Friday, July 13, 2007

It's Not You, It's Me

Via Amy Welborn, comes this refreshing take on the recent set of responses put out by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: from a Southern Baptist Seminary Professor.

I've often thought about ecumenism in terms of more basic human relations. The problem with ecumenical dialogue is the same problem experienced by any couple going through a break-up (and I've had my share). The parties, emotionally attached and suffering from pride or hurt or any other perfectly human feeling, seem always to error to one extreme or the other: that is, they either lash out and unjustly lay all the blame on the opposing side; or they instead try to take the others' hurt as their own responsibility and apply, well, the "it's not you, it's me" routine.

Why do people still use the same old worn-out routine, when everyone knows it's a lie? A person will never respond to the "it's not you, it's me" routine, because they know that there's obviously some part of the break-up that is their responsibility. And that's why honesty is the best policy. Perhaps a relationship can be mended if both parties will honestly and maturely accuse one another of real inadequacies or insufficiency. Otherwise, neither knows how or why to change. Resentment sets in, pride is stirred up by patronization, and finally each bids the other good riddance.

The gentleman who wrote the piece above obviously knows the fallacies of the "it's not you, it's me" routine. He's not saying - and neither am I - that we should let our ecumenical dialogue decay into name-calling and finger-pointing. But true relationships need honesty and candidness. We are going to get nowhere if we simply shower one another with praises in celebration of what we do share in common; for it is not that which keeps us apart, but rather our real differences. If no mention is made of these, we are left the frustrated receivers of the it's-not-you-it's-me rhetoric, wondering, "Why then, if you're solely to blame, don't you fix this so that we can be together? Why, then, is there any need for dialogue at all, which is two sided, if the blame is all on one side? Why should I accuse myself, uncertain as yet as to what it is with which you find fault? For surely, there is something unspoken which you hold against me and it is upon that which this whole situation turns."

And so it is. We can apologize for the Inquisition and Queen Mary's reign 'til we're blue in the face, and still there will be those who deny the Truth as we see it - the Truth which has never depended in any substantial way upon our conduct who profess it, any more than the Pope's own supremacy depends upon the personal quality of the man who bears the yoke of that office. And while the Church acknowledges the failings in the transmission of the Truth as a fault wholly belonging to its members, it is still She who represents that Truth in its fullest form while this world lasts, and it is a fault to be acknowledged that other do not recognize Her signs as the undefiled Bride of Christ.

I hope and pray that an honest study of these recent responses, and a review of the material to which they make reference (particularly Dominus Iesus) will open doors to a true ecumenism, leading the various Churches and "ecclesial communities" to an honest understanding of where they stand in relationship to one another and to the Truth that comes from Christ Jesus.

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