In this post I will try to, albeit at an amateur level, point out the specific problems in the Vatican II document Unitatis Redintegratio (decree on Ecumenism), namely the ambiguities and questionable instances. Here we will see how the liberals have managed to “highjack” the true meaning of ecumenism through their own errors and exploitations of Vatican II’s weaknesses. I will also post some good parts of UR near the end.
Keep in mind that the translation I use is straight from the Vatican’s website and is most likely done by the ICEL. Essentially then some criticisms of the document could be moot because of a simple translation problem. I would be happy to correct any such instances if they come to my attention.
To start off I would say there are generally three types of ecumenism.
Let us examine how Pope Pius XI talks about the first type, which is true ecumenism. Pius XI statements are in the wake of a phenomenon that was happening in even his time, that of the protestant ecumenical movement. Here he states in a clear and concise manner what ecumenism for Catholics mean:
“...the union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it. To the one true Church of Christ, we say, which is visible to all, and which is to remain, according to the will of its Author, exactly the same as He instituted it..
it were foolish and out of place to say that the mystical body is made up of members which are disunited and scattered abroad: whosoever therefore is not united with the body is no member of it, neither is he in communion with Christ its head...
in this one Church of Christ no man can be or remain who does not accept, recognize and obey the authority and supremacy of Peter and his legitimate successors.
Let, therefore, the separated children draw nigh to the Apostolic See, set up in the City which Peter and Paul, the Princes of the Apostles, consecrated by their blood; to that See, We repeat, which is "the root and womb whence the Church of God springs," not with the intention and the hope that "the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" will cast aside the integrity of the faith and tolerate their errors, but, on the contrary, that they themselves submit to its teaching and government...
Let them hear Lactantius crying out: ]The Catholic Church is alone in keeping the true worship. This is the fount of truth, this the house of Faith, this the temple of God: if any man enter not here, or if any man go forth from it, he is a stranger to the hope of life and salvation. Let none delude himself with obstinate wrangling. For life and salvation are here concerned, which will be lost and entirely destroyed, unless their interests are carefully and assiduously kept in mind.'”
However Modern day ecumenism is ambiguous and varying. There appears to be several errors and/or wrong ways that have been adopted when engaging in ecumenism. One person that surprises me the most is Cardinal Kasper. Why? Because he is the head of the Pontifical Council of Christian Unity – a John Paul II appointment by the way. Kasper adheres to the second type of ecumenism – false ecumenism:
“Today we no longer understand ecumenism in the sense of a return, by which the others would ‘be converted’ and return to being ‘catholics.’ This was expressly abandoned by Vatican II.”
Kasper is, of all people, the head of a commission that would seek (according to orthodox interpretations) the return of Christians to the Catholic Church as converts. Now compare the two statements - one from Pius XI and one from Kasper. There are two things here.
First he justifies this so-called “change” by falling back on the same old liberal Catholic excuse; Vatican II. Again I will stress – should a modern day council be able to be so twisted and manipulated like Vatican II? Of course not. It once again proves the ambiguity in this council. Can Kasper take Mortalium Animos and do the same thing? No, because it’s very clear.
Second, he displays his Modernism by stating that “we no longer understand” as if to say the previous understanding has been changed. Classic Modernism declares an evolution in doctrine. Kasper, while obviously not a full blown Modernist, displays Modernistic tendencies within this statement.
Back on topic. The third kind of ecumenism is “ambiguous ecumenism.” This kind is usually practiced by modern prelates and Popes (John Paul II) who unlike Kasper do not explicitly say that a return is not necessary. However in their ecumenical meetings they do not explicitly evangelize those into the faith like the Apostles did. Therefore we have an ambiguous middle ground so to speak. One that purposes that being nice and showing people how friendly and willing to dialogue with them (comparing how similar we are to them etc.) will somehow compel them to convert even though no explicit mention of the necessity to be Catholic is made.
But again back to Vatican II. Let’s examine the problems with Unitatis Redintegratio. The first paragraph could be considered a minor point but I would like to draw out attention to it regardless:
“The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council. Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. However, many Christian communions present themselves to men as the true inheritors of Jesus Christ; all indeed profess to be followers of the Lord but differ in mind and go their different ways, as if Christ Himself were divided. Such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature.”
The Council stops sort of saying that the one true Church of Christ is the Catholic Church. Why leave this out? Instead we have a paragraph that can be interpreted by orthodox Catholics and protestants to mean different things precisely because a few words are left out.
A protestant can admit that Christ founded one Church and could admit that it is visible. They could further interpret “but differ I mind” to be several things. The paragraphs hints that all Christians should be of one mind. Catholics would say “yes, this means doctrine and discipline” but a protestant could say “this means that we must dialogue with each other and form common ground, slowly removing things that separate us as nonessential.” In other words Rome can drop doctrines or declare them superfluous for the sake of unity.
The problem would be then defining the nature of the Church and salvation? Probably. Unitatis Redintegratio gives us a hint to where it is placing the interpretation of what the Church is first of all and gives us insights on salvation and membership to the Mystical Body of Christ.
First let us explore the issue of the nature of the Church as UR tries to put together. In doing this is harkens back to a Vatican II document that was released on the same day:
“The Sacred Council gladly notes all this. It has already declared its teaching on the Church, and now, moved by a desire for the restoration of unity among all the followers of Christ, it wishes to set before all Catholics the ways and means by which they too can respond to this grace and to this divine call.”
The “already declared teaching” was in reference to Lumen Gentium and its famous ambiguity “the Church of Christ… subsists in the Catholic Church.” Where instead of clearly stating that the Church of Christ is the Catholic Church it ambiguously uses the word “subsists.” Although proper interpretation can render an orthodox conclusion the word in itself is not a good choice. No one would say “Christ subsists in the Eucharistic” as if to indicate that Christ is within something – like the bread and whine (hence He is subsisting in it). Rather one would say that Christ is the Eucharist.
However LG, shortly after the “susbsits in” states quite clearly (I’ll give the whole thing for context):
“This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as "the pillar and mainstay of the truth". This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.”
What we examine here is that the thrust of ecumenism should be “catholic unity.” This is a good statement and we would read this as the return of heretics and schismatics into the Church. However its orthodox interpretation can be destroyed if someone uses the ambiguity contained in the paragraph and in Unitatis Redintegratio (which we’ll get to shortly). Again the “subsists in” and “many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure” are the culprits.
An erroneous conclusion would be thus: “Subsists in,” as explained above, has been twisted to mean that the Church of Christ can “subsist” elsewhere and as far as LG goes it uses the succeeding sentence to further justify this claim. Since sanctifying elements (which belong to the Church as the text states) exist outside the “visible” boundaries that must mean the Church can subsist – in an invisible way – with protestants who utilize these elements for sanctification processes.
This is very loaded. We know that the idea of an invisible Church has been condemned. We also know that protestants do indeed, by accident, use sanctifying elements that belong to the Church. I am thinking of infant Baptism here as an example. What is incorrect is that the Church would subsist within these other sects and groups as if it were really an invisible entity that more fully manifests itself in the Catholic Church compared to let’s say the Lutheran Church down the road.
But what about “impelling towards catholic unity?” This one is obviously harder for the liberal to twist. However his foundation rests upon what was discussed above. So then “catholic unity” could mean anything since the Church only “subsists” in the Catholic Church and apparently can be found elsewhere. “Catholic unity” then, according to the liberal Catholics could be merely a unity between lets say the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod and Rome in terms of several declarations of common beliefs, working together on social issues, and ecumenical worship gatherings; eventually possibly leading to each church dropping certain nonessential doctrines and disciplines in favor of a more deeper unity. They would be viewed as “being in union” with Rome because of all the undertakings that were and are currently being employed.
Again, I know there is an orthodox way to interpret the paragraph in LG and I am not saying that it is declaring error – I am just showing how liberals can use the ambiguity to twist and distort Catholic teaching.
Further, if anyone says that I am over doing it and the text is perfectly fine just see how changing a few words or adding a sentence or two clears up everything;
“This is the one Church of Christ, the Roman Catholic Church, which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as "the pillar and mainstay of the truth". This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, is the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found and implement These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.”
Notice how “subsists” is changed to “is,” how some parts that stated “Church of Christ” (a continued ambiguity) was changed to “Catholic Church,” and how “unity” was removed in favor of “return of all Christians to the Catholic Church herself” for a clear indication of what ecumenism really is. Ask yourself why it was so hard for theologians and bishops at the council not to render it this clearly and yet someone like me (or even you perhaps – I’ve seen lots of people interpret hard parts of the council in a traditional way) who is not formally trained nor is in a position of authority has rewritten the paragraph to be more concise. And no, that’s not boasting, rather I’m trying to point out how ridiculous it is.
So already the foundation is ambiguous. However, going back to UR, we actually see some pretty good statements in there that appear quite clear. Their clarity however is destroyed by the other more problematic statements in UR and of course LG as I explained above.
But before we go to the better of UR let’s finally see what is really the problem contained in this document.
UR 3 reads:
“The children who are born into these Communities and who grow up believing in Christ cannot be accused of the sin involved in the separation, and the Catholic Church embraces upon them as brothers, with respect and affection.”
The problem here is calling people outside the Church “brothers” or “sisters” because this would imply that they are apart of the “family” or rather the Body of Christ which they are not. Now of course if a protestant sect performs a valid baptism on an infant then the infant would be a member of the Church. However the text states that these people are at the same time “separated” and “brothers.” This makes no sense. As for the last part, we would generally see Christian dominations and have some kind of “respect and affection” for the things they hold to be true that are true but at the same time we would have contempt and shun the errors they adhere to as well. Neglecting to mention how the Catholic Church is also displeased with their errors leaves a doorway for a liberal to say “see the council says we have respect and affection for other Christians, stop trying to convert them” or something to that effect.
“For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect.”
This is one of the bigger UR oddities. It declares that people outside the Church, through a valid baptism are in an imperfect communion. A valid baptism puts a permanent mark on the soul – whether a protestant or Catholic does it. It has been speculated on what kind of degree that a protestant may truly belong to the Church who has received a valid baptism. Obviously an infant up until somewhere beyond the age of reason is a member of the Church. However the adult protestant who receives a valid baptism is another story. He could possibly be joined to the Church at that moment but a conscious denial of the Church just minutes later could kill that. Or the baptism could just leave a mark since he is already in a state above the age of reason and consciously rejects the Church. Then of course there is the problem of ignorance, culpability, etc.
It is all very speculative. However UR doesn’t try to differentiate between various protestants and their beliefs; explicitly denying the Church or the person’s state. It rather says ALL who believe in Christ and who have received a valid baptism. We know it’s not “all.” A protestant who explicitly rejects the Church is not in any type of communion because they are not members of the Body of Christ. “But it says ‘imperfect.’” Again, ambiguous. What does that even mean? Could it mean that infant in a protestant Church who has received a valid baptism and is apart of the Church but is not an enrolled member of a parish? Could it mean that because a protestant has the mark of baptism on his soul he is in imperfect communion? Most people say that both are true especially the latter.
Simply having the mark of baptism does not mean that they are “in communion though imperfect.” If you are not in communion you are not in communion. “Imperfect communion” is another ambiguity that anyone can twist to mean several things. If it actually means “not in communion” then why render it “imperfect communion” as if to indicate some kind of partial communion – as if to say that they are 50% joined to Christ? Having the mark rather means that they are in “potential communion” and this is how I read “imperfect communion.” They share in many similar doctrines and have the mark of baptism – hence they are closer than many other and potentially can become in real communion.
Once again this part of UR is a joy to liberals because they can take it, based on the foundations of LG and the other parts of UR (that I am about to get to) and twist it to their liking.
“The differences that exist in varying degrees between them and the Catholic Church-whether in doctrine and sometimes in discipline, or concerning the structure of the Church-do indeed create many obstacles, sometimes serious ones, to full ecclesiastical communion. The ecumenical movement is striving to overcome these obstacles.”
A small point to mention; what is the “ecumenical movement?” Because the protestant version, which started way before Vatican II, certainly does not say “he let’s all come together and return to the Catholic Church.” And how could a liberal interpret “overcoming” the obstacles of doctrine, discipline and structure of the Church? Through constant dialogue to where each side submits to each other to the point where certain articles of doctrine and discipline is made unnecessary?
“But even in spite of them it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ's body, and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.”
This is perhaps the most damaging and hardest text to interpret in all of Vatican II. It is foundation for all those who cry that salvation is possible outside the Church.
First we recognize that a valid baptism done on certain individuals within non-Catholic sects can render them members of the Body of Christ – like infants.
The text however speaks to us as if it is talking about those who are not Catholic. How? Because the last sentence says that they “are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.” Where the children of the Catholic Church are accepting the brothers of “the children that are born in these communities” as the first sentence of this entire paragraph I am writing about states.
The context is therefore talking about people who are not inside the Church as being members of the Body of Christ. This is not possible. The only ones who achieve membership who are not formally on a parish enrollment list within these non-Catholic sects are those in special circumstances like infants or the mentally disabled for example. But if it is in fact talking about those people (infants, mentally disabled, etc.) then they wouldn’t be separated in the first place; they would actually be members of the Church.
Further it implies that people outside the Church have faith when the council of Trent clearly states that the Catholic faith is only faith pleasing to God. The supernatural virtue of faith is in fact that Catholic faith.
I have no good interpretation of this text except to say that it is only talking about those special circumstances I described above. It is one area of the council where if error could exist due to its pastoral natural and its usage of words (non-binding) this would be it.
As you can guess liberals quite easily take this and declare all Christians as members of the Body of Christ – hence they say that a “return” is not needed because they already of “elements of sanctification,” they are in “communion though imperfect,” and they are members of the “Body of Christ.”
The next paragraph reads:
“Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ.”
The first bolded part is troubling. What is the “life of grace?” Is this actual grace or sanctifying grace? Sanctifying grace would be a life with the sacraments. Since people outside the Church only have baptism and marriage one could employ mental gymnastics here and say that it must mean that: baptism and marriage. However can these sacraments alone constitute and entire life of grace? Again, infants and children through a valid baptism yes. But the council makes no distinction like that and clumps all non-Catholic Christians in “the life of grace.” Further it states that they have “faith” as a gift from the Holy Spirit. Yet again, “faith” is the Catholic faith. One could perhaps say that it is not talking about the true theological virtue and merely some kind of “I trust God, I believe in God” type of faith (fiducial faith). But does that really work when the council declares them as gifts of the Holy Spirit like the real theological virtues?
Ah but the Eastern Schismatic communities have more than two sacraments. Very true but other problems arise over “faith” and the fact that the council makes no distinction here between protestant and Eastern Schismatics, hence ambiguity.
Lastly the second bolded part would be very clear if the words chosen were “Catholic Church” and not “one Church of Christ.”
The next paragraph reads:
“The brethren divided from us also use many liturgical actions of the Christian religion. These most certainly can truly engender a life of grace in ways that vary according to the condition of each Church or Community. These liturgical actions must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation.”
The second sentence is clearer by indicating that different communities have different degrees of grace given to them through valid sacraments (more for the Eastern communities compared to protestants of course). However the last sentence reeks of ambiguity by declaring that these liturgical actions can “give access to the community of salvation.” The liberal is eager to declare yet another part of the council stating that salvation is possible outside the Church.
Orthodox Catholics however can render the sentence to mean that certain people outside the Church can benefit from the “liturgical action” (what does that mean – sacraments?) that might aid them in salvation. Meaning that it would compel them back into the Catholic Church or perhaps it might aid them (such as a Eastern Schismatic receiving valid sacraments through their liturgy) in becoming united with the Church before they die in order to be saved (of course purely speculative on if and how God can do this).
The liberal however may counter that the text states that their liturgical actions – whether Eastern or protestant can “give the community – the whole community access to salvation because after all the above UR text states that they are members of the Body of Christ and are justified by their baptism.”
The next paragraph reads:
“It follows that the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation.”
The good thing here is that it states (finally) they have deficiencies but it suddenly employs more ambiguity by stating that “by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation.”
One would think that they are deprived because they are outside the Church but of course not totally deprived because they have some valid sacraments and hold many of the same truths.
The liberal again can jump all over this to declare salvation outside the Church.
“For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church.”
The liberal again would declare “the council has stated that separated Christians are a means of salvation, hence salvation outside the Church.” However the Orthodox catholic could render the sentence as saying that Christ uses them towards salvation – meaning towards the Church by employing a valid baptism and teaching people truths of the faith – but however at the same time they will teach error as to hamper conversion. Although Christ could use the good that they have as a means to drive them towards the Church.
“Nevertheless, our separated brethren, whether considered as individuals or as Communities and Churches, are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ wished to bestow on all those who through Him were born again into one body, and with Him quickened to newness of life-that unity which the Holy Scriptures and the ancient Tradition of the Church proclaim. For it is only through Christ's Catholic Church, which is "the all-embracing means of salvation," that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God. This people of God, though still in its members liable to sin, is ever growing in Christ during its pilgrimage on earth, and is guided by God's gentle wisdom, according to His hidden designs, until it shall happily arrive at the fullness of eternal glory in the heavenly Jerusalem.”
You’re probably asking yourself what the problem here is. Well again, this is a very good statement in UR if you read it with orthodox Catholic interpretation. However the statement is still not clear enough and if you combine it with the other ones I am about to post you will see what I mean.
For starters this paragraph had a chance to proclaim that the Mystical Body of Christ and the Catholic Church are one and the same and all must become Catholic but it does not state it in such a clear and concise manner. Rather the text tells us “," that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation.” What does that even mean? That if they are not in the Catholic Church they will only benefit partially from salvation? It reads as if they can be saved without the Church but not have a good chance because they don’t receive all the benefits. The sentence could have said “For it is only through Christ's Catholic Church, which is ‘the all-embracing means of salvation,’ that salvation is achieved.”
You see how just changing a few words or adding a sentence (in other cases) can eliminate ambiguity? I make this point because so many people say that since it’s a pastoral council it need not be super-precise and scholastic in all areas or that “Scripture is hard to read too but we don’t criticize it.”
This is modern council with almost 2,000 years of developed doctrine and developed means of clearly explaining the faith to people. It should not be like this.
“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.”
Excuse my constant repeating of the same terms and phrases but this is yet again another ambiguous paragraph that can go both ways.
Two interpretations are possible basing this on both the bad points of UR as we are examining right now and the good points of UR which we will examine later.
An erroneous interpretation by someone could make this say a non-Catholic converting to the Catholic faith is entirely different from ecumenism with non-Catholics and therefore a non-Catholic does not need to convert because UR states that dialogue to hash out differences and come into a general unity is what is desired. Or rather that since the paragraph says that both of these actions are distinct in nature there is no connection and hence ecumenism does not need to lead to conversion.
An orthodox Catholic on the other hand could say that this paragraph simply means that if someone is already converting there is no need for ecumenism because they have already overcome any difficulties they have with Catholicism. Because after all ecumenism is dialogue that attempts to have each side understand each other and become closer with the explicit indication on the Catholic side that everyone must be Catholic; they must convert to the Catholic faith and becomes members of the Body of Christ.
“Nevertheless, the divisions among Christians prevent the Church from attaining the fullness of catholicity proper to her, in those of her sons who, though attached to her by Baptism, are yet separated from full communion with her. Furthermore, the Church herself finds it more difficult to express in actual life her full catholicity in all her bearings.”
Two problems here. First is that it is saying to us that the Catholic Church cannot attain “full catholicity” without non-Catholics becoming united with her. Why? Since the beginning of the Church there have been people who have severed themselves from the Body of Christ (heretics and those in schism); this means then that the Church has never had “full” catholicity?? What is “full catholicity” anyway?
This paragraph makes more sense if one thinks that these separated Christians are actually members of the Body of Christ. For in the twisted world of the liberal the Body of Christ can exist in divided entities that are not in subjugation to the Pope and at the same time be whole. Yet the Church somehow still lacks by not being full in catholicity with these entities.
The second problem is where it says that these Christians are “attached to her by Baptism.” This may be minor, but it is yet another sentence where the manipulator can declare that these people are in fact members of the Body of Christ but not full communion. Sort of like a partial membership. Though the Orthodox Catholic could render this as saying that they only “have a link” to the Body of Christ. That is to say they are not actually members, they are not “attached,” but they have a link in so far as they have the ability to be reattached easily because the mark of Baptism is still on their soul.
“Attachment” denotes they are apart of something. This is obviously false if we consider past teaching and Tradition. However a using a different word here, like “link,” or a better explanation in general could perhaps help clear up the mess.Now we are at UR chapter II, I will continue to quote just the troublesome areas.
“Yet worship in common (communicatio in sacris) is not to be considered as a means to be used indiscriminately for the restoration of Christian unity. There are two main principles governing the practice of such common worship: first, the bearing witness to the unity of the Church, and second, the sharing in the means of grace. Witness to the unity of the Church very generally forbids common worship to Christians, but the grace to be had from it sometimes commends this practice. The course to be adopted, with due regard to all the circumstances of time, place, and persons, is to be decided by local episcopal authority, unless otherwise provided for by the Bishops' Conference according to its statutes, or by the Holy See.”
A few problems again. What grace is to be obtained through worship in common? It is good that the beginning of the paragraph indicates not to do this but then it turns around and says it yields grace. What kind of grace? Supernatural grace? Actual grace?
Soon after saying “no” to worship in common it then vaguely states that “the course to be adopted” is to be decided upon by the bishops in accordance to the Holy See. It simultaneously appears to be saying “nope” then says “yes, with certain conditions etc.”
There should absolutely be no worship in “common” ever. A protestant worship service is founded upon heretical theology. Taking part in worship with a protestant on any level would at least indicate to observers that we are in agreement about that heretical theology when in pertains to worship. This fuels the pest of indifferentism both explicitly and even if guarded by extreme circumstances and guidance of the bishop it can communicate it implicitly.
“In certain special circumstances, such as the prescribed prayers ‘for unity,’ and during ecumenical gatherings, it is allowable, indeed desirable that Catholics should join in prayer with their separated brethren. Such prayers in common are certainly an effective means of obtaining the grace of unity, and they are a true expression of the ties which still bind Catholics to their separated brethren. ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’.”
The council claims that these prayers will help restore unity. But how? We are only allowed to pray with the “separated brethren” in so far as there is “prayer in common.” Essentially this means that we can pray with heretics now as long as the prayers do not contradict the Catholic faith such as the Pater Noster or perhaps a general prayer for unity as the text states.
But the ecumenical movement among protestants is entirely different among Catholics. To an orthodox Catholic it means conversion, to a protestant not so. Read carefully then; the text states that when non-Catholics pray for unity we can join in. But what are they praying for? “O Lord, help me to become Catholic” or “O Jesus please help us to become one?” If it is the latter then what do they mean by unity? If I pray with a protestant and both of us say “O Lord, help us to be one” I could be thinking “conversion” and the protestant could be thinking “general unity around only ‘the essentials.’”
Already most of this document tries to describe the Catholic Church as “the Church of Christ” or simply “Church.” Why all the less explicit euphemisms?
“Sacred theology and other branches of knowledge, especially of an historical nature, must be taught with due regard for the ecumenical point of view, so that they may correspond more exactly with the facts.
It is most important that future shepherds and priests should have mastered a theology that has been carefully worked out in this way and not polemically, especially with regard to those aspects which concern the relations of separated brethren with the Catholic Church.”
This is actually quite frightening. Is this saying that theological language must change to become more ecumenical? Is this saying that the past Popes who have elevated scholasticism as the primary means of teaching the faith are wrong?
Pope Pius IX and X have explicitly condemned those who regard scholasticism as an obsolete system and that new means must be used. Sadly our current Holy Father does not regard scholasticism as the best means to communicate the faith at all and it seems Vatican II agrees. At least on the surface.
One could read this in a way that says theology and other branches of knowledge must have an alternative explanation for them when talking to protestants who might not be familiar with heavy scholastic terms. At the same time scholasticism is to be retained.
However this particular part of UR does not say “use both means” but rather has a blanketing statement that all theology and branches of knowledge must now be taught with an ecumenical bent i.e. drop scholasticism.
With the time bombs set in place earlier in the document a weak bishop or Modernist theologian (to name some examples) could easily now have an excuse to change the way he teaches theology and philosophy by adopting ambiguous, vague, or even erroneous ways of explaining everything so both Catholics and non-Catholics can compromise. Whereas the weak bishop would be doing it because he thinks he is following the Church and wants to embrace the spirit of the council, the Modernist has explicit intentions to change Catholic teaching. This is extremely evident in all branches of Catholic teaching today from simple catechetics to the seminarian level.UR Chapter III.
“We now turn our attention to the two chief types of division as they affect the seamless robe of Christ.”
We once more see the clever language that is employed to put across a view that Christ’s Body could actually be divided. As if to say that these entities – the schismatics and the heretics - are all at once members of the Body of Christ and at the same time be divided amongst themselves and the Catholic Church. How can they affect Christ when past teaching states they are not members of the Body of Christ? The ambiguity here sets up for the Modernist or liberal to proclaim that these separated entities are in fact members of the Body of Christ and that our “earthly divisions” (the nonessentials as they would call them) is what is affecting the “seamless robe of Christ” not that they somehow don’t hold to the same faith.
Now one could mental-gymnastic this and proclaim that all men who are not members of the Church affect Christ in so far as God loves us and wills the salvation of all. But the context of the whole document is about other Christians; hence the ambiguity here can easily be manipulated.
You may think I am blowing this out of proportion? Let’s take a look at the succeeding paragraphs about the Eastern schismatic communities:
“Hence, through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in each of these churches, the Church of God is built up and grows in stature and through concelebration, their communion with one another is made manifest.”
The problem here is extremely evident. Somehow the celebration of the Eucharist in these communities grows the ever vague concept of “the Church of God.” The Orthodox Catholic would read “Church of God” as “the Catholic Church.” This highly ambiguous passage could be taken to mean several things. The ever persistent liberal could easily manipulate this text and proclaim that the Eastern communities are in the Church because their Eucharist grows the “Church of God.”
A faithful though could say “No, it only means they have a valid Eucharist.” This is correct but how did the Catholic Church grow for centuries within communities that are in material schism? How did the Catholic Church grow through let’s say the Russian Orthodox Church through their liturgy? I can see how someone could gain some graces through the Eucharist depending on their state and disposition etc. but I can’t figure out how the Catholic Church actually grew through this.
“If this cause is wholeheartedly promoted, the Council hopes that the barrier dividing the Eastern Church and Western Church will be removed, and that at last there may be but the one dwelling, firmly established on Christ Jesus, the cornerstone, who will make both one.”
A perhaps more minor quibble with this sentence; the language here alludes to two churches of the Body of Christ not being visibly one. I would again stress that I wish I had an accurate Latin translation of the council text. Therefore this particular sentence could possible have no problems in the Latin. This does mean that other more major instances I am quoting are likely to be fine; certainly in cases like were we examined “subsists in” the Latin is rendered as such.
UR now moves to the protestants in the second section of chapter three:
“In the great upheaval which began in the West toward the end of the Middle Ages, and in later times too, Churches and ecclesial Communities came to be separated from the Apostolic See of Rome.”
It is funny to note that Pope Benedict has now declared that protestants cannot be properly called “Churches.” Is he then going against the council? Or can we still call them churches but not a “real” Church (capital C)?
“Whenever the Sacrament of Baptism is duly administered as Our Lord instituted it, and is received with the right dispositions, a person is truly incorporated into the crucified and glorified Christ, and reborn to a sharing of the divine life, as the Apostle says: 'You were buried together with Him in Baptism, and in Him also rose again-through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead'
Baptism therefore establishes a sacramental bond of unity which links all who have been reborn by it. But of itself Baptism is only a beginning, an inauguration wholly directed toward the fullness of life in Christ. Baptism, therefore, envisages a complete profession of faith, complete incorporation in the system of salvation such as Christ willed it to be, and finally complete ingrafting in eucharistic communion.”
Once again ambiguity has set the tone for multiple interpretations. The comprising commissions of the liberals versus the conservative at Vatican II are extremely evident in this entire document.
Here the vague description of Baptism can leave the reader to believe that protestants (all of them without exception as the context of the document shows) are members of the Body of Christ simply by being baptized. There is nothing indicting of whom or how one can become a member by receiving a valid baptism and how long they retain that. Earlier I proceeded to try and give an explanation how who and how it is done – therefore I won’t repeat it here.
“The daily Christian life of these brethren is nourished by their faith in Christ and strengthened by the grace of Baptism and by hearing the word of God.”
Suddenly the phrase “separated brethren” is dropped and simply “brethren” is used. There is again no explanation regarding supernatural faith or fiducial faith. The sentence simply says “faith in Christ.” To a Catholic faith can mean both supernatural and fuducial. That is both as “the act of the intellect assenting to a Divine truth owing to the movement of the will, which is itself moved by the grace of God" which is supernatural faith as St. Thomas explains and as merely a trusting and hoping in God for something, which is fiducial faith.
By not differentiating properly (which can be done in one simple sentence) a Modernist or liberal theologian can easily make this say that protestants possess supernatural faith.
Further the text states they can be strengthened by “the grace of their Baptism.” Recall again the earlier attempts in trying to explain how people outside the Church gain grace through Baptism and might become members of the Church (albeit under certain conditions and probably only for a certain amount of time). What grace is this sentence talking about? Since there is no distinction on what the disposition, culpability or state the said protestant is in the grace they receive here is anybody’s guess. If it was a child under the age of reason we could say supernatural grace. If it was an adult – what could we say? Actual grace? Does baptism, which effects have now been cut off through dismemberment in the Church increase actual grace?
Finally another missed opportunity:
“The Council moreover professes its awareness that human powers and capacities cannot achieve this holy objective-the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ.”
Once again this could read:“The Council moreover professes its awareness that human powers and capacities cannot achieve this holy objective-the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ; the Catholic Church, under the Vicar of Christ on earth the Pope. It is because of this that the Council rests all its hope on the prayer of Christ for the Church, on our Father's love for us, and on the power of the Holy Spirit.”
By simply adding 12 more words the ambiguity here could disappear. But not so, in order to foster ecumenism certain language must now be used to please all sides; being as vague as allowable in order to achieve so-called “unity.”Good Parts of Unitatis Redintegratio
There are some good parts of UR which could arguably help the bad parts in rendering an orthodox interpretation. Although in turn the bad parts could easily be used to manipulate the good parts.
Some nice areas include describing Eastern thought, liturgy and theology; exhorting them to hold fast to their good traditions. There are also good parts describing protestants and their devotions and what we have in common; especially the area where it describes that our dialogue (evangelization) with them would first center around the Scriptures. This is obviously true since protestants hold to various forms of sola Scriptura including “prima Scriptura.” By proving Catholic beliefs through Scripture it would help in their conversion.
Let’s explore some more because I know you all are clamoring for this post to be as long as possible.
UR explains the desired results of ecumenism:
“This is the way that, when the obstacles to perfect ecclesiastical communion have been gradually overcome, all Christians will at last, in a common celebration of the Eucharist, be gathered into the one and only Church in that unity which Christ bestowed on His Church from the beginning. We believe that this unity subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time.”
The desired unity subsists then in the Catholic Church. This is probably the closest thing in UR to saying people must become Catholic. However the pesky “subsists in” appears once again. Why not say “this unity is in the Catholic Church?”
The liberal can once again grab the foundations in Lumen Gentium and say that unity can subsist elsewhere. They could even take the bad parts of UR an twist them to mean that unity is simply “being in union” with the Catholic Church; a vague and meaningless union that does not subject themselves to the Pope or Catholic doctrine but rather a peaceful pact – kind of like nations being in an alliance – that focuses on “nonessentials.”
What I mean is that the extreme liberal and Modernist theologians have taught that Vatican II has changed Church teaching regarding salvation and the nature of the Church. Hence unity in the Catholic Church could entail the embrace of said changed teachings and therefore a protestant sect could continue to hold to the same errors free from Church authority.
The orthodox Catholic once again can counter with the usual and say that unity must result in conversion to the Catholic faith. Hence that is why true unity “subsists” in the Catholic Church.
“The way and method in which the Catholic faith is expressed should never become an obstacle to dialogue with our brethren. It is, of course, essential that the doctrine should be clearly presented in its entirety. Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false irenicism, in which the purity of Catholic doctrine suffers loss and its genuine and certain meaning is clouded.”
This is excellent to the ears of the faithful Catholic. However this paragraph succeeded the one about how theology and other branches of knowledge must be changed to an ecumenical bent.
Sadly then a clear orthodox interpretation is clouded by the previous paragraph. The liberal is quick to say that the teaching that is now to be followed is the theological formulations based on ecumenism. This could easily be twisted into the false theology that has penetrated the Church since the council. For example, my previous blog post on Schillebeeckx stating that Church teaching has changed through Vatican II and he then proceeds to spout error and heresy. The liberal then can easily, using other parts of the council, say that teachings have changed. Thus what UR says here about Catholic doctrine to a liberal mind means nothing.
“Their ecumenical action must be fully and sincerely Catholic, that is to say, faithful to the truth which we have received from the apostles and Fathers of the Church, in harmony with the faith which the Catholic Church has always professed, and at the same time directed toward that fullness to which Our Lord wills His Body to grow in the course of time.”
What is good here is perhaps an antidote to the previous two examples. UR tells us that the ecumenical actions must clearly stay faithful to the truth that the Church has always professed. Meaning that past teaching is the same as it is today. The Modernist notion that doctrine changes and evolves is almost refuted here. The only wiggle room here is to declare that past teachings on salvation and the nature of the Church were in fact wrong and not apart of the deposit of the faith.
The only thing left now to mention is the various changes and compromises that were made to UR. That is, what was inserted by request to salvage it from being any worse and what was taken out that was “too orthodox.” That is altogether another post and I am sure you are sick of reading by now (all three of my loyal fans).
And so my longest post ever has come to an end. I apologize for any spelling and grammar mistakes. This one drained my mind a bit.
Labels: Ambiguity, Ecumenism