Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Question About Catholic Newspaper

Q - While looking up the National Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, I came across this essay on the website for the National Catholic Reporter.

I was pretty surprised by the content, given the serious lack of regard for the fact of the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the difference between what the Catholic Church celebrates as Communion and that of Protestant denominations.

Two questions:
1) What is your opinion of the National Catholic Reporter?

2) What is your take on the article itself and efforts for greater Christian Unity?

A - Thanks for the questions. I will try and give you an answer, but a good deal of my opinion might go into it, so bear with me. I usually don't answer such questions on the blog, but I have had others that have asked similar questions, so I felt it was time to go for it.

As for question number 1 - I generally don't pay much attention to what the National Catholic Reporter does. Some of their writers and editors have a history of dissenting from Church teaching in many areas including advocating homosexual marriage, birth control, women priests, etc, etc, etc. The one columnist I think is fair is John Allen, who has softened many rough edges over the years. I think that Cardinal George had a good commentary on the mindset found in many pages of NCR:
Many writers who claim to be Catholic make names for themselves by attacking truths basic to our faith. Without the personal integrity that would bring them to admit they have simply lost the faith that comes to us from the Apostles, they reconstruct it on a purely subjective, individualistic basis and call it renewal. The Second Vatican Council wasn’t called to turn Catholics into Protestants. It was called to ask God to bring all Christ’s followers into unity of faith so that the world would believe who Christ is and live with him in his Body, the Church.
As for question number 2 - I would like to first introduce what ecumenism is. The Catechism says:
820 "Christ bestowed unity on his Church from the beginning. This unity, we believe, subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time." Christ always gives his Church the gift of unity, but the Church must always pray and work to maintain, reinforce, and perfect the unity that Christ wills for her. This is why Jesus himself prayed at the hour of his Passion, and does not cease praying to his Father, for the unity of his disciples: "That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us, . . . so that the world may know that you have sent me." The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit.
Full Christian unity is the will of God. It is an irrevocable call for all Christians to work toward this goal. But, we cannot sacrifice the truth of Jesus Christ for this unity, because we would then have a false unity. As John Paul II (who had a passion for ecumenism) said in his amazing encyclical on Christian Unity, Ut Unum Sint:
The unity willed by God can be attained only by the adherence of all to the content of revealed faith in its entirety. In matters of faith, compromise is in contradiction with God who is Truth. In the Body of Christ, "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6), who could consider legitimate a reconciliation brought about at the expense of the truth? The Council's Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae attributes to human dignity the quest for truth, "especially in what concerns God and his Church, and adherence to truth's demands. A "being together" which betrayed the truth would thus be opposed both to the nature of God who offers his communion and to the need for truth found in the depths of every human heart.
It is not true ecumenism when we toss out the truth in order to achieve unity. This is a unity made by humans, not God. True unity lies in communion with God and others - in doctrine and practice.

So, the problem with the article you cite is one of bad theology. The author, who is known for trying to ruffle feathers of others, wants to have "open communion". But, this is contrary to Christian history (see here) as well as Catholic doctrine on the Eucharist. Why do we have closed communion? Because communion is just what the word signifies - a sign of unity in faith and practice. Only Catholics who are in the state of grace are to receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist (1 Cor 10-11). To do otherwise would be a false sign of unity.

Having Communion together is a sign of full unity that already exist. It strengthens the unity, but cannot create it fully. Therefore, to have Communion with our Protestant brothers and sisters would be a sign of something that doesn't exist and would be a step backward for ecumenism, not forward.

We should pray and look forward to the day when all Christians can receive the Eucharist together, but we should not pretend that the day is upon us already or try and deceive ourselves that huge hurdles to unity don't still exist .

JPII says:
Certainly, due to disagreements in matters of faith, it is not yet possible to celebrate together the same Eucharistic Liturgy. And yet we do have a burning desire to join in celebrating the one Eucharist of the Lord, and this desire itself is already a common prayer of praise, a single supplication. Together we speak to the Father and increasingly we do so "with one heart". At times it seems that we are closer to being able finally to seal this "real although not yet full" communion. A century ago who could even have imagined such a thing?
Just because Fr. McBrien doesn't think progress in ecumenism has taken place recently, doesn't make his statement true. We are closer than ever to reuniting with several Eastern Orthodox Churches. This is significant and should be recognized. Cardinal George was correct.

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