The need for internal ecumenism

I had occasion today to go back to Yves Congars little book on the Lefebvre Affair, Challenge to the Church (Huntingdon, IN: OSV, 1976), toward the end of which he tried to engage the Lefebvrites in dialogue. He wrote:

It so often happens in squabbles between family or friends that the squabble feeds on itself as it goes on. The original cause is still there, but it has become hardened by pig-headedness and has passed the point of no-return.A remedy must therefore be found. Couldnt a kind of moratorium be agreed upon? ...It has often been said that an internal ecumenism is necessary in todays Church. From an objective point of view, this should be less difficult than the other kind of ecumenism since we have many more points of reference in common. Indeed, we have (nearly) everything in common! But it would be necessary to unclench our muscles and, with the help of God, arm ourselves with a very long-suffering patience. Is this beyond the limits of whats possible?

I note, first, how this page anticipates the Common Ground Initiative; second, the awareness that family feuds can be the most bitter of all; and, third, that the problem he describes has not improved in the subsequent thirty-odd years. Only we dont see it only in relation to the Lefebvrites; it exists more broadly in many a conversation among Catholics of contrasting views. We seem to find it more difficult to be courteous, respectful, and willing to listen to fellow-Catholics than we do to Protestants, Jews, and Muslims. Some of the things we think it OK to say to or about fellow-Catholics we would criticize very harshly if we heard them said by a Catholic to or about people of other faiths.

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

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Before and after Vatican II

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