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"Dissenting" from Ecumenism? What Does That Mean?

by Christopher A. Ferrara

The Australian Catholic online news publication CN Catholic News (August 12, 2004) contains yet another example of the pernicious nebulosity of the pseudo-doctrine known as "ecumenism."

As I have pointed out more than once in this column, "ecumenism" is one of those newfangled words that have afflicted the Church since Vatican II. The idea that Catholics must believe in a newfangled idea they never heard of before has no precedent in Church history. And because ecumenism is not really a doctrine  —  it would be impossible for the Church to discover a new doctrine during Vatican II  —  no one can really say what exactly "ecumenism" means in doctrinal terms. The most specific thing that can be said about ecumenism’s meaning is that it is "a movement for Christian unity."

But, obviously, a movement is not a doctrine, but only a contingent historical event that can be fruitful over unfruitful, wise or unwise, rather than true or false in a doctrinal sense. No Catholic is obliged to profess faith in an ill-defined "movement" that has produced nothing by way of "Christian unity" since it began. On the contrary, after forty years of "ecumenical dialogue," the Protestants and the Orthodox are further than ever from unity with the Catholic Church.

The CN story reports that the Australian Bishop of Parramatta, Kevin Manning, "has cautioned those who regard themselves as model Catholics while ‘pay[ing] scant attention to the Church's teachings on ecumenism.’" What exactly are these "teachings on ecumenism," and what exactly do these teachings require Catholics to believe that they did not always believe before Vatican II? Bishop Manning did not say. Nor could he, for the actual doctrinal content of "ecumenism" is nil.

What ecumenism has produced, however, is a host of useless and scandalous "ecumenical activities," such as joint prayer meetings and liturgies which do nothing but confirm the non-Catholic participants in their errors. In the sort of inversion that is typical of diabolical confusion, "ecumenism" has actually interfered with Christian unity, which (as Pope Pius XI taught definitively in Mortalium animos) "can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it." This, not "ecumenism," is the Church’s true doctrine on Christian unity.

Most revealing on this point is Bishop Manning’s statement that "On 16 June this year he [Pope Benedict] assured the Secretary-General of the World Council of Churches that the commitment of the Catholic Church to the search for Christian unity was irreversible." But the World Council of Churches is an assemblage of sects which, after four decades of "ecumenism," condone everything from contraception, to divorce, to abortion, to the "ordination" of women and homosexuals as "bishops" and "priests." That the Catholic Church is reduced to giving ecumenical assurances to this motley assembly of heretics is all we need to know about the folly of ecumenism.

CN notes that Bishop Manning is concerned about "hostility to Church teaching on ecumenism" among the faithful. It seems that "one of his priests reported that a parishioner had complained about his preaching on the Vatican II Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, in his Sunday homily. The objection was: ‘We only want the true faith preached here!’" This, of course, is good news, for it shows that those who our modern prelates like to call "the simple faithful" are becoming increasingly concerned about the effects of 40 years of ecumenical drift and confusion.

Here one is reminded of Cardinal Newman’s observation about the "simple faithful" during the Arian heresy of the 4th century: "[I]n that time of immense confusion … the body of the episcopate was unfaithful to its commission, while the body of the laity was faithful to its baptism …"

And so it is today, when a remnant of the faithful defends the Church’s doctrine on Christian unity against the ecumenical confusion of much of the hierarchy. Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us!