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Friday, July 20, 2007

Worthy of Division

I have been wanting to post (and have been asked to post) a blog on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's instruction of last week. This is the "subsistit" document that the secular media largely (and wrongly) wrote about as an offense to Protestants and a turning back of the ecumenical clock. In the course of bouncing around the net, I found a commentary on it that I couldn't have written better myself (so why reinvent the wheel?)

It is taken from The Hermeneutic of Continuity, the blog of an English priest, Father Tim Finigan, whose site I read very frequently and enjoy very much. I give kudos to him for this post and his blog in general.

In his blog, he is commenting not so much on the document, but on an article written by a Southern Baptist about the document. The Baptist, while disagreeing with the Church on the point at hand (of course), understands the document better than most Catholics and even, sadly enough, better than some priests.

This article underlies what I think most of my generation finds fault with in the ecumenical movement: a lack of true seriousness. We each need to be who we are to the fullest without fear of offending. Only by stating who we are and what we believe as Catholics without apology, watering down, or embarrassment, can any true dialogue take place, any real discussion happen, and any movement towards unity occur. Our separated brother gets this, and for that I thank him.

Questions and comments welcome.

God love you!
Father V.

Pope John Paul II and evangelist Billy Graham

Southern Baptist Understands "Subsistit" Document

Albert Mohler, a Southern Baptist, seems to be less offended than some Catholics by the recent "subsistit" document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The full title of that document is delightfully bland: Responses to some questions regarding certain aspects of the doctrine of the Church. Pastor Mohler has a refreshingly sensible article entitled No, I'm Not Offended.First off, he says:

No, I am not offended. In the first place, I am not offended because this is not an issue in which emotion should play a key role. This is a theological question, and our response should be theological, not emotional.
Now there's someone we could do "ecumenism" with! He addds,
No one familiar with the statements of the Roman Catholic Magisterium should be surprised by this development.

Rev Mohler, could you come and speak to some Catholics I know? The Pastor is refreshingly straightforward in his assessment of the document:

I appreciate the document's clarity on this issue. It all comes down to this -- the claim of the Roman Catholic Church to the primacy of the Bishop of Rome and the Pope as the universal monarch of the church is the defining issue. Roman Catholics and Evangelicals should together recognize the importance of that claim. We should together realize and admit that this is an issue worthy of division. The Roman Catholic Church is willing to go so far as to assert that any church that denies the papacy is no true church. Evangelicals should be equally candid in asserting that any church defined by the claims of the papacy is no true church. This is not a theological game for children, it is the honest recognition of the importance of the question.
Whilst disagreeing with our theology, he recognises the logical consequences of it:
I also appreciate the spiritual concern reflected in this document. The artificial and deadly dangerous game of ecumenical confusion has obscured issues of grave concern for our souls. I truly believe that Pope Benedict and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are concerned for our evangelical souls and our evangelical congregations. Pope Benedict is not playing a game. He is not asserting a claim to primacy on the playground. He, along with the Magisterium of his church, believes that Protestant churches are gravely defective and that our souls are in danger. His sacramental theology plays a large role in this concern, for he believes and teaches that a church without submission to the papacy has no guaranteed efficacy for its sacraments.
And he understands what is at stake:
The Roman Catholic Church believes we are in spiritual danger for obstinately and disobediently excluding ourselves from submission to its universal claims and its papacy. Evangelicals should be concerned that Catholics are in spiritual danger for their submission to these very claims. We both understand what is at stake.

Now this is a man I could respect and debate with. My next door neighbour (a "Strict and Particular" Baptist) is of similar views. I once greeted him when walking past his house with the suggestion "I don't think either of us is very keen on ecumenism." He warmed to me straight away and we got to talking a little on pro-life issues. That reminds me - I must invite him round for tea.

H/T to Pro Ecclesia who in turn credits Vox Nova

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