Author Topic: Catholic Encyclopedia article: Union of Christendom.  (Read 426 times)

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Catholic Encyclopedia article: Union of Christendom.
« on: January 17, 2019, 01:59:18 AM »
An excellent article from the old Catholic Encyclopedia worth reading in full. It shows a true Catholic approach to "ecumenism of return" by promoting the return of separated individuals and communions to full Unity in doctrinal Truth with the Catholic Church. Thoughts?

Some excerpts: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15132a.htm

Quote
Union of Christendom: The Catholic Church is by far the largest, the most widespread, and the most ancient of Christian communions in the world, and is moreover the mighty trunk from which the other communions claiming to be Christian have broken off at one time or another. If, then, we limit the application of the term Christendom to this, its most authentic expression, the unity of Christendom is not a lost ideal to be recovered, but a stupendous reality which has always been in stable possession. For not only has this Catholic Church ever taught that unity is an essential note of the true Church of Christ, but throughout her long history she has been, to the amazement of the world, distinguished by the most conspicuous unity of faith and government, and this notwithstanding that she has at all times embraced within her fold nationalities of the most different temperaments, and has had to contend with incessant oscillations of mental speculation and political power. Still, in another and broader sense of the term, which is also the more usual and is followed in the present article, Christendom includes not merely the Catholic Church, but, together with it, the many other religious communions which have either directly or indirectly, separated from it, and yet, although in conflict both with it and among themselves as to various points of doctrine and practice agree with it in this: that they look up to our Lord Jesus Christ as the Founder of their Faith, and claim to make His teaching the rule of their lives. As these separated communities when massed together, indeed in some cases even of themselves, count a vast number of souls, among whom many are conspicuous for their religious earnestness, this extension of the term Christendom to include them all has its solid justification. On the other hand, if it is accepted, it becomes no longer possible to speak of the unity of Christendom but rather of a Christendom torn by divisions and offering the saddest spectacle to the eyes. And then the question arises: Is this scandal always to continue? The Holy See has never tired of appealing in season and out of season for its removal but without meeting with much response from a world which had learnt to live contentedly within its sectarian enclosures. Happily a new spirit has lately come over these dissentient Christians, numbers of whom are becoming keenly sensitive to the paralyzing effects of division and an active reunion movement has arisen which, If far from being as widespread and solid as one could wish, is at least cherished on all sides by devout minds.

In summarizing in this article the various matters that bear upon this question of the unity of Christendom, its present default, and the hopes for its restoration, the following points will be considered:

The Principles of the Church's Unity
Unity in the Early Church and its Causes
The Divisions of Christendom and their Causes
Reunion Movements in the Past
Reunion Movements in the Present
Conditions of Reunion
Prospects of Reunion

...Nor is it to the purpose to ask here if by this method of individual conversions there is any prospect of an eventual restoration of Christendom to the unity which once held it together. Possibly there is not; but why should there be? We may indeed look to a continuance, and perhaps to an expansion, of the process now going on whereby appreciable numbers are added to the Church through individual submissions, but it does not seem likely that, in this age of individualism, whole nations will be brought in by this method, nor is there any Divine promise that they will be. Another age may bring forth better things, but whether it will we know not. Still, though the prospects of corporate reunion appear discouraging, Catholics may well show themselves appreciative and sympathetic towards the efforts of those of other communions who are captivated by the splendid ideal and think that under one form or another it is capable of realization. We may safely leave to the Providence of God to determine what course the present reunion movement shall ultimately take, and meanwhile we may emphasize the substantial point that Catholics and other reunionists have in common: their mutual desire to see the barriers that separate them removed. They can co-operate, too, in working for the good cause in useful ways without any surrender of their own principles. For they can cultivate friendly personal relations, to the formation of which it will greatly contribute if they can work together for objects, social or otherwise, as to the value of which they are agreed. There is a special value in the personal friendships thus formed, for they tend to dissolve the obstacles which come from sheer misunderstandings and the animosities that these engender. And they can further co-operate for the removal of these same obstacles by positive efforts to understand one another correctly, particularly by the others seeking and the Catholics, if they are competent, showing a readiness to give simple explanations of the true character of their beliefs and practices.

The latter cannot indeed be too careful to avoid bitter controversies, for these, as experience has proved, serve more to harden estrangements than to cement reconciliations. But their explanations will be often welcomed, if it be known that they will be marked by candour, cordiality, and patience, for nowadays there is a growing number who have come to suspect that Catholicism is not as black as it has been painted for them, and are anxious to hear about it from those whom they can trust, and who have intimate knowledge of it from the inside. If would be rash, however, for Catholics to expect that their non-Catholic friends will be readily convinced by the explanations they give. Convictions are of slow growth; besides it is not for the human agent to intrude on the office which the Holy Spirit reserves to Himself. Lastly, there can be co-operation in efforts to promote reunion by earnest and assiduous prayer. Catholics cannot join an association for prayer like the A.P.U.C., which is under non-Catholic management, but they have the highest sanction for joining similar associations under Catholic management, such as the Confraternity of Compassion, which Leo XIII himself established in 1897, and entrusted to the administration of the Sulpician Fathers.
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