Everyone involved in ecumenical discussions knows that it is long-haul work. Yet it is sometimes easy to forget that significant progress has been made, just in terms of basic attitudes. In the recent issue of Ecclesiology (Vol 4, 2008, p.137), Michael Fahey tells this anecdote:
In the early 1960’s whilst a student at the Jesuit theologate near Boston, books and journals written by Protestants or Orthodox on Scripture and theology were labeled with a warning ‘x’ and were locked in a separate library wing familiarly known as ‘hell’. To read these publications and other books on the Roman Index, a special permission was needed … from one’s local bishop or his representative. Since I was the managing editor of the journal New Testament Abstracts and needed to interact daily with numerous non-Catholic biblical journals, I applied to my Provincial for a blanket permission to read these publications. He replied with a hesitant ‘yes’ with the proviso that I ‘remain in close touch with my spiritual director’.
When I arrived at Bristol Baptist College in 1986 there were two local bookshops on Park Street. SPCK (now sorely missed) and the then CLC bookshop (now Wesley Owen). If you wanted to buy an SCM book from the latter, you were escorted down into a basement out of the view of the eyes of the faithful, buying their Every Day with Jesus, and a special cupboard was opened to reveal the dangerous treasure of Kümmel’s New Testament Introduction.
By the way, the essay concludes with a helpful chronological bibliography of major studies in ecclesiology published between 1965 and 2007 and a list of the relevant ecumenical documents from the same period.