Examining context and motives; or “Did he really say that?”

Examining context and motives; or “Did he really say that?”

Very often we hear quotes attributed to some bishop or even a pope and we’re left scratching our heads, wondering what they mean or even whether they just said something that contradicts established Church teaching. All too often these quotes are offered as proof in certain quarters that the Church has gone off the rails completely, that the see of Peter is vacant, that… well, you get the idea. But is everything always as it seems?

Michael at Evangelical Catholicism gives us an example of how controversial quotes can be put back into their context and change the meaning completely. In this case, he uses two quotes from Cardinal Walter Kasper of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity on ecumenism.

“Today we no longer understand ecumenism in the sense of a return, by which the others would ‘be converted’ and return to being ‘catholics.’ This was expressly abandoned by Vatican II.”

“The Catholic commitment to ecumenism is not based on wanting to draw all Christians into the Catholic fold, nor does it seek to create a new church, drawing on the best of each of the ecumenical partners.”

Is the cardinal really saying that non-Catholics don’t need to convert and that Protestantism is equal to Catholicism? Taken by themselves, those quotes seem pretty damning and representative of a “Spirit of Vatican II” syncretism that is often decried by many. Now his analysis and conclusions are quite long and involved, so you have a lot of reading ahead of you if you want to join the discussion (and you better read it before jumping in and commenting here because I won’t take you seriously if you don’t.)

Don’t become prooftexting fundamentalists

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
4 comments
  • I appreciate Michael’s analysis of the Cardinal’s remarks.  However, I’m not convinced yet that evangelization doesn’t encompass ecumenism.  If the boundary between the two is baptism—that is, if evangelization ends at baptism—then a lot of people are going to have to change their definition of the term.  There is plenty of talk around about the evangelization of non-catechized Catholics; about evangelization and justice, etc. 

    About Cdl. Kasper: unfortunately, ever since he—then Bishop Kasper—proposed letting remarried divorcees receive Holy Communion in 1993, there has been reason to scrutinize his public statements with care.

  • Have read all of Michael’s article and have no problem believing all of it. Been a Catholic for 73 years.
              Tom Sanko
              Old Navy ‘51-‘71

  • “However, I’m not convinced yet that evangelization doesn’t encompass ecumenism.  If the boundary between the two is baptism—that is, if evangelization ends at baptism—then a lot of people are going to have to change their definition of the term.  There is plenty of talk around about the evangelization of non-catechized Catholics; about evangelization and justice, etc. “

    RC,

    I’m not expert, but my first thought is that it is possible the wrod “evangelization” is being used in two different ways here. One is maybe a looser, common usage. The other perhaps is a more technical definition. So when the cardinal rejects the term evangelization to refer to Catholics, he is not rejecting the action of re-catechizing those Catholics who need it, but rather trying to be more precise in his language?

    What I see in the alarmist reactions is precisely the point of Dom’s post: do you react with the most prejudicial interpretation or do you charitably assume there might be a misunderstanding or a difference in your definition of key terms?

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