May 24, 2001
volume 12, no. 130

An Urgent Plea: Do Not Change the Papacy

Part Four: This desire for reform was taken up by Your Holiness in the Encyclical Ut unum sint

Atila Sinke Guimarăes, Michael J. Matt, Dr. Marian Horvat and John Vennari

    Footnotes in Blue
Dear Holy Father,

    Contrary to what would have been expected, Your Holiness took up this progressivist agenda for the reform of the Papacy. Alleging that "the path of ecumenism is irrevocable," (24)

    (24) (24) "At the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church committed herself irrevocably to following the path of the ecumenical venture" (Ut unum sint, n. 3a).
and that it constitutes "a duty of the Christian conscience" (25)
    (25) "The Catholic Church embraces with hope the commitment to ecumenism as a duty of the Christian conscience" (Ibid., nos. 8c, 15a).
- statements disputable in themselves - you proposed changing the traditional doctrine of the Papal Primacy in order to remove the "difficulty" that the Papacy causes for Protestants and Schismatics. In your Encyclical Ut unum sint, you gave new emphasis to words you had already spoken: "As I acknowledged on the important occasion of a visit to the World Council of Churches in Geneva on June 12, 1984, the Catholic Church's conviction that in the ministry of the Bishop of Rome she has preserved .… the visible sign and guarantor of unity constitutes a difficulty for most other Christians" (n. 88).

    To remove this "difficulty," you assume the responsibility of this reform: "I am convinced that I have a particular responsibility in this regard, above all in acknowledging the ecumenical aspirations of the majority of the Christian communities and in heeding the request made of me to find a way of exercising the Primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation" (n. 95b).

    You have expressed the desire that, together with the Protestants and Schismatics, a search for a new way of exercising the Primacy should be made. In fact, you affirmed: "I insistently pray the Holy Spirit to shine his light upon us, enlightening all the pastors and theologians of our churches, that we may seek, together of course, the forms in which this ministry may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned" (n. 95c).

    Further on, you even insisted upon receiving the doctrinal collaboration of heretics and Schismatics in order to model the new face of the Papacy: "This is an immense task, which I cannot refuse and which I cannot carry out by myself. 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?" (n. 96).

    Thus, there is not the least doubt that you are the principal impelling force for the reform of the Petrine Primacy.

    However, an important question still remains to be answered. How would you construct the "reformed" face of the Papacy? What you have written in Ut unum sint offers some indication.

    Basing yourself on the Decree Unitatis redintegratio of Vatican II, you are committed to make "every effort to eliminate words, judgments, and actions which do not respond to the condition of separated brethren with truth and fairness and so make mutual relations between them more difficult" (UR n. 4b; UUS n. 29). How can this norm be applied to the Papacy, since the Protestants deny even the need for its existence and the Schismatics are in a millennium-old revolt against it? It seems that we are walking toward an effective negation of the makeup of the Papacy by which only some of its appearances would be maintained.

    Another principle that you adopted for this proposed reform is that "the manner and order in which Catholic belief is expressed should in no way become an obstacle to dialogue with our brethren" (UR n. 11a; UUS n. 36c). Thus, should one "in no way" make a re-affirmation of the dogmas of Papal Infallibility and the Petrine Primacy, because both are clear obstacles to the desired pan-religious unity?

    According to your words, the first characteristic of the new Papacy is collegiality: "When the Catholic Church affirms that the office of the Bishop of Rome corresponds to the will of Christ, she does not separate this office from the mission entrusted to the whole body of Bishops, who are also 'vicars and ambassadors of Christ.' The Bishop of Rome is a member of the 'College,' and the Bishops are his brothers in the ministry" (UUS n. 95a). Everything seems to indicate that we are facing the same error taught in Lumen gentium (n. 22b), pointed out above. That is to say, the supreme power of the Church would not be the power of the Roman Pontiff, but that of the College, of which the Pope is but a part.

    The second characteristic that you present for the revolution in the Papacy involves the keynote of power. Instead of maintaining the power to command that it has had up until now, the papal "power" would come to be simply the capacity to serve: "The authority proper to this [papal] ministry is completely at the service of God's merciful plan, and it must always be seen in this perspective. Its power is explained from this perspective" (UUS n. 92b).

    How does Your Holiness understand this "service of God's merciful plan"? You identify it with ecumenism: "Ecumenism is not only an internal question of the Christian communities. It is a matter of the love which God has in Jesus Christ for all humanity" (n. 99). Further on you argue that the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity would be working for the success of ecumenism: "There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit is active in this [ecumenical] endeavor and that He is leading the church to the full realization of the Father's plan, in conformity with the will of Christ" (n. 100). In a text already quoted, you speak straightforwardly: "This ministry may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned [the pastors and theologians of our Christian churches]" (n. 95c). Thus, the Papacy you desire would be a "service" to achieve the union of religions without asking the non-Catholic confessions to make a conversion from their false creeds. At times this pan-religious aim is ambiguously presented under the goal of "the unity of the Church." (26)

    (26) On December 5, 1996, the Vatican Information Service posted on the Holy See's Internet site a summary of the official press release of a three-day symposium on the Papal Primacy. Schismatic and Protestant theologians actively participated in this symposium promoted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The official summary states: "The collegial nature of the Episcopate, in fact, includes the function of the Primacy. In this context the Petrine ministry appears as if it were at the service of Church unity, intimately bound to the mission of evangelization."
It is not necessary to point out that until Vatican II such an ecumenism was constantly condemned by the Catholic Magisterium.

    The third characteristic presented in your Encyclical is the installation of a new type of primacy for the Papacy, a presidency of love: "Do not many of those involved in ecumenism today feel a need for such a [Petrine] ministry? A ministry which presides in truth and love so that the ship - that beautiful symbol which the World Council of Churches has chosen as its emblem - will not be buffeted by the storms and will one day reach its haven" (n. 97b).

    These are the general features of the new face of the Papacy that you have outlined in the Encyclical Ut unum sint.

TOMORROW: Part Five: This planned reform of the Papacy is being praised by various progressivist theologians

    NOTE: For the complete book, "An Urgent Plea" write: Tradition In Action, P.O. Box 23135, Los Angeles, CA 90023 or call 1-323-725-0219 to order the book. Costs in the U.S. are $7. plus $3. for shipping and handling. Overseas orders are more for shipping. We recommend going to for more information and other books and tapes available.

May 24, 2001
volume 12, no. 130
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