I have profited from his correspondence and, though I have never yet had the privilege of meeting him, consider Mr. Sistrom a friend. He was the first to recommend to me the excellent book by the Australian, Geoffrey Hull, entitled Banished Heart: Origins of Heteropraxis in the Catholic Church (T&T Clark Studies In Fundamental Liturgy)(Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2010), a wonderfully challenging and enriching book.
From time-to-time, Mr. Sistrom sends me a paragraph or two reflecting on a particular issue relating to the state of the Church. Let me share a few such paragraphs with you here from two emails on the related subject of missions. Whatever you may think of what he says, I think you will find it provocative food for thought. I know I always have.
There is no area of Church life more damaged by Vatican II than missions.1 We had thousands of heroic men and women in the field whose priority was evangelizing. There is still a tremendous Evangelical witness but Catholics have altogether disappeared. We now have development and charitable activity instead. Missiology is a flourishing academic specialty while missions and missionaries are in total eclipse. I recently read a review (Books and Culture) of Jesuit Fr. Jacques Dupuis' Christianity and the Religions by Anglican Fr. Gerald McDermott. I quote: "Dupuis has the same problem with Jesus that the Enlightenment had. Jesus was one of the 'accidents of history' inaccessible to humanity as a whole... As Lessing famously put it, "Accidental truths of history can never become the proof of necessary truths of reason....No. 2:
"... Dupuis, in 263 pages of text, never mentions atonement through the Cross, salvation as redemption from sin, or the reign of God as discipleship to Jesus- and insists that Jesus' uniqueness and universality are not 'absolute'. For such claims would require the notion that God was fully revealed in Jesus Christ, as the early church suggested."
Fr. McDermott has nailed it. Even in Cardinal Ratzinger's Introduction to Christianity one finds embarrassment in dealing with St. Anselm and the atonement.
I am reading Newbigin:Like I said, food for thought ..."There has been a long tradition which sees the mission of the Church primarily as obedience to a command... This way of putting the matter is certainly not without justification and yet it seems to me that it misses the point. It tends to make mission a burden rather than a joy, to make it part of the law rather than part of the gospel. If one looks at the NT evidence...Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy. The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed. It must be told. Who could be silent about such a fact? The mission of the Church in the pages of the NT is more like the fallout from a vast explosion, a radioactive fallout which is not lethal but life-giving. One searches in vain in the letters of St. Paul to find any suggestion that he anywhere lays it on the conscience of his readers that they ought to be active in mission... It is a striking fact, morover, that almost all the proclamations of the gospel which are described in Acts are in response to questions asked by those outside the Church....One of the dangers of emphasizing the concept of mission as a mandate given to the Church is that it tempts us to do what we are always tempted to do, namely to see the work of mission as a good work and to seek to justify ourselves by our works. On this view, it is we who must save the unbelievers from perishing....It is not that they must speak and act, asking the help of the Spirit to do so. It is rather that in their faithfulness to Jesus they become the place where the Spirit speaks and acts."
- This coincides with the verdict of John Lamont, who identifies as a weakness of Vatican II it's neglect of a clear rationale for missions: "It made no reference at all to unbelief rendering salvation doubtful," he writes. (See our review of John Lamont's 2007 Blackfriars article, "What was wrong with Vatican II." [back]