Catholic Herald editorial: “Benedict XVI is truly the Pope of Christian Unity”

The UK’s best Catholic weekly, The Catholic Herald, has an editorial with a title which may sound familiar to readers of WDTPRS.

My original post about a project.

This comes during the Week for Christian Unity.

My emphases and comments.

Benedict XVI is truly the Pope of Christian Unity

22 January 2010

When Jesus prayed that his followers may be one, He was praying for the unity of the Church whose leadership he entrusted to St Peter and his successors. He was not prophesying that this unity would be achieved by a particular model of ecumenism. In the 20th century, the Church mapped out a route towards unity which focused on ever closer links with other Christian communities, such as the Anglican Communion; the aim was to achieve a corporate reunion. Thus, the purpose of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, so far as the Church was concerned, was an agreement in which the Archbishop of Canterbury would once again become bishop of a historic see of the Church that Anglicans describe as "Roman Catholic". Unfortunately, participants on both sides of ARCIC glossed over the fact that doctrines of transubstantiation and infallibility are unchangeable: one can do no more than tinker with the language in which they are defined. [Ecumenical dialogue in which either party waters down their belief for the sake of continuing dialogue is no dialogue at all.]

Indeed, both sides implied that they could offer what were, in fact, impossible concessions. Many, if not most, Anglicans are Protestants: their objections to Catholic teaching on the Eucharist and papal primacy are fundamental. ARCIC established some genuine common ground between the two bodies; but some of the convergence was illusory. And this was the case even before Anglicans took irreversible decisions [Are they?] to ordain women priests and (in many provinces) women bishops, too.

As a result of these latter developments, a tremendous gloom settled over the Church’s official ecumenists. [In other words, those steeped in the art of watery ecumencial tea.  But go on… this is where it gets good… ] It has taken Pope Benedict XVI to show us that ecumenical dialogue can achieve the long-awaited goal of corporate reunion by another route. Let us take the example of the Society of St Pius X. Those of its members who accept the Magisterium can be welcomed back corporately into full communion; as a prelude to this, the Holy Father took the necessary but controversial step of lifting episcopal excommunications (though no one, including the Pontiff, would claim that the Vatican executed this manoeuvre skilfully).  [But it sure got things moving.  And the only serious dissidents objected to something that was not really germane to the question of why they had been excommunicated.  Some SSPXers said they weren’t ever excommunicated (dreamland).  Some objected because of one SSPX bishops bizzare views (irrelevant).  Some were liberals who "Don’t want their kind ’round these parts (ecclesiastical bigots).  The point is that Benedict XVI won’t shy from a tussle if that is the only way to get things going.  Thus, he has redefined not only the scope and issues of ecumenical dialogue, but also the methodology.]

The forthcoming group reception of former Anglicans is in some ways less controversial. Ever since the 1990s, the Holy Father has been convinced that orthodox Anglicans can be corporately received into the Church after detaching themselves from official bodies that have opted for the Protestant innovation of women’s ordination. This detachment need not be a source of long-term damage to Anglican-Catholic relations; from the Anglican point of view, it recognises an already existing ecclesial reality. For Catholics, however, it is more than that. As the Pope emphasised in his address to the CDF last week, his Apostolic Constitution is that rarest of developments: an ecumenical gesture that increases the visible unity and the liturgical riches of the Church. Those Anglicans who accept the papal offer will be doing a wonderful thing – not just for themselves, but for us, too.


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.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Penta says:

    Except that SSPX doesn’t prove much at all.

    It’s one thing to reunite a group that’s only been separated for 20 years.

    Quite another when the split’s 500 or a thousand years old.

  2. Joseph says:

    Unification with SSPX will happen almost by default by installing true shepherds in eclesiastical positions. The other day there was an excellent article on Sandra Magister’s blog about the quality or lack thereof in regards to sermons at mass. Good bishops will be able to fix that and proper cathechesis will result. We have seen positive stirrings in the US already.
    Let us pray that our first shepherd will not fear the wolves.

  3. Ogard says:

    Decree on Ecumenism (UR) makes it perfectly clear that there can be no doctrinal compromise to the detriment of what the Church believes (11/1-3, 24/1); that the Catholic Church is in living continuity with the Church established by Our Lord (1/1, 2/3-6); that she alone fully possesses the means of salvation (3/5, 4/5); that the unity was bestowed on her by Christ, is still in existence, and cannot be lost (4/3).

    With regard to the ecclesiastical status of other Christian bodies the UR teaches that their origin goes back to the time when “communities of considerable size have broken away from full communion in the Catholic Church”, but that this separation was never a complete separation: “those who believe in Christ and are baptized are…in a communion with the Catholic Church, even if this communion be incomplete” (3/1). The degree of that communion differs: the Orthodox has valid Orders and all sacraments (15/3), post-reformation communities have retained valid Baptism (22/2) and Matrimony.

    These elements, which they have never lost, “are capable to give real birth to the life of grace” (3/3), and “are certainly not without significance…in the mystery of salvation; Christ’s Spirit has not refused to employ them as means of salvation” (3/4). On the other hand, because of what the separated bodies have lost they are “defective” (3/3), and “do not have the benefit…of the unity which Jesus Christ has wanted” (3/5).

    The Catholic Church is bound to work for reunion of Christians (Note: not of the Church, because she is one: 1/1, 2/4-6, 3/1, 3/5, 4/3; and cannot be divided: 4/3), because the present state of affairs is “in open contradiction to the will of Christ”, “the world finds it scandalous”, “it is damaging to the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature” (all in 1/1), and “the Church’s own Catholicity” is impaired by the fact that many “who are assigned to it by baptism…are out of its full communion” (4/10).

    The Decree also provides practical guidelines, which are further elaborated in the Ecumenical Directory.

  4. Penguins Fan says:

    Protestantism is dying. The mainline Protestant churches will be almost extinct within 200 years. The Orthodox are another matter. The Orthodox and the Catholic Church are natural allies in opposing the spread of the culture of death. There are the differences in the role of the Pope, the understanding of Original Sin, Purgatory, and a few other items, but they are significant.

    Trust must replace suspicion and bitterness between East and West and this won’t happen quickly.

  5. ssoldie says:

    ‘penta’ kudos to you. An entirely different sceniro altogether. We must evangilize the 500 year one, not ecuminize. Has not the last 45 years of what has been happening in the Church opened the eyes of the neo cath?

  6. Ogard says:

    What is a difference between “evangelize” and “ecuminize”?

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