Food for Thought from Crimson Catholic

An interesting post by Jonathan Prejean on the difference between Catholicism’s vision for unity and Protestantism’s. I don’t quibble with the description of Protestantism insofar as it indicts the Modern sectarian-egalitarian varieties. I do, however, think that the “Catholic” view of unity Prejean describes is what the Protestant reformers, being themselves children of catholic Christianity, wanted. They failed to bring it about (for many complicated reasons), but at least it’s what they sought. This raises the question: Where have we gone wrong relative to their vision?

Part of that realization is to perceive that one can never have “the Catholic faith” as an isolated individual. The individual’s faith can never be defined apart from the societal faith, because the individual can never be defined apart from his own historicity and social setting, creating a constant dialogue within the Church. Indeed, Catholicism is in some sense a discussion among Catholics about what Catholicism is; that is an essential part of the metaphysical constitution of the Church. There is no “argument for” Catholicism, because Catholicism is not a subjective belief; rather, it is an objective reality. It is the objective reality, not one’s own imperfect perception of the reality, that is the ground of unity. At the same time, it is the conviction of sharing an objective reality that makes the subjective views meaningful; knowing that we Catholics have the shared reality is what gives us optimism in dialogue that something good will come of the discussion.

Part of the problem is in the apologetic emphasis on the divisiveness of Protestantism, acting as if Catholicism is better because its principle of doctrinal authority ensures doctrinal uniformity. In fact, the case is quite the opposite. It is the conviction that there is one faith, and that this faith is realized in the Catholic Church, that brings Catholics together in dialogue to overcome differences. In Protestantism, there is no incentive to do so, because there is no metaphysical imperative to realize unity in a real way. Either the importance of the disagreement is minimized by calling the matter “unessential,” or there is schism, or there is simply mutual monologue. Only in Catholicism is dialogue an essential part of the process, because only there is the innate conviction that there is a goal in sight and that greater unity can be attained.

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