Been trying to catch up on my reading and have finally gotten around the cracking open the April edition of First Things. It's a memorial issue dedicated to Father Richard John Neuhaus, the magazine's founder who passed away in January. Reading the various tributes to Father Neuhaus, one is struck once again by just how wide-ranging and deep his influence on religion and public life truly was and just how much his presence in the public square will be missed.
The issue also contains a previously unpublished essay from Neuhaus called The One True Church:
Before we can get anywhere with this discussion, two stipulations must be firmly in place. The first is that we are not engaged in a rivalry between our side and some other side. Some years ago, when William F. Buckley heard that a prominent Protestant had entered into full communion with the Catholic Church, he exclaimed: "This is great news. It's like the Yankees stealing the star pitcher from the Red Sox." That is an understandable tribal response, but it takes us back to the squabbling of boys on the playground. Questions of great theological moment are at stake. In these matters, Catholic and non-Catholic alike should have as their one concern the question of what Christ intended, and still intends, for his one Church--it being understood by all that, in the deepest meaning of the term, there can finally be only one Church, since the Church is the Body of Christ, of which Christ is the head, and there is only one Christ.
Tribalism has no place in this discussion. As John Paul II reminded Catholics in his 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio, being a Catholic is not reason for proprietorial pride but for profound gratitude for a grace received, all undeserved on our part. Moreover, a Catholic who does not earnestly want to recognize and rejoice in the gifts of grace to be found in other Christian communities will almost certainly be more hindrance than help in this discussion.
The second and related stipulation is that we are not comparing an ideal depiction of the state of Catholicism with less flattering depictions of other communities--or vice versa. It is not a matter of what we like or dislike in this community or that. I have decided views on certain Orthodox and Protestant virtues that Catholics might well emulate. As Malloy writes, in reflecting on the uniqueness of the Catholic Church "one can affirm both the essential fullness of the ecclesial reality of the Catholic Church and the concrete poverty and woundedness of her lived life, together with her practical need of the expressive ecclesial riches found outside her visible boundaries." Not only can one affirm both, one must affirm both.
As we begin the most holy of all weeks on the Christian calendar, these wise words from Father Neuhaus are more timely than ever.
They also lay a nice foundation for next week's Argument of the Month forum:
David Deavel (associate editor of Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture and a contributing editor for Gilbert Magazine) challenges Michael J. Matt (Catholic author, editor of The Remnant Newspaper, and fierce opponent of anti-Catholicism) on Ecumenism, the religious dialogue between Catholics and non-Catholic Christians! Can there be hope of reunion among Christians? Who should accept what beliefs or is "watering down" theology and morality the right answer? Join us and find out!
April 14, 2009 6:30pm-8:30pm St. Augustine's Catholic Church South St. Paul
If the prospect of a lively discussion of ecumenism isn't enough to tempt you, perhaps the food fare for the evening is:
All AOTM Forums are served buffet style. It is all you can eat and drink.
The AOTM "Coronary Kitchen" will be serving up their Annual Pig Roast! The men attending will have their choice between traditional Southern BBQ and Cuban style--but only after eating some mouth-watering Louisiana Buffalo Wings for an appetizer.
While not being overly spicy, jalapeño honey glazed corn bread will also be served. And one can never forget the elegant and delicious Peach Pie and Ice Cream at evening's end.
For Just $12 at the door (The total cost for the night) you will get great appetizers, beverages, and hear a challenging debate while you enjoy a fabulous "Manly Meal." Men of all creeds and ages are welcome to join in the good humor, food and fellowship. Priests and seminarians get in free, but will not be shown partiality in debate. Fathers are encouraged to bring their sons.
All that for twelve bones? You'd be hard pressed to find a better or more fulfilling (in many respects) deal than that.