anglic1.jpgAvery Cardinal Dulles wrote an article called Saving Ecumenism from Itself in the December issue of First Things. He examines the forms of ecumenism attempted thus far this century and puts forward the thesis that the “trying-to-find-common-ground” approach to the effort may be finding the end of its usefulness. The way forward, he thinks, may be in an honest and charitable examinations of the distinctives of the various Christian communities and Churches with an eye towards bringing our unique gifts to serve one another.

Though a couple things rubbed me the wrong way, I’m not a Cardinal, so I’ll defer to his Excellency’s opinion. I did find one paragraph particularly interesting, and strikingly honest, and I’m interested in what the ecumenical community here thinks of it.

Quoth the Cardinal:

One of the doctrines most distinctive to the Catholic Church is surely the primacy of the pope as the successor of Peter—a primacy that the First Vatican Council set forth in clear, uncompromising language. Because Catholics cherish this doctrine, we should not be content to keep it to ourselves. The successor of Peter, we believe, is intended by Christ to be the visible head of all Christians. Without accepting his ministry, Christians will never attain the kind of universal concord that God wills the Church to have as a sign and sacrament of unity. They will inevitably fall into conflict with one another regarding doctrine, discipline, and ways of worship. No church can simply institute for itself an office that has authority to pronounce finally on disputed doctrines. If it exists at all, this office must have been instituted by Christ and must enjoy the assistance of the Holy Spirit. (emphasis mine) The Petrine office is a precious gift that the Lord has given us not only for our own consolation but as something to be held in trust for the entire ­ oikoumene.

I’m particularly intrigued, as you might guess, by the portion I italicized. Is the Cardinal right? Is it possible for a religious body to institute a final authority of its own? Is it possible for Christian communities and Churches to ever find agreement without one? If so, how?