Christian Reconciliation: Considering Time

One of the errors, it seems to me, facing the church regarding schism and reconciliation is one of time and our perception of the same. For example, take the particular schism begun by Luther, founding the Lutheran communion split from the Roman church. How many of Luther’s original objections to the church Catholic remain today? Indulgences and preaching in the native tongue have long since fallen, and the Catholic church has adopted the Lutheran position. One question might be, is that whether the Catholic church might have adopted the major pieces of these objections sooner if the split hadn’t occurred. In Luther’s case, he himself was not, expecially at first, considering leading a split or schism. That came his way, in a large part because of political and ecomonic conditions between Church and State in Germanic territories in his age. But that point is one to take as well. How often are political, economic, or social influences behind what should be theological issues. How much of the Anglican split is really about US and the global South attempting to exert control over the larger Anglican communion.

Political, economic, or social issues such as those behind today’s Anglican crises or the original East/West split are/were likely major factors behind the split. But those factors are temporary. They don’t survive for centuries.

In the intervening 500 years give or take, could it be said that one of the primary ecclessial causes of the split where in some sense a result of impatience on both sides. The insistence of settling these issues now, and in one’s lifetime made split necessary? Consider the split in the Anglin church today largely over sexual issues. If, both sides just kept talking and instead of pushing for changes today, but instead figured that timescales of centuries works better for a community with two thousand years of dealing with these same issues. It is the hyper-sexualization of society which arguably is a primary driving force behind the gay/woman priest issues and the blessings of same sex marriage. This sexualization of modern society is quite likely a termporary social swing, which in a century or two will have run its course.

Could it be better if we attempt to take our questions of church and theology out of time during our debates and discussions, and not try to force a conclusion in our lifetime? The presumption that problems require prompt solution what I am putting to the question. It seems plausible that the Luther/Roman split was not one that was theologically necessary, as essentially all the theological/ecclessial issues have been resolved in the meantime. Could that argument be useful when we consider continueing splits today?

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4 comments

  1. Anne says:

    Hi Mark

    I think that taking the long view is, on the whole, a good thing.

    Rome has, in fact, reformed some of her abuses since the time of Luther’s pointing them out and calling a spade a spade.

    But not all of them. Indulgences are still defended in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I’m on the occasional RC mailing list based on the magazines to which I’ve subscribed, and I’ve actually received an ad selling the service of prayers for the dead to lessen their time in purgatory … the assumptions under that one are piled high.

    Certain of our friends in Rome are eagerly returning to celebrating services in Latin. (Do you read Cross Reference, Jeff P.’s blog on my blogroll?) I don’t want to deny that there are certainly encouraging signs in Rome since the Reformation. People are no longer persecuted for publishing Bibles in a language people can understand.

    I hope that doesn’t detract too much from your main point: the long view is in order for many things. I think the urgency with which some of these issues are pressed is because they are seen (by those pressing them) as matters of justice. I think few of us are willing to take the long road on things which truly are matters of justice. So I’d turn it back to you: how do you determine which things can legitimately be left to simmer and which are urgent?

    Take care & God bless
    Anne / WF

  2. Mark says:

    Anne,
    I’m going to write a post in reply, I wanted your comments to digest. Espectially the time vs justice issue.

    On the return to Latin liturgy, it’s my impression that it too is a good thing. The language in liturgy should be the choice of the celebrants.

    Does your liturgy sing Kyrie Eleison? That’s Greek you know. I’m guessing you don’t object to that. Every catholic church I’ve seen has a lot of services every Sunday. The nearest church to me, a few blocks away, has a Polish service on Sunday. If one of their services was in Latin, I don’t see the harm, and if it’s of aid to those who attend, then it has benefits, so it is a thing to celebrate not the reverse.

    I read through the Indulgences section in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and I’m not sure to what you object. There is not mention of purgatory in that sections #1471-1479.

  3. Anne says:

    Hi Mark

    I wonder do you have the same edition I have? Mine has under #1475, “In the communion of saints, ‘a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth …’

    Of course, it’s not merely the purgatory angle that makes indulgences repugnant to me. The “the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints” is enough to make me dislike the section on “indulgences” even without purgatory attached. Satisfaction atonement theory coupled with satisfaction from the saints in addition to Christ. Enough to keep me far, far away from the Tiber and mention that Wittenberg’s door could still use careful reading …

    Take care & God bless
    Anne / WF

  4. Anne says:

    I forgot to comment on the language. Btw our whole service is in English. If a person has a choice of what language in which to worship, it seems incredible to me that they would not choose one in which they were fluent. If a congregation were of mixed native languages, it makes perfect sense to either offer a variety of services or mix the language of the service. But the idea that Latin — nobody’s home language for centuries now — is somehow holier than English is likely to give a false sense of holiness based on accidents not substance, to put things in a way a Thomist might appreciate. I understand the ache to keep continuity, and I respect that. But the liturgy was originally translated into Latin not because anyone thought Latin was all that, but because it’s what people spoke at home. So it becomes a question of what kind of tradition do you follow: the ancient tradition of translating things into peoples’ home languages, or the ancient tradition of translating things into what was Rome’s home language long ago? I suspect that it is a mistake to decide that “the tradition is Latin” instead of “the tradition is to worship in the language even the uneducated can understand”

    Take care & God bless
    Anne / WF