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“A Striking Rejection of Magisterial Teaching”?

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus didn’t appreciate our New Oxford Note (“The One-World Church,” Feb.) about his ecumenical flights of fancy. Admittedly, we didn’t expect him to. Fr.

Neuhaus responds in his First Things (May): “The teaching of the Catholic Church, as insistently reiterated by John Paul II, is that she is ‘irrevocably’ committed to the visible unity of all Christians in full eucharistic communion. I have written extensively about this commitment in these pages and elsewhere, and in a three-page blast the New Oxford Review attacks what I work and pray for as a ‘pipedream Church.’… But NOR’s repudiation of the goal of full communion among all Christians is both a striking rejection of magisterial teaching and an act of breathtaking presumption in answering the prayer of Our Lord [‘that they all may be one’] in the negative.”

Whoa, Father! You’re mixing artichokes and mangos, not to mention apples and oranges. The “visible unity of all Christians in full eucharistic communion” is indeed magisterial teaching, and not even Pope Pius IX or Pius XI would disagree (not even Archbishop Lefebvre would demur).

The issue is how do we get there. What we said was that the surest road to the visible unity of Christians is to have non-Catholics return to Rome.

What Neuhaus means by visible unity is something quite different. In our February New Oxford Note, we quoted him: “When the prayer of Jesus in John 17 [‘that they all may be one’] is fulfilled, it will not be a matter of Baptists or Presbyterians becoming Roman Catholics. There will be one Church, and it may well be that distinct traditions of theology and practice, now embodied in separate denominations, will continue….” And we also quoted him as saying this about his one-world Church of the future: What would it “mean for jurisdiction, for magisterial authority, for the election of bishops, and so forth? — you can run down a long list. We don’t know what it would mean or exactly what it would look like. But that is what we must contend for…. It is…a road of…openness to the fact that we will all be changed by our reunion — though the great truth that God intends for his Church cannot be changed, of course.” Notice that he says “the great truth.” Since “we will all be changed,” that implies that there are many “lesser” truths that Catholics can barter away for the sake of a one-world Church.

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