Doctrinal differences

Doctrinal differences

John Morrissey

For all of his sincere spirit of ecumenism and Christian charity, Alan Barron's ideas on the sufficiency of love and the disastrous effects of the Council of Trent ('Church Unity', April AD2000) should not go unchallenged.

Even with the Bible on hand, if we do not know precisely what we believe, how are we to respond to challenges to our faith and practice with anything more than a crude fundamentalism or a mushy peace-and-love mantra, without any depth?

Alan says that 'what defines the congregation of the faithful is its ability to demonstrate love and unity, despite doctrinal differences'. This has already been attempted in Australia, with the merger of three major denominations some decades ago, which involved each jettisoning most of its distinctive doctrines - with disastrous effect.

What emerged was a generator for left-wing opinions and causes, with little religious identity, and empty pews except where the traditions of one of its constituent denominations remained dominant.

As for the Council of Trent being 'a disaster for church unity', it was the delay in facing the task of internal reform and tackling the religious confusion of the early 16th century with anything but anathemas that was the disaster.

Trent (1546-63) consolidated the teaching of the Catholic Church, so that only after its definitions would the faithful be able to verify whether a doctrine was orthodox or the product of some theological adventure.

Duffy's The Stripping of the Altars shows us that in England the common people only very gradually became aware that the changes of the Protestant Reformation were taking place; it was so often the familiar priest, in the familiar church at the familiar time. The Council of Trent drew the lines, and not before time. The Protestant Reformation had been given a 30 years start!

In our own time progressive Catholics might tell Alan that Vatican II had done away with Trent. Such people have never read the Council documents.

It is unfortunate that since Vatican II error has flourished in the pulpits, schools and convents, and much harm has been done by the failure of the Catholic Church to produce a catechism until 30 years after the conclusion of the Council.

With modern communications, which have been used as successfully by the progressives as Luther and others used printing, a catechism would have been timely in the 1970s, rather than in 1994.

No, Alan, love is not enough, for doctrinal differences must be recognised and their implications faced honestly and constructively.

JOHN MORRISSEY
Hawthorn, Vic

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