I have been under enormous pressure on many fronts and have been unable to post on any of the things I have promised to folks. I am working on all of them: SSPX; joy; the nature and scope of liberal education. Please accept the following as a promise of things to come...
This was first published in the Stamford Advocate, in 2005:
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was known as “the Pope’s rottweiler,” a staunch enforcer of doctrine and vigorous defender of the Church’s teaching authority. While there is little in the character of the man to justify the canine metaphor, Joseph Ratzinger did indeed enforce true doctrine and defend vigorously the Church’s teaching authority, when he was head of the CDF, the office once known as the Holy Inquisition. When he became Benedict XVI, many declared that the election of Ratzinger to the Papacy meant the end of ecumenical efforts and “inter-religious dialogue”. Many of these call themselves Christians, notwithstanding their disbelief (express or implied) in the Church’s teaching authority. Famously, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times declared that, “The cafeteria is closed.”
What that columnist apparently fails to understand, is that the cafeteria has been closed for roughly two thousand years. It has been closed since the precise moment in which Christ, whilst He was physically present on Earth, said to His disciple, Simon, “You are the rock, and upon this rock I will build my Church.”
The Successor to Peter, Benedict XVI is a “doctrinal hard-liner”. He believes that the Catholic Church is true, and that the purpose of Christianity is to protect the integrity of God’s revelation, which is the Good News of Salvation, and to proclaim that Good News to every single human being.
Those who see this as an obstacle to ecumenical efforts believe that either one is a doctrinal hard-liner, or one is open to dialogue. This is a false dichotomy. Its premises are dubious and its conclusions are reprehensible.
Benedict has always been the first to offer the hand of friendship to Christians sincerely in search of unity. Listen to him:
“I hasten to assure you of my heartfelt prayers for all those taking part in this [Anglican ecumenical] convocation. The significance of your meeting is sensed…in this city from which Saint Augustine of Canterbury was sent to confirm and strengthen the preaching of Christ's Gospel in England. Nor can I fail to recall that…Saint Boniface brought that same Christian faith from England to my own forebears in Germany…The lives of these saints show us how in the Church of Christ there is a unity in truth and a communion of grace which transcend the borders of any nation. With this in mind, I pray in particular that God's will may be done by all those who seek that unity in the truth, the gift of Christ himself.”
Unity in truth. Communion of Grace. These are the terms with which Benedict describes the Church. They are far from the mushy “unity in diversity” and “community of tolerance” for which some so-called ecumenical Christians advocate. In what would unity in diversity consist? In the “tolerant co-existence” of one group of people who believe it is good to engage in sex acts with persons of one’s own sex, who think a woman has a right to pay a physician to tear the flesh of another human being from her womb, heart beating, alongside another group, whose members consider that such sex act and “medical procedures” are sins that cry to Heaven for vengeance, perhaps? Perhaps. Perhaps there ought to be tolerant co-existence among such different-minded people.
Words have no meaning if all of them together enjoy the name of Christians.