churches and self-sufficiency

There’s a danger of complacency in the Catholic approach to the Church’s future. It’s very foolish indeed not to read deeply in Protestant theology and to draw upon its traditions of worship, hymnody, and piety. And the ecumenical imperative is just that—an imperative. When a Catholic’s sense of the encompassing reality of the Church dampens his ardor for Christian unity something has gone wrong.

But dangers aside, the Catholic presumption of self-sufficiency is for the best. The conviction that our future comes from within provides an important freedom. For when we’re too dependent on negation, we allow ourselves to be defined by changing winds of fashion. That’s because what we don’t do and believe depends on what others do do and believe.

The Future of Catholicism | R. R. Reno.

I confess that I don’t see how the first paragraph I quote here can be reconciled with the second one. How can the “presumption of self-sufficiency” be “for the best” if “It’s very foolish indeed not to read deeply in Protestant theology and to draw upon its traditions of worship, hymnody, and piety”? And if you’re “drawing on” those traditions, then presumably that’s not “negation” of them, but rather affirmation — isn’t it?

I would also suggest that the distinction between “within” and “without” needs to be made with some care here. Protestant theology and worship are not simply extrinsic to Catholicism in the way that, say, Buddhist theology and worship would be. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church Protestants are operating in genuine “ecclesial communities” and are, to Catholics, brothers and sisters in Christ. The divine grace that’s at work in those communities is an outgrowth, the Catechism says, of the very grace by which the Catholic Church itself is formed and sustained. So these people and their ecclesial communities are not in any simple sense “outside” the Catholic church.

In short, I think the first paragraph I have quoted makes an important point which the second one unfortunately and wrongly denies.

Addendum: It occurs to me that I would have liked Rusty’s argument much better if he had spoken of self-determination rather than self-sufficiency.