According to Reuters, some Catholic traditionalists are all bent out of shape by Pope Francis' announced visit to Sweden on October 31 to join with Lutherans and launch the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It includes a book called Common Prayer which has been developed through ecumenical dialog between Catholic and Lutheran theologians.
Well, it's about time! Five hundred years is more than enough time for a theological feud. In fact, this historic moment is the perfect time to rejoice in our commonalities and officially permit intercommunion between Catholics and Lutherans.
After all, the Reformation was not the historical event described to me in my high school history class, i.e., that the Lutherans were doing the work of Satan, and Catholics were on the side of righteousness. Luther and his friends had a lot of legitimate grievances against the Catholic church of that day, beginning with the financial corruption of indulgences and the high-living lifestyles of the hierarchy. Luther also translated the Bible into German, making it accessible to the general public of his day. Although it is not well known among Catholics, he was a champion of social and economic justice in his day.
He also ended the celibacy requirement for clergy -- something the Catholic church might well emulate. In fact, ending the celibacy requirement might be another great way to commemorate the Reformation in union with our Lutheran sisters and brothers.
Yes, disagreements on doctrine developed, and the resulting ecclesial split erupted into open warfare in parts of Europe for decades. Dialog was not the order of the day in the 16th century. But it is today.
Now, a half century after Vatican II and the rising of the ecumenical and interfaith movements, it's time to search for the good in each other's traditions and celebrate it.
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