May 19, 2004
vol 15, no. 138

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 3: The Necessity to be Catholic

"There you have it! A clear analysis by Pope Pius XI of the predicament of those who believe in Christ but are not united to the Ark of Salvation, the Catholic Church. He acknowledges that they are close but that nevertheless they are still ensnared in so many errors which keep them from being accepted into the Church of Jesus Christ and hence from attaining salvation. 'They err and stray from the one fold of Christ,' the Holy Father says. The 'one fold'! There is only one fold, and he who is not a part of it cannot be saved."

   As we continue in our analysis of the 1928 encyclical Mortalium Animos of Pope Pius XI, we notice how the Holy Father points out major characteristics of the Church Jesus founded:

    Instead, Christ our Lord instituted His Church as a perfect society, external of its nature and perceptible to the senses, which should carry on in the future the work of the salvation of the human race, under the leadership of one head [Matt. 16: 18 seq; Luke 22: 32; John 21: 15-17], with an authority teaching by word of mouth [Mark 16, 15], and by the ministry of the sacraments, the founts of heavenly grace [John 3, 5; 6: 48-59; 20: 22 seq; cf. Matt. 18: 18, etc.]; for which reason He attested by comparison the similarity of the Church to a kingdom [Matt. 13], to a house [cf. Matt. 16: 18], to a sheepfold [John 10: 16], and to a flock [John 21: 15-17]. This Church, after being so wonderfully instituted, could not, on the removal by death of its Founder and of the Apostles who were the pioneers in propagating it, be entirely extinguished and cease to be, for to it was given the commandment to lead all men, without distinction of time or place, to eternal salvation: "Going therefore, teach ye all nations" [Matt. 28: 19]. In the continual carrying out of this task, will any element of strength and efficiency be wanting to the Church, when Christ Himself is perpetually present to it, according to His solemn promise: "Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world?" [Matt. 28: 20]. It follows then that the Church of Christ not only exists to-day and always, but is also exactly the same as it was in the time of the Apostles, unless we were to say, which God forbid, either that Christ our Lord could not effect His purpose, or that He erred when He asserted that the gates of hell should never prevail against it [Matt. 16: 18].

   This is very straightforward and clear. Pope Pius is not drowning the reader in Vatican II waffle or razzmatazz about the "dignity of man" or any of that; he simply lays out the case for the Catholic Church as it is: Christ founded one Church, not hundreds of competing denominations founded by this or that self-proclaimed "Bible teacher," and this One Church of Christ was endowed with authority and with a perpetual hierarchy whose divinely-appointed task is to govern, to teach, and to sanctify.

   Because of this, the Church requires that all who are outside of her fold must join her, if they wish to be truly united to Christ and be saved. The greatest charity we can show to a Protestant, therefore, is to teach him about the Catholic Faith and about the necessity to become a Catholic to be saved. That is true charity; not holding hands with pro-abortion sodomites in bishops' costumes at a "joint vespers ceremony" or drawing up documents with the dreaded World Council of Churches as Zenit reported Monday in pushing the anathema of ecumenism.

   The necessity to be Catholic for salvation is precisely what has inspired so many countless missionaries to forsake their comfortable homes and go into dangerous territories, to preach the Gospel even to people who were violently hostile not only to the Gospel message but to the missionaries themselves. In particular, I am reminded of the unspeakable tortures the North American Martyrs went through, that is, SS. John de Brebeuf and Isaac Jogues and their companions.

   Of course, these holy soldiers of Christ were "unenlightened" because they had the misfortune of living before Vatican II and the "Great Renewal" of the hippie 1960's and so they didn't realize that instead of giving their lives to convert the Native Americans they could have simply invited them over to pray to their demons for "world peace"! Or else they could at least have shown interest to learn about their diabolical religion so as to "understand" how these poor unbelievers "sought to contemplate the divine mystery"!

   Please excuse the facetiousness. I couldn't resist.

   Now back to Pope Pius XI. After having given a brief summary of what kind of a Church Christ founded, he uses the opportunity to refute a false opinion regarding how people are to be brought into this Church:

    7. And here it seems opportune to expound and to refute a certain false opinion, on which this whole question, as well as that complex movement by which non-Catholics seek to bring about the union of the Christian churches depends. For authors who favor this view are accustomed, times almost without number, to bring forward these words of Christ: "That they all may be one [in Latin: ut unum sint].... And there shall be one fold and one shepherd," [John 17: 21; 10: 16] with this signification however: that Christ Jesus merely expressed a desire and prayer, which still lacks its fulfillment.

   Ah! Here we have it: it is a grave error to think that the unity Christ prayed for is still something to be looked forward to in the future, still something that needs fulfillment. The truth is, it's already here! From day one the Catholic Church has been unified, has been "one." Why? Because the Father must necessarily grant the prayer of Christ, Who is all-perfect, all-holy, and in fact God Himself!

   Now, in fairness I must point out a passage I came across in my research. In his encyclical Praeclara of 1894, Pope Leo XIII ends by writing:

    May God, Who is rich in Mercy, and in Whose Power are the times and moments, grant Our wishes and desires, and in His great Goodness, hasten the fulfillment of that Divine Promise of Jesus Christ: There will be One Fold and One Shepherd.

   I thought long and hard about this. How can there be such an apparent contradiction between Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI? It is clear from the rest of the encyclical that Pope Leo insists that those erring from the Faith must come back to the Catholic Church. There is no question that Pope Leo insisted on the "one fold" of the Catholic Church! So, the only way I can make sense of this is by positing that Pope Leo meant that he desires that all the other, false "folds" finally cease and that there will be only one fold and one shepherd, namely, the Catholic Church and the Pope, representing Jesus Christ until He returns.

   The fact is that only the Catholic Church is the True Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, and this Church is the guardian and indeed the foundation of the Truth (see 1 Timothy 3:15), and all who would be saved need to enter her gates through baptism. It is not the case that we are but one "denomination" among many who all "journey towards the truth" and wish we some day find it. No, the Catholic Church has the truth; she need not learn anything from other religions; and everyone must be part of that Church to be saved. No "pilgrim church" claptrap.

   Let us now continue with Mortalium Animos. Pope Pius XI elaborates on his rebuke of those who say the Church is not yet one but must find this unity some time in the future:

    For they are of the opinion that the unity of faith and government, which is a note of the one true Church of Christ, has hardly up to the present time existed, and does not today exist. They consider that this unity may indeed be desired and that it may even be one day attained through the instrumentality of wills directed to a common end, but that meanwhile it can only be regarded as mere ideal. They add that the Church in itself, or of its nature, is divided into sections; that is to say, that it is made up of several churches or distinct communities, which still remain separate, and although having certain articles of doctrine in common, nevertheless disagree concerning the remainder; that these all enjoy the same rights; and that the Church was one and unique from, at the most, the apostolic age until the first Ecumenical Councils.

   The notion condemned here, namely, that the Catholic Church is merely one "denomination" among several, which all together make up "Christ's True Church," is precisely the error invited by Vatican II's document Lumen Gentium: "This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. . . ." (par. 8).

   It is said here that the Church our Lord Jesus founded exists in the Catholic Church. What's that supposed to mean now, "exists in"? The intent to muddy the waters here hardly needs pointing out. The Catholic Church has always taught that she is the Church of Jesus, not that His Church "exists in" her. I do not say that Vatican II's formulation here is necessarily heretical, but it is at least favoring heresy, inasmuch as it invites heresy, especially since the traditional and unmistakable equation of the Catholic Church with the Church Jesus founded has been omitted.

   To put things into perspective, in 1794 Pope Pius VI condemned a restatement of the dogma of Transubstantiation that did not contain any error but nevertheless omitted the word "transubstantiation" and did not clearly spell out the conversion of the substances of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, "since by an indiscreet and suspicious omission of this sort, knowledge is taken away both of an article pertaining to faith, and also of the word consecrated by the Church to protect the profession of it, as if it were a discussion of a merely scholastic question, --dangerous, derogatory to the exposition of Catholic truth about the dogma of transubstantiation, favorable to heretics" (Denzinger no. 1529).

   Did you get that? "Favorable to heretics"! Interestingly enough, this suspect and condemned statement about transubstantiation came from the false council of Pistoia!

   Thus, it is not enough to say simply, "Well, it contains no positive error." That doesn't suffice. The Church's teaching is clear: the Catholic Church is the Church Jesus founded. Saying anything else muddies the waters, confuses the faithful, incites the soul to novelty. And we all know what that has created over the past 40 years!

   Pope Pius XI continues:

    Controversies therefore, they say, and longstanding differences of opinion which keep asunder till the present day the members of the Christian family, must be entirely put aside, and from the remaining doctrines a common form of faith drawn up and proposed for belief, and in the profession of which all may not only know but feel that they are brothers. The manifold churches or communities, if united in some kind of universal federation, would then be in a position to oppose strongly and with success the progress of irreligion.

   And this is what we hear day in and day out in our times! Here the Pope clearly condemns the "one-world church" which is currently being built, that humanistic "I'm okay, you're okay" abomination that outwardly seeks to promote "mutual understanding" and "peace" between religions, peoples, and cultures. Of course Pope Pius speaks in the context of non-Catholic "Christians" only, that is, of Protestants and Anglicans, etc., not of non-Christian religions. But the principle behind it all is the same. Nowadays, you just need to add all non-Catholic religions, including the Muslims and the Pagans.

   I mean, is this not the kind of talk we hear from the Vatican these days? Of course they're more diplomatic and more covert, but in essence, I think that's it. That's what they're aiming for when they send their nice little "messages" to the Buddhists on their feast of "Vesakh", is it not? How often do we hear about "solidarity" and "war in the name of religion is never justified" and "mutual understanding" and all this nonsense? But perhaps the clearest example is the Assisi "interreligious prayer meetings for peace" (1986 and 2002) orchestrated by John Paul II himself. Needless to say, instead of peace we've seen nothing but war since as well as an earthquake in Assisi. Isn't God trying to tell us something?

   On with Mortalium Animos:

    This, Venerable Brethren, is what is commonly said. There are some, indeed, who recognize and affirm that Protestantism, as they call it, has rejected, with a great lack of consideration, certain articles of faith and some external ceremonies, which are, in fact, pleasing and useful, and which the Roman Church still retains. They soon, however, go on to say that that Church also has erred, and corrupted the original religion by adding and proposing for belief certain doctrines which are not only alien to the Gospel, but even repugnant to it. Among the chief of these they number that which concerns the primacy of jurisdiction, which was granted to Peter and to his successors in the See of Rome. Among them there indeed are some, though few, who grant to the Roman Pontiff a primacy of honor or even a certain jurisdiction or power, but this, however, they consider not to arise from the divine law but from the consent of the faithful. Others again, even go so far as to wish the Pontiff Himself to preside over their motley, so to say, assemblies. But, all the same, although many non-Catholics may be found who loudly preach fraternal communion in Christ Jesus, yet you will find none at all to whom it ever occurs to submit to and obey the Vicar of Jesus Christ either in His capacity as a teacher or as a governor. Meanwhile they affirm that they would willingly treat with the Church of Rome, but on equal terms, that is as equals with an equal: but even if they could so act, it does not seem open to doubt that any pact into which they might enter would not compel them to turn from those opinions which are still the reason why they err and stray from the one fold of Christ.

   There you have it! A clear analysis by the Pope of the predicament of those who believe in Christ but are not united to the Ark of Salvation, the Catholic Church. He acknowledges that they are close but that nevertheless they are still ensnared in so many errors which keep them from being accepted into the Church of Jesus Christ and hence from attaining salvation. "They err and stray from the one fold of Christ," the Holy Father says. The "one fold"! There is only one fold, and he who is not a part of it cannot be saved.

   That is what the Non-Catholic needs to hear - not some claptrap about "partial communion" and what not. "He that is not with Me, is against Me: and he that gathereth not with Me, scattereth," says the Lord (St. Matthew 12:30). And further: "Whosoever revolteth and continueth not in the doctrine of Christ hath not God" (2 John 9). That is the truth, and that is what we must preach. Let everyone else be "anathema" (Galatians 1:8-9).

   God willing, I shall continue in the next installment.

Mario Derksen

For past columns by Mario Derksen, see Archives for

    May 19, 2004
    Volume 15, no. 138