VISIBLE UNITY

- A UNIQUE SIGN -

By JAMES LIKOUDIS


The following is a letter to the editor of the Credo magazine of Ann Arbor MI., written by
Mr. Likoudis commenting on an article published by that magazine in its 7-12-99 issue.


To the Editor,

May I take exception to some comments by Glenn Smith in an otherwise interesting article "Why Jesus prayed for unity" (7/12/99).  He wrote:

"Sadly, the Body of Christ on earth is broken, so splintered that there are thousands of separate branches of Christianity."

This kind of rethoric is unfortunately often heard in ecumenical dialogue, but is profoundly misleading as not reflecting the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding the Visible Unity which Christ has vouchsafed His one and only Church.

As the 2nd Vatican Council taught, those baptized Christians who are in an "imperfect communion" with the Catholic Church are called to enter "into the unity of the one and only Church which Christ bestowed on the Church from the beginning. This unity, we believe, subsists in the Catholic Church as something which she can never lose" (Decree on Ecumenism n.4).

In requesting all Catholics to "take an active and intelligent part in the work of ecumenism," it is assuredly wise to avoid terminology concerning the Church which leaves the false impression that the unity for which Christ prayed at the Last Supper (Jn. 17) does not now exist and refers only to a future entity.

Christ's High Priestly Prayer (Jn. 17) resulted in a unique visible unity of faith, worship, and government with which He graced His Church and which would always identify His Church as a divine-human reality in this world — indeed His Mystical Body on earth. This visible oneness gracing the Church of His Apostles would constitute a unique sign that "the world might believe" that the Father of all had truly sent Him into this world as our Savior (Jn. 17:20ff.).

The Apostle John similarly noted of Christ on the Cross that "not a bone of Him was broken" (Jn. 19:34-37); similarly His Body in this world would remain whole and entire in its faith, worship, and hierarchical structure despite the historical defections of members throughout 20 centuries. The Fathers of the Church saw the unity of the Catholic Church prefigured in the "tunic without seam woven in one piece" that was not torn into pieces by the soldiers on Calvary (Jn. 19:24). In a remarkable address on the "seamless robe of Christ" (1/25/84) Pope John Paul II noted that historic Christian divisions had indeed "damaged the seamless robe of Christ" but "the robe remains seamless".

The visible unity of the Catholic Church has not been destroyed by those who departed from it, nor can it be destroyed. The Apostle Paul, it will be recalled, vehemently denied that Christ or His Church could be divided into parts - (see 1 Cor. 1:12-13; Eph. Chapters 1-4).

Also, it is not true that "all who go by the name 'Christian' believe in the Trinity." There are quite a few in liberal Protestant denominations as well as in various sects who call themselves "Christian" but no longer believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity.

Let us indeed pray and work for the reconciliation of our separated brethren to the true Church of Jesus Christ, but let us have no illusions as to the real doctrinal differences that still exist and which impede genuine ecumenical efforts.

—  James Likoudis
Montour Falls, N.Y.




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