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The Spreading Disillusionment with "Ecumenism"

by Christopher A. Ferrara

After forty years of obvious failure, "ecumenism" is now coming under fire from commentators who cannot be accused of being "extreme traditionalists." Consider a recent column by the New Oxford Review’s Michael Rose, who authored the blockbuster exposé Goodbye Good Men.

In his "New Oxford Notes" of June 11, 2004, Rose observes that "there was great excitement about ecumenism after the Second Vatican Council. But the enthusiasm has turned to boredom, because it’s been all talk and little, if any, action. Ecumania is burning itself out."

Precisely. But how could it have been otherwise, given that "ecumenism" was never anything more than an ill-defined collection of excessively conciliatory gestures toward Protestants and Orthodox, which only served to confirm them in their errors?

Rose goes on to note something this column has often remarked: "Nevertheless, the Catholic Church’s bilateral ecumenical dialogues just go on and on and on, like some government agency charged with regulating and inspecting buggy whips. The buggy-whip regulators are quite content because they’re employed and getting paid. It’s a nice, cushy job. And the bishops and theologians involved in ecumenical dialogue are also quite content, because they get to jet-set around, be wined and dined in gourmet restaurants, and in general are made to feel very, very important. Another nice, cushy job."

Bravo, Mr. Rose. And bravo, New Oxford Review. And Rose’s suggestion for bringing ecumenism to an end is a real gem: "Obviously, it’s time to have sunset laws inserted into ecumenical dialogues. A sunset law is one which automatically terminates at the end of a fixed period (but may be renewed, only if needed). We should immediately renegotiate all ecumenical dialogues, inserting a sunset law of, say, 12 years (for the 12 Apostles). If no significant progress is made after 12 years, the dialogue is automatically ended. The Catholic Church has better things to do than waste her time on endless and inconclusive gabfests."

Which is precisely what "extreme traditionalists" have been saying ever since the pointless "ecumenical dialogues began". For what could be more obvious than that which Pius IX observed in his encyclical Mortalium animos, wherein His Holiness condemned the whole idea of an "ecumenical movement" that would not aim at the conversion of the Protestants and the Orthodox to Catholicism. As Pius XI declared in this encyclical, the only way to achieve Christian unity is to bring about the return of the dissidents to the one true Church. It requires a great deal of mental confusion not to see this.

How encouraging it is that recognition of ecumenism’s utter futility is now spreading beyond "traditionalist" circles. This development is long overdue, but quite welcome.