OCTOBER 31 was the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. This is hardly a day that we should celebrate. More than ever, it is an occasion for which prayer, work, and study are essential for both Catholics and Protestants.
The Protestant Reformation is hardly the pinnacle of the triumph of the human spirit. It is a movement which hurt all sides.
For the Roman Catholic Church of the time, there was a serious need for reform, most especially in the formation and education of the clergy and in the discipline of the sacraments. Martin Luther, himself an Augustinian priest, was able to identify several key areas in which the Church could and needed to grow. Luther’s theology was extreme, and the Catholic Counter-Reformation, led by saints like Ignatius Loyola and Charles Borromeo, can be seen as the beginnings of the Church’s answer to Luther.
However, due to what might best be called the overreaching involvement of German princes, in an attempt to break away from the temporal power of the papacy, Luther’s reform divided Europe and tore nations apart. The wound of the division of the Body of Christ caused by the rending apart of the Church and the creation of various ecclesial communions is a scandal and both Catholics and Protestants need to work together so that all might be one – Ut Unum Sint.
What can be the work of Ut Unum Sint – becoming one? Perhaps it means recognising that what should unite us is our common baptism into Christ and the common Creed that we possess. Perhaps what should unite us is the bonds of the theological virtues: faith, hope and above all, charity. Perhaps what should unite us is the common recognition that the greater threat is not Christian syncretism, but the utter secularisation of culture and the suffering that so pervades our world, groaning under the weight of Original Sin. Only a united Christian body can give credible witness to a world that no longer considers God in the equation of life and disregards natural law as passé.
The Church and our separated brethren more than ever need to dialogue for the good of the Body of Christ and the salvation of the world. That all might be one is the goal. Prayer, work, and study for true Christian dialogue is the prescription for what ails the wound caused by this division. – Tablet