Words to remember

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

Monday, February 2, 2009

After another long absence....

I'm back again. Yes, you can blame Geneseo's Campus Minister, who reminded me that I do, in fact, have a blog.

The big bit of news lately in ecclesiastical circles has been the lifting of the SSPX excommunications by the Holy Father. That was one of the preconditions Bishop Fellay had laid down for continuing talks with Rome, if I remember correctly, so that was a step forward. In a fit of great timing, though, Bishop Williamson had made some highly ill-advised comments about the Holocaust, which naturally got picked up and disseminated like nobody's business.

With respect to this issue, there seem to be two basic perspectives one could take. One is that of a Catholic or someone well-versed in Church history and protocol to realize that the Church is jam-packed with sinners, and that the lifting of an excommunication does not in any way, shape, or form constitute official approval of one's own bizarre and excessive opinions. (That's my new buzzword for today, 'excessive'). The other perspective, simply, doesn't care. The Pope, they say, has brought a Holocaust and an anti-Semite back into the fold, thereby showing precisely where his loyalties lie. "This is not my Church," will come the tremulous reply, perhaps accompanied by muted strains on the violin. The commitment to ecumenism by that good Pope, the Polish one, is now dead. We are giving in to intolerance. And then the darker mutterings will come out: wasn't this Pope in the Hitler Youth? What if he never repented of the errors of his youth? What if he's just been biding his time, waiting until he's been in control long enough to throw out all attempts at ecumenism, rip up the documents of Vatican II, and bring the Church back into the Middle Ages, when we tortured heretics and beat ourselves over the head with boards?

Color me surprised.

Now, I know it's not the most fair thing that I'm putting words into people's mouths, but c'mon, you know this is exactly the sort of thing we're going to be hearing. It's old, it's tired, it's false, but so's atheism.

What is useful in all of this is that it shows us where the fence is with respect to ecumenism. It's a good movement, and born of noble impulses with important work to do, but along the line we seemed to be losing our depth perception. We can't ultimately "get over" all religious and cultural differences. We shouldn't want to, if by that we mean that we are less than forthright about what we believe or indeed stop believing it. And in some ways, that's the only way to go further with this. We can't just say out of solidarity that we are all Jews, or we are all Protestants, or we are all Muslims like we can say "Ich bin ein Berliner". What is upsetting about this situation, though, is that it's not coming about because we have come to that border, that dividing line, on our own, at the end of a process of study, reflection, prayer, and thought. We're coming to it because the world sucker-punched us.

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