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
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
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.