The protestantising of catholics or the catholicising of protestants?

The oldest known icon of Christ Pantocrator at Saint Catherine's Monastery.
The two different facial expressions on either side emphasize Christ's dual nature as both divine and human.


One of the ongoing issues for us as the Ordinariate in Britain seems to be an embarrassment on the part of many Catholics who have been happy to go along with what I call protestant ecumenism. Understandably enough, this ecumenism is based on protestant ecclesiology+. Because protestant ecclesiology does not require a visibly united earthly institution then it tends to aim essentially for a kind of federation of 'churches' which are all for cooperation when possible and are nice to each other. Each 'church' deciding their own doctrine but always remembering to say nice things to the others. This ecumenical movement is not getting us closer to the unity that is the will of Christ - that is, a unity that is visible to the world.

Only with ecumenism based on Catholic ecclesiology can we really fulfill the will of Christ to become One Church (with One Faith and One Baptism). This has to be a unity the world can see and respect. The Ordinariate is an expression of this Catholic ecumenism fully in accord with the teaching of Vatican II documents Lumen Gentium and Unitatis Redintegratio. There is One Christ (with a divine nature and a human nature) who has One Body the Church (which is both a spiritual reality and a earthly institutional reality*). From a Catholic point of view there cannot be anything other than One Church. This seems to embarrass some Catholics.

The Ordinariate by its Apostolic Constitution, and declared by it to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, expresses this Catholic ecclesiology. It expresses also the understanding of the goal of true ecumenism - to be one under the See of Peter without extinguishing our identity or patrimony.

The Ordinariate can sometimes seem to be inconvenient to many.

Fr Ian Hellyer



+ Ecclesiology is the study of the Church in theology.

* This aspect of Catholic ecclesiology is reflecting the doctrine hypostatic union of Christ, that Christ is one in two natures: divine and human. Jesus Christ is both human and divine at the same time. In Catholic ecclesiology the Church is not only One as Christ is One, but also has this divine and human aspect - one spiritual reality and one human/institutional reality. The hypostatic union is visually expressed in one of the oldest ikons of Christ found at St Catherine's monastery in the Sinai (above). The two expressions of Christ on each side of the face express this truth of the hypostatic union of Christ in His two nature.

This composite image of the ikon emphasises the point:



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