The lex orandi of the Roman Catholic Church says something very important about her lex credendi in the case of the reception of baptized Christians into full communion. The rite for reception, including its introductory directions, has something to tell us about the RC church’s belief in ecumenism.
No. 475, for example, says this: “Any appearance of triumphalism should be carefully avoided.” One should consider “the ecumenical implications” of the rite. No. 479 says this: “One who was born and baptized outside the visible communion of the Catholic Church is not required to make an abjuration of heresy, but simply a profession of faith.” By this is meant the Nicene Creed (recited together with the congregation) plus this: “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.” Period.
The suggested General Intercessions (no. 496) state that the candidate “has already been united to Christ through baptism” and prays for “all who believe in Christ and for the Communities to which they belong, that they may come to perfect unity.” Note the wording – not that those separated from the RCC may join her, but that all the Christian Communities might come into unity. (I’ve heard about a TV program called “Home to Rome” – has anybody told them that they’re misrepresenting the Roman Catholic faith?!) Another intercession prays for the Church or Communion of the candidate, “that it may always grow in knowledge of Christ and proclaim him more effectively.” Note the wording – not that it will come back to the Catholic Church.
Ecclesiologists of the strict observance will insist that Lutherans and Methodists and such folks aren’t a church, they’re an ecclesial community. Only those of us with apostolic succession and communion with Peter are a church, properly speaking. I suppose they have a point – and they could cite the distinction between “Church” and “Communion” in that last intercession. But I have it on good authority that it’s OK to use “church” to refer to other Christians. When Cardinal Walter Kasper was at St. John’s to give a Diekmann lecture, in a friendly lunch and discussion with our SOT community, he said that “of course we use church in ordinary conversation. Such distinctions are for technical theological discourse.” Well that’s a relief. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me. Now I can use ELCA and UMC in good conscience without feeling obligated to substitute Evangelical Lutheran Ecclesial Communion of America or United Methodist Separated Community. This will make it a lot easier to announce in the parish bulletin where next year’s prayer service during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will take place.
Every so often we’ll get a comment on this blog to the effect that “Protestants should join the real Church” or “Why should the True Church compromise with heresy?” We promptly delete all such comments. I guess you could say that we’re zealous about upholding the true teachings of the Church and stomping out error.