OSV: Ecumenism and the Pope of Christian Unity

Christ, Peter, the KeysOur Sunday Visitor was kind enough to send me an advance copy of an editorial for their 8 May issue.  I think, once you read it, you’ll know why they sent it.

Allow me to preface this by saying that the Church must be engaged in ture ecumenism.  I direct the reader’s attention back to my PODCAzT about Mortalium animos.

Also, keep in mind that in an Anglican synod in York, England, it was decided to ordain female bishops and to make no provisions for Anglicans or more evangelical members to have some other structure to avoid that non-Christian aberration.  They will follow in the waddling footsteps of the Great Awk and the American Episcopal Church, it seems.

My emphases and comments.

Editorial: Following Pope Benedict’s model of ecumenism

‘The chief shepherd — with gentleness and love — is gathering in the sheep.’

By OSV Editorial Board – OSV Newsweekly, 5/8/2011

Critics of modern ecumenism — the project of fostering Christian unity — say it too often is characterized by a tendency to gloss over differences in doctrine. Critics of Pope Benedict XVI say he’s too often characterized by rigid insistence on differences in doctrine.

So how is it that the pontiff is developing a reputation in some circles as “the pope of Christian unity”? [Indeed, he is.] There’s even a Facebook page of that name, with some 1,400 followers. A popular blogging priest hung that label on Pope Benedict back in 2009, and it has popped up in various places since then.

A year ago, The Catholic Herald in England also ran an editorial making the case that Benedict is the “pope of Christian unity.[Indeed, they did. HERE.] The impetus was the then-recent announcement that the pontiff had approved the creation of “ordinariates” — special structures like dioceses that would allow groups of Anglicans to become Catholic but retain their traditions, culture, liturgical expression and even some forms of governance, like participation of laity in the election of Church leaders.

This Easter, the first such ordinariate took real shape in England, with the reception of some 1,000 Anglicans into the Catholic Church (see story, Page 5). Plans for ordinariates in other regions, including Australia and the United States, are said to be in advanced stages.

Some have lamented the apparent death blow to the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), the main vehicle of ecumenical work between the two confessions since its formation in 1966. [Perhaps just acknowledgment that it was dead already.]

But others say the ordinariate instead demonstrates ecumenical success.

“The explicit desire of ARCIC,” a former Anglican priest and prominent English Catholic commentator wrote in late April, “was for visible unity between Catholics and Anglicans. It was not about remaining in separate bodies while appreciating each other’s traditions.”

“This seems to be what Anglicanorum coetibus [the authorization of ordinariates for Anglicans] has achieved.”

The gratitude felt toward Pope Benedict by these new Catholics is striking. One reportedly even took the name “Benedicta” to honor his ecumenical creativity. Another commented that “the chief shepherd — with gentleness and love — is gathering in the sheep.”

Could this model be replicated for other Christians, too?

Thus far a similar approach has had little success in drawing back the self-described traditionalists of the Society of Pius X. That process has been marred by Vatican missteps, but also by the society’s obstinate rejection of doctrinal points.

Perhaps Lutherans are next. [There is no one body of Lutherans.] The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has received requests from interested congregations, reports The Portal, a new monthly online magazine about the ordinariate.

Pope Benedict himself sees working for the unity of Christians as one of his most important responsibilities, [Peter's job, after all.] and, in a homily during this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, he said it “cannot be reduced only to recognizing our reciprocal differences and to achieving peaceful coexistence.” Instead, he called it a “moral imperative” that Christians work for the unity Christ described at the Last Supper, and which is manifested in common profession of faith, sacraments and ministry. [And during the Triduum he returned to the point that unity requires also association with Peter's Successor.]

The “ultimate purpose” of ecumenism, the pope told Vatican doctrinal officials last year, “consists in the achievement of the full and visible communion of the Lord’s disciples.” By that standard, Pope Benedict XVI is the pope of Christian unity[Amen!  Brothers and sisters, do I hear an "Amen!"?]

Editorial Board: Greg Erlandson, publisher; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; John Norton, editor; Sarah Hayes, presentation editor

Benedict XVI is the Pope of Christian Unity.  I proposed that phrase in a post here called Whose ecumenism?

Thank you OSV.

True ecumenism reaches its fulfillment when Christians are united also in union with the Vicar of Christ.

Liberals want to be the sole arbiters of what may be involved with ecumenical dialogue, as well as who may be involved.  They are always happy to have “meaningful” (read = watery) discussions with groups who would be perfectly in sync with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, but not with those who want to read, say, the Missale Romanum in continuity with our teachings and worship before 1963.

Do not let liberal ecumenists define ecumenism.  Do not accept their premises.

Instead, take heart and guidance from the Pope of Christian Unity… Pope Benedict XVI.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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15 Responses to OSV: Ecumenism and the Pope of Christian Unity

  1. St. Rafael says:

    Anglicanorum Coetibus is what happens when you abandon ecumenism.

    Ecumenism with all its dialogue is a modernist liberal error. The only true form of ecumenism is as Pius XI taught, a return of all to the Catholic Church.

  2. rfox2 says:

    If the final end of ecumenism is union with the Pope, then Unitatis Redintegratio seems to contradict the definition of “true ecumenism”. This is what UR #4 says: “However, it is evident that, when individuals wish for full Catholic communion, their preparation and reconciliation is an undertaking which of its nature is distinct from ecumenical action. But there is no opposition between the two, since both proceed from the marvelous ways of God.” Granted, this sentence does say that ecumenism is not opposed to conversion, but they are distinct according to Vatican 2.

    Earlier in UR #4, it states “The term ‘ecumenical movement’ indicates the initiatives and activities planned and undertaken, according to the various needs of the Church and as opportunities offer, to promote Christian unity.” The pastoral instruction given in UR talks about ways to promote this “unity”, but they almost exclusively deal with theological discussions to see how Catholic theology can be wrapped around non-Catholic communities of the baptized or how Catholics can cooperate with non-Catholics on social justice issues. In salvation terms, this is a zero sum game.

    The Anglican Ordinariate is a provision for conversion, not ecumenism.

    In terms of the salvation history of the Church, evangelism, and charity for souls, I fail to see how “ecumenism” is a good fit. If ecumenism is not a promotion for conversion, evangelism or apologetics, what is it for? Surely, out of charity for a soul, if we share the Catholic faith with them, our hope should NOT be that they NOT embrace the Catholic Faith, correct? If we simply affirm them in their faith, whatever that is as the shards of Catholic Faith, and further encourage them to remain whatever they are to begin with, isn’t that a sin against charity? So, if we engage at all with non-Catholics, shouldn’t our will be that they become Catholic? And if so, isn’t that evangelism plain and simple?

  3. benedetta says:

    St. Rafael, I wouldn’t necessarily agree with you that “ecumenism with all its dialogue is a modernist liberal error”. I think that dialogue premised upon mutual respect needs to be supported further and shows great promise. Not all of us are called to be engaged in dialogue in an organized, formal sense. But we can all listen from where we are to others and learn and pray.

    I don’t think that it has been helpful overall, in some places, to attempt to alter the essential elements of the Mass or Catholic teachings in order to appear, more of something else which has often only served to confuse, disparage, or discourage…even humiliate. Instead of Catholics taking select elements from other traditions and attempting to incorporate these, it would more edifying for laity to organize and take part in faith-sharing and Scripture study groups with others in their area. It would take some leadership to bring it about. There are many ways that it could be approached. When I read of others’ accounts of walking into a new Catholic parish and encountering unusual liturgy or teachings and having to re-check the signage out front to determine whether in fact they were in a Catholic church or not, sometimes I wonder if in such places a few people hadn’t sat down and attempted to devise something they might feel brings about a new reality but is only in fact limited to the immediate effects of their own actions. The Church is universal, can be universally understood by all, and so Catholics rightly have an expectation of what they will see and hear at a Catholic parish, understandably that nothing will ever be “perfection”.

    I observe locally that efforts toward dialogue sometimes are limited to only a certain few groups or denominations, to the exclusion of others, and I sometimes wonder why that is so. It can’t be that we can only learn from certain believers and traditions and not from others.

    In many parts of the world people are looking to evangelical churches. Better minds have looked at this situation so I leave it to them but I think that it is a mistake to minimize the movement by Catholics towards those churches as an inclination for a certain type of “worship experience” and then in turn attempt to imitate that in the parishes. It is a result of a bunch of complicated reasons, and to take one aspect or another and try to translate the one aspect doesn’t seem to make sense and it cannot be said that the Holy Spirit is calling the Church to attempt that particular aspect. It’s kind of an American take on things, isn’t it, to see what is “popular” and immediately attempt to recreate or imitate it. Because something is popular does not mean, automatically, it is the will of the people nor does it mean that it is the work of the Holy Spirit.

  4. rob_piccoli says:

    Hi Fr. Zuhlsdorf, may I take the liberty of pointing out that “ture ecumenism” is quite an unlikely expression… (please delete this comment after reading it, thank you). [I don't think so.]

  5. Maltese says:

    Thus far a similar approach has had little success in drawing back the self-described traditionalists of the Society of Pius X. That process has been marred by Vatican missteps, but also by the society’s obstinate rejection of doctrinal points.

    “[O]bstinate rejection of doctrinal points.” Such as?? Hmmm; not sure he is using “doctrine” in its proper praxis. Doctrine is not always dogma, but dogmas are also doctrine. Vatican II taught no new dogmas, but did it teach new doctrine? If loosely defined, yes (as any novel teaching can be construed as a doctrine). But as the first purely pastoral council of the 23, I would submit it “taught” nothing that is binding doctrinally. Not to say it is not binding, but I don’t believe it rises to the point of doctrine, as usually understood. Let’s take religious freedom. One could argue that the FSSPX believed in the doctrinal view of it (believed for centuries), whereas Vatican II taught a non-doctrinal, novel approach.

    In Sacrosantum Concillium this: “116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.” Well, I would agree with that, but 99.9% of churches out there don’t give a rat’s ass about that particular teaching. Is that doctrine? Why are the 99.9% of churches out there unscathed in their rejection of that teaching, whereas FSSPX is bashed over the head for rejecting other portion of Vatican II (and, ironically, I agree with 116, but it shows the double-standard at play.)

    When I think doctrine (and correct me if I’m wrong, I’m no theologian) I think of beliefs solemnly defined or believed over time, that aid in the faith. Am I wrong? Like this flow-chart:

    http://www.davidmacd.com/catholic/catholic_doctrine_flow_chart.htm

    “Obstinate rejection of doctrinal points.” Puhleeez!

  6. Ralph says:

    There is no unity without Peter.

  7. asophist says:

    Nulla salvos extra ecclesiam is a defined dogma. Is the entire Church limited to all those who are in visible communion with Peter (and who have made their Easter Duty)? May it include all those who are baptised, even though not in union with Peter (living with seemingly invincible prejudice against the Church, as they perceive Her? or in ignorance?) Maybe all this has been defined dogmatically too, but I’m just not aware of it. And then there is a verdant place of natural happiness in Hell for virtuous pagans, according to Dante, which doesn’t contradict dogma – as far as I am aware. Can we water down the definition of the Church and the need for eternal salvation so that we don’t care about conversion? If so, what’s the point of Our Lord’s command to go and teach all nations, baptising them. . . A knotty issue this, it seems to me.

  8. Ezra says:

    Ecumenism with all its dialogue is a modernist liberal error. The only true form of ecumenism is as Pius XI taught, a return of all to the Catholic Church.

    Are you sure about this, St. Rafael? Our current Holy Father would appear to disagree. When he had his ecumenical encounter with the representatives of other churches and ecclesial communities at the Cologne WYD in 2005, he said:

    We all know there are numerous models of unity and you know that the Catholic Church also has as her goal the full visible unity of the disciples of Christ, as defined by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in its various Documents. This unity, we are convinced, indeed subsists in the Catholic Church, without the possibility of ever being lost; the Church in fact has not totally disappeared from the world.

    On the other hand, this unity does not mean what could be called ecumenism of the return: that is, to deny and to reject one’s own faith history. Absolutely not! It does not mean uniformity in all expressions of theology and spirituality, in liturgical forms and in discipline. Unity in multiplicity, and multiplicity in unity: in my Homily for the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul on 29 June last, I insisted that full unity and true catholicity in the original sense of the word go together. As a necessary condition for the achievement of this coexistence, the commitment to unity must be constantly purified and renewed; it must constantly grow and mature.

    To this end, dialogue has its own contribution to make. More than an exchange of thoughts, an academic exercise, it is an exchange of gifts, in which the Churches and the Ecclesial Communities can make available their own riches.

  9. jeffreyquick says:

    A Lutheran Ordinariate? Intriguing notion. I don’t think you’d need to have have Lutheran unity. ELCA is hopeless; they wouldn’t want it and Catholics wouldn’t want them (ELCA took in George Tiller after the LC-MS excommunicated him ; ’nuff said) LCMS would be a stronger possibiity, but there’s a 500 year old grudge match there. (my confirming LCMS pastor told me to beware of Catholics and Masons). There’s no need for an ordinariate, because there really isn’t anything distinctive about American Lutheran liturgy. Best bet is to convert Lutherans one at a time.

  10. anilwang says:

    rfox2, both the ecumenism of return (e.g. Anglican Ordinariate) and the ecumenism of mutual understanding (e.g. Evangelicals and Catholics Together) have their place. In the former, whole Churches are integrated. In the later, relations between churches improve and individuals convert. Remember Father Neuhaus of First Things converted when ECT declared the joint statement on justification. He thought that Lutherans would join the Catholic Church since the issue of justification and indulgence abuse was what sparked the reformation and both have been resolved. Ecumenical statements such as ECT have done a great deal to defang the much of the Jack Chick type polemics that have been used to pull people from the Catholic Church.

    As for the case of the Lutheran Ordinariate, there’s no need for one since Anglicanorum Coetibus is broad enough to enable Lutherans to join if they wish (see the ALCC announcement http://www.theanglocatholic.com/2011/02/our-family-is-growing/ ).

  11. St. Rafael says:

    “On the other hand, this unity does not mean what could be called ecumenism of the return: that is, to deny and to reject one’s own faith history. Absolutely not!”

    ‘To this end, dialogue has its own contribution to make. More than an exchange of thoughts, an academic exercise, it is an exchange of gifts, in which the Churches and the Ecclesial Communities can make available their own riches.”

    A half a dozen Popes from the 20th and 19th centuries would disagree with Pope Benedict’s ’05 WYD statement. Too many Popes to count if we go futher back in history.

    Pope Benedict was in complete error with that statement. Of coarse as Catholics we can distinguish what has authorithy and what doesn’t. His statement was fallible. He was giving his opinions in a speech that carried absolutely zero dogmatic weight. Speeches and other public statements from Popes are not magisterial. There is no exercise of the infallible Magisterium in this case or with many other things Popes say in public on a daily basis.

  12. rfox2 says:

    both the ecumenism of return (e.g. Anglican Ordinariate) and the ecumenism of mutual understanding (e.g. Evangelicals and Catholics Together) have their place. In the former, whole Churches are integrated. In the later, relations between churches improve and individuals convert.

    I can say, having been involved in extensive evangelical/Catholic dialogue both at a formal and informal level, that evangelicals for the most part (the ones that are still faithful to their faith, such as it is – the hard core Reformed/Calvinist crowd, the Baptists and northern US mega-church variety) laugh at the Catholic Church over efforts at “dialogue”. The main reason? Because the Catholics engaged in these discussions usually do not believe their own Creed, and have a disdain for Catholic Tradition. They have itching ears to hear all about being slain in the spirit, or want to chat about Calvinistic determinism, but their goal is not to evangelize or defend the Catholic Faith, and that is repulsive to evangelicals because they would rather have a discussion/debate with those who truly believe their own faith. The irony of this is that those Catholics that I’ve witnessed who are involved in these discussions are following Vatican 2 to the letter. Anyone who believes that the Evangelical/Catholic dialogue is producing numerous converts is delusional. In fact, I’ve seen the opposite: because we expose Catholics to so many evangelical encounters, and make pacts with them, we’re losing far more Catholics to evangelical Protestantism than the other way around.

    On the other hand, this unity does not mean what could be called ecumenism of the return: that is, to deny and to reject one’s own faith history. Absolutely not!

    If Christians are not united in Faith, Liturgy and Governance (obedience to the Pope), then what is the basis of unity? And, if someone is fully united to us in all of those aspects, then aren’t they Catholic? How can an individual or group be united to us if they hold heretical views, or practice moral abberations? That isn’t “unity in diversity”, it’s just plain disunity.

  13. albizzi says:

    “Some have lamented the apparent death blow to the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), the main vehicle of ecumenical work between the two confessions since its formation in 1966. [Perhaps just acknowledgment that it was dead already.]”

    Fr Z’s comment is right: The ARCIC ended in sterile discussions bcs it was like St Maximilian Kolbe said: “false ecumenism”. The saint added : “(false) ecumenism is the ennemy of the Immaculata”.

  14. Grabski says:

    Off the path a bit, but watching the wedding this AM, did the Anglicans ever pay the Benedictines or Rome for the Westminster Abbey?

  15. AAJD says:

    Those of us who labor in the ecumenical trenches, and who do so explicitly in obedient response to the requests of an ecumenical council, and the recent papal magisterium (as I tried to do in my Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy [UND Press, 2011]: http://undpress.nd.edu/book/P01438), are awfully tired of the tedious fanatics slandering us as “liberals” and “doctrinal relativists” (etc.), and more tired still of this game of selectively playing off one pope against another to find one whose views conform to your own prejudices. As the soon-to-be-blessed John Paul II taught, the search for Christian unity is an inescapable part of what it means to be a Catholic, and those of us who are Catholic, and who always strive to think with the mind of the Church on ecumenical questions, know that unity is not about compromising the truth or relativizing doctrine. How tiresome it is to continue to hear this rubbish propagated. http://easternchristianbooks.blogspot.com/