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The Second Vatican Council convinced many of us to be more charitable towards our separated brethren. But how successful has ecumenism been since then? Cardinal Kasper in his recent address upon retiring from head of the Dicastery for Christian Unity said that whereas there has been greater cooperation between Christians in friendly coexistence, errors, or rather recklessness, have occurred also.
Liberalisation on ethical issues among Protestant communities has resulted as well as fragmentation (particularly among Anglicans).
Cardinal Kasper seems pessimistic.
But there is room for hope, especially as regards the Eastern Orthodox.
In the same issue of The Roman Observer that reported on Cardinal Kasper is a full article calling for "an alliance against secularism" and a further one by Patriarch Kiril of the Russian Orthodox Church calling for an alliance between the Catholics and the Russian Orthodox for this specific purpose.
Italy achieved a major victory in opposing the European demand for suppression of crucifixes with virtually no support from Western Europe. It was supported by ten countries (six Orthodox, including Russia) and later by ten more (five Orthodox). This coalition "for Christ" included most of Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
It is significant that most of the support came from countries persecuted by atheistic communism in the 20th century.
Patriarch Hilarion says that militant secularism is a pseudoreligion with its own doctrine, morals, cult and symbols. He groups it alongside Russian Bolshevism in its hostility to Christianity. The Slovenian bishops say it is different from, but no less hostile than Marxism.
Is it any wonder that countries which experienced Marxism spontaneously supported Italy whereas Western Europe did not? This is vigorous ecumenism at its best.
Let us not be complacent. It is not only Anglicans that made reckless anti-ecumenical mistakes (with their gay bishops and female clergy). Post-Vatican II Catholic enthusiasts have made some dreadful errors too.
To name just some of them:
While Baptists still vigorously preach repentance, we have "ho-humilies". While Anglicans and Russians have outstanding church music we have parish "Melba muck". While Salvationists proclaim Christ in uniform our Catholic warriors often prefer anonymity.
While the Orthodox rejoice in their beautiful iconostases, we released the philistines to strip our churches and our liturgy. The enthusiasts claim that they are rejecting "mere externals" but George A. Kendall reminded us that "Catholics know that outward signs play a huge role in our growth in inward graces."
Pope Benedict has pleaded for a "reform of the reform" but his call has been largely ignored.
Is it any wonder that the most determined opposition to atheistic secularism is coming from the East?
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 23 No 11 (December 2010 - January 2011), p. 14
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