‘Catholic Perspectives on the Reformation’
Ecumenical Perspective: Viewing the Reformation through the lens of grace and charitable engagement
(SNR) - The Diocese of Lincoln’s Office of Evangelization presented a five-part series about the Reformation during the annual “coffee house” series at Gianna’s Java & Gelato in Lincoln.
October 17, 2017 was marked as the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. As the Protestant population within the diocesan boundary is more than six times the Catholic population, the series was held to equip Catholics with a thorough understanding of the Catholic perspective on the Reformation.
The speakers prepared short recaps of their talks for the Register. The full video of each talk is available online. Chad Steiner and Jake Mousel were the guest speakers at the final coffee house event of the series Jan. 14. They provided an ecumenical perspective, and a brief summary is included here.
By Chad Steiner and Jake Mousel
Our assignment for the conclusion to the “Catholic Perspectives on the Reformation” series was to explore not only the Church’s position on ecumenism, but how we as Catholic Christians may think and act more graciously and charitably as we seek the reunion of all Christians.
There were four parts to our presentation: In the first, we looked to the Old Testament as a resource which reveals God’s way of acting when his people are broken apart, and how He restores them by reassembling them (this is the crux of ecumenism as the project of Christian reunion).
Chad explained how the book of Isaiah crafts the story of God’s victory through Israel’s exile as a model for thinking about ecumenism.
Specifically, Israel’s exile may be seen as a type of the Church’s suffering through the Reformation and its aftermath, which is resolved through a twofold process: God uses the tragic dispersion of His people into the nations to achieve the unexpected good that His name is made more widely known. As a result, many are brought to faith, and they in turn bring back the dispersed, restoring them to a now-enlarged communion of the faithful.
In the second section, we examined the Church’s position on ecumenism, and the mandate we have as Catholic Christians to be active participants in fostering the reunion of God’s divided people.
Jake read several excerpts from Unitatis Redintegratio (the decree on ecumenism from the Second Vatican Council) and explained how the reuniting of Christians is in fact a task God is performing as an act of new creation. But He is not performing this task by Himself; he calls His people to serve His mission in at least three ways: by mourning our divisions and refraining from misrepresenting them or each other, especially those from whom we are divided; by reaching out to talk together across our divisions; and by allowing ourselves to be reformed more into the likeness of Christ, which results in Christian reunion.
In the third section, we switched gears from theory to application. We outlined several prerequisites for ecumenical dialogue to be productive, as well as a few of the missteps we should avoid which make ecumenical dialogue unproductive.
Chad explained how truth is discovered by making sound arguments rather than by trading passionately-held opinions, which reduces arguments to quarrels. He also explained how sound arguments are rightly evaluated.
Finally, he shared several examples of fallacies (mistakes we sometimes make in the construction of an argument which render our arguments unsound), and examples of phrases commonly used in social media contexts which masquerade as arguments when in fact they are merely claims.
In the fourth and final section, we took turns presenting samples of fresh biblical and theological formulations from Protestant scholars which we regard as gifts to the Church. Learning how to receive such work as a gift from those with whom we are divided is, in our view, a necessary step if we are to act in accordance with God’s way of reuniting and reassembling his people