An “Ecumenical Catechism”?

“A Vatican official [Cardinal Kasper] has floated the idea of a shared “ecumenical catechism” as one of the potential fruits of 40 years of dialogue among Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and members of the Reformed churches.”

Discuss.

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “An “Ecumenical Catechism”?

  1. Terry Maher (Past Elder)

    Absolute doublespeak. Pure deception, not grounded in a desire to be deceptive toward others, but in self-deception then turned outward toward others.

    We all end up Catholics, bottom line, end of story. The Catholic Church, the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church. Much more nicely put that things like every knee must bow to the Roman pontiff, but bottom line, we all end up Catholics, the real goal, the only “unity”, even considered.

    Much more could be said — re the fact that common texts are meaningless absent a common understanding of them, re the fact that none of the “dialogue partners” uphold their historic confessions any more anyway most certainly the abomination that is the Lutheran World Federation, re the “deficits” remain deficits for everyone else but become rather only “wounds” in the RCC.

    But, even if such were not said, even if it were entirely wrong, though it is not, the fact remains, the clear and foregone conclusion is, that at the end of the process, we all end up Catholics.

    Which admits of no dialogue at all, just how to make it so.

    • We all end up Catholics, bottom line, end of story.

      Excellent notion!

      • Terry Maher (Past Elder)

        Exactly. So if you want to convert me, go ahead and try, but don’t bury it under a whole bunch of doublespeak about dialogue, ecumenism, Christian unity, etc.

  2. GAB

    An impossible and counterproductive notion. It seems to have been forgotten that in the Christological controversies of the early centuries, the thing one wanted to avoid at all costs was a statement or creed that everyone could agree to while happily believing mutually exclusive things. The thing to find was that one word, that one phrase, to which the orthodox would assent but the heterodox never would.

    We may have become more civil towards each other since then (for all the battles over interpreting and applying Vatican II, it hasn’t at any point devolved into street riots as it did for some of those Councils), but along the way some of us appear to have forgotten the value of doctrinal precision.

    • It seems to have been forgotten that in the Christological controversies of the early centuries, the thing one wanted to avoid at all costs was a statement or creed that everyone could agree to while happily believing mutually exclusive things.

      Well, historically speaking, Gabby, that ain’t actually so. The history of the Christological controversies in the East – especially the long and arduous relationship between the Imperial and Miaphysite Churches – is precisely characterised by repeated attempts to find a formula to which everyone can ascribe. And again, this was the attempt in the Council of Florence. And again, this was the attempt in the Joint Declaration. What is true is that there were always “hard heads” (as they were and are still regarded by many) who refused to accept such statements and saw them as “sell outs”.

      I expect we will always have (as we have always had) in the Church two camps, the one which prizes “unity” above ” doctrinal purity”, and the other which prizes “doctrinal purity” over “unity”.

      • GAB

        Hmm…it would appear perhaps that my history is not sufficiently nuanced in this matter. But surely the whole problem with the Monothelite compromise (I’m assuming this is what you mean when you mention the Imperials and Miaphysites) is that, in attempting a compromise that did not involve submission to Chalcedon, it not only did not bring agreement but in fact created a whole new heresy?

        Regarding the Joint Declaration, I think the beauty of that is that it has enabled us to see both our agreements and our disagreements (both of which remain essentially unchanged) more clearly, rather than muddy the waters by using language that each side interprets in a manner consistent with their pre-existing doctrinal assumptions, so that it looks like we agree when we don’t. I don’t think any doctrinal precision was sacrificed in the process. The Joint Declaration is not to Trent as, say, the First Formulary of Sirmium was to Nicea. I suspect that this Ecumenical Catechism, however, might fit that analogy rather better.

        (As for Florence, I fear I am not sufficiently well-read on it to comment.)

  3. Kyle

    David,

    On a related subject, an Anglican friend and I were discussing the document ‘Mary: grace and hope in Christ’ which was prepared by the Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity. One contentious point was about the assumption of Mary. He is skeptical; obviously my mind is bound. We were unclear however what the authors of this document meant in footnote 10, writing:

    “The dogma leaves open, however, the question as to what the absence of her mortal remains means in historical terms. Likewise, ‘assumed body and soul’ is not intended to privilege a particular anthropology. More positively, ‘assumed body and soul’ can be seen to have Christological and ecclesiological implications. Mary as ‘God bearer’ is intimately, indeed bodily, related to Christ: his own bodily glorification now embraces hers. And, since Mary bore his body of flesh, she is intimately related to the Church, Christ’s body. In brief, the formulation of the dogma responds to theological rather than historical or philosophical questions in relation to Mary.”

    My Anglican friend interpreted this to mean that Mary’s assumption was not so much an ‘event’ — her mortal body may have remained behind. Rather, her assumption means that she received the fullness of salvation in body and soul (leaving aside the historical question about her own mortal body.) It seems that this is in fact how other Anglicans understand it. The contentious question is, What does it mean to ‘privilege a certain anthropology’?

    Obviously this has certain implications for an ecumenical catechism. What would be the point of a catechism if we had radically different understanding of it?

    • I actually like “Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ” as a general statement. It gets the right emphasis. But as you say, this footnote is problematic.

      I think the main difficulty is with the expressed concerns about “a certain anthropology”. This harks back to the 20th Century debate about (and almost total rejection of) the traditional lanuage of “body and soul” in Christian anthropology. As Ratzinger showed at length in his book “Eschatology”, you cannot reject this anthropology and remain anything like an orthodox Christian. It is precisely in the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary that this doctrine – with its eschatological implications – is encapsulated. The doctrine makes no sense without the affirmation that Mary’s BODY, and not just her soul, is in heaven. This of course directly relates to our own hopes of resurrection. What meaning does the word “resurrection” have if it does not include the resurrection of my physical body? This too, then, directly impacts upon the Cardinal Christian Teaching of the bodily resurrection of Christ.

      You have reason to worry about this footnote, I think.

      • Kyle

        We do have to be careful about what this bodily resurrection will be. Does it mean a resurrection of the individual molecules which constituted our body? What about bodies that were destroyed in death? What about bodies which have suffered significant deterioration? Christian anthropology is largely reticent about what the resurrected body will be like.

        So I have to wonder, would it be permissible for a Catholic to hold that Mary was assumed body and soul but her body, while being a physical body, was not the same body she had on earth? I am genuinely interested. I really have no idea.

  4. matthias

    I think that PE and GAB in the course of their comments have hit the nail on the head as regards doctrinal purity .for you have denominatonal bodies that may pay lip service to the historic creeds but who deny them in reality. The Christological controversy being one example,and it is being cited by theologians in the US eg RC Sproul of Ligonier Ministries and Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church as being the next big issue to face Christianity again. If there is no doctrinal purity,under the leading of the Holy Spirit, then what we have is unity in the dark.

  5. Susan Peterson

    Kasper wants to make a joint catechism with bodies which largely aren’t even Christian any more!
    At least, taking the Episcopal church in the United States as an example of Anglicans, their general convention would not even vote to uphold the Nicene Creed!
    I would say that the liberal bodies of most of those communions, which are the ones Kasper is used to dealing with, have discarded the very idea of creedal adherence. You couldn’t get them to agree to the Apostles’ Creed as a statement of fact.
    On the third day He rose again means that his followers remembered him clearly and his presence became real to them and they were inspired (by some vague spirit, not by God the Holy Spirit) to go out and talk about Him. These folks will SEEM to say they believe in the basic truths of the faith, but if you boil down their foggy language, they don’t.

    And those Protestants who take their view of Christianity seriously are not about to have a joint catechism with the Catholic Church!

    Kasper is still living in a post Vatican II dream which shouldn’t have survived the 1970’s.
    Susan Peterson

  6. I must say, at this juncture, that I generally agree with these comments. From my experience of trying to even agree on short statements involving more than two dialogue partners, it is a failed venture.

    I mean, even if you were to take the traditional structure of a Catechism (Creed, Sacraments, Lord’s Prayer, 10 Commandments), you would have difficulties right off. What on earth would an ecumenical group be able to say about the 6th Commandment (assuming you could even agree on the numbering of the Commandments!).

    I expect that Cardinal Kasper and the PCPCU see this as a part of their “Harvesting the Fruits” project (which has already produced one book: http://www.amazon.com/Harvesting-Fruits-Christian-Ecumenical-Dialogue/dp/1441162720). You could have a go at something like an expanded “Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry” statement (the 1982 WCC Faith and Order document: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/wcc-commissions/faith-and-order-commission/i-unity-the-church-and-its-mission/baptism-eucharist-and-ministry-faith-and-order-paper-no-111-the-lima-text.html), but its usefulness as a “Catechism” (the expressed purpose of which is to catechise according to the doctrines of the community which publishes it) would be questionable.

    Nice try, Your Eminence, but I don’t think there is much of a future in it.

  7. Christine

    Kasper is still living in a post Vatican II dream which shouldn’t have survived the 1970’s.

    Yup!