a subject so vast and Twith so many ramifications —theological, historical, practical—as the present crisis in the Church, it is impossible to do justice in a letter. But it would be impolite not to try to give Miss Meriol Trevor (whose books, I assure her, 1, on my part, buy, read and admire) an attempt at a skeleton answer to her letter of July 25.
The historical point — the reactions of Popes to their predecessors' policies — could, I think, be argued interminably and inconclusively; but it would need far more space than you could allow and would not be very profitable, and I am tempted to endorse Miss Trevor's own mot that "the fact that Popes are old men who cannot live very long has saved many a situation."
In my letter I was trying to express the elements of a situation which, theologically, is bound ultimately to involve the opposing Catholic and Protestant views on Justification. which, I would submit to Miss Trevor, who is so conversant with the Tridentine period, are basically unchanged since the sixteenth century debate.
The incidental truths in the teachings of Protestantism are thus really irrelevant in this connection. As a son of the manse and, for many years, an Anglican priest, I have been very aware of these from my childhood—and, I may add. am still amazed by the depth of the Biblical ignorance of the average cradle-Catholic.
In so far as that equivocal
word "'ecumenism" means a loving attempt to understand the dogmatic differences between the various groups of baptised Christians, it is surely nothing more than an elementary Christian duty. It is equally elementary to admit humbly that, by the boundless uncovenanted mercies of God, our "separated brethren" may enter Heaven well ahead of us Catholics.
But "if God is not bound by the sacraments, we are," and the danger of the progressive attitude is that it confuses things which are unquestionably right and good in Protestantism, like a deeper knowledge of the Scriptures, with things which are unquestionably heretical, like the denial of Transubstantiation.
Thus, in any celebration of
Anaphora H in the Normative Mass, any Nonconformist can, in perfect good faith, communicate, for he can, with sound theological and historical reasons. hold that the elements remain bread and wine.
I am aware that this is exactly what many "progressives" and "ecumenists" intend. But I do not believe Miss Trevor does, or that she approves of it any more than I do.
Hugh Ross Williamson London. W.2.