The inimitable ‘living in the shadowlands’ blog has done it again, with a post today called ‘Christian (how about starting with Catholic) Unity Week' : and I have to say that – IMHO – it hits the nail precisely on the head.
Anyone who spends any amount of time looking about the Catholic blogs of the UK and US cannot fail to be aware that there is a tremendous amount of infighting going on all the time – much (though by no means all) of it between the Novus Ordo and Summorum Pontifium camps. Similarly, the debate over the new English translation of the Missale Romanum seems to be gathering momentum, given the Bitter Pill’s willingness to give space to Fr Michael Ryan’s attempts to prevent its implementation, and the enthusiasm of ‘Stand Up for Vatican II’ for ensuring that nothing shall ever change, providing only that it does not pre-date Vatican II.
Now; if you think I’m revealing a point of view, you’d be right. I am firmly of the belief that His Holiness’ commitment to the Hermeneutic of Continuity is the right approach for the Catholic Church – and, indeed, that it always was.
However, I am even more firmly of the belief that there’s something even more important out there; which is that His Church obeys Our Lord’s ultimate request : ‘Ut unum sint’ – that they may all be one.
I became a Catholic for exactly that reason; that I might belong to the One Church which can show an unbroken existence from the beginning, and which has only developed, never changed, the Faith which Christ gave to the Apostles. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised when I find as much division inside the Catholic Church as I ever found outside it : but perhaps it saddens me more.
We are ONE Church – but that doesn’t mean that we all have to be identical, and have identical opinions and tastes; we just have to believe the same things. The Creeds say nothing about the use of Latin in the liturgy; nothing about whether the priest celebrates versus populum or ad Orientem. Those are not essentials; and as far as I can see (and I am wide open to criticism/correction from suitably informed and authoritative sources) anyone who tries to make them essentials of the faith is simply fomenting schism.
In last Sunday’s Second Lesson we listened to Paul writing to the Corinthians, saying that ‘There is a variety of gifts but always the same spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of ways in different people, it is the same God Who is working in all of them.’ Why is it that we can say these things in the Lessons, but not put them into practice in the daily life of the Church ?
Don’t mistake me; I’m not perfect, and I’m sure that I’ve contributed my share to the wounds which we impose on Jesus by our disunity – but I want all this to stop; I want everyone in the Catholic Church (including myself) to accept, and respect, that everyone in good faith is entitled to have his or her own opinion on things like liturgy, and then, as long as we are not disobedient to the Magisterium, to satisfy his or her own tastes.
What I don’t think we’re entitled to do is to say is that our tastes are ‘right’, and that all those who disagree with us are ‘wrong’, whether it be about liturgy, or devotion, or anything else which is a matter of opinion : only the Church is entitled to do that – which in practice means the Pope - and then it's no longer a matter of opinion, but a matter of fact.
One of the best things about being Catholic is that we can have certainty on fundamental matters; and they cause quite enough divisions within Christendom by themselves - divisions which the Holy Father is striving in so many ways to heal. Can't we at least avoid adding to his burdens by creating internal dissension within his own Church about things that aren’t fundamental ?
If we do that, then perhaps – and only perhaps – we may be able to persuade the world that, despite our previous bad showing (at least in worldly terms), what we offer, in our unity, really IS what Jesus offered; and that Ubi Petrus, Ibi Ecclesia.