A Glance at Two Cities

On January 25, at the close of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, in the Eternal City of Rome, Pope Francis delivered these stunning lines during his homily (H/T Rorate Caeli):

So many past controversies between Christians can be overcome when we put aside all polemical or apologetic approaches, and seek instead to grasp more fully what unites us, namely, our call to share in the mystery of the Father’s love revealed to us by the Son through the Holy Spirit. Christian unity – we are convinced – will not be the fruit of subtle theoretical discussions in which each party tries to convince the other of the soundness of their opinions.

. . .

In the call to be evangelizers, all the Churches and Ecclesial Communities discover a privileged setting for closer cooperation. For this to be effective, we need to stop being self-enclosed, exclusive, and bent on imposing a uniformity based on merely human calculations (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 131). Our shared commitment to proclaiming the Gospel enables us to overcome proselytism and competition in all their forms.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., in the Lourdes chapel at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Fr. Patrick Rutledge of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) offered a Missa Cantata (H/T Rorate Caeli again). Yes, the SSPX, that canonically irregular band of renegade priests whose performance of the Lord’s sacraments will cause even little children to enter a state of de facto schism, sang Mass for Christ’s faithful. How can this be? For as we all know the Society, obsessed with a certain type of liturgical posture and riddled with Promethean neo-Pelagianism, opposes ecumenism; or, more to the point, active proselytizes and pours considerable resources into apologetics — two approaches condemned across the pond by the man entrusted with not just the souls of 1.2 billion Catholics, but the billions more who have either never heard the Truth of Christ or have only received it in an incomplete form. It is a great mystery, isn’t it, how in times of so much darkness and confusion the good Lord still provides rays of light.

Not that we should be content with rays, for God has called all of us to radiate the true joy of the Gospel to all the world. And that true joy is not “encounter” or “discussion” or “you’re ok, I’m ok”; the true joy is the Salvation secured for us on Calvary. Catholic joy comes from the realization that God so loved us, his fallen and frail creation, as to really suffer and really die for our sins on the Cross before Rising on the Third Day, Ascending into Heaven, and sending forth the Holy Ghost to secure his people, the Corpus Mysticum, until the end of days. Why would the Holy Father not wish us to share this message? Others may fear, even detest, the truth, but we do not. We proclaim the truth not triumphantly, but joyously. If too many of us take the Pope’s occasional remarks seriously, who will be left to preach the Gospel? Who will fulfill the Great Commission? The SSPX? Yes, the SSPX, and those remaining priests and bishops of the Church — diocesan, Ecclesia Dei, monastic, etc. — who recall at all times and places that the highest law of the Church is the Salvation of souls.

5 comments

  1. This too shall pass.

    The pope did not say anything doctrinally wrong. We *are* called to cooperate with our separated brethren.

    But…but…but…what you said. Ultimately God wants everyone to be Catholic, because that’s where the fullness of salvation is.

    Ecumenism and evangelism are always in tension, to a certain extent. We want to win people to Christ and the Church, but we can’t force the Truth down their throats.

    I have mixed feelings about Pope Francis, but he is my pope, and I am loyal to him. However, I am looking forward to the next pope, who I hope will be from Africa and who I pray will be more like Benedict.

  2. “So many past controversies between Christians can be overcome when we put aside all polemical or apologetic approaches, and seek instead to grasp more fully what unites us, namely, our call to share in the mystery of the Father’s love revealed to us by the Son through the Holy Spirit. Christian unity – we are convinced – will not be the fruit of subtle theoretical discussions in which each party tries to convince the other of the soundness of their opinions. When the Son of Man comes, he will find us still discussing! We need to realize that, to plumb the depths of the mystery of God, we need one another, we need to encounter one another and to challenge one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who harmonizes diversities, overcomes conflicts, reconciles differences.”

    “By the working of the Holy Spirit, we have become one in Christ, sons in the Son, true worshipers of the Father. This mystery of love is the deepest ground of the unity which binds all Christians and is much greater than their historical divisions.”

    POPE FRANCIS

    ==

    “11. Another danger is perceived which is all the more serious because it is more concealed beneath the mask of virtue. There are many who, deploring disagreement among men and intellectual confusion, through an imprudent zeal for souls, are urged by a great and ardent desire to do away with the barrier that divides good and honest men; these advocate an “eirenism” according to which, by setting aside the questions which divide men, they aim not only at joining forces to repel the attacks of atheism, but also at reconciling things opposed to one another in the field of dogma. And as in former times some questioned whether the traditional apologetics of the Church did not constitute an obstacle rather than a help to the winning of souls for Christ, so today some are presumptive enough to question seriously whether theology and theological methods, such as with the approval of ecclesiastical authority are found in our schools, should not only be perfected, but also completely reformed, in order to promote the more efficacious propagation of the kingdom of Christ everywhere throughout the world among men of every culture and religious opinion.

    12. Now if these only aimed at adapting ecclesiastical teaching and methods to modern conditions and requirements, through the introduction of some new explanations, there would be scarcely any reason for alarm. But some through enthusiasm for an imprudent “eirenism” seem to consider as an obstacle to the restoration of fraternal union, things founded on the laws and principles given by Christ and likewise on institutions founded by Him, or which are the defense and support of the integrity of the faith, and the removal of which would bring about the union of all, but only to their destruction.”

    “43. Let them [teachers] strive with every force and effort to further the progress of the sciences which they teach; but let them also be careful not to transgress the limits which We have established for the protection of the truth of Catholic faith and doctrine. With regard to new questions, which modern culture and progress have brought to the foreground, let them engage in most careful research, but with the necessary prudence and caution; finally, let them not think, indulging in a false “irenism,” that the dissident and the erring can happily be brought back to the bosom of the Church, if the whole truth found in the Church is not sincerely taught to all without corruption or diminution.”

    ENCYCLICAL HUMANI GENERIS

    ==

    “11. The way and method in which the Catholic faith is expressed should never become an obstacle to dialogue with our brethren. It is, of course, essential that the doctrine should 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 suffers loss and its genuine and certain meaning is clouded.

    At the same time, the Catholic faith must be explained more profoundly and precisely, in such a way and in such terms as our separated brethren can also really understand.”

    DECREE ON ECUMENISM UNITATIS REDINTEGRATIO

    ==

  3. I apologize for the long quotes, etc., but these came to mind upon reading your post, ‘A Glance at Two Cities’, and the Rorate Caeli blog translation of the January 25th homily of Pope Francis. I think the quotes are relevant in some way, but they might not be so in reality. If that is the case, sorry again.

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