November 26, 2004


A Modest Step Toward Unity: Richard John Neuhaus on the Catholic bishops' decision to join Christian Churches Together. (Interview by Rob Moll, 11/24/2004, Christianity Today)

There was some hesitation by the bishops about joining Christian Churches Together, so why did they eventually decide to join?

I think the decision is contingent upon the understanding that CCT is a very modest enterprise, and it's very different from the discussions of 20 and more years ago about the Catholic church joining the National Council of Churches or the World Council of Churches. CCT is at this point really not much more than an annual meeting of religious leaders to get to know one another and get ideas and share experiences, which is a pretty obvious thing to do. There were a lot of bishops who were very worried that it would become something like the old National Council of Churches, and therefore there was a very substantial vote against the proposal. But reassurances have been given that there are many checks and limits and built-in occasions for making sure CCT remains the modest enterprise that it presents itself as being now.

Could it have much impact if it is such a modest proposal?

I don't think we should underestimate the ways in which people who get to know one another and develop relationships of personal trust can then take steps toward forms of cooperation. It's not really just Christian churches, it's also national organizations in the social welfare and world development areas, and while they have their own institutions and patterns of interacting, this perhaps could strengthen that. You'd have to judge on a case by case basis as to whether a form of cooperation confuses or compromises the integrity of any particular church or organization, but on the face of it, I think it's very hard to argue in principle against what CCT aims to do at this point.

Jesus' prayer in John 17 to be one so that the world would believe is stated as a reason for forming CCT. Could you give me an understanding of the Catholic perspective on the importance of working out Jesus prayer in John 17?

The Catholic commitment to Christian unity is irrevocable. There is the Second Vatican Council, and the subsequent popes—and especially this pope—have said it again and again. But by Christian unity, Catholics mean something far beyond what is envisioned for CCT. And that is full communion, which means that one would be united in faith and life and that unity would be expressed in the Eucharist. So that's the Catholic understanding of the goal of Christian unity. But on the way to that goal, if God-willing it is ever to be achieved short of our Lord's return, there are other things that Christians can do together.

Protestantism was a mistake, but it's not too late to fix it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 26, 2004 2:28 PM

You'll never get a billion people to turn away from "sin boldly" without a miracle.

Posted by: JimGooding at November 26, 2004 3:44 PM

OJ, are you Catholic? I thought that you were Baptist.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at November 26, 2004 3:48 PM

Raised Baptist, in negotiations with the Jewish Wife over the kids. I say let's just all go Catholic.

Posted by: oj at November 26, 2004 3:53 PM

"I say let's just all go Catholic."
While reading Bros.Judd, I have occasionally been reminded of my Irish Catholic grandma's regular observation about hyper-orthodox acquaintances, to wit: "more Catholic than the pope". :-)

Posted by: Pat Garnaas at November 26, 2004 5:23 PM


Until this Pope made that impossible. If the next Pope is equally conservative it will help such convergence greatly.

Posted by: oj at November 26, 2004 5:26 PM

"Catholicism means: here comes everybody."

OJ: recommend you get some tapes of the great Rosalind Moss from Catholic Answers, if C.S. Lewis had been a tiny Jewish lady, he'd have been she

self-reference sin: trying to get buy-in on Catholicism from my S. Baptist wife, biggest obstacle is that Catholic churches almost never make adequate provision for kids; they cover over this huge obstacle to evangelization by saying the kids need to be near the Eucharist; even the tiniest Baptist church has sunday school and youth groups; truth is truth, but you pay for the realization with spotty to non-existent mass participation when you try taking your kids to most Catholic churches

Posted by: JimGooding at November 26, 2004 5:54 PM

Religions are like unstable radioactive elements. They have a certain half-life in which half of their members will split off to form new religions. You will never get all the Christians together, let alone all of the world's religious people.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at November 27, 2004 1:23 PM

You'll never keep all those colonies together, Mr. Washington.

Posted by: oj at November 27, 2004 3:20 PM

Almost didn't.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at November 28, 2004 12:50 AM

Did, added more, not done yet.

Posted by: oj at November 28, 2004 10:54 AM

The Christian family will ultimatly be one whole and undivided body of beleivers again. God's people, Jews and Christians together, will also ultimatly be this way as well.

Posted by: Dave W. at November 29, 2004 2:11 PM

"catholic" means universal. The Roman Catholic Church is the "universal (Christian) church, Rome Headquarters. Robert is correct about the "splitting off" nature of the church, that is when the Church is thought of in only human terms. Christian unity, in the sense of all Christians looking to Rome and acknowledging it to be the supreme headqtrs. of Christiandom will never happen. Wake up believers...God designed the Christian church to be different than all secular, human organizations. Understanding this is essential to our unity.

P.S. I'm dedicated to the democratic principles that undergird my country (a democrat), but I'm most certainly not a Democrat! I'm dedicated to the catholic principles that undergird my faith (a catholic), but I'm most certainly not a Catholic!

Posted by: Phil at November 29, 2004 2:33 PM