Questions Of Reunion
Chretiens Desunis, by M-J. Conger (les editions du Cerf : Paris). Reviewed by CHARLES G. MORTIMER This book has a sub-title-Principles of a Catholic Ecumenism, but I am afraid when one, has read the book, one is very little wiser as to what this Ecumenism implies or portends. This is not to deny that there is much sound clear thinking in the book; and quite a satisfactory analysis of the position of the dissidents; all those bodies who still claim to be Christian Churches or congregations and among them, of course, the ancient schisms of the East.
This and subsequent books expounding the Papal teaching of the Unapt Sanctum are an endeavour to be constructive and sympathetic and I do not think I am doing the author an injustice if I quote one or two words of his Foreword as revealing the line of country he intends to cover.
It amounts to this: he concedes, of course, that Papal pronouncements set the key and define the issue of the whole matter-what is sometimes loosely called Reunion, but which is really from the Catholic point of view, conversion and submission to the Holy See. These encyclicals, says our author, fixent le tertne ideal ou it fast en venir. But they do not give any particular indications as to the actual point of departure or the possibilities of movement towards that term or goal; and the author goes on to speak of revelation as incarnate in the life of believing and thinking humanity; which strikes one as a slightly dangerous and equivocal phrase. Perhaps it is clear to the French intellect and no one could possibly dispute the solid orthodoxy of this book.
None the less the words might have implications for English non-Catholic readers which would he fallacious. Catholics do not believe that the fullness of the Church is to be found in a merely historical evolution, not yet consummated. It is an objective and super-natural fact; immutable truth in no way conditioned by our acceptance or rejection; or even by our presentment of it. The Church is its own interpreter and has official and infallible organs for that end.
In other words we have not to wait for the conversion of England or of the Japanese or any other nation to see what the Church is really going to be like. As Lco said : The Church needs no man, but all men need the Church.
* * * * It is impossible in a short review to expound all the divisions of this work; the first part is roughly a statement of Catholic doctrine De Ecclesia and the latter parts review non-Catholic ecclesiology, among which a chapter is devoted to the Anglican. The general object of the author is to examine these various theories and positions and try to give them if he
can, a sort of Catholic orientation. On these grounds he seems to applatid the efforts ofthe Malinesdiscussions; which have been considered by many as fundamentally misleading and abortive.
One is conscious all the time of the gap that no mere words can bridge; of the unreality of trying to find points of contact with men who reject the very premises on which a Catholic argues.
The author seems conscious himself of this fatal gap when he gets to the end of his work. In the East indeed Uniat Churches have been successfully established. If this is Corporate Reunion let us admit its practicability under those conditions. But these arguments cannot be transferred to Protestantism; the utmost our author suggests is. that a return to the Reformers themselves might be helpful, a savoir celui qui s'attache crux objets de la foi aposiolique conserves par eux, qui pent travailler dans le setts de reunion. .
It * * Here again one might ask. what does our author mean by Reunion? No one denies that it is impossible to convert a man from Anglicanism or Lutheranism or Judaism by showing him what he has and what he has not yet apprehended of Christ's teaching. But this is and must he a purely individual matter and to introduce the word Reunion seems to imply that there are two definite things to unite for the second time; but Anglicanism was never a thing once united to Rome that subsequently fell away. It was simply an invention of the State at a definite time in history; without orders or jurisdiction; retaining some and denying others of the doctrines of Christianity.
But perhaps the most endearing feature of this work is the spirit of patient charity in which it is written; the sincere desire to stretch out hands of welcome to any who will listen.