“I don’t like Protestants”. That’s what I learnt at school. it takes us back to the Forties – when I spent 10 years in a Catholic (Jesuit) boarding school. I don’t mean that this was formally taught but there was a general view that Protestantism was a betrayal of the true Church. Moreover, its priests were not really priests at all – in most instances there was no connection of ordination, leading back to the Apostles, and thus its “pretend” priests lacked the Eucharistic identity. It appeared to me that we preferred agnostics and atheists to what we thought of as pseudo Christians.
But “The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis redintegratio, recognised that those who believe in Christ and are baptised with water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are truly our brothers and sisters in Christ. Through baptism they “are incorporated into Christ”, that is “truly incorporated into the crucified and glorified Christ, and reborn to a sharing of the divine life”. Moreover, the Council recognised that the communities to which these brothers and sisters belong are endowed with many essential elements Christ wills for his Church, are used by the Spirit as “means of salvation,” and have a real, though incomplete, communion with the Catholic Church.
I find this pleasing because, although I am a born Catholic, I have a direct descent from Anthony Thorold, the late Victorian Anglican bishop of Winchester and, formerly, Rochester. His portrait (by Spy) hangs in the loo.
So my question to Catholics, Protestants or any other Christian communions is whether we see, and treat, each other as a unique group of love and companionship. And do we put this in practice in our social work and in the many other ways which Christians can bring to our societies?
Below, you may see an important, official, account of the Catholic Church on this subject. It’s lengthy, and so is the link. But it’s well worth reading.
Every year, during Lent our local Churches Together group would try to run a series of talks to bring our local Christian communities together. My Irish Parish Priest was simply not interested so I volunteered to represent our church. The Baptist minister was the most enthusiastic but I suspect his principle aim was to try and recruit for his church community. The only Anglican Priest who was enthusiastic was disliked by his congregation – who seemed to attend for the sole purpose of proving everyone else wrong. The Methodists were the group most open to the views of other faiths and the Catholics were elderly and just like joining in. The one lasting positive memory I had was from 2 Women Ministers, one a Methodist and the other an Anglican Vicar both of whom seemed to think that Christian ministry was more than just maintaining a specific denominational faith community. I tried very hard to make a contribution but just felt the whole thing was a bit underwhelming.
However, I did feel a strong presence of Christ in some individual ministers of other churches.
Really commendable work, mulliganp – thank you.
I believe it is precisely these grass root type efforts more than the great public gestures of Church leaders that really move the cause of Christian unity forward.
Ultimately it is leaders who will have to follow the people in their mutual engagement with each other as church!
As a (mildly) provocative statement; it might be useful if Catholics started behaving as if they loved each other.
I read somewhere that in the 1950s a pupil at a Jesuit school asked what was the spiritual authority of the Church of England. He received the fizzing reply: ‘Henry VIII’s church has as much spiritual authority as British Railways.’
Sixty years ago the Established Church was still confident. Its liturgy was dignified, and though (in most places) rather dull by Catholic standards, had better musical resources. Anglicans of an older generation could still be condescending towards those they called ‘Roman’ Catholics, in part because of anti-Irish prejudice. Catholics were defensive; the Prots might have stolen our buildings but we still had the Mass and a long list of martyrs who died for the old religion.
Now it is difficult to judge which is declining faster, the Church of England or the English Catholic Church, so it makes sense for Christians of all denominations to try to make common cause where possible. Don’t expect anything from the so-called leadership – Justin Welby, my Anglican friends tell me, is singularly useless and the present papacy is more dysfunctional than the Trump White House.
There is a quote from St. John Henry Newman which I particularly like. “Protestants should be more Catholic and Catholics should be more Christian”. He never doubted that the Catholic Church was the one, true Church but there were many attitudes in the Catholic Church which he did not like and did not subscribe to. He found that the Ultramontanes did not behave as true Christians should behave.
Well said, John Nolan. Our leaders are incompetent but they love their status.
The combination of the posts by John and Geordie had me scurrying to correctly quote Lord Acton “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” – later in the same letter he writes “There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it”. Those who believe they could fix things if only they were Pope, King or President should bear that in mind.
I’ve read the attachment at least, which I found deathly tedious. Over the life of my 35 journey toward Catholic ordination I have traversed the free church and the Anglican communion. During my missionary years i China I must have worked with pretty much every Christian tribe going.. except Roman Catholics. Over this past 5years as Catholic prison chaplain I have shared an office with Sikh, Anglican, Free church, Moslem and even Buddhist chaplains-all of whom I have been proud to have as colleagues and ‘brothers’ in faith.
There is most definitely a confraternity of faith to all those of goodwill who in some way seek to serve and promote the good. As with concentric circles there is a deeper shared understanding of mystery with some than for others, likewise with the shape of conformity to each.
Quentin asks the question:
“So my question to Catholics, Protestants or any other Christian communions is whether we see, and treat, each other as a unique group of love and companionship. And do we put this in practice in our social work and in the many other ways which Christians can bring to our societies?”
In my own experience the simple answer is:
At the level of the local parish, No on both counts.
However I am not sure that Quentin’s question has any meaning beyond that of academic idealism. Please, someone, prove me wrong!
The East-West Schism of 1054, the Great Western Schism of 1378, and the Catholic Protestant Schism (Reformation) of 1517 are three of the major events in our own church history of division.
And currently with 30,000 Christian denominations and most of these having further sects within them, it would seem that division is a central feature of our making when it comes to the Church-making that we have accomplished so far.
Given that Jesus gave us no blue-print for how to be together structurally, this all appears a poor response to His desire to establish the Kingdom of God among us and for us all to be One.
On a positive note, it is good to be aware and recognise the honest efforts to address our divisions by the leaders of major faith traditions.
One was the historic meeting of 1964 between Athenagoras, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and Paul VI, Roman Pontiff. It marked the end of a 500-year period since the last attempt to mend our divide between East and West.
Another was in 1966 with the extraordinary gift of Paul VI when he gave his episcopal ring to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the saintly Michael Ramsey. A truly honest and beautiful statement of episcopal equality.
But around the world it is more the protestant churches of liberal traditions, those who invest their decision making in corporate bodies more than centralised episcopacies. who have found it possible to overcome their historic divisions.
The World Evangelical Alliance with its participation extending to 600 million plus evangelical Christian Churches and the World Council of Churches which has created understanding and communication among Christians with around 350 Christian Churches are both major surges of our time, towards Christian unity.
There is no doubt that there remains a lot of purging yet to be done in our attempts to move to closer unity.
And perhaps, hanging the portrait of a venerable Anglican Bishop in your loo is also commendable as a gesture of symbolic value – sufficient in itself to frighten the living crap out of any unsuspecting Catholic using such a welcome facility.
“But around the world it is more the protestant churches of liberal traditions, those who invest their decision making in corporate bodies more than centralised episcopacies. who have found it possible to overcome their historic divisions.”
Just out of interest, have you ever actually dealt personally with any of these corporate bodies?
As far as I know of the 30,000 churches about 29,950+ are Protestant churches. There are only a handful of others, the Catholic Church with 1.3 billion members, the Eastern Orthodox Church with 220 million and the Oriental Orthodox Churches with around 60 million. The Catholic Church, with the most centralised episcopacy, seems to have done well in promoting Christian unity by not having continuous fragmentation into smaller and smaller churches in the first place. A similar thing applies with the Orthodox churches, which have also generally had much fewer splits over the centuries.
“At the level of the local parish, No on both counts.”
This sentiment has often gone through my mind but, on reflection, I think we are being a little bit harsh towards out fellow parishioners. For all of us it is “work in progress” and we are all at different levels of development. There is also the fact that the Holy Spirit is working in each of us but He doesn’t let everyone else know what’s going on.
We talk a lot these days about “the community” and working as a “community” but what is the definition of “community”? The most important community is the spiritual community: the Communion of Saints. They are praying and suffering for us and we won’t know anything about it until we arrive in the next world. Many years ago, when my older brother was at school he told a teacher who his Godmother was and the teacher, who knew her site well, commented, “You’ll get to Heaven whether you like it or not”.
correction: “quite” instead of “site”
Yes you are right. Another point for Quentin’s discussion is that none of us actually know the extent of parishioners private involvement in charity/voluntary work. As regards parish led..in other words leadership instigated or approved, then the answer is definitely a no on both counts. On the other hand it may be yes. For example I am an avid admirer of The Salvation Army and give frequently to their admirable local work, but no one knew that till now. Also I worked for some years as a Samaritan and did a stint with our local Street Pastors group which are evangelical church outfits.
This is why I say there is little of substance behind Quentin’s posed question which was as follows:
” “So my question to Catholics, Protestants or any other Christian communions is whether we see, and treat, each other as a unique group of love and companionship. And do we put this in practice in our social work and in the many other ways which Christians can bring to our societies?”
Unless the ‘we’ is properly qualified then there is no real question to answer.
Quentin writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/12/07/do-you-like-heretics/ ) :
// So my question to Catholics, Protestants or any other Christian communions is whether we see, and treat, each other as a unique group of love and companionship. And do we put this in practice in our social work and in the many other ways which Christians can bring to our societies? //
I was a convert, at age fourteen or fifteen. I’d been an indifferent Methodist, with little or no mental or sentimental attachment to Methodism. The church was simply where my parents attended services from time to time and where I was a Boy Scout. At age thirteen or fourteen, I was sent to a Catholic military boarding school, where I spent two years, until graduating out. During my two years there, I was exposed to architectural, artistic, and spiritual beauty for probably the first time. It was partly because of that experience and partly, no doubt, simply because I wanted to belong socially, that I joined the Church. I don’t remember being particularly interested in the theology.
A little later, I was drawn to the local parish church building, to both the Romanesque beauty and the sense of quiet and peace within. It was emotional and spiritual sanctuary and consolation in times of personal emotional turmoil. In those days, Catholic churches were open throughout the day and late into the night.
Since then, I’ve retained both reverence and respect for Catholicism, even though, at the time of Vatican II, its custodians brutally trashed its beauty in favor of a pedestrian modernity that left me cold. Thus, I’m an estranged Catholic, drawn to the old beauty and repulsed by the modern incarnation. And, thence, to answer your question.
Do I see Catholics and other Christians as “a unique group of love and companionship”? No, I don’t think so. There’s potential there for such feelings, I suppose, but now, as an adult, when theology has come to matter much more in the mix than it did sixty-some years ago, I’m not drawn to a creed that even the current pope seems to have little use for, having effectively discarded it as irrelevant to his model of a church dedicated almost entirely to political and social activism. That’s not the church to which I was drawn as an adolescent. There’s little or no spiritual and emotional sanctuary there, or people who would treasure it if it were.
Best wishes to all for a blessed Christmas.