Donum Veritatis

Introduction to Donum Veritatis – The Gift of Truth Ministries

(Official Webpage of the “parent ministry” of The Institute for Promoting the Gift of Truth)

“Donum Veritatis – The Gift of Truth Ministries” is “an effective and important means to spread the faith and to promote Christian unityIt really is a ‘gift’ to the ‘Internet Generation.’

– Dr. Alan Schreck, Church Historian and long-time Theology Chair, Franciscan University of Steubenville

Peter William John Baptiste SFO, the Founder of Donum Veritatis, was invited to the 6th, 7th and 8th Annual ecumenical Springtime of Faith Rome Summits (Evangelical and Catholic Christian leaders meeting with Vatican officials) for being considered “one of the dynamic leaders building the New Springtime [of Faith].”

Donum Veritatis – The Gift of Truth Ministries encompasses all the Christian education, prayer and outreach initiatives founded and directed by Peter William John Baptiste SFO on a part-time basis (while a teacher, doctoral student, Professor of Theology, and Director of Human Rights and Freedoms Forever!) since he became a “qualified theologian,” graduating with Honors from the Master’s Theology Program at Franciscan University of Steubenville (FUS) in 2006 (and includes all of the theological and educational texts he has written).

The various ongoing part-time ministries include: the Christian Unity in Diversity Central website (http://christian-unity-in-diversity.ourchur.chHelping Today’s Divided Christians to Think about Christian Unity Like the Undivided Early Church Lived It “So That the World May Believe” – with “The ‘Common Creed’ of Christianity” as a tool for divided Christians to clearly establish their vast common faith before discussing differences and disagreements as loving family in Christ – what true family has no disagreements?); The Institute for Promoting the Gift of Truth (http://giftoftruth.ourchur.chEquipping Christians to Build God’s Family and Kingdom with Love and Truth “So That the World May Believe” – Explore Our Sites and CATCH THE VISION of the HOLY TRINITY OF LOVE and His Plan for HIS ADOPTED FAMILY THE CHURCH); The Institute’s series of lecture series or courses The New Catacombs — Teaching 3rd Millennium Christians To Transform Their Culture with God’s Love the Way the 1st Millennium Christians Did (which includes the prayer book and course PRAY! – Use the Power God Gave YOU to Change the World Through Prayer!).  The New Catacombs course Human Rights and Freedoms: Christianity’s Great Gifts to Western Civilization, and the Institute’s latest website http://protecthumanrightsandfreedoms.ourchur.ch , both based on his treatise The Education Necessary to Preserve Democracy Now Under Attack (and The Pledge of Allegiance to Democracy following from it) have proved to be so needful for defending religious freedom, human life, and democracy itself from increasing attacks of “Creeping Totalitarianism,” that in July 2016 he used them to found Human Rights and Freedoms Forever! – a non-profit educational organization for teaching Western citizens and countries just where their highest values of human rights and democratic freedoms come from (historically and logically they are completely built upon the Christian “Pro-Life” principles), so that Western countries learn to shore up the badly eroded foundations of their democracies, so that they do not lose them to current trends of “Creeping Totalitarianism” which are now threatening to capsize democracy and end religious freedom in the West.  Because of this urgent need, Human Rights and Freedoms Forever! is now the “flagship ministry” of the Donum Veritatis – The Gift of Truth Ministries and its Institute for Promoting the Gift of Truth, and of the Baptiste Family Ministries which he formed with his wife, Lorelle Baptiste, in May 2015 when the couple realized their individual Christian ministry initiatives – Peter William John Baptiste’s Donum Veritatis – The Gift of Truth Ministries (primarily The Institute for Promoting the Gift of Truth) and Lorelle Baptiste’s Life, Truth, and Unity ministries (primarily Children of God for Life CANADA) had several convergent goals which they together call “Pro-Life 2.0”.

Covenant Family Theology to “Get the Most Out of Reading Your Bible” and to Help Restore Christian Family Unity in Diversity

During studies and following his graduation, Peter William John Baptiste SFO developed a body of theological work with exceptional ecumenical implications (endorsed by Dr. Alan Schreck of Franciscan University of Steubenville, known worldwide for its “dynamic orthodoxy”) which he calls “Covenant Family Theology,” built on the popular and fruitful “Covenant Theology” of his former professor at FUS, famous Biblical Theologian Dr. Scott Hahn, which makes the entire Bible – including the so-called “difficult” passages – really “come alive” as the personal “family history” of all Christians  (later, while a professor of the Early Church Fathers, Professor Baptiste traced the development through history of Dr. Hahn’s Covenant Theology, showing it to be a mature, developed expression of the early Christians’ important Biblical theme of “deifying adoption” or “Divine Sonship,” rooted in Scripture passages like Romans 8:15, 2 Peter 1:4, Galatians 4:5 and others).  Covenant Theology ties the entire text of both Biblical Testaments together as one coherent (and very beautiful) whole, one consistent overarching Biblical story of God the Father (through a series of adoptive or family-making Covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus Christ) very gradually and patiently training His adopted human Covenant children to an ever-higher maturity in Love (very patient with their abundant human weaknesses still so evident even in New Covenant Christian children today, though just trying – often failing – to better live the extremely high New Covenant Christian standard of Love for every human life created by God is what drove the entire historical process of gradual development that eventually gave us modern human rights and democratic freedoms only within Western Christian Civilization – the abandonment of traditional Christian “guiding principles” for Western societies during the last generation is precisely what is driving the current worldwide trend of “Creeping Totalitarianism” which is gradually undermining democracy itself – which motivated the founding of Human Rights and Freedoms Forever!).  Peter William John Baptiste’s Covenant Family Theology built on Covenant Theology at the one end extends Biblical Covenant Theology backwards to the heart of the Eternal Trinity – showing how a deep enough understanding of the primary Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity of Love makes everything in the Bible, from the Creation to the Cross to the Church, make perfect sense as a logical unfolding of God’s Nature as a Trinitarian Family of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  At the other end, Covenant Family Theology extends Biblical Covenant Theology forwards, through post-Biblical Christian history to the present day, emphasizing the loving family “unity in diversity” (despite many differences) of the Undivided Early Church of the First Millennium (which called itself the Catholic Church because it was a “Catholic” – Greek for “Universal” – Communion of different “Orthodox” – Greek for “Right-Teaching” –  “Bible-based” and highly “Evangelical” Christian “Sister Churches” of East and West, united in common Christian faith expressed in widely different theological and practical faith and worship expressions).

Peter William John Baptiste SFO notes that Covenant Family Theology has great ecumenical implications towards the eventual healing of the Second Millennium Christian divisions because:

1)     “it shows the mutually-enriching “unity in diversity” structure of the Undivided Early Catholic/Universal Church Communion of different culturally-based Eastern and Western Christian ‘Sister’ Churches (which were all “Evangelical” AND “Orthodox” AND “Catholic”) to be God’s intention for humanity redeemed in Jesus right since God ensured different human cultures would form in the first place by confusing human languages at Babel so humanity would spread and “fill the earth” – each culture renewed in Jesus having a different, complementary cultural perspective on the Infinite Truth of God revealed in Jesus, which led the early Syrian, Egyptian, Roman and Greek Christians (in their early distinct Antiochian, Alexandrian, Roman and Byzantine (Greek) Patriarchates or “Church Provinces” of the one early “Universal” or “Catholic” Christian Church) to each have DIFFERENT Christian theological insights and illuminating worship practices which they POOLED TOGETHER, enriching all Christians, at “Ecumenical” (worldwide) Councils of the one Universal/Catholic Christian Church whenever there was a crisis in the Early Church over some new heresy – Roman, Byzantine (Greek), Antiochian (Syrian) and Alexandrian (Egyptian) Catholic Christians only TOGETHER (led by the Holy Spirit) coming up with the best and most precise theological descriptions of traditional Christian orthodoxy (to end heresies), such as Jesus being “fully God and fully human” (defined against the Monophysite heretics at the 4th Ecumenical Council in 451 AD).  Once today’s divided Christians really understand the beautiful “unity in diversity” of the Undivided Early Church, they will realize that the great majority of the current differences between separated Christian Churches are of the sort that did not divide, but mutually enriched, the different First Millennium “Sister Churches,” leaving only a handful of actually significant disagreements (next to a 90% Common Christian Faith in what God has revealed – see The Common Creed of Christianity – below and at) which as loving brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus we should be able to “contend together” until we eventually find resolution (to quote the phrase of the Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) accords).  A satanic principle of “unity equals uniformity” replacing the Undivided Early Church’s “unity in diversity” was a major factor that led to all the divisions of Christian history (the Hebrew word satan literally means “accuser,” and wherever “unity equals uniformity” replaces “unity in diversity,” Christians automatically accuse each other of being wrong for being different, thereby showing the world Satan “the accuser of our [Christian] brothers and sisters” (Revelation 12:10) instead of showing the world Jesus.”

 

2)     “Covenant Family Theology also has great ecumenical implications towards the healing of the Second Millennium Christian divisions because it shows how that wonderful Biblical story of God the Father since Creation very patiently raising His Covenant children to ever-greater maturity in love, the Covenant children always improving in the standards of love set by each successive Covenant only gradually and imperfectly and only through a back-and-forth process, CONTINUES in post-Biblical Christian history to the present day.  In each successive Covenant, the Covenant children were terrible at living by the new Covenant Standard of Love at first, and improved only very gradually (though they did improve – by the end of the Old Testament, what is left of Israel – the exiled remainder of the Tribe and Kingdom of Judah known as the Jews – no longer goes back and forth between worshipping God and worshipping idols as it did for centuries, but has an international reputation that (now more mature though not perfect) Jews would rather DIE than deny their God).  This means that God expected His New Covenant Christian children, just like the children of the older Covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David, to be very immature in the new (highest!) Christian standard of love at first and to improve only very gradually, often going backwards and forwards (just like real human children growing to maturity some days surprise you with their immaturity and some days surprise you with their maturity, in a back-and-forth motion).  So God EXPECTED there to be an initially United Church followed by a divided Church, just like there had been an initially United Israel followed by a divided Israel (with a separated Northern and Southern Kingdom), because He expected His adopted New Covenant Christian children to be immature in love and to only very gradually improve as a group in living the extremely high Christian standards.  Peter William John Baptiste SFO in his later doctoral studies examined the historical documents surrounding the various Second Millennium Christian divisions (and the brief 9th Century Photian Schism between Christian East and West which was technically healed, but its issues festered until the enduring 1054 Schism), and these documents confirm that today’s Christians in all the since-divided Churches should be highly EMBARASSED at the satanic “unity equals uniformity” and prejudiced immaturity in love and unwillingness to find brotherly resolution even about trivial differences which characterized all major Christian schisms dividing the Body of Christ.  For example, the major burning issue of the 1054 East/West “Great Schism” was the triviality of which kind of bread to use for Communion, leavened (the Eastern custom) or unleavened (the Western custom), even though this difference had been held in peace for centuries in the Early Church; other Church-dividing issues included trivial differences of custom like whether clergy should be bearded (the Eastern custom) or clean-shaven (the Western custom) – the Eastern side actually quoted Bible verse “proof-texts” to show why clergy “should” be bearded!  The later Western Schism of the Protestant Reformation took this “unity equals uniformity” principle to “the next level,” and far from the Early Church’s “unity in diversity,” Protestant Christians found that they had to be almost completely like-minded before they could stand to stay in the same Church with each other long-term, such that the original dozen or so Protestant Reformation era Churches divided again over almost any disagreement, resulting by today in 40,000 distinct registered Protestant/Evangelical Church denominations (having started with a dozen or so Protestant Reformation Churches whose leaders called each other “sons of Satan” and the like for daring to have a different take on exactly how to reform the Church than they did).  Covenant Family Theology shows that today’s divided Christians need not be TOO embarrassed by the fact of our divisions, since God the Father expected His New Covenant children (like Old Covenant Israel before them), to be too immature in Love at first to respect their differences and work out their disagreements and stay unified; but we should be embarrassed enough by them to keep working (in brotherly love) to heal these divisions, to show our Covenant Father that we are growing up and maturing in His Love, as He desires (and thus we are no longer denying His other New Covenant children, our separated brothers, are part of our own Christian Family).  We absolutely should not feel so “committed” to our particular church’s history of division to actively maintain the past schisms which happened when all Christians were less mature and less experienced in living the New Covenant.  We should all be embarrassed by the immaturity in Love shown in the historical documents of our past schisms, so we must not work to maintain these schisms but work to heal them. Covenant Family Theology helps us see that today’s divided Christians are still one Family of humans adopted by God through His Only Natural Son Jesus Christ – bickering and all, like families do!  Full structural unity cannot be rushed, and in the meantime is not necessary for us to display the good witness of a unity in Family Love based on our vast common Christian faith “so that the world may believe” (John 17:21) when it sees our Christian “love for one another” (John 13:35).  Catholic Pope Saint John XXIII noted that “what unites us is more than what separates us.”  Eastern Orthodox Metropolitan Saint Philaret of Moscow similarly noted “the walls that separate us do not reach as high as Heaven.”  The 20th Century’s most famous Protestant Evangelical, Billy Graham, called the 20th Century’s most famous Catholic, Pope Saint John Paul II, “the strong conscience of the entire Christian world,” John Paul having already acknowledged their family connection by telling Billy to his face, “we are brothers!” (even before becoming Pope, as Bishop of Krakow John Paul II had invited Billy Graham to do one of his Crusades in his city).  This kind of mutual loving FAMILY respect among “separated brothers” despite their (few substantial) disagreements (what family doesn’t have disagreements?) is vital for the Christian witness to the world “so that the world may believe.” ”

 

The ‘Common Creed’ of Christianity [ http://christian-unity-in-diversity.ourchur.ch/creed ]

In his long faith journey having been an actual member of Western and Eastern, non-Catholic and Catholic Christian Churches (and having even regularly fellowshipped for a time with “Messianic Jews” – Jewish believers in Jesus as Israel’s Messiah) – and having in different ways been greatly enriched as a Christian by his contact with ALL of these separated Churches – Peter William John Baptiste SFO was uniquely qualified to write “The ‘Common Creed’ of Christianity” as a tool to assist divided Christians in better displaying that vital family love that shows our Covenant Father we are maturing in love as He desires.  This (following) one-paragraph summation of the 90% Common Christian Faith which all the different Churches he belonged to or fellowshipped with were commonly committed to uphold is intended to be read and acknowledged as vast “common ground” BEFORE separated Christians ever discuss their differences and disagreements, to ensure that these do not become unduly exaggerated in seeming importance:

The ‘Common Creed’ of Christianity:

The Vast Common Faith of (Eastern & Western) Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and (Western) Conservative/ Evangelical Protestant Christianity (and “Messianic Judaism”) Which is the Basis for Restored Christian Unity in Diversity “So That the World May Believe”

(and so that Christians can most credibly & effectively together guide Western Civilization into not losing its human rights and freedoms which depend historically & logically on Christian principles)

The One God, Creator of the Universe, who is Love, exists as a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; God created humanity in His Image intending to have a loving family relationship with humans described in the Bible as adoption (Romans 8:15), such that every human life without exception is supremely and equally precious to God and therefore all humans must be free from all government coercion in matters of belief in order that they may FREELY seek and hopefully find this wonderful truth about human existence [note: these are the Christian “Pro-Life” Principles which historically and logically undergird all human rights and democratic freedoms, which only started to develop after the 318 AD criminalization of abortion and infanticide because the West at that time – 5 years after Christianity ceased to be persecuted in 313 AD – adopted the guiding Christian principle that human life was not cheap but precious, such that governments are obligated to protect it – this Christian principle gradually transformed the whole way humans were governed]; humanity lost its original relationship with God through sin but God so loved humanity that He made reconciliation possible through the Incarnation (enfleshment) of God the Son in Jesus Christ through Mary’s Virgin Birth, making Jesus fully God and fully man, able to make Atonement for the sins of all humanity, which He did by dying on the Cross and rising from the dead so that humanity can be forgiven and saved (and find human fulfillment) through Him; we acquire this forgiveness from sin and salvation unto eternal life through, drawn and empowered by God’s Grace, our turning away from sin (anti-love), accepting what Jesus has done for us and coming into loving, saving relationship with Him (and His Father and Holy Spirit) through belief and baptism, as He taught (Mark 16:16), which makes Christians members of the one Body of Christ the Church (which may be described as God’s adopted family); Jesus’ literal Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven; Jesus’ future return in glory and judgement and the bodily resurrection of all the  dead; the tenets of traditional Christian morality (described in the 10 Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, among other passages of Scripture) as how to be loving and so how to please the God who is Love; the inspiration and inerrancy1 of the Holy Scriptures which testify to all these things.

Peter William John Baptiste SFO explains: “This above “common creed” encapsulates the core of the Gift of Truth God gave to the world for its salvation, it encapsulates the essential or fundamental Christian teaching of all the Ecumenical (worldwide) and other major Councils of the Undivided Early Christian Church, Councils which both the Catholic Church (in its 26 Western and Eastern Rites or ‘Sister Churches’ or Patriarchates united under the Head Pastorship of the Pope – the Roman Catholic Church is only the largest) and the Eastern Orthodox Church (in its16‘Sister Churches’ or Patriarchates more loosely united in the very beautiful Byzantine/Greek Rite Christian worship) consider to have established the irrevocable norms of Christian faith in the early centuries of Christianity, and it also encapsulates all the details of the early 20th Century “Fundamentals” tract series which began the Protestant Fundamentalist movement as well as the details usually included in the many conservative and Evangelical Protestant creedal “statements of faith” (the early 20th Century Protestant Fundamentalist and Evangelical movements were “doctrinally conservative,” orthodox responses to the huge “doctrinally liberal” or unorthodox trend within the earlier Protestant “mainline” churches).  The above common Christian beliefs are the wonderful, life-changing, saving truths of Christianity which “turned the world upside down” in barbaric times and transformed the ancient world with God’s Love, laying the historical and logical foundations for all the later human rights and democratic freedoms which developed nowhere else in the world but in Western Christian Civilization – common truths which still make Catholic, Orthodox, and Conservative/Evangelical Protestant Christians (and “Messianic Jews”) brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus and most certainly instruments of God’s salvation in the world (despite our misunderstandings and disagreements over some of our different secondary doctrines, differences which each side sees in the light of the above common fundamentals we are already agreed on, meaning our differences are never as big as they seem).  This vast Common Core Christian Faith must be acknowledged before we ever discuss our differences, so we may discuss them fruitfully in family love.  And on the basis of this vast common faith currently divided Christians must work together in family love to preserve human life, religious freedom, and democracy itself which are all seriously threatened since Christianity was rejected as Western Society’s moral guide.”

 

Because his scholarly special interest is the Undivided Early Church of the First Millennium, Peter William John Baptiste SFO is quick to point out that not only is our (above) Christian faith 90% the same (most of our many differences mere differences of expression of the above common faith), one of the many reasons divided Christians need to learn from each other to be all we were meant to be is because each of the major branches of today’s divided Christianity has BEST preserved certain aspects of the life and character of the Undivided Early Church.  He explains,

“The Undivided Early Church was Bible-based, Evangelical, Orthodox, and Catholic, displaying ALL of the characteristics we now associate particularly with one branch or another of divided Christianity. Protestant/Evangelical Churches have generally best preserved the Undivided Early Church’s love of the Scriptures and Bible reading, and Evangelical zeal to reach the greater culture for Jesus. Faithfully preserving their ancient Christian Faith and customs usually in a hostile Muslim environment, Eastern (and Oriental) Orthodox Churches have best preserved many elements of the different Early Eastern Christian ‘Sister’ Churches (the Early Eastern Churches having also made huge contributions to the whole Church Universal or Catholic – such as the 27-Book New Testament Canon we all know, which was first put together in 367 AD by Eastern, Alexandrian (Egyptian not Roman) Catholic Patriarch Athanasius, first “Doctor” (“Teacher”) of the Undivided Catholic Christian Church and the greatest defender of the Divinity of Jesus against the Arian heretics; monasticism also began in Egypt, Athanasius also popularizing it by writing the biography of Saint Antony of Egypt, the first monk).  While the Eastern Orthodox and Western, Roman Catholic Churches have equally preserved the rich sacramental life of the Early Church as channels of spiritually empowering Grace (the Early Church was empowered by BOTH the Bible and the Sacraments, feasting on the written Word of God the Bible immediately before feasting on the Living Word of God through Holy Communion with Jesus in the Eucharistic (“Thanksgiving”) Bread and Wine/Body and Blood of Jesus), the Catholic Church has best preserved the full magisterial (teaching) functions of the First Millennium Church.  These included the papacy which was inextricably historically involved with the First Millennium Ecumenical Councils which (patterned after the Acts 15 Jerusalem Proto-council) settled all of the early major Christological controversies with heretics, permanently establishing the basic (above) fundamentals of orthodox Christianity (like the Trinity and “Jesus is fully God and fully man”) on which Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant/Evangelical Christians are all agreed (and the New Testament Canon itself was permanently fixed for all Christians in a very Catholic process starting with Patriarch Saint Athanasius in 367 AD and ending with Pope Saint Innocent I in 405 AD[1]).  Also (thanks to the minority Eastern Catholic Churches) today’s Catholic Church has best preserved the structural character of the Undivided First Millennium Catholic/Universal Church as a Catholic/Universal Communion of DIFFERENT Eastern and Western Christian ‘Sister Churches’ united in common faith expressed in different (but complementary) theology, liturgy, and devotional/worship practices (collectively known as different Rites).  Today there are 26 different Eastern and Western Catholic Rites or ‘Sister Churches’ under the ultimate “head pastorship” of the pope, the huge Western, Roman Rite is only the largest – and this was not so in the Undivided Early Church, where only ¼ of all Catholic Christians were Roman Catholic Christians, the other ¾ being various Eastern Rite Christians (of the Syrian, Egyptian and Greek cultural ‘Sister’ Churches and their missionary “daughter” Churches in other cultures, whose territories by Muslim conquest are today mostly Muslim countries).  Since the Vatican II reforms in the 1960s the Eastern and Western Catholic Churches are in the process of gradually recapturing the “fully equal dignity” and structural “unity in diversity” of the different Eastern and Western “Sister Churches” which characterized the Undivided Early Catholic/Universal Church, after a 2nd Millennium of “unity equals uniformity” mindset dominated (and divided) the Christian Church.”

“The particular Christian Church I have belonged to since 2005, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) – it was Greek Christians who brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Ukraine – has the distinction of being today the largest of the non-Roman, Eastern Rites or ‘Sister Churches’ within the Catholic Church Communion of 26 such ‘Sister Churches.’  The Eastern Catholic Churches can be described as those Eastern Orthodox Churches still or once again in full Catholic/Universal communion with the Western Church and its Roman pope, the Maronite and Malabar Churches having never been out of communion with the pope (though out of communication for some centuries), and the other twenty or so having returned to the Catholic Communion after a shorter or longer period of separation after the East/West “Great Schism.”  These Eastern Catholic Churches collectively have BEST PRESERVED the Undivided Early Church’s “unity in diversity” sense of being a truly Catholic (Greek for “Universal”) Communion of Orthodox (Greek for “Right-Teaching;” non-heretical) Christian ‘Sister Churches’ of BOTH East and West.  This kind of Early Church “unity in diversity” Eastern Catholics among all Christians have best preserved is an Early Church understanding Eastern Catholic Christians can hopefully help restore in other Christians East and West, Catholic and non-Catholic, to help overcome the divisive Second Millennium legacy of “unity equals uniformity” mindset in the Churches East and West.”

“ ‘Unity equal uniformity’ mindset having exalted even trivialities of differing Eastern and Western customs like “what kind of bread to use for Holy Communion” and “whether clergy should be bearded or clean-shaven” into “Church-dividing” issues, after the East/West “Great Schism” turned the Undivided Early Catholic Communion of Orthodox Eastern and Western Churches (displaying “unity in diversity”) into a separated Eastern Orthodox Church and Western, Roman Catholic Church, the immature in Love and ultimately satanic “unity equals uniformity” principle became so firmly entrenched on both sides that worshipping only ONE way – the Byzantine (Greek) way – became in Eastern Orthodox thinking “a mark of the True Church,” and non-Byzantine/non-Greek forms of worship liturgy were actively suppressed in the Eastern Orthodox Communion of (today) 16 Patriarchates.  Today’s Eastern Orthodox Patriarchates of Antioch and Alexandria do not even use the ancient traditional Christian worship liturgies of (Syrian) Antioch and (Egyptian) Alexandria, but only the Byzantine Greek worship liturgy of Constantinople – Eastern Orthodox had to be the same to stay unified.  The Western, Roman Catholic Church did not fare much better in maintaining the Early Church’s “unity in diversity.”  Out of communion with most of the Eastern Churches since the “Great Schism,” and out of communication with those Eastern Churches like the Maronite Church (in Lebanon) and the Malabar Church (in India) which technically were never out of communion, most Roman Catholic Christians simply forgot “unity in diversity” and got used to thinking that the Roman Catholic worship they knew personally was the only proper or at least the “best” way to worship Christ.  Even the short-lived medieval East/West reunions showed signs of Roman Catholic Christians regarding Eastern worship as inferior, though at least the 1439 Reunion Council of Florence was a full Ecumenical Council (with a very large and representative Eastern delegation) negotiating terms of reunion on more or less equal footing.  But after the failure of the Union of Florence enforced by the 1453 Muslim conquest of Constantinople – the conquering Muslim Sultan made the most anti-Roman of his conquered slaves the new Patriarch of Constantinople, who predictably abandoned the 1439 reunion, as the Sultan intended –  whenever smaller groups of Eastern Christians later sought reunion with the Western Church and its Roman pope, the huge Roman Catholic Church acted as “superior party,” and even though distinct and ancient Eastern Christian customs were guaranteed by the terms of the reunions, in practice ignorant Roman Catholic Christians often informally (sometimes formally) pressured Eastern Catholics to “Westernize” or “Romanize” themselves in various ways and various degrees to “prove” they were “really Catholic.”  Thus, although non-Roman forms of ancient Christian worship were not entirely suppressed in the Western Catholic Church Communion as non-Byzantine/Greek forms were in the Eastern Orthodox Church Communion, still non-Roman forms were generally considered “inferior” rather than part of the mutually-enriching “unity in diversity” of the Undivided Early Church.  Most Roman Catholic Christians never even heard of the comparatively small numbers of reunified Eastern Catholic Christians and when they did, they generally did not treat them equally.  Thus the “unity equals uniformity” mindset where different is automatically regarded as wrong or inferior totally dominated both East and West in the Second Millennium of Christian divisions after the First Millennium of Christian “unity in diversity,” and the Protestant Reformation inherited this mindset that had made one Christian Church into two and then enhanced “unity equals uniformity” into tens of thousands of distinct Protestant/Evangelical Churches which had to be almost completely like-minded before they could stand to stay together long-term (at least the Roman Catholic Church had been able to handle many different “schools” of theological thought and even variations of Roman Rite worship, often associated with particular religious orders, which could have vigorous theological arguments but remain united Catholic Christian brothers).”

“Thus, as the Protestant/Evangelical Churches do all Christian Churches a great service by modelling the Early Church’s love of the Scriptures and Bible reading, and evangelical zeal to reach the greater culture for Jesus, which they among all Christians have generally best preserved from the character of the Undivided Early Church, so the Eastern Catholic Churches have done great service to all Christians by best preserving the understanding and practical structure of the Undivided Early Church’s “unity in diversity,” by staying faithful to the worldwide Catholic Communion (making it truly “Catholic/Universal” and not merely “Roman”) even when they were in the past sometimes unjustly pressured to “Westernize” or “Romanize” themselves in greater or lesser degree by ignorant Roman Catholic Christians – which is a big part of why the Eastern Orthodox Churches have resisted rejoining the Catholic Church Communion, not wanting that to happen to them, although they are in formal dialogue towards such reunion which can happen once they can reasonably trust their Eastern “fully equal dignity” with the huge (over 1 billion) Western, Roman Rite Church will be properly respected by no-longer-ignorant Roman Catholic Christians.  The Eastern Catholic Churches have been a “bridge” towards this East/West Christian reunion healing the first “Great Schism” of Christianity, first by helping to train majority Roman Catholic Christians into gradually realizing that there is more than one (Roman) way to be Catholic, and fully Catholic; and (as the Vatican II reforms formally re-establishing the “fully equal dignity” of non-Roman Christian worship and customs with majority Roman worship and customs gradually get implemented, slowly reversing past un-Catholic (un-Universal) “Romanization” of the Eastern Catholic Rites), the Eastern Catholic Churches are better able to display to Eastern Orthodox Churches that it is becoming increasingly possible to again hold onto all the rich ancient Eastern Christian heritage while being in full communion with the Western Church and its Roman pope, like the Eastern Churches were in the Undivided Early Church.  The Eastern Catholic Churches have been able to be this “bridge,” helping to overcome past Christian divisions, because they among all Christians BEST preserved the Early Church’s sense and structure of “unity in diversity” and were willing to stay in (or return to) the Catholic Communion around the Roman pope even while majority Roman Catholic Christians (like Eastern Orthodox Christians) did not properly respect them because they were still dominated by the “unity equals uniformity” mindset that there is only one proper or “best” way to worship Christ and all others are wrong or inferior.  Eastern Catholic patience with this injustice finally paid off, and their majority Roman Catholic Christian brothers finally really listened to them.  It is specifically the Eastern Catholic Churches which had a powerful influence at the Catholic Church’s 1962-65 reform council Vatican II, since which the Catholic Church officially now recognizes itself as the truly Catholic/Universal Communion of DIFFERENT Eastern and Western Rites or “Particular” or “Sister” Churches of fully equal dignity, the huge Roman Rite in no way inherently superior even though (only because of Muslim conquest of the Catholic East and the later Great Schism) the particular Roman Catholic ‘Sister Church’ in the Catholic Communion currently has by far the most members.  This official understanding is slowly trickling down to the “average Roman Catholic” and slowly overcoming past “unity equals uniformity” mindset.”

“As an Eastern Catholic theologian I was asked to deliver a paper at the conference The Vatican II Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches: Orientalium Ecclesiarum — 50 Years Later.  My paper, delivered October 18, 2016 at the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto was entitled:

FULLY EQUAL DIGNITY: Orientalium Ecclesiarum Articulated The Implicit Principle of Church Unity Lost in the First Millennium Before It Became Explicit

(1000 Years Too Late to Avoid the Schism, But Better Late Than Never To Repair it)

“In this paper I identified the major undiagnosed root cause of the first “Great Schism” which turned the Early Undivided Catholic (Universal) Communion of Orthodox (“Right-teaching;” non-heretical) Christian Sister Churches of East and West into a separated Western Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church (prejudiced unity equals uniformity principle), and showed how Vatican II’s Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches finally articulated clearly and explicitly the principle of Church “Unity in Diversity” within a structure of fully equal particular or “Sister” Churches of East and West which was implicitly practiced by the Undivided Early Church but lost in the circumstances of history before it ever became explicit —  until Vatican II, which lays the groundwork and paves the way for healing the first “Great Schism” of Christianity and articulates principles helpful towards eventually healing the later schisms like the Protestant Reformation.”

“To explain this last:  The experience of the over 20 Eastern Catholic Churches which were not always in the Catholic Communion coming back into the Catholic/Universal Christian Communion after a period of separation, in their own distinct Sister Churches with their own distinct worship Rites and customs which are officially recognized as of “fully equal dignity” with the huge majority Roman Rite (together with the Roman Rite making a very beautiful and mutually enriching “bouquet” of different, complementary and equally Catholic/Universal Christian spiritualities), reveals that once the very few actually substantial differences between Protestant/Evangelical and Catholic Christians have been sorted out (amongst their already 90% common Christian faith identified in the Common Creed of Christianity), formal healing of the Protestant Schism which proves to the world that the Christian Church really is one big adopted Family of God (as Covenant Family Theology already shows “bickering and all,” like families do) can likely eventually (no hurry here) be accomplished though the formation of some kind of new Western “Evangelical Rites” or Sister Churches in full loving Christian Family communion with the Western Roman and Eastern Orthodox Sister Churches which have already reunified in today’s Catholic/Universal Christian Communion of (currently 26) Eastern and Western particular Churches, as in the Undivided Early Church which collectively called itself the Catholic Church.  According to that Undivided Early Church structure of “unity in diversity,” a reunified Presbyterian Church could possibly be (like my current Eastern “Ukrainian Rite/Ukrainian Catholic Church”) a Western “Scottish Rite/Scottish Catholic Church,” a reunified Lutheran Church a “German Rite/German Catholic Church,” a reunified Anglican Church an “Anglican Rite/Anglican Catholic Church” – which is in fact essentially what the Anglican Church was before the schism of Henry VIII, and essentially what the Traditional Anglican Communion which has already reunified with the Catholic Church has become.”

“It is no surprise that the Vatican II Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches has so much vast ecumenical potential towards eventually reunifying the Christian Church.  Pope Saint John XXIII first breathed news of the coming Council to the Cardinals gathered at Vespers for the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on January 25, 1959, and the Council’s last full day on December 7, 1965 saw the Roman Pope and Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch’s mutual lifting and “consignment to oblivion” of the 1054 mutual Anathemas by their predecessors which had become symbolic of the East/West “Great Schism” – so Vatican II and Ecumenism are made to go together as they do in all my materials!   Pope Saint John Paul II suggested to the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios that since the “Great Schism” of their respective Churches set the bad precedent and bad tone (that is, “unity equals uniformity”) for the later schisms of the Second Millennium (like the Protestant Reformation), so their rapprochement and reconciliation should set the good precedent and good tone (formal, structural “unity in diversity”) for the healing of the later schisms.  Already the official Orthodox/Catholic “Dialogue of Love” since 1958 has resulted in Vatican II’s amazing ecclesiology of communion as beautifully clarified further by the official Catholic/Orthodox Theological Dialogue since 1982.  My work (including my doctoral work) among other things ties the results so far of the Joint Catholic/Orthodox ecclesiology of Church communion to the amazing “Covenant Theology” Biblical theology of my old professor Scott Hahn, showing the lived reality of the Undivided Early Church which Vatican II took as its model, the Catholic (Universal) Communion of Orthodox Christian Particular or “Sister” Churches of East and West (under the ultimate head pastorship of the pope), to be God’s intention from the beginning, the ancient “Pentarchy” of the first five cultures renewed in Jesus, recognized as “Patriarchates” at the Early Church’s Ecumenical Councils, actually fulfilling much Biblical prophecy of the nations to the North, South, East and West of Jerusalem (where the Church began!) coming to worship the true God.”

 

Dr. Alan Schreck is a long-time Theology Chair and Vatican Council II expert at Franciscan University of Steubenville, which Pope Saint John Paul II called “the Catholic University most faithful to the teachings of the Church, in the whole world.”[2] Dr. Schreck teaches the graduate Vatican II course there and has published books on the Council.  In his assessment of the body of theological work produced by Peter William John Baptiste SFO for his Donum Veritatis – the Gift of Truth Ministries Dr. Schreck wrote to Bishop David Motiuk that

One particular area of service [to the Church] that [Peter] William can provide is on teaching on the true meaning and proper implementation of the Second Vatican Council.  This is very critical today, and he is well-prepared to engage in this important work . . . I am confident in [Peter] William’s accurate knowledge of and adherence to the true, orthodox meaning of Vatican II.

Peter William John Baptiste SFO delivered the above paper on Vatican II’s “fully equal dignity” of the Eastern and Western particular or ‘Sister’ Churches being the key to repair the “Great Schism” while doing doctoral studies at the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies (MASI) in Ottawa, where he has also been professor of a course on the Early Church Fathers at Dominican University College. MASI Director the Very Reverend Stephen Wojcichowsky wrote that

“the professors and staff of the Sheptytsky Institute are pleased that [Peter] William has chosen to pursue this important [doctoral] work at our Institute, which shares his ecumenical spirit and prays with him that Christ’s disciples may indeed ‘be one . . . so that the world may believe’ [John 17:21],” adding “He has an indomitable determination to use his many gifts to serve God by working towards the reunification of the Church and bringing the good news of salvation to the world.  Despite the obstacles he has encountered on his way, he maintains a faithful assurance in God’s help to overcome them.  [Peter] William has infectious confidence in the love and power of the Holy Trinity and he manages to exude the joy of the Holy Spirit even when facing challenging difficulties” [such as the severe lack of student funding and whole-family automobile accident which eventually forced him to withdraw from doctoral studies after successfully completing Ph.D. Comprehensive Final Exams but before registering his doctoral thesis – difficulties which God used to direct him to instead protect human life and religious freedom with his new non-profit educational organization Human Rights and Freedoms Forever!]. 

 

© 2016 Peter William John Baptiste SFO

Footnotes

1  Liberal Protestant Christianity questioned whether the Bible was wholly inspired by God and incapable of error (or inerrant), as traditionally affirmed, on the basis of some seeming contradictions between the Bible and science or history.  Some late 19th Century Catholic “modernist” scholars took up these Liberal Protestant objections to the Bible’s inerrancy and so Biblical inerrancy was soundly reaffirmed for all Catholic Christians by Pope Leo XIII in 1893.  A helpful ancient Christian principle is that Scripture is without error in all it intentionally affirms.  Some critics of the Bible accuse the Bible of making errors in science.  Though Scripture may occasionally incidentally use “scientific” terms common to the period in which it was written which were necessary for the original readers’ comprehension, in such cases the Scripture, a religious text, no more intends to affirm a scientific truth than a newspaper which declares what time the sunrise will be intends to affirm that the sun moves around the Earth and is therefore said to “rise.”  The pre-Copernican terms of sunrise and sunset remain in common usage because they usefully describe the appearance of things relative to our Earth-bound position, even though they do not describe the now well-known scientific reality that the Earth moves around the sun and the sun is technically not “rising” at all.  Making use of common terms is not an error.  Other seeming problems with the Bible’s inerrancy disappear once one recognizes the literary form or genre a particular Bible passage was written in, and in many instances, later historical or archeological finds have proven the Bible historically accurate in places where critics had previously accused the Bible of being historically inaccurate.

[1] It is fair enough for Protestant/Evangelical Christians to question and discuss with Catholic Christians just exactly how the papacy should be best understood and practiced (and how it may have been abused in history), but it cannot be simply dispensed with as irrelevant when only the oldest and largest Protestant “mainline” Churches never accountable to the papacy have ever become “doctrinally liberal,” doubting or denying some of the above Christian fundamentals (e.g. there are many modern Protestant “Arian heretics” denying Jesus’ Divinity, their Protestant denominations not correcting them because they are unsure too), while Catholic Churches which recognize the papacy have never compromised the above essential Christian doctrines as many Protestant churches have.  Eastern Orthodox Churches which recognize the 7 First Millennium Ecumenical Councils the papacy was highly involved with (by letters, legates/representatives and ratification even when not personally present) have also never compromised the above common Christian fundamentals the way many Protestant churches have, and they freely acknowledge the pope in Rome was the protos (Greek for first or chief) of the Early Church’s Christian bishops (holding the New Testament Church office of overseer) – the Eastern Orthodox Church only disputes with the Catholic Church over the precise proper nature and practice of the papacy, not its existence (there are currently formal joint Eastern Orthodox/Catholic theological dialogues going on, attempting to reach consensus about the precise proper nature and practice of the papacy so that a full reunion between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches – the 2 oldest and largest of all Christian communions – can happen).  Whatever their concerns and questions about the papacy, Protestant/Evangelical Christians should learn to respect the papacy at least for its involvement in them even having a fixed New Testament Canon to guide Protestants.  The pope in Rome in 405 AD ratified Saint Athanasius’ 367 AD list of the New Testament Canon we all know, which had not yet been universally accepted by all Christians although it had been endorsed and reorganized into the order we all know at the 393 and 397 AD Church Councils at Hippo and Carthage (the 397 AD Council of Carthage ending specifically by indicating that its New Testament Canon needed to be ratified by “the Church across the Sea” in Rome);  the pope’s 405 AD ratification ended all previous disputes among Christians as to just what constitutes the New Testament until modern liberal Protestant Christians started advocating for the heretical Gospel of Thomas and other Gnostic texts to be included in the New Testament Canon because as Protestants they do not accept the judgement of popes and councils (following the Acts 15 Jerusalem proto-council) as the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit guiding the Church “into all the truth” as per Jesus’ promise to His Beloved Church.  As Catholic Christians need to re-learn from Protestant/Evangelical Christians the Early Church’s love of the Scriptures and Bible reading (as prominent Protestants-turned-Catholic like Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman and Dr. Scott Hahn are helping Catholic Christians to do), so Protestant/Evangelical Christians need to better understand Church history (which is far older than Protestantism) so they can, in the words of the Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) accords, “contend together” to eventually find resolutions to their differences of opinion about things like the papacy – which are still minor differences compared to the 90% common Christian faith identified in the above Common Creed of Christianity.

[2] This was testified by Father Ilija Zivkovic, the Minister General of the Franciscan Third Order Regular (TOR), at Mass in Christ the King Chapel at Franciscan University of Steubenville, on Monday, July 28, 2003.  The worldwide head of the TOR, based in Rome, reported that he saw John Paul II frequently, and he said that whenever the Pope saw him, “Holy Father always asks, ‘how is Steubenville?’ “  When he talked to Blessed John Paul II shortly before coming to Steubenville in 2003, “Holy Father said Steubenville was the Catholic University most faithful to the teachings of the Church, in the whole world.”  I am certain that the Pope did not intend his statement as part of a definitive ranking of faithful Catholic Universities, but Pope Saint John Paul II clearly intended to convey his high opinion of Franciscan University of Steubenville as one of the most faithful Catholic Universities in the world, as a compliment to the head of the Order which runs the University.  The Vatican still maintains this very high opinion of Franciscan University of Steubenville.   At the University’s 62nd commencement exercises in May 2010, His Eminence Cardinal John Foley, former president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, congratulated the seniors “on graduating from one of the finest Catholic universities, not only in the United States, but in the world.”