ARECIPROCAL affair involving Eur ope and England is the complex. often delicate, but highly important topic of ecumenical relations between the Anglican and majority religion of these islands, and the religion "of Rome" so intimately associated as it is with continental civilisation. Naturally English Catholics have a key "bridge-making" role to play in such a situation.
The CATHOLIC HERALD has long had an ardent wish to be as constructively ecumenical as humanly possible. and thus conceives it to be a disservice to true ecumenism to flinch from being explicit about possible difficulties.
We are. we hope, no less hard on ourselves — within our own communion — as we may sometimes seem to be on others when trying to probe the danger areas as well as the clearly marked footpaths of the exhilarating terrain which all Christians are exploring in concert at this time.
Within this context, an event of major importance took place this last summer at Ampleforth College in Yorkshire, when certain notable Anglicans and Catholics met for discussions in depth. The occasion was a sequel with a difference to an assembly also organised by Fr. Columba Cary Elwes — which met at the same place four years ago.
The first brought together a very diverse collection of unusual men and women for the purposes of a monastic ecumenical meeting. This year the conference went beyond the monastic world but was confined to a "two-confessional" meeting as between Anglicans and Catholics.
Most of the papers read at this conference appear in the Ampleforth Journal published today. Perhaps the most remarkable is a contribution which, as it turned out, was the last piece to come from the mind and pen of the late Archbishop Lord Fisher of Lambeth, who made history by his visit to the Pope in 1960 Stressed by him was the vital point elaborated more recently by Cardinal Willebrands at Lambeth Palace that "organic unity" cannot be the objective of an enlightened ecumenism. Though Pope John and the Archbishop agreed on this basic truth, it was "one not universally accepted in Christendom. The Anglican Methodist scheme offended against it, saying that the end of a process of unification was to be organic unity, when in fact baptism brings every baptised person into the organic unity of Christ's Body, the Church Militant."
"Between friends" however. the Archbishop felt that the phrase "at one" was capable, for ecclesiastical purposes, of a "sensible and simple meaning — 'at one' not in accepted definitions of officially agreed beliefs but at one in certain areas of intellectual and devotional interest wherein differing descriptions of a common attitude of belief are tolerated and welcomed because they are spiritually compatible and intellectually not contradictory. leaving to Churches a legitimate freedom of movement both in intellectual definition and in spiritual apprehension."
Seen as a whole, the papers emerging from this remarkable conference raise hopes for the future to an unprecedented level. What must be heavily accentuated is that the average Catholic has nothing to fear from this kind of honest, top-level, intellectual approach to ecumenism.
Though our faith may ultimately and of necessity be "simple," there is not, and never has been, anything simple about the intellectual efforts of our own theologians through the ages, from whose. sometimes tortuous, arguments have emanated the definitions of our faith. To deny the place of the intellect in the fbrmation of an ever more enlightened faith is to confess our ignorance of the past and profess our indifference as to the future.
Such Catholics who may persist in despising intellectual faith, and courageous ecumenical thought (not to mention the anti-Anglican bigots) are solidly put to shame by the formidable onslaught of such conferences as that which took place this summer at Ampleforth.