6. In Ecumenical Discussions it is possible to win an argument and lose a soul – What we are most concerned about is the unity of Christ’s church. The point of ecumenism is for Christians of other traditions to discover where they agree and discuss the topics on which they disagree. The intention of the whole affair, on both sides, is to seek unity, but not unity at all costs. For there to be unity it must be the unity of truth. Therefore discussions must be respectful, polite, open minded and open hearted. Someone from either side may very well launch in declaring this infallible truth and that infallible doctrine and only end up alienating the other side. Those who prize dogma above all else may shrug and say, “Well what does it matter? They either accept that our church is right or they don’t. If they do they go to heaven. If they don’t they go to hell.” If I were on the other side and was greeted with that approach I’d tell the Catholic to keep the whole thing. Thus the Catholic might “win” the argument and lose the soul. So is that really a win?
7. A Sincere, Devout Protestant may be closer to you than a fallen away Catholic – Think about it. Catholicism is always honest. What we believe, for the most part, matches up with what we observe, and what we observe is that there are some non-Catholic Christians who are a darn sight better disciples of Jesus Christ than a lot of Catholics we know. Who is closer to heaven and closer to Jesus Christ? A baptized Catholic in mortal sin or a non Catholic Christian who loves and serves Jesus Christ with his or her whole body, mind, heart and strength? It’s a no brainer. It’s the godly Protestant not the ungodly Catholic. It would be best for the godly Protestant to become a Catholic and for the ungodly Catholic to become a godly Catholic, but we have to be willing to admit that there really is much that is good, beautiful and true within non-Catholic religious groups and non-Catholic Christians. Acknowledging this is not only humble, it’s true.If push comes to shove who would you really have more in common with–a dissenting, disobedient Catholic or a God-fearing, Bible believing, humble and prayerful Protestant?
8. You don’t have to be a modernist and join the World Council of Churches to make time for ecumenism – So many people think if you are willing to be involved in ecumenism that you must be: a. a modernist b. guilty of indifferentism c. a progressive relativist d. a crypto Protestant. Not so. We should affirm with joy that the Catholic Church is the fullest expression of Christ’s Church. The Catechism says in paragraph 816 “The sole Church of Christ [is that] which our Savior, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter’s pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it. . . . This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him.” The church “subsists” in the Catholic Church. In other words, that is where you will find her–as full and complete as possible here below. This does not mean that one has to believe that all other Christian groups are of equal value, and affirming what is beautiful, good and true within them does not undermine the fullness and strength of the Catholic Church nor does it mean that you have suddenly signed up to belong to the One World Religion which will be part of the antichrist’s New World Order…
9. Ecumenism is more than theological discussions and being nice to each other Theological discussions are one thing, and probably best left to the theologians. Practical ecumenism is simply having time for other Christians, working together with them in social and political concerns where possible, praying with them and being open to their questions and concerns. For most Catholics ecumenism will simply mean being open minded, open hearted and willing to befriend and work with fellow Christians–recognizing all that is beautiful, good and true without falling into indifferentism and a gushy sentimental universalism: “We’re all the same really aren’t we? Don’t we all agree that what really matters is how much you love Jesus?” No. That’s not ecumenism. True ecumenism respects the boundaries and realizes that there are strains and stresses and that while we all want to love Jesus we’re not all the same. True ecumenism is therefore tough, not sappy.
10. Church unity is the work of a lifetime and the work of a moment – It’s the work of a moment in that when we work and pray with other Christians we may have an “Aha” moment when we begin to understand things from a new perspective and our own faith grows through the transaction. They might experience that too, and that’s when the hard work of ecumenism pays off. It is also the work of a lifetime…the lifetime of the church that is…because unity is not going to happen anytime soon. Here there will be a little bit of progress. There a little move forward. Over here it is two steps back after one step forward. Achieving church unity will not happen in our lifetime, but we don’t give up because it is in these small steps forward that we do actually make progress. The Catholic Church thinks in centuries. We must remember that. A new way of thought in one era and a little gesture towards unity might bear much fruit later. Here’s an example: In 1959 Pius XII made an exception to the rule of celibacy allowing a handful of married Lutheran pastor converts to be ordained. In the next papacy the Anglican Archbishop visited the Pope. Just a little step forward. Talks started between Anglicans and Catholics. Obstacles arose, but out of these problems and the precedent set by Pius XII the Pastoral Provision became possible along with the Anglican Use and out of that came the Ordinariate and who knows what future lies in store for the Ordinariate? Maybe wonderful things will happen and many of our separated brothers and sisters will be united. If that does take place why will it have happened? Because Catholics were not cynical about ecumenism and were willing to work on it even though it seemed hopeless.