Last week, when we were discussing faith schools, a contributor suggested that we might be looking at ways in which we could work together with the C of E. It would be a fruit of ecumenism. I find the idea immediately attractive. Apart from the economies of scale, the two denominations seem to have excellent relationships nowadays and, in the face of a hostile secular world, sharing schools would give great witness to the fruits of Christian cooperation. But then I pause.
The Church has put much effort over the centuries in the battle with indifferentism (I take this to mean that, providing we are Christian, different denominations are more a matter of choice than a big issue). For example, the CDF issued in 2007 “Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church”. Following Vatican II’s more generous statements with regard to other denominations, this made clear that, while the Oriental churches could be properly so called – since they had apostolic succession, the communities born of the Reformation could not be called churches in the proper sense – since they had not (link below). And I recall from a standard moral theology of the 20th century a passage in which the actions of a nurse, when a dying, Protestant, patient asked to see his Minister, were strongly circumscribed lest the scandal of indifferentism might be caused. The most she could do was to prepare a suitable table, and, of course, she could not join in the Minister’s prayers.
While we might feel this view to be harsh, I think the fundamental position has not changed. That is, we can work in many ways with other denominations, and we can recognise their virtues and even benefit from their insights, but we must avoid giving any impression that we relinquish our firm view that the Catholic Church, and none other, is the Church which Christ founded.
It would follow that any cooperation with the C of E over schools could not extend so far that it appeared to admit that a general Christian education would suffice. A Catholic education is unique, and differs in substance from any other variety. Were this to be known to all parties and accepted, it might perhaps be possible to cooperate in other, practical, ways.
I am not here attempting to extend our discussion on faith schools, but I use this example of indifferentism to ask whether or not contributors agree with the way we approach the general question of our relations with other denominations. There may well be some who think our reluctance to cooperate more fully with our fellow Christians is, in itself, a cause of scandal. They might argue that our attitudes counter Christ’s wish that we should all be one. Others would hold that any compromise flies in the face of the truth we hold – and would ultimately end up with a polite mish-mash of beliefs which would impress no one. In effect the claim that Christ founded one Church within which we may be saved would be abandoned.
So what do you think?