July 8-10, 2004
vol 15, no. 157

The Truth About Ecumenism

And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath the faithful with the unbeliever?"
2 Corinthians 6: 15
    An Analysis of the Encyclical Mortalium Animos
    and other true Catholic Teaching on Religious Unity
Part 5: Ecumenism & Modernism

"Ah, he hits the nail on the head! How prophetic of our own times this is! The Pope knew or suspected that some Protestants might wish to 'dialogue' with the Catholic Church, only to bargain with us on her teachings and perhaps get some sort of 'agreement' worked out. No! The only time the Catholic Church agrees with the Protestant is if and only if he fully and completely submits himself to her teaching - in which case he would cease to be a Protestant! This, and only this, is the way true religious unity can be brought about."

    We are currently examining paragraph 9 of Pope Pius XI's encyclical Mortalium Animos, dated January 6, 1928, but as timely as ever. The Holy Father teaches:

    How so great a variety of opinions can make the way clear to effect the unity of the Church We know not; that unity can only arise from one teaching authority, one law of belief and one faith of Christians.

    This is an excellent point and of extremely great importance. If there is to be unity, there must be one single authority that everyone in the fold must recognize and obey. That one authority is the Pope. He is the one with full and supreme authority over the entire Church. He does not need an ecumenical council or a college of bishops to authorize him to do something; he does not need lower clerics or even laymen to validate this authority he possesses in virtue of his valid election. His authority is not merely that of a head of a college of bishops but is totally independent of them. The Pope is the one who makes the bishops and who breaks the bishops. He is the proximate rule of Faith for the entire Church. Therefore, the only way to achieve religious unity is for all men to become and remain Catholic and submit to the Catholic Church, to the Vicar of Christ. No other "unity" is possible; anything else would be a farce, a hoax, an illusion.

    The Pope continues:

    But We do know that from this it is an easy step to the neglect of religion or indifferentism and to modernism, as they call it. Those, who are unhappily infected with these errors, hold that dogmatic truth is not absolute but relative, that is, it agrees with the varying necessities of time and place and with the varying tendencies of the mind, since it is not contained in immutable revelation, but is capable of being accommodated to human life.

    Clearly, anybody who seeks a phony "unity" in which errors, heresies, and schisms are tolerated and endorsed, he must be an indifferentist, a modernist, because there is no way he could possibly approve of divisions in Faith and religion unless he also thought that the truth is a matter of perspective, or that error has rights, or that a pretended but false "unity" is more to be desired than the truth itself and the fulfillment of God's commands. Here let us recall the words of the Blessed Apostle Paul: "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing and that there be no schisms among you: but that you be perfect in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10).

    Besides this, in connection with things which must be believed, it is nowise licit to use that distinction which some have seen fit to introduce between those articles of faith which are fundamental and those which are not fundamental, as they say, as if the former are to be accepted by all, while the latter may be left to the free assent of the faithful: for the supernatural virtue of faith has a formal cause, namely the authority of God revealing, and this is patient of no such distinction.

    The Pope here makes clear that we cannot compromise our Faith, period. We cannot say to the Protestant that since we agree with him on the dogma of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation, therefore we can simply gloss over or render insignificant doctrines concerning indulgences, purgatory, or the communion of saints, for instance. No, the Catholic religion is an all-or-nothing matter. He who wishes to become Catholic must embrace the Faith whole and entire. Assenting only to the "major doctrines" does not suffice; only agreeing with what has been defined infallibly is not enough. The Catholic Church's entire teaching is authoritative and so all of it must be believed. [A good article on this subject is Must I Believe It? by Canon George Smith, which originally appeared in the Clergy Review in 1935. This shows once again that every Protestant, every non-Catholic, must become Catholic and fully so. Any pretense of conversion under which the Protestant still remains a Protestant or converts only half-heartedly is not only fake but dangerous.

    The Pope explicates the Catholic position a bit more:

    For this reason it is that all who are truly Christ's believe, for example, the Conception of the Mother of God without stain of original sin with the same faith as they believe the mystery of the August Trinity, and the Incarnation of our Lord just as they do the infallible teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, according to the sense in which it was defined by the Ecumenical Council of the Vatican. Are these truths not equally certain, or not equally to be believed, because the Church has solemnly sanctioned and defined them, some in one age and some in another, even in those times immediately before our own? Has not God revealed them all? For the teaching authority of the Church, which in the divine wisdom was constituted on earth in order that revealed doctrines might remain intact for ever, and that they might be brought with ease and security to the knowledge of men, and which is daily exercised through the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops who are in communion with him, has also the office of defining, when it sees fit, any truth with solemn rites and decrees, whenever this is necessary either to oppose the errors or the attacks of heretics, or more clearly and in greater detail to stamp the minds of the faithful with the articles of sacred doctrine which have been explained. But in the use of this extraordinary teaching authority no newly invented matter is brought in, nor is anything new added to the number of those truths which are at least implicitly contained in the deposit of Revelation, divinely handed down to the Church: only those which are made clear which perhaps may still seem obscure to some, or that which some have previously called into question is declared to be of faith.

    Having thus spelled out the Catholic position, the Pope again shifts back to the practical issue at hand:

    10. So, Venerable Brethren, it is clear why this Apostolic See has never allowed its subjects to take part in the assemblies of non-Catholics: for the union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it.

    Did you read this?? So much clear and succinct truth in just one sentence is practically non-existent today! Let me rephrase it: the only way all who profess belief in Christ can unite and be one is if all are Catholic! That is the only way! Junk any alternatives or imitations! Forget about "partial communion" and "signed agreements" and "sister churches" and "prayer in common"! No! Rather: full and complete return to Christ's Church!

    To the one true Church of Christ, we say, which is visible to all, and which is to remain, according to the will of its Author, exactly the same as He instituted it. During the lapse of centuries, the mystical Spouse of Christ has never been contaminated, nor can she ever in the future be contaminated, as Cyprian bears witness: "The Bride of Christ cannot be made false to her Spouse: she is incorrupt and modest. She knows but one dwelling, she guards the sanctity of the nuptial chamber chastely and modestly" [De Cath. Ecclesiae unitate, 6]. The same holy Martyr with good reason marveled exceedingly that anyone could believe that "this unity in the Church which arises from a divine foundation, and which is knit together by heavenly sacraments, could be rent and torn asunder by the force of contrary wills" [Ibid.]. For since the mystical body of Christ, in the same manner as His physical body, is one [I Cor. 12: 12], compacted and fitly joined together [Eph. 4: 16], it were foolish and out of place to say that the mystical body is made up of members which are disunited and scattered abroad: whosoever therefore is not united with the body is no member of it, neither is he in communion with Christ its head [Cf. Eph. 5: 30; 1: 22].

    It is difficult to add anything to this. These words are so eloquent, it's perhaps best they're not commented on.

    11. Furthermore, in this one Church of Christ no man can be or remain who does not accept, recognize and obey the authority and supremacy of Peter and his legitimate successors. Did not the ancestors of those who are now entangled in the errors of Photius and the reformers, obey the Bishop of Rome, the chief shepherd of souls? Alas their children left the home of their fathers, but it did not fall to the ground and perish for ever, for it was supported by God. Let them therefore return to their common Father, who, forgetting the insults previously heaped on the Apostolic See, will receive them in the most loving fashion. For if, as they continually state, they long to be united with Us and ours, why do they not hasten to enter the Church, "the Mother and mistress of all Christ's faithful"? [Conc. Lateran IV, c. 5.] Let them hear Lactantius crying out: "The Catholic Church is alone in keeping the true worship. This is the fount of truth, this the house of Faith, this the temple of God: if any man enter not here, or if any man go forth from it, he is a stranger to the hope of life and salvation. Let none delude himself with obstinate wrangling. For life and salvation are here concerned, which will be lost and entirely destroyed, unless their interests are carefully and assiduously kept in mind." [Divin. Instit. 4, 30. 11-12.]

    Yes, how important it is for souls to heed these words, especially in our day, when people who repeat these holy words are considered to be a danger to society or simply ready for the shrink! The truth about these matters of importance is really quite simple: eternal salvation is the most important thing, and to achieve it, everyone must be Catholic because the Catholic Church is the divine embassy on earth, the beacon of salvation which God has deigned to give to mankind to be the presence of Christ to the world until He comes again in glory. Whoever wishes to be saved must be a part of that Church, that mystical body; and whoever fails to heed the divine call will perish. Since this is true, since God has commanded and revealed and ordained this, no compromise is possible. Really, this is not hard to understand.

    The Pope makes the following sincere appeal to all non-Catholics:

    12. Let, therefore, the separated children draw nigh to the Apostolic See, set up in the City which Peter and Paul, the Princes of the Apostles, consecrated by their blood; to that See, We repeat, which is "the root and womb whence the Church of God springs" [S. Cypr. Ep. 48 ad Cornelium, 3], not with the intention and the hope that "the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" [I Tim. 3: 15] will cast aside the integrity of the faith and tolerate their errors, but, on the contrary, that they themselves submit to its teaching and government.

    Ah, he hits the nail on the head! How prophetic of our own times this is! The Pope knew or suspected that some Protestants might wish to "dialogue" with the Catholic Church, only to bargain with us on her teachings and perhaps get some sort of "agreement" worked out. No! The only time the Catholic Church agrees with the Protestant is if and only if he fully and completely submits himself to her teaching - in which case he would cease to be a Protestant! This, and only this, is the way true religious unity can be brought about.

    Would that it were Our happy lot to do that which so many of Our predecessors could not, to embrace with fatherly affection those children, whose unhappy separation from Us We now bewail. Would that God our Savior, "Who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" [I Tim. 2: 4], would hear us when We humbly beg that He would deign to recall all who stray to the unity of the Church! In this most important undertaking We ask and wish that others should ask the prayers of Blessed Mary the Virgin, Mother of divine grace, victorious over all heresies and Help of Christians, that She may implore for Us the speedy coming of the much hoped-for day, when all men shall hear the voice of Her divine Son, and shall be "careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" [Eph. 4: 3].

    Amen! Unfortunately, this beautiful and powerful encyclical is already coming to a close:

    13. You, Venerable Brethren, understand how much this question is in Our mind, and We desire that Our children should also know, not only those who belong to the Catholic community, but also those who are separated from Us: if these latter humbly beg light from Heaven, there is no doubt but that they will recognize the one true Church of Jesus Christ and will, at last, enter it, being united with us in perfect charity. While awaiting this event, and as a pledge of Our paternal good will, We impart most lovingly to you, Venerable Brethren, and to your clergy and people, the apostolic benediction.
      Given at Rome, at Saint Peter's,
      on the 6th day of January,
      on the Feast of the Epiphany of Jesus Christ, our Lord,
      in the year 1928,
      and the sixth year of Our Pontificate.

    By crushing phony movements for religious unity, i.e., "ecumenism," the Pope at the same time crushes a favorite tool of modernism, which seeks to dissolve all Catholicism into a conglomeration of fuzzy feelings and politically-correct situation ethics, under the pretext of the "enlightened" modern man who has come out of the dark cave of the authoritarianism, dogmatism, "exclusivism," and "triumphalism" of the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages. And what better way to do this than by appealing to men's emotions, arguing that we should all just be nice now and forget about our differences and be one, big, happy religious family - well on our way to hell, they always forget to add.

    This concludes the exposition of Pope Pius XI's encyclial Mortalium Animos. Another installment on Catholicism vs. ecumenism will follow, but for now all would be wise to read the entire encyclical again and compare His Holiness' words to the shenanigans going on today under the pretense of 'dialogue.' To summarize the essence of Pope Pius' words: "Ecumenism be damned!"

Mario Derksen

For past columns by Mario Derksen, see Archives for www.DailyCatholic.org/2004mdi.htm

    July 8-10, 2004
    Volume 15, no. 157