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The Unity of Justice

As most of you are aware, there has been a recent sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. To say that it is devastating, for both those inside and outside the Church, would be an understatement. The Catholic Church serves as one of the stronger authoritative voices for Christianity in American culture, which means that this scandal not only undermines the Catholic Church’s internal authority, but also impacts the credibility of the Church as a whole for the rest of the nation.

Speaking as someone who comes from a Protestant tradition, I would like to suggest that this is not the time for heightening the rhetoric in our disagreements with Catholics. Instead, there are several key reasons for us to unite with our Catholic brothers and sisters in the fight against injustice.

Let’s start with Christ’s perspective on the Church: namely, that the Church is one. I trust that this is clear enough for the reader that I do not need to belabor the point with proof texts. The Church is not bound by your denomination. Indeed, strictly speaking, inside of any given denomination there will be some who are members of Christ’s body and some who are not.

In addition to the essential unity of the Church in Christ’s eyes, we need to remember our creedal unity. Members of both the Catholic and Protestant communities share the Nicaean Creed as a affirmation of their faith. Our application of the truths outlined in this creed is different, but the basic understanding of God as expressed in the Scriptures is the same.[1] While many on both sides would not consider this ground enough to ignore all differences, it still points to the unity underlying both expressions of faith.

Finally, there is the unity of justice. If there is one thing that can be picked up by even a cursory reading of the Bible, it is that God loves justice and hates injustice. From the prophets, it becomes clear that injustice was one of the key factors that lead to Israel’s captivity.[2] God’s love of justice is strong enough that we can use it as a measuring stick for the advance of God’s Kingdom on earth. As servants who have sworn fidelity to our King, we have also sworn to oppose every manifestation of injustice in the world around us. Turning a blind eye or saying that it is someone else’s problem is not an option.

Which brings us back this current scandal. I see three compelling reasons to look at this scandal as one affecting the entire Body of Christ. Between all of these points, we as Protestants need to say that it is Christ’s Church which is suffering right now.

And, if it is Christ’s Church that is suffering, then it is Christ’s Church we need to fight for. Given the current relationship between the Catholic and Protestant branches of the Church, this will mostly take the form of prayer. Not just prayer for the victims, or those shaken by the abuse, but also imprecatory prayers against the predators for them to receive justice. Additionally, as we interact with our Catholic friends and neighbors, we should also be looking for ways to support them—both in their own grief and in their own work to push for justice from inside the Catholic Church.

Does any of this mean that we should ignore our doctrinal differences and become one big happy family? No, those differences are important and should not be treated frivolously. At Conciliar Post, we advance “dialogue across Christian traditions” for this very reason. At the same time, in the face of grave injustice, we need to find room to live in the tension between disagreement and unity. Failure to do so is not merely an inability to get along, it is a failure to follow our Lord.

[1] As opposed to, say, Mormans or Jehovah’s Witnesses—who claim allegiance to Christ but have drastically different understandings of who Christ is.

[2] I am grateful to Kevin Bywater for pointing this out during my time at the Oxford Study Centre.

Jeff Reid

Jeff Reid

Stories fascinate me. In particular, I am enthralled with authors' ability to capture concepts and bring those concepts to life. Driving this delight is an interest in theology and philosophy. Ultimately, I am excited by opportunities to help others understand abstract ideas through skilled artistic work.

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