July 27, 2005
Wednesday
vol 16, no. 208

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 8: An Attempt at a Defense (3)

    "Of course, Vatican II here has given us a clue as to what is meant by 'imperfect communion,' since the council alleges it is possessed by all who believe in Christ and have been baptized. In other words, according to Vatican II, baptism and faith in Christ, no matter what other heresies or schisms one may embrace, puts one in communion with the Catholic Church, though this communion may only be 'imperfect.'
    Surely, then, Archbishop Lefebvre was in at least 'imperfect communion' with the New Church? Would they accept that? I don't see how it doesn't follow from the premise, for Archbishop Lefebvre was certainly baptized and certainly believed in Christ. But this is not how the New Church deals with traditionalists, is it? Quite ironically, when a local Novus Ordo diocese condemns traditionalists and their 'illegitimate' chapels, they usually say that the traditionalists are 'not in communion with' the local ordinary. I don't recall ever reading that they were only in 'imperfect communion' with the local bishop."



    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.

    The absurdity and erroneousness of the Novus Ordo position is brought out in particular by the fact that the Vatican condemned ecumenism until the very death of Pope Pius XII in 1958. Since nothing changed with regards to the status of Protestants between 1958 and 1965, it is truly absurd to think that the Catholic Church's position towards Protestants needed to change after Pope Pius XII, while at the same time maintaining that the pre-1958 prohibition of ecumenism was not wrong, imprudent, or evil.

    This is why I have been saying that it is wrong for Whitehead to argue in favor of Vatican II's ecumenism on the grounds that today's Orthodox's and Protestants' "ancestors may have elected separation [from the Catholic Church]; they themselves had not; they took it for granted" (p. 24). That is, Whitehead's point is that something needed to change in the Church because today's Protestants and Orthodox are supposedly in a different state than their ancestors were in when they split. There is some truth to that, of course (more on that later), but even if we grant this premise, the fact remains that this change of status occurred long before Vatican II, and not between 1958 and 1965. For the Orthodox, a "change in status" might have occurred by 1200, for the Protestants, by 1660 or so. What follows from this is that Whitehead's argument necessarily implies that the Catholic Church's discipline-rooted-in-dogma regarding the Protestants and Orthodox was wrong, imprudent, harmful, or evil for centuries before Vatican II! Clearly, this is impious, and probably approaching heresy if not outright heretical.

    I am writing this only to clarify that my critique of Whitehead does not involve a false dilemma, of which someone has recently accused me. If Whitehead is right, then the pre-Vatican II stance regarding Protestants and other dissidents was, quite frankly, WRONG.

    Let us now look further at Whitehead's article. It gets very interesting now. He quotes Vatican II's decree on ecumenism:

    "For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect. The differences that exist in varying degrees between them and the Catholic Church--whether in doctrine and sometimes in discipline, or concerning the structure of the Church--do indeed create many obstacles, sometimes serious ones, to full ecclesiastical communion. The ecumenical movement is striving to overcome these obstacles. But even in spite of them it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ's body, and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church."
    [Vatican II, Unitatis Redintegratio, no. 3]

    Now, frankly, I cannot believe what I am reading here. The council here actually announces an "imperfect communion" with the Catholic Church of all those who are baptized and believe in Christ. What in the world, pray tell, is an "imperfect communion"? Is someone in "imperfect communion" inside the Church or outside the Church? That would be important to know, for we know that outside the Catholic Church, no one can be saved. If they are outside the Church, how can they be in any communion at all with the Church? If they are inside the Church, and thus in a position to be saved, then Vatican II overturned one of the Catholic Church's most fundamental dogmas and is clearly heretical, for it is obvious heresy to say that all men who are baptized and believe in Christ are inside the Catholic Church, never mind if they submit to the Roman Pontiff or not, never mind if they deny certain dogmas of the Church, never mind if they consider heretical the Catholic creed.

    So what is Vatican II saying? I would really like Mr. Whitehead (or anyone else) to answer that question. I do not think that Whitehead would actually say that Vatican II here teaches that Protestants and Orthodox are a part of and inside the Catholic Church. This would be so blatantly heretical, impious, and erroneous that I cannot imagine Whitehead would say this. So the only other possibility, as far as I can see (and as far as the principle of non-contradiction would seem to permit), is that Whitehead thinks Vatican II says that these dissidents are outside the Church. But if outside, where does this "imperfect communion" business come from?

    Let us first analyze what "imperfect communion" could possibly mean. How much sense does it make to say that someone is in communion with the Church, but only imperfectly? I do not recall ever reading about this "imperfect communion" business as part of Catholic teaching or theology before 1958. It makes no sense to me. I either share a "common union" with the Church, or I do not. An "imperfect" common union I cannot imagine. I am either part of the Body of Christ, or I am not. I cannot see how someone could be part of the Body of Christ "imperfectly."

    Of course, Vatican II here has given us a clue as to what is meant by "imperfect communion," since the council alleges it is possessed by all who believe in Christ and have been baptized. In other words, according to Vatican II, baptism and faith in Christ, no matter what other heresies or schisms one may embrace, puts one in communion with the Catholic Church, though this communion may only be "imperfect."

    Surely, then, Archbishop Lefebvre was in at least "imperfect communion" with the New Church? Would they accept that? I don't see how it doesn't follow from the premise, for Archbishop Lefebvre was certainly baptized and certainly believed in Christ. But this is not how the New Church deals with traditionalists, is it? Quite ironically, when a local Novus Ordo diocese condemns traditionalists and their "illegitimate" chapels, they usually say that the traditionalists are "not in communion with" the local ordinary. I don't recall ever reading that they were only in "imperfect communion" with the local bishop.

    In general, what about people who have been excommunicated? Are they too in "imperfect communion" with the Church? If so, why is their status one of ex-communi-cation? Ex communio, as in "outside of communion"? It is easily apparent here, I think, that Vatican II's teaching that faith in Christ and the baptismal character suffice to be considered in communion with the Church, even if we qualify it as "imperfect." I think the fact of the matter is simply that there is no such thing as "imperfect communion," any more than there is an "imperfect pregnancy."

    Whitehead defends Vatican II's certainly novel idea by saying that "[t]he Catholic Church believes that sacraments are real, after all" (p. 25). Yes, they are real indeed, but so are schism and heresy, and simply having the baptismal character together with "faith in Christ" does not put me inside the Catholic Church, if it stops there. And it certainly does stop there in the case of today's dissidents, for the fact remains that Protestants and Orthodox even today are heretics and schismatics and are pertinacious in their position ("pertinacious" meaning that they are aware that the Catholic Church teaches differently and requires their submission-see more about this here: The Aquinas Site). And this state of affairs is sufficient for them to incur ipso facto excommunication by divine law-yes, ex-communi-cation, as in "outside of communion with the Church." So let's stop this "imperfect communion" nonsense.

    Apparently, then, in the world of Vatican II, the difference between Protestant and Catholic is no longer the difference between outside the Church and inside the Church; it is only now a difference between imperfect vs. perfect communion in that same Catholic Church, i.e., a difference of mode or quality or perhaps degree of communion. Thus, differences "in doctrine and sometimes in discipline, or concerning the structure of the Church" are no longer things that put you outside the Catholic Church but merely prevent you from attaining "full" communion-assuming you're baptized and "have faith in Christ," of course. How such heretical trash could ever have been signed by more than two-thousand bishops is a mystery to me.

    This becomes even more apparent when Vatican II then declares that "all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ's body…." This is obviously false, for he who has been excommunicated, whether by God for heresy or schism, or by the Church for disobedience or sacrilege, for instance, certainly is not a member of Christ's Body, regardless of his faith in Christ and his valid baptism. For goodness' sake, there are baptized people in hell! Are they, too, members of Christ's Body? What part of the Church do they belong to? Church Militant? Church Suffering? Church Triumphant? Or do we have to make up a fourth category for them, Church Damned?

    I think it is quite silly to suggest that what we see here is not a denial of the Catholic dogma "outside the Church, there is no salvation." Let me quote further from Vatican II those portions quoted also by Whitehead:

    "Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ….

       It follows that 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, no. 3]

    One is reminded here of Msgr. Fenton's 1958 warning that "[s]ome writers [try] to restrict the meaning of the Church's necessity for salvation to the fact that the gifts of grace whereby a man actually achieves salvation really belong to the Church" (Fenton, The Catholic Church and Salvation, p. 127). This seems to be more or less what Vatican II is saying here.

    The second paragraph from the above quote is clearly heretical. This is plainly visible from the key phrase "as such," referring to the "separated churches and communities." Here the text is saying that these separated communities, precisely as separated ("as such"), have been used by the Holy Ghost as means of salvation! The "as such" qualification leaves absolutely no loophole, as far as I can see. Now, it is true that the Latin original text of the council here does not unambiguously say "as such" ("per se") but instead uses the word "ipsae," which is best rendered as "those," "those very," or "those [communities] themselves."

    Nevertheless, the translation I'm quoting from is the translation used and quoted by Whitehead himself, and is the one found on the official Vatican web site and contained in Flannery's edition of the conciliar documents, which is imprimatured. In other words, it is one heck of an official translation, and the Vatican seems to have no problem endorsing and using it on its own site. But regardless, the sentence is heretical, whether or not one clarifies it by using "as such," because the text speaks of the very communities separated from the Church as means of salvation, when the Catholic Church alone is God's means of salvation, as the "outside the Church" dogma teaches.

    The standard objection that is made here is that many Protestant churches have valid baptisms, as do the Eastern Orthodox, and so we must consider this as the Holy Ghost using these churches as "means of salvation." But this does not fly. First, the exact opposite of what Vatican II says is the case here: the Holy Ghost has not used the heretics to confer salvation, but the heretics have used the Holy Ghost (by hijacking the sacrament of baptism) as a means of salvation (or so they think). That's quite a difference!

    Second, since the council says that the separated communities themselves have been used as means of salvation, it is saying that men can be saved by God in a heretical religion-which blatantly contradicts Pope Boniface VIII's infallible decree that "outside of [the Catholic Church] there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins" (Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302) as well as the Council of Florence's infallible teaching that "none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but … they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the Devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with her...."

    Since the council speaks of the dissident communities themselves (and, in the English translation, making it even clearer by saying "as such") and not a member here or there who might be invincibly ignorant of the truth and does not hold to any heresy (let's say at least hypothetically, for this is a whole other can of worms), it confers upon those communities the status of "means of salvation" as separated churches, and thus it definitely contradicts the Catholic dogma that outside of the Catholic Church, no one can be saved. This isn't Feeneyism, by the way; it is Catholicism. I am no Feenyite.

    Next comes (though not quoted by Whitehead) Vatican II's caveat to dissidents that "it is only through Christ's Catholic Church, which is 'the all-embracing means of salvation,' that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation" (ibid.). I find this somewhat humorous, for the council just conceded that separated communities can be means of salvation, yet now it adds, "but not fully." What kind of silly game is this? What kind of pussyfooting kindergarten was this council? Can anyone honestly maintain that this was an Ecumenical Council of the Holy Catholic Church??

    Whitehead writes excitedly: "This approach represented a whole new way of looking not only at separated Christians but at the Church and ecclesial communities to which they belong" (p. 26). No kidding! Yes, he certainly got that right! He then uses the cliché of looking at the glass of water not as half-empty but as half-full-and somehow this is supposed to be a great step forward for the Catholic Church! As I said in my last installment, you can only say this at the expense of trampling upon the Catholic Church until 1958! For if this is "progress," if this is truly something more enlightened, something better, then indeed what the Catholic Church did until 1958 with regards to Protestants must have been simply wrong! Nothing changed with the Protestants between 1958 and 1965, so this "new way of looking at them" can only ensure a condemnation of pre-conciliar times. And let me briefly reiterate here what I said before, namely, that if the Protestant glass is filled with pure water only one-half, we must not forget to add that the other half of the glass is filled with poison! Thus even the pure water will not suffice for salvation.

    Whitehead goes on: "This new way of seeing non-Catholic Christians and their Churches or communions constituted the basis on which the Catholic Church got launched as an active participant in the ecumenical movement following Vatican II" (p. 26). Well, this definitely explains why the Vatican's ecumenism has resulted in a destruction of Catholic dogma and the dissemination of indifferentism!

    After all this, Whitehead has the nerve to say: "At the same time, the Church gave up no part of her claim to be the one, true Church of Christ" (p. 26). You've got to be kidding! No doubt Vatican II still affirmed this in words, i.e. the council paid lipservice to this teaching, but it had certainly emptied the doctrine of all content and significance, in fact, had even changed it to mean that the Mystical Body of Christ and the Catholic Church are no longer strictly identical (as had been taught up to Pope Pius XII) but, rather, that the Mystical Body of Christ only exists in (literally, "subsists in") the Catholic Church - a novel teaching with horrendous implications, but this we cannot discuss in this series. *

    We need to continue in the next installment, but until then, lest anyone should think that somehow Vatican II's Decree on Ecumenism isn't binding for those who believe it was a real council and Paul VI a real Pope, Paul VI himself promulgated the document as follows: "And We, by the apostolic authority given Us by Christ and in union with the Fathers, approve, decree and establish them in the Holy Spirit and command that they be promulgated for the glory of God."

    Just so you know.

Mario Derksen


* [Editor's Note: For more on "subsists in" which is the proverbial and literal "straw that broke the camel's back" specifically with Lumen Gentium, we recommend Griff Ruby's "What is your picture" series and A Lesson from Jolly Old England to complement and reinforce what Mario has written above.]

For past columns by Mario Derksen, see Archives for www.DailyCatholic.org/2005mdi.htm


    Mario Derksen's TRADITIONAL INSIGHTS
    July 27, 2005
    Volume 16, no. 208