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The One-World Church

“There is no remedy for the painful absence of full [Eucharistic] communion other than full communion in the fullness of the truth that Christ intends for his Church” — so writes Fr. Richard John Neuhaus in his “Getting Along at the Altar” (First Things, Oct. 2003). How true that is! Ah, but how do we get there?

According to Neuhaus, here’s how we get there: “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 but one Church, and it may well be that distinct traditions of theology and practice, now embodied in separated denominations, will continue, perhaps in the form that such traditions continue in ordered communities such as the Benedictines, Dominicans, and Franciscans today.”

Whoa! What happened to the “fullness of the truth”?

The differences between Benedictines and Dominicans are historically trivial compared to those between Catholics and Baptists. How will the Baptists retain their “distinct traditions of theology and practice” inside what will presumably still be — sort of — the Catholic Church? Baptists reject the seven Sacraments, and don’t even believe in sacraments (the Lord’s Supper and Baptism are just “ordinances”). Their polity is congregational and democratic (not papab~ They reject infant Baptism, Apostolic Succession, Purgatory, Marian doctrines, creeds, and just about everything in the Catholic Tradition. They embrace salvation by faith alone and sola Scriptura. About half of them believe in Calvinistic predestination, and many Baptist congregations ordain women.

Now, Neuhaus is somewhat aware of the problem here. In a more extensive presentation of his views in Touchstone (Jul.-Aug. 2003), he says of his vision of the 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.” Oh. 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. So say goodbye to the “fullness of the truth.”

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