Visible Christian Unity
A key question for the reuniting of all baptised believers is how will “the primacy” of Bishop of Rome in practice be exercised ? This has so far been too little discussed. Many are hoping that it will be exercised in a collegial manner, as Vatican II laid down, when counter-balancing the Vatican I definition of papal infallibility.
One is therefore bound to ask what consulting Pope Benedict did before making proposals to the Lefeverists, and before his recent invitation to Anglicans who wish to enter visible unity with the Roman Catholic communion?
Did he consult the head of department in the Vatican or the College of Cardinals? As far as I know neither matter was ever discussed by the Synod of Bishops.
If these important steps were taken on the Pope’s initiative alone, what does that say about his understanding of collegiality? There is evidence for saying that the catholic church is already over centralised. Can this be for its own good? Surely we need more subsidiarity.
Given that a very large measure of doctrinal and theological agreement has already been reached, especially with Anglicans, Lutherans and in effect with most Orthodox, the manner in which moves towards visible unity are taken become very important. One hopes and prays that the manner will not only be generous, but also be attractive and appealing.
Perhaps we should also consider which is the more important, visible unity or spiritual unity? Does orthopraxis (right conduct) have to precede worldwide orthodoxy (right belief)? Unity is something we all have to work for. It cannot be left solely to church leaders. Its unity has certainly been a cause for scandal, but I think we should also understand that every tradition and denomination will bring its own gift to the great church of the future.