Saturday, December 18, 2010


NEWS ITEM: Bishop Munib Younan, President of the Lutheran World Federation, is calling for a “common Roman Catholic-Lutheran declaration on Eucharistic hospitality” by 2017 as a way of marking (and undoing) the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. He made the remarks in Rome shortly before a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

Is such a vision a possibility or a mirage? At this distance it seems unlikely, but one can never know. After all, it is not we frail and ego-bound human beings who are in charge, but the Holy Spirit. If Vatican II could happen, if agreement (even if not 100% complete) on the theology of “Justification” could be produced, if a Palestinian-born Lutheran bishop could make this request to a German Pope…

Would such a statement require 100% agreement in all areas of faith, morals and church practice and discipline? I think not. I have two reasons for saying this.

The first is that it is clear the Catholic practice of closed communion is one of discipline and not doctrine. The (then named) Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, in their 1972 Instruction Concerning Cases When Other Christians May Be Admitted To Eucharistic Communion In The Catholic Church sets out guidelines for when such communion might occur; it even specifies circumstances when Catholics might approach the Sacrament in other communions. They are not to be considered as “regular” events, but they are in fact not impossible.

The second is that from the time of the 1983 Revised Code of Canon Law the Catholic Church recognizes the right of the Orthodox Churches, along with members of “the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church”: they are not to be refused if they present themselves for the Sacrament in a Catholic Church. Such welcome is not reciprocal at this point, but it is significant that from the Roman Catholic point of view a lack of 100% agreement even on issues like the wording of the Creed and the juridical authority of the Pope do not in themselves have to be Church-dividing.

What will happen in 2017? I have no idea, but I want to be around when it (whatever “it” is) does happen. The Book of Proverbs (29: 18, KJV) reminded us, millennia ago: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Here we have a vision. I pray we can make it possible.


  1. Amen to that Fr. David. I too pray that I could see such a thing happen. The fact that we are separated at our Lord's table is a scandal to the Gospel. How much longer are we going to allow our collective egos to deny what our Lord prayed in St. John 17. Amen! Come Lord!

  2. Many of us have attended nudges to ecumenism sponsored at Spring Hill College and dialoguing at our parish. It has fostered an interest in an area which had been a closed situation through most of my 'cradle Catholic' years. Socially, we realized people were pretty much the same regardless of religious or non-religious affiliations. The standard text for conversation tended to avoid politics and religion. Of course, these topics are open fare for whomever wants to live vicariously. Shall it be strictly adversarial or is there a more compatible approach? For anyone desiring to follow all the ecumenical adventurers in our country alone, I suggest a subscription to "Ecumenical Trends", edited by the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute. This is a ministry of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement. May the Holy Spirit continue to lead us in comradeship.

  3. I heartily endore "Ecumenical Trends" and the Graymoor Institute for its dedication.