Wednesday, October 19, 2011

(7) A Christian Spirit of Ecumenical Dialogue

Note:  As adviser to the Catholic Newman Club of the University of Rio Grande and on the Chaplaincy Board, I send the Protestant clergy copies of our announcements and minutes along with a couple of Protestant students who seem to be interested.  We have our meetings open to Protestant students as well.  Sometimes they make comments on one of my e-mails.  I'm responding to one that made some off-the-wall attacks on the Church.  The following is my reply.

        I share what the Catholic Newman Club is doing with all of you for your information and perhaps as a source of ideas. It is my hope and prayer that there be a strong Christian influence on our campus with many Christian groups. Perhaps you might want to start up one. However, the sad reality is that so many of our students are un-churched. Others may have been brought up as Christians, but drift once they are on their own in college. So there's so much work to do for all of us and so many workers are needed in the vineyard because the potential harvest is great.

        We all have a common mission.......to bring people closer to God without imposing upon them in any way. Thus there is no room or time for us to fight each other. We are all in a huge spiritual/cultural war between good and evil.......forces that are trying to undermine traditional Christian morality under the guise of secularism and moral relativism. So we must fight together, not fight each other. That's exactly what the evil one wants and we play right into his hands.

        One of the attacks (by a person I consider to be a friend) on the Catholic Church was off the wall, unfounded with no evidence presented, and outright preposterous. This is just as bad as some fundamentalists calling the Pope the anti-Christ. My dear friend, you lose all credibility with such an attack since it comes out as emotional anti-Catholic propaganda. It's so obvious from your words below:

       “Yes Sir, They purposely and intentional took out the 1st and 2nd (Commandments) because the religion support, teach and promote idolatry, and part of their financial support come from idolatry. Also they take out and tamper the 3rd and 10th to hide their crooked, and evil intentions, and make up their pagan heretical teachings.”

        Brother, although I admire your zeal, I must say as a brother in Christ that this shows more hate than Christian love......”God is love” (1 John 4:16); so let's try to communicate love to each other. What would our Lord have to say about that kind of attack (WWJD)? It's this kind of emotional rhetoric that is scandalous to non-Christians and turns them off. As a result, they won't listen to any of us! How can we teach love to others and reflect the love, light, and life of Christ if we cannot be civil and love each other?

        I invite civil and respectful dialogue through our e-mail exchanges with the intent of understanding each other and exchanging well reasoned ideas without gross generalizations and unfounded attacks. Better yet, all students and former students are invited to our meetings. Then it will be fun and educational. I am sure that we all have very erroneous and prejudiced opinions about each other, resulting from centuries of animosity and misinformation. 

       Let us search for the truth by objectively looking at the evidence with an open mind, willing to learn and change our minds......no matter where that search may lead. That's what a college education is all about. Can't we be charitable with each other and respect each other's beliefs? Instead of calling evil a 2000 year old Church (really the mother of all Christian Churches), can we admit they are at least sincere but mistaken as you see it and then present evidence instead of calling them evil, corrupt, cheats, liars, heretics, pagan, idol worshipers, etc.

        At least two or three of you are fallen away Catholics. Please don't let some negative experience with a priest, nun, or lay person cause you to be bitter and color your entire image of the faith. For that negative experience I beg your forgiveness. Just remember that the great majority of Christian Catholics and Protestants too are good people (some perhaps misguided although the sinful abusers are clearly evil) doing their best to serve God. So very often one falls away because he or she never learned or understood the faith.

        In sum, let us not look so much at what divides us, but what unites us........Jesus Christ, His Father, His Holy Spirit, the divinely inspired Bible, and the 4th Century Nicene Creed, much of which is not mentioned explicitly in the Bible. So we are in agreement with well over 95% of our beliefs. The basic problem is in the interpretation of certain biblical passages. We once had one Christian faith, the Catholic Church, but the Protestant Reformation changed all of that. Now so many people interpret the Bible in their own way and we have about 35,000 different Christian religions, each with its own set of “truths”. Which one of these religions is the true one? 

       That's why we need to create order out of chaos.......a teaching authority which Christ established in building His Church upon St. Peter, the Rock (Matthew 16:18-19) and his successors, an unbroken line of 265 men through more than 20 centuries. Despite scandal, human weakness and sin, corruption, wars, heresies, evil attacks from within and without through the centuries, Christ continues to be with His Church in preserving the truth and “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). It is a miracle in itself that the Church has survived intact for 2000 years despite its many human failings.

        May we do our part for Church unity.......”That all may be one” (John 17:21) as Christ Himself wished. No one can deny that Church unity is the will of God. Let us pray for it. So let us WORK TOGETHER in furthering His kingdom on earth (Matthew 6:10) and may He in His mercy forgive us when we drift from His path of truth. AMEN.

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