The following is my response to a homily given by Rev. Andre Dargis at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish in Gardner, Massachusetts. Fr. Dargis' homily was broadcast from WGAW radio.
January 27, 2008
The Most Rev. Robert J. McManus
Bishop of Worcester
49 Elm Street
Worcester, Ma 01609
The Second Vatican Council, in its Decree on Ecumenism No. 3, teaches us that, "...some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ.
The brethren divided from us also use many liturgical actions of the Christian religion. These most certainly can truly engender a life of grace in ways that vary according to the condition of each Church or Community. These liturgical actions must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation.
It follows that the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church.
Nevertheless, our separated brethren, whether considered as individuals or as Communities and Churches, are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ wished to bestow on all those who through Him were born again into one body, and with Him quickened to newness of life-that unity which the Holy Scriptures and the ancient Tradition of the Church proclaim. For it is only through Christ's Catholic Church, which is "the all-embracing means of salvation," that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God." (UR, No. 3).
This Magisterial teaching regarding Catholic principles on ecumenism is apparently not understood by Rev. Andre Dargis, the Pastor of Holy Rosary Parish in Gardner. Commenting on today’s Second Reading (1 Corinthians 1: 10-13, 17), which reads:
"I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose. For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers and sisters,by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you. I mean that each of you is saying, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apollos," or "I belong to Cephas," or "I belong to Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning," Rev. Dargis suggested that no one man or one church has all the answers and that we are no different from the people St. Paul was addressing at Corinth when we say, "I follow the Pope" while still others say, "I follow Martin Luther."
What Fr. Dargis failed to mention in his homily is that St. Paul was addressing those who were creating divisions within the Church founded by Jesus Christ. He also failed to address the Magisterial teaching that, "Christ bestowed unity on his Church from the beginning. This unity, we believe, subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time..." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 820) and that, "...we must realize ‘that this holy objective - the reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ - transcends human powers and gifts.’" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 822, citing UR, No. 24).
Pope John Paul II, in his Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint, said that: "Taking up an idea expressed by Pope John XXIII at the opening of the Council, the Decree on Ecumenism mentions the way of formulating doctrine as one of the elements of a continuing reform. Here it is not a question of altering the deposit of faith, changing the meaning of dogmas, eliminating essential words from them, accommodating truth to the preferences of a particular age, or suppressing certain articles of the Creed under the false pretext that they are no longer understood today. The unity willed by God can be attained only by the adherence of all to the content of revealed faith in its entirety. In matters of faith, compromise is in contradiction with God, who is Truth. In the Body of Christ, ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’ (Jn 14:6), who could consider legitimate a reconciliation brought about at the expense of the truth? The Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae attributes to human dignity the quest for truth, ‘especially in what concerns God and his Church,’ and adherence to truth’s demands. A ‘being together’ which betrayed the truth would thus be opposed both to the nature of God, who offers his communion, and to the need for truth found in the depths of every human heart." (UUS, No. 18).
Your Excellency, the Council’s Decree on Ecumenism rejects as "foreign to the spirit of ecumenism" anything that would compromise the integrity of Catholic doctrine or obscure its meaning, teaching that: "The way and method in which the Catholic faith is expressed should never become an obstacle to dialogue with our brethren. It is, of course, essential that the doctrine should be clearly presented in its entirety. Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false irenicism, in which the purity of Catholic doctrine suffers loss and its genuine and certain meaning is clouded." (UR, No. 11).
It is my hope that Your Excellency will remind Fr. Dargis of these truths. In the words of Dr. Dietrich Von Hildebrand, "False irenicism is motivated by a misconceived charity at the service of a meaningless unity. It places unity above truth. Having severed the essential link between charity and defense of the truth, irenicism is more concerned with reaching a unity with all men than with leading them to Christ and His eternal truth. It ignores the fact that real unity can be reached only in truth. Our Lord’s prayer ‘that they may be one’ implies being one in Him and must not be separated from His words in John: ‘And other sheep I have that are not of this fold. Them also I must bring and they shall hear my voice. And there shall be one fold and one shepherd.’" (Dr. Dietrich Von Hildebrand, citing John 10:16).
Asking Your Excellency’s Blessing,
I am, Yours Respectfully
Paul Anthony Melanson
cc: Rev. Andre Dargis