One of my deep frustrations is to get conservative Catholics to take ecumenism seriously. There is no official reason not to take it seriously but at the level of real action many would rather not get into this messy business. (By the way, I have a similar problem with conservative Protestants who think in one way about ecumenism, namely that the word means “compromise.”)
A recent article by Msgr. Owen F. Campion, the associate publisher of Our Sunday Visitor (OSV), a widely read Catholic weekly, brought me a great deal of encouragement because I found a conservative Catholic writer who does take ecumenism seriously. Campion, writing in the October 12 issue of OSV, says that true ecumenism, “rather than playing down differences . . . is about coming together in Christian witness to the world.” Bravo! This is precisely he central point in my view of missional-ecumenism.
Campion refers to Pope Benedict XVI’s recent visit to Westminster Abbey in England. He writes that Westminster is a “strong symbol of the division between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church.” But, he adds, it is “also of England’s great Christian past.” He believes Pope Benedict went there precisely because of the symbolism. His visit was friendly, cordial and social. The two leaders, Pope Benedict and Archbishop Rowan Williams sat in the sanctuary of the abbey church to preside at Evensong, the Anglican vespers. Neither Pope Benedict nor the archbishop downplayed or denied their significant differences but “they stressed the common faith of both bodies in the Lord Jesus, and in his faith they called Anglicans and Catholics to come together in Christian witness in the world.” Campion then rightly offers and observation that I rarely hear from conservative Catholic bloggers and polemicists when he adds: “This is ecumenism, an attitude and an activity that has never truly captured the minds and hearts of Catholics, and that still bothers and even angers many Catholics.”
I have found this last statement to be all too true. True ecumenism is not about diluting anyone’s faith. True ecumenism acknowledges our differences in the spirit of Christ’s love and then builds on “shared understandings and further, if at all possible, the work of the Gospel.”
No one could better express what I believe than Campion does in this article. He reasons that Pope Benedict’s “friendly meeting with the chief Anglican bishop, as well as his other contacts with religious figures, show