Thursday, 23 January 2014

Who wants Christian unity?

I am committed to the cause of Christian unity. I mean real unity, not the continuation of ecumenism. An Old Catholic priest (a rather young Old catholic priest) once asked me what I thought of "Churches Together". My answer was "not much". He lives in an ecumenical community and believes that he is practising unity (in some ways this seems to be correct). He was there with his Abbot (of the community) who is a Methodist. They both laughed and said that they call them "Churches Not Together" which is accurate. As a "Roman" Catholic I cannot accept that community's version of unity. There is more to unity than that. But at least those men really want unity and are not content with meetings, "shared worship" (an ugly phrase if ever there was one) friendly chatter, tea and biscuits etc, etc.

I realise now, more clearly than ever, that the majority of Christians outside the Catholic Church do not want real unity (or they think they already have it, which is worse). The "unity" of international, multi-denominational  mutual recognition is NOT real unity - it is a sham. The unity that Christ prayed for is much more than this. This lack of a real desire for genuine unity - a unity of faith as well of friendship (though it begins with and is sustained in friendship) makes Christian unity week something of a bore. Christian unity week (or more accurately octave) serves to display the lack of commitment to, desire for, real unity. It is not a papering over cracks, but a failure to see the seriousness of those cracks - not cracks but fissures. Pope Francis rightly says that division is a scandal, but for many non-Catholic Christians division is not a problem because their vision of the Church is of a world-wide, multi-denominational group of people who call themselves Christians. For them there is no establishment or institution except the kind you like or want to create. For them Christ did not found a Church that would develop any real structure but a mass of people who sometimes disagree on things that some regard as essential and others judge to be unimportant. Is this the unity that Christ wanted and wants? Those who genuinely ponder John 17 cannot possibly believe this. After so long since the first Octave of Prayer we are no closer to a unity of faith and worship. The friendship stops at the altar steps.


  1. Father,

    You are right. Unity in Christ must be a goal of all Catholics. But we must be clear what it means. Truth lies only in the Catholic Church, and all other Churches are deficient in so far as they differ from full Catholic Truth.

    Ecumenism makes sense only when we talk to Churches which are close to us in doctrine and Continuity, such as the Orthodox Churches. Talks with any of the circa 23,000 Protestant churches, who without exception, are rapidly distancing themselves from Catholic Truth, is a waste of time and hot air.

    That of course doesn’t mean that they don’t have some truth. The early missionaries, some eighteen hundred years ago, no doubt found that even my blue painted ancestors, gazing up at the night sky, which you could see in those days, had probably realised that all that must have been made. No doubt they had a word for this Creator. St John called It “The Word”.

  2. Father,
    Yes ecumenism must mean us Catholics who possess and profess the truth, sharing that truth with those in heresy, in order that they might believe and there be unity, as Christ himself said ..."that they made be one......"

  3. Unity does not mean everyone becoming "Roman" Catholic. There are also Greek Catholics etc. Those in union with Rome are not all called "Roman" Catholics. Western Catholics must be more open to the different traditions within the catholic community. Unity, when it comes, will be unity in diversity. The Ordinariate is not as revolutionary as it appeared - it follows sound Catholic principles. Also we already have an "imperfect" communion with other Christians (as recently said by Pope Francis and made clear in the Vat. 11 document on Ecumenism). The word "heresy" is shot through with much historical bitterness and is not a good word to use when speaking of our "separated brethren".