The 500th anniversary of the date conventionally considered the start of the Heresy of Luther (1517) is fast approaching, and the V II – ecumenical hearts are all a-flutter already.
Cardinal Koch, the man at the Vatican in charge of telling it as it is without ever telling it as it is, has started the hostilities by declaring that the Church does not participate in celebrations of sins. He would, instead, favour a kind of strange “commemoration” during which a “two-sided admission of guilt” would take place. How very John Paul II.
The Cardinal is now running the risk of being accused of not being ecumenical enough; than if you are truly “ecumenical” you are supposed to “charitably” overlook little details like Truth and Heresy, and to take part in the Great Mahatma Gandhesque Ecumenical Love-In, in which everyone loves everybody, God forgives everyone everything, and it should be good that we remind ourselves that we are, at times, all a bit naughty in one way or another.
I do hope the Cardinal does get accused. Firstly, this would have the beneficial effect of unmasking those within the Church who are openly sympathising with heresies; secondly, it might have the effect of forcing the Cardinal to tell a couple of things straight rather than always, always taking the whip out of the drawer and starting the usual public self-flagellation. This is a new fashion introduced by Blessed John Paul II, the brilliant Pope who went around implicitly criticising the Crusades (and perfectly happy to have the media understand the message in that way) whilst he protected all sort of sodomites, fornicators, thieves, and protectors of paedophiles.
In fact, one can reasonably say Cardinal Koch made the first step, but stopped with the second foot in mid-air. His warning that Luther committed “a sin” remains a very vague and very weak statement, if the Cardinal doesn’t openly tell why. Explicit, unmistakeable and insisted condemnation of heresy should be the very first duty of each and every Prince of the Church. Instead, we are served a feeble voice in favour of Truth, without a clear statement as to what this Truth is based upon. The Cardinal should have used this occasion for an open condemnation of heresy and an open call to conversion, without any consideration for the popularity of such statement. This would have been at the same time authentically charitable and authentically ecumenical, then he who does not strongly upholds the faith does not promote Christian unity, but Christian division. The watering-down of Truth through the umpteenth admission of past guilt is not really enticing for confused Christians. On the contrary, the Cardinal’s statement will reinforce in them the feeling that everyone is wrong one way or the other; and if this is so, why shouldn’t they continue to consider the Church wrong in theological matters?
We live in such disgraceful times that even these feeble accusations expose a Cardinal to criticism – a state of thing actively promoted by the Vatican itself in these last 50 years -and we must therefore be grateful for every half word of support for truth.
But make no mistake, every mention of the Heresy of Luther which does not clearly and openly attack heresy falls short of the mark.