Spring 1969

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Page 23



tianity and even to men without any formal religion. It stated that Christian faith and many of the blessings of Christian worship are available in other communities besides the Catholic Church. From all this it follows that it does not make the ureatest possible difference whether you are a Roman Catholic or not. But the Council also insisted that the patrimony of Christ is available in its fullness only within Roman Catholicism. Hence it makes a difference whether you are a Catholic or not. To a Protestant or Orthodox Christian this may sound patronizing. Perhaps we Catholics have not yet hit upon the right way of speaking about the matter. But as I have already said, even if it be granted that we have an institutional fullness that is not available¡ elsewhere, we are still faced by the task of rightly administering what Christ turned over to his Church, and in this respect we are perhaps doing a pretty poor job. We need all the help we can get from our brethren of other traditions. They can help us to put the structures to work so that we can get within the Church something approaching the desired plenitude of Christian faith and life. We shall have to remould some of the secondary structures which have been built up in the past, to simplify or adapt them to our times, and to purify the Church of any accretions foreign to the gospel. If you look simply at the relations between Catholic and non-Catholic Christianity, you might have the impression that Vatican II, while it did not endorse religious indifferentism, took a step in that direction. It did stress the reality of Christian values outside the Church, so that the opposition between Catholic and non-Catholic is not a matter of all or nothing.


On the other hand there are many forms of indifferentism besides the denominational indifference of which ecumenists are often accused. There is such a thing as ecumenical indifference. If a man says, "I don't care about what God is doing in other churches," he is exhibiting a shocking callousness toward