27 February 2014

The Politics of "Ecumenism"

A thought is growing upon me. I throw it out simply as a balon d'essai for you to shoot down. It is: that Ecumenism is in practice often more to do with changing the body one currently belongs to than (to dust down some of the old cliches) about Learning from Others, Sharing our Respective Insights. (I say 'often' because, of course there are genuine ecumenists such as Fr Aidan Nichols, who has devoted so much time and energy to working in our interests.) Take the question of the SSPX. I have little sense that among professional Catholic ecumenists there is burning desire to Learn from the Priestly Society, to garner its specific Insights. It might be thought Progressive and Ecumenical to organise an 'exchange' and send some Catholic seminarians for a term or two to an Orthodox  ... or even an Anglican ... seminary; but when did you last hear of a Catholic bishop planning to send some of his seminarians to Econe?

And when Good Pope Benedict set up the Ordinariates, how did some of those Catholics who had always been noisiest about Unity react? With all the horror that their mentor the Evil One also felt. Because the Mammoth in the Room was that they had long been doing anything they could to Anglicanise the Catholic Church ... Clerical Marriage ... ordained women ... sabotaged sexual ethics ... diluted doctrine ... you name it. Unity was to be damned as soon as they realised that what God was in fact giving them was an influx of highly orthodox and orthopractic Anglican Catholics. Their own very specific and unmistakable choice of which part of the Anglican inheritance they had wished to be united with ... and which part of it they had strongly preferred to remain disunited from ... was a function of their own intra-ecclesial political agenda. Their bluff was called. Anglican Catholics and SSPXers are those to whom the Catholic Church is in fact closest, but who, because of that very propinquity, are ignored (and worse) by those who use the banner of Ecumenism as a banner of dissent from the Magisterium.

In the style of old-fashioned General Papers, I offer the following Essay Question, replete with spoof quotation. "An enthusiasm for Unity is sometimes motivated by a prior enthusiasm to change ones own Church." Discuss.


Fr. Christopher George Phillips said...

The original intentions as set by Fr Paul of Graymoor can be found at this link:

Many of us in the Anglican Use of the Pastoral Provision established by Blessed John Paul II have been using these Octave prayers and intentions throughout these past thirty years of the existence of the Pastoral Provision.

Maximilian Hanlon said...

Isn't ecumenism *always* about changing one's own church?

peregrinusto said...

There is much in what you say about motivation to change, Father, but surely the goal is, as Newman reminds us, for there to be change in the One, Holy Catholic Church i.e. development under the guidance of the Holy Spirit drawing from all those sources that mark true development.

Prods in of the pneumatic sort often come from unlikely sources, as you so perceptively point out.

Jack Tollers said...

I think you're really onto something...
(it could turn up being a book in its own right).

I had exactly the same intuition when reading Congar's "My Journal of the Council" (an absolutely must).

J. T.