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Thursday, November 15, 2007



Coming from an Evangelical background I would say that if this method of “attestation” brings a significant number of Evangelicals to accept that Catholics are indeed Christians, it would be a step forward in ecumenism. However, I think that this method, like the “convergence” method will find a wall eventually.

I think we must be aware that while stepping into this paradigm of the subjective to elicit honest responses and clarify our own theological positions may be fruitful in eliminating some of the vitriol and mutual condemnation; we have to recognize that it is not our ultimate paradigm. If we proceed in the understanding that it is only a subset of the larger Church of Jesus Christ and God’s over arching plan for humanity we can take it as far as it leads us and see what fruit it bears.

But it must be remembered that the subjectivism of the Separated Brethren whether subdued in the Anglican and Lutheran traditions or highly elevated among the Evangelicals, is itself a necessary product of the Protestant Reformation. More precisely it is a necessary product of the rejection of Petrine primacy and magisterial authority, of which Cardinal Dulles speaks specifically. The doctrine of Sola Scriptura gives comfort in theory, yet as we know, becomes an exercise in subjectivism despite appeals to the Holy Spirit. In other words, as Vatican II, Dominus Jesus and other documents of the Church regularly attest, there are some serious elements missing in Protestant theology, which we have in fullness in the Catholic Church.

But all of this really begs the historical question and always will. We can be nice, which we should, and elevate the various Christian factions to theological parity for the sake of discussion and harmonious living, but ultimately Cardinal Newman’s assertion is valid, that to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant. In various ways that is my own story. Maybe such discussions will get some of the Separated Brethren to look at history that otherwise wouldn’t, and to that extent it is a good thing.

Ironically, there are many rootless Christian congregations and their leaders who continually try to discover the “Acts church”, the “New Testament church” and so forth, and we as Catholics are living it and perhaps don’t know quite how to show it to them.


I experienced recently the sort of ecumenism that Cardinal Dulles expresses so clearly. My head is happy to stop struggling for the right words, now.
The method proposed here will not prevent conflict, but it is centered in truth (and especially, The Truth) and so I do believe that God will bless it by guiding us through and past our conflicts.
In any case, it sure beats both compromise and the "I'm better than you are, but you can sit with me if you wish" varieties of ecumenism.

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