WE are bold enough to suggest a further object of special prayer during the coming Church Unity Octave: it is prayer to overcome the fear of Unity.
That Christian Unity is feared outside the Catholic Church is evident enough.
A leading article in last week's Church Times stated;
" There can only be one Church, that which stands in direct line with the community Mat Christ founded on the apostles; which proclaims an identical faith, uses the same sacraments, and maintains a ministry whose authority and commission is derived from those to whom the Son of God gave his apostolic charge, and entrusted with the divine gifts which he had come to give to men."
This straightforward affirmation of Catholic doctrine on the part of the leading newspaper of the Established Church cannot but prompt in us an equally straightforward query : If there is only one Church of Christ, is that Church the Church which from the beginning was in communion with the See of Peter and has remained so to this day—or is it the Church which broke away from the See of Peter at the Reformation, substituting for this See the See of Canterbury ?
Such a question may seem to our very good friends of the Anglican Communion a highly simplified question ; but we confess that for the life of us we cannot see why it is not the essential, vital question for all who would accept the validity of the paragraph we have quoted from the Church Times.
Why then do the Anglicans, at least of this increasingly powerful school, act as though the answer could be : the one Church of Christ is the Church of England in communion with the See of Canterbury whose true Catholic doctrine is at present preserved by only a minority of those who conceive themselves to be members of that Communion ?
Is not fear the real key to the answer ?
We do not refer only to the fear of submission to an authority which, with time and change, seems to have grown alien; nor to the immense and costing sacrifices which are often demanded of individuals (though the Pope in his Christmas allocution emphasised " the sweetness of the way of return to the Father's House"); we refer also to the fear of many aspects of the organisation, customs, temper of C-atholics today.
THE question will not appear so illogical where it is a case not of Anglicans who subscribe so clearly to the Catholic doctrine of Unity, but of Anglicans and Protestants who have more or less lost Catholic doctrine about a visible and factual continuity with the historic Christ.
Yet, among those whose religious Communion would appear to be nothing more than a temporal and accidentally constituted society in no more than moral continuity with the Bible and the historic Jesus, whether considered truly Divine or only symbolically so, there must be very many who, if they could but overcome their fear of the Catholic Church and consequent prejudice against it, would, under God's grace, regain faith in authentic Christianity.
And when it comes to the schism which separates the Church of Rome from the Eastern Orthodox Church, surely here, too, fear and prejudice incarnated in centuries of divided history and customs are surely the real explanation of the persisience of the disaster.
But fear is not operative only on the side of our separated brethren ; paradoxically it is operative in a thousand ways on our side as well.
AT the present time, so far as we
are aware, there exists no Catholic of any public prominence who has given expression to the smallest temptation to moderate, alter or amend in the slightest way the Catholic teaching on Unity.
This fact is surely by any standard a most remarkable sign
of Catholic strength. It would seem to mean that whatever differences there may be among individual Catholics in their approach to the tragic problem of bringing back our separated brethren to the Unity of Christ in one Church, no single one of these Catholics is for a moment tempted to sacrifice the smallest part of the Church's stand on Unity. and conSequently Authority, in the hope of furthering the cause of Unity. Please God, may it always remain so.
yET on that immensely strong foundation, with what disinterest and apathy do we approach a Cause, as spiritually vital as it is increasingly temporally necessary for the saving of our threatened civilisation. How little seemingly are we prepared to do to help luifil Our Lord's own prayer " that they may be one ", to prepare the way for the Holy Father's own Jubilee appeal for " the Great Return to the one true Church ".
What is the reason ? Is it not
largely fear? Fear of disturbance, fear of changes, fear for old habits ?
Men are rarely moved by logic and argument alone. We think every Catholic reader of this column will agree with us in the substance of our analysis given above about the position of the High Anglicans. Yet we know that Anglicans of the highest faith and sincerity will in no wise he moved by it.
Why ? Because of their fear which is a word that gathers together a million habits. currents of mind, prejudices, objections, feelings which always decide human action.
WHAT do we oppose to these ? Do we oppose a constant and serious effort to examine the sources and causes of this state of mind with a view to inquiring into such changes in our own habits, currents of mind, prejudices, objections, feelings as we may be capable of making without in the remotest way affecting the orthodoxy of our Catholic faith ? Or do we oppose them, in an aura of fear rather than love, by insisting on our own counter habits, currents of mind, prejudices, objections and feelings, thus doubling the gap which separates us ?
It is true that the Church is in many ways a conservative society, for its first duty is to conserve the full and true doctrine of Christ, and non-Catholics with difficulty understand how suicidal it would be for the cause of Christianity and the spiritual and moral health of the world if the Catholic Church sacrificed anything essential in doctrine for the supposed furtherance of a Unity from which then the very life would have departed.
BUT we need not try and evade our own individual responsibility by invoking the wise and normally slow-moving conservatism of our authorities. Our failures are not failures to alter the administration of the Church, but to alter our own moral characters.
If we did all within our individual competence to live by Christ's charity in the face of our separated brethren instead of by our fears and prejudices. the whole spiritual climate of our outward lives before them would be changed with enormous possibilities for the furtherance of Unity. Many indeed are trying, and already with fruitful results. Abroad great efforts are being made in this sense.
Yet as things arc here, we fear that many will not even remember to observe the Octave blessed by the Pope. And of those who do observe it, how many will think of it as more than an occasion for an extra verbal prayer.
What is needed is the prayer that involves a searching of soul and supplication for the grace which blesses and confirms a change of heart—the grace which can make us in deeds, true " othei Christs," the grace which alone can lead our separated brethren across the abyss which separates them from the Unity of Christ.