Towards the end, he asked, “Why don't we see more events like this?” Cardinal George pointed out that, since Evangelicalism has no hierarchy or visible authority, opportunities for Evangelical-Catholic dialogue is limited. Nobody can claim to represent Evangelicalism, the way that, say, the Archbishop of Canterbury can officially represent the Anglican Communion. John had noted numerous times that plenty of Evangelicals were upset that he'd even attended the event, underscoring the crisis of authority within Evangelicalism.
This is a good point, but John quickly pointed out the other side of the coin. While there's little top-down dialogue between Evangelicals and Catholics (since there's little top to speak of in Evangelicalism), there's a lot of grassroots ecumenism going on. John pointed out several areas in which Catholics and Evangelicals dialogue with one another, and work side by side, including pro-life activism.
|Fr. Marcel in front of 3300 flowers, |
representing the daily death toll from abortion
I saw a few great examples of this over the past week. On Friday, as I've mentioned, I went to the Rally protesting the HHS Mandate. The Rally began with everyone on their knees, Catholics and Protestants praying together to God for an end to abortion and an end to the HHS Mandate. Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Reformed Presbyterian Church was one of the speakers, and he talked about his love and appreciation for the Catholics involved in the movement, saying he had to take down a picture of the Beatles in his room so he had space to put up a picture of Cardinal Dolan. Afterwards, Rev. Mahoney arranged for Fr. Marcel Guarnizo to lead Catholics in a Rosary.
Two days later, at Encircle the Supreme Court, we came together once again to pray that God's Will be done, for the protection of innocent life and religious freedom, and that He would give wisdom and courage to the justices of the Supreme Court. After we prayed the Lord's Prayer together, Fr. Marcel lead everyone, Catholic and Protestant alike, in the Chaplet of Divine Mercy (starting with step 6). He joked that this was a “compromise,” since there's nothing in the Divine Mercy Chaplet that Protestants would object to (like asking for the intercession of Mary or the Saints).
As fascinating at that was, the thing that really shocked me was the prayer that Rev. Mahoney lead us in, a prayer written by Mother Teresa that includes the line, “Jesus is the Sacrifice offered at the Holy Mass for the sins of the world and mine.” Hearing a Presbyterian minister lead a group of Catholics and Protestants in praying this was a bit ... surreal. But it was certainly a welcome reminder that the pro-life movement has produced a genuine grassroots ecumenical dialogue.
After the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the leader of the protesters spoke to us through a megaphone, saying, “You've just taken two steps forward and four steps back. When you pray the Rosary, you're praying to Mary, and you shouldn't be surprised that God doesn't hear your prayers.” No matter that we had just prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet, not the Rosary; that there had been no prayers to Mary; and that Fr. Marcel had explained all of this a few moments before. The protesters were here to express disdain for Catholics, as well as for those like Rev. Mahoney who would stand alongside us.
At this point, Rev. Mahoney went back to his microphone and announced that these folks had nothing to do with us, asking that we not speak to them or engage them. By the time I left, it appeared that everyone had honored this request. It was clear that the protesters were just a fringe, and that the overwhelming majority of the Protestants there felt comfortable at least praying the Lord's Prayer with us.
|Andrea del Sarto, Madonna of the Harpies (detail) (1517)|
First, we must consider the impact of what Timothy George has called the “ecumenism of the trenches.” Over the last 35 years or so, evangelicals and Catholics have slowly come to appreciate how much we share in terms of morality, particularly in the thorny ethical problems surrounding the beginning and end of life, the definition of marriage, and the constructive role faith can and should play in the public realm. I think this has led to the establishment of grass roots friendships based on trust. To put the matter bluntly, theological disagreement takes on a whole new tone when you’re praying together in front of an abortion clinic. Key evangelical theologians and leaders like Timothy George, J. I. Packer, and Chuck Colson have used that trust wisely to engage in theological dialogue with Catholic theologians and leaders. Once such theological ties were established, it was only a matter of time before Mary came up. Since the third generation of the Reformation, she has personified every major doctrinal dispute, whether sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, or solo Christo.There is, I think, great reason to be hopeful. Evangelicals are increasingly feeling comfortable acknowledging Catholics as Christians, and recognizing a common faith. And this, as Perry acknowledges, is something of a first step that opens the doorway for authentic and meaningful Catholic-Evangelical dialogue. Given this, I would not be surprised if God heals the wounds of the Reformation using the Roe v. Wade backlash, rather than relying on the work of joint theological commissions.