Tuesday, March 09, 2010

"The Goal of Ecumenism": Levada on Anglicans

Fresh off presiding and preaching at last week's dedication of a new Nebraska seminary chapel for the traditionalist Priestly Fraternity of St Peter, the church's "Grand Inquisitor" -- California's own Cardinal William Levada, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- went North, using a Saturday address at a dinner in Kingston to offer his most in-depth comments to date on Anglicanorum coetibus, the Vatican's controversial new pathway for groups of disaffected Anglicans to swim the Tiber whilst maintaining significant elements of the patrimony of the English church.

Reflecting the significance of Levada's remarks, a transcript of his text has been posted by our friends at Salt + Light....

Here, but a snip from the lengthy talk:
Union with the Catholic Church is the goal of ecumenism—one could put, “we phrase it that way”. Yet the very process of working towards union works a change in churches and ecclesial communities that engage one another in dialogue, in actual instances of entering into communion do indeed transform the Catholic Church by way of enrichment. Let me add right away that when I say enrichment I am referring not to any addition of essential elements of sanctification and truth to the Catholic Church. Christ has endowed her with all the essential elements. I am referring to the addition of modes of expression of these essential elements, modes which enhance everyone’s appreciation of the inexhaustible treasures bestowed on the Church by her divine founder.

The new reality of visible unity among Christians should not thought of as the coming together of disparate elements that previously had not existed in any one community. The Second Vatican Council clearly teaches that all the elements of sanctification and truth which Christ bestowed on the Church are found in the Catholic Church. What is new then is not the acquisition of something essential which had hitherto been absent. Instead, what is new is that perennial truths and elements of holiness already found in the Catholic Church are given new focus, or a different stress by the way they are lived by various groups of the faithful who are called by Christ to come together in perfect communion with one another, enjoying the bonds of creed, code, cult and charity, in diverse ways that blend harmoniously.

Since the Church is like a sacrament, she bears within herself the truth and grace of Christ. When we say that Christ reveals God, and that the Church bears the revelation of Christ in the world, we are admitting that the unenlightened human intellect is not up to the task of knowing God’s ways perfectly. We humans need revelation, enlightenment. Baptism as the foundational sacrament of Christian faith is the normal means for that enlightenment to begin to penetrate our intellects. Even so, while God in Christ has revealed as much about Himself and about our relationship to Him as we need, revealed truths about the infinite God still exceed our finite intelligence. There is always an element of mystery in our knowledge of God and God’s work. Therefore, we fully expect that, while we may accurately know what can be truthfully said, the full knowledge of what that means is enhanced by the contemplation of many groups of people on the same mystery.

This contemplation is not just an academic exercise. It is also a necessarily an exercise of worship. That is why the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, Lumen Gentium, closely associates elements of truth with elements of sanctification. Worship enables one to penetrate divine truth with the clarity of lovers, who have gotten to know their beloved, through his love of them. And worship thus impels believers to study, just as their sturdy strengthens their love of the God whose goodness they have come to learn.

Visible union with the Catholic Church does not mean absorption into a monolith, with the absorbed body being lost to the greater whole, the way a teaspoon of sugar would be lost if dissolved in a gallon of coffee. Rather, visible union with the Catholic Church can be compared to an orchestral ensemble. Some instruments can play all the notes, like a piano. There is no note that a piano has that a violin or a harp or a flute or a tuba does not have. But when all these instruments play the notes that the piano has, the notes are enriched and enhanced. The result is symphonic, full communion. One can perhaps say that the ecumenical movement wishes to move from cacophony to symphony, with all playing the same notes of doctrinal clarity, the same euphonic chords of sanctifying activity, observing the rhythm of Christian conduct in charity, and filling the world with the beautiful and inviting sound of the Word of God. While the other instruments may tune themselves according to the piano, when playing in concert there is no mistaking them for the piano. It is God’s will that those to whom the Word of God is addressed, the world, that is, should hear one pleasing melody made splendid by the contributions of many different instruments.

The Catholic Church approaches ecumenical dialogue convincedm as the Second Vatican Council’s degree of ecumenism states, that, and I quote here: “Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God.” (Decree on Ecumenism: Unitatis Redintegratio)

She believes that she is the mystical body of Christ and she is convinced that the Church of Christ subsists in her because she recognizes that, while she is like the piano that has all of the notes, that is, all of the elements of sanctification and truth, many of those notes are shared with other communities and those communities often have beautiful ways of sounding the notes that can lead to a heightened appreciation of truth and holiness, both within the Catholic Church and within her partners in the ecumenical endeavour....

To return to our earlier metaphor, people long for discordant tones and voices to be harmonized, united, and when an individual or, indeed, a community, is ready for unity with the Church of Christ that subsists in the Catholic Church, it would be a betrayal of Catholic ecumenical principles and goals to refuse to embrace them and to embrace them with all the distinctive gifts that enrich the Church, that help her approach the world symphonically, sounding together or united. Just as there is one Saviour, so there is one universal sacrament of Salvation, the Church. The Eastern Churches that are united to Rome are enjoined to preserve their distinct institutions, liturgical rites, ecclesiastical traditions and way of Christian life. By so doing, the Second Vatican Council teaches they do not harm the Church’s unity, but rather, make it manifest.

The experience we are embarking on with Anglicanorum coetibus promises also to make the Church’s fundamental unity manifest by adding to her life distinctive expressions of Christ’s gifts of holiness and truth. Nevertheless, a strict comparison between the Anglicans and the Eastern Church and Catholic Churches would not be correct, I hasten to add. The Eastern Churches, like the Ukrainian Catholic Church so numerous in Canada, are in the fullest sense of the term “Churches” since they have valid apostolic succession and thus valid Eucharist. They are therefore called Churches “sui juris” because they have their own legal structures of governance, all while maintaining bonds of hierarchical communion with the Bishop of Rome. The term Church is applied differently to the Anglican Communion for reasons rehearsed over a century ago by Pope Leo XIII in Apostolicae curae. So the legal framework for Anglican communities seeking full communion precisely as communities would be different from that of Eastern Churches. They remain a part of the Western Latin Church tradition. That is why the Holy Father has decided to erect personal ordinarities in order to provide pastoral care for such groups who wish to share their gifts corporately with their Catholic sisters and brothers and with whom they have shared a long history before the Reformation in the 16th century.
PHOTO: Jason Steinberg/San Francisco Sentinel