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 6: An Attempt at a Defense (1)
and other true Catholic Teaching on Religious Unity
"This is reality, folks. All this talk about "discussing our differences" that Whitehead is in favor of has led to indifferentism. Because once you "discuss differences" in a setting in which the Catholic Church is placed on the same level as the other religions, you have already lost. And this is why we have indifferentism today instead of conversions to Catholicism. This is why the Popes of the Catholic Church have always condemned ecumenism, because they knew it would result in a total distortion of Catholicism, and because it operates on the basis that all religions are equal to some extent."
After a long hiatus, I wish to finally make good on my promise to finish this series on the Catholic teaching on ecumenism. We finished analyzing the encyclical of Pope Pius XI denouncing the heretical practice of ecumenism, "Mortalium Animos," of 1928 [rerun as a "gems of the past" feature over the past several weeks] Before we get into other sources of Church teaching on religious unity and ecumenism (in Part 8), I wish to comment on a defense of ecumenism that appeared in the June 2004 issue of the Homiletic and Pastoral Review.
I don't subscribe to this modernist magazine, but one day I simply found a sample copy in my mailbox. It was the June 2004 issue, and its cover is pink (don't ask me why). I was curious to see what it contained, and I found an essay entitled "Reunion with the Eastern Orthodox?" (pp.23-31) by Kenneth D. Whitehead, a chief defender of the Vatican II revolution.
As I read Whitehead's piece, I realized once again how much the Novus Ordos have to belittle, smite, and trash the Catholic Church (i.e., before the council) in order to uphold their new Vatican II Church's doctrines and practices. But this should not come as a surprise - no, it is necessary if one is only logical. It is really quite simple: either the Catholic Church (before John XXIII's take-over) taught and practiced what was good, wholesome, and salutary (in which case Vatican II's revolution was totally unnecessary and wrong), or Vatican II's revolution was good, wholesome, and salutary (in which case Catholic teaching and practice up until Pope Pius XII was wrong and unfortunate). It's an either/or thing. It therefore follows that if Vatican II was good, the Catholic Church is bad. Thus, any vindication of Vatican II always and necessarily occurs at the expense of the Catholic Church.
This is also reflected in Whitehead's article, I think. To show what I mean, I will quote excerpts from Whitehead's piece (indented in maroon) and then intersperse my comments in response (in black):
In its Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, the Council did very definitely aim to change the way the Catholic Church regards those Christians who are separated from communion with her.
Oh, that's nice: though nothing has changed in the situation regarding those separated Christians, the Catholic Church supposedly now changes how she looks at them. This is very important issue, because the way the Church looks at them is not arbitrary but founded upon dogma and facts. To say that the Church should change how she looks at those people implies that something was wrong, imprudent, or insufficient with how she looked at them before (for almost two millennia, no less). Here, then, is Whitehead's first slap in the face of the Catholic Church, in his attempt to defend Vatican II's ecumenism. Somehow what had been done (and quite well so) since the time of the Apostles needed to be changed.
Prior to the Council, the key word in the Catholic lexicon with regard to separated Christians was always "return."
Yes, duh, and that's because that is the essence of what non-Catholics need to do: join the Catholic Church. In the case of non-Catholic Christians, this means returning what they (or their ancestors) once left. It is important to mention that this is a return, in order always to keep before them that they have their origin in the Catholic Church, that is, it is the Catholic Church which handed down the Faith, and they simply split from it; if it weren't for the Catholic Church, they would now have no Bible, and the beliefs they have in common with Catholics they only believe because of the Catholic Church. Thus, the key word always has to be return, to make sure we do not lose sight of these facts. Protestants are renegades; their religion had its origin in the Catholic Church. Emphasizing this is important to keep in mind that the Catholic Church is the true Church, from which all other Christians separated.
Over a century ago, in 1894, Pope Leo XIII, characteristically, wrote about how "the yearning desire of our heart bids Us conceive the hope that the day is not far distant when the Eastern Churches, so illustrious in their ancient faith and glorious past, will return to the fold they have abandoned" (Praeclara Gratulationis).
Ah, how refreshing is Catholic dogma! Here the true Catholic teaching is set forth regarding the reunion of all who profess to be followers of Christ. But in his attempt to defend Vatican II and the new orientation, Whitehead must now find a reason for saying that somehow we need to take the emphasis off "return" and focus on something else instead.
If the fullness of Christ's truth and grace were to be found in the Catholic Church, after all - as indeed is the case - then it followed quite logically that those who did not enjoy that fullness of truth and grace ought to be seeking to "return" in order to be able to enjoy it.
Yes, isn't logic wonderful? It follows indeed! That's how simple Catholic dogma is. But note how Whitehead digs into the modernistic concept of "fullness of truth" in the Catholic Church. It is very widespread today (it was already contained in Vatican II), and I myself used to parrot the same thing, you know, that the Catholic Church has the "fullness of truth" and all other religions only have more or less of that fullness. I say this is modernistic not because it is false that all truth is found in the Catholic Church (of course that's true!) but because it is a tacit watering down of the fact that the false religions teach error and that people cannot be saved in those false religions.
Allow me to quote Msgr. Joseph Fenton, who critiqued this "fullness of truth" business as early as 1958:
"…the error that the way of salvation can be found in any religion has its own peculiar and individual malignity. It is based on the false implication that the false religions, those other than the Catholic, are in some measure a partial approach to the fullness of truth which is to be found in Catholicism. According to this doctrinal aberration, the Catholic religion would be distinct from others, not as the true is distinct from the false, but only as the plenitude is distinct from incomplete participations of itself. It is this notion, the idea that all other religions contain enough of the essence of that completeness, of truth which is to be found in Catholicism, to make them vehicles of eternal salvation, which is thus reproved in the [allocution of Pope Pius IX,] Singulari quadam" (Joseph Clifford Fenton, The Catholic Church and Salvation [Westminster, MD: The Newman Press], p.47).
The conservative Neo-Catholic world today tells us time and again that the Catholic Church has the fullness of truth and that's why Protestants should convert. Drawing an analogy with a glass, they might say that the Catholic glass is filled to the top with water, whereas the Protestant glass is filled with water only to the middle. What they do not mention is that the other half of the Protestant glass is not empty but filled with poison (error), thus rendering even the half filled with water undrinkable, since the water mixes with the poison. And the truth is that whoever drinks of this glass of water and poison will die. Yet, how many of the conservative Neo-Catholics actually believe that though the Catholic Church has the "fullness of truth," the fact that the other religions only have more or less of that truth makes them unable to attain eternal life?
I doubt many actually believe that, if any. And this would explain why they always talk about the fullness of truth, rather than, as Msgr. Fenton teaches we must, speak of truth vs. error. A little bit of error mixed with a large part of the truth is still error. Even a little bit of yeast leavens the whole lump; even a single little pin bursts an entire balloon. And so the Eastern Orthodox religion, for instance, is erroneous, regardless of how closely it resembles the Catholic religion. Pope Leo XIII understood that, and hence he beckoned all those who were not Catholic to come into the true Church. Too bad Pope Leo wasn't enlightened by Vatican II, eh?
No matter that entire Christian Churches and ecclesial communities showed little or no signs of wishing to return.
Oh, yeah, that really makes a difference. Hey-Protestants don't want to become Catholic, so why doesn't the Catholic Church just get over it and change her teaching or practice founded on that teaching? Last time I checked, people rejecting Catholicism do not get to make Catholic teaching or practice. At least they shouldn't. But then again, that changed at Vatican II, no?
But wait a minute. Am I mistaken here, or was it not the case that, in particular, conversions to the Catholic Church were pretty high, especially in the 1940's and 50's? We recall the apologists of the 19th and 20th centuries, such as John Henry Newman, Orestes Brownson, David Goldstein, Frank Sheed, Ronald Knox, and G.K. Chesterton. For some reason, I was under the impressions that as far as making converts goes, the Catholic Church was doing pretty well before Vatican II. Ken Jones' book Index of Leading Catholic Indicators shows that between 1930 and 1940, the number of converts in the USA increased by 93%, and by 1960, there were 146,000 converts, as opposed to 38,000 in 1930 (p. 67). The trend was going pretty well. Can one really seriously say that it was necessary to call an ecumenical council in order to change the way converts were made in order to increase their numbers? (Never mind that a council had never been called for that reason anyway.)
No matter that none of the separated Christians then living had ever been part of the true Church to which they were expected to return: their ancestors may have elected separation; they themselves had not; they took it for granted.
Do you notice something? I think Whitehead's got a real attitude problem: "No matter that..." Is this how you receive papal teaching? Is this how we should react to the Magisterium of the Church? "Hey, no matter you're being really unjust here, Pope Leo! No matter you don't really know what you're talking about, Holy Father! If you only knew!" Yeah, that sounds really Catholic. But look at what Whitehead is tacitly suggesting. He's saying that the Church's insistence that Protestants and Orthodox return to her, was wrong-headed, fruitless, or imprudent. Never mind that, in the case of the Orthodox, she had beckoned for their return for almost 1,000 years, and in the case of the Protestants, for over 400 years. Whitehead is saying that for such a long time, the Catholic Church was doing the wrong thing, that her insistence on the heretics' return was not the right attitude, that for so many years the Holy Church was being impotent in the matter of making converts. This is what I mean by slapping the Catholic Church in the face in order to vindicate the Vatican II revolution.
Obviously, the very idea that the Catholic Church's universal practice could be wrong-headed for so long is itself impious, if not heretical. Whitehead, though, must accuse the Catholic Church of this, else he cannot defend Vatican II. Yet in 1902 Pope Leo XIII already warned the faithful against changing directions: "It is impossible to approve in Catholic publications a style inspired by unsound novelty which seems to deride the piety of the faithful and dwells on the introduction of a new order of Christian life, on new directions of the Church, on new aspirations of the modern soul, on a new social vocation of the clergy, on a new Christian civilization, and many other things of the same kind" (Instruction of the Sacred Congregation of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs).
By the way, Pope Leo XIII in particular writes very charitably and lovingly when he asks the separated Christians to become Catholic. The encyclical Praeclara Gratulationis is a good example of this, and I encourage everyone to read it. But Whitehead makes it seem as though the Pope simply "expected" the return of the Protestants, as though he didn't do anything to help them understand that they were in error and needed to become Catholic in order to be saved. The opposite is the case. Pope Leo XIII made clear that he was there to welcome them back into the Church, his arms extended, ready to forgive their separation and heal the wounds, if only they were willing to renounce their errors and schism.
Certainly the degree of culpability is less for a Protestant who was born into Protestantism in 1850 than for a Protestant who spat Pope Leo X in the face at the time of the Reformation. But this does not mean that there is now no schism, or only a negligible schism, or that Protestants as such are not on their way to perdition. Our criterion here has to be Catholic teaching, and not what Mr. Whitehead may or may not wish reality to be.
So, what does Mr. Whitehead propose to change the key word of "return" to instead? He does not say explicitly. From the rest of his article, I gather he would like the new key word to be "unity." However, this key word can be extremely misleading, for if instead of seeking the return of the Protestants to Catholicism, we now seek "unity" with Protestants, it is no longer clear, just by looking at the word "unity," whether it is meant that Protestants still need to become Catholics, or if perhaps it is not rather the case (as it is now) that Catholics and Protestants recognize that they both need to give up certain things in order to share a common faith. Of course this is completely heretical, and this would explain why the key word, per infallible dogma, must always be "return." For this word signifies without ambiguity that those who profess to be Christian but are not Catholic once were Catholic and must become Catholic again in order to be saved. The word "unity" conveys no such thing-it could mean "return," i.e., if we say that the only way to achieve unity is for the dissidents to become Catholic again, but in this case, why use such an ambiguous term as "unity" and not retain the clearer term "return"? Does Whitehead propose that we mislead the Protestants by harping on "unity" if in fact we only desire their "return"?
The Holy Office under Pope Pius XII as well warned against minimizing the fact that Protestants must return to the Catholic Church by using ambiguous language: "…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" (Instruction "On the Ecumenical Movement", 1949).
Vatican II actually says that ecumenical action "proceed[s] from the marvelous ways of God" (Unitatis Redintegratio, par. 4). But one wonders: if this is true, how come the Church never knew of such ecumenism, but in fact condemned it, until the modernists got through in 1958?
With regards to Whitehead's pushing for "unity" instead of "return," there are only two possibilities here: either "unity" means "return," in which case it is more honest and more safeguarding of Catholic dogma to use the term "return"; or we do not mean "return," in which case "unity" is heretical, for there can be no unity other than that of them renouncing their errors and returning to the Catholic Church, as the Popes of the Catholic Church have made clear again and again.
There was, and is, nothing wrong with the point of view holding that serious Christians ought to wish for the fullness of Christ's truth and grace, and ought to try to seek them where they are to be found, namely, in the Catholic Church.
Oh, thank you. Whitehead just allowed all Catholics to hold to the watered-down version of the truth, that is, that "doctrinal aberration" (as Msgr. Fenton called it) that only considers the relationship between the Catholic Church and other religions as one of fullness vs. incomplete participations in that fullness. Note what Whitehead does not say: he does not say that there is nothing wrong with the "point of view" holding that all must become Catholic to be saved. But that is the Catholic "point of view"-the Catholic dogma!
[…] The Catholic Church suddenly looks a whole lot better to some serious Christians when they see their own denominations buying into these modern ideologies [e.g., abortion and gay rights].
And this Whitehead considers a great victory for Catholicism: Protestants who become Catholic because they are disillusioned by their churches' stances on rights for murder and sodomy. Are these real conversions? Or are these conversions only due to the fact their Protestant churches started to teach more obvious moral error? In other words, what would these converts have done if their churches had not succumbed to these moral evils? If this is the quality of conversions to "Catholicism" that we see these days, it is no wonder that the Vatican II church resembles the Catholic Church less and less each day.
As his essay progresses, Whitehead speaks explicitly about "unity." He says that it was the great number of non-Catholics that concerned Vatican II and John Paul II, and that for this reason the council and John Paul II had been looking for "unity" with them. Apparently now this "unity" thing is something more than a mere return. I'm sitting here and wondering what else besides a "mere" return of the dissidents would have to be necessary or could even be possible for there to be full unity among all those seeking to follow Christ? Can you think of something? Let me tell you what Whitehead and Vatican II came up with: "reaching out" to those Protestants and "discussing our differences with them" -- in short, "ecumenism." As if the Catholic Church had not reached out to the dissidents before Vatican II! Again and again the Popes appealed to the Protestants to return to the fold; that's why the Catholic Church had lay and clerical apologists, to bring people (back) into the Church. I really think it is a stretch--and another slap into the face--to suggest that before "ecumenism" the Catholic Church simply "expected" the return of the Protestants without actually bringing the true Gospel to them. We had apologists, missionaries, teachers. We had people offering the Holy Mass, making sacrifices, doing penances, and praying the Holy Rosary for the conversion of sinners, infidels, heretics, schismatics, and apostates. What we did not have, thank God, is "discussing our differences with them." But more on that later.
I don't know about Whitehead, but certainly many people since Vatican II have adopted the idea that somehow this "unity" between Catholics and Protestants is to be realized in some "future church" that "reconciles" the two religions in a so-called "unity in diversity" and rightly recognize that, at least in practice, this is what the ecumenical movement has amounted to.
Curiously enough, Vatican II seems to confirm exactly that: the ecumenical movements wishes to establish "unity" in a future church that still needs to be realized: "And yet, almost everyone, though in different ways, longs for the one visible Church of God, a Church truly universal and sent forth to the whole world that the world may be converted to the Gospel and so be saved, to the glory of God" (Unitatis Redintegratio, par. 1).
Perhaps the modernists who wrote and approved this document didn't realize that such a Church already exists: it is the Catholic Church. Pope Pius XI sternly rebuked those who say 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" (Encyclical Mortalium Animos, no. 7).
Whitehead proceeds to defend Vatican II's Decree on Ecumenism:
The Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, was the Council's answer: new ecumenical initiatives and approaches imperatively had to be carried out by the Catholic Church herself.
As Vatican II saw the situation, there was at least this capital defect in the idea that what was required was simply a "return" to the Catholic Church by the separated brethren, and that defect was this: that not all that many of the separated brethren were returning.
Let me get this straight. The "capital defect" in the Church's dogma that non-Catholic Christians must simply return to the Catholic Church to be saved is that there are not enough converts? Can anyone explain this blasphemous folly to me? This makes absolutely no sense. A teaching is not true or false depending on how many people abide by it. We might as well say that the "defect" in the Church's dogma that there can be no separation of Church and State is that there are no more Catholic countries left. Does this sad fact in any way impact the teaching? But then again, Whitehead needed to find a way to vindicate Vatican II's ecumenism, so he needed to say something against the "return" theology of the Catholic Church.
Now, all of this is pretty stunning. We're being told at one and the same time that asking Protestants to simply "return" to Catholicism is hopelessly pre-conciliar, that the Church today needs to "regard" the separated Christians "differently" than she has always regarded those who have strayed from her - and that the real reason for this is that not enough Protestants are in fact returning. One might say that holding this position in 1958 was simply impious, perhaps heretical-but holding it in 2004 is nothing short of insane, especially now that we have seen the fruits of Vatican II's ecumenism - not exactly an overabundance of Protestants forsaking their man-made religion, retracting their errors, realizing that they can only be saved in the Catholic Church. (More on this in a little bit.)
The ecumenical movement at the time seemed to be a largely Protestant affair, organized primarily against the Catholic Church, as a matter of fact…
Not only that - it was also strictly condemned by the Popes. Pope Leo XIII chastised Cardinal Gibbons for participating at an ecumenical conference and reinforced Catholic teaching regarding the Church's necessity for salvation; Pope St. Pius X condemned the Sillon in France, which certainly had the spirit of ecumenism, and condemned modernist indifferentism; Pope Pius XI wrote an encyclical condemning ecumenism; the Holy Office in 1949 issued an instruction condemning ecumenical practices; and in 1950 Pope Pius XII warned against making the dogma of "no salvation outside the Church" meaningless. But then came Vatican II, and all of a sudden (according to Whitehead), it hit the Catholic Church that ecumenism was the best thing since sliced bread! Are these people for real?
The Council's response to all this thus required a new approach.
Why? What was wrong with the perennial "approach" of insisting that all that is needed is that non-Catholics become Catholic? Oh, right, there were not enough people actually becoming Catholic. So the Church's perennial practice rooted in Catholic dogma gets thrown out the window because conversions have supposedly been few. Instead, non-Catholic Christians are being offered phony talk about "unity," which, as I said earlier, is either dishonest (if it is simply used to cover the real intent of making them renounce their errors and become Catholic) or heretical (if "unity" means something other than Protestants becoming Catholic).
The approach adopted entailed taking seriously the lesson of the Parable of the Lost Sheep, that is, the Church herself had to go out after the separated and erring brethren!
Second slap in the face. See, for 2,000 years, the Catholic Church "didn't get it." Then, finally, the glorious 1960's came around, and the Church realized that, really, it was about time to take Sacred Scripture seriously. My goodness. The Gospel according to Whitehead?
Against this, look at what Pope Leo XIII teaches, and how very much the Parable of the Lost Sheep is realized, as something the Catholic Church cannot neglect because it is an integral part of her divine mission:
Pressed on to Our intent by Charity, that hastens fastest there where the need is greatest, We direct Our first thoughts to those most unfortunate of all nations who have never received the light of the Gospel, or who, after having possessed it, have lost it through neglect or the vicissitudes of time: Hence do they ignore God, and live in the depths of error. Now, as all salvation comes from Jesus Christ--for there is no other Name under Heaven given to men whereby we must be saved--Our ardent desire is that the most Holy Name of Jesus should rapidly pervade and fill every land.
And here, indeed, is a duty which the Church, faithful to the Divine Mission entrusted to her, has never neglected. What has been the object of her labors for more than nineteen centuries? Is there any other work she has undertaken with greater zeal and constancy than that of bringing the nations of the earth to the Truth and Principles of Christianity? Today, as ever, by Our Authority, the Heralds of the Gospel constantly cross the seas to reach the farthest corners of the earth; and We Pray God daily that in His goodness He may deign to increase the number of His Ministers who are really worthy of this Apostolate, and who are ready to Sacrifice their convenience, their health, and their very life, if need be, in order to extend the frontiers of the Kingdom of Christ.
Do Thou, above all, O Savior and Father of mankind, Christ Jesus, hasten and do not delay to bring about what Thou didst once promise to do--that when lifted up from the earth Thou wouldst draw all things to Thyself. Come, then, at last, and manifest Thyself to the immense multitude of souls who have not felt, as yet, the ineffable Blessings which Thou hast earned for men with Thy Blood; rouse those who are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, that, enlightened by the rays of Thy Wisdom and Virtue, in Thee and by Thee "they may be made perfect in one."
With no less affection do We now look upon the nations who, at a more recent date, were separated from the Roman Church by an extraordinary revolution of things and circumstances. Let them forget the various events of times gone by, let them raise their thoughts far above all that is human, and seeking only truth and salvation, reflect within their hearts upon the Church as it was constituted by Christ. If they will but compare that Church with their own communions, and consider what the actual state of Religion is in these, they will easily acknowledge that, forgetful of their early history, they have drifted away, on many and important points, into the novelty of various errors; nor will they deny that of what may be called the Patrimony of Truth, which the authors of those innovations carried away with them in their desertion, there now scarcely remains to them any article of belief that is really certain and supported by Authority.
Therefore it is, that having lost all hope of an agreement in their persuasions, they now proclaim and recommend a union of brotherly love. And rightly, too, no doubt, for we should all be united by the bond of mutual Charity. Our Lord Jesus Christ enjoined it most emphatically, and wished that this love of one another should be the mark of His Disciples. But how can hearts be united in perfect Charity where minds do not agree in Faith?
It is on this account that many of those We allude to men of sound judgment and seeking after Truth, have looked to the Catholic Church for the sure way of salvation; for they clearly understand that they could never be united to Jesus Christ, as their Head if they were not members of His Body, which is the Church; nor really acquire the True Christian Faith if they rejected the Legitimate teaching confided to Peter and his Successors. Such men as these have recognized in the Church of Rome the Form and Image of the True Church, which is clearly made manifest by the Marks that God, her Author, placed upon her: and not a few who were possessed with penetrating judgment and a special talent for historical research, have shown forth in their remarkable writings the uninterrupted succession of the Church. of Rome from the Apostles, the integrity of her Doctrine, and the consistency of her Rule and Discipline.
Praeclara Gratulationis, 1894).
We can clearly see here that Pope Leo XIII wrote with inimitable eloquence and burning charity in order to bring back the Protestants and the Eastern Schismatics, and to make sure the Gospel is preached also to the heathens, that all might be saved. But, "no matter." Pope Leo didn't take the Parable of the Lost Sheep seriously; he didn't know what he was talking about; he didn't realize that most heretics and schismatics grow up in their errors; he didn't know that we need "interreligious dialogue" and work for "peace" with Buddhists and congratulate them on their "holy days." Not until Vatican II would the "Church" finally understand all this, and of course we have seen the great fruits of that for the last 40 years. I guess I better not start listing them. Perhaps most ironic fruit is the story of the Eastern Orthodox priest, Fr. Popian, who escaped from Romania to the Vatican and wanted to become Catholic, only to be told that he could not because his conversion would hurt relations with the Eastern Orthodox…
But notice how Pope Leo makes clear that the Church has always taught the Gospel to all, whether heathen, heretic, or schismatic. The Church preaches and teaches - she does not "discuss differences" on a level with the dissidents. The Apostles did not sit down with the pagans and ask them if they could tell them about their gods and maybe we could find some things in common. No, the Apostles went out to preach the Gospel and convert. And may I remind everyone that this mission was miraculously successful, for the Early Church expanded enormously despite great difficulties - and without any "ecumenism"! And so, friends, let us recognize what's really going on here: the idea that there were not enough converts before Vatican II, and that therefore we needed "ecumenism," is nothing but a false pretext. I am not saying that Whitehead is lying, only that he is mistaken. Ecumenism doesn't make converts - it suffocates conversions, and the last 45 years have shown exactly that. (Jones shows that conversions in the United States between 1965 and 2002 have declined by 56%.)
Let us return to the Whitehead piece:
The Council elected, in effect . . . to join the ecumenical movement. The idea was that the Catholic Church need give up nothing of her traditional claim to be the "one true Church" simply by discussing her differences with those Christians and Christian Churches and ecclesia communities that did not accept the Church's claim (and, in the meantime, praying with them about it all).
Well, a few years before Vatican II, other people had already thought of these glorious ideas. If there are meetings in which Catholics meet Protestants to convert them, this is wonderful, though even there great care must be taken lest the truth be compromised. The Holy Office under Pope Pius XII therefore issued an instruction on the ecumenical movement in 1949 and made clear:
"With regard especially to [mixed assemblies and conferences of Catholics with non-Catholics], which in recent times have begun to be held in many places to promote 'union' in the faith, there is need of quite peculiar vigilance and control on the part of Ordinaries. For if on the one hand these meetings afford the desired opportunity to spread among non-Catholics the knowledge of Catholic doctrine, which is generally not sufficiently known to them, yet on the other hand they easily involve no slight danger of indifferentism for Catholics. In cases where there seems to be some hope of good results, the Ordinary shall see that the thing is properly managed, designating for these meetings priests who are as well qualified as possible to explain and defend Catholic doctrine properly and appropriately. The faithful, however, should not attend these meetings unless they have obtained special permission from Ecclesiastical Authority, and this shall be given only to those who are known to be well instructed and strong in their faith. Where there is no apparent hope of good results, or where the affair involves special dangers on other grounds, the faithful are to be prudently kept away from the meetings, and the meetings themselves are soon to be ended or gradually suppressed. As experience teaches that larger meetings of this sort usually bear little fruit and involve greater danger, these should be permitted only after very careful consideration." (ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDFECUM.HTM)
Now, honestly, folks, can anyone truthfully affirm that these standards are abided by during today's "interreligious dialogues"? Is this what we saw after Vatican II? Can Mr. Whitehead name one single non-Catholic theologian who, as a result of these ecumenical / interreligious dialogue meetings, is aware that he must become a Catholic in order to be saved?
Funny thing is, not too long ago, a "pastor" emailed me, not about theology but about philosophy. Having my suspicions, I asked him whether he was a Protestant. He affirmed it but was quick to add that he was very much in favor of and engaged in ecumenical relations with the "Catholic Church." Hearing this, I knew it was a perfect opportunity to ask whether he had any impression that he would have to become Catholic to be saved. Friends, it was the last thing on his mind! He unequivocally stated that he absolutely rejected any such idea. Rather, he thought it was all about working together and accepting our differences.
This is reality, folks. All this talk about "discussing our differences" that Whitehead is in favor of has led to indifferentism. Because once you "discuss differences" in a setting in which the Catholic Church is placed on the same level as the other religions, you have already lost. And this is why we have indifferentism today instead of conversions to Catholicism. This is why the Popes of the Catholic Church have always condemned ecumenism, because they knew it would result in a total distortion of Catholicism, and because it operates on the basis that all religions are equal to some extent.
Again, the Holy Office in 1949 warned against precisely this: "Meanwhile they [the dissidents] 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."
I realize that my article is very long already. My intention was to finish commenting on Whitehead's piece in just one article, but I will have to continue in the next installment. Until then, keep the Faith.
For past columns by Mario Derksen, see Archives for www.DailyCatholic.org/2005mdi.htm