Today, during one of my infrequent visits to the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) on a Sunday, the priest spoke about avoiding unnecessary occasions of sin, including collaborating or fraternizing with non-Catholics. Obviously, there are times in our daily lives when we cannot avoid this, such as in the workplace. However, to the fullest extent possible, Catholics should probably avoid it, lest it imperil their faith.
I am not sure what to make of this. Despite the fact this priest was rooting himself in a once-common theological opinion, there is a growing sense among both conservative and traditional Catholics that there is a need for a “pan-Christian” coalition in the United States in order to hold back the ever-rising tides of secularism and liberalism. Those who recommend this option typically believe that such cooperation can be partitioned off from any particular faith commitments. In other words, if conservative Catholics and Lutherans form a local collation to start, say, the building of a strip club in their neighborhood or pass an ordinate limiting drinking on Sundays, that doesn’t mean Catholic participants are at risk of taking up sold fide. That’s probably right. However, it seems to me that the main concern about “pan-Christian” coalitions is that it undermines the evangelical spirit and leads to at least a light form of indifferentism. “That Gustav is a good fellow; very devout. I should let him be and not pester him about what a heretic Martin Luther was!”
There are numerous other examples that can here be given, but I suspect you get the point. The best response I have at the moment to this line of thinking is that it may be a nonissue given that there are increasingly fewer non-Catholic Christians which hold to any politically or socially relevant set of beliefs that Catholics can licitly get behind as well. Even within the Catholic Church today there is a noticeable rift between liberal and conservative Catholics, and a sizable rift as well between conservatives and traditionalists. It therefore behooves any faithful Catholic to exercise a great deal of prudence when deciding who to share common cause with and to discern which cases are in fact common.
As for concerns over indifferentism, they are well placed. Look, for example, at the Acton Institute, which is operated primarily by Catholics (including a Catholic clergyman). Catholic social principles are set the side in favor of building a coalition around liberal economic ideology which, sadly, members of other non-Catholic confessions, including Evangelicals and Eastern Orthodox, gravitate toward, too. Acton does not take as its mission to promote the Catholic Faith at the socio-political level but to deliver false baptism to liberal thought backed by tortured readings of the Church’s social magisterium. The end result is a culture of indifferentism at Acton toward any who are willing to wave the flag of free-market capitalism. All others must, of course be “evangelized” with the gospel of liberalism.
None of this is to say that Catholics should avoid all cooperation with non-Catholics. Although their numbers may be under assault, there are still Protestants and Orthodox in America who actively resist liberalism and all its works. The Orthodox in particular, who as Pope Leo XIII stated are close to Catholics the Faith, tend to be more conservative in their beliefs than most Catholics. As such, Catholics should not quickly dismiss the possibility of having closer association with the Orthodox so long as the temptation to apathy or indifferentism is resisted.
September 19, 2016
I recently heard an Orthodox priest say the exact same thing. That non-Orthodox friends will rot your soul, was the gist of it.
I wonder what is the real alternative to indifferentism, assuming that it is not some kind of quasi-evangelical subtle form of proselytism (“friendship evangelism”). Perhaps there is a genuinely healthy ecumenism within the mean between these two vices? Or maybe that just begs the question; proselytism will not be considered a vice by all.
September 20, 2016
Perhaps it would be good to recall the joint efforts of the Russian Byzantine Catholics and the Russian Orthodox against the Bolsheviks during the last century. Bl. Exarch Leonid Feodorov helped organize this joint resistance and it was supported by holy Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow. There was even a joint Catholic-Orthodox course of apologetics formed to battle atheist propaganda.
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