Christian ecumenism embraces all those efforts the separated Christian Ourches make to heal the scandal of division in the Body of Christ by coming together Into one visible Church. The momentous event of Vatican II–called to renew the Roman Catholic Church and to restore unity among the Christian churches–has irreversibly recast the relationship between the Ronan Catholic Church and the other Christian churches and has established an imperative *for ecumenical commitment by all Catholics, clergy and laity alike.
Christian ecumenism is urgently needed today because 1) Jesus Christ desires the unity of his followers; he prayed “that all may be one so that the world maybe-
lieve”; 2) Jesus founded one Church on the Apostles; disunity distorts the words of the Creed, “We believe in one, holy, catholic, apostolic church”; 3) Christian disunity seriously hinders proclaiming the Gospel and the evangelization of the human race;
4) a united, Christendom could become a powerful force to Christianize today’s secularistic society and to overcome poverty and hunger, racial and social injustice, alienation and var.
Accordingly, the Decree on Ecumenism stresses that “concern for restoring unity pertains to the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike” (No. 5). It urges us to “acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments…found among our separated Christian brethren” (No. 4) and to “know the outlook of our separated brethren” ‘through study of “their history, their spiritual and liturgical life, their religious psycho-.logy and general background” (No. 9). It cautions us to “avoid expressions, judgments, and actions which do not represent our separated brethren with truth and fairness”
(No, )and to be more humble about our own church since “Christ summons the Church to continual reformation” (No. ). And it reminds us that we may need to change our own attitudes for “there can be no ecumenism…without a change of heart”. (No. 7).
Theological Reflections #
The ultimate purpose of Christian ecumenism is “full visible union” between the presently separated Chralan churches so that the world may accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This means that Christian ecumenism is primarily an ecclesial reality, peeking to unite churches, rather than merely individual Christians.
The following theological realities are meant to be principleson which the Arch-diocesan guidelines are based and out of which ecumenical activity in the Archdiocese may flow.
- The recognition that all Christiana already possess a fundamental unity by their faith in the mystery of Christ and their incorporation into Rim through baptism.
- The new appreciation of the ecclesial reality of other Christian churches with not yet realized consequences for ministry, eucharist, common mission, shared prayer;
- The awareness that the model for Christian union has changed from simple “return and submission” to the RCC to an earlier communion model that recognizes authentic plurality in liturgy, theology, discipline, devotional tradition, and church structure;
- The conviction that doctrinal agreement on the core of Christian truths is prior and essential to structural union has resulted in the RCC choosing formal dialogue between churches as its present major commitment to and expression of ecumenism.
- The recovery of emphasis on the local church emphasizes the urgency of ecumenical understanding and commitment by clergy and laity alike at the grassroots, i.e., the diocese and parish;
- The realization of the essential relation between a church’s profound spiritual renewal and the goal of a united Christendom makes prayer, humility, openness to the Spirit, and the overcoming of inherited prejudice and ignorance indispensable conditions for both renewal and unity;
T. The trusting acceptance of the cardinal ecumenical principle that the effort toward Christian unity is best served by each church honestly recognizing real existing differences and remaining true to its own tradition and present discipline.
Purpose of the Guidelines #
Accordingly, these guidelines are offered to help the People of God in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, both clergy and laity, respond to the challenge of the Holy Spirit and of the Church in regard to the responsibility and privilege of attaining Christian union in this century. Specifically, the guidelines seek:
- To provide both an educative and motivational factor for the progress of ecumenism in the Archdiocese;
- To aid Catholics in greater sharing of their common heritage with other Christians through prayer, the Word of God, and worship;
- To clarify the norms for Roman Catholic ecumenical participation with our separated brothers and sisters.
Interreligious Guidelines #
Ecumenism today has broadened to include the efforts of the Christian Churches to understand and apptaeciate the major world religions and to enter into formal dialogue with them and to collaborate With them in caring for the great needs of humankind. Interreligious thus refers to our relationship as Christians with those who are not of the Christian tradition. These relationships are developed in Vatican II’s “Declaration on the RelationShip of the Church to non-Christian Religions” and in number sixteen in The Constitution on the Church where Jews and Moslems are spoken of with appreciation. Part II of these guidelines accordingly deals with reasons and norms for interreligious activities in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
Part..I. Guidelines for Christian Ecumenism
Chapter 1: Prayer and Education for Christian Unity
- The sotl of the whole ecumenical movement is public and private prayer for the unity of Christ’s Church. (Decree on Ecumenism, Number 8).
- Pastors and priests, as leaders of the local worshipping communities, should encourage their congregations to pray for Christian unity.
- Prayers for Church unity should be included frequently in our Masses, and in other prayer services, such as Bible Vigils, Scripture services, Lenten devotions, retreats, novenas, etc. in order to beg the gift of unity from God and to educate and motivate Catholics to the importance of the ecumenical movement. The general intercessions at Mass are an excellent opportunity to accomplish these purposes.
- The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, January 18-25, should be an important ecumenical experience in the public prayer life of each parish and school.
- Joint prayer services between Christians are encouraged, especially on the following occasions:
- The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, January 18-25.
- Thanksgiving Day.
- The days from the Ascension to Pentecost when the community at Jeruialem waited and prayed for the coming of the Holy Spirit to confirm them in • unity and universal mission.
- Eloiphany, when we honor the presence of Christ to the world.
- Good Friday services.
- National or local holidays or on such occasions as may call for public invocation of God.
- Setting up an ecumenical Prayer Service:
- Ecumenical interfaith services, are shared prayer meetings. They Est be held in our churches or chapels or in other churches or synagogues, or in a neutral but suitable and dignified location.
- The format regarding the participants, the themes, the prayers, and hymns the readings, and clericalgarb should be discussed and agreed on by the participating clergy before such an ecumenical/interfaith service is announRed.
- This particular kind of service should be clearly announced and presented so as to be recognized as an ecumenical/interfaith service to all participants.
- Charismatic groups and communities, whether exclusively Catholic or made up of other Christians too, pray frequently for the unity the Apostle Paul says has the Spirit as its origin and thus constitute a powerful ecumenical force.
- Pastors are encouraged to invite ecumenically minded clergy and lay persons of fellow Christian tradition to explain the beliefs and practices of their tradition to Roman Catholic societies and organizations.
- Parish Councils are encouraged to have an ecumenical committee responsible for educating and sensitizing the parish to the ecumenical movement and for planning appropriate religious and social activities with eftighboring Christian parishes.
- Catholic grade and high schools should inculcate ecumenical awareness and sensitivity as a normal part of the religion curriculum and through carefully chosen projects involving students of other Christian traditions. The “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” should be especially emphasized each year.
Chapter 2: Worship and the Sacraments
- The unity existing between Catholics and other Christians through their faith in Christ and their baptism into the Body of Christ provides the basis for encouraging common worhsip among Christians.
- Celebration of the Sacraments is an action of the celebrating community, carried out within the community, signifying the communitm0 oneness in faith, worship, and life. Thus the sacraments are signs of pre-existing Church unity and are not normally shared by Christians of churches not yet in full communion.
- Sacraments are also sources of grace and thus powerful means toward both individual and church union. The Catholic Church thus can and does, for adequate, reasons, allow separated Christians to receive its sacraments. Vatican Council II. (Decree on Ecumenism, No. 8) left this decision to the authority of the .local bishops.
- When Christians are unable to receive each others’ sacraments, they are emacurais•d to accept this painful experience as a sign of the evil of Christian disunity and as a strong motive to pray and work harder to overcome this scandal.
- Roman Catholics may attend other Christian worship services if they have reasonable ground, such as their public office or function, blood relationship or friendship,-e. desire to be better informed, etc. In such cases, they are free to unite with the congregation in sitting or standing or kneeling, taking part in the responses and hymns of the community of which they are guests. Attendance at such other services does not itself dispense from the Sunday Mass obligation.
- The same guidelines govern the manner in which people of other Christian Communions may assist at services in Roman Catholic Churches.
- People of other Christian Communions who do attend our services should be made to feel welcome. If they are clergymen, they should be given a place of honor and their presence acknowledged. They may be invited into the sanctuary and may enter and leave in the procession. They may read the Lessons with proper permission and for a good reason. A Roman Catholic priest may do likewise at the Church services of other Christian traditions if he is invited. It is the prerogative of the presiding minister to proclaim the Gospel and give the homily.
- General invitations to our services should avoid any suggestion of proselytizing or assimilating.
- Baptism is the sacramental bond of unity among all Christians. Baptism and Confirmation are rites of initiation which incorporate a person into the Church and into the Trinitarian life. Hence, the-manner of administering these sacraments is a matter of great importance to all Christians.
- In view of the ecclesial and educational role of sponsors and godparents, only Catholics may be asked to act as sponsors at a Catholic baptism and Confirmation. (Directory, 57.)
- Because of ties of blood or friendship however, a Christian of another communion may take part with a Catholic sponsor or godparent as a “Christian Witness”. (Rite of Initiation of Baptism for Children, 10,15o. 3) (Notation of “Christian Witness” should be entered into Baptismal Register.) A Catholic may act in the same role for a member of a Protestant Church.
- Reception of Other Christians into the Catholic Church The Roman Catholic Church recognizes the validity of baptism given in other Christian churches.1 Accordingly when such baptized Christians led by the grace of the Holy Spirit and by their consciences, seek full communion with the Catholic Church, they are never to be rebaptized or baptized conditionally.
- It is fitting that they be received by means of an appropriate ceremony, such as the one in the appendix to the new Rite for.the Christian Initiation of Ad!ults. Their reception should be recorded in the official register and a cross-reference evade to the baptismal register. In preparing the reception ceremony, the following should be kept in mind:
- The ceremony should not resemble the first steps of Christian initiation.
- It should not include the absolution from excommunication or the petition to adjure heresy or schism, as formerly prescribed by Canon 2314.
- It should be a reception and welcome of the Christian into the local parish community, and thus into full communion with the Catholic Church.
- Ideally, the ceremony should take place during the Sunday liturgy when the local community gathers to celebrate the Euchariit.
- The following points should be noted with respect to the validity-of Baptism:
- The minister’s insufficient faith or defective theology never itself renders the Baptism invalid.. (Directory, 13 and Response of the Holy Office, December 28, 1949).
- Sufficient intention in the baptizing minister is to be presumed unless there is serious ground for doubting that he intended to do what Christians do.
- Baptism by immersion, pouring, or sprinkling, together with the TrinAtarian formula, is of itself valid. Therefore, if the rituals or liturgical books or established customs of a church or community prescribe one of these ways of baptizing, doubt can arise only if the minister does not observe the regulations of his own community or church.
- If doubt persists after serious investigation to determine whether the Baptism was properly administered, and if it is deemed necessary to baptize conditionally, the private form should be used… The priest should explain both the significance of conditional Baptism and the reasons underlying his decision.
- When the-person being received into the Church has not been confirmed, the priest who baptizes or receives the person into the Church may administer the sacrament
of confirmation at that time. The presence or absence of formal sponsors or witnesses should be decided in individual cases according to the circumstances.
- Owing to the remarkable signed theological agreements between Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran theologians on the nature of the Eucharist, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and the nature of the ordained ministry, there is a growing conviction that there exists a common faith-on the Eucharist, at least among Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans-as veil as Christians of other
churches. The growing appreciation of the genuine ecclesial nature of other Christian churches and the reality of the Holy Spirit’s action in their ministries plus a wider view among theologians concerning apostolic succession as the exclusive criterion for valid priesthood and eucharists led churchmen and theologians of the various Christian churches to reappraise the entire question of intercommunion.
- However, the present discipline of the Roman Catholic Church is that Catholics may not take the Eucharist in other Christian churches.
- Baptized members of other Christian churches may with the Bishops’s permission, receive the Eucharist in a Roman Catholic Church only under all of the following conditions:
a.They must share our faith in the Sacrament;
b.They must experience a serious spiritual need for the sacrament;
c.They must be unable for a long period to reach a minister of their own Christian Communion;
d: They must make the request on their own; and
e. They must have the proper. disposition and lead a life worthy of a Christian.
- Sharing our faith in the Eucharist means they must believe:
a.That the Eucharist is the Memorial of the Passion, Nath, and Resurrection of Christ;
b.That ChrOt is really and truly present and is received as spiritual food; and
c.That the Edcharist is a pledge of future glory.
- The “long period” mentioned in No. 30, (c) above, could veil be relative. It would be determined in part by the frequency the petitioner received the Sacrament in his own Church out of serious spiritual need when the minister was available.
- In a case where a member of another church is admitted to the Eucharist under all the above circumstances, the priest should insure that there will be no scandal among the Roman Catholics present. If this cannot be avoided, the Eucharist should be given privately.
Sacrament of Reconciliation
- Members of other Christian Churches may receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation under the same circumstances as those listed for the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Anointing of the Sick
- .Members of other Christian Churches may receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick under similar circumstances and conditions as those listed for the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
- Priests should not participate actively in the ordination ceremony of other Christian COmmunions. Imposing hands in such-a ceremony is prohibited. Nor should a clergyman of other Christian Churches be invited to take am active role in the conferral of Sacred Orders in the Roman Catholic Church. They may certainly be invited to attend out of relationship, friendship, or courtesy, and they should be given a place of honor.
- The primary concern of the Church is to uphold the stability of a sacramental marriage and to foster growth in the Christian life of the spouses and their children. For this reason the Catholic Church and most other Christian churches greatly desire that Christians marry within their own church tradition.
- Recognizing,.however, the basic right of persons to choose their own marriage partner, the very many mixed marriages in the United States today, and the call the Holy Spirit to the separated churches to move resolutely toward union, a growing number of Christians recognize that mixed marriages, far from being an evil, are in fact an ecumenical opportunity, despite the very real difficulties involved. Consequently, the Catholic priest should exercise a special, sensitive pastoral care for couples entering or already entered into such marriages. Whenever possible, he should work closely with the pastor of the non-Catholic party in preparing the couple for a Christian married life together.
A. Pastoral Guidance in Preparing for Marriage
- The priest should stress the positive aspects of what the couple shares together Ape life of grace, in faith, hope and charity, along with other interior gifts of the Holy Spirlt. He should encourage each party to continue to follow and practice his/her faith, to search out those things that lead to unity and religious harmony, and to avoid indifference toward religious commitment so that the distinctive values of one or both are not lost. The lore, sharing and loyalty of such a. marriage may reach out and have a healing effect that can cross the barriers of a divided Christianity and remind us of the mystery of Christ’s abiding love for his Church, a love that continually seeks to reconcile. (Statement.Ontheleagr mentation of the A stolic Letter on Mixed Marri yes, p.
- In the interest of greater understanding and unity, the priest should advise both parties to learn more of their partner’s religious convictions and to share occasionally in their worship services. He should remind the couple that common prgyer is essential to their spiritual harmony and that reading and study of the Bible is .especially important.. Provision should be made that couples in mixed marriages receive appropriate encouragement and support throughout their life together.
Dispensation from Mixed Religion
- After the instruction, the Catholic will be asked to explicitly declare and reaffirm his continuous, active faith; to promise to respect the conscience of the other party in marriage and to promise to do everything possible to see that the children of the marriage be baptized and educated in the Catholic faith. The now-Catholic must be informed of the promises and responsibility of the Catholic although no formal statment is required of the non-Catholic. This is the point where the couple should seriously weigh the results of their differing religious convictions and the influence of those convictions on each other’s new.life. The couple’s effort to understand their individual religious traditions and serious discussions of the differences that exist can lead to a greater honesty, charity and understanding of the basis of unity.
Dispensation from Canonical Form
- A Roman Catholic may be dispensed from the obligation of having his marriage witnessed by a priest and two other witnesses. This means he will be dispensed from the Roman Catholic Form of Marriage. The reasons for seeking such a dispensation from the Bishop through the local pastor could be:
- To achieve family harmony or to avoid family alienation;
- To secure parental agreement to the marriage;
- To recognize the claims of relationship with the clergyman who will officiate;
- To permit the marriage in a particular church..which..has.grpecial importance for the party of the other Communion; e.g. where generations of the family have been married or where the spouse has been active in the life and programs of that church;
- Or for other good reasons.
- Such requests should be presented at the Bishop’s office at least two weeks prior to the scheduled marriage.
- A marriage contracted with a dispensation from the Roman Catholic Form should be recorded in the Roman Catholic parish in whose territory the ceremony took place. The church of baptism should also be notified so the appropriate notation can be added to the baptismal record.
The Marriott Itself
- The rite of the wedding should be the official rite of the church in ‘which the wedding is celebrated. It is not permitted to have two religious services separately, or one service which would celebrate two rituals jointly or successively.
- Clergymen of other Christian Communions may be given a place of honor or participate in the wedding of their parishioners. They may address some words of good wishes and exhortation and lead the congregation in a =MOD prayer. If the marriage is not celebrated at Mass the minister of another Christian Communion could also be invited to invoke blessings and even read the scriptures and express his sentiments of good will, congratulations and best wishes. With the permission of the Bishop, this could be done if the wedding were at Mass. He is encouraged to wear his own liturgical vestments.
- A priest may give a blessing at any wedding which is a valid union, if that blessing is not considered a constitutive element of the marriage. He may read the scriptures and express his sentiments of good will, congratulations and best wishes. He may officiate at a mixed marriage in another Christian Church with the Bishop’s approval and the permission of the other church.
- A priest may officiate at the marriage of two persons who are not members of the Roman Catholic Church who request it, provided that he has the Bishop’s approval. He should instruct the couple in the nature and obligations of marriage and complete the pre-nuptial investigation just as he would for a wedding of his own parishioners. Such completed forms should be kept on file in the parish and the ceremony duly noted in the parish register with the appropriate annotation. The civil requirements should be carefully observed. These safeguards have been found necessary to support the priest in the event that later on some questions might be raised about the marriage.
- (A) A marriage in a Roman Catholic Church whether during Mass or apart from it may have persons of other Communions acting as official witnesses (*idesmaid or be4an). Roman Catholics in turn may act in a similar capacity at a marriage between spouses who are not Roman Catholic.
(B) The attendance of a Roman Catholic at a marriage which the Roman Catholic Church considers unlawful or invalid is permitted for a grave reason.
Chapter 3: Eastern Orthodox-Roman Catholic
- The relationship between Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church differs from that to Protestants; for the Orthodox though separated from us,04et “possess true sacraments, above all–by apostolic succession–the priesthood and the Eucharist.” Therefore sharing in liturgical worship is both possible and en-[Couraged. (Directory, 39, 40)
- However, the Orthodox do not officially welcome Roman Catholic sharing in Orthodox sacraments since unity of the faith and full communion with the Orthodox are a necessary pre-condition.
- The Eastern Churches (Catholic and Orthodox) confer Baptism togeter with Confirmation. Both these sacraments-are automatically recognized as valid when conferred by a priest of canonical Eastern Orthodox Church and they may not be repeated even conditionally.
- At an Orthodox baptism a Catholic may act as godpartent if invited to do so. At a Catholic baptism, one of the godpartents may be an Orthodox provided that the other is a Catholic and there is security for the Catholic education of the child.
Sacrament of Reconciliation
- Those Orthodox who spontaneously desire to do so, may receive the Sacrament of Penance from a Catholic confessor if there are not sufficient confessors in their Church. In similar circumstances a Catholic may seek the sacrament from an Orthodox priest.
- For the Orthodox, reception of Holy Communion in a particular Church signifies complete union with that community; on principle, they oppose intercommunion.
If exceptions’are made in special cases, Catholics have no difficulty giving Holy Communion to Orthodox who ask for it. A Catholic may attend Orthodox liturgical services for any good reason, such as public office or function, blood relationships, friendships, desire to be better informed, absence of a Catholic church, etc. (DirectorZ, 44 and 50). Such cases fulfill the Sunday obligation. Catholics in such cases should take part in all the common responses, hymns, and actions like the rest of the congregation. In cases of necessity or special circumstances (e.g., impossibility over a long period for one of the faithfUl to receive the sacraments in his own church) the Catholic may receive Holy Communion observing the Orthodox discipline as much as he can (previous confession, EUcharistic fast, etc.)
- A Catholic may be bridesmaid or best man at an Orthodox Wedding; similarly an Orthodox may serve at a Catholic wedding, although the Orthodox usually do not allow this.
- The Okhodox consider that only a marriage performed by an Orthodox priest is valid for an Orthodox. In this matter, dispensations are not granted. So that both parties may remain in good conscience,. and to allow the marriage to take place before an Orthodox priest, the Catholic authorities regularly grant dispensations from Canonical form when dealing with Orthodox-Catholic marriages. Without this dispensation, the marriage-would be valid but illicit for the Catholic. The priest of the Catholic party should try to be present but will not be permitted any active participation except perhaps to give a blessing and a. short exhortation.
Anointing of the Sick
- Should an Orthodox for some valid reason request the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick from a Catholic priest, he may confer it; if possible he should consult the Orthodox authorities first.
Chapter 4: Joint Action
- The Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity issued on July 7, 1975, a document on Ecumenical Collaboration at the Regional, National, and Local Levels. The document points out that “Ecumenism is an integral part of the renewal of the Church and its promotfah should be the constant concern of the local church.” The local church is here understood to be the Diocese and its components.
- Roman Catholics are therefore encouraged to initiate and to cooperate with other religious groups and individuals in programs of a religious, civic or social nature. The above mentioned document lists the areas in which Joint Action has already been taken. They are the following:
- In conjunction with shared prayer and worship treated in Chapter I of these Guidelines common distribution and study of the sacred scriptures is recommended.
- EXamples of joint pastoral care are campus ministry, labor-management relations, prisons, the military, communications media, hospital chaplaincy. Ministries to spedial problems, alcoholics, drug addicts, etc. can be the object of Joint Action by both clergy and laity. The taking of a religious census in a city or area is an opportunity for joint action.Frequently an ecumenical approach will be the best method of dealing with the authorities of an institution where any, religious ministry is involved.
- Shared Premises can be the occasion for Joint Action. We should welcome members of other Christian Communions to use our facilities especially if they have no place in which to carry out their religious rites properly and with dignity.
- In colleges or universities with mixed student bodies, there may be conferences or study days devoted to discussions on ecumenism. Assemblies or gatherings set up for study or social action may be open. to discussion of ecumenical matters or for inquiries into the Christian principles in social work and into the services whereby such principles can be reduced to practice. There should be cooperation with existing student institutes. College publications should be explored as channels for Ecumenism.
- Priests are encouraged to join local and regional clergy associations and Councils. They should not join organizations specifically of other religions nor affiliate their parishes with such groups or federations without the permission of the Bishop.
Chapter 5: Funerals and Christian Burial
- When requested by the family, priests may officiate at the funeral services of other churches in funeral homes and at the graveside but not in their churches. If invited, they may participate in the church funerals conducted by the deceased’s minister.
- Ministers of other churches should be offerd a place of honor at Roman Catholic funerals. They may offer a prayer after the service or read the lessons if the family members of the deceased request it.
- Funeral Rites of Christians of Other Communions:
- If they so desire, ecclesiastical burial can be given to Christians of other communions, and unbaptized persons, especially if they have lived a sincere and good life and even perhaps showed sympathy with Roman Catholi doctrine.
- A scripture service, or a_ funeral Mass, may be celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church.
- In a scripture service, both priest and ministers of other communions may partl,cipate.
- The gravealde rites/may be conducted by either a priest or a clergyman of snot er common on, or both.
- Choice of Cemetary:
- Roman Catholics are to be encouraged to purchase lots in Roman Catholic cemetaries whenever possible, but they have the right to choose any tcemetary for their burial.,
- Since a Catholic has the right to Christian burial in the cemetary of his choice, the priest must give it to him, including the station at the grave and its accompanying liturgical rites.
- Interment of Christians of Other Communions and Non-Baptized Persons:
- Interment in Roman Catholic cemetaries may be perthitted to tmember of other communions, especially to spouses and relatives of Roman Catholics.
- This is also applicable to uhbaptized persons.
Part II. Guidelines for Interreligious Activity
Chapter 6: Principles
- The term “interreligious” specifically refers to our relationship as Christians with those who are not part of the Christian tradition.
- The Fathers of Vatican Council II. made a momentous declaration regarding Judaism and Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism: no longer is our attitude to be one of superior toleration; instead, we are urged to recognize these religions as positive forces with which the Church can and should enter into dialogue.
The Catholic Church rejects nothing which is true and holy in these religions. She looks with sincere respect upon those ways of conduct and of life, those rules and teachings which, though different in many particulars from What she holds and sets forth, nevertheless often reflect a ray of truth which enlightens all men. (Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to non-Christan,Religions, No. 2) Thus, the Church in dialogue is sensitive to the concrete forms in which man is seeking God. The quest for the Absolute and man’s experience of the Absolute are manifold. Through our sensitivity to this diverse richness we can also come to appreciate the special relation of Judaism and Islam to Christianity and the history of salvation, based on the uniqueness of God’s self-relation through the Law, the Prophets, and his Son.
- The motive and ultimate aim of interreligious dialogue is to foster a deeper understanding and respect for the richness and integrity of other traditions and faiths. Another hoped-for aim is increased awareness of the life principles which are the common heritage of each of the world’s great religions.
- Dialogue obviously involves two parties. Especially in local dialogue, there are certain sensitivities which are priority concerns of each partner. Ignorance of these sensitivities or lack of appreciate for them, can greatly inhibit true communication.
- The Ecumenical Commission of the Archdiocese wishes to encourage and aid dialogue with the major religions, within the Archdiocese.
Chapter 7: Jewish-Catholic Dialogue
- Jewish-Catholic Relations have been given high priority by the Church in Vatican IIx and again in 1974:
“Since the spiritual patrimony_ common to Christians and Jews is thus so great, this sacred Synod wishes to foster and recommend that mutual understanding and respect ‘which is the fruit above all of biblical and theological studies, and of brotherly dialogues.” Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to non Christian Religions (Nostra ), No. 4.
“Such relations as there have been between Jew and Christian have scarcely ever risen above the level of monologue. From now on, real dialogue must be established.” “Guidelines and Suggestions for Implementing the Conciliar Declaration, Nostra “, Rom e, Dec. 1, 1974.
- These “Guidelines and Suggestions” urge four areas of Jewish-Catholic activity: dialogue, appreciation of common liturgical life, better understanding of Judaism through education and teaching, and joint social action.
Sensitivity to Jewish Concerns as Basis, for. Dialogue
- Catholics in dialogue with Jews should be mindful of the following sensitivities which are growing concerns in many portions of the Jewish community. These issues will influence all dialogue in which the Jewish community becomes involved.
- The Holocaust: The mass murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazis is a painful memory to many American Jews;
- The State of Israel: To American Jews, Israel is not “their country” but the Israelis are part of “their people.”
- Anti-Semitism: Some view Jews as inferior or reprobate;
- Proselytizing: Efforts to convert Jews to Christianity; or views of Judaism as an “incomplete faith” are considered unacceptable;
- Interfaith Marriage: As a small minority, Jews are concerned with preserving a distinct living faith.
- Three distinct local dialogues are encouraged:
Priest-Rabbi Dialogue: In these dialogues priests and rabbis may gradually explore areas of mutual concern and sensitivity. With our scriptural heritage having such a mutuality, it is highly recommended that joint scripture exploration between scholars and clergy of both faiths be encouraged. Our Major Seminary and local rabbinic seminaries are ideal centers for student exploration of our heritage. In addition, homiletic and liturgical studies could counteract a sometimes anti-Semitic Gospel interpretation and do such to develop mutual richness in music, festival and sydbol. Since marriage and family life are of extreme concern in both communities, joint studies, understanding and action miibt well aid the struggle in which these institutions find themselves.
Education: Dialogue is a reality that looks both to the present and to the future for a measure of success. The parochial and secondary religious education systems of the Jewish and Catholic communities in the Bay area offer a unique opportunity to continue the positive achievements of the Jewish-Catholic dialogue. By exposing students to the religions and by elaborating on the sources common to both, the success of today’s dialogue may be assured for the future.
Parish and Synagogue Interaction: -If the dialogue between Catholics and Jews is to be thorough and significant, it must also include a grassroots exchange between Catholic and Jewish congregations. Certainly the Easter-Passover liturgical convergence, while presenting some inherent difficulties, does offer an opportune time for interchange. Times such as Thanksgiving present another excellent opportunity for mutual sharing. However, as in any other dialogue, great care, patience, and understanding are required. It is suggested that priests and rabbis participate in dialogues on their own level as preparation for a congregational dialogue.
- In exploring such parish–synagogue interactions, there are basic pastoral needs which need careful attention to properly implement the goals of these dialogues:
- Selectivity in Scripture texts: While the entire Hebrew Scripture or Old Testament is part of Catholic tradition, the New Testament is not part of the Jewish Testament. To avoid offense and mutual misunderstanding, texts for liturgical services or joint scripture study must be selected very carefully.
- Liturgical Interchange: Such an interchange could consist of attendance at a Catholic or Jewish worhsip service or a joint prayer service cooperatively and sensitively developed by both traditions.
- Trinitarian Formulas: While a prayer to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the One God of Creation and the Universe, is part of the Catholic experience, the Catholic formulas referring to the Trinity of Jesus as Lord are foreign to the Jewish expression.
- Correct use of the Seder Service: The Seder Service can be an enriching experience for the Catholic if it is conducted in accordance with authentic Jewish Tradition. We must avoid turning it into a bogus Last Supper meal.
- Correct Awareness of Holy Days: To insure a clear understanding of the meaning of Holy Days and Sacred Seasons in the context of the respective faiths. Hanukkah must be understood in the light of Jewish History: It is not a Jewish Christmas. Easter must be understood in the light of the Christian belief in the Resurrection: it is no* a Christian Passover.
- Centrality of the Person of Christ: Because of the centrality of Christ in our faith Catholics may experience a sense of shock when exposed to Judaism,in which Christ plays no role. Conversely, the centrality of Christ can be a shock to Jewish observers. Priests and rabbis should be aware of this possibility and should prepare their congregations for these differences.
- Christian dill to Witness: The obligation to witness our faith my be interpreted by non-Christians as an attempt to denigrate their religious beliefs. In our manifestations of witness, we must be particularly sensitive to avoid any semblance of proselytism. Jews are disturbed when members of so-called “Jesus Movements” (such as “Jews for Jesus”) disturb their privacy in the name of Christianity.
- The religious experience connected with the pastoral sacraments and rites of Baptism, Marriage, Confirmation, Bar Mitzvah and Burial should be explored. The ability to express appropriate sentiments on these occasions is one of the basic signs of authentic understanding and respect. Because of its many ecumenical dimensions, we shall treat the official Catholic and Jewish positions regarding marriage.
- When a Catholic and a Jev decide to enter into marriage, ,the priest who is helping them prepare a marriage ceremony should be sensitive to the religious conviction and customs of both parties. Neither party to the marriage should be asked to violate the integrity of his or her faith.
- Priests of the Archdiocese should be aware that the Jewish community is officially in opposition to mixed marriages; they are a prime area of concern and sensitivity within the Jewish community. This concern and sensitivity should be shared with a Jewish-Catholic couple seeking pastoral advice concerning marriage. The priest should also advise the couple that the Catholic Church does not encourage such marriages; indeed, the Church greatly desires that Catholics marry Catholics. This position stems from a concern for the marital union and the good of the family.
- If the priest is still asked to assist after sharing this with the Catholic-Jewish couple, the following avenues may be pursued:
- A priest may officiate at the wedding of a Jew and Catholic, with a dispensation from the impediment of disparity of worship, in the sanctuary or other part of the Catholic Church, or in any suitable building on the parish grounds.
- A dispensation from the Catholic form of marriage may be sought so that the Catholic party may marry in a religdous ceremony before a rabbi in a temple, or other sacred or private place.
- If neither of these options is possible, the he Ordinary may dispense the Catholic party from the Catholic form of rriage so that a public ceremony that is civilly valid will be accepted by the Catholic Church as licit and valid.
- Jews may be admitted as witnesses and attendants at a marriage ceremony in a Catholi ahurch. Catholics may act as witnesses and attendants at the wedding of friends rho are Jews.
- When a priest or deacon is invited to participate in the marriage ceremony of two Jews conducted by a Rabbi, he may offer prayers for the couple and invoke God’s blessing on them.
- When a Rabbi is invited to participate in the marriage ceremony of two Catholics conducted by a 151141est, the Rabbi should be offered a place of honor in the sanctuary and may offer prayers for the couple and invoke God’s blessing on them.
Chapter 8.: Relations with Other World Faiths
- Islam enjoys a place of esteem in Catholic dialogue. In the past, we have too often viewed the differences between us and neglected to reflect on our common patrimony–belief in a monotheistic God, identification with the prophet Abraham, and reverence for Christ and Mary.
- In certain instances the faith of Islam4–i3 been the victim of over-simplification and even inaccurate caricature. Brutality, ignorance, the fostering of “Holy War”. and a lack of cleanliness are among the more obvious false universal accusations attributed to Islam. Dialogue might well begin with a self examination to determine if we have, perhaps unconsciously, subscribed to the many prevalent misconceptions about Islam.
- Today an Arab renaissance is taking place. With a substantial part of the Arab world Islamic by belief, our educational efforts should develop a comprehensive presentation of ,the tenets of Islam.
- A professional clergy is not a part of Islam. Friday is the principal day of worship, with public prayer a requisite for a true believer. We should be aware that, as intheXevish dialogue, the Trinitarian formulas may cause a certain amount of uneasinessr Because of materialistic influences and diminishing ethnic influence, the Islamic community faces challenges to marriage and family, as well as to religious practice by the younger generation. These along with the authentic teachings and practices of Islam, present excellent areas for dialogue.
- Chinese and Japanese communities have been established in San Francisco for many years. This fact, coupled with recent interreligious developments, indicates a growing interest for Catholic-Buddhist dialogue.
- The Catholic-Buddhist dialogue is still in its infancy: much greater dialogue on an international level will be necessary before significant local dialogues will be practical. However, some general concepts may assist to establish a framework for discussion.
- An understanding of theological terminology is extremely difficult, even for basic concepts such as God, religion, and prayer. There are a multitude of sects and schools within the general framework of Buddhism, and these tend to be different from each other in doctrine and practice.
- At least for the present time, it seems that the Catholic-Buddhist dialogue will be almost entirely educational. Everyone engaged in this dialogue ought to be aware of the theological differences which separate us still more.
- Care should be taken in exploring the more youth oriented forms of Buddhism which have attracted a sizeable following. These sects sometimes represent an attempt at blending many divergent elements and often do not accurately reflect actual Buddhist belief.
- Although the Hindu population within the San Francisco area is somewhat limited, we do have a living faith community of the Hindu tradition. This tradition presents many obstacles tOslany type of consensus dialogue. However, prayer, spiritual life and moral values are particularly positive areas for dialogue.
- Schools or systems of belief and practice are many and varied. Terminology is also an area of extreme divergence. Certain schools are particularly attractive to younger persons. The Commission will be happy to make a resource person available for particular questions.
- The Commission will be happy to make resource persons available for questions on any of the above world faiths.
- We attempt no examination of the varied cults, sects or movements present in the Bay area. It is the practice of.the Commission to consult with recognized scholars in religious studies at one of our major universities when we need detailed information in these areas.