Is strewn with surprises The Ecumenical Revolution by R. McAfee Brown (Burns & Oates 65s.)
by Dom Peter Flood O.S.B.
recall how I was taught to read and study Scripture and it was emphasised that the Church granted a special indulgence to those who did so daily. I have always found that whilst Catholics are thoroughly conversant with the main teachings of Scripture in the practice of their religion, non-Catholics lack that same practical knowledge, though more conversant with some textual quotations.
Speaking of his own affiliation (Protestantism) he insists that the stereotype to be dispelled is the following, "since protestantism is an individualistic religion, it naturally leads in a divisive direction as the individualistic spirit triumphs over concern for community. Formal recognition of the authority of Scripture provides no effective check on individual opinion, since each person interprets the Bible as he chooses, invoking 'the right of private judgment'; thus current Protestant concern for unity is a strange, although welcome, intrusion on the Protestant scene."
The Catholic, in looking at the ecumenical scene wonders how any unity can be achieved with several hundred religious bodies each differing, even in matters of religious principle, with each other, and still more from those dogmas which are a part of the revelation of, Christ through His Church. The English Catholic finds too that almost every non-Catholic clergyman holds different views as to basic doctrines. It is one thing to say that they all believe in Jesus Christ, but the thing that matters is just what their belief contains: How many do in fact believe that he was true God and Man, at all times, the Second Person of the Trinity, having two natures, divine and human?
Too frequently one finds the saddening fact that the statement that they believe in Christ covers a multitude of beliefs incompatible with truth. Here too the position differs from that of America -the Protestant Church of England as by law Established, is a state Church and controlled by Parliament-if its bishops or any of them defected from it, the Prime Minister would recommend successors to the Queen, who would proceed to their appointment. This fact is neither well understood by some European ecumenists of teutonic origin nor by Americans.
Despite the limitation mentioned, this book contains much that is very valuable: His "ground rules for dialogue" are sound : each must believe that his partner is speaking in good faitheach must have a clear understanding of his own faith: He says "ill-informed geniality (what (-lumanae Generis referred to as 'false irenicism') does the ecumenical cause no good. The Catholic who tries to soften the issue of papal infallibility for diplomatic reasons . . . is simply not a responsible representative of the faith he is called upon to understand and communicate."
The overall impression from reading this book is that, whilst it refers mainly to an American position and is less useful for us, nevertheless it contains much that must be useful and even necessary for those concerned in ecumenical discussions anywhere.
T HIS is a light historical -areview of the progress of Ecumenism during and since Vatican H. It "limits itself to those dimensions of the total dialogue that most immediately concern Roman Catholics and Protestants."
The author is a well known American Presbyterian immersed in this work. Apart from the fact that his judgments on the Catholic point of view depend too often on the views expressed by some of the hoard of publicity loving writers on the fringes of theology, his assessment is of much interest. When he forgets the reportings of the journalistic lobbies of the Council, his judgment is very often shrewd and often broadly based. But just as one is about to consider something he says, one finds that it derives from the interesting but largely fictional writings over the name of Xavier Rynne.
The book is in five parts, the first being devoted to ecumenical strivings up to date; the second relates to the movement of reform in the Church throughout the last four or five centuries. In the third part the author is becoming more sure of himself and writes on what he terms the "Surprises of Vatican II." Apart from the naivety with which he swallows journalistic gossip, this section is of much interest. In sections three and four he grows up and allows more of his native intelligence to work, albeit the fear of "Rome" is not quite extruded from his mind.
He quotes Kong with appreciation when he says, we can now be encouraged that in many quarters the Catholic Church now encourages her people to read the Scriptures for themselves . • ." Looking back to my youth I