Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Evangelisation, has been addressing the world’s Anglican bishops meeting at the Lambeth Conference. This could be the first time the Anglican crisis has been likened publicly by a Vatican official to a degenerative disease.

Cardinal Dias says:

Much is spoken today of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. By analogy, their symptoms can, at times, be found even in our own Christian communities. For example, when we live myopically in the fleeting present, oblivious of our past heritage and apostolic traditions, we could well be suffering from spiritual Alzheimer’s. And when we behave in a disorderly manner, going whimsically our own way without any co-ordination with the head or the other members of our community, it could be ecclesial Parkinson’s.

But it’s worth quoting the bit before that, too. Cardinal Dias is arguing that evangelisation is crucial to the outcome of the "spiritual battle" that began in the Garden of Eden; and that evangelisation depends on unity.

Evangelisation is the unique prerogative of the Holy Spirit, who needs channels through which He may flow unhampered. This will be possible in the measure in which there is unity and cohesion between the members of the Church, between them and their shepherds, and, above all, between the shepherds themselves, both within the community as well as with the other Christian confessions. For, in the present ecumenical framework in which Providence has willed to engage the Churches, a unity which binds them together in the apostolic faith is intrinsic to the Church’s mission of speaking and spreading the Gospel. Hence, when they are of one mind and heart notwithstanding their diversity, their missionary thrust is indeed enhanced and strengthened. But, when the diversity degenerates into division, it becomes a counter-witness which seriously compromises their image and endeavours to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.

In other words: “Get it together, people. There’s a wider picture here.”  Christians can’t afford to have too many absolute principles.

Cardinal Dias is one of three cardinals attending the Lambeth Conference. Cardinal Walter Kasper’s address will be on the wider picture of the Anglicans’ relationship with other Churches. Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor will do the charm bit. It’s a three-pronged Roman offensive -- but one designed to shore up the Archbishop of Canterbury’s efforts at getting his imploding Church to look outwards.

Comments

Anonymous | 7/27/2008 - 7:56am
Christopher is spot on. I certainly did not want to give the impression that Cardinal Dias was urging Anglicans to put aside internal considerations for external ones. Dias is indeed saying that "mission and evangelization ultimately fail when cut off from unity in the apostolic faith" -- and that is an excellent summary of his message.
Anonymous | 7/23/2008 - 3:44pm
I am very grateful to Mr. Ivereigh for his regular commentary on the Lambeth Conference and the Anglican Communion. It is insightful, measured, and charitable. I wonder, though, if Cardinal Dias’ speech is intended, as Mr. Ivereigh claims, to shore up Rowan Williams’ efforts to put aside internal concerns for the sake of external ones. A common theme from many in The Episcopal Church (TEC) and elsewhere is that problems over ordination and sexual ethics are (much) less important than those of poverty, hunger, the Millennium Development Goals, etc. Mission must trump—or, at least, have priority over—doctrine. Otherwise, ecclesial introversion and navel-gazing ensue. “Creeds divide, deeds unite,” as the saying goes. This is a potential danger. But, Cardinal Dias, following Pope Benedict’s ecumenical addresses in New York and Sydney, turns this argument on its head. He says that mission and evangelization ultimately fail when cut off from unity in the apostolic faith. Doctrine and mission are inseparably bound together, and, when doctrinal erosion occurs, mission failure will result, too (as will ecumenical failure). That is why Dias insists so strongly, as Ivereigh notes, on unity as the condition for evangelization. There can be no end-runs around the church’s apostolic faith and order, even in the name of mission. In this sense, I see Cardinal Dias trying to strengthen Rowan Williams and the Lambeth Conference not by ignoring matters of faith and order, but by reminding them of where strength for mission comes from.