Monday, February 25, 2013
MARTY GERVAIS ON RELIGION
THE WORD Thomas Rosica repeats over and over again is “scandalous.”
He’s referring to the way in which churches tend to remain segregated, isolated, interested in their own.
If you spend any time talking to Rosica, he will tell you just how frustrated he gets when he hears how Roman Catholic priests speak in such chauvinistic ways about salvation in the “Catholic Church.” He doesn’t even like it when they refer to themselves as Catholics, when the word “Christian” would not only have been good enough, but preferable.
It’s not that he doesn’t like Catholics – he is one. In fact, this spring he will be ordained a priest of the Basilian religious order.
The fact is, Rosica spent a good part of his field training as a priest working on ecumenism. In 1984 he surveyed churches in the Montreal area for the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism to determine where they stood on church unity. His findings, and especially the approach Rosica took to the survey, are being examined and considered by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. There is the possibility that the Roman Catholic Church’s umbrella organization in Canada will implement a survey of this kind on a national basis.
THE YOUNG DEACON working at St. John the Baptist Church in Amherstburg with its other Basilian priests regards the whole matter of ecumenism as “scandalous.” He sees “the Catholic ghetto mentality as a stumbling block and knows just how reticent clergymen from other denominations can be when it comes to authentic sharing. Some of it has to do with being “too set in their ways” but there are other reasons, too. In some cases, the clergymen know little of the ecumenical movement, and they haven’t bothered to do “any reading at all about it.”
There’s also the notion that their churches are suffering serious losses in membership. The direction now is to shore up what they can count on.
UNFORTUNATELY, the notion exists that some churches have the exclusive copyright on the “word of God, “ says Rosica.
“But the word of God is for all people,” says Rosica, who adds that it isn’t just for Catholics or Anglicans or Presbyterians.
Another fact, says Rosica, is that many denominations must learn that no one is out to threaten the existence of any one church. In addition to this, the myth has to be dispelled that the only way in which the Roman Catholics are going to be part of church unity is for all Christian denominations (to) join Rome.
Rosica says there is no reason real ecumenism -- even to the point of an organic union – can’t mean a harmony of various Christian denominations in one community.
The Basilian deacon could sit all day in his office at St. John the Baptist and talk about the ecumenical movement. While he doesn’t regard himself as an expert, the survey did teach him something. His objective is to set into motion something that will bring churches in Amherstburg closer together.
ROSICA EXPECTS to return here after ordination, and if he does, he feels he will continue his ecumenical work in the town. The real test for the ecumenical movement, he says, is at the grass roots: moving the “local” churches into a situation where they will share more and pray more together.
Sunday will see the first step in that direction: St. John the Baptist is holding an ecumenical prayers service at 2:30 p.m. where five different Christian denominations – the Baptists, United Church, Anglicans, Presbyterians and Roman Catholics – will be participating.
Rev. John Parker, Pastor of Wesley United Church, will deliver the homily. The service coincides with the first Sunday, in the Week of Christian Unity, celebrated by Catholics and Protestants around the world. The service in itself is admittedly a “minor act” says Rosica, but it could be the beginning of a new awareness the churches will have for one another.
HE SEES Amherstburg as no different than any other community, pointing out that no matter how much dialogue the national churches hold, unless clergy and congregations at the local level are prepared to start talking to one another in a meaningful way, then ecumenism is simply a dream.
He says if churches persist in taking the attitude that they “have all the answers,” then nothing is going to be advanced in church unity.
But while Rosica likes being an idealist, he is intimately aware of the obstacles.
Intercommunion is certainly the first to spring to mind. In some ways, he regards the Roman Catholic Church’s reluctance to permit Catholics and Protestants to take communion in their churches as an embarrassment. On the other hand, he also has a lot of respect for his church in holding back from the pressure until other obstacles have been cleared away.
THIS IS BECAUSE Rome regards the eucharist as “the fullness of unity,” Rosica says.
He added until other obstacles have been resolved, there can be no unity.
Bishop Sherlock told the fall synod of Canadian Bishops that the extension of communion to non-Catholics would be a “form of cheating.”
He had said, “It assumes a unity which has not yet occurred.”
But Rosica agrees with the new CCCB vice-president, Archbishop James Hayes of Halifax, that the issue should be pursued, and that “shared communion” with Protestant denominations at times of mixed marriages and funerals should be encouraged.
The church sanctions such a practice.
Unfortunately, Rosica says some priests aren’t even aware of “this possibility” – to them it’s a non-issue.
ESSENTIALLY, such an attitude or lack of awareness is a formidable obstacle to church unity. Rosica says it comes down to the glaring fact that many clergy just won’t bother to acquaint themselves with what is being done about church unity.
Apathy is another obstacle, Rosica said explain how some priests regard the issue as “just another job” they have to do. As a result, he says, there is no compelling urge to do anything more than pay lip service to it.
Another stumbling block lies with the training institutions which tend to want to propagate and further their own denominational interests and philosophies. As a result, there are institutions that tend to favour one religion over another, when in fact they ought to be “open” to the whole spectrum.
IN HIS REPORT to the Canadian Ecumenical Commission, Rosica wrote that while it might be difficult “to complain” about training in the past from the era before or during Vatican II which spurred on ecumenism, “We have a right and duty, however, to take objection with these young people (including young professors), who, through their theology courses and their religious beliefs, wish to move the Ecumenical movement back to a time when it new no possibilities for growth.”
Rosica says unless the church – not only the Roman Catholic Church – begins to take a “a vested interest” in the formation of clergy, making sure they are less chauvinistic about their denomination – then ecumenism is going to remain at a standstill.
Because of the lack of any read dramatic unity, Rosica says people have indeed, lost interest in church unity.
He said this in his report too, pointing out that the findings showed that “many have lost the desire for unity over the past years, and even fewer really sense the scandalous division existing within our own church and also among the Christian churches.
ROSICA KNOWS that the move toward church unity has to be gradual and it must go through a set of “sequences.” Sunday’s service is the beginning. The next step is to form a ministerial association.
The next step is to work on “twinning” churches, where churches begin to do some real sharing and experimenting with liturgies.
Rosica isn’t sure how successful he will be. He hopes for the best. He says as long as congregations are praying, “somehow the spirit of God is alive.”
He’s certain this will ease the impatience.