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Some Ecumenical Straight-Talk

There was great excitement about ecumenism after the Second Vatican Council. But the enthusiasm has turned to boredom, because it’s been all talk and little, if any, action. Ecumania is burning itself out. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church’s bilateral ecumenical dialogues just go on and on and on, like some government agency charged with regulating and inspecting buggy whips. The buggy-whip regulators are quite content because they’re employed and getting paid. It’s a nice, cushy job. And the bishops and theologians involved in ecumenical dialogue are also quite content, because they get to jet-set around, be wined and dined in gourmet restaurants, and in general are made to feel very, very important. Another nice, cushy job.

Obviously, it’s time to have sunset laws inserted into ecumenical dialogues. A sunset law is one which automatically terminates at the end of a fixed period (but may be renewed, only if needed). We should immediately renegotiate all ecumenical dialogues, inserting a sunset law of, say, 12 years (for the 12 Apostles). If no significant progress is made after 12 years, the dialogue is automatically ended. The Catholic Church has better things to do than waste her time on endless and inconclusive gabfests.

While we wait for the sunset laws, it would sure be refreshing if we could get some straight talk from the people involved in these dialogues, instead of the usual diplomatic bafflegab. Happily, we found someone who’s willing to tell it like it is. His name is Fr. Robert Taft, S.J., an expert on Eastern Orthodoxy, a veteran of Catholic-Eastern Orthodox dialogues, and currently at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. Yes, a Jesuit. For our money, Fr. Joseph Fessio is the leading straight-talking Jesuit, but he may have met his match.

Fr. Taft was interviewed by John L. Allen Jr. in the online version of the National Catholic Reporter‘s “Word From Rome” (Feb. 6; NCRonline.org). The interview was prompted by Walter Cardinal Kasper’s then-impending visit to meet with the Patriarch of Moscow, Alexy II, regarding the delicate matter of the erection of a patriarchate in Kiev for the 5.5 million Greek Catholics in Ukraine, the largest Eastern Catholic Church in communion with Rome. Here are excerpts from the interview:

Q. Aside from Orthodox sensitivities, is there any argument against erecting a patriarchate in Ukraine?

A. Oh, good heavens, no…

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