Sunday, September 17, 2006
Brother Roger's communion with the bishop of Rome.
Was Brother Roger, the founder of the ecumenical community at Taizé, a convert to Roman Catholicism? (I realize this question won't be of great interest to most of my Unitarian Universalist readers, but I'm indulging one of my idiosyncratic interests here.)
On September 5, Le Monde reported that Brother Roger (an ordained Swiss Protestant pastor and founder of Taizé) had been received into the Roman Catholic Church by the local bishop in 1972, according to a newly published account by a French historian. Brother Roger's exact relationship to Rome had been the subject of speculation for decades, but many people wondered what to think when Cardinal Ratzinger gave the eucharist to Brother Roger at the funeral mass for John Paul II. (Non-Catholics are not welcome to receive the eucharist at a Roman Catholic mass.) Then, when Brother Roger was murdered at Taizé last summer, a funeral mass was celebrated at Taizé by a Roman Catholic cardinal. Had he "converted"? Or had the brothers at Taizé found what they had long claimed to be seeking — a form of Christian communion that didn't require renouncing their Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox roots?
Brother Alois, the new prior at Taizé, disputed the Le Monde article:
In an article concerning Brother Roger, the French daily Le Monde of Sept. 6, 2006, gave credence to and reproduced the claims of a small newsletter issued by Catholic traditionalist circles that misrepresents his true intentions and defames his memory.
A document of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity in Rome is used to support the thesis of a "conversion" undertaken by Brother Roger, although the text says nothing of the kind. As for the bishop emeritus of Autun, Raymond Seguy, he has already qualified his words. Rejecting the term "conversion," he declared to France Presse: "I did not say that Brother Roger abjured Protestantism, but he showed that he subscribed fully to the Catholic faith."
From a Protestant background, Brother Roger undertook a step that was without precedent since the Reformation: entering progressively into a full communion with the faith of the Catholic Church without a "conversion" that would imply a break with his origins. In 1972, the bishop of Autun at the time, Armand Le Bourgeois, simply gave him Communion for the first time, without requiring any other profession of faith from him besides the creed recited during the Eucharist, which is held in common by all Christians. Several witnesses were present and can attest to this.
Whoever speaks of "conversion" in this respect has not grasped the originality of Brother Roger's search.
There was never anything hidden about this undertaking of Brother Roger's. In 1980, during a European meeting in Rome, he spoke these words publicly in St. Peter's Basilica, in the presence of Pope John Paul II: "I have found my own identity as a Christian by reconciling within myself the faith of my origins with the mystery of the Catholic faith, without breaking fellowship with anyone."
Brother Roger's step was not understood by all but it was welcomed by many: by Pope John Paul II, by Catholic bishops and theologians who celebrated the Eucharist in Taizé, as well as by Protestant and Orthodox Church leaders with whom Brother Roger patiently built up trust in the course of many years.
Those who at all costs want the Christian denominations each to find their own identity in opposition to the others can naturally not grasp Brother Roger's aims. He was a man of communion, and that is perhaps the most difficult thing for some people to understand.
The intriguing question for me has to do with Benedict XVI's views concerning Brother Roger's form of communion. Is creedal unanimity all that Benedict would require? Perhaps my good friend, Baptized Pagan, can help me understand Ratzinger/Benedict's views.
(Frère Roger, le fondateur de Taizé, était converti au catholicisme, Xavier Ternisien, Le Monde 9.5.06; Was Taizé founder a secret Catholic?, Catholic World News 9.6.06; Murdered sect leader "was secret Catholic", John Lichfield, Independent 9.7.06, fee req'd; The Taizé Community explains Brother Roger's aims, press release 9.6.06)
Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 17 September 2006 at 10:16 PM