Ecumenism Without Compromise (part 2)

The Golden Key

There is a golden key!  His name is Jesus Christ.  We can’t do it.  And He can.  We must be very clear about those two truths.  The main reason it hasn’t happened is that we do not fully believe both those two truths.

Christ Himself is the most powerful source of reunion in the world because it comes not from the world but from Heaven.  And He will have His way with us sooner or later, one way or another.  We don’t know whether it’s going to be sooner or later, and we don’t know if it will come by one way or by another.  But we do know that it will come because it is his will.  We don’t know when and we don’t know how, but we know who.

Pope John Paul II has voiced the bold hope that as the first thousand years of Christian history were the millennium of Christian unity, and the second thousand years were the millennium of Christian disunity, 1054, 1517, and the over twenty-thousand denominations that came from 1517, so the third thousand years may be the millennium of Christian re-unity, reunification.

But how?  The deepest division is obviously between Catholics and Protestants, for the Eastern Orthodox Churches have all remained one, not split into twenty-thousand in creed, code, or cult.  They have preserved the fullness of Catholic faith.  Except for universal papal authority, but that has changed its form quite a bit throughout Christian history, though not its reality, and it can change again.  The pope himself explicitly said that in Ut Unum Sint.  But how can Catholics and Protestants achieve reunion?  I will prescind entirely from the question whether Anglicans are Catholics, Protestants, both, or neither.  Well it cannot be by yielding or weakening or compromising one iota of divinely revealed truth!

All the serious differences between Protestants and Catholics concern how much territory this category of divinely revealed truth covers.  For instance, the Church’s doctrines about Mary, and the saints, and the seven Sacraments, and Transubstantiation, and purgatory, Catholics accept them because they believe they are true and divinely revealed.  Protestants reject them because they believe they are not true and not divinely revealed.  Protestants say Catholics believe too much.  Catholics say Protestants believe too little.  Protestants say the Church added to Christ’s original, pure and simple revelation in the New Testament.  Protestantism is thus Catholicism stripped down: the Catholic Ark with what Protestants claim are the non-scriptural barnacles scraped off of it.

When I was at Calvin College and investigating things Catholic and falling in love with them and feeling guilty about it, because this was the wrong church, I took a course in church history to try to get things clear.  And the very first day of the course, the wise-old professor said, “What is the Church?”  And we were all just freshman, we didn’t know for nothing so nobody answered.  So he said, “Well, you’re going to meet a Roman Catholic someday and he’s going to say, ‘You’re in the wrong church!  You’re a Calvinist, you’re in the church John Calvin founded 500 years ago.  We’re in the church Jesus Christ founded 2000 years ago.’  What do you say to him?”  Nobody had an answer.  I said to myself, “I’m in the right class.”

He said, “Well, here’s what the Catholics will say: the church today is a great big thing and it looks very different from the simple thing you read about in the New Testament, but it’s the same just as that oak tree is the same organism as that little acorn.  What’s wrong with that picture?  The Catholic will say that Luther and Calvin broke off some branches of the church because it was really rotten and they tried to start a new one, but that can’t be done cause there’s only one Jesus.  And therefore, only one church.  What’s your answer to that?  What’s wrong with that picture?”  And nobody had an answer.  I said to myself, “I’m in the right class!”

And he said, “Well, here’s what’s wrong with that pictures, here’s what happened: Jesus founded one church indeed and it is the church described in the New Testament, and it’s like Noah’s Ark, and it did get rotten, and Luther and Calvin and Knox and others said, ‘Gee, this Ark is sinking!  We gotta scrape the barnacles off!’  So they scraped the barnacles off and restored it to its simple, pure, primitive, New Testament essence.  So we’re in the right church!  It’s the Catholics who are the upstarts.  They’re the ones who added all those pagan barnacles.”  I said, “Oh that makes me feel good.”  I remember asking a question, I said, “Professor, do you mean to tell me that, if my Catholic neighbor and I both found a time machine and went back to the first century,”  I still remember his look, “What’s this guy, a weirdo?  Science fiction?”  “…and worshipped together, that I as a Protestant would feel more at home in that church than he as a Catholic would?”  And then he smiled.  He said, “That’s exactly what I’m saying.”  I said to myself, “Good, that means that I don’t have to be a great theologian to figure out who’s right.  All I have to do is read the Church Fathers to prove to myself that they were all Calvinists.”  Well, I read the Church Fathers and proved to myself they were all Catholics, so that’s why I’m here.

But the very word “Protestant” means protesting, refusing some of the Catholic whole because they think it’s anti-scriptural and unscriptural barnacles added to what Christ gave us.  While the very word “Catholic” means universal, or whole.  The whole deal.  So this has a problem, apparently without a possible solution because no faithful Catholic could dream of unity with Protestants except on Catholic grounds.  For to be a Catholic is to believe that those grounds are holy grounds, divinely revealed.  It is the Protestants who must remove their shoes.  Catholics cannot negotiate away any of the deposit of faith because it is not theirs, it is Christ’s!  The divinely appointed mail carriers may not edit God’s mail.

Ecumenism without Compromise – Peter Kreeft

Ecumenism Without Compromise (part 1)

In essentials, unity;

in non-essentials, liberty;

in all things, charity.

St. Augustine said these words, long before schisms, disunity and denominational claims and clashes took place among Christians. Below is the first part of the best lecture I have ever heard on the possibility of Christian (Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant) reunion without compromise. It was done by Peter Kreeft, a former Calvinist who grew up in a strong evangelical Protestant family, converted to Catholicism, became an apologist, and is a professor of philosophy at Boston College. Here is the first part from the whole article titled Ecumenism Without Compromise”:

Introduction

I’d like to give a fairly short, fairly formal semi-lecture followed by an interesting discussion about ecumenism.  If we are to witness to the world, the problem is not only the world, the problem is in us.  And the problem in us is not just that we are wicked and foolish, that’s always the case.  We are also split, we’re divided.  We can ignore that, we can be dishonest and compromise our convictions, but obviously that’s not going to do any good.

Is there any hope for reunion?  I am increasingly convinced that there is much more hope than most of us think.  And my hope is based most fundamentally on the fact that the most passionate ecumenist in all of existence is Jesus Christ.  We all know His prayer to His Father just before His Crucifixion in John 17, “That they may be one even as Thou the Father art in me and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe.”  He explicitly connects apologetics and ecumenism.  “I in them and Thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that Thou has sent me and has loved them even Thou hast loved me.”

If you read the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians, you will see that denominationalism was not just a scandal, but absolutely unthinkable and intolerable to St. Paul.  Because denominationalism is not the multiplying of subdivisions in an organization, it’s the amputation of limbs from an organism.  Just as no sane person loves war, so no sane Christian loves the war among Christians that so scandalizes the world and weakens our witness to it.  How could a divided church unify a divided world?  No more than an infected physician can heal himself.  But our divisions seem as intractable as war!

Here are 9 grounds for hope for ecumenical reunion that are commonly given, and not a one of them has worked:

  1. Reasonable compromises.
  2. Understanding and education: the hope that deep down, we’ll find that we don’t really disagree.  That we’re all saying the same thing in different words but just misunderstanding each other.
  3. Mystical experience: if you only have one, you’ll see that the previous point is true.
  4. Tolerance:  like a mutual non-aggression pact.  Why can’t we just get along?
  5. Subjectivism: reduction of THE Truth to “my truth” or “your truth” or “our truth.”
  6. Skepticism:  no one knows the truth anyway.
  7. Rational argument: perhaps we can persuade each other as in a scientific laboratory.
  8. A vague optimism:  Dickon’s Mr. McColbers, “Something will turn up!”
  9. Merely a temporary tactical and pragmatic union to fight a common enemy: an ecumenical jihad.  Good but not enough.  None of these is the golden key to reunion.

why confess to a priest?

Why not to a friend, an adviser or a community of people? Psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, who is not Roman Catholic, nevertheless judges that the Catholic Church has “more adequate means” for dealing with a sense of guilt than other religions and institutions (Donald De Marco, “The Decline of Private Guilt and the Need for Confession” pp. 99-106). Here area a few reasons why that may be true:

  • The priest charges no fee. He freely received from God the power to declare sins forgiven in Jesus’ name and thus must freely exercise for others that ministry of mercy.
  • The priest strictly keeps confidences learned in the reconciliation chapel. Church laws governing what we term “the seal of confession” under severest penalty prohibit a priest from revealing any sin of an individual penitent to any person under any conditions. The long history of this sacrament indicates that priests, despite their human their human weaknesses in other areas, have nevertheless observed those restrictions remarkable well. Confessors take these rules very, very seriously.
  • The priest’s wide experience, acquired through regularly hearing many confessions, gives him deep insights into human guilt and divine mercy.
  • The priest pronounces with authority and in an audible voice God’s forgiveness of sins:
    • “Through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” – Rite of Penance

People walk away from the Sacrament of Penance having actually heard these clear and certain words of liberation. They know guilt is gone and sins are removed. Friends, advisers and others can comfort or reassure on this matter, but not announce with such certitude.

  • The priest carries out the promises of Christ. After the resurrection, Jesus said to his disciples: “receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained: (John 20:22b-23).
  • The priest seeks to mirror in his attitude, words and actions the gentleness of Christ. There are over a dozen incidents in the Gospels which either describe Jesus actually forgiving a repentant sinner or teaching about God’s mercy, which has no limit and lasts forever. The Savior’s example serves as a role model for priests in the sacrament.
  • The priest and the penitent actually celebrate a sacrament, the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation. Confession of sins with absolution is more than a merely human ritual that cleanses away unpleasant guilt. As one of the seven sacraments established by Christ, Penance not only forgives sins, but also restores or increases sanctifying grace. Moreover, Reconciliation bestows actual graces that heal the wounds caused by sins and strengthen the virtues needed for our progress.
  • The priest in the name of the Church reconciles us with the community. Sin, as we have seen, weakens or ruptures our relationships with God, others and the world around us. In this sacrament, the priest both declares that those fractured relationships have been restored and aids in rebuilding them.

from Rev. Joseph Champlin – “Why go to Confession?”

What’s wrong with the world?

G.K. Chesterson answered it with two short words:

“I am.”

To admit that the decision to sin is mine alone, and to do this – as best I can – without excuses, disclaimers, or euphemisms; that is the essence of confession. What’s wrong with the world? I am, because I sin, and my sins well up from the darkness in my own heart. Sin is not out there; it’s deep inside me.

“To those who have been far away from the sacrament of Reconciliation and forgiving love, I make this appeal: Come back to this source of grace; do not be afraid! Christ himself is waiting for you. He will heal you, and you will be at peace with God!” – Pope John Paul II

This afternoon, I had a two hour appointment with my confessor/priest to make my first confession of every mortal sin I could recollect. I told him EVERYTHING. No stone was left unturned and nothing was hidden. It was just Keith in the raw. We both wept.

I spent weeks trying to recall my sins and examine my conscience, I asked myself what have I done with full knowledge and full consent against God’s commandments. To prepare for my confession, I used the following examinations that Scott Hahn recommended for me from the Handbook of Prayers, edited by Fr. James Socias.

The First Commandment

  • Have I performed my duties toward God reluctantly or grudgingly?
  • Did I neglect my prayer life? Did I recite my usual prayers?
  • Did I receive Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin or without the necessary preparation?
  • Did I violate the one-hour Eucharistic fast?
  • Did I fail to mention some grave sin in my previous confessions?
  • Did I seriously believe in something superstitious or engage in a superstitious practice (palm-reading or fortune telling for instance)?
  • Did I seriously doubt a matter of Faith?
  • Did I put my faith in danger-without a good reason-by reading a book, pamphlet, or magazine that contains material contrary to Catholic faith or morals?
  • Did I endanger my faith by joining or attending meetings of organizations opposed to the Catholic faith (non-catholic services, the Communist Party, Freemasonry, “new age” cults, or other religions)? Did I take part in one of its activities?
  • Have I committed the sin of sacrilege (profanation of a sacred person, place or thing)?

The Second Commandment

  • Did I fail to try my best to fulfill the promises and resolutions that I made to God?
  • Did I take the name of God in vain? Did I make use of God’s name mockingly, jokingly, angrily, or in any other irreverent manner?
  • Did I make use of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s name or another saint’s name mockingly, jokingly, angrily, or in any other irreverent manner?
  • Have I been a sponsor in Baptism or participate actively in other ceremonies outside the Catholic Church?
  • Did I tell a lie under oath?
  • Did I break (private or public) vows?

The Third Commandment

  • Did I miss Mass on a Sunday or a holy day of obligation?
  • Did I fail to dress appropriately for Mass?
  • Have I, without sufficient reason, arrived at Mass so late that I failed to fulfill the Sunday or holy Day of obligation?
  • Did I allow myself to be distracted during Mass, by not paying attention, looking around out of curiosity, etc.?
  • Did I cause another to be distracted?
  • Have I performed any work or business activity that would inhibit the worship due to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, or the appropriate relaxation of mind and body, on a Sunday or a holy day of obligation?
  • Did I fail to generously help the Church in her necessities to the extent that I am able?
  • Did I fail to fast or abstain on a day prescribed by the Church?

The Fourth Commandment

(For Parents)

  • Have I neglected to teach my children their prayers, send them to church, or give them a Christian education?
  • Have I given them bad example?
  • Have I neglected to watch over my children, to monitor their companions, the books they read, the movies and TV shows they watch?
  • Have I failed to see to it that my child made the First Confession and First Communion?
  • Have I failed to see to it that my children have received the sacrament of Confirmation?

(For Children)

  • Was I disobedient toward my parents?
  • Did I neglect to help my parents when my help was needed?
  • Did I treat my parents with little affection or respect?
  • Did I react proudly when I was corrected by my parents?
  • Did I have a disordered desire for independence?
  • Did I do my chores?

The Fifth Commandment

  • Did I easily get angry or lose my temper?
  • Was I envious or jealous of others?
  • Did I injure or take the life of anyone? Was I ever reckless in driving?
  • Was I an occasion of sin for others by way of conversation, the telling of jokes religiously, racially, or sexually offensive, my way of dressing, inviting somebody to attend certain shows, lending harmful books or magazines, helping someone to steal, etc.? Did I try to repair the scandal done?
  • How many persons did I lead to sin? What sin or sins were involved?
  • Did I neglect my health? Did I attempt to take my life?
  • Have I mutilated myself or another?
  • Did I get drunk or use prohibited drugs?
  • Did I eat or drink more than a sufficient amount, allowing myself to get carried away by gluttony?
  • Did I participate in any form of physical violence?
  • Did I consent to or actively take part in direct sterilization (tubal ligation, vasectomy, etc.)? Do I realize that this will have a permanent effect on my married life and that I will have to answer to God for its consequences?
  • Did I consent to, advise, or actively take part in an abortion? Was I aware that the Church punishes with automatic excommunication those who procure and achieve abortion? Do I realize that this is a very grave crime?
  • Did I cause harm to anyone with my words or actions?
  • Did I desire revenge or harbor enmity, hatred, or ill-feelings when someone offended me?
  • Did I ask pardon whenever I offended anyone?
  • Did I insult or offensively tease others?
  • Did I quarrel with one of my brothers or sisters?

The Sixth and Ninth Commandments

  • Did I willfully entertain impure thoughts?
  • Did I consent to evil desires against the virtue of purity, even though I may not have carried them out? Were there any circumstances that aggravated the sin: affinity (relationship by marriage), consanguinity (blood relationship), either the married state or the consecration to God of a person involved?
  • Did I engage in impure conversations? Did I start them?
  • Did I look for fun in forms of entertainment that placed me in proximate occasions of sin, such as certain dances, movies, shows, or books with immoral contents? Did I frequent houses of ill-repute or keep bad company?
  • Did I realize that I might already have been committing a sin by placing myself in a proximate occasion of sin, such as sharing a room with a person I find sexually attractive, or being alone with such a person in circumstances that could lead to sin?
  • Did I fail to take care of those details of modesty and decency that are the safeguards of purity?
  • Did I fail, before going to a show or reading a book, to find out its moral implications, so as not to put myself in immediate danger of sinning and in order to avoid distorting my conscience?
  • Did I willfully look at an indecent picture or cast an immodest look upon myself or another? Did I willfully desire to commit such a sin?
  • Did I lead others to sins of impurity or immodesty? What sins?
  • Did I commit an impure act? By myself, through masturbation (which is objectively a mortal sin)? With someone else? How many times? With someone of the same or opposite sex? Was there any circumstance of relationship (such as affinity) that could have given the sin special gravity? Did this illicit relationship result in pregnancy? Did I do anything to prevent or end that pregnancy?
  • Do I have friendships that are habitual occasions of sexual sins? Am I prepared to end them?
  • In courtship, is true love my fundamental reason for wanting to be with the other person? Do I live the constant and cheerful sacrifice of not putting the person I love in danger of sinning? Do I degrade human love by confusing it with selfishness or mere pleasure?
  • Did I engage in acts such as “petting,” “necking,” passionate kisses, or prolonged embraces?

(For married people)

  • Did I, without serious reason, deprive my spouse of the marital right? Did I claim my own rights in a way which showed no concern for my spouse’s state of mind or health? Did I betray conjugal fidelity in desire or in deed?
  • Did I take “the pill” or use any other artificial birth control de vice before or after new life had already been conceived?
  • Did I without grave reason, with the intention of avoiding conception, make use of marriage on only those days when offspring would not likely be engendered?
  • Did I suggest to another person the use of birth-control pills or another artificial method of preventing pregnancy (like condoms)?
  • Did I have a hand in contributing to the contraceptive mentality by my advice, jokes, or attitudes?
  • (On abortion, contraception, sterilization, etc., see also The Fifth Commandment).

The Seventh and Tenth Commandments

  • Did I steal? How much money? Or how much was the object worth? Did I give it back, or at least have the intention of doing so?
  • Have I done or caused damage to another person’s property? To what extent?
  • Did I harm anyone by deception, fraud, or coercion in business contracts or transactions?
  • Did I unnecessarily spend beyond my means? Do I spend too much money because of vanity, or caprice?
  • Do I give alms according to my capacity?
  • Was I envious of my neighbor’s goods?
  • Did I neglect to pay my debts?
  • Did I knowingly accept stolen goods?
  • Did I desire to steal?
  • Did I give in to laziness or love of comfort rather than diligently work or study?
  • Was I greedy? Do I have an excessively materialistic view of life?

The Eighth Commandment

  • Did I tell lies? Did I repair any damage that may have resulted as a consequence of this?
  • Have I unjustly or rashly accused others?
  • Did I sin by detraction, that is, by telling the faults of another person without necessity?
  • Did I sin by calumny, that is, by telling derogatory lies about another person?
  • Did I engage in gossip, backbiting, or spreading false stories?
  • Did I reveal a secret without due cause?

More will be written about this sacrament as I have more time to process my experience today.