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What Is "Ecumenism"?

1/20/2004 - 6:27 AM PST

(Page 2 of 2)

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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1 - 9 of 9 Comments

  1. Antonio Freitas
    9 months ago

    As an apologist for the Catholic faith, and dealing with many other Christian believers, and knowing much of the ancient beliefs of the church, it is really sad to read so many comments that are totally out of context; reminds me of the very same behavior of non-Catholic people I deal with have.

    The fact is that, when the apostles went into the world they didn't necessarily speak Latin, but Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek. Hence, the earliest Masses were celebrated in all these languages, including Latin. As Latin was the international language of the time, so too, it became the official language of the Church. Even Jesus didn't celebrate the first Mass in Latin. Hence, if we are to have such a stringent attitude towards this, once the Mass was not celebrated in Aramaic it was null and void. This would mean centuries of NOTHING else but bogus Masses.

    Here are the facts. The Holy Spirit guiding this last Council, just as He has always done throughout the centuries, guided Peter and the Apostles (pope and bishops) just as He did to Peter many times in Acts. NEVER has the Church taught new things that were not there in its bosom. EVERY COUNCIL that has ever been held where the Pope is united with the Bishops is guided by the Holy Spirit and binding to every Catholic, I believe this 500%.

    Just as in Acts of the Apostles, God wants to reach everyone and has given us very clear directives through this council how to go about it. Those who do not try to understand the teaching and stand against the Church are really fighting God's wishes. These positions are many times born out of pride, even though not readily visible; the same sin that drove Lucifer to become Satan.

    Being an apologist and defender of the Catholic faith, I always have to use the Bible to prove these kind of points to non-Catholics, and it is so sad that those who should have the light (cradle Catholics) at times are just as blind as those outside the visual union of the One Church of Jesus. This behavior scares me for their own good.

  2. Gregory U.J.P. Nzeneri
    9 months ago

    My Populous Country Nigeria is full of many Protestant Churches, and as a Convinced Catholic, I really wish to Champion the Work of Ecumenism here, in a large scale through a trusted Organisation without Compromise of the Authentic Faith. I need the Aid of such Articles or Write-ups as this one, and other forms of Sponsorship. Keep it up, and more grease to your elbows. Thanks, and may God Bless you !

  3. Angel
    2 years ago

    Emily Sanchez:
    Latin mass was a change in tradition, for the early church fathers did not conduct mass in Latin. So for "traditional catholics" to say that mass should still be in Latin, I find it as a barrier to truly know Christ. At least now I have the chance to understand what the priest is saying. Language should not be part of dogma; it defeats the purpose of trying to evangelize the world. Besides, historically, it doesn't stand.

  4. Alan
    5 years ago

    1) Traditionalists don't deny that there is an authentic "ecumenism". That is, the "ecumenism of the return", as was taught prior to Vatican II, that all non-Catholics must convert to the Catholic Church to be saved.

    2)No traditionalist says false ecumenism was invented at Vatican II, otherwise how was in condemned as a denial of the Catholic Faith in 1928 by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Mortalium Animos. Pope John Paul II's ecumenical meating such as Assisi 1986 were condemned by Pius XI.

    5 years ago

    Its interesting to see Ecumenism as a "means of 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", but what if our differences promote the very 'culture' we want brought 'back to Go'?

  6. Samm Halliday
    5 years ago

    i hate religion

  7. Tom McGovern
    6 years ago

    Does this "baptism of desire" extend to all religious people? What about the 19 Islamic "martyrs" that went to their death crashing the planes they hi-jacked into the Twin Towers killing over 3000 people? What about the suicide bombers in Irag who believe they will go straight to heaven after they kill as many innocent people as they can. What about the Aztec indians who sacrificed many thousands of human beings to the god the "plummed serpent? What about all the denominations that believe that abortion, the homosexual lifestyle, contraception and divorce is ok?

    Of course, there are many other examples of people living in "ignoance". Will they all go to Heaven?

    Is the Catholic Church the deposit of all of the revealed truth from God necessary for salvation? If so, we should not be having a "dialog" we should be trying to convert others. Jesus never told us to go out and "dialog" with other religions. He told us, "Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Matt 28:19

    If ignorance can save us then there was no need for Christ to come to Earth and suffer on the cross for us.

    I'm sorry, you are gravely mistaken. I will do as Saint Paul told us, "Therefore, brethern, stand fast; and hold to the Traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle." 2Thess 2:14

    Your new fangled Catholicism holds no TRUTH.

  8. emilysanchez
    6 years ago

    i hope u r not misleading the true church, and the faithful who believe on the dogma of the catholic church. i still strongly believe on the Catholic tradition and it latin mass and not the novos ordo, which happened to be the fruit of ecumenism, which is absolutely protestant in nature.

  9. allan
    6 years ago

    the article is short yet a lucid and fair presentation of catholic teaching on ecumenism. keep up the good work!

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