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Bishop calls for ecumenical ‘truth and reconciliation commission’

By on Friday, 20 January 2012

An English bishop has called for the creation of a “truth and reconciliation commission” to promote Christian unity.

In an address marking the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Bishop Emeritus Patrick O’Donoghue of Lancaster said that if Christians did not recognise their sins against each other then they would be “just playing at ecumenism”.

He said: “I propose that we will only have true ecumenism if Catholics and other Christian churches and communities together look at the bad things we have done to each other in the past. We need a truth and reconciliation commission, otherwise we are just playing at ecumenism by pretending that we haven’t got this past. We cannot airbrush our history out of existence with warm words and a positive spin on things.

“For this truth and reconciliation commission to work, the questions we have to ask are: have we truly got enough love to listen to each other? Do we really want to listen to the truth?”

Bishop O’Donoghue, who was speaking in Castlemartyr, County Cork, in the Republic of Ireland, argued that progress towards unity depended on honesty.

“The difference between a functioning family and a dysfunctional family is a healthy, nurturing family that talks openly and honestly about problems, about behaviour that is causing upset and friction,” he said. Sometimes, its important to admit that we love each other, but don’t really like each other at times.”

Bishop O’Donoghue served as Bishop of Lancaster from 2001 to 2009. He retired to his native County Cork, where he now serves as an assistant priest in Bantry.

The bishop is famous for writing a series of frank assessments of the state of Catholicism in the north of England, known as Fit for Mission?, earning him the nickname “Prophet of the North”.

  • Anonymous

    Thank goodness for that – a bishop who wants honesty in ecumenism. Maybe this will make some frank and forthright exchanges between Calvinists & Catholics possible, without any polite insincerities or any ridiculous fantasies about Rome & Canterbury being very nearly in agreement. The present Pope can take a lot of the credit for stopping the deceitful rubbish from ARCIC completely perverting the Church in England & Wales – the SCDF’s criticisms of the documents made a lot of very awkward observations about the “agreed statements”. It might be worth forgetting about including the SDAs in ecumenical groups in Britain, since SDAs regard the Pope as Antichrist. Which makes their presence in ecumenical groups alongside Catholics a complete nonsense. A lot of attention is given to rotten liturgy – & precious little, to trashy ecumenism.

  • Alan

    Not sure why Parasum refers to “Calvinists”.  Most Anglicans are certainly not Calvinists, and very few (if any) of those who are would regard the Pope as Antichrist – leave that to the Paisleyites.  I hope Parasum accepts that the Catholic Church should be prepared to rethink its stand on some matters in the interests of ecumenism, and not be too obsessed with the idea that any change is an admission of error in the past.

  • David Skillen

    I think the depth of bishop o donoghues suggestion is already in danger of being missed or hijacked already after only two comments…theres surly no scope for arrogance or one upmanship, only love and humilty. Lets look to the one and undivided Christ who ‘emptied himself’ and becoming a slave to the truth. There is only one truth in Christ, so hands must be held together on the road that leads to he who is the light of life. I cringe and my heart sinks when I hear self-righteous and triumphalist comments from all sides, where is Jesus in this! That they may be one!! Thank you, once more, bishop Patrick! Dn Dave S.

  • Anonymous

    In Ireland, where the bishop was speaking from, Calvinists *are* plentiful, relatively rare as they may be in the C of E: not that they by any means lacking there. The belief that the Pope = the AC is still part of the Westminster Confession. The Church of  Scotland dropped the idea a few years back; but then it is Presbyterian, not Calvinist. The Free Church of Scotland (which is Calvinist) still holds the idea; Ian Paisley, also a Free Churchman & Calvinist, does likewise.  FWIW, the Cof E was for a long time Calvinist in theology – Evangelicals in it have frequently been Calvinist. Not all Evangelicals have been Arminians, though the Wesleys were.

    Calvinists, unlike Anglicans, are not easy to caricature as having no convictions – dialogue with people who have strongly held & articulate convictions (& Calvinists, who are Evangelicals, with all the emphasis upon an en experiential & personal faith that implies tend to have strong convictions) is more constructive than dialogue with people who give the impression of not believing very much. An Anglican Evangelical like James Packer, with clearly Protestant Evangelical & Calvinical convictions, is someone who can be argued with because his own ideas are clear. This sort of dialogue can be a valuable experience for Christians on each side of the Reformation divide. But if one is talking to someone with no clear theology, whose  POV is little more than prettified paganism with Christ as an add-on – how far will that get ? There are some atheist vicars in the C of E, & vicars who don’t believe in the Resurrection – how many Calvinist ministers or authors deny these things ? 

    Calvinists are less ready to allow that Rome is a true Church than the Cof E is – not long ago, the C of E did not think Rome was: at least if Anglican polemic is any guide. 

    Calvinists are strongly missionary, in a way that Catholicism used to be. They have their priorities right, whereas the CC  has “lost the plot”.  They know where they stand, and why – which is probably why they write clearly and don’t suffer from “elephantiasis of the Word” as the CC has done for the last 40 years. The CC & the C of E have the form of religion, but not its power – Calvinism has both.If it is the case that they could learn from the CC, it is no less true that we have a lot to learn from them. All of which is why dialogue with them seems to be particularly worthwhile.  

    ” I hope Parasum accepts that the Catholic Church should be prepared to
    rethink its stand on some matters in the interests of ecumenism..”

    ## It would be weird for a poster who has made that very suggestion not to agree with it. 

    “…and not be too obsessed with the idea that any change is an admission of error in the past.”

    ## “It depends” may be annoying, but it’s often an appropriate answer.  It fits here.

  • Alan

    I still maintain that the number of Anglicans who think the Pope is Antichrist is vanishingly small, so this should not be a problem.  Many Anglicans would be happy to accept the primacy of the Pope.

    When I suggested the CC should be prepared to rethink its stand, I was thinking of such matters as the invalidity of Anglican orders, which is based on a hypothesis which is doubtful to say the least. 

  • Anonymous

    This can only be valuable if it has the purpose to lead those outside of the Church (i.e. the Roman Catholic Church) into it. Three times the Church has infallibly defined that “outside of the Church there is positively no salvation”.  Will the Catholic members of the commission embrace this teaching in all its fullness?

  • AidanCoyle

    I note that David Skillen’s comment, which seems to spring from a Christ-like generosity of heart, has been more or less ignored here. I wonder how we might interpret that.

  • Anonymous

    Aidan, to be Christ-like means to proclaim the truth – even those “hard truths” of the Gospel that warn us that if we don’t abide in Christ (that is, be united to His Mystical Body the Catholic Church) then we can have no life in us.