But I'm intrigued to no end by his words in the latest news from the Vatican:
Entitled: Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium of the Holy Father Francis, to the bishops, clergy, consecrated persons.... (etc.) ... on the proclamation of the Gospel in today's world.
In it, I found this gem:
The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door. There are other doors that should not be closed either. Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason. This is especially true of the sacrament which is itself "the door": baptism. The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.51 These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness. Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.
So, um, let me get this straight....
This pope went on record with the press to say that he cares about somehow including non-Christians into the fold of the Kingdom.
And then he went on record as an evangelist in this encyclical.
Someone who wants all people to have access to the throne of Grace through Christ.
Contrary to the notions of the press, these two ideas are not incompatible but one explains the other. Fine.
But there is a gap in the logic. What is his plan for including fellow Christians who are not of the flock of Rome in this great pilgrimage toward the throne of Grace? If Rome and its agents are not arbiters of grace, do they abandon the claim to a right to excommunicate fellow Christians over doctrine which varies from their own much less than the variations in their own community currently owns? In other words, will they open their communion to other confessing Christians who may wear a different label?
Recently, in my parish, a lay Eucharistic minister refused communion to a Roman Catholic because it became known that this parishioner was receiving the Sacrament in our Anglican church on the weeks the LEM was not available. Is the Pope now saying that the LEM (who I love and think is an awesome and dedicated sister in Christ, even if she doesn't always think likewise of me) was not right to refuse the Sacrament to her?
We welcome the Roman sisters and brothers at our table, is the Pope willing likewise to welcome us?
Or do we fall through the cracks between evangelized and welcomed?
I don't mean this to be snarky. In fact, I am deeply encouraged by the Pope's words. But I want to ask, what about us? What about the Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, and others who walk so closely with Rome but do not swear fealty? What about those deeply mutual pastoral relationships between church leaders who recognize one another as fellow heirs of the Kingdom but cannot receive Communion together? What about those who have not only claimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ but preserved the Apostolic Tradition of the church with integrity, say the same creeds, pray the same ancient prayers, sing the same hymns, believe the same Scriptures and church Fathers and saints of old, but cannot share the same loaf and the same cup. Where are we, between the unreached and the fully embraced?
No, the pope doesn't likely read my blog. But if he did, I would tell him this....
Reverend father in God, my brother, every day we thwart the prayer of our Lord that his flock may be one as he and the father are one is a day that, lest we repent, we will answer for in the Kingdom of God. Every day we are divided we undermine our witness to the world at large. Every day we set our own offices, needs, and egos above the truth and glorification of Jesus Christ, we sin and cause others to sin. I do not know how to reconcile all of our differences, I do not know where to draw the line. But I do know this, it starts with those of us who have historically held the most in common. Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Roman Catholic. I truly believe that you understand this to be true, as I do.
Call me, your holiness. We can talk.