31 January 2007

The "H"-Word.

Fr. E.T. Oakes, S.J., has given us an insightful and helpful rumination on Catholics, Docetists, Protestants, Justification, Jansenists, and what is and is not heresy.

I do hereby conclude: When the Western Church fissiparated in the sixteenth century, the Reformers took a portion of the essential patrimony of the Church with them, and they thereby left both the Roman Church and themselves the poorer for it.

. . .

So why am I bringing all this up? Partly it comes from my experience with ecumenical dialogue, especially in Evangelicals and Catholics Together, of which I am privileged to be a member: Disconcertingly, I find I have a lot more in common with this group than I often do with my fellow Catholics who don’t belong to that group! Also, I think it no abuse of language for a Catholic to speak of “orthodox” Protestants (Karl Barth, for example), as opposed to other theologians who are pretty much selling the company store in front of our eyes. (I think I won’t name any names here, lest I risk becoming more controversial than I already am.)

Having afflicted readers with these night-musings, I wish I could come up with a term that Catholics could use when they want to speak of the church-dividing doctrines of classical Protestantism without having to be either insulting or falling to the trap of “anything goes” latitudinarianism. But I can’t. Canon law unfortunately only recognizes schism and heresy, the former being a refusal to recognize duly constituted church authority without any attendant doctrinal deviation (like the Donatists in Augustine’s time), while the latter term is applied to those who explicitly deny key doctrines of the faith, however conceived, and whether they’ve abjured their membership in the Church or not.

Here's the whole thing, and highly recommended.


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