Fr. Neuhaus' "An Irrevocable Commitment" (The Public Square, October) provides an informative overview of the erstwhile but unlamented ecumenical movement. Meanwhile, we are informed, "the Catholic commitment to the quest for full visible unity as full communion is ... 'irrevocable.'"
But in the long history of Christendom, from the call of the first disciples to the Church of today, has there ever been a time of "full visible unity"? Each of the synoptics tells of the disciples' quest for honor--"A dispute arose among them, which of them was to be regarded as greatest" (Luke 22:24)--and, in large part, Paul's letters deal with church factionalism.
"Full visible unity"--on whose terms? As for the prayer of Jesus in John 17, "that they may all be one," New Testament exegetes speak far less of institutional unity than of our Lord's desire that there be unity of purpose, intention, and mission.
In our pursuit of church unity, maybe we have been chasing a fantasy, a theory, more than anything else; otherwise, why the dismal results and the moribund state of the discussion? Some of us...