Printer Friendly

The ecumenical legacy of the Second Vatican Council: reflections of an accidental ecumenist.

My mother used to remind me that my ecumenical and interfaith interests were already apparent in my childhood as I, a Methodist, tried to understand the religious differences present in our predominantly Roman Catholic and Jewish neighborhood in suburban Washington, DC. These differences were on display when, as a primary school student in the early 1960's, I was joined by Catholic and Jewish friends after class for a mutual sharing of gifts on my family's back porch: We worked together on CCD (religious education) class preparations and Hebrew lessons, and during breaks I led the singing of "Jesus Loves Me" while we all moved in rhythm on the backyard swings.

My curiosity about Christian difference was piqued after I was invited to join two of my Catholic friends for Mass one Sunday morning. Worship was in a language I had never heard before; the pungent yet sweet odor in the room was almost overpowering; and the worshipers never seemed to sit still as they did in my church. Even experience as an acolyte in my Methodist congregation had not prepared me for this. I survived the hour by copying the behavior of my friends in a liturgical posture and gesture game of "Simon says." When 1 asked the mother of one of my friends why they used a strange language in their liturgy, I vividly remember her telling me--with excitement in her voice--that soon they would be worshiping in English.

I thus grew up alongside the unfolding results of the liturgical and ecumenical movements as well as those of the Second Vatican Council. I have benefitted personally as Christians agreed to learn from and welcome one another: as an organist in a Lutheran congregation while a young teen; as a youth worker during college in a rural Baptist congregation, which was more concerned about my openness to glossolalia than the sprinkling of baptismal waters on my infant head; and as a doctoral student in liturgical studies at a Catholic university--a married and ordained United Methodist woman on a full scholarship. Had it not been for ecumenical advancements since the 1960's, I cannot imagine that I would have had the opportunity to discuss at the world level the joys and problems of worship together as Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant; to attend--as an official delegate--the installation of a pope, as I did for Benedict XVI; to sit as a Methodist member of national and international bilateral dialogues with the Roman Catholic Church; and to give this address in a Catholic basilica. From the perspective of my own life, the achievements made since Vatican II are significant indeed.

As this brief life narrative may suggest, I am really an accidental ecumenist. Circumstance and interest more than professional credentials have defined my ecumenical engagement. I am neither a trained ecumenical theologian or ecclesiologist, nor a professional ecumenist. However, I was trained ecumenically by virtue of my matriculation in the liturgical studies program at the University of Notre Dame and by acquaintance there of a company of students drawn from an array of faith traditions. Thus, it is as a liturgical scholar and through the lens of liturgy--and liturgical theology--that I reflect on Vatican II's ecumenical legacy for the churches.

1. Post-Conciliar Optimism

In 1965, the final year of the Council, Cardinal Lorenz Jaeger of Paderborn, who played a role in the establishment of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, published a commentary and reflection on Unitatis redintegratio under the translated title A Stand on Ecumenism: The Council's Decree. In his preface, Jaeger laid out his expectations relative to the document:
      The decree 'On Ecumenism' shows in what way Catholic Christians
   share in the world-wide ecumenical movement. Today we cannot even
   begin to estimate how much the realization of its proposals will
   contribute to unity among Christians for it strengthens the
   universality of the ecumenical movement and gives it new impulses.
   It confirms that conversion of the heart, a more faithful devotion
   to the gospel and the renewal of the Church's life are the leading
   motives of all efforts made to promote Christian unity, and directs
   our attention to essentials in order to prevent us from losing
   ourselves in external activities. The decree regards the ecumenical
   movement not so much as due to human initiative but as a work begun
   by the Holy Spirit. It teaches us to acknowledge that the division
   of Christendom is a sin and to overcome it by forgiveness and
   reconciliation. At the same time the whole decree has a strongly
   eschatological aspect: the Church is the pilgrim people of God,
   hoping for the return of the Lord. It sees in the ecumenical
   movement a sign from God that promises us Christ's victory over the
   powers of sin and discord.

      ... The success of the decree will depend on our greater
   obedience to the Word of God and our more faithful following of
   Christ. (1)


A similar optimism arising from the decree was expressed by U.S. Presbyterian Samuel McCrea Cavert, whose career included executive leadership in the Federal (later National) Council of Churches in the United States and in the World Council of Churches (WCC). In 1966, Cavert wrote:
      Unless all signs fail, the Decree on Ecumenism marks the
   beginning of a new era in the relation of the Churches to one
   another--an era that can truly be called ecumenical. Although an
   ecumenical movement had been developing outside of Roman
   Catholicism for fifty years prior to the summoning of Vatican
   Council II by Pope John XXIII, it was truncated by the lack of
   Catholic participation. The convening of the Council awakened hopes
   that there might be a change in Catholic attitude. Those hopes have
   now been fulfilled far beyond all expectations.

      The promise of a new era is especially evident in the new way in
   which the Decree speaks of non-Catholic Christians. No one can read
   it without being impressed by the respect shown for those outside
   the Roman obedience and by the care which is taken to understand
   their position and to state it fairly. Moreover, instead of
   dogmatically insisting on their return to Rome as the only possible
   movement toward unity, the Decree is concerned with a movement
   toward Christ. From a Protestant angle, this fresh orientation is
   of the highest consequence and is pregnant with creative
   possibilities. (2)


Cavert's observation that with the Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis redintegratio [UR]) a new ecumenical age had begun corresponded with Jaeger's assessment of the decree's potential, for the latter described it in similar terms as "a creative act ushering in a new era in the ecumenical activity of the Church." (3) Yet, in many ways, UR, promulgated on November 21, 1964, articulated in full what had already been the subtext for two other documents that also emphasized the leading motives for unity specified by Jaeger as "conversion of the heart, a more faithful devotion to the gospel and the renewal of the Church's life." Attentive to the signs of the times (aggiornamento), the Council Fathers made engagement with the already flourishing ecumenical movement a clear priority overtly or implicitly in many of the conciliar documents. (4)

The first document promulgated by Vatican II--the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum concilium [SC]) (5) on December 4, 1963 established in its first paragraph the ecumenical agenda: The "reform and promotion of the liturgy" is named as one means of nurturing the "union among all who believe in Christ." According to the judgment made by the Lutheran (and later Orthodox) historian and ecumenist Jaroslav Pelikan shortly after the Council, the constitution had the potential to achieve this goal if "translated into action creatively and imaginatively." (6) Pelikan posited that several of the fundamental principles found in SC--which he affirmed as expressing the "best of the Catholic tradition"--also represented the "acceptance, however belated, of the liturgical program set forth by the [sixteenth-century] Reformers: the priesthood of all believers (no. 14); the requirement 'that the faithful take part knowingly, actively, and fruitfully' (no. 11); 'the intimate connection between words and rites' (no. 35)." (7) Although Pelikan's choice of the word "acceptance" was doubt lessly overstatement at the time, the constitution's text did indicate that longstanding controversies and divisions could, in fact, be reexamined and perhaps set aside.

With the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen gentium [LG]), (8) promulgated by Pope Paul VI on the same date as UR, there was a dramatic sea change articulated in the relationship with non-Catholics both East and West--and even with non-Christians. Once judged as heretics and schismatics, baptized non-Catholics who took scripture as a norm of belief and action, believed in the triune God, and participated in the sacramental life of their own communities were now "in some real way" to be considered "joined to us in the Holy Spirit" (LG, no. 15). While Christ's church "subsists in the Catholic Church.... [n]evertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines. Since these are gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces impelling towards Catholic unity" (LG, no. 8). These changes in perspective, noted Albert Outler, an official observer to the Council and a Methodist, meant that LG offered the "vision of a Church that enlivens the prospects of effective ecumenical dialogue: the Church aware of her mission under God and therefore capable of self-criticism; the Church in dialogue with the world and therefore capable of historical development; the Church in which all are called to holiness and therefore to Christian witness and service." (9)

II. Fifty Years Later

The general optimism and euphoria of the emerging ecumenical age identified by Jaeger and Cavert and the urgency to repair the discord between Christians have been replaced, fifty years later, with an array of evaluations, positive and negative, of what has or has not been accomplished. While there is gratitude for the advancements, covenants, and agreements that have been achieved through bilateral and multilateral dialogues, there is also despair as the result of opportunities lost for relations between Catholics and non-Catholics as well as those between Protestant/Anglican denominations and communions. Frustration and even anger are expressed by some Catholics and non-Catholics alike that the course inspired by the Council was not permitted to develop and progress, yet this is countered by the view that the ideals generated during and after the Council and with the ecumenical movement were ultimately unachievable. (10) Among some of the ecumenically minded, there is fear that ecumenism is in crisis or perhaps may even be dead, especially when it seems that the gaze of many denominations is cast more inward than outward. The WCC still does not have the Catholic Church as a full member, though the latter participates actively in its nonmember status, and relationships between the WCC and certain of its Orthodox members continue to be rocky. Even the future of the WCC is regarded by some as uncertain--and not just because of finances. Of course, changing national and world contexts have had a significant bearing on ecumenical progress. It should not be forgotten that the ecumenical optimism of the 1960's coincided in the West with social upheaval and unrest--the "free love" generation meeting the "ecumenical" generation. Liberation movements that emerged--political, social, and theological--redirected the interests of many churches to focus primary attention on the poor and oppressed neighbor rather than on the theological similarities and differences of the neighbor from a different ecclesiastical tradition. The decline of mainline Protestantism in the West, the ascendance of churches in the global South and East, and the growth of Pentecostalism became significant factors--and perhaps diversions--as was the pressing need for interfaith conversation in the face of global terrorism. The development of new forms of technology, including instantaneous (and unfiltered) messaging, has perhaps both aided and hindered the ecumenical quest.

Despite these complexities of context and interpretation, a glance backward over fifty years does reveal unanticipated achievement. Although the literary trajectory of the WCC's 1982 convergence text Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (BEM) (11) harkens back to the first Faith and Order Conference at Lausanne in 1927, much of the energy in its production came from the openness signaled by Vatican II and the inspiration of its documents. For its part, the Catholic Church saw in BEM direct engagement with concerns already expressed in UR and, while indicating that BEM was deficient in certain areas, still regarded it as an important "stage along the way in the ecumenical process of working towards visible unity of divided Christians." (12) Perhaps taking heart from the progress achieved by BEM and concerned to reignite ecumenical momentum for the upcoming millennium, Pope John Paul II reasserted the Council's priority for Christian unity in his 1995 encyclical Ut unum sint [UUS], exhorting the faithful to "renew their commitment to work for full and visible communion." (13) "The movement promoting Christian unity," he wrote, "is not just some sort of 'appendix' which is added to the Church's traditional activity. Rather, ecumenism is an organic part of her life and work, and consequently must pervade all that she is and does; it must be like the fruit borne by a healthy and flourishing tree which grows to its full stature." (14)

Coinciding with this multilateral engagement were the bilateral dialogues, several of which between Catholics and non-Catholics at the world level place their starting dates soon after the close of the Council. John Paul II in UUS identified the need to receive the results already achieved from those dialogues, (15) and, under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), a "harvest" of the fruits of the Vatican's first dialogue partners from the West was undertaken. In his 2009 book Harvesting the Fruits, Cardinal Walter Kasper (president of the PCPCU, 2001-10) acknowledged that the ecumenical scene had changed since the Council and that the new ecumenically minded operate with different emphases than their predecessors. (16) Yet, the enthusiastic engagements, cooperation, and difficult but honest work of the early years meant that in the second decade of the twenty-first century differences need no longer be the starting point in dialogues but, instead, commonalities--and principally the "common confession of the Triune God and of Jesus as Lord and Saviour." Commonalities thus frame those things that still divide, asserted Kasper, thus better enabling the potential for an exchange of gifts alongside an exchange of ideas (compare UUS, no. 28). (17) Through such a reorientation in the method of engagement, a major area of division since the Reformation was able to be reconciled and to become a significant "fruit" that would provide a key commonality for future dialogues: the consensus on basic truths of the doctrine of justification that was laid out in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed by the Lutheran World Federation and the PCPCU in 1999. (18) The World Methodist Council and its member churches in 2006 signed a "Statement of Association" with the consensus on the doctrine of justification as stated in the Joint Declaration, which was welcomed by representatives of the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church. (19) Jaroslav Pelikan's reading almost thirty-five years earlier of the Council's openness to theological reconciliation (as articulated in SC) had been accurate.

Because of this work, noted Kasper, "it can happily be stated that some of the classic disputes, which were at the root of our painful divisions, have today been basically resolved through a new consensus on fundamental points of doctrine." For remaining areas of disagreement, he recognized that "there is at least convergence, which has helped the dialogues to move beyond previous polemical stances, and has created a more relaxed ecumenical atmosphere in which an 'exchange of gifts' has been enriching for both sides." (20) Kasper concluded with a positive outlook for ecumenical bilaterals in the future:
     The dialogues undertaken so far show that they can pave the way
   for that which is the will of the Lord and the deep longing of so
   many Christiaras: that all be one in sharing the one table of the
   Lord. In this way our ecumenical dialogues, enriched by what we have
   achieved with God's help in past decades, will embark upon a
   new--and hopefully equally fruitful--stage, perhaps less
   enthusiastic and more sober, but nonetheless full of hope and
   filled with the 'dynamis' of the Spirit. (21)


To Kasper's assessment of the Catholic Church's ecumenical engagement, the world-level dialogue partners highlighted in this book--Lutheran, Methodist, Anglican, Reformed--have given a hearty "Amen." Of course, much work remains regarding reception: in the planting and cultivation of the seeds of these mature fruits in the teaching resources and other materials used by local ecumenical bodies and actual congregations. (22)

Ecumenical engagement since Vatican II has been active to different degrees at regional, national, state/province, and local levels. Formal multilateral and bilateral dialogues have produced their own fruits on a variety of topics. Keeping with the agricultural metaphor, the most recent dialogue in the United States between the United Methodist Church and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops took up a subject not of disputed doctrine but of mutual concern and in 2011 published a statement on the eucharist and ecology under the title "Heaven and Earth Are Full of Your Glory." Throughout, the dialogue partners readily agreed on the interconnections between eucharistic renewal and environmental responsibility needed in both churches, recognizing all the while at this stage the painful impossibility of a eucharistic sharing. (23)

Grassroots cooperation and even ecclesiastical borrowing has yielded some very interesting results in the establishment of ecumenically attuned religious communities. The communities of Taize and Iona are very well known for their ecumenical openness; lesser known is the monastic community of Bose located near Magnano, Italy. (24) This community's roots are traced to a group of university students in Turin--Catholic, Baptist, and Waldensian--who met for Bible study and the sharing of the evening office beginning in 1963--while the Council was in session. Soon members of the group sought to live in permanent community, and, under the guidance of group member Enzo Bianchi (a Catholic), a house was found in the small village of Bose. Ironically, Bianchi moved to Bose on December 8, 1965--the last day of the Council. To deepen his understanding of monastic life, in the early years Bianchi visited several communities: Catholic (the Trappists of Tamie in France), Orthodox (Mount Athos), and Protestant (Taize, whose members at the time were all Protestants). Those experiences translated to the new community at Bose, which from its formal founding by Enzo Bianchi has been intentionally ecumenical with Catholics and Protestants, as well as the occasional Orthodox, and with men and women, in professed commitment to community life and celibacy. The success of this community is such that a new house in Assisi was dedicated in 2011 to continue the tradition of ecumenical hospitality.

The ecumenical openness encouraged at Vatican II has permitted in certain Catholic monastic communities the inclusion in a circumscribed way of non-Catholics. For example, Benedictine communities have readily welcomed as oblates those Protestants willing to follow the Benedictine rule. It is quite telling that an informational website on oblates for the Order of St. Benedict includes this description that speaks of "Christians" and not explicitly "Catholics": "Oblates of St. Benedict are Christian individuals or families who have associated themselves with a Benedictine community in order to enrich their Christian way of life." (25) Such Benedictine commitment to ecumenism inspired imitation: In the 1980's there were persons in the United Methodist Church interested in pursuing an ecumenical monasticism, which was a new venture for Methodists, who have no tradition of monastic communities. From this initiative was born the Saint Brigid of Kildare Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota, an ecumenical house that for organizational and spiritual guidance draws upon the Rule of St. Benedict, the works of John Wesley, the United Methodist Book of Discipline, and both Benedictine and United Methodist liturgical and musical resources. (26)

III. Progress and Conflict: Two Examples

Up to this point, observations about the ecumenical legacy of Vatican II have been put mostly in general terms. I will now bring my liturgical lens to bear in order to narrow the focus so that we may measure Vatican II's ecumenical legacy more precisely as it pertains to two specific areas: baptismal recognition, and the use of common texts.

A. The Mutual Recognition of Baptism

On the subject of baptism, UR offered a cautious step forward, but compared with previous statements regarding relationships with non-Catholic Christian individuals and their communities, it was also a huge step. The third paragraph states: "One cannot impute the sin of separation to those who at present are born into these [separated] Communities and are instilled therein with Christ's faith. The Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers." The text then continues with the remarkable words that signal a level of baptismal recognition and affiliation: "For men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are brought into a certain, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church." The baptismal question is also, obviously, an ecclesiological question, and this matter is addressed further in the third paragraph:
      These separated Churches and Communities ... have by no means
   been deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of
   salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using
   them as a means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the
   very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church.

      Our separated brethren, whether considered as individuals or as
   Communities and Churches, are not blessed with that unity which
   Jesus Christ wished to bestow on all those whom He has regenerated
   and vivified into one body and newness of life--that unity which
   the holy Scriptures and the revered tradition of the Church
   proclaim. For it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone, which
   is the all-embracing means of salvation, that the fullness of the
   means of salvation can be obtained.


While the document clarifies that non-Catholic baptisms "lack the fullness of unity with [the Catholic Church] which flows from baptism" (UR, no. 22), it does affirm that, properly administered, non-Catholic baptism is one of "many liturgical actions of the Christian religion [that] can aptly give access to the communion of salvation" (UR, no. 3). This newly-articulated theology opened up fresh opportunities for discourse between Catholics and non-Catholics regarding baptismal recognition.

Yet, UR and the Council's other systematic doctrinal statements were not the only basis for a renewed ecumenical engagement on the topic of baptism. The reform of the liturgical texts as directed by Vatican II, particularly those relative to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), perhaps played an even greater role. The Catholic liturgical movement of the late nineteenth century had become, by the time of the Council, an ecumenical liturgical movement, and non-Catholic scholars and church leaders, in their own work of ressourcement, mined along with Catholics the rich treasury of the early church. The RCIA became a paradigm for other Christian denominations that sought both a return to apostolic praxis and a means of addressing the evangelistic urgency in societies that had previously or never claimed a Christian identity. Some churches, such as certain Mennonites from the United States and Canada, even produced their own versions of RCIA. (27) Similarities of ritual texts and ritual processes encouraged a different kind of ecumenical conversation. Catholic, Anglican, and Protestant liturgical scholars regularly reviewed each other's revised texts; and ecumenical partnerships were formed (for example, through the North American Association for the Catechumenate) as the different churches shared insights about the reclamation and implementation of a catechumenate. Admittedly, ecumenical engagement around the subjects of the catechumenate and baptism, while still challenging, was far less problematic than that which tackled what was seen by many to be the more pressing issue: the theology, practice, and ecclesiology of the eucharist.

Formal and informal conversations related to Christian initiation in a variety of settings--including those with representatives from among the Orthodox--eventually coalesced at the international level in the hammering out of the baptism section of BEM. The process of producing the "B" convergence text was especially important because of the inclusion of Baptists, Anabaptists, and others who questioned or rejected the baptism of infants and children, though some of these denominations felt that the final product had gone too far. (28) While the "E" and "M" sections seemed to garner more attention as topics in multilateral and bilateral dialogues in the years immediately following the approval of BEM, "B" topics were not overlooked. Into this mix in 1995 were added John Paul II's statements in UUS that proposed what might be called an "ecumenical baptismal ecclesiology," which by its openness advanced the conversation about baptismal recognition:
      The unity of all divided humanity is the will of God. For this
   reason he sent his Son, so that by dying and rising for us he might
   bestow on us the Spirit of love. On the eve of his sacrifice on the
   Cross, Jesus himself prayed to the Father for his disciples and for
   all those who believe in him, that they might be one, a living
   communion. This is the basis not only of the duty, but also of the
   responsibility before God and his plan, which falls to those who
   through Baptism become members of the Body of Christ, a Body in
   which the fullness of reconciliation and communion must be made
   present. How is it possible to remain divided, if we have been
   "buried" through Baptism in the Lord's death, in the very act by
   which God, through the death of his Son, has broken down the walls
   of division? Division "openly contradicts the will of Christ,
   provides a stumbling block to the world, and inflicts damage on the
   most holy cause of proclaiming the Good News to every creature."
   (29)


John Paul II even acknowledged that ecumenical progress had challenged the nomenclature of "separated brethren" used in the conciliar texts; preferred instead were "expressions which more readily evoke the deep communion--linked to the baptismal character--which the Spirit fosters in spite of historical and canonical divisions" (UUS, no. 42). Replacing "separated brethren" are phrases such as "other Christians," "others who have received Baptism," "Christians of other Communities" (UUS, no. 42), and "our common Baptism" (UUS, no. 66).

The work in BEM, UUS, and the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification--three documents with Catholic signatures--indicated an ecumenical readiness to explore more deeply the implications of a common baptism. Multilateral dialogues within single nations produced baptismal agreements, policies, and collaborative texts. A baptismal declaration was signed in 2000 by seven Polish churches, and in 2007 eleven churches in Germany approved the socalled Magdeburg statement. Figuring among the signatories of the Magdeburg statement were the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the Council of Anglican Episcopal Churches, the European Continental Province of the Moravian Church, the Evangelical Church, the Evangelical Methodist Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church, all of which insisted that "despite differences in the understanding of what it is to be the Church, there exists between us a basic common understanding of Baptism." (30) Several church bodies in Australia have agreed to use a common baptismal certificate, Catholics and Greek Orthodox among them, (31) and similar projects have been adopted by clusters of denominations elsewhere in the world. A multilateral dialogue in the United States between the Catholic Church and four Reformed denominations--the Christian Reformed Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church of America, and the United Church of Christ--produced in 2007 a text titled "These Living Waters: Common Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Baptism." (32) The final participant to sign on to the statement--the United Church of Christ--did so on July 4, 2011, at its General Synod.

Two important international and multilateral statements on baptism have been produced in the last decade, each with Catholic involvement. The 2005 study on the "Ecclesiological and Ecumenical Implications of a Common Baptism" by the Joint Working Group between the WCC and the Catholic Church ventured to advance the work done in the "B" section of BEM. (33) Building on the efforts of the Joint Working Group, another ecumenical team was gathered by the WCC, and, after a decade of development and refinement, the study text "One Baptism: Towards Mutual Recognition" was approved in 2010 by the WCC's Standing Commission on Faith and Order. (34) The observation in this study text that, in general, believer-baptizing churches and infant-baptizing churches broadly share a similar pattern for formation in Christ and baptismal initiation--both by drawing on the practices of the early church--has moved all the churches toward greater convergence.

What might be said about the ecumenical legacy of Vatican II by this examination of the question of the mutual recognition of baptism, especially since a large part of the story line was written by dialogues sponsored by national councils of churches and the WCC? By identifying baptism as a "sacramental bond of unity linking all who have been reborn by means of it" (UR, no. 22), the Council Fathers, it may be argued, framed the basic ecumenical question as a baptismal question. The Catholic Church's willingness to engage this question has helped to motivate and encourage other ecclesiastical communities to participate in the conversation, and a backward glance of fifty years shows that, because of Catholic involvement, remarkable advancements have been achieved. "Our common baptism" is now a phrase often used in ecumenical discourse between Catholics, Anglicans, Protestants, and some Orthodox. Yet, the Catholic recognition of certain baptisms does press the difficult question of eucharistic sharing, especially because of the Church's insistence that the "mutual recognition of baptism, in itself, is not sufficient for eucharistic communion because the latter is linked to full ecclesial communion in faith and life, and its visible expression." (35) What can be (positively) recognized in baptism but still be insufficient for fellowship at the Lord's table? This question is not merely grist for the mill of dialogues yet to come; it is also a question on the lips of mixed-marriage couples, who do not understand the technicalities of the theological issues involved and who want--legitimately--to receive the sacrament together in the same church. For them, there has not been a completely positive reading of Vatican II's ecumenical legacy.

B. Texts in Common

As has already been mentioned, in the first part of the twentieth century, numbers of Protestant and Anglican denominations engaged in a review of their liturgical and sacramental theologies and practices within the context of the flourishing ecumenical and liturgical movements. Yet, in many respects, it was the promulgation of SC and the development and translations of the typical editions (editio typica) of liturgical texts that gave many of these non-Catholic bodies the push to move forward--or in a different direction--with their own liturgical work. Many of SC's teachings resonated with the persons appointed by their denominations to oversee liturgical matters (and sometimes were cited by them), particularly as they desired to reclaim the centrality of worship for congregational life: "every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the Priest and of his Body, which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others" (SC, no. 7); "the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the fount from which all her power flows.... From the liturgy, therefore, and especially from the Eucharist, grace is poured forth upon us as from a fountain, and the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God to which all other activities of the Church are directed, as toward their end, are achieved with maximum effectiveness" (SC, no. 10); "all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, and to which the Christian people ... have a right and obligation by reason of their baptism" (SC, no. 14; cf. SC, nos. 11 and 41); and "[z]eal for the promotion and restoration of the sacred liturgy is rightly held to be a sign of the providential dispositions of God in our time, and as a movement of the Holy Spirit in his Church" (SC, no. 43).

Again, as noted earlier, the Protestant and Anglican liturgical specialists entrusted by their judicatories with liturgical research and design often found support for their efforts from each other and from Catholics who themselves were engaged in the development and interpretation of the constitution and of the liturgical and instructional texts produced after the Council. Because of the sharing of resources drawn from scripture, the early church, and the broader Christian tradition--and for Protestants and Anglicans, from the model of the Catholic texts themselves--similar patterns for Sunday worship appeared in numerous official worship books.

Not only is there for many Protestants and Anglicans a sharing of the shape of the liturgy with Catholics, but there is also a relatively close Sunday-by-Sunday sharing of scriptural readings when the Revised Common Lectionary is used. The Revised Common Lectionary, which celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 2012, may be properly identified as a third generation removed from the Catholic Lectionary for Mass (Ordo lectionum missae), as it stands in line following the first-generation imitation made by Anglican and certain Protestant churches and the second-generation Common Lectionary produced in North America in 1983 by a committee of Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and United Methodist members representing the Consultation on Common Texts.

The Revised Common Lectionary, as a table of lessons (not a book of lessons), carries within it the genetic "code" of the liturgicotheological and hermeneutical principles that characterized the Lectionary for Mass, which itself was influenced by the theological principles of SC. Among these principles: the Lord's Day as the primary Christian festival of both creation and redemption, the scriptural basis of observances marked on a christologically focused liturgical calendar, the use of three readings plus a psalm over a three-year course that includes representation from all four Gospels and a wide selection from Acts and the epistles, and a typological connection between the two Testaments. Thus, in the Revised Common Lectionary as in the Lectionary for Mass the primacy of the paschal mystery celebrated weekly on the Lord's Day is demonstrated by precedence given to the Gospel lesson that "controls" the selection of the other readings. The Gospel lessons closely correspond in both lectionary systems, yet the Revised Common Lectionary diverges by offering correctives to what was perceived as a too narrowly typological interpretation of the assigned First Testament pericopes in the Lectionary for Mass and to the absence of sequential lessons pertaining to the old covenant and law. Another variation: When apocryphal/deuterocanonical readings appear in the Lectionary for Mass, the Revised Common Lectionary includes them but also an additional lesson from the recognized Protestant canon. Despite these variations, the dependency of the Revised Common Lectionary on the Catholic lectionary is unmistakable, and this "lectionary ecumenism" has been a rich post-conciliar inheritance. (36)

The North American Consultation on Common Texts that introduced both the Common Lectionary and the Revised Common Lectionary also labored on the production of common-language versions of liturgical texts (for example, the Lord's Prayer and the creeds) that were intended to be used across the churches. Its work was broadened when it collaborated with the ecumenical International Consultation on English Texts (ICET), which produced the booklet Prayers We Have in Common in editions published in 1970, 1971, and 1975. (37) The inclusion of these ICET texts in Catholic, Protestant, and Anglican worship-and later the revision of these texts provided by ICET's successor formed in 1985, the English Language Liturgical Consultation (38)--gave visual and auditory evidence of a modicum of the unity for which the churches had been striving.

Thus, the issuance from the Vatican in 2001 of Liturgiam authenticam--the Fifth Instruction "For the Right Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council"--to attend to a perceived "protestantization" of Catholic liturgical texts and practices came as a shock to many in ecumenical and liturgical circles, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. Liturgiam authenticam (LA) seems to address such a concern of protestantization on the matter of liturgical language by stating that while "the words of the biblical passages commonly used in catechesis and in popular devotional prayers [should] be maintained.... great caution is to be taken to avoid a wording or style that the Catholic faithful would confuse with the manner of speech of non-Catholic ecclesial communities or of other religions" (LA, no. 40). (39) Responding to this document, Canadian Anglican and liturgical scholar David Holeton observed:
   [T]hese common texts that are said to risk causing "confusion and
   discomfort" among the Catholic faithful appeared first in the
   English translation of the Missal of Paul VI and, therefore,
   technically are Roman Catholic texts also being used by
   "non-Catholic ecclesial communities." To the best of my knowledge,
   members of these "'non-Catholic ecclesial communities" are not
   suffering frequent bouts of "confusion or discomfort" by using
   Roman Catholic texts. In fact.... they have rejoiced in sharing
   texts they know to be common and which were often adopted because
   they knew they would be used in common with Roman Catholics. (40)


Because of LA, the cooperative work on common liturgical texts begun in the 1980's between the Roman Catholic International Commission on English in the Liturgy and the ecumenical English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC) ended abruptly--this despite the provision in the first paragraph of SC that the Council hoped to "foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ." ELLC continues to work toward the establishment of common liturgical texts in English--but with now with a different sense of what "common" means.

In 2011, leaders from ELLC convened an ecumenical and international colloquium of liturgical scholars in Reims, France, to consider, among other things, the matter of texts in common. An agreed document titled "The Reims Statement: Praying with One Voice" was produced under the guidance of the Consultation's Catholic chair, with these words of hope for the future regarding the production and use of common texts:
      For the first time in history, Christians in the English speaking
   world are using common liturgical texts. In the process of coming
   to agreed common texts, scholars from different Christian
   traditions agreed on principles for the translation from the
   earliest sources. This in itself has been a gift. Despite only
   having been in existence for a relatively short time, these texts
   have been adopted freely by an ever increasing number of churches.
   We celebrate this. They are being experienced as a gift, a sign and
   a way to Christian unity in our diversity. As the churches continue
   to discover the riches of these shared texts, we believe further
   revision is inappropriate at the present time. We invite all who
   have not yet explored these texts, and those who have departed from
   their use, to join us in prayerful reflection on the value of
   common texts and careful consideration of the texts themselves.
   Prayed together, shared common texts become a part of the fabric of
   our being. They unite the hearts of Christians in giving glory to
   God as we undertake the mission of the Gospel.


We encourage:

* ongoing creation of resources for ecumenical and liturgical formation through praying common texts

* furthering of scholarship which is faithful to tradition whilst seeking a language which is inclusive and just

* continuing ecumenical reflection on core symbolic actions and gestures, the ordo and shape of liturgy. (41)

IV. The Continuing Legacy

What, then, is the ecumenical legacy of Vatican II? This brief reflection by an accidental ecumenist shows that the legacy is mixed. There are still signs of the excitement that was expressed as the Council concluded, but there are also signs that the progress envisioned has been thwarted. Perhaps, as some have suggested, fifty years is still too early to render a final judgment. Regardless, the call to the churches issued with the ecumenical movement, with Vatican II--and with Jesus himself--remains clear: to continue to work and pray that those who follow Jesus may truly and visibly be one.

(1) Lorenz Cardinal Jaeger, A Stand on Ecumenism: The Council's Decree, tr. Hilda Graef (London: Geoffrey Chapman, Ltd.; New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1965 [orig.: Das Konzilsdekret Uber den Okumenismus' (Paderbom: Bonifacius Druckerei, 1965)].), pp. vii-viii.

(2) Samuel McCrea Cavert, "A Response," in Walter M. Abbott, ed., The Documents of Vatican H (New York: Guild Press, 1966), p. 367.

(3) Jaeger, A Stand on Ecumenism, p. 217.

(4) Cf. "Decree on Ecumenism," in Austin Flannery, ed., Vatican Council II, vol. 1 : The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, new rev. ed. (Northport, NY: Costello; Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1996), no. 1, pp. 452-453. All subsequent citations of Vatican II documents will be from this edition.

(5) "The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy," in Flannery, Vatican Council II, vol. 1, pp. 1-36.

(6) Jaroslav Pelikan, "A Response," in Abbott, Documents of Vatican II, p. 182.

(7) Ibid., p. 181.

(8) "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church," in Flannery, Vatican Council II, vol. 1, pp. 350-426.

(9) Albert C. Outler, "A Response," in Abbott, Documents of Vatican II, p. 102.

(10) On this matter as it pertains to the liturgy, see, e.g., John F. Baldovin, Reforming the Liturgy: A Response to the Critics (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2008).

(11) World Council of Churches, Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry, Faith and Order Paper I II (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1982).

(12) "Roman Catholic Church," in Max Thurian, ed., Churches Respond to BEM, vol. 6, Faith and Order Paper 144 (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1988), pp. 3-4.

(13) UUS, no. 100, cited from http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/johnpaul_ii/encyclicals/documents/ hf_jp-ii_enc_25051995_ut-unum-sint_en.html; emphasis in original. Subsequent citations are from this version.

(14) Ibid., no. 20.

(15) Ibid., no. 80.

(16) Cardinal Walter Kasper, Harvesting the Fruits: Basic Aspects of Christian Faith in Ecumenical Dialogue (London and New York: Continuum, 2009), no. 1, p. 2.

(17) Ibid., no. 3, p. 5.

(18) Ibid., nos. 14-23, pp. 31-47. For the text of the Joint Declaration, see http://www.vatican.va /roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni doc 31101999_cath-luth-joint -declaration_en.html; and/or http://www.lutheranworldorg/LWF_Documents/EN/JDDJ_99-jd97e.pdf.

(19) For the World Methodist Council's statement, see http://worldmethodistcouncil.org/wpcontent/uploads/2012/02/justificationworld_methodist council and thejddj.pdf.

(20) Kasper, Harvesting the Fruits, no. 100, pp. 196-97; emphasis in original.

(21) Ibid.. no. 112, pp. 206-207.

(22) Cf. Jeffrey Gros, review of Harvesting the Fruits, in Worship 84 (November, 2010): 566.

(23) "Heaven and Earth Are Full of Your Glory," no. 3; the text is available at http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/dialogue-with-others/ecumenical/methodist/upload/ Heaven-and-Earth-are-Full-of-Your-Glory-Methodist-Catholic-Dialogue-Agreed.Statement.Round.Seven.pdf.

(24) Information on the community that follows is taken from the English version of the community's informational pamphlet, "The Monastic Community of Bose" (Magnano: Comunita monastic di Bose, n.d.).

(25) See http://wwwosb.org/obl/intro.html.

(26) See http://www.janrichardson.com/saintbrigidmonastery.

(27) See, e.g., Jane Hoober Peifer and John Stahl-Wert, Welcoming New Christians: A Guide for the Christian Initiation of Adults (Newton, KS: Faith and Life Press: and Scottsdale, PA: Mennonite Publishing House, 1995).

(28) See the official responses of various churches in the multivolume Churches Respond to BEM, edited by Max Thurian and published by the World Council of Churches.

(29) UUS, no. 6, quoting from UR, no 1 ; emphasis in original.

(30) Thomas F. Best, "Mutual Recognition of Baptism Agreement: Germany," in Thomas F. Best, ed., Baptism Today: Understanding. Practice, Ecumenical Implications, Faith and Order Paper 207 (Geneva: WCC Publications; Collegeville, MN.: Liturgical Press, 2008), pp. 227-228.

(31) Robert Gribben, "Common Baptismal Certificate: Australia," in Best, Baptism Today, pp. 231-233.

(32) "These Living Waters: Common Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Baptism: A Report of the Catholic Reformed Dialogue in United States, 2003-2007"; see text at http://www.usccb.org/be liefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/ecumenical/refirmed/upload/These-Living- Waters.pdf; and/or http://www.pcusaorg/resource/these-living-waters/.

(33) "Ecclesiological and Ecumenical Implications of a Common Baptism: A JWG Study," in doint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches: Eighth Report, 1999-2005 (Geneva: WCC Publications, 2005), pp. 45-72.

(34) Available at http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/wcc.commissions/faith.and-order-commission/ii-worship-and-baptism/one- baptism-towards-mutual-recognition/.

(35) "Ecclesiological and Ecumenical Implications," no. 94, p. 67.

(36) For an in-depth study of the theology inherent in the lectionary systems, see Fritz West, Scripture and Memory: The Ecumenical Hermeneutic of the Three-Year Lectionaries (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1997).

(37) The booklets in different editions were published in the United Kingdom and in the United States.

(38) English Language Liturgical Consultation, Praying Together (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1988); available at http://www.englishtexts.org/praying.pdf.

(39) Cited from the text at http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccdds/documents/ rc_con_ccdds_doc_20010507_liturgiam-authenticam en.html.

(40) David R. Holeton, "Ecumenical Liturgical Consensus: A Bumpy Road to Christian Unity-Presidential Address," Studia Liturgica, vol. 38, no. 1 (2008), p. 14; cf. Kevin McGinnell, "A Return to Babel? Common Texts in English," Studia Liturgica, vol. 40, nos. 1-2 (2010), pp. 224-230.

(41) "The Reims Statement: Praying with One Voice," no. 2; available at http://www.englishtexts. org/reims.html or http://www.englishtexts.org/reims.pdf.
COPYRIGHT 2013 Journal of Ecumenical Studies
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2013 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Tucker, Karen B. Westerfield
Publication:Journal of Ecumenical Studies
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2013
Words:7567
Previous Article:Introduction to the NAAE 2012 presentations: "The ecumenical legacy of the Second Vatican Council, 50 years later".
Next Article:The legacy of the Second Vatican Council: an Orthodox perspective.
Topics:

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters