The Pope of Christian Unity address the CDF

Remember to refer to Pope Benedict as "the Pope of Christian Unity"… for indeed he is.

Liberals will try to cling to what they perceive as their right to define what ecumenism means as well as with whom and how we may engage.

Benedict XVI has other, clearer ideas about ecumenism, in line with a hermeneutic of continuity rather than of rupture.

The other day the Holy Father addressed the plenary meeting of the most important of the Vatican dicasteries, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Here is part of the VIS report relevant to our interest in Benedict XVI as "the Pope of Christian Unity". 

My emphases and comments.

VATICAN CITY, 15 JAN 2010 (VIS) – Participants in the annual plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the president of which is Cardinal William Joseph Levada, were received this morning by the Holy Father. In his address to them he highlighted the fact that their dicastery "participates in the ministry of unity" which is primarily entrusted to the Pope through his "commitment to doctrinal fidelity[In explaining his moves with both the SSPX and Anglicans Benedict XVI underscored his role, as Peter, as one of unity.  He will not compromise anything that is essential in the regula fidei… he cannotBut he can be flexible with structures in the Church to facilitate the unity of those who would otherwise hold themselves apart from fullness of membership in the Church Christ founded.]

"Unity", he added, "is first and foremost unity of faith, upheld by the sacred tradition [Why continuity is so important…] of which Peter’s Successor is the primary custodian and defender. … This is an indispensable service upon which depends the effectiveness of the Church’s evangelising activity unto the end of time.

"The Bishop of Rome", the Pope explained, "must constantly proclaim that … Jesus is Lord". The Roman Pontiff’s "potestas docendi" requires "obedience to the faith, so that the Truth that is Christ may continue to shine forth in all its grandeur, … and that there may be a single flock gathered around a single Shepherd".

The goal of a shared witness of faith among all Christians "represents, then, a priority for the Church in all periods of history. [Ecumenism is not an option for us… but it must be ecumenism properly understood.  Pope Benedict gets to determine what that is and his first collaborators are in the CDF.  It is not by chance that the structures for the Anglicans were developed by the CDF and the Pont. Comm. Ecclesia Dei were placed directly under the CDF.] … In this spirit, I trust particularly in your dicastery’s commitment to overcoming the doctrinal problems that still persist in achieving the full communion of the Society of St. Pius X with the Church".

Benedict XVI then went on to thank the members of the congregation for their efforts towards "the full integration of groups and individuals of former Anglican faithful into the life of the Catholic Church, in accordance with the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution ‘Anglicanorum coetibus’. The faithful adherence of these groups to the truth received from Christ and presented in the Magisterium of the Church is in no way contrary to the ecumenical movement", [RIGHT!   This is the point.  Liberals want to determine what ecumenism involves.  That is over now.] he said, "rather, it reveals the ultimate aim thereof, which is the realisation of the full and visible communion of the disciples of the Lord".


On the Eve of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Pope of Christian Unity, Benedict XVI, vigorously defended his two initiatives spear-headed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (of which he was Prefect) has been in the forefront: unity with members of the Society of St. Pius X and unity with traditionally-minded Anglicans who – sua sponte – petitioned Rome for a dignified place within the Roman Catholic Church.

He corrected critics inside and outside of the Catholic Church about ecumenism.

The Constitution [for Anglicans] "is in no way contrary to the ecumenical movement. Rather, it reveals the ultimate aim thereof, which is the realisation of the full and visible communion of the disciples of the Lord".

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Mike says:

    I had a close-up look at wrongly-conceived ecumenism last summer with a ADL-Archdiocese of Washington seminar for Catholic teachers. Benedict was publicly mocked by a Catholic priests; a Jesuit seminarian and 27 other Catholic teachers roared with laughter; Church doctrine was said to explicitly condemn the Jews, demanded all Christians hate them for killing Christ, until, yes, you got that right, 1965, Vatican II’s decree on non-Christian religions. A reformed rabbi–whose outlook seemed to be competely pro-gay, told us that V2 was a Coeperican Revolution.

    There’s lots of work to do to correct this outrageously wrong-headed approach. Benedict’s emphasis on Truth is a great way to start…

  2. JonM says:

    We have to incorporate into our daily prayer routines some kind of petition for all priests and bishops that they submit to the Pope and Magesterium, and not become ‘of the world,’ which sounds precisely the rouad taken by those at the ADL event you mention, Mike.

  3. Maltese says:

    These are wonderful actions on the part of Benedict XVI towards Christian unity; however, the situations with SSPX and TM Anglicans can in no way be compared. Actually, they are opposite. Whereas the Anglicans drifted from Rome some four centuries ago, Rome drifted from herself four decades ago. It was SSPX who maintained Catholic roots, at odds with Rome, but remaining within Rome, and, in fact drawing Rome back to her roots. No SSPX, no Summorum Pontificum, no FSSP etc.

  4. Mike says:

    JonM–nice idea, perhaps focus on…loyalty as a virtue!

    Maltese–Never attended a SSPX event, am hugely sympathetic, however: they are not Rome, nor the Magisterium. Period.

  5. Ogard says:

    Neither Traditional Anglicans (although they now accept the CCC, NO, and VII) nor the SSPX (who don’t) are in full communion with the Church. However, the degree of communion of the Traditional Anglicans is evidently greater than the degree of communion of the SSPX. The latter not only reject the CCC, NO and VII, but also claim to be a super-magisterium, insisting that they are the sole authentic interpreters of Tradition.

    For twenty years I was closely associated with the SSPX. What Maltese says, i.e.: “Rome drifted from herself four decades ago. It was SSPX who maintained Catholic roots…” parfectly articulates the SSPX’ position, which is evidently a false position, contrary to the Catholic Faith.

  6. Maltese says:

    “For twenty years I was closely associated with the SSPX. What Maltese says, i.e.: “Rome drifted from herself four decades ago. It was SSPX who maintained Catholic roots…” parfectly articulates the SSPX’ position, which is evidently a false position, contrary to the Catholic Faith.”

    I disagree, of course, and there is historical precedence where Rome has strayed and the few have kept the balance for the Church; for instance, at the time of St. Athanasius, Rome and much of Christiandom strayed towards Arianism. St. Athanasius was excommunicated, was later re-welcomed by the Church, and then made a Saint. St. Athanasius said: “they may have the churches, but we have the Faith.” It’s sad how many prelates today hold high positions and titles but utterly reject the faith in their hearts. They are literally wolves in sheep’s clothing. Nothing is more beautiful than consecrated hands holding the Body of Christ in them, and nothing is more dreadful than such hands doing old scratch’s bidding.

  7. Maltese: Just a question.
    Did Rome “drift” away? Or was it individual prelates, priests, religious, lay faithful who have drifted away from the “faith of our Fathers”? (In monumental numbers, I do agree.)
    How does this square with the indefectability of the Church…in the Pope and the Bishops united with him?
    If we don’t believe this, we are headed toward “sede-vacantism”…a scary thought for me, and probably for many others.
    Mistakes? Yeah, plenty. Departure (rupture) from the living source of our Faith?
    Michael Davies, God rest his soul, did not believe or promote this; and he was a great promoter of Sacred Tradition, the “usus antiquior” and even of the rights of the SSPX. But he always maintained that the Holy Roman Catholic Church could not teach error.

  8. catholicmidwest says:

    There has been no rupture in the Church. Her mission and deposit of truth have not changed. (I’m getting sick of saying this.)

    However, in the last 40 years, there hasn’t exactly been the kind of leadership, due to a lot of factors, that there should have been. In vacillation, the church’s members, on various levels, have attempted to please the world more than they should have, and in the process confused many people. On the one hand, they were scared pretty much silly over communism and other 20th century forces (more than they should have been knowing what they’re supposed to know). Speculative theologians have been given too much attention, rather than experts on salvation history. On the other hand, the mercy of individuals in the church–usually a great thing–got the best of them in misunderstanding and caused them to do sometimes rather sappy things (examples: Assisi I & II). The two factors (fear and easy “mercy”) together = bad combination.

    The upshot? Many people, including a lot of clergy, assumed things that they thought were obvious and novel. But they were wrong and future history will bear this out. Some things will never change; some things cannot change.

  9. Maltese says:

    NP: The Pope is only infallible ex cathedra. A council is only infallible dogmatically. Since Pius XII’s declaration of the Assumption, neither has happened. Remember, Lateran IV said all Jews should wear distinctive dress. Councils can be WRONG. The Bible is infallible, dogma is infallible, but the Bugnini Mass could very well be full of error, or, at least, ill-advised interpolation…

  10. Maltese: Granted, the dogmatic teachings of VII must be congruent, faithful to the Tradition. And Pope Benedict has made it very clear that all the teachings of VII must be seen in the “light of Tradition”, i.e., the hermeneutic of continuity.
    Just basing things upon “ex cathedra” teaching will get us nowhere.
    I have no quarrel with opposing the awful, dissident, and just outright outrageous actions of prelates, priests, religious and laity. Please do not get me wrong.
    But if we are not in union with the Holy Father (in his ordinary magisterial teaching) we are headed down the wrong road. Infallibility is something that is used to clarify and make universal something that is to be believed by all the faithful.
    The discipline and customs of the Church are another matter, unless they contradict the continual teaching of the Church.
    I think we agree on what really matters, rather than what does not. Maybe I’m wrong.

  11. Maltese says:

    NP: I’d rather die than separate myself from Peter. I spent too long ardently searching after nothingness not to hold firm to Peter.

  12. Maltese: God bless and keep you. My prayers.

  13. Penguins Fan says:

    Both the SSPX and the TAC are outside of Holy Mother Church at this time. Ths SSPX is significantly less separated, but significantly more stubborn.

    One “ecclesiastical group” that has been conspicuously absent from unity talks is the Polish National Catholic Church. If memory serves me right, the PNCC, which is based in Scranton, Pennsylvania, is a schismatic group mainly of Polish Americans who separated from Rome around 100 years ago because of the lousy way that Irish Catholic bishops treated Polish Catholic parishes.

    At this time, the PNCC, who has an option for married clergy and does have married priests, has intercommunion with the Anglicans. The Apostolic Constitution that applies to traditional Anglicans could easily be applied to the PNCC.

    In the 1920s, the Latin Catholic bishops of the USA petitioned Rome to ban all married Catholic clergy from the US. This, of course, applied to the Eastern Catholic Churches that has married priests, most notably the Ukraninan Greek Catholic Church and the Carpatho-Rusyn (Byzantine) Catholic Church.
    Rome granted the request. As a result, the Byzantine Church in the US underwent a great deal of turmoil and many Byzantines left the Catholic Church to form the American Carpatho-Rusyn Orthodox Diocese of Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

    The precedent for this was the terrible treatment that Archbishop Ireland of Minneapolis dealt to Father Alexis Toth, who as a result left the Catholic Church to form the Orthodox Church of America.

    At present, there is no chance the OCA will reunite with the Byzantine Church. However, someone ought to be talking to the ACROD and the PNCC – and not Cardinal Kasper.

  14. Penta says:

    Penguins fan: I’m not sure the PNCC *wants* to reunite. Or that many of its members would be inclined to the Anglican measure’s provisions.

  15. Ogard says:

    During my twenty years’ close association with the SSPX I have come across with the Maltese brand of “evidence” many times, and eventually realized that no reasonable debate with the SSPX was possible.

    For example: “there is historical precedence where Rome has strayed …for instance, at the time of St. Athanasius….St. Athanasius was excommunicated… and then made a Saint”. Supposing all that was true; so what? Does it mean that the “Rome” proposed false doctrine or that it has merely made an imprudent ruling?

    In either case, relevant papal document/s of the time should be submitted so that we can see what is that “historical precedence” all about? I have never seen it in SSPX publications, which suggests that they have not consulted original documents, or, if they have, that the evidence is too weak to capitalize on it.

    Traditional moral theology has it that it is a grave matter to dissent from papal teaching even if the teaching is not proposed infallibly; likewise to disobey his ruling (to which the infallibility doesn’t apply).

    To the papal teaching that is not proposed infallibly a religious assent is due in proportion to his “manifest meaning and intention, and this is conveyed chiefly by the character of the documents, by the frequency with which the same teaching is put forward, or by the style of utterance” (LG 25/1). From “Rome … strayed towards Arianism” it doesn’t appear that the pope had proposed Arianism. In other words, Athanasius was not involved in doctrinal dissent; i.e. his case is not relevant to the SSPX case of rejection of the Vatican II, and post-conciliar teaching, which is not morally permissible according to the traditional moral theology.

    On the other hand, if the “Rome … strayed towards Arianism” for pastoral reasons or because it was under duress, i.e. if Athanasius thought that under the circumstances he should have disobeyed the papal ruling, he was entitled to have a recourse to epikeia. The epikeia is not applicable to teaching, but to ruling. One may have recourse to it in a concrete situation if he is morally certain – the onus of proof falls on himself – that the legislator would himself approve of it in the same circumstances. But this is evidently not the case with the SSPX: the pope has been aware of all circumstances for forty years and doesn’t approve of their disobedience.

    If Athanasius had indeed been excommunicated, and if the excommunication were later lifted, it would in itself prove nothing, because the lifting of excommunication doesn’t necessarily mean that the penalty was wrong. The purpose of excommunication is not to get rid of a trouble maker but to encourage him to repent, but if there is no reasonable chance of the latter, the authority may choose to lift it as an act of mercy, as it was explicitly stated in the case of SSPX’ bishops.

  16. Penguins Fan says:

    Penta, you may be correct. I have to correct my post. There is no intercommunion between the PNCC and the Anglican Church.

    My paternal grandmother was baptized and brought up in the PNCC and became Latin Catholic when she married my grandfather.

    I have been aware of discussions between the Holy See and the PNCC, but I have no idea where they are going, if anywhere.

  17. Maltese says:

    Ogard: thank you for your counter-balance. God bless.

  18. Ogard says:

    “sad how many prelates today hold high positions and titles but utterly reject the faith in their hearts. They are literally wolves in sheep’s clothing.” –
    True, but of the first set of prelates, the pope has denied Our Lord, one prelate has betrayed Him, and nine have run away…It was a prophetic message that has been the feature of the Church’s life ever since; so, we do not have to attribute it to the post-conciliar Church alone.

    “the Bugnini Mass could very well be full of error, or, at least, ill-advised interpolation” –
    I don’t know of any in the text of the New Mass itself. Nor did the SSPX found any in their ill-conceived “study”. However, from the viewpoint of how it is celebrated in many places, it is indeed full of errors – the point to which the SSPX did not pay attention in their “study”. The reason is obvious: due to self-imposed encapsulation they don’t have sufficient knowledge of what is going on in reality to be able to submit it as definite evidence. Nor are they able to register the places in which it is celebrated in perfectly orthodox way.

    “The Pope is only infallible ex cathedra. A council is only infallible dogmatically.” – Not “only”: both are infallible whenever they articulate in an ordinary way the faith of the Church as proposed by the constant teaching of the universal Ordinary Magisterium. Although it can be difficult to establish the latter, it is more important that the “infallible” definitions: before A.D. 325 the Church was happily living without any infallible definition, in spite of persecution.

    Maltese, thanks. God bless.

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