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There are sects,
and then there are sects!

by Christopher A. Ferrara

Ecumenism — whatever that word means — gets sillier by the day. On May 2, 2001, Zenit.org reported the remarks of a South American Cardinal who accuses the evangelical Protestant sects in his country of being “an unbridled industry determined to exact a tithe” in Honduras.

The problem with these evangelicals, says the Cardinal, is that “they don't have to account to anyone; they have no hierarchy. ... These types of Protestants are an industry, because any person who is accredited as pastor receives a tithe from his followers, just because he is anti-Catholic.”

So, the evangelical sects are a problem because they don’t have a “hierarchy” and don’t answer to anyone. But of course that is true of every Protestant sect, including the Anglicans, the Lutherans and the Presbyterians. Each Protestant is his own Pope, because the mainline denominations lack any kind of Magisterium which can compel belief in a given proposition under pain of heresy. Anglicans, Lutherans and Presbyterians can believe whatever they please, and there are as many “flavors” of Protestantism as there are disagreements among Protestants. And if a local Anglican, Lutheran or Presbyterian minister does not wish to go along with his fellow sect members, he simply starts a new version of the religion. In fact, the constant division into sects, evangelical or otherwise, is a basic feature of Protestantism. Hasn’t the Cardinal from Honduras noticed this?

The Vatican too has issued more than one statement condemning the Protestant sects in Latin America, even as it engages incessantly in “ecumenical dialogue” with the Protestant sects of Europe and North America. Ecumenism, you see, can be practiced with some sects but not with others. There are sects, and then there are sects. (Are you following this?)

The great irony here is that the members of smaller evangelical sects are far closer to Catholic moral teaching and traditional Catholic theology than the mainline sects engaged in “ecumenical dialogue” with the Vatican. The hard-core evangelicals are not promoting abortion or ordaining women, and many (with some of whom I am personally acquainted) even reject any form of contraception. The reason the evangelical sects are generally not interested in “ecumenical dialogue” is that they actually believe in something strongly enough to consider it sacrosanct and beyond discussion. That is why the evangelical wing of the Southern Baptists in America recently called a halt to ecumenical dialogue.

What does it say about “ecumenism” that is best practiced with the more corrupt mainline Protestant denominations which stand, in the end, for absolutely nothing? That question answers itself.