Pope Francis received a delegation from the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany and the ecumenical commission of the nation’s Catholic episcopal conference on December 18 and …
It is commendable that Pope Francis wants to maintain dialogue with the Evangelical Lutheran church of Germany in an effort for the two churches to find common ground. Realistically I don’t believe unification between the Catholic Church and the Evangelical Lutheran church is possible. Contraception and abortion are the two stumbling blocks to unification with the Lutheran Church. In my experience a high percentage of Lutheran church goers are pro choice and an even higher percentage is in favor of contraception.
Would be wonderful to “become one” as our Lord prayed, but in addition to the problems with Lutheran positions on abortion and artificial birth control, there are the women pastors and bishops which would also present a problem.
The problem with corporate reunion is it is like herding cats. Even if the leadership is on board with reunion, their flocks would not. Most non-Catholics, in good faith or not, currently simply don’t want to be Catholic–that’s why they’re not already. We have to work, with the help of God’s grace, to change the minds of each and every individual.
The Church, in her documents on ecumenism, distinguishes ecumenism (efforts toward corporate reunion) with efforts to convert individuals to Catholicism and teaches both are necessary and complementary. Ecumenism can help to remove false prejudices and to create goodwill, which in turn opens hearts, but we can’t just sit back and wait for a miraculous corporate reunion which may be long in coming if ever–especially when many ecclesial communities are moving farther and farther away from Catholicism in their official doctrine, not closer. We should also focus on reconciling those individuals who are open to the truth in the meantime.
Just to add though, the rough prospects of reunion doesn’t mean we should give up. As St. Pius X noted concerning the work of reconciling people to the Church:
“It may be that the fruit of our labors may be slow in coming, but charity wearies not with waiting, knowing that God prepares His rewards not for the results of toil but for the good will shown in it.” (E Supremi 13)
From the article:
The upcoming fifth centenary of the Reformation, the Pope added, should not be a “triumphalist celebration,” but instead an occasion of common prayer, common confession of the Triune God, and a common plea to the Lord Jesus Christ for “pardon for the mutual guilt.”
Probably the biggest stumbling block for the pope is recognizing the real Lutheran position on issues. As a Missouri Synod Lutheran, I have often said we are better positioned to dialogue with Rome because our stance on many of these issues is closer to Rome than to some of our liberal Lutheran siblings. On abortion, female ordination, homosexuality.
True. At least at the local level, a lot of our ecumenical priority is outdated, guided toward the wrong partners. In my city, the RC diocese has had some joint functions with the local TEC diocese, which began in the late 1960s when the TEC was totally different from today.
The joint functions continue, I think from inertia. My former parish began an annual “Lenten Journey” with the mainline Protestant churches in that town, around 1970. Since then those other denominations have shifted into - (well, I won’t say it) - but the Catholic parish keeps going along, visiting those same (now questionable) congregations because it’s an annual thing. “We always do that in Spring”.
I don’t think there’s any intention to support false doctrine or immorality, its just human nature. It’s hard to change patterns. But Catholics, and Protestants, who are concerned about churches abandoning basic Christian beliefs, need to advocate with the leaders of the parish, diocese, and higher levels for change. It’s time to re-route some of those ecumenical “journeys”. We need to seek out and prioritize fellow Christians based on their present position, not just on “history”. The LCMS would be an excellent example.
We need to recognize the reality that while we can’t “judge” other Christian individuals, we can and SHOULD “judge” that some church organizations have moved far beyond Christianity, and are an unwholesome place for persons to belong. If I met a Lutheran who belonged to a pro-abortion church, I would urge them to join a prolife church - the LCMS is a good home; so is Rome. I would worry that if I brought the baked beans to the pro abortion church’s annual “ecumenical” supper, that sends a message that prolife is a low priority for me.
The more I consider how difficult it is to change personal and organizational patterns, the more I admire Pope Emeritus Benedict, for instance setting up the Anglican Ordinariate. He went up against a lot of people who demanded the RC Church keep on bringing baked beans to the Episcopal church, since that’s been our pattern. Conversion is tough.
Your typical good work here.
It seems things are already under way.