Ecumenism, Rightly Understood

In Tyler Blanski’s recent Crisis article titled “Did the Synod Endorse ‘Lifestyle Ecumenism’?,” he claims that “ecumenists are pluralists when it comes to truth.” In other words, they are relativists, searching for unity without truth. Essentially, Blanski claims that this is “what ecumenism [as such] really is.” The question here isn’t whether ecumenism is sometimes practiced in this way (of course it is), but whether the Church in its magisterial documents endorses that view of ecumenical practice and all that it entails. I will briefly argue here that it most definitely does not.

Credo unam ecclesiam
“Christ calls all His disciples to unity” (John 17:20-23), St. John Paul II writes in the introduction of his1995 Encyclical Letter, Ut unum sint, (hereafter Uus). In the Gospel of John, we read that Jesus Himself prayed to His Father, at the hour of His passion, “that all of them may be one” (17:21). What is the nature of this unity? The Church, which is Christ’s body, is neither a collection of individuals, nor a sociological subject–for example, a voluntary association of like-minded individuals created by human agreement–and hence the unity of Christ’s disciples is not that of a mere gathering of people.

Rather, the Church is the reborn (i.e., new) humanity in Christ, who is the New Adam, the religious root of the human race, profoundly described by the Apostle Paul as the “Body of Christ” (in Ephesians and Colossians), with her Head and individual members. The Church is then the religious bond of unity of the reborn human race. As the former Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, puts it, “For the believer … the Church is … a truly new subject called into being by the Word and in the Holy Spirit; and precisely for that reason, the Church herself overcomes the seemingly insurmountable confines of human subjectivity by putting man in contact with the ground of reality which is prior to him.” The ground of reality that is prior to man is Trinitarian communion, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the “faithful are one because, in the Spirit, they are in communion with the Son and, in him, share in his communion with the Father” (Uus §9).

Furthermore, the Church’s unity is not simply a goal or ideal to be sought, or a mere spiritual or invisible unity, contrasted with the diversity of the churches as a necessary mark, here and now, of the visible church. Rather, the Church’s unity is a gift of God—manifested in the visible, historical, temporal, institutional, in short, bodily church—belonging to the Church herself, and, says John Paul, “this gift needs to be received and developed ever more profoundly” (Novo millennio ineunte, Apostolic Letter, January 2001, §48).

This unity is concretely embodied, and thus, as Ratzinger then put it, “The Church of Christ is not something intangible, hidden under the variety of human constructions.” Rather, the Church’s unity has a recognizable delineation, truly existing as a bodily Church: “She is one in [the confession of] faith, one in the celebration of the sacraments, one in apostolic succession, and one in ecclesial governance” (Lumen Gentium §14). This unity is a present reality, here and now, bestowed by the Holy Spirit on Christ’s body, and Christ cannot be divided. “There is one body and one Spirit,” St. Paul states in his Letter to the Ephesians, “just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Eph 4:4-7).

Moreover, as the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium and the Decree Unitatis Redintegratio, as well as the more recent Uus (1995) and Dominus Iesus (2000), fundamentally affirm, the one Church of Christ subsists fully in the Catholic Church. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council teaches the historical continuity between the Church founded by Christ and the Catholic Church. The Church of Jesus Christ exists bodily. Christ himself has willed the Church’s existence; and the Holy Spirit has continually renewed her since Pentecost, ecclesia semper purificanda, preserving her in her essential identity, which belongs to the concreteness of the Incarnation.

The Church is one, absolutely singular, subsisting in the Catholic Church, existing as a single subject in the reality of history. This means that the Catholic Church is (to borrow a phrase from the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus) the most fully and rightly ordered expression of the Body of Christ in time; in her, and in no other, the fullness of the means of salvation is present (Unitatis Redintegratio, §3; Dominus Iesus, §16-17).

Thus, against the background of the Catholic Church’s teaching that she is not merely “one part of a divided whole,” we can easily understand why the Church rejects “ecclesiological relativism,” which is the view that claims that the Church “subsists” intangibly under a variety of human constructions. On this view, according to Ratzinger, “then no Church could claim to possess definitively binding teaching authority, and in this way institutional relativism will lead to doctrinal relativism.” “If belief in ‘the body’ of the Church is taken away,” he adds, “the Church’s concrete claims regarding the content of faith disappear along with her bodiliness.”

Of course we don’t have before us yet the full teaching of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. The Catholic Church in a singularly unique way is the most fully and rightly ordered expression of the Church of Jesus Christ in time and space.

Yet, there is more. This Ecumenical Council also teaches that “many elements of sanctification and truth” (see Lumen Gentium, § 8, 15; Unitatis Redintegratio, §2) can be found outside the visible boundaries of the Church. Thus, this teaching provides a theological foundation for the Catholic Church’s commitment to ecumenical dialogue.

Moreover, these elements of sanctification and truth do not exist in an “ecclesial vacuum” (Uus §13), because there is ecclesial reality, however fragmented, outside the visible boundaries of the Church. Still, these elements are not “static elements passively present in those Churches and Communities,” as John Paul notes (Uus §49), or “autonomous and free-floating,” in the words of Dominican priest and theologian, Aidan Nichols. Indeed, “they derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church.” Adds Nichols, “and coming from that source, carry a built-in gravitational pull back—or on!—towards the Church’s unity.”

Ecumenical Dialogue
The Roman Catholic Church, according to John Paul, holds that “full [visible] communion of course [would] have to come about through the acceptance of the whole truth into which the Holy Spirit guides Christ’s disciples,” says John Paul (Uus, §36). Thus the Church’s vision of visible unity “takes account of all the demands of revealed truth” (Uus, §79). Thus, she seeks to avoid all forms of reductionism or facile agreement, false irenicism, indifference to the Church’s teaching, and common-denominator ecumenicity. John Paul II correctly writes, “Love for the truth is the deepest dimension of any authentic quest for full communion between Christians” (Uus, §36). In other words, he adds, “The unity willed by God can be attained only by the adherence of all to the content of revealed faith in its entirety. In matters of faith, compromise is in contradiction with God who is Truth. In the Body of Christ, ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6), who would consider legitimate a reconciliation brought about at the expense of the truth? … A ‘being together’ which betrayed the truth would thus be opposed both to the nature of God who offers his communion and to the need for truth found in the depths of every human heart” (Uus §18). In short, “Authentic ecumenism is a gift at the service of truth” (Uus §38).

There remains to say something, albeit briefly, about the nature and purpose of dialogue as expressed in Uus §21-40. Most important, an interior conversion of the heart, indeed, repentance, is required as a precondition for engaging in ecumenical dialogue. Why this summons to conversion? “Christian unity is possible,” says John Paul, “provided that we are humbly conscious of having sinned against unity and are convinced of our need for conversion” (Uus §34; see also §82). In this light, we can understand why an examination of conscience is required for authentic dialogue; confessing our sins, repentance, putting ourselves, by God’s grace, in that “interior space where Christ, the source of the Church’s unity, can effectively act, with all the power of his Spirit, the Paraclete” (Uus §35).

The journey of ecumenical dialogue is thus an ongoing “dialogue of conversion,” on both sides, trusting in the reconciling power of the truth which is Christ to overcome the obstacles to unity. The ground motive of this dialogue for reconciliation is “common prayer with our brothers and sisters who seek unity in Christ and in His Church” (Uus §24). “Prayer is the ‘soul’ of the ecumenical renewal and of the yearning for unity,” adds John Paul II. In short, it is the basis and support for everything the [Second Vatican Ecumenical] Council defines as ‘dialogue’” (Uus §28). Indeed, prayer is the heart of spiritual ecumenism.

Sometimes dialogue is made more difficult, indeed, impossible, when our words, judgments, and actions manifest a failure to deal with each other with understanding, truthfully and fairly. “When undertaking dialogue, each side must presuppose in the other a desire for reconciliation, for unity in truth” (Uus §29). Furthermore, dialogue must be deepened in order to engage the other person in a relationship of mutual trust and acceptance as a fellow Christian, responsive to him in Christian love. A necessary sign of this engagement is that we have passed from “antagonism and conflict to a situation where each party recognizes the other as a partner” (Uus §41). “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal 5:14), and in St. Paul’s words, “especially those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10).

Clearly, the Church regards non-Catholic Christians as belonging, however imperfectly, to the household of faith, and hence she speaks of them as “separated brethren.” Notwithstanding their separation, they are still brethren, brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus: we must speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). “With non-Catholic Christians,” the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith adds, “Catholics must enter into a respectful dialogue of charity and truth, a dialogue which is not only an exchange of ideas, but also of gifts, in order that the fullness of the means of salvation can be offered to one’s partners in dialogue. In this way, they are led to an ever deeper conversion in Christ” (“Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization,” December 3, 2007, Section IV). In short, the ecumenism of conversion embodies the conviction that “dialogue is not simply an exchange of ideas. In some way it is always an ‘exchange of gifts,’ ” indeed, a “dialogue of love” (Uus §28, 47, respectively). This is receptive ecumenism at its best.

Receptive Ecumenism and Truth
Since Vatican II the Church has endorsed the practice of receptive ecumenism: ecumenism is an exchange of gifts such that it is possible for different confessional traditions—Catholics and Protestants and Orthodox—to learn from each other. Receptive ecumenism is based on the distinction between truth and its historically conditioned formulations, between form and content, propositions and sentences, which was invoked by John XXIII in his opening address at Vatican II, Gaudet Mater Ecclesia.

The pope made this distinction between truth and its formulations in a famous statement at the beginning of Vatican II: “The deposit or the truths of faith, contained in our sacred teaching, are one thing, while the mode in which they are enunciated, keeping the same meaning and the same judgment [eodem sensu eademque sententia], is another.” The subordinate clause in this passage is part of a larger passage from Vatican I, Dei Filius (Denzinger 3020), and this passage is itself from the Commonitorium primum 23 of the fifth century monk, Vincent of Lérins (died c. 445): “Therefore, let there be growth and abundant progress in understanding, knowledge, and wisdom, in each and all, in individuals and in the whole Church, at all times and in the progress of ages, but only with the proper limits, i.e., within the same dogma, the same meaning, the same judgment.” So, we can say with justification that John XXIII framed the question regarding the nature of doctrinal continuity in light of the Lérinian thesis, which was received by Vatican I, namely, that doctrine must progress according to the same meaning and the same judgment (eodem sensu eademque sententia), allowing for legitimate pluralism and authentic diversity at the level of formulation within a fundamental unity of truth.

This distinction between truth and its formulations has ecumenical implications because it encourages an ecumenism of convergence, namely, since the “element which determines communion in truth is the meaning of truth,” and hence “expression of truth can take different forms” (UUS §19), theological disagreements over what appear as incompatible assertions may be understood as differences of language, theological elaboration, and emphasis, in short, as two different ways of expressing the truth, the same judgment about the same reality, rather than as disagreements about judgments regarding the truth. As Unitatis Redintegratio puts it: “It is hardly surprising if sometimes one tradition has come nearer than the other to an apt appreciation of certain aspects of the revealed mystery or has expressed them in a clearer manner. As a result, these various theological formulations are often to be considered as complementary rather than conflicting. Communion is made fruitful by the exchange of gifts between the Churches [and ecclesial communities] insofar as they complement each other” (Unitatis Redintegratio, §57).

Yes, of course not all theological disagreements can be treated in light of the distinction between truth and its formulations; some are matters of fundamental difference in judgments regarding the truth of dogmas. Here’s where substantial differences are found over the truth of dogmas and hence the real hard work of ecumenism begins. In this respect, Blanski is right, “truth is a means to unity.” Let me conclude with this important statement from the Dutch Reformed master of dogmatic and ecumenical theology, G.C. Berkouwer, who expresses eloquently the dynamic of ecumenical dialogue. “Our thoughts about the future of the Church must come out of tensions in the present, tensions that must creatively produce watchfulness, prayer, faith, and commitment, love for truth and unity, love for unity and truth.”

Editor’s note: Pictured above is Pope Benedict with Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul in 2006. (Photo credit: Pool Photographer/Kai Pfaffenbach)

Eduardo Echeverria

By

Eduardo Echeverria is Professor of Philosophy and Systematic Theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. He earned his doctorate in philosophy from the Free University in Amsterdam and his S.T.L. from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome. He is the author of several books, including Dialogue of Love: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic Ecumenist (Wipf & Stock, 2010).

  • jacobhalo

    I don’t think that Jesus would understand theology. I guess I’m just not that bright.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      Bl John Henry Newman drew an important distinction: “Theological dogmas are propositions expressive of the judgments, which the mind forms, or the impressions which it receives, of Revealed Truth. Revelation sets before it certain supernatural facts and actions, beings and principles; these make a certain impression or image upon it; and this impression spontaneously, or even necessarily, becomes the subject of reflection on the part of the mind itself, which proceeds to investigate it, and to draw it forth in successive and distinct sentences.”

      Problems arise, when people confuse theological reflection with revelation.

      • jacobhalo

        Theology is total bull. Jesus’s teaching are not difficult to understand.

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          The meaning of His teaching may be clear enough, but is the meaning of His passion, death and resurrection, of His Person and office likewise easy to understand?

          • jacobhalo

            I find it easier to understand than the theology of it. Secondly, why would I, a lay person, need to know it. The road to salvation is living by teachings of Jesus and the church. I don’t need theology to be saved.

            • Catholic pilgrim

              The road to salvation starts at Holy Baptism into Christ’s Death & Resurrection & flows from there until you die. To study Catholic theology is to learn things about our mysterious God, why would you want to remain ignorant of such awesome things? Do you rather completely ignore Catholic theology & only learn about computer manuals (however fascinating) or about the newest car motors? Secondly, learning Catholic theology & the teachings of Christ are not mutually exclusive, you know. In fact, theology can actually improve your discipleship as a layman.

              • jacobhalo

                I had two theology courses, and I got A’s in them, but I don’t see why we would have to know it. I still say it is bull.

                • Catholic pilgrim

                  You’re certainly entitled to your opinions (however wrong), mate.

                  • jacobhalo

                    I might be wrong, but at least I am not a heretic like many of the clerics of today.

        • DE-173

          Grapes. Fox. Sour.

  • Mr. Echeverria, I think we agree. Thank you for such a thoughtful essay. I especially appreciate that you highlight that the journey of ecumenical dialogue is an ongoing “dialogue of conversion,” on BOTH sides—conversion to Christ. May we join the “common prayer with our brothers and sisters who seek unity in Christ and in His Church” (Uus §24). And Pope Saint John Paul II nailed it: “Prayer is the ‘soul’ of the ecumenical renewal and of the yearning for unity.”

    Sadly, many have used “ecumenism” as an invitation to brook heresy (or sin, in the case of so-called lifestyle ecumenism) within the Roman Catholic Church, or schism by remaining indefinitely outside of full communion with her—and my quarrel (my prayer!) is with them.

    Thank you, again, Mr. Echeverria, for such an encouraging essay. Christ is among us!

  • Dick Prudlo

    Ecumenism is another false idol that claims nothing but casualties of Faith. The kissing of Korans (sic), I am certain, made someone feel good, but what do such things add if the truth be told? After how many years of this foolishness can we claim victories for Christ and His Church?

    • jay

      yes, that is strange. How did the Vatican spin that when JPII kissed the Koran?

      • St JD George

        I would like to understand that better myself. Doesn’t settle with me.

      • jacobhalo

        There is no way to spin it. The kissing of the Koran was a heretical move. JPII also had other religions worshipping their gods in the St. Francis Cathedral in Assisi. Another heretical move. He is not a St. in my book.

        • DE-173

          Once again, he also kissed airport runways. Are you going to propose that he was geodolater?

          “He is not a St. in my book.”

          Heresy.

          Of course, your book doesn’t count.

          Better hope God grades you on a curve.

          • St JD George

            You do have a way with words. Thankfully people aren’t worshiping runways (except after landing for those who hate to fly) and aren’t committing jihad to defend the home tarmac. There are way too many more things to like about him than to purge him from memory for this, though a big ink blot. Still, I am perplexed and will have to remember to ask him what that was all about some day. Hopefully I’ll get the chance, though I won’t be in the saint room.

            • DE-173

              It’s been said before; Saints are weird people. It either didn’t matter or it was forgivable. The critics lives aren’t under the microscope…Yet.

          • jacobhalo

            Kissed airports? Are airports part of sacred ground? DE, try to think before you write. I just heard a Baptist preacher talking about Islam and he called, what the clerics pre-Vatican II called it, a false religion with a false prophet. Of course, my book doesn’t count, but my opinion does, and there are many people who don’t consider him a saint. I follow the teachings of the church. This Vatican II regime does not.

            • Catholic pilgrim

              I too saw Robert Jeffres on the O’Reilly Factor & wish more Christian public leaders (especially Catholic bishops) would denounce Islam on major TV, but what does that have to do with ST. John Paul II? Do you really have to attack a holy saint (who was a major force in defeating the worldwide cancer of Communism in addition to his awesome teaching documents, personal holiness, mysticism & Polish biography, which involves surviving Nazis) in order to attack Islamic?? That is not the Catholic way, please re-examine yourself.

              Attack Islam/Koran (which explicitly denies Christ’s loving Crucifixion even while ironically prescribing Crucifixion as a legal penalty in most sharias as well as denying Christ’s Begotten Sonship, the Trinity, & claiming that Muhammad is the Holy Spirit/Comforter)? Yes. Attack a holy saint, a friend of God? Not the Catholic way.

              • jacobhalo

                Yes, I saw him too. That is the way the clerics pre-Vatican II used to talk, before they lost their balls.
                If you agree with Robert Jeffres, as I do, he called Islam a false religion and its leader a false prophet, as the pre-Vatican II called Islam and any other religion, besides Christianity. Yes, I am attacking Pope John Paul II for kissing a book based on a false religion, and also for allowing other religions to prayer to their gods in the St. Francis church in Assisi. They are heretical acts.

                • Howard Kainz

                  Not a heretical act. This was a mistake, obviously caused by a lack of knowledge of Islam. Even saints make mistakes. They are not omniscient.

                  • jacobhalo

                    Pope John Paul II had a lack of knowledge of Islam? You must be kidding me!!

            • DE-173

              Of course I think when I write, because so many like you think it’s ready fire aim.

        • Anthony Zarrella

          Let me remind you, Jacob, that even if you have some ingenious argument for rejecting Vatican II and so forth (which I don’t think you can, within the strictures of Catholic doctrine), it was long before V-II that the Church determined that a canonization constitutes a truth which all Catholics are bound to hold.

          Denying that one the Church has declared a Saint does in fact enjoy the beatific vision is not heresy per se (since it is rejection of a doctrine, not a dogma), but is is a sin of disunity with the Church.

    • FernieV

      Saints are not perfect. They can make mistakes. I don’t know the reason why St JPII did that. But the action does not mean that the Catholic Church considers the Koran an inspired book. The Church advises respect towards other religions, probably in the hope that other religions would show respect for the Church. This appears to me doubtful in the case of many Muslims (there is no Islam out there but many Muslim groups).

      • jacobhalo

        Did Jesus how respect for the Jews when He told them, “If you don’t believe that I am He, you will die in your own sins.” Did Jesus show respect for those who are not baptized or believe? “Those who are baptized and believe will be saved. Those who don’t believe are already condemned.” Have you ever heard any pope since Vatican II utter those words?

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          Jesus showed respect for their religion: “Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.…” (Matt 23: 1-3)

          • jacobhalo

            Does the above quote show respect?

          • jacobhalo

            Did Jesus show respect to non believers when he said, “Those who are baptized and believe will be saved. Those who don’t believe are already condemned.” Of course, you would never hear that quote from any of the post Vatican popes.

  • Sam

    While I understand many of Mr. Echeverria’s points, I also agree with Blanski in that ecumenical dialogue is often an excuse for those outside the Church to avoid submitting to the claims of the Catholic church. For those inside the Church, it is often an excuse to

    Endless talking and self-congratulation is not true ecumenism. Pretending that no dogmatic differences exist is not ecumenism (I find the “different formulations of truth” idea particularly disturbing). Acting as though doctrinal error is ephemeral is deadly. Denying that God calls all to embrace the truth revealed in the Catholic church is not ecumenism, it is grave error.

    In short, indifferentism is a dangerous heresy, and ecumenism can very often be an excuse for it. That, I believe, was Mr. Blanski’s point.

    True ecumenism is recognizing that we have an obligation to charitably reach out to those outside the Church and not erect harmful walls of separation. However, endless dialogue should never be an end in itself. The purpose of dialogue should always be to call those outside the Church home, for God’s will is that all “separated brethren” fully embrace his Holy Church. As the Doctor of Grace Saint Augustine aptly puts it, “All graces given to those outside the Church are given them for the purpose of bringing them inside the Church.”

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      “I find the “different formulations of truth” idea particularly disturbing”

      We find a very good example of such “different formulations” in the Common Christological Declaration between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East signed by Pope St John Paul II and Catholicos-Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV, 0n 11 November 1994 – “The controversies of the past led to anathemas, bearing on persons and on formulas. The Lord’s Spirit permits us to understand better today that the divisions brought about in this way were due in large part to misunderstandings.”

      Hence, the agreement that “The humanity to which the Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth always was that of the Son of God himself. That is the reason why the Assyrian Church of the East is praying the Virgin Mary as “the Mother of Christ our God and Saviour.” In the light of this same faith the Catholic tradition addresses the Virgin Mary as “the Mother of God” and also as “the Mother of Christ”. We both recognize the legitimacy and rightness of these expressions of the same faith and we both respect the preference of each Church in her liturgical life and piety.”

      This is not a new insight. In its 8th canon, the 5th Ecumenical Council anathematized those who say, “one Nature incarnate of God the Word”, unless they “accept it as the Fathers taught, that by a hypostatic union of the Divine nature and the human, one Christ was effected.”

  • Daniel P

    Wonderful article, Mr. Echeverria! I’m glad to see such a quality piece of informal theology come from my local seminary.

    There are two temptations, with respect to ecumenism: (1) the temptation to think that I am in full possession and understanding of all the relevant truths, and (2) the temptation to think that characteristic manifestations of one’s faith and characteristic doctrines don’t matter. These same temptations occur, on a personal level, with respect to one’s attitude toward oneself: the one is the temptation to pride, the other the temptation to false modesty. The virtue in the middle is meekness.

  • JP

    Great essay. However, it still doesn’t square the circle in many respects. Pope Francis himself expressed the idea that we need not evangelize other Christians (too bad the Pentacostals don’t see it that way. Just look at how Pentecostals steal sheep in the Pope’s own home country). Even Mother Theresa said that people in other religions should work to be the best Hindi, Muslim of Buddhist they can be.

    Historians rightly point out the disastrous religious wars that pitted Protestants against Catholics (namely the Thirty Years War, which was the bloodiest war in Europe until 1914). Is it not best to suffer the eternal yacking that Ecumenism entails than senseless slaughter in the name of Christ?

    On the other hand, people like me will point out that a little bit of religious strife between Catholics and Protestants is far preferable to the kind of soul killing apostasy we see in the West. The reason there no longer are religious wars in the West is because religion no longer inspires society; religion is irrelevant. When it comes down to it there is little that separates Catholics from Protestants. Ross Douhat hit the nail on the head in saying we are all heretics today. We are united in our apostasy. And as a result, things that used to garner a bit of strife between Protestants and Catholics have been long forgotten. We are all going to heaven, anyway. Right?

    • Mike

      In this day and age it is more important for Christians to be united then to argue over semantics. Sadly, neither Catholics or Protestants have any idea how to actually defeat the secular beast that rules over the western world, and the enemy exploits both division and ecumenism to further destroy Christianity.

      • DE-173

        And right on cue, along comes a syncretist.

      • GG

        Semantics? All those martyrs over the centuries were wrong I guess.

      • jacobhalo

        Semantics? how is it semantics when Catholics believe that the host is the body and blood of Jesus, and protestants believe it is just a symbol.

    • FernieV

      The Church founded by Christ “subsists” in the Catholic Church. Period. Other Christian churches have a lot of the light of Christ but not the fullness of truth. This does not mean that as a Catholic I should hate non-Catholics. Why should I? Worse case scenario I may pity them, and pray for them, and, with full respect to their conscience, I could explain whatever they would like to know. Having the sacraments, as means of Salvation instituted by Christ, a Catholic will find it easier to reach heaven than someone who does not possess these sacraments. This appears to me self evident. So, naturally, out of love for God and souls, I should try to help them find the full truth, without any sort of coercion. Why should I do that? Christ didn’t. But I cannot tell my non-Catholic friends that we are the same. I will respect their faith, and ask them to respect mine. And will continue being good friends.

      • jacobhalo

        The church found by Christ is called the Catholic church. Strike the word subsists because it makes no sense.

  • AnneM040359

    Good article, it is really more or less about the continue need for conversion to Christ.

  • BM

    Oh, how I miss scholasticism….

  • Mike

    There is absolutley no reason for at the very least the sacramental Christians to be united. (Anglicans, Pheraps Lutherans and Orthodox without question). The arguments between these sects of Christians amount to semantics and silly theological nitpicking. I get that some of these sects have gone off the deep end in recent years with women priests and other unacceptably liberal reforms, but there is no reason to not be united with the more “conservative” (for lack of a better word) wings of these churches and it is asinine that we are not in communion with the Orthodox yet. (hopefully this will happen in the next 20 years or so-we seem to be moving twoards this)

    • DE-173

      I thought Rodney (can’t we all just get along?) King was dead.

      • Mike

        “Misinterpreting” infallible doctrine claims goes back long before Vatican II. As I have mentioned many times, what about the churches ever important infallible teaching on usury, promulgated by at least a half doze councils and unanimously held by all the church fathers, saints and popes for fifteen centuries to be a mortal sin worthy of excommunication. Look at the Vatican bank operations.  So much for a church that can’t err on matters of morals. Yet I get no response about this from “Traditional Catholics loyal to the “unchangeable” magnisterium of the church” (their defense of  usury makes them heretics , according to the decrees of Vienne) 

        Fee people understand the whys and how’s of sola scriptura and sola fide. Not that I necessarily  agree with either of these. These definitions were an overreaction of the Protestants against the utter corruption of the usurious, simony promoting church of the Medici popes during the renaissance.  Martin Luther was a hero in his fight against papal   corruption. Unfortunately, the revolution got out of hand (egged on by the money power of course) and many of the reforms of the Protestants amounted to throwing the baby out with the bath water. 

        The debate about faith vs works is silly. Of course “faith alone” on the surface implies that you don’t have to put your faith into action, which is obviously heretical. However, I guarantee that 99% of faith alone people don’t really believe that, and the debates end up  amounting to silly theological nitpicking. 

        Scripture alone is obviously flawed, but it is completely true that the Church downplayed scripture and overplayed tradition in the past, mostly because they were on the defensive against the Protestants. The faith should be centered on the gospel and sacraments, with a respect for the many beautiful devotions and rich traditions that we have been blessed with throughout the long history of Christianity . (this includes Tridentine Catholicism, which should not be persecuted by the church as it is)  I think most Christians would be ok with that. 

        Of course the whole thing was exploited by the money power, once again using divide and conquer tactics to destroy Christian unity and rise to prominence. The liberals and reactionary conservatives are two sides of the same coin. We have never recovered from this ordeal, which has allowed Satan to overthrow the order of god with the order of Mammon , and yet people still want to fight over petty semantic issues planted by the devil in order to divide. 

        The idea of an “infallible” magnesterium that has never changed its teaching is bunk. There were countless popes in the early and medieval era that had their predecessors killed or deemed them to be heretics. Traditional Catholics fall into the error of only looking into Church history from Trent on, believing that everything fits into one neat package, and not looking at the whole picture. Same thing with the “liberals” who think the Church started with VII. The claims of “infallibility” were once again an overreaction against the errors of the enlightenment. 

        I think it’s fair to say that if one believes in the sacraments, with an understanding that while scripture deserves a central role in the faith, it is not the be all end all, they should be included in the church. Also, a mutual respect for the history of the church and all the rich faith traditions and devotions that we have been blessed with throughout the ages. Debates such as faith vs works or extent of the authority of the pope are meaningless in the scheme of things. 

    • GG

      A little thing called truth.

    • jacobhalo

      According to the three infallible doctrine of the church, one needs to be a member of the Catholic church. That was changed during Vatican II with ecumenism. I asked a priest about it and he said that those infallible doctrines were misinterpreted. I said to him, you mean for 1000 years, with council after council, after council, they never picked up that they are misinterpreted? Isn’t amazing with the advent of ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, these infallible doctrines were misinterpreted?
      You wonder why the SSPX won’t accept Vatican II.

  • DE-173

    The practical reality of most ecumenism where the rubber meets the road is a whole lot of syncretism.

    • FernieV

      Which should be avoided if we want to remain faithful to Christ.

  • skeptic

    in point of fact the term ‘ecumenism’ is a neologism, or Frankenstein word, but it matters not , save to say that etymologically it means no more nor less than catholic with all the implications(possibly assumptions) of universality of that word.

    the blind assumption that all beings understand the same word in the same way that the user thereof understands it is a hallmark of religion(any set of beliefs and/or assumptions). by way of illustration, some words-let us take as an example ‘liberal’, have different meanings not only as between beings , but also their contexts-sometimes known as countries; to the English the word liberal may well-and I cannot speak for all Englishmen , connote generosity, and will also hark back to its root word. liber, meaning free, whatever associations the term ‘free’ evokes.
    I respectfully(a sucking-up term) suggest that frequent recourse to etymology may well assist those that wish to define their terms, with the process of which those that sincerely enquire or philosophise invariably begin, but fail to do so at their peril.

    the clearest example of an “assumption/belief(religious) word is ” we” when applied to subjective experiences.

    the most famous of all famous-last-words is: ” oh, but I assumed…” is it not?

    put the case that words expressed in an alien language can rarely if ever be exactly translated into mine own language and will be entirely contingent on the assumptions/beliefs of the translator whose translation/interpretation must inevitably be entirely subjective

    what is the essential difference between assuming and believing?
    must the word religion inexorably imply what-is-called God?-or may there be any number of beliefs/assumptions, or related hierarchies thereof-religions, that do not necessarily connote an idea of what-is-called God?

    I merely put those questions; can a being, as-it-is-said ” believe_in” what-is-called ‘democracy'(whatever that word means) and not make reference to what-is-called “God”(whatever that word means)?

    those are only questions.

  • languedoc

    I don’t think Pope Francis seems to have moved beyond syncretism as, for instance, when he speaks against evangelizing other Christians. But unlike his predecessors who did indeed teach a system of guidelines for unity, Pope Francis seems scattered and vague, if not contradictory, in his teaching. Frankly, I am beginning to worry about what makes him think. He is the first pope in memory to indulge unedifying -and almost surrealistically incoherent – sarcasm: eg. “fomentors of coprophagia,” “self-absorbed Promethean neo-Pelagians,” and “leprous courtiers.” But he has gone over the top this week in departing from received doctrine. First, he said that “corruption is a little like bad breath…Corruption is a greater evil than sin.” Secondly, he not only condemned capital punishment -even more stridently than John Paul II – but he also condemned life sentences !!
    If old age is taking toll, to put it politely, he may say even more improbable things. This could become a more serous problem than it already is.

    • johnalbertson

      The Pope’s desire to bring people together in unity is not helped when he calls some of them “old maids,” “sourpusses” and “promoters of the poison of immanence.” When it comes to charity, humility, clarity of thought, eloquence and courtesy, it is clear that Pope Benedict is not Pope Francis’s speechwriter. But, Who am I to judge?

  • Becky Chandler

    “An inter-faith meeting is a place where a Jewish Rabbi, who
    does not believe in the Divinity of Christ, and a Protestant Minister
    who doubts it, get together with a Catholic Priest, who agrees to
    forget it for the evening.” ~ Fr. Leonard Feeney
    http://bit.ly/ZJMd47

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