It is Friday and time for the Friday Satirical Comment. But before getting to satire, I want to make an observation about ecumenism. I do this in light of my previous posting, which has met with enthusiastic approval in some circles and withering disdain in others. (I suppose if nothing else it goes to prove two truisms: “Everyone’s a critic” and “You can’t please everybody.”)
That sermon was written and delivered in an atmosphere of hope, and a setting in which sharing of the Holy Eucharist was then, as now, impossible — at the Mother House of the Roman Catholic Society of the Atonement, whose founder, Father Paul, a former Episcopal priest, was among those who can rightly claim to have “invented” the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The inability to share the Holy Eucharist with fellow Christians due to the strictures placed upon such sharing by the Roman Catholic Church has long been a source of some sadness for me. I was once at a conference of Anglican religious orders held at a Roman Catholic Benedictine monastery. The abbot made it very clear that he was happy to have us there, but under no circumstances would there be any relaxation in the rigor of the rules about sharing the Eucharist. Then-Bishop of Chicago Frank Griswold, who was conducting the meeting, observed the simple truth that Anglicans tend to see the Eucharist as a means to unity, while Roman Catholics see it as a sign of unity.
It has always seemed odd to me, to affirm the unity of all Christians in the first dominical sacrament of Baptism, but to deny sharing that baptismal unity-in-Christ in the second dominical sacrament, the Holy Eucharist, on the basis of the imperfect unity-in-the-institution of the visible church, in particular the one headed by the heir of Peter. Yet this is the position the Roman Catholic Church has taken, and, to judge by the recent statement from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, continues to take. For it makes quite clear that,
Through Baptism and our shared faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we become members of the visible Church, under the apostolic authority of the pope and bishops. The celebration of the Eucharist expresses and enacts this communion in Christ. With few exceptions, only those who are members of the Catholic Church may receive Holy Communion at a Catholic Eucharistic liturgy. (emphasis mine)What makes this somewhat strange is a quotation from the present Pontiff, which also forms a part of this document (again with my emphasis)
Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own. Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians. We become “one body,” completely joined in a single existence. Love of God and love of neighbor are now truly united: God incarnate draws us all to himself.It appears to me that we have in this statement, the seeds of a better and more generous understanding — and grounds for a more open sharing of communion — than either the past or present policy appears to favor. It is my fervent hope that the heir of Peter will indeed come to embrace a desire to “feed the sheep.”
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Now, all that being said, it is still time for Friday Satire. So, without further ado, and without wishing to tear down any good feeling that may have been built up, but also unable to resist the influence of my inspired Photo-shopping colleague from across the pond, MadPriest, here is the protected speech of the afternoon. Just remember, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, I live in hope!
Tobias Haller BSG