Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 15, 1999
Clergy dialogue over ecumenism
By MARK MALLETT
Special to the WCR
"Ours is a communion at the crossroads, one on the way to a more visible unity at the dawn of the new millennium," says Father Luis Melo, a Roman Catholic priest specializing in Anglican-Catholic relations.
Melo was optimistic as he and Anglican Bishop Victoria Matthews of Edmonton addressed more than 60 people at St. Joseph's College Feb. 5.
"In a post-Christian age when so many so-called ecclesial communions, communities or even churches question the very divinity of Christ, . . . we need to speak loudly our common faith, not only in word but also in action," urged Matthews.
She stressed visible friendship as "a critical means for advancing on the path to unity."
Their words were warmly welcomed by the gathering of priests, theologians and lay people from Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and Lutheran backgrounds.
"Any effort to reach out to love . . . that's what ecumenism is," said participant Father Andrew Pipsta. "Every little conference gives me hope."
But many observers believe hope of "full organic communion" with the Anglicans derailed with Pope John Paul's apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.
In the 1994 letter, the pope declared "the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."
In two subsequent statements, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith confirmed that the teaching forbidding women's ordination "has been set forth infallibly by the . . . magisterium" and belongs to "the deposit of faith" requiring of all Catholics their "definitive assent."
"If we say the question is closed, then we really don't believe in the Gospel of the Holy Spirit. . . . (The pope's letter) doesn't say that in the future, if we are inspired in other ways, that we will (not) move in that direction."
Matthews was more direct. "I think it continues to be an issue," otherwise those working on ARCIC (Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission) would have better things to do "if they didn't think (women's ordination) had a possibility of going ahead.
"And none of them are going to back off on the ordination of women on the Anglican side nor are some of them on the Roman Catholic side."
"A statement like that does not look very good as far as ecumenism goes," says Father Paul Moret, pastor of St. Anthony's Parish in Drayton Valley.
"Any real ecumenism has to be . . . based on the truth and what Jesus said . . . not a question of you want this and I want that."
While the issue of women's ordination remains a stumbling block to full unity, both Melo and Matthews stressed the need to avoid two responses: "despair" and "to put limits on our relationship."
The proper response, they said, is to view our relationship as "a communion on the way."
The churches must go beyond dialogue to a visible witness to the world, they said. "Words are necessary," reminded Melo, "but they must be accompanied by symbol and by action."
Suggestions included "a common Bible study" among Christians as well as working together for justice and peace. Above all, personal conversion.
"We need to pause and take the time to convert our hearts to the Gospel," said Melo. Without such conversion, "there can be no ecumenism," said Matthews.
"The future of our very existence of the Church of Christ is at stake," warned Melo. "We can no longer afford to proclaim the heart of the Gospel in isolation."