Den amerikanske kardinalen Avery Dulles skriver i en grundig artikkel i siste nummer av First Things om økumenisk arbeid, og han har ikke stort håp om at man skal kunne komme så mye lenger. Bl.a. har en del kritiske merknader til felleserklæringa om rettferdiggjørelsen mellom katolikker og lutheranere – og jeg brukte en del av hans synspunkter i en artikkel om denne erklæringa for noen år siden – se her.
Spesielt når dialogene kom til gradvis større (delvis) enighet om ulike spørsmål, kjørte man seg fast etter hvert, skriver Dulles: And yet, valuable though it was, the convergence method was not without limitations. Each new round of dialogue raised expectations for the future. The next dialogue, at the price of failure, was under pressure to come up with new agreements. The process would at some point reach a stage at which it had delivered about as much as it could. It would eventually run up against hard differences that resisted elimination by this method of convergence. When the dialogues attempted to go beyond convergence and achieve full reconciliation on divisive issues, they sometimes overreached themselves.
Likevel avslutter han sin artikkel på en mer positiv måte: Each party will engage in ecumenical dialogue with its own presuppositions and convictions. As a Roman Catholic, I would make use of the methods by which my church derives its distinctive doctrines. I would also expect that any reunion to which Catholics can be a party would have to include as part of the settlement the Catholic dogmas, perhaps reinterpreted in ways that we do not now foresee. Other churches and ecclesial communities will have their own expectations. But all must be open to possible conversion. We must rely on the Holy Spirit to lead us, as Vatican II recommended, “without obstructing the ways of divine Providence and without prejudging the future inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”
How then can Christian unity be envisaged? That is the question asked at Oberlin five decades ago. The first condition, I believe, is that the various Christian communities be ready to speak and listen to one another. Some will perhaps receive the grace to accept what they hear credibly attested as an insight from other communities. The witnesses and their hearers need not insist on rigorous proof, because very little of our faith can be demonstrated by deductive methods. Testimony operates by a different logic. We speak of what has been graciously manifested to us and what we have found to be of value for our relationship with God. If others accept what we proclaim, it is because our words evoke an echo in them and carry the hallmark of truth.
The process of growth through mutual attestation will probably never reach its final consummation within historical time, but it can bring palpable results. It can lead the churches to emerge progressively from their present isolation into something more like a harmonious chorus. Enriched by the gifts of others, they can hope to raise their voices together in a single hymn to the glory of the triune God. The result to be sought is unity in diversity.
True progress in ecumenism requires obedience to the Holy Spirit. Vatican II rightly identified spiritual ecumenism as the soul of the ecumenical movement. It defined spiritual ecumenism as a change of heart and holiness of life, together with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians. We must pray to God to overcome our deafness and open our ears to what the Spirit is saying to the churches, including our own. No mutual rapprochement can be of any value unless it is also a closer approach to Christ the Lord of the Church. We must ask for the grace to say only what the Spirit bids us say and to hear all that he is telling us through the other.
Then we may hope that, by accommodating what other communities are trying to tell us, we may be enriched with new and precious gifts. By accepting the full riches of Christ we lose nothing except our errors and defects. What we gain is the greatest gift of all: a deeper share in the truth of Christ, who said of himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”