Monday, August 17, 2009

The Irenicist Moonie

The other day I was in the movie store and I was approached by the most unlikely of all persons. An lanky Asian fellow sauntered up to me, wearing a backpack with some bells attached to it that jingled whenever he walked. He said, "Hello," in an awkward kind of way and then immediately handed me a laminated cared which read:

Hello. My name is Assem and I am from Kazakhstan. I am raising money for the Unification Church [i.e., Revered Moon] for the purpose of the Unification of World Christianity. Even a donation of $10 or $15 would go to great lengths to...

At this point I stopped reading. Seeing he knew very little English (hence the card), I said, "No. Catholic." He said, "You Catholic?" I said, "Yes. Catholic." He pointed to the card where it said "Unification of World Christianity" and said in extremely broken English, "but this for unification of world Christianity" and stressed this last word, as if I had missed the fact that he was trying to unify Christianity. I politely said no and turned away from him, and he walked away very sad and confused about why another Christian would in any way oppose uniting all Christianity under the auspices of Reverend Moon.

Of course, most enthusiasts of pan-Christianity are not Moonies and would not promote their agenda by wearing bells and asking for donations in the movie store. But Assem's attitude of shock and dismay that I was not in favor of "uniting" call Christian churches is not that uncommon even among Catholics.

Christian unity is something to be earnestly desired, following our Lord's words in the Gospel of John in which He prayed that "they all would be one" (John 17:8-26). The Church understands this oneness as one of the true marks of her own authenticity: she is one because she shares the same doctrine and partakes of the same sacraments (her apostolicity is also connected to her oneness, though this pertains to her historical oneness rather than her theological oneness). No Christian of any denomination who takes our Lord seriously can admit that the 22,000 non-Catholic denominations is God's will. This is a good way to begin making an apologetic for the Catholic Church to a Protestant, by the way. Ask them, "Do you really think it is God's will for there to be over 22,000 Christian denominations?" I have never had somebody reply 'yes.'

So we should desire Christian unity, and in fact it is a mark of the true Church. But unity (and this is what is so often missed) is not an ultimate end or characteristic in itself. Unity points beyond itself, for to be unified begs the question, unified around what? In Humani Generis, Pope Pius XII warned against an ecumenical understanding that called for a union of all Christians without regard to the ecclesiological dimension of the divisions in Christendom. The "irenism" was, in the words of Pius XII, the belief that:

[T]he dissident and the erring can happily be brought back to the bosom of the Church, if the whole truth found in the Church is not sincerely taught to all without corruption or diminution (HG 43).

Unity is unity around something, and that something is the Catholic faith. Unless the unity is centered on the true faith, then it is not a unity to be worked or even hoped for. I wonder often what the ecclesiology is behind the prayers for Christian unity and Word Christian Unity Day. What is meant by this phrase "unity"? If we are to believe Cardinal Dulles, it certainly does not mean conversion to the one, true faith, but means, in his words:

...a different method, one that invites a deeper conversion on the part of the churches themselves. I have therefore been urging an ecumenism of mutual enrichment by means of testimony. This proposal corresponds closely, I believe, with John Paul II’s idea of seeking the fullness of truth by means of an “exchange of gifts.” (First Things, Dec. 2007)

Well, I am sorry if it sounds boorish, but if this is what is meant by Christian unity and the unification of all churches, then no, I am certainly not in favor of it. In fact, I am dead opposed to it. Not that I am opposed to Christian unity - all Catholics must be in favor of Christian unity, but the key to the problem lies in the definition of unity.

Unity around the Chair of Peter. Unity around the apostolic faith. Unity that comes with conversion, and a humble submission to the Holy See. I am certainly in favor of this kind of unity. Next time somebody talks to you about Christian unity, perhaps ask them "unity around what?" They might tell you something like, "well, unity on the essentials of Christianity." Essentials is another word like unity that can mean many things (as I have pointed out here)...but at least this gets the conversation started about what unity actually is and what is has to be based around. Nobody is helped when we do a lot of talking about a non-commital, adogmatic, limp-wristed unity that is nothing more than compromise and ecclesiological political correctness.


Mr S said...

One Lord.....

One Faith....

One Baptism....

In heaven, everyone is Catholic. Each, having died, will witness the Beatific Vision, will come into the fullness of Truth, and will be united to the Lord.

In hell, everyone is Catholic. Each, having died, will witness the Beatific Vision, will come into the fullness of Truth, and for whatever reason they rejected God in this life, they will be united in their absence of the Lord.

So you got mooned, huh Boniface?

I would have shook his hand, invited him to Christianity and the only unity wished for by Jesus, and then encouraged him to consider his eternal unity with either

Jesus the Son of God or

Moon, the Sun Myung of his cult.


Jack. said...

Rock on bonfiace :)

Seriously I'm embarrised that I used to think like this, lets all be nice, doctrine doesn't matter lets just talk about OLJC and be nice to one another lalalalalala.

Not Anymore, out comes the Douai, out comes the Navare NT set and the Holy Water RADTRADs forever :)

Unconditional Unity said...

I have been out there fundraising before. You meet the most amazing people. The most harsh arguments, the most loving acceptances and encouragement. You meet people of all faiths, views and opinions. And you can grow if you persevere and find God's beauty in all of it.

The Unification Movement is something you may not understand. Some of us members don't sometimes. But Unificationism isn't about making one world religion. It's about having everybody understand we're all children of God, so we can finally see each other as family and have peace.

Boniface said...

huh...that's funny...I thought it was about Reverend Moon being the incarnation of Christ, the Second Coming of the Messiah.