Words to remember

"Never doubt in the darkness what you believed in the light."

Monday, May 5, 2008

There be readers!

So I found out today for the first time that there have been people who actually read this traditionalist monstrosity that is my blog. :D This makes me inordinately happy, and, par consequence, even more drunk with my own power and dazzling literary talent.

OK, delusions of grandeur aside, what's been up lately, cyberspace might ask? Not too terribly much the frazzled student would respond. Papers, studying, (by which I mean not writing papers, but thinking about it, and putting off studying, while acknowledging that I probably should), making a few preparations for the summer. Finding work will be a pain.

I also read around the news lately that the Holy See has released an instruction to bishops not to release parish or diocesan records to Mormons, as evidently there's a practice among them of re-baptizing the dead, so that thereby they presumably become Mormons. I don't think there's any sacramental concerns with it; baptism, after all, is a one-shot deal. Once validly baptized, the character which is imprinted on the individual is indelible. Certainly it wouldn't be altered in any way by something done post mortem. I suppose the primary concern is scandal; I can imagine that some families would be really annoyed to find out that this is being done without their knowledge or consent. So it's good to have that out of the way. This segways, however, into a discussion about the proper direction of ecumenism.

Most more traditionally-minded folks, it seems to me, hear "ecumenism" and react in ways running the gamut from blanching slightly and changing the subject to quaking, volcanic rage. What is the place of ecumenism in today's Church? As an end in and of itself, it doesn't seem to offer too terribly much. A great ecumenical movement will result in everyone deciding everyone else is okay, but where does that leave us? If the result is a little more knowledgeable than before, well and good. What needs to be asked, though, is where we go from there. Should our desire be that Protestants stay Protestant, that Jewish people stay Jewish, that Anglicans put off swimming the Tiber for another century? I don't think so.

One of the biggest problems up to this time in inter-religious or inter-denominational discussions is that the parties are talking at each other and leveling accusations which leaves the other side scratching their heads. For example, there's the old canard that Catholics worship Mary. By the same token, there's the misconception that the Protestant soteriology and notion of salvation implies a one-shot deal which permits license to all kinds of terrible, titillating things. So clearing up that kind of propaganda is a useful function. Where to from there?

It seems arguable that ecumenism should be subordinate to the principle lex suprema salus animarum est. This is not to argue against the passive approach of conversion; that is to say, providing a moral and spiritual witness without proselytizing is still commendable. But there must be some definable goal that is to be reached, or what we have in the ecumenical movement is a very pleasant sounding, very toothless philosophy which is quite nice but is the theological equivalent of a boondoggle.

This case with the Mormons is perhaps a bad example. The "ecumenical" case, which would probably be summed up in a more laissez-faire attitude towards the re-baptisms, is pretty thin. By contrast, arguing that parish records ought to be kept close is almost academic. What about in other things, though? The fracas over the Good Friday prayer seems like a good test case.

In the Extraordinary Form, the prayer "Pro Iudaeis" already discussed on this august and learned blog originally called for the blindness of the Jewish people to be removed. The references to shadows and darkness (not pertaining to the Jews themselves, but rather in terms of their knowledge of Jesus Christ) were considered insensitive and provocative. That's highly debatable, naturally. But the proper approach was clear in the rewrite- the specific objections were answered. The offending references to darkness and blindness were removed. Then the complaint turned to the very issue of asking for Jewish conversion. Well, on this Roma locuta est, et causa finita est. The rhetoric employed in asking for conversion is variable, but conversion is not. That is something that will always be part of what we believe.

What is interesting is why this causes a problem. We are told continually that we must let our light shine; we are called to go out and preach the Gospel to all nations, we are reminded that no one puts a lantern under a basket. We must be convinced of the truth of Christianity, and must take Him at His word when He says "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Straying from that, however, and simply letting people "be", of course, would have meant a few important things: 1. Europe would still be pagan, 2. no Middle Ages, no Renaissance, no Enlightenment, and consequence, no modern world, 3. Christianity would've died off in a generation. All things considered, we probably wouldn't like this situation much. We can certainly be respectful of other religions, and should endeavor to become knowledgeable about them. We must still remain firmly convinced that God loves all men and women, and reaches out to them. But at the same time, we should not expect to remain a viable religion if we do not underscore the huge importance of responding to that grace which God gives us.

This is always a touchy topic, and usually I just make everyone grumpy when discussing it. And the direct approach is probably the most honest, even if it's the one most likely to result in the opposing party shaking their head in disgust and leaving. Still, I do not think that I would be true to what I believe if, when asked "Do you really want to live in a world in which everyone is a Christian?", I answered anything but "You bet." On issues of practicality, however, I am a bit more realistic.

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