May 31, 2001
volume 12, no. 134

An Urgent Plea: Do Not Change the Papacy

Part Eight: Ecumenism and the Reform of the Papacy


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

    Footnotes in Blue
Dear Holy Father,

    The principal motive being given for the announced reform of the Papacy is the need to remove the great obstacle that it would represent for ecumenical unity. That is to say, if the present definition of the Papal Primacy were attenuated, then the Protestants and Schismatics would open their arms to unite with the Catholics.

    Now, according to news reports in the national and international press, this supposition is false. The meager interest shown by the theologians of these false religions to your invitation to present their contributions to the reform of the Papacy stands as eloquent proof. Only a handful of publicly known proposals have arrived in response to your request, (35)

    (35) In 1996 Robert MacFarlane wrote the article "An Anglican Response to the Encyclical Ut unum sint," Ecumenical Trends 25:12. In 1997 "Orthodox" theologian Olivier Clément published the book Rome autrement. The same year Waldensian scholar Paolo Ricca wrote the article "The Papacy in Discussion: Expectations and Perspectives," One in Christ, 33:283. In the same year, the Church of England published the observations That They All May be One. In 1998 Hermann J. Pottmeyer published the book Towards a Papacy in Communion. In May 1999 the ARCIC-II, the Second Anglican-Catholic International Commission issued The Gift of Authority, a document that intended to be a statement on the Papacy acceptable to Catholics and Anglicans. But far from that aim, it raised strong opposition in both religions, for example, from the progressivist Catholic theologian Hans Küng and the Anglican religious scholar Geoffrey Kirk.
and, even then, one cannot exclude the possibility that some of these suggestions were made at the instigation of the Vatican itself.

    The proof of the collapse of ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue is not limited to only this. We could repeat here the documentation of the failure of ecumenism presented to Your Holiness in the book Quo vadis, Petre? (37)

    (37) A. S. Guimarães, Quo vadis, Petre?, Chap. III, "Failures in the Internal Dynamics of Religious Politics" (Los Angeles: TIA, Inc., 1999), pp. 51-90.
It is a documentation all the more convincing in that it comes almost invariably from press sources that are promoting ecumenism. The book documents the failure of ecumenism and the inter-religious dialogue up to the year 1999. To update those facts, we ask leave to present, among many others, only a few documents from authoritative sources that analyze the year 2000.

    The topic of the failure of ecumenism is addressed in an interview by Mr. Andrea Riccardi, founder and president of the Community of Sant'Egidio, (37)

    (37) Andrea Riccardi, "Mon bilan du Jubilé," Actualité des Religions, Paris, January 2001, pp. 8-9.
a famous lay Catholic center that, along with other activities, promotes ecumenism. Its directors speak with a certain authority on the topic of ecumenism and orient many like-minded institutes for ecumenism.

    In the interview, Riccardi tries to immunize his readers against those who "are pessimistic about the future of ecumenism." Attempting to bolster hope among its proponents, he offers these weak arguments: "We have not exhausted the dialogue among us [Christians]. Numerous problems persist, born from concrete situations. For example, the problem of the Uniates, (38)

    (38) Such "problems" would include, for example, the work of conversion carried out by the Ukrainian Catholics of the Eastern rite who are not obeying the ecumenical orientation of Rome as well as their attempts to reclaim the Catholic Churches that had been confiscated and given to the Schismatics under Communism. Marian T. Horvat, "Handing Over the Symbolic Icon of Our Lady of Kazan," The Remnant, January 31, 2001, p. 7.
the tensions between the Catholic Church and Russian Orthodox Church, and also between Moscow and Constantinople. On this level I fear a theological dialogue that could be transformed into technical diplomacy. In a contrary sense, I am convinced of the need for a 'dialogue of charity.' A dialogue that does not exclude the dimension of love."

    The practical conclusion: Ecumenism is once again beached, left high and dry. The theological incompatibilities remain insoluble and threaten to spoil the "dimension of love."

    Riccardi, as one who knows the subject well, explains the intentions of Your Holiness: "In Tertio millennio adveniente, John Paul II expressed a dream: 'We present ourselves on the occasion of the Grand Jubilee, if not totally united, at least much closer to overcoming the divisions of the Second Millennium.' He was hoping for a 'significant pan-Christian meeting' in Rome …. This meeting would have been a very important sign. He could not realize it in the year 2000. But in the near future it will be an obligatory step." Throughout the interview, the president of Sant'Egidio complains about the difficulties encountered by ecumenism. He ends by affirming, "Pessimism is in fashion today."

    This high-level confirmation of the failure of ecumenism also provides an indirect explanation of the reason why the planned pan-religious meeting did not take place in 1999 or 2000.

    Referring to the inter-religious dialogue, Andrea Riccardi presents this bitter critique about the general orientation of the Vatican: "Was it absolutely necessary for the Jubilee to have assumed an inter-religious dimension? Frankly, I think that it was wrong to insist with the great religions that they participate in this principally Christian, or better, principally Catholic event. Numerous Protestants confessed that they were sympathetic neither to the idea of the Jubilee nor the way that it was conducted by the Vatican. Should we blame them for this? In Lisbon last October on the occasion of the inter-religious meeting promoted by Sant'Egidio, Jews and Muslims commented to me that these celebrations were a great manifestation of civilization. But it was something that did not touch internally on their respective traditions. We should resist the temptation to place ourselves, we Catholics, in the center of the world."

    This clear affirmation of the collapse of the ecumenical and inter-religious initiatives of the Millennium comes from a source indisputably favorable to a pan-religion.

    A French expert on ecumenism, Geoffroy de Turckheim, makes this synopsis of the situation at the end of the year 2000: "The dismantling of the 'insurmountable walls' erected through the centuries between the different Churches has shown itself to demand more time than what was foreseen. The theological differences persist and do not allow themselves to be easily disassociated from the social-cultural factors in which they are inextricably anchored. The notion of 'visible unity,' even though always officially claimed, was affected by the breakdown of the overly idealized image of an 'indivisible' Church that supposedly would have regrouped the first Christians.

    "For some years, the evocative slogans of the 'richness of our differences' have replaced those that used to denounce the 'scandal of our divisions.' For many of the faithful, ecumenism has come to be viewed as a kind of obsession. Suddenly, the euphoria of encounters is replaced by a disillusionment. The desire to be together will have to run the risk of being delayed for a long time due to its clash with doctrinal imperatives, which are very difficult to overcome precisely because they deal with different conceptions of the unity of the Church…. "'I pray that the Jubilee will be a promising opportunity for fruitful cooperation in the many areas that unite us; these are unquestionably more numerous than those which divide us.' The least that can be said is that these words of John Paul II in Tertio millennio adveniente (1994) never went beyond the stage of good intention …. The year 2000 did not represent a good ecumenical harvest. Fleeting difficulties or symptoms of a turnaround in the tendency? The 21st century will answer the question." (39)

    (39) Geffroy de Turckeim, "Le XXe siècle a été oecuménique," Actualité des Religions, January 2001, p. 19.
    Thus, Holy Father, one sees that the reality of ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue is quite different from what certain Vatican sources interested in pleasing you are claiming. Apparently based on such optimistic sources, you have affirmed in Ut unum sint: "The 'universal brotherhood' of Christians has become a firm ecumenical conviction. Consigning to oblivion the excommunications of the past, communities which were once rivals are now in many cases helping one another: Places of worship are sometimes lent out …."(n. 42a). The facts show that this imagined "universal fraternity" actually does not exist outside the restricted circle of those who promote and participate in ecumenical encounters and a certain set of Catholics who mistake the dream for the reality.

    Therefore, the idea that the reform of the Papacy is going to bring about the union of Protestants and Schismatics also does not seem to correspond to reality.

    There is a very grave error that is being committed in the assumption that this pan-religious union is a longing of the multitudes. A deeper analysis of the facts shows, however, that they are silently refusing to go along with this utopist dream, and have increasingly seemed to move in the opposite direction.

    If we consider only the practical aspect, the result of this ecumenical adventure is tragic: the destruction of the Papacy without having achieved the disputable "pastoral" advantage: the professed union of the religions. The question inevitably arises: Was the attainment of this ecumenical and pan-religious unity ever really expected? Or was this merely the pretext for carrying out what the revolutionaries, the Liberals, the Modernists, and the Progressivists have been desiring for so long a time - the end of the papal monarchy?

Tomorrow: Conclusion


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May 31, 2001
volume 12, no. 134
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