Protestants will do well, in their concern for and preoccupation with ecumenism, to bear in mind that Roman Catholic thinkers are devoting the most serious thought to the means by which they can unify Christendom under the banner of Rome. There is of course a new effort to present the claims of the church in a “best foot forward” manner; but there are also deeper currents flowing in Romanism. Several of these merit our most careful consideration.
First, some of the younger Roman Catholic scholars are lifting into prominence the more ecumenical elements in the papal pronouncements of the past. There is a tendency, for example, to discover a change in attitude upon the part of the papacy, notably in the case of Leo XIII vis-à-vis the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is noted, further, that Pius XI, in his Rerum Orientalium, admitted that the Roman church shares in the responsibility for occurrence and for maintenance of the schism.
Expressive of this same spirit of humility is the willingness to recognize the extreme nature of some of the historic pronouncements, notably those made in the time of the Counter Reformation and in connection with the Vatican Council of the nineteenth century. Not all of these “explanations” are satisfactory; some impress the discerning Protestant as being simple disclaimers, designed to soothe the hearers. But the more capable writers in this field, such as Father Gregory Baum of Toronto, treat these problems with real candor.
Most of us have noted the manner in which such terms as “schismatics” and “heretics” have been replaced by the name “separated brethren.” Indeed, there has been little use of the term “heretic” for nearly ...1
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