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 9: An Attempt at a Defense (4)
and other true Catholic Teaching on Religious Unity
"So, yes, stunningly, John Paul II wanted the input from heretics and schismatics about how to 'exercise' the papal primacy in order to obtain 'unity.' That this is totally unheard-of is, thank God, not contested! Indeed, who would have ever dared to think such a thing before the advent of the Great Apostasy? There is an implication here, of course, that for centuries the papal primacy was exercised wrongfully or badly, at least in the sense that its exercise was an unnecessary stumbling block for non-Catholics (and, perhaps, not really connected with Catholic dogma about the Pope in the first place). And then, oh, there was that First Vatican Council in 1870 that had quite a lot to say about the Pope, his infallibility, and his primacy."
This article will continue my critical review of Kenneth D. Whitehead's essay, "Reunion with the Eastern Orthodox?," which appeared in the June 2004 issue of the Homiletic and Pastoral Review.
As regards reunion vs. return, one of the core issues in the Whitehead article, His Holiness, Pope Pius XI, made it very clear when he wrote in 1928: "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" (Encyclical Mortalium Animos, no. 10). This answer's Whitehead's desire to (at best) change the emphasis from "return" to "reunion" - for the only way true reunion can come about is by a return of the dissidents. And here the Pope is clear that even in 1928, so many centuries after the Eastern schism and the Reformation, though generations have passed, the Catholic Church still considers those dissidents to have left her fold, and hence they must return.
Whitehead's complaint that "[n]o matter that none of the separated Christians then living had ever been part of the true Church to which they were expected to return" is thus neutralized by the highest authority in the Catholic Church - the Pope - so much so that Whitehead would have to accuse Pope Pius XI of erring (or worse) in his encyclical on religious unity. But of course what Pope Pius said there had already been stated by Pope Leo XIII, as we saw in previous installments, and of course was reiterated by Pope Pius XII as well: "…by no means is it permitted to pass over in silence or to veil in ambiguous terms the Catholic truth regarding the nature and way of justification, the constitution of the Church, the primacy of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, and the only true union by the return of the dissidents to the one true Church of Christ" (Holy Office, Instruction "On the Ecumenical Movement", 1949).
Let's face it - this is the Catholic Church's constant position, and it is not merely disciplinary but doctrinal and dogmatic, for even though these guidelines may be practical, yet do they arise out of Catholic dogma and doctrine, so much so that they could not be changed (at least not substantially, but this is what has occurred since 1958 and what Whitehead seems to defend).
Let us go back for a moment to the Council of Florence's Bull of Union with the Armenians. In this document, we hear about unity, union, and reunion, but not the Vatican II versions of these terms:
"Today God has confirmed in the same bond of faith and charity with the apostolic see this union with the Armenians, who are a very numerous people spread over the north and east…. Let us pray and beseech that, as the Greeks and the Armenians have been made one with the Roman church, so also may other nations be, especially those signed with the seal of Christ, and that finally the whole Christian people, after all hatreds and wars have been extinguished, may rest and rejoice together in mutual peace and brotherly love. Rightly we hold that the Armenians deserve great praise. As soon as they were invited by us to this synod, in their eagerness for ecclesiastical unity, at the cost of many labours and much toil and perils at sea, they sent to us and this council from very distant parts, their notable, dedicated and learned envoys with sufficient powers to accept, namely whatever the holy Spirit should inspire this holy synod to achieve.
So, after many debates, conferences and disputations, after a thorough examination of the written authorities which were produced from fathers and doctors of the church, and after discussion of the questions at issue, at length, so that in future there could be no doubt about the truth of the faith of the Armenians and that they should think in every way like the apostolic see and that the union should be stable and lasting with no cause for hesitation whatsoever we judged it advantageous, with the approval of this sacred council of Florence and the agreement of the said envoys, to give in this decree a summary of the truth of the orthodox faith that the Roman church professes about the above.
In the first place, then, we give them the holy creed issued by the hundred and fifty bishops in the ecumenical council of Constantinople, with the added phrase and the Son, which for the sake of declaring the truth and from urgent necessity was licitly and reasonably added to that creed, which runs as follows: I believe…."
…and so on. I cannot quote the whole bull here, as it is very long. But you get the idea. The Holy Catholic Church and the Armenians reunified. How did it happen? What were the requirements? As the above text shows, it was only possible by the full and complete conversion of the Armenians to the Catholic Faith, the Catholic Creed, and the Catholic authority. Do you see anything here about "sister churches" or "partial communion" or "means of salvation found outside the Catholic Church"? I didn't think so. No, quite simply, here the Catholic Church was teaching the Armenians the true Faith. Of course there were disputations, but it was clear who was the teacher and who was the student. The Catholic Church did not consider herself on an equal level with the Armenians. This is made especially clear in this part of the bull:
"Fourth, apart from the three synods of Nicaea, Constantinople and the first of Ephesus, the Armenians have accepted no other later universal synods nor the most blessed Leo, bishop of this holy see, by whose authority the council of Chalcedon met. For they claim that it was proposed to them that both the synod of Chalcedon and the said Leo had made the definition in accordance with the condemned heresy of Nestorius. So we instructed them and declared that such a suggestion was false and that the synod of Chalcedon and blessed Leo holily and rightly defined the truth of two natures in the one person of Christ, described above, against the impious tenets of Nestorius and Eutyches. We commanded that for the future they should hold and venerate the most blessed Leo, who was a veritable pillar of the faith and replete with all sanctity and doctrine, as a saint deservedly inscribed in the calendar of the saints; and that they should reverence and respect, like the rest of the faithful, not only the three above-mentioned synods but also all other universal synods legitimately celebrated by the authority of the Roman pontiff.
End of story! The Catholic Church instructed the Armenians that their position was false and that they needed to convert. This they did. And thus a reunion came about. Towards the end of the bull, we read:
"After all these matters had been explained, the aforesaid Armenians, in their own name and in the name of their patriarch and of all Armenians, with all devotion and obedience accept, admit and embrace this salutary synodal decree with all its chapters, declarations, definitions, traditions, precepts and statutes and all the doctrine contained in it, and also whatever the holy apostolic see and the Roman church holds and teaches. They also accept with reverence all those doctors and holy fathers approved by the Roman church. Indeed, they hold as reprobated and condemned whatever persons and things the Roman church reprobates and condemns. They promise that as true sons of obedience, in the name as above, they will faithfully obey the ordinances and commands of the apostolic see."
Sounds just like Vatican II's decree on ecumenism, eh? (LOL) Yet, Vatican II claims that the "restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council" (Unitatis Redintegratio, par. 1). I would suggest taking the Council of Florence as an example then. But instead of attempting to lay out before the Protestants the truth of the Catholic Faith whole and entire and making them accept the Athanasian Creed (a perfect opportunity for a pastoral decree!), instead we read things like: "the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church" (Unitatis Redintegratio, n. 3). That nothing holy could come out of this council is no surprise to me.
Whitehead quotes from that very chapter of Unitatis Redintegratio further:
For it is only through Christ's Catholic Church, which is "the all-embracing means of salvation," that they [non-Catholic Christians] can benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God.
This, so Whitehead thinks, "reaffirmed the Catholic Church's unique claim to possess the fullness of Christ's grace and truth" (p. 26)- as though the Catholic Church's teaching were merely that the Catholic Church has all the truth (while all the other churches are merely lacking in the fullness thereof - a position already condemned by Msgr. Fenton in 1958, as we saw) and is only a universal "help" to salvation rather than the only and unique means of salvation.
Whitehead adds that "at the same time . . . she [the Church] embarked on a vigorous and unprecedented campaign in search of greater Christian unity." I agree with the "unprecedented" part! It's nice to see those admissions that Vatican II really was unique and unprecedented. How Whitehead convinces himself that Vatican II has "vigorously" attempted to reunite the Protestants to the Catholic Church (by means of return, the only orthodox possibility) is anyone's guess.
We finally come to the issue of reunion with the Eastern Schismatic churches. Speaking of "unprecedented," Whitehead explains that "it seems certain that John Paul II had the Eastern Orthodox primarily in mind when making his unprecedented, and, indeed, stunning, offer in [the 1995 encyclical Ut Unum Sint] to enter into dialogue with other Christian leaders in order to examine whether or not there could not be found a new 'way of exercising the primacy' (UUS #95) of the bishop of Rome over the whole Church of Christ" (p. 26).
Folks, really, something like this could only happen in the New Church. The "Pope" offers to talk with heretics and schismatics about how he could perhaps change his "way of exercising" his office so that it wouldn't be too much of a stumbling block to them. The Eastern schismatics have a very easy answer to this: make it a primacy of honor only. The Protestants would have a similar answer: quit pretending to be the universal teacher of the Church with full authority in teaching, governing, and sanctifying; quit pretending to be infallible; etc. In short, both Orthodox and Protestants would require that the Pope quit being the Pope.
Now, Whitehead says that "the primacy of the pope over the whole Church is probably the greatest single doctrinal (and practical) obstacle to Christian unity" (p. 27). I think that such an acknowledgment exposes this whole enterprise for what it is, folks. This is not, it seems to me, about making Protestants and Orthodox into Catholics - this is about finding a least common denominator that does not require a real and full conversion but bogusly "unites" different religions while a rejection of Catholic doctrine and discipline-rooted-in-doctrine is retained but trivialized into oblivion. By contrast, the Armenians reunified with the Catholic Church instead "with all devotion and obedience accept, admit and embrace . . . whatever the holy apostolic see and the Roman church holds and teaches. They also accept with reverence all those doctors and holy fathers approved by the Roman church. Indeed, they hold as reprobated and condemned whatever persons and things the Roman church reprobates and condemns. They promise that as true sons of obedience, in the name as above, they will faithfully obey the ordinances and commands of the apostolic see."
In his 1995 encyclical, par. 96, John Paul "the Great" (Apostate, that is) "stunningly" and "unprecedentedly" writes:
"Could not the real but imperfect communion existing between us persuade Church leaders and their theologians to engage with me in a patient and fraternal dialogue on this subject, a dialogue in which, leaving useless controversies behind, we could listen to one another, keeping before us only the will of Christ for his Church and allowing ourselves to be deeply moved by his plea 'that they may all be one ... so that the world may believe that you have sent me' (Jn 17:21)?"
Now, who knows what John Paul II means by "useless controversies," but I have my suspicions. Clearly, he believed that there was a "real communion" between his church and the Eastern schismatics, and he talks to them about what "Christ [wills] for his Church," as though the Eastern schismatics were part of the Church the Lord Jesus founded.
So, yes, stunningly, John Paul II wanted the input from heretics and schismatics about how to "exercise" the papal primacy in order to obtain "unity." That this is totally unheard-of is, thank God, not contested! Indeed, who would have ever dared to think such a thing before the advent of the Great Apostasy? There is an implication here, of course, that for centuries the papal primacy was exercised wrongfully or badly, at least in the sense that its exercise was an unnecessary stumbling block for non-Catholics (and, perhaps, not really connected with Catholic dogma about the Pope in the first place). And then, oh, there was that First Vatican Council in 1870 that had quite a lot to say about the Pope, his infallibility, and his primacy.
There is another man who has an interesting idea papal primacy in relation to the Eastern schismatics. Who is this man? He is in Rome and now listens to the name of "Benedict XVI." In his 1982 book Principles of Catholic Theology, he speaks of the papal primacy. In the next installment, we shall look at what he has to say.
For past columns by Mario Derksen, see Archives for www.DailyCatholic.org/2005mdi.htm