by Fr. Paul Manna
DURING the past thirty years or • so, movements towards Christian unity have mostly come from the other side. That is understandable. The separated churches, aware of their weakened position and of dangers that threaten et en their existence, have taken measures to protect themselves. I: is now necessary that on The Catholk side, too, there should he greater conc.ern to clear up misunderstanding and to find ways of approaching our separated brethren. More than that,
(Founder of the Missionary Union of the Clergyl
such efforts should be planned and directed by individuals and groups, commissioned for the purpose; they cannot otherwise carry the weight which so serious an undertaking requires, if it is to be effective.
We therefore venture to express the hope that, just as there is a Sacred Congregation for .the Propagation of the )aith, sd one may he founded for Christian Unity. There are some 380 million Christians outside the Church, and so long as there is no central organisation whose care is the salvation of so vast a number separated from the main body she cannot be fully at work. Our separated brethren arc outside the fold, it is true, yet they are of the flock and, if they sincerely seek for truth and desire unity, they would appreciate such an organisation. itself a permanent proof that Holy Church can never forget them, even thou'gh they no longer give her their allegiance. Mere aloofness will not do that.
Towards Better Understanding
Experience shows that even solemn pronouncements of the Holy Father on the subject of Christian unity only draw attention to it for a time. This would not be the case if the lead which he gives were followed up by a Congregation set up for that purpose. Without the 4entral authority, efforts towards a better understanding do not get very far. They may even be suspect.
Such a Congregation would be of enormous advantage and could organise study, prayer and instruction, follow up serious moves towards unity. promote missions to ndu-Catholic Christians, enrol the faithful in a great campaign of study. player and work, train workers and generally give a convincing proof of the solicitude of the Church for her lost children. Without that. whatever is donc, important and painstaking though it may be, will not be taken seriously enough.
Apart, however, from an organisation, officially recognised, there is scope for the faithful and particularly the clergy to study the problem more closely and inaugurate a campaign of prayer. study and better planned propaganda, so as to make this matter part and parcel of their Christian life and their Catholic Action. There could be no more important work than this for the true Catholic, for it has consequences which are vital to the good of the Church and must give glory to God.
The Unworthy Policy
The " Live. and 'let live" policy, so much in evidence in our time, has alwaYs been unworthy of one who holds the truth and has the good of souls and the conversion of the, world at heart. It causes stagnation and enfeebles our own faith.
Truth imposes obligations, especially on priests. as weighty as their charge on the souls entrusted to them. They are in duty bound to look for ways and means of enabling others to share it. The good shepherd leaves -the ninety-nine good sheep to look for the lost one. Our lost ones almost outnumber those within the fold.
If nations make the greatest semiflees. waging bitter wars, to achieve political unity, where is our Christian . patriotism if we are to remain content with a shattered Christendom which leaves millions of souls separated from our Holy Mother. the Church? Were St. Paul to return to earth would he resign himself as; placidly as we have done to soshameful a thing?
We could not do so if we .grasped what unity is and its supreme importance to the life of the Church. Christ will triumph and the spirit of Truth will conquer the world only when all Christians are brothers in the one Church of God. Therefore our neglect of our separated brethren in so many countries is wrong.
We say this with particular reference to Protestants, born and brought up alongside Catholics, in the same Mains and villages. sometimes under the same roof. The Catholics have their churches and clergy : the Protestants have theirs. Everything seems in order, but from the point or view of the Faith nothing more un-Christian could be imagined.
Priests for Unconverted
The American Paulist. Father Doyle, once asked a bishop in the United States: " How many Catholks are there in your diocese, My Lord?"
" About a quarter of a million." " And how many priests?"
" Four hundred."
" How many non-Catholics?" "Two to three millions."
" If you have four hundred priests for three quarters of a million Catholics, couldn't you spare just two of them for the two or three million non-Catholics?"
This sort of thing is not beyond our reach, particularly if we are living in a land of mixed religions, and we must enter into it more whole-heartedly than we have done in the past.
In every country of Europe, indeed of the world, where Catholics live among Protestants or Orthodox. the zealous Catholic priest has an immense field in which he can work among his own fellow-countrymen, friends and acquaintances. He does not need to go
abroad or to learn languages; he needs only the strong convictiop of the supreme importance of Christian unity and of the right of our separated brethren to his apostolic interest.
The great conferences of Stockholm and Oxford, promoted by the Life and Work movement, aimed particularly at united Christian action in social matters, and it may be advisable to collaborate in this field without waiting for the restoration of Christian unity. It remains true, however, and must be made clear to our separated brethren that only unity of faith, organisation and command can impress the modern mind.
St. Ignatius Martyr, in his letter to the Ephesians, says: ".The power of Satan is overcome and the evil he has wrought is vanquished by the unity of our faith." It is still true.
The above article is an adaptation of two chapters of Fr. Manna's recent book, I Fratelli separati e