"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Ecumenism of Blood

In the latter half of the 1990s I lived in an intentional community, Somerset House, that was deliberately ecumenical. One of my house-mates had grown up Baptist, migrated to the low-church Anglican parish I was then in, and was content to go no further--even as he respected my migration out of Anglicanism and into the Catholic Church. He used to remind me very often that the earthly walls of division do not reach so far as heaven, and I have thought of him often over the years in considering these questions.

More recently, I considered these questions almost exactly a year ago in South Euclid, Ohio, at a conference there, the annual Eastern Churches Seminar (preceded by the absolutely best Armenian food I have ever had). There I gave a lecture "If my saints are true, are yours false?" in which I looked at complicated martyrdoms, especially those coming after the Reformation, and including figures such as Josaphat Kuntsevych and Alexis Toth.

Such questions as mine are freshly taken up in a new book I'm greatly looking forward to reading, authored by the Benedictine scholar Hugh Somerville Knapman in his just-published book, Ecumenism of Blood: Heavenly Hope for Earthly Communion (Paulist Press, 2018), 128pp.

The publisher gives us the following blurb about the book:
Ecumenism of Blood demonstrates that it is possible within the status quo of Catholic doctrine for the Catholic Church to recognize in some official way, in this case liturgically, the Christian martyrs of the eastern churches. Such a development would have immense implications as an example of realizable, practicable ecumenism, as well as a gesture of solidarity with an ancient and persecuted church. Pope Francis's unsystematic references to ecumenism of blood offers an opening, though many in the blogosphere mentioned the ancient denial of the martyr's crown to heretics and schismatics. However, if blood could baptize non-Christians who died in odio Christi, why could it not absolve non-Catholic Christians from schism? Thus, it seemed possible for there to be a reconciliation of blood that could be derived by analogy from baptism of blood. Searching the tradition, it is possible to see this development prepared for, especially from Benedict XIV and reaching a climax with John Paul II's Ut unum sint, the teaching of which is conclusive. Considering ecumenical sensitivity and to avoid the appearance of ecclesial imperialism, Ecumenism of Blood proposes the mechanism of equivalent canonization as a means of realizing what is shown as doctrinally possible. The obvious question serves as an epilogue: would the blood of martyrdom for Christ reconcile any non-Catholic to the Church, even those from communities outside the apostolic succession.

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