Recap and Example
Let’s go through the whole thing one more time in a somewhat different way because it’s an apparently an impossible, unbelievable point: this hope for ecumenical reunion without compromise.
Already ecumenism has defined predictions and expectations. Apparently easy bridges have not been built, for example between Catholics and Orthodox. While apparently impossible ones have been built, for instance the Catholic-Lutheran agreement on Justification.
In my individual experience I find the same surprising principle to be true. I often find more mutual understanding between myself and a fundamentalist Southern Baptist who sincerely believes I am worshiping the great whore of Babylon and on my way to Hell, or with a Muslim who uncompromisingly rejects my belief that Christ is Lord as utter pagan blasphemy, than I find with some active Catholic laity, nuns, especially ex-nuns, priests and even bishops! As fellow Catholics we may agree on more articles of faith than I do with the Protestant or the Muslim, yet I sense we disagree more fundamentally than I do with the Protestant or the Muslim, and not just by personal temperament. Here’s a mystery and when I try to unravel it, here’s what I came up with.
Let’s begin at the beginning with God, and the nature of God, and the will of God. God is Love and God wills above all for us all to enter into that Love forever: to incorporate us into the very mystery of the life of the Trinity. Everything that God does, from banging out the big bang, to incarnating His own Son, to arranging for each and every hair that falls from our head, everything He does is done for that end. Now with this general and very Heavenly principle in mind, let us look at something very earthly and very particular.
Let’s look at the ecumenical situation in a very local time and place. Latin America today. Catholics are complaining that Evangelical, Fundamentalist, and Pentecostal sects are stealing sheep. Protestant sects are growing and Catholic percentages are declining. Well, instead of complaining, let’s look deeper at the reality. Why is this happening? I think the ultimate reason is because God is Love. Because God wills to draw all men to Himself. Because of that spiritual gravity, because nature abhors a vacuum, spiritually as well as physically, and because the Catholic Church has been so remiss in giving God’s children the fullness of the spiritual food that God has given the Church to give out, therefore, the children have been going elsewhere to eat it.
And God has allowed this because God is a good father. And a good father would rather see his children go away from home and live, than stay home and die. Of course things are not that simple, of course motives for leaving the Church and joining the sects are many and mixed and some are simply bad, but still I think the main force that’s driving these events is in the realm of the spirit is the Spirit. When these sheep find little or no Christ in the Catholic Church, whoever’s fault that is, and find Christ more really in a sect, more really objectively and not just subjectively, and certainly not just emotionally, then they’re moving closer to and not farther from the fullness of the Catholic faith. They may have left the Eucharist, the real presence of Christ in the Catholic Church, and that is the fullest presence of Christ in this world, but they did not know the Person who is present there, and whose body they ate with their bodies, but not with their souls.
When these starving sheep leave home to find the manna of Christ in the sects, they are learning the lesson one that should have learned as Catholics but didn’t. And that lesson one is the only possible foundation for lesson two and three and four. That is, the fullness of the faith that the Catholic Church has, the building, rests on one foundation. As Catholics, these people may have gotten the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but they didn’t get the real presence of Christ in their hearts and in their lives. They got the upper stories of the Catholic skyscrapers, but not the foundation. Not the faith and the hope and the love relationship with Christ as Lord and Savior. Therefore, in order to become good Catholics, they must first become good Protestants.