Last week I put up a post suggesting that whilst Christian Unity was important, the internal Unity of the Church was perhaps more so – or rather, was at least within our power to control, and was also something of a stumbling block if we are trying to persuade other Christians that they should find their way home to the Catholic Church. One or two friends suggested to me that my words might have been a little on the strong side – especially for a convert !
In his homily this morning at the Oratory, F. Creighton-Jobe preached on the subject of Christian Unity; and I was heartened to hear him raise the subject of disunity within the Church, and say, without equivocation ‘these divisions are sinful; of course, they’re the work of the Devil !’
I was delighted to hear him say it, because it is what I feel, but would not have dared say; and then I remembered – F. Creighton-Jobe is a convert too ! . . . and if he can, perhaps I can as well.
Accordingly, relying on his authority, I would like to say a little more about this topic as the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity comes to an end : particularly, perhaps, because we in England are, at present, being looked at closely by many outsiders who are seeking to discern whether the Holy Ghost is leading them, with the assistance of the Holy Father’s initiative, to come home to join us.
My problem is that I quite understand the things which cause divisions in the Church; I understand that people can feel strongly about things that matter to them, and I too would like the whole Church to view everything the same way that I do . . . I love plainsong, and heartily dislike ‘worship songs’, for example; but I try to accept that there are those, almost certainly better Catholics than I, whose tastes are exactly the opposite, and that it’s their Church too . . . so I have, above all, to be tolerant.
S. Augustine said ‘In necessariis unitas, In dubiis libertas, In omnibus autem caritas’ (‘In essentials, unity; in inessentials, liberty; in all things charity’); and I think that perhaps many of us need to take that message to heart today. If the mass is valid, then it’s valid – it doesn’t matter whether it’s 1962 in cloth-of-gold, or EP2 in polyester; it’s valid, and it confects the same Blessed Sacrament – it brings amongst us the same saving ‘Body, Blood, Soul, & Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ’ : and it seems to me, as I’ve suggested before, that those who would disagree with that are, at best, in schism.
The Faith – the Creeds, the teaching of the Magisterium – is essential; and we must be united in belief in it, or we cannot properly call ourselves Catholic.
The externals of the Rites, and matters of Church furnishing and ordering, are, on the whole, inessential; and we are therefore at liberty to hold what opinions we choose . . .
. . . except that, if we want to be Christian, we are not at liberty to serve the Devil by deciding (and probably announcing loudly) that those who disagree with us about such inessentials are ‘mad, bad, or dangerous to know’. Providing they are in good faith – and that is for God to judge, not us, unless it is palpable that they are not (and whatever the circumstances, I’d be very reluctant to make that call) – then they are as entitled to their views as we are, and it is our Christian duty to accept that – ‘in all things, charity’.
Lord; grant us the grace to accept this, and to make Your Church the home of loving Unity which You want it to be . . . because if we can’t obey Our Lord’s command ‘Ut Unum sint’ in His own Church, how can we ever expect it to be obeyed anywhere else ?