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
Part 1: Truth & Method
and other true Catholic Teaching on Religious Unity
"Pope Pius XI here teaches us that ecumenists who are willing to join with infidels, schismatics, and heretics of every kind (such as we saw in Assisi in 1986 and 2002, I might add), are not only simply in error about true religious unity, but they in fact distort the very notion of the truth (i.e., that there can only be one true religion, and all others must be false and therefore lead to hell) and by doing so gradually reject the truth (i.e., the Catholic Faith) completely! This complete turning away from the Catholic Faith is called apostasy, which is beyond mere heresy: it is an abandoning of the entire Catholic religion."
The Catholic Church, Bride of Christ and Light of the Nations, has always desired that all men repent of their sins and become Catholic. She has always beckoned the straying sheep to return to her bosom and called those who are not yet part of her to enter through her gates, for the glory of Almighty God and the salvation of souls. This is a perennial desire that she cannot and will not revoke, grounded as it is in the command of the Divine Savior, to whom she owes absolute obedience and joyfully submits in perfect humility:
"Going therefore, teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (St. Matthew 28:19-20)
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall he condemned" (St. Mark 16:16).
It would be impossible for the holy Church ever to contradict this great commissioning, which is, in fact, the very reason for her existence (not to feed the poor or to proclaim the dignity of mountains). Christ our Lord instituted the Holy Catholic Church in order that she would teach, govern, and sanctify. Because she is indefectible, the Church cannot ever fail in this mission.
Because of the rise of modernism and rationalism in the 19th century, the 20th from the beginning already saw the advance of "ecumenism," a movement originating in Protestantism that tried to get at least all "Christians" to unify, perhaps to focus on common problems they can fight "together" as "one."
This problem got so bad that in 1928, Pope Pius XI published an encyclical letter dealing with the errors of ecumenism, which, in essence, are errors about religious unity. The encyclical, Mortalium Animos, was published on January 6, 1928.
Try to find a copy of this encyclical today; good luck! I don't think I have to tell you why that is. To my knowledge, only Angelus Press has it in print, though Inside The Vatican did print it in a recent edition. Thankfully, though, it is widely available on the internet, including on The Daily Catholic.
Contrary to what John Paul II has proclaimed, ecumenism is not irrevocable; quite the opposite, the Church's fundamental position against ecumenism is irrevocable. Since Mortalium Animos outlines and restates the Catholic Church's position regarding ecumenism and religious unity so beautifully, my method of procedure will be to focus on each paragraph of this encyclical in detail, to comment on it, and also to look at other sources of true Catholic teaching regarding this issue.
Let me begin, then, with the exposition of the venerable encyclical of Pope Pius XI of immortal memory:
To Our Venerable Brethren the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.
Venerable Brethren, Health and Apostolic Benediction.
Never perhaps in the past have we seen, as we see in these our own times, the minds of men so occupied by the desire both of strengthening and of extending to the common welfare of human society that fraternal relationship which binds and unites us together, and which is a consequence of our common origin and nature. For since the nations do not yet fully enjoy the fruits of peace -- indeed rather do old and new disagreements in various places break forth into sedition and civic strife -- and since on the other hand many disputes which concern the tranquility and prosperity of nations cannot be settled without the active concurrence and help of those who rule the States and promote their interests, it is easily understood, and the more so because none now dispute the unity of the human race, why many desire that the various nations, inspired by this universal kinship, should daily be more closely united one to another.
At the outset I'd like to clarify what the title - Mortalium Animos - really means. Some have suggested it means "death of the soul." This is not true. It actually means "the minds of mortals," which is translated above as "the minds of men." Papal encyclicals derive their titles from the first few words of the opening paragraph of the original language (usually, but not always, Latin), and in this case the first words are "Mortalium animos."
In this first paragraph, the Pope observes an apparent movement among men to come closer together and unite on a human level. Such a desire, no doubt, is good in itself, inasmuch all mankind was created by the One God, who made us to serve Him and desires that all men be Catholic and glorify Him in His Church and thus save their souls.
A serious problem arises, however, when men, noticing this noble desire for unity, start to cast aside their religious differences (the religious aspect is, after all, the most important aspect of life) in an effort to embrace a "religious unity" that does not exist. While the true and only manner in which true religious unity can come about is through conversion (this should be a no-brainer), the phony "unity" of the ecumenical movement is based on perverse premises that water down religious truth and, at least to an extent, trivialize religion, reducing religious differences to a matter of only secondary importance. Pius XI speaks of these perverse premises later on in the encyclical. Let us now continue with the Pope's text:
2. A similar object is aimed at by some, in those matters which concern the New Law promulgated by Christ our Lord. For since they hold it for certain that men destitute of all religious sense are very rarely to be found, they seem to have founded on that belief a hope that the nations, although they differ among themselves in certain religious matters, will without much difficulty come to agree as brethren in professing certain doctrines, which form as it were a common basis of the spiritual life.
Here the Pope puts his finger on the problem of the ecumenical cancer infecting society at his time (which, by now, has metastasized to just about every bone of society's body). Many people - no doubt often of good will - entertain the idea that perhaps we can all just unite even on a religious level and form some sort of spiritual bond which would rest on the beliefs and doctrines we all profess in common (speak: lowest common denominator). The idea here is that "united" in such a manner, we can fight much better the evils afflicting society. Wouldn't such an idea be good, since, after all, we could galvanize our forces this way and succeed in defeating the forces of atheism and secularism? Obviously, the answer is no, and Pope Pius uses this encyclical to explain why. We go on:
For which reason conventions, meetings and addresses are frequently arranged by these persons, at which a large number of listeners are present, and at which all without distinction are invited to join in the discussion, both infidels of every kind, and Christians, even those who have unhappily fallen away from Christ or who with obstinacy and pertinacity deny His divine nature and mission. Certainly such attempts can nowise be approved by Catholics, founded as they are on that false opinion which considers all religions to be more or less good and praiseworthy, since they all in different ways manifest and signify that sense which is inborn in us all, and by which we are led to God and to the obedient acknowledgment of His rule.
Here we come to the first papal rebuke to ecumenism in this encyclical (the text my emphasis in bold). Pius explains his condemnation of the ecumenical endeavors: they are founded on the false premise that all religions are good and praiseworthy. It should be obvious that they cannot all be good and praiseworthy since only one can be founded by God and thus all the others must be based on lies, error, deception, or even demonic intervention. This should not be something difficult to understand or accept - it is a logical necessity. Only one religion can be right.
Back in 1864, Pope Pius IX condemned a thesis that is widely accepted today by many in the Novus Ordo religion:
"Protestantism is nothing more than another form of the same true Christian religion, in which form it is given to please God equally as in the Catholic Church." - CONDEMNED (proposition 18, Syllabus of Errors).
Alas, many people who claim to be Catholic accept this heinous error nowadays, thinking that as long as one is "Christian," all is well. Others will go so far as to include any religion as having the ability to save one eternally, so long as one is "sincere in his convictions." This heinous error, fueled by human respect and a lack of fervor for the truth, has ensnared countless souls especially through the ecumenical movement.
Pope Pius XI makes this clear:
Not only are those who hold this opinion in error and deceived, but also in distorting the idea of true religion they reject it, and little by little, turn aside to naturalism and atheism, as it is called; from which it clearly follows that one who supports those who hold these theories and attempt to realize them, is altogether abandoning the divinely revealed religion.
Now this is a very profound and far-reaching statement! Pope Pius XI here teaches us that ecumenists who are willing to join with infidels, schismatics, and heretics of every kind (such as we saw in Assisi in 1986 and 2002, I might add), are not only simply in error about true religious unity, but they in fact distort the very notion of the truth (i.e., that there can only be one true religion, and all others must be false and therefore lead to hell) and by doing so gradually reject the truth (i.e., the Catholic Faith) completely! This complete turning away from the Catholic Faith is called apostasy, which is beyond mere heresy: it is an abandoning of the entire Catholic religion.
So here we have it from the papal pen: ecumenism is not only a heresy; it is an apostasy. Of course, there is only one remedy to ecumenism and the question of religious unity, which is: be steadfast in teaching the Truth without compromise, and aim to bring non-Catholics into the fold of the Savior. There is no alternative here, no other "prescription," which could possibly replace this biblical command: "Do penance: and be baptized . . ." (Acts 2:38); and: "Going therefore, teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (St. Matthew 28:19-20).
By saying that there is a "better" or "more relevant" way to achieve religious unity, the ecumenists are not merely dangerously mistaken, they are in fact putting their own ideas in place of God's command.
The Almighty willing, I shall continue in my next installment.
For past columns by Mario Derksen, see Archives for www.DailyCatholic.org/2004mdi.htm