Sunday, May 25, 2008

Remarks on ecumenism

I believe the Catholic faith is true. Suppose I wish to draw closer spiritually to non-Catholic Christians. What should I do? Well, the kind of spiritual closeness that I should seek is closeness in Christ. To be closer to non-Catholic Christians, then, I need to be closer to Christ. But if the Catholic faith is true, then I come closer to Christ in being faithful to the Catholic faith. Therefore, I come closer in Christ to non-Catholic Christians by being faithful to the Catholic faith. This is counterintuitive but hard to deny (except by denying the truth of the Catholic faith). If this lesson is learned, then many of the distortions of ecumenism will be averted.

Here is a different, and even more pointed, way of looking at it. According to Vatican II, non-Catholic Christians have an imperfect union with the Catholic Church through baptism, and I think it is a very plausible theological reading of this that I am united in the appropriate way with these non-Catholic Christians precisely in and through their and my union with the Catholic Church. If, then, I am to grow closer to them spiritually in the appropriate way, I need to cleave more closely to the Catholic Church. Furthermore, non-Catholic Christians are united spiritually to one another in the appropriate way only insofar as they are united to Christ. And they are united to Christ insofar as they are united to the Catholic Church, the body of Christ. The unity of non-Catholic Christians, thus, depends on their union with the Catholic Church.


Enigman said...

Even if the Catholic faith is true, might not unity in Christ come in degrees, and by many ways? I am thinking of a bad Catholic, who misinterprets Catholic teachings, and of a good non-Catholic, who sees more deeply into all things; who is closer to Christ.

If so then, though you become closer to all Christians by being more faithful to the Catholic faith, some others could approach Christ more closely by other ways. And such a transcendental fact might trump the more straightforward implications of your own point of view (in the Catholic faith) if it is more likely to be true (to the ways of God) than those implications.

So even if the unity of non-Catholics is (correctly described from your point of view as) a matter of their partaking of Catholic unity, that would not mean that some other description (maybe one not mentioning Catholics) of that unity was incorrect; it would not mean that it was not also true (within a different way of making sense) that the unity of non-Catholic Christians did not depend upon their union with the Catholic Church, but rather the other way around.

Anonymous said...

"Suppose I wish to draw closer spiritually to non-Catholic Christians."

What exactly does this mean? You have a long post without explaining what you are talking about. I know what "draw close" means, it means you bring someone close to you. What does "draw close spiritually" mean?

Alexander R Pruss said...


But by drawing closer to Christ, one becomes more faithful to the Catholic faith which commands one to draw closer to Christ.

I have no problem with the suggestion that there might be alternate descriptions of the same phenomena.