian, etc. As contrasted with these twenty separated groups, there are nine or ten different Eastern Rite Churches which are in union with Rome, acknowledging Papal Supremacy. These are popularly spoken of as the "Uniate Eastern Churches" and members of them are recognised by the Pope as Catholics every bit as much as Western or Latin Rite members of the Catholic Church.

786. How and why did such separation as exists between Eastern Orthodox Churches and Rome begin?

That is a long and complex story, almost impossible to condense into a brief reply. At first, of course, Christians in both East and West formed one Church. But the Easterns had languages and developed various customs and ways of thinking which differed from those of the Latin West. Growing misunderstandings resulted. Also, when the Emperor Constantine founded Constantinople and transferred the centre of political authority to that city, the Eastern Christians tended to think of it as "the new Rome," and of themselves as subject even religiously to the Emperors. Gradually the spirit of separation came to an open break with the Pope by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius, in 1054 A.D. Two reunion agreements between the Eastern Orthodox and the Catholic Churches were signed at the Council of Lyons in 1274 and at the Council of Florence in 1439, but both were short-lived in practice owing to the general disagreement of ordinary Orthodox people with concessions made by their top-level delegates. Renewed ecumenical efforts are being made in our own days to bring about unity once more on a more stable basis.

787. Apart from their rejection of Papal Infallibility, has purity of doctrine from the Catholic point of view been maintained by the Eastern Orthodox Churches?

Not entirely. Besides denying Papal Infallibility they would, of course, deny Papal Supremacy. They grant that the Pope has a primacy of honour, but not that he has supreme jurisdiction over the whole Church. They deny, also, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary as regards her exemption from original sin, although holding that she was ever personally sinless. In cases even of a valid marriage they permit divorce and remarriage. Other differences could be regarded as belonging to the area of non-essentials. Meantime, what the Catholic Church does recognise in the Eastern Orthodox Churches is the validity of their priestly ordinations; the legitimacy of their Eastern liturgical rites which are much the same as those in Eastern Rite Catholic Churches; and their general affinity of outlook with the Catholic Church in matters of faith and morals. Needless to say, they are much nearer to the Catholic Church than any of the forms of Western Protestantism.

788. Since Catholics admit the validity of the Greek Orthodox Priesthood, Mass and Sacraments, may a Catholic unable to get to his own Church, attend Mass in a Greek Orthodox Church?

Normally, a Catholic is obliged to attend Mass and receive the Sacraments only in Catholic Churches, whether of the Roman Rite or of a Uniate Eastern Rite which acknowledges Papal Supremacy. If no such Church is within reach and a Greek Orthodox Church were near at hand, a Catholic would be free to attend that Church and by doing so would fulfil his obligation of assisting at Mass on Sundays or other appointed days. However, if it is a matter, not of an occasional but of a regular practice, permission should be obtained by writing to the Bishop of the diocese to which one belongs. As regards receiving Holy Communion, one must respect the laws of the Greek Orthodox Church itself which forbids its priests to administer the Sacraments to any who are not adherents of Orthodoxy, unless special permission is obtained from an Orthodox Bishop. If a Catholic wished to receive Communion during a Greek Orthodox Mass or Eucharistic Liturgy, he should visit the Orthodox priest in advance to give him time to obtain the required permission from his own Bishop. It would be wrong for a Catholic to disregard the rules of the Greek Orthodox Church and present himself for the reception of the Sacraments without such previous arrangements.

789. If a Catholic were dying and no Catholic priest were available, could he receive the Sacraments of Confession, Communion and Extreme Unction from a Greek Orthodox priest?

Yes, as far as the laws of the Catholic Church are concerned. The Greek Orthodox priest, if sent for, would know the laws of his own Church as regards his officiating in such a case. Normally, his Church does not allow him to do so, but in an emergency he would probably feel that he could presume his Bishop's permission. Naturally he would have to decide that for himself.

790. As a Catholic I often join in lunch-hour discussions with fellow workers who are not Catholics. Topics vary, but sometimes religion has its turn.

Such discussions usually mean exchanging stray ideas on any particular topic which happens to suggest itself. I speak of stray ideas, for without a planned programme there will have been no chance of special preparation of any given subject in advance. The degree in which such discussions are profitable, apart from whiling away the time, will depend on how well-informed or ill-informed those taking part are on individual matters raised. For a serious discussion of religion, some knowledge of history, scripture and theology is necessary if it is to be of any real value. And here two practical considerations should be kept in mind. Firstly, it does not follow that there is no answer to a particular difficulty just because for the moment we cannot think of one. Candidly admitting our inadequacy, we can promise to look things up for next time. Secondly, you should not be too disappointed if you seem to be making little or no impression on others. There is much in our Catholic religion the appreciation of which presupposes faith and piety. You should not be surprised that others who do not share your own faith and piety are unable to see what you see, or appreciate what you appreciate.

791. What caused the division between Catholics and Protestants in the 16th century?

No one single cause can explain the Protestant Reformation. There were many contributing factors, not only religious, but political, economic and cultural as well. One main influence was that of the Renaissance or revival of pagan Greek and Roman classical culture during the preceding 14th and 15th centuries. This introduced a spirit of worldliness affecting bishops, priests and laity alike. There were, of course, many good Catholic bishops, priests and laity. One has only to think of a St. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, or of St. Thomas More, a layman, in England. But these were not really representative. Ignorance of religion and laxity in practice were very widespread, and a match had only to be dropped into the dry tinder for a conflagration to become inevitable. The spark came with the preaching of a religious revivalism by the Reformers, based on the over-simplified principles of the Bible only as one's guide and justification by faith alone, with no need of obedience to papal authority. History shows how easily new sects can arise under the influence of dissenting but enthusiastic propagandists. An example of that is provided by the growth of the Witnesses of Jehovah in our own days. Also, when the outbreak came in the 16th century, the Princes in Germany and Henry VIII in England, for reasons of their own, helped things along by making religion a matter of national loyalty within the areas subject to them. The penalties for remaining true to the old religion were confiscation of property, exile, or even death. It must, therefore, be said that, although many would have lapsed from the Catholic religion in any case, many others would not have done so had it not been for pressure upon them by local rulers in different States and provinces.

792. Judging by Protestant radio sessions, Protestants don't want unity and it will never be if they can prevent it.

Not all Protestants must be judged by individual speakers who feel it their duty to maintain their independent and separate denominations. There are many good Protestants who sincerely desire unity, and work and pray for it. The Anglican Dr. H. L. Goudge holds that there are more who care about unity than most people realise. Thus he writes in his book "The Church of England and Reunion"; "The average person, little acquainted with ecclesiastical affairs, is so disturbed by divisions that he overlooks efforts made through the ages to heal them;" and, of course, efforts are still being made in our own days. The late Archbishop William Temple, of Canterbury, declared: "The Ecumenical Movement is the great new fact of our era."

793. What are we to say to the enclosed press-reports?

They tell of angry demonstrations by Protestant agitators in London when the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Ramsey, preached in Westmister Catholic Cathedral; and also when Catholic representatives took part in unity services in the Anglican Cathedral, Liverpool, and in a Presbyterian church in Glasgow. There were shouts of "blasphemy," "traitor," "Down with Popery" and other anti-Catholic slogans. My first comment would be that those engaging in such noisy manifestations represent eccentric minority groups whose activities are more embarrassing to good and sensible Protestants than they are to Catholics. Secondly, our own reaction as Catholics should be one of good-humoured patience and charity. We can at least give the agitators credit for their zeal, even if they have not yet thought their way past their inherited prejudices. Such incidents can safely be left to defeat their own purposes as they inevitably do in the long run, and they should not be be taken too seriously.

794. A Congregationalist neighbour advised me to listen to a particular Protestant radio session which, she said, would make me ashamed of being a Catholic.

Your Congregationalist neighbour would have adopted a better approach if she had said you would be helped, not humiliated and put to shame. But you must not think for a moment that she is truly representative of Congregationalism. I have a book by one of its leading spokesmen, Daniel Jenkins, entitled: "Congregationalism — A Restatement," 1954. Speaking of the Ecumenical Movement, he says that it should inspire members of each Church to consider whether they have really grasped all its implications for their own Church and the way they themselves try to live the Christian life; and that it should produce in them "a renewed vision of Christ and of the way Christ is related to all His people of every denomination and country and period in history." In that way, he writes, they will be representatives of "Christ's reconciling grace among the Churches, to bring them to that unity of heart and mind and wholeness of purpose which is His will for all His people."

795. She gave me the enclosed copy of "The Protestant World," April issue, 1963.

It is a long time since I last saw a copy of that particular periodical, and it was a pleasant surprise to notice the change that has come over it. In past years one could scarcely open any issue without encountering on every second page abusive references to the Catholic Church. In the copy you have sent there is only one small paragraph of such a nature. The paper still stands, of course, for a sturdy Protestant individualism which goes its own way, Bible in hand, and attaching little or no importance to church-affiliation of any kind. But at least one gets the refreshing impression that it has more or less outgrown the anti-Catholic prejudice and bitterness it formerly stressed, and has at last come round to the idea that love of Christ is really more important than hatred of Rome. And that is all to the good.

796. As a Catholic, I would like to know what is the real policy off the World Council of Churches?

Its long-term aim is to attain to ultimate Church-Unity in the strict sense of the word. So, in August, 1960, the members of its "Faith and Order Commission" said that the unity for which they believed we must pray and work is unity in the same fellowship or communion, so that all Christians everywhere, one in faith, worship and corporate life, will act and speak together in the name of one and the same Church. They hope that that ideal may some day come closer to realisation than it is yet. But the "World Council of Churches" itself believes in going slowly, in not anticipating difficulties before they actually arise, and certainly in not counting one's chickens before they are hatched. We must face the fact that there are many, even millions, who profess to be Christians, and very sincerely, but who are not yet ready for such unity.

797. If Methodists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists combine in one Church — as they propose doing — would they really contribute anything towards unity?

Any sincere efforts of groups of professing Christians to lessen diversity are a contribution towards unity, even if only in an initial and remote way. That such efforts should be made at all is of great significance. It supposes a realisation that disunity is wrong, although before there was little thought about that. And it is natural than non-episcopal Churches as distinct from episcopal Churches should feel they already have so much in common that they could well begin by reunion among themselves. It will not be an easy task even for them. It will mean overcoming the inertia of many who would be content to remain as they were. As they develop a sense of the religious issues involved, they will find more and more need of humility and charity in their dealings with one another; and a lot of self-sacrifice in rising above different cultural backgrounds and each denomination's historical traditions. From their experiences they will emerge better prepared for further progress towards ultimate unity with all other Christians than they were before, when isolated from one another. It cannot be said that they have accomplished nothing merely because they have not yet accomplished everything envisaged as the long-term goal of the ecumenical movement.

798. The three would only become one big denomination still separated from the Catholic Church.

It should surely be obvious that the more agreement of separated groups among themselves as Christians, the better. If three Churches settle their differences and unite to form a single Church, it is easier for others to discuss matters with the one resulting Church than with the three still in a state of separation. The final problem may remain yet unsolved; but the approach to it is simplified to the extent in which the number of Churches with which one has to deal is reduced. We must keep in mind, of course, that the ecumenical movement is a movement towards an ultimate unity not yet achieved between the Catholic Church — despite her own inherent unity — and other professing Christians. As three successive Lambeth Conferences of Anglican bishops, in 1908, 1920 and 1930, stressed: "There can be no fulfilment of the divine purpose which does not ultimately include the great Latin Church of the West." But it would be over-impatient to want the end without having to travel the difficult road leading to it.

799. The charming word "Ecumenism" seems to me as a Catholic just another name for altering our Catholic religion.

Such misgivings are unjustified as far as official and not irresponsible statements are concerned. The Vatican Council itself, in its official Decree on Ecumenism was careful to state, in n.10: "It is essential that Catholic doctrine be clearly presented in its entirety. Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false irenicism in which the purity of Catholic doctrine is diminished and its genuine meaning obscured." On the following January 20, 1965, Pope Paul VI himself warned against the temptation which "attracts even experts" to "avoid or modify those teachings of the Church which are not today accepted by the separated brethren;" "seeking," he said, "often in good faith, some expedient way of smoothing things out. The intention may be good. The method is not." That, as we know, did not put an end to all irresponsible utterances. Some Catholic speakers and writers, over-eager to break down barriers, have under-stated the requirements of the Catholic religion; so much so that Pope Paul VI frequently since the Council has felt impelled to call attention in his public audiences to the "principles, laws and traditions to which the Church is firmly bound and from which it can never be supposed that she will depart." Catholics, he declared, need have no fears that the Church and "this Holy See in particular" will not "strongly and faithfully maintain the religious truth which comes from the Divine Revelation confided to her by Christ."

800. A Protestant boasted to me that Catholics have now apologised for the way we treated Protestants in Reformation times, although according to my reading of history they should apologise to us.

We cannot really speak of the way we treated Protestants at the time of the Reformation, nor of the way they then treated us. Neither "we" nor "they" had any say in what happened 400 years ago. In condemning anti-Semitism, the Vatican Council insisted that modern Jews cannot be held responsible for the attitude of some Jews in the time of Christ whose attitude of hostility towards Him resulted in His death. The Council firmly rejected any idea of collective Jewish guilt. Likewise, there can be no collective Catholic guilt nor any collective Protestant guilt for wrongs perpetrated by our ancestors. Looking back on history, we can regard such violence — whatever its motives — as appalling, and say so, resolving at the same time in a truly ecumenical spirit not to let memories of it embitter our own relationships with one another today. One can appreciate the story of the Catholic tourist visiting one of England's beautiful pre-Reformation Cathedrals and saying to the verger showing him around: "You know, this lovely building used to be ours," only to receive the good-natured reply: "Yes; and it would still be yours, if you had only known how to behave yourselves!"

801. One could be forgiven for thinking the Second Vatican Council was set in motion to further the cause of Protestantism.

That is altogether too extravagant. Only last year (1965) Heinrich Bornkamm, Lutheran Professor of Church History at Heidelberg, Germany, published a book entitled "The Heart of the Reformation Faith," in which he said that it is "impossible for the Catholic Church to accept the ecumenical movement" as understood by Protestants; and that the breach is absolute between Catholicism which demands faith in the Church's possession of the truth, and Protestantism which relies on unauthoritative interpretations of scripture." Such is his opinion, and he lists for it as four fundamental Protestant axioms which Catholicism cannot accept without ceasing to be Catholicism; salvation (1) by "faith alone" — to the exclusion of "by good works"; (2) by "grace alone" — to the exclusion of the Catholic doctrine of merit; (3) by "Christ alone" — to the exclusion of the intercession of the Virgin Mary and the Saints; and (4) by "Scripture alone" — to the exclusion of the traditions and teaching-authority of the Church. The Vatican Council was certainly not convened to further the cause of those four Protestant axioms as set forth by Heinrich Bornkamm. Incidentally, if the Catholic Church did accept them, that would be the end of hopes of reunion with the Eastern Orthodox Churches which at least share the Catholic outlook on all four positions as against those Bornkamm describes as essential to Protestantism; and ecumenism would not be served by further alienating the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

802. Council reports show "periti" or experts differing from one another on matters past Catholic biblical scholars and theologians had no doubts about.

We must distinguish between matters of faith and theological opinions not defined as articles of faith; and also, of course, allow for areas of liturgical forms of worship and of merely disciplinary laws. Expert specialists in particular fields such as scripture, theology, history, liturgy, canon law and other subjects were invited to offer suggestions on possible improvements in the light of the modern age the Church has to confront today. All were bent on fidelity to the basic principles of the Catholic Faith, but in the various suggestions made not all agreed that others were keeping within the limits imposed by it. Pope Paul VI himself, in a general audience on March 31, 1965, spoke of the "urgent obligation of unanimity in the faith that must distinguish Catholicism," and warned against "new and untenable theologies" which implied "doubt or denial of the traditional teaching of the Church." But there is a much larger field of open questions to which there are no cut-and-dried solutions than most people think; and many unnecessary anxieties could be due to people not making sufficient allowance for this.

803. Some utterances of the "experts" seemed to reflect opinions expressed by today's Protestant liberals.

Some undoubtedly advocated changes which would involve a watering- down of the faith, although such was not their intention. Carried away by enthusiasm, they failed to advert to all the implications of their new ideas; but others promptly drew their attention to such implications. On this subject, Father Louis Bouscaren, S.J, remarked humorously: "Pope John XXIII recommended opening the windows, but not blowing down the walls. There is room both for 'progressives' intent on opening the windows and for 'conservatives' intent on protecting the walls." But all this belonged to the stage of preliminary discussions and no authority attached to the opinions expressed. Keep in mind the fact that only those declarations can be regarded as authoritative which were actually adopted by the entire Council and confirmed by the Pope.

804. There is a growing trend among ecumenically-minded Catholics to drop the word "Catholic" and speak of themselves just as Christians, no different from other Christians.

The trend, in so far as it exists — I am unaware of it — would be, I should think, an imagined and well-intentioned contribution towards the cause of Christian unity by ignoring for the time being any reference to dividing factors and suggesting Catholic agreement that all professing Christians are already one to some extent by the mere fact that they are professing Christians. There is a danger, of course, that many Catholics will be confused and disillusioned and many non-Catholics misled by such an apparently levelling-down process. A growing realisation of this would make such a trend but a passing phenomenon. Father Francis Ripley, of the Catholic Missionary Society, London, has recently written ("Duckett's Register," Nov., 1963) that "in recent months discerning readers have discovered in many departments of religious writings something of a reaction against the more extreme ecumenical tendency, so obvious in the early days of the new movement towards Christian unity. Almost everything written in favour of the ecumenical movement found a welcome somewhere, even though it was notable more for its enthusiasm than for its prudence. There has been a strong reaction, for example, against the writings of Dr. Hans Kung and others of his school." Earlier, in "Christian Unity," (1962) p. 14, Cardinal Heenan, of Westminster, well cautioned us: "Emotionally, all good Christians want to tear down without delay all barriers . . . but emotion is a poor guide to truth. To speak as if no substantial obstacles separate Christians would be to promote an indifferentism which might destroy all religious convictions.

805. We Catholics hold that Christ founded one Church, not many different "Churches;" yet the Vatican Council spoke at times of all religious denominations as being equally acceptable as Churches.

The Council made it quite clear that if it adopted their own way of speaking of themselves, this was without prejudice to the theological principles requiring deeper discussion of the nature of the Church. In the same way, Catholics speak of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, a term acceptable to themselves, although separated Eastern Christians know quite well that the Catholic Church differs from them as to what does or does not constitute Christian orthodoxy in the full sense of the word. No Catholic has any reason to complain that the Council did not make abundantly clear the unique claim of the Catholic Church to be the one original Church founded by Christ upon the Apostles, declaring even in the Decree on Ecumenism, n.4, that the unity Christ willed for His "one and only Church . . . dwells in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose."

806. Do Catholics now think Christ sanctioned failure to proclaim His teachings for the sake of currying favour or goodwill?

The motive in the ecumenical movement is not that of currying favour with one another but of discovering how we can all fulfil the will of Christ. Everyone agrees that it would be a false policy to deny differences in present beliefs. All such differences will eventually have to be discussed, with essentials clearly distinguished from non-essentials. But there must be order in our choice of problems, and wisdom itself suggests that the more difficult ones should be postponed until those have been dealt with on which agreement is likely to be the more easily reached.

807. Christ said He came to bring enmity and the sword as a result of fidelity in proclaiming His teaching.

He did not intend that He would cause dissension, but only to warn us to be prepared for trials which fidelity to Him would bring upon us from those opposed to Him. In the ecumenical movement we are not dealing with those who have anything against us because of any love we have for Christ. All participating in ecumenical efforts are trying to be faithful to Him according to what they sincerely believe fidelity requires of them. We must recognise this; and the same deep longing should fill our hearts as that which prompted our Lord to say: "Other sheep I have that are not of this fold. Them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd." Jn., 10:16. If we lack such dispositions we will deserve to hear our Lord saying to us: "You know not of what spirit you are." Lk., 9:55.

808. Why do so many Catholic writers make the Vatican Council an excuse for praising the Protestant Reformation?

They do not praise it as such. The position is this. The Council asks all Catholics to try to promote Christian unity. Catholic writers agree that in a classification of the great world-religions, Christianity must be taken as including all who profess belief in Christ. They agree that non-Catholic forms of Christianity, despite our holding them to be, in varying degrees, inadequate or even positively mistaken, have all retained some elements of the truth which can serve as a common foundation for a growing together in unity. They agree that others have particularly stressed some good aspects of Christianity which, although contained in Catholicism, Catholics themselves have, for one reason or another, tended to under-emphasise. And they rightly say that, as a by-product of the ecumenical movement, Catholics, without losing sight of the basic truth of their religion, can benefit by the renewed attention they feel impelled to give to important values in their own religion which they have not taken seriously enough in practice. That cannot rightly be interpreted as "praising the Protestant Reformation."

809. Cardinal Newman said the very thought of the "Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion" in the Anglican Church he had left "made him shudder."

He wrote that in 1862 to a newspaper called "The Globe," which had published a statement that he was disillusioned as a Catholic and was thinking of returning to the Church of England. He said the rumour was utterly unfounded, that he had not had "one moment's wavering" in his Catholic faith, and that he had to use strong language to kill the rumour once and for all. Two years later, in 1864, he published his "Apologia pro Vita Sua." and in it he paid this tribute to the Church to which he had formerly belonged: "I recognise in the Anglican Church a time-honoured institution of noble historical memories, a monument of ancient wisdom, a source of vast popular advantage, and — to a certain extent — a witness and teacher of religious truth." He added, however: "As to its possession of an episcopal succession from the time of the Apostles . . . if the Holy See ever so decided I will believe it as being the decision of a higher judgment than my own; but for myself (I cannot) acquiesce in it, for antiquarian arguments are altogether unequal to the urgency of visible facts." It is worth noting that those last words were written over thirty years before Pope Leo XIII in his Encyclical "Apostolicae Curae" (1896) declared Anglican Orders null and void.

810. With many other Catholics, I am disturbed by the efforts of our own so-called "Progressives" to rehabilitate Martin Luther.

Such misgivings reflect an attitude recently described by Dr. Mc- Afee Brown, a Presbyterian observer at the Vatican Council. He said that "there are some Catholics who feel that the ecumenical dialogue is jeopardising the distinctiveness of the Catholic faith because of the nice things now being said about Martin Luther." But he counterbalanced that by saying: "Some Protestants feel threatened by the new Catholic openness. They think it a kind of trick by Catholics to get everybody to return to Rome with a little less pain." And he declares both fears to be mistaken.

811. If these "Progressives" have their way, Catholics will end up with a Protestant saint, namely, St. Martin Luther.

No Protestant biographers of Martin Luther stress his sanctity. The Methodist Dr. Gordon Rupp merely says, in his book "The Righteousness of God," that to reproach blameworthy aspects of Luther's life is to show little knowledge of human nature. Protestants regard Luther as a great man, courageous, a genius with a personal sense of destiny, but earthy and human, with an idea of godliness very different indeed from that found in Catholic Saints. The proficiency in virtue for which the Catholic Saints strove by ascetical self-denial, humility, obedience, and works of charity, Luther denounced as the seeking of salvation by their own meritorious works instead of being "justified by faith only." If, therefore, Lutherans attained to the Catholic faith and its insights, they would see things very differently from the way they do at present and would agree that Martin Luther could not be ranked with a St. Francis of Assisi, a St. Ignatius of Loyola, or a St. Vincent de Paul; and, as Catholics, they themselves would object to including a "St. Martin Luther" in the list of Saints recognised as such by the Catholic Church.

812. 1 have read a book, "Martin Luther," by John M. Todd, which the publishers say will help to uproot lingering prejudices that prevent many Catholics from seeing Luther plainly for what he was, a man totally committed to Christ and intensely concerned for His Church.

Mr. Todd is a Catholic layman with a not always prudent enthusiasm for the reunion movement. In April, 1964, the Catholic Archbishop Garner, of Pretoria, South Africa, said that he welcomed ecumenism as a "God-inspired movement towards better understanding, closer association and—in God's good time—the visible reunion of Christendom." But he added: "So far, around the world, the ecumenical movement has been dogged by muddleheadedness, bursting with goodwill, but confused to an exasperating degree. Catholics can well be excused for asking what is happening." Those words would not be without some application to Mr. John M. Todd. In 1955, he published a book entitled "Catholicism and the Ecumenical Movement," of which the London "Times Literary Supplement," after noting the Abbot of Downside's misgivings in the introduction lest readers should find in it a watered-down version of Catholicism, said: "Books like this can only exasperate minds that are aware of the magnitude of the problem." That at least suggests caution in one's approach to a book on Martin Luther by Mr. Todd.

813. The Swiss theologian Dr. Hans Kung, commending the book, said: "He who would understand the modern Catholic Church must understand the Reformation. He who would understand the Reformation, must understand Luther."

Whatever be the truth of Dr. Hans Kung's remarks, he knew enough to realise that Mr. Todd's book could not lead to a genuine understanding of Luther and should have said so. It has been said that the Luther of the violent, abusive and scurrilous writings that came from his pen was not the whole Luther, and that he was after all an earnest religious reformer. But the reverse is also true. Earnest religious reformer as he was bent on being in his own way, he was yet the Luther of the violent, abusive and scurrilous writings. It is one thing for Catholic scholars to admit that Luther was not wholly without virtues, even as Protestant scholars admit that he was not wholly without faults; but it is too much to be told by publishers that their book will enable us to "see Luther plainly for what he was, a man totally committed to Christ." Martin Luther was far too self-centred for that. The Methodist Dr. Gordon Rupp, an acknowledged authority on Luther, says in his book "The Righteousness of God" that Luther had two violent hatreds, that of those he called "the apostate Jews," and that of what he called "apostate Catholicism." Luther, he writes, believed "the papacy was toppling to its doom;" and he quotes Luther as saying: "Living, I was thy plague; dying, I shall be thy death, O Pope." Not to see such aspects of Luther is scarcely to understand Luther. However, as Pope John XXIII said: "We do not want to put anyone in past history on trial. Responsibility is divided. Let us come together and make an end of our divisions." Luther's teachings, variously interpreted, contributed towards that fragmentation of Christendom which to a great extent now constitutes the ecumenical problem which we can only hope and pray with God's help to solve. But we won't make progress by refusing to face facts and by leaning over backwards, unrealistically pretending to ourselves that Luther was a man "totally committed to Christ and intensely concerned for His Church." He was too wrapped up in Martin Luther for that.

814. What would that great convert Arnold Lunn's opinion be of Luther and of the ecumenical movement today?

Arnold Lunn, who is still convinced that Luther's personal defects of character are impossible to defend, would agree that in God's providence he did, by his revolt against the Catholic Church, shock Catholics from the godless humanism of the Renaissance period into taking personal religion seriously instead of yielding too much to intellectual wrangling, institutional politics, and merely lip-service in the Christianity they professed. The Council of Trent, in 25 Sessions held during 18 years from 1545 to 1563, inaugurated the "Counter-Reformation" within the Catholic Church itself. The English Cardinal Pole told the Council that the only way to meet the challenge of the Protestant Reformation was, not by conflict, but for Catholics to reform themselves. Admitting this, Arnold Lunn certainly still holds, as all Catholics do, that Luther went too far in declaring reason itself, ecclesiastical authority, Sacraments in the Catholic sense of the word, and "good works" to be useless. But Arnold Lunn cannot be accused of being anti-ecumenical. With the permission of the late Cardinal Griffin of Westminster, he created something of a sensation by preaching in an Anglican church in London, the Anglican Vicar having invited him to do so because he had never written anything, the Vicar said, which was uncharitable towards Anglicans. Lunn has said that he sees no possibility of the complete reunion in fact of all professing Christians — a judgment anyone is entitled to make; but he writes: "I am, however, tremendously keen for the utmost possible co-operation between ourselves and other Christian bodies in defence of basic Christian values, including Christian morality."

815. Protestants say unity with Rome cannot even be considered while it holds the doctrines of Papal Infallibility. Transubstantiation, the Assumption of Mary, and the Intercession of the Saints.

That seems an absolute deadlock. But it rather reminds one of the familiar conundrum: What if an irresistible force meets an immovable object? The answer is that such a conundrum involves a contradiction in terms. For if the force is indeed irresistible, the object will not be immovable, while if the object is immovable, then the force will not be irresistible. What is needed is mutual discussion and a re-study of such matters, sorting things out. In fact, the purpose of the ecumenical dialogue, as it is called, is precisely that things should be sorted out, so that we may form objective and impartial estimates of doctrines and practices which have been the sources of divisions instead of unity among professing Christians. Of many such doctrines and practices we may have partially accurate, yet also partially inaccurate ideas. But the end of the ecumenical road—and things may look very different as we approach nearer to it — cannot come before we so much as set out upon it.

816. Protestants would demand as a condition of unity that our Catholic Church should abandon her definite teachings and join them in their disunity.

There, also, the mistake is apparent of thinking in terms of the end of the ecumenical road, not of the road itself. The ecumenical journey is a progressive one; and its first principle is that, in all our relationships with one another, no one at any time is expected to say that he believes what in fact he does not believe, or to deny what he is still convinced his religion requires him to hold. So long as reasons of faith prevent us from accepting each other's positions we have to resign ourselves for the time being to the degree of disunity that involves. But, as that most cultured and charitably-minded Lutheran Dr. Oscar Cullmann says in his book "Catholics and Protestants," discussions of basic problems must still go on, and it is a hopeful sign that they can do so without polemical attacks and counter-attacks. We should continue efforts, he says, to convince each other that our beliefs are the correct ones, and at least learn to state each other's positions correctly and without distortion.

817. In view of all the disturbing changes that have followed upon the Vatican Council, where do I go now after having as a convert set my feet some twenty years ago on the "Rock of Peter"?

You stay put; as I myself intend to do, who over sixty years ago took the step you have taken. Faith is a gift of God which does not destroy our free will. It depends on us whether we keep it or lose it. Individuals have attained to it; other individuals who have had it, have lost it. Also, Catholics can have more or less of the spirit of faith. Our Lord had to reproach His own disciples with being "of little faith." Many who still profess the Faith, have little of the spirit of faith. I know that wild and strange things are being said by some who still profess to be Catholics; that irresponsible utterances from within the Church gain wide publicity, although to many Catholics the academics giving voice to them seem like theological termites bent on undermining the faith. But these should only intensify in us the conviction of St. Thomas More: "I perceive that the Papacy upholdeth all." Keep in mind that the Vatican Council made no changes whatever in any basic and essential teachings of the Catholic religion. There have been changes in outward forms of liturgical worship and in various disciplinary rules. However difficult we may find it to adjust ourselves to such changes, our Catholic faith remains the same, part of that faith being the unwavering belief that our Lord meant it when He said: "I will build my Church and the gates of hell (which includes all forces of evil) shall not prevail against it" (Matt., 16:18), and "Behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world" (Matt., 28:20). In other words, our faith includes the conviction that the Catholic Church cannot fail as the one authentic witness to the divinely-revealed truth in her official teachings. As St. Peter said to Christ: "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life" (Jn., 6:69), we say the same to the Catholic Church in its own sphere as representing our Lord by His own decree. You can be quite sure that the "Rock of Peter" is not going to crumble beneath your feet; and that there will never be any good reason for thinking that it could even possibly do so.

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