What Is "Ecumenism"?
good wishes of those who, though not belonging to the visible body of the Catholic Church, have given noble and sincere expression to their appreciation of all that unites them to us, in love for the person of Christ or belief in God.”
Also significant during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII was the publishing of On the Ecumenical Movement by the Holy Office in 1949. This document allowed Catholics, with the approval of their bishop, to engage in theological dialog and common prayer with Protestant Christians.
Examples such as these illustrate how ecumenism has profoundly developed over the years, especially since Vatican II and with the post-Vatican II pontificates.
Now there also is such a thing as false ecumenism, which seeks to promote religious indifferentism (all religions are of equal value and therefore it doesn’t matter which one you belong to), universalism (the heretical belief that all people are saved), and syncretism (the combining of various beliefs and practices of different religions as a “compromise”).
But none of these are taught — and could never be taught — by the Church or the Vicar of Christ. Yes, it is (unfortunately) true that some Catholics go too far in this arena and end up promoting erroneous doctrines and ideologies instead of authentic ecumenical dialog. Even a priest can be guilty of this, such as when he allows or encourages non-Catholics to receive Holy Communion — something ordinarily not permitted by the Church.
Yet, to say that the Magisterium itself is teaching and promoting heresy is preposterous, for we know that Christ’s Church is both infallible and indefectible. And all of Pope John Paul II’s ecumenical efforts stem from the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, which — like the previous 20 ecumenical councils — was guided by the Holy Spirit and thus protected from doctrinal error.
Ultimately, true ecumenism does not require us to give up our Marian devotions or in any way compromise our faith; it means joining hands with other Christians and people of goodwill to bring our nihilistic, hedonistic, anti-life, anti-family culture back to God, while at the same time acknowledging our obvious differences. Far from being a bad word, ecumenism is — in the words of John Paul II — “a response to the exhortation in the First Letter of Peter to ‘give an explanation of the reason for our hope’” (1 Peter 3:15).
(Matt C. Abbott is the former executive director of the Illinois Right to Life Committee and the former director of public affairs for the Chicago-based Pro-life Action League, respectively. He is also a contributor to The Wanderer Catholic newspaper.
(This article originally appeared in The Wanderer and is reprinted with permission. To subscribe call 651-224-5733.)
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