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The Thing That Would Not Die

by Christopher A. Ferrara

Let me speak plainly: this thing they call ecumenism is the bane of the Catholic Church. No wonder Pope Pius XI forbade any participation in the emerging "ecumenical movement." He could see very clearly where it would lead:

    Is it not right, it is often repeated, indeed, even consonant with duty, that all who invoke the name of Christ should abstain from mutual reproaches and at long last be united in mutual charity? This undertaking is so actively promoted as in many places to win for itself the adhesion of a number of citizens, and it even takes possession of the minds of very many Catholics and allures them with the hope of bringing about such a union as would be agreeable to the desires of Holy Mother Church, who has indeed nothing more at heart than to recall her erring sons and to lead them back to her bosom. But in reality beneath these enticing words and blandishments lies hid a most grave error, by which the foundations of the Catholic faith are completely destroyed.

What are the fruits of ecumenism, after some forty years of meandering "ecumenical activity"? Has a single Protestant sect moved a single centimeter closer to acceptance of the authority of the Holy Catholic Church? On the contrary, they have retreated even further from the truth. Yet the practitioners of ecumenism are determined to keep the thing alive, no matter how grotesque the results.

The Pope's recent address on ecumenism is a remarkable, though surely unintended, admission that the "ecumenical venture" is an utter failure. Speaking to the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on November 13, 2001, the Pope urged that "words like crisis, delays, slowness, immobility and compromises be eliminated" in ecumenical dialogue, and that instead "key words such as 'confidence, patience, constancy, dialogue and hope' be adopted." (Zenit news account)

What exactly will be accomplished by using happy words to describe what is clearly an unhappy outcome? With all due respect, the Pope's description of the future of ecumenism only demonstrates why Pius XI was right to avoid the entire realm: "Prayer and constant listening to the Lord are indispensable, as he (sic) is the one (sic) who, with the force of the Spirit, converts hearts and makes possible all progress in the way of ecumenism." Are we to take from this that Catholics must be converted as part of the ecumenical process? Converted to what? As for this notion of "prayer and constant listening," what exactly are we praying for, and to what exactly must we listen, after forty years of getting nowhere with pro-abortion Protestant sects that can't even get the Fifth Commandment right?

Even more disturbing is the Pope's remark that "With rigorous and serene theological research, with constant imploring for the light of the spirit, we will be able to address even the most difficult and seemingly insurmountable questions in so many of our ecumenical dialogues as, for example, that of the Bishop of Rome." Since when did the authority of the Vicar of Christ - now called "the Bishop of Rome" - become a "seemingly insurmountable question" as opposed to a divinely revealed truth which Protestants must accept if they would be fully and authentically Christian?

As Pius XI declared in Mortalium animos: "Although many non-Catholics may be found who loudly preach fraternal communion in Christ Jesus, yet you will find none at all to whom it ever occurs to submit to and obey the Vicar of Jesus Christ either in his capacity as a teacher or as a governor."

When, oh when, will the Church return to such clarity and uncompromising teaching? After forty years of pointless "ecumenism," can we not see that this so-called "movement for Christian unity" - which even John Paul II admits originated in the Protestant sects - is precisely what Pius XI said it was? Let us recall his words: "Admonished, therefore, by the consciousness of Our Apostolic office that We should not permit the flock of the Lord to be cheated by dangerous fallacies, We invoke, Venerable Brethren, your zeal in avoiding this evil."