LANSING, Mich. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Bishop Earl Boyea of the diocese of Lansing, Mich. is partnering with a Lutheran bishop for a Catholic-Lutheran ecumenism event commemorating the Protestant Revolt.
The service is slated for September 24 at 5 p.m. at St. Matthew Parish in Flint, Michigan. The event is called "From Conflict to Communion: Together in Hope." The parish bulletin describes it as a "Joint Lutheran and Catholic Commemoration of the Reformation."
Part of a community of four parishes in the town of Flint, St. Matthew's weekly schedule includes a Traditional Latin Mass at 3 p.m. on Sundays.
Faithful Catholics in Flint are concerned about the upcoming interfaith service because it implies that Catholicism and Lutheranism are equally valid options — a notion which contradicts the Church's self-understanding as the One True Faith.
Of similar concern are Catholic-Lutheran interfaith events in the diocese of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Events are being promoted online by the website of the Cathedral of St. Andrew, as well as the diocese's website. The most recent interfaith program was a conference on September 9, featuring a talk by a Lutheran theology professor and one by a Catholic theology professor.
The conference, "Ecumenical Conference: From Conflict to Communion," was shared as a Facebook event on the cathedral's page. One local Catholic, Michael Lewanduski, expressed concerns in a comment on a social media post, writing, "At these events, will it be made very clear that it is necessary for Lutherans (or any non-Catholic) to enter the Catholic Church in order to avail themselves of the fullness of truth and the graces associated with all seven sacraments?"
Father John J. Geaney is the rector of St. Andrew Cathedral. The Paulist priest wrote on Monday in response to Lewanduski's Facebook comment, "One of the first tenets of ecumenism is to know and understand our own faith and be willing to proclaim it while listening carefully to the knowledge and understanding of those with whom we are in dialogue."
Another part of his response reads, "Our Lutheran brothers and sisters are 'truly Christian' and believe their faith leads them to Christ. We cannot, then, as Catholics, living our lives ecumenically tell them that salvation is found only in the Catholic Church."
Faithful Catholics feel that the latter statement contradicts Holy Mother Church's perennial teaching that she is the sole means of salvation instituted by Christ. At the very least, it expresses an ecumenism, which consists of playing games with language to make differing belief systems appear more similar than they actually are.
The Facebook post continues, arguing that Protestants are saved. Citing Eucharistic Prayer III, he noted, "The Church at prayer in the Liturgy clearly says that 'those who were pleasing to you at their passing from this life' will find admittance to God's kingdom." The priest added, "Surely, faithful Lutherans and many others of Christian faiths are pleasing to the Lord."
However, the section in Eucharistic Prayer III that he cites does not claim that "those who were pleasing to [God] at their passing" are by definition saved; rather, it beseeches Our Lord to save them. Moreover, the passage makes no mention of non-Catholics. The terminology "departed brothers and sisters" simply refers to deceased members of the faithful, not to Protestants.
Church Militant reached out to Fr. Geaney for further comment, regarding Saturday's conference and the other ecumenical events, but we did not receive a statement in time for this report.
Upcoming Catholic-Lutheran events listed online for the Grand Rapids diocese include a presentation at Trinity Lutheran Church on October 3, an interfaith "Common Prayer" at St. Andrew Cathedral on October 29, a celebration of "50 Years of Catholic-Lutheran Dialogue" at the Catholic Information Center (CIC) on November 14 and an "ecumenical art show" on display at the CIC for the whole month of October.