WADE ST. ONGE

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Part 13: Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue



XIII. ECUMENISM and INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE


A. Principles of Ecumenism.
- Ecumenism must function according to four key principles.
 
a. Charity. First and most importantly, “in all things . . . charity [must] prevail . . .” (UR4)
i. Unity greater than Division. “. . . for the bonds which unite the faithful are mightier than anything dividing them” (S92), which all must keep in mind.

b. Unity in Essentials Only, Legitimate Diversity Honoured. Secondly, though “all . . . must preserve unity in essentials”, Christians enjoy “freedom in their various forms of spiritual life and discipline, in their different liturgical rites, and even in their theological elaborations of revealed truth” (UR4) and of course, “freedom in what is unsettled” (GS92). Thus, the chief principle that must guide “the restoration or the maintenance of unity and communion” is that the Church must “impose no burden beyond what is essential” (UR18).

c. Fidelity to Catholic Doctrine. Third, however, care must be taken that “superficiality and imprudent zeal” be avoided, and that “ecumenical action . . . be fully and sincerely Catholic . . . in harmony with the faith” (UR24).

d. Initiation by Catholics. Fourth, though ecumenism requires the work of both sides, it is up to Catholics to “make the first approaches” (UR4).


44. First Principle: Truth and Fairness towards Separated Brethren

A. Attitudes toward Separated Brethren. 
                           
a. False Understanding. “Ecumenism consists first in effort to avoid expressions, judgments and actions which do not represent the condition of our separated brethren with truth and fairness” (UR4).

b. Proper Perspective. To this end, we must “get to know the outlook of our separated brethren” through “study . . . with a sense of realism and good will” (UR9).

c. Acknowledgement of Christian Endowments. This will help us to “gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments . . . found among our separated brethren” and remember the grace they have received can even “be a help to our own edification” (UR4).

d. Fuller Understanding. Those “Catholics who already have a proper grounding need to acquire a more adequate understanding of the [faith] of our separated brethren” (UR9) in order to make a “true”, “fair”, and charitable view of them.
i. Areas. This understanding should encompass their “doctrines”, “history”, “spiritual and liturgical life”, and their “religious psychology and general background” (UR9).

B. Ecumenical Activity.

a. Universal. “Everyone” is to engage in ecumenism, especially in his “daily Christian life,” “according to his talent” (UR5). 

b. Outreach . For all Catholics must “be concerned for their separated brethren, praying for them, keeping them informed about the Church, making the first approaches toward them” (UR4).


45. Second Principle: Ecumenical Dialogue

A. Nature of Dialogue.

a. Experts. “Dialogue” should take place “between competent experts from different Churches and Communities . . .”

b. Religious Spirit. . . . and should be “organized in a religious spirit” (UR4).

c. Exchange of Teachings. “. . . in which each explains the teaching of his Communion in greater depth and brings out clearly its distinctive features, giving everyone a truer knowledge and more just appreciation of the teaching and religious life of both Communions” (UR4).

B. Principles of Dialogue.

a. Equality of Sides. First of all, both sides must “treat with the other on an equal footing” (UR9).

b. Charity, Humility, Honesty. The dialogue itself “must proceed with love for the truth, with charity, and with humility” (UR11).

c. Presentation of Doctrine. It is essential that “the [Catholic] doctrine . . . be clearly presented in its entirety”, “more profoundly and precisely”, though “in such terms as our separated brethren can also really understand”, for the purpose of ensuring the method of expression “never become an obstacle to dialogue” (UR11).

d. Subjects of Dialogue. The “subject of the dialogue [with Protestants]” should begin with and focus on “the teaching concerning the Lord's Supper, the other sacraments, worship, [and] the ministry of the Church” as well as with “discussion of the application of the Gospel to moral conduct” (UR22,23).

e. Hierarchy of Beliefs. It must be kept in mind that “in Catholic doctrine there exists a ‘hierarchy’ of truths, since they vary in their relation to the fundamental Christian faith” (UR11).

f. Christian Unity a Prerequisite to Evangelism. Finally, it must be remembered that “the . . . faithful can (fruitfully) engage in dialogue” with the modern world only if “we foster within the Church herself mutual esteem, reverence and harmony” for one another (GS92).


46. Third Principle: Cooperation and Prayer in Common

A. Cooperation for the Good of Humanity. Finally, “Cooperation between them in the duties for the common good of humanity and prayer in common wherever allowed” (UR4).

a. Cooperation. “Catholics should cooperate in a brotherly spirit with their separated brethren” (AG15), both “in social and in technical projects as well as in cultural and religious ones” (AG15), including upholding “human dignity”, pursuing “peace”, “the application of Gospel principles to social life”, “the advancement of the arts and sciences in a truly Christian spirit”, and thus “relieve the afflictions of our times” (UR12).

b. Partial Aim of Fostering Unity. This “cooperation of Catholics with other Christians . . . pursuing apostolic aims” (AA27) not only “vividly expresses the relationship which in fact already unites them [but further] develop[s it]” (UR12) as well.

B. Evangelism. 

a. United Witness. “Catholics should . . . with their separated brethren, mak[e] before the nations a common profession of faith . . . in God and in Jesus Christ” (AG15).

b. Avoid Division and Scandal for the Sake of the Gospel. Because “division among Christians damages the most holy cause of preaching the Gospel . . . and blocks the way to the faith for many” (AG6), “before the whole world . . . Christians [should] confess their faith [and] united in their efforts . . . with mutual respect . . . bear witness” (UR12). If they are unable, then “they should at least be animated by mutual love and esteem” (AG6), taking care to “exclude any appearance of indifference or confusion on the one hand, or of unhealthy rivalry on the other” (AG15).

C. Spiritual Ecumenism.
                           
a. General. It is the “change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians [which is] the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, and merits the name, ‘spiritual ecumenism’” (UR8).

b. Change of Heart and Holiness of Life.
i. Catholic Attitude and Outlook. Regarding the former, “desires of unity take their rise and develop in a mature way” arise “from renewal of the inner life of our minds, from self-denial and an unstinted love”
(UR7). Thus, all must “pray . . . for the grace to be genuinely self-denying, humble, gentle in the service of others, and to have an attitude of brotherly generosity towards [the separated brethren]” (UR7).
ii. Church Renewal. Because “every renewal of the Church is essentially grounded in an increase of fidelity to her own calling” (UR6), it is the “primary duty [of Catholics] to make a careful and honest appraisal of whatever needs to be done or renewed in the Catholic household itself, in order that its life may bear witness
more clearly and faithfully to the teachings and institutions which have come to it from Christ” (UR4).
iii. Christian Perfection. Thus, “all Catholics must therefore aim at Christian perfection . . . that the Church may daily be more purified and renewed . . . ” (UR4)
iv. Correcting Past Errors and Faults. . . . and ensure that “if there have been deficiencies in moral conduct or in church discipline or even in the way that church teaching has been formulated these can and should be set right at the opportune moment” (UR6).

D. Prayer for Unity.

a. Prayer in Common. Finally, it is sometimes “allowable, indeed desirable that Catholics should join in prayer with their separated brethren [to] obtain the grace of unity and . . . express . . . the ties which still bind [all Christians]” (UR8).

b. Trust in Holy Spirit. Furthermore, all must acknowledge that “human powers and capacities cannot achieve this holy objective of Christian unity”, and therefore the Church must “rest all its hope on the prayer of Christ for the Church, on our Father’s love for us, and on the power of the Holy Spirit” (UR24). Thus, prayer becomes the most effective means to achieving Christian unity.


47. Interreligious Dialogue
- Christians should dialogue and collaborate with people of other religions – especially the Muslim and Jews – ensuring that we focus on elements of truth we have in common, hoping it will be a means to evangelization.

A. Principles and Methods of Interreligious Dialogue.

a. Respect and Reverence for Elements of Truth in other Religions. “The Catholic Church . . . regards with sincere reverence those . . . precepts and teachings [in other religions] which . . . often reflect a ray of . . . Truth” (NA2). Christians must “recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral . . . found among these men” (NA2).

b. Dialogue and Collaboration. Christians should engage in “dialogue and collaboration”, which ought to be “carried out with prudence and love” (NA2).

c. Witness of Life and “Dialogue of Salvation”. They must do so as a means to the end of “witness[ing] to the Christian faith and life”, for the Christians “must ever proclaim Christ . . . in whom men may find the fullness of religious life” so that the Church can carry out the “Dialogue of Salvation” (NA2).

d. Brotherhood of All Men. Finally, Christians must “treat [all men] in a brotherly way”, for all are created in God’s image. The Church “reproves [all] discrimination” on any basis – including that of religion (NA5). 

B. Dialogue with the Muslim Brethren.

a. Forgiveness. Regarding Muslims, both sides should “forget (the quarrels and hostilities) of the past” in Christian-Muslim relations (NA3).

b. Esteem and Understanding. Christians should “regard” the Muslims with “esteem” and “work sincerely for mutual understanding” (NA3).

c. Peace and Justice. Both groups should together “preserve” and “promote” peace and justice, for the “benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom” (NA3).

C. Dialogue with the Jewish Brethren. 

a. Attitude towards Judaism. Christians should acknowledge the great “spiritual patrimony” they have received from the Jews, and realize that patrimony is held in “common” (NA4).
i. Anti-Semitism. The Church also repudiates all “anti-Semitism” and stands in opposition to it (NA4).  
ii. Fair and Proper Perspective. Thus, in all “catechesis” and preaching, Jews should not be said to be or considered “rejected” or “accursed”, as was sometimes taught in the past. Rather, nothing should be taught, written, or said that does not conform to the “truth of the Gospel” or the “spirit of Christ” in reference to the Jews (NA4).

b. Understanding and Respect. Christians and Jews must aim for “mutual understanding and respect” (NA4).

c. Dialogue and Joint Studies. This respect and understanding is the natural “fruit” of joint “biblical and theological studies” and “fraternal dialogues”, which Christians and Jews should engage in.

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