56 Jurist 361 (1996)
Shifts below the Surface of the Debate: Ecumenism, Dissent, and the Roman Catholic Church

handle is hein.journals/juristcu56 and id is 371 raw text is: THE JURIST 56 (1996) 361-390

SHIFTS BELOW THE SURFACE OF THE DEBATE:
ECUMENISM, DISSENT, AND THE ROMAN
CATHOLIC CHURCH
MARGARET O'GARA*
The understanding and treatment of dissent within the Church is an
important though often overlooked topic in ecclesiology and in ecu-
menical dialogue.
In this article I want to address the topic of dissent in the Roman
Catholic Church and its ecumenical implications. This topic is contro-
versial, filled with land mines. But the commitment of Ladislas Orsy to
probe difficult areas in ecclesiology and in ecumenical dialogue has
encouraged me to study this one further.
Dissent as a Litmus Test
A few years ago one of my young, earnest divinity students asked
me, Why are theologians talking about dissent so much recently? Isn't
Christian life focussed on assent? Answering this question took me
into a long discussion with my student, but his question helps us focus
on one reason that dissent should be a topic of our study.
While confession, not dissent, is at the core of Christian life, dissent
and its treatment in Christian communions functions as a kind of litmus
test. First, it serves as a litmus test to discover what a church commu-
nity regards as more important, what less important, and how authority
in the community functions to reach and implement decisions. Sec-
ondly, it serves as a litmus test as well by manifesting the actual,
operational-though perhaps implicit-ecclesiological model with
* Ph.D. (University of St. Michael's College, Toronto, 1980). Associate Professor
of Theology, Faculty of Theology at the University of St. Michael's College, Toronto;
past member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue of Canada and the U.S.
Lutheran-Roman Catholic Coordinating Committee; present member of the Disciples of
Christ-Roman Catholic International Commission for Dialogue, the Lutheran-Roman
Catholic International Commission for Unity, and the Board of Directors of the Institute
for Ecumenical and Cultural Research in Collegeville, MN.

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