The History of Modern Day Ecumenism
In the 1908 Catholic Encyclopedia, the word “Ecumenism” does not even appear. It goes straight through from Ecuador to Ecumenical Council to Edda. The heading Ecumenical Council contains this and nothing more:
Ecumenical Council: See Councils, General
In the 1965 Catholic Encyclopedia, however, no less than seven pages are devoted to the “Ecumenical Movement”. Ecumenism is, therefore, a twentieth century phenomenon. In the short span of sixty years, ecumenism as we know it today, has come from a state of non-existence, to being the integral fabric of the “New Theology of the Church”.
Definition of Ecumenism
The Ecumenical Movement is basically the movement toward reunion of all Churches into a single Church, one in body, but not necessarily holding the same religious tenets … spotlighting things we have in common, hush-hushing those things which divide us. Should you ask, however, ten different theologians of ten denominations for a definition of ecumenism, chances are you would receive ten slightly different replies. This is the greatest weakness of ecumenism. It is a slippery, sloppy expression devoid of any solid orthodox definition. It thus avails itself of ambiguity and double talk — as do subversive movements in general. The Second Vatican Council had a great deal to say about ecumenism, without ever giving the definition of the word!
Prior to 1960, the Catholic Church had always kept the Ecumenical Movement at arms length from the mystical Body of Christ, now and then touching it with the proverbial ten-foot-pole, but never taking an active part.
Any student of ecclesiastical history will tell you that the Roman Catholic Church’s particular charism was to clarify the truth in times of confusion and, to counter what was novel or erroneous by clinging to and defining what she has always believed since the time of the Apostles. Thus when Martin Luther denied so much of what the Roman Church held true, she took care of this problem at the Council of Trent … defining in detail each one of the Seven Sacraments, indulgences, justification, etc. The Church does not invent new doctrines at these councils, but defines and clarifies in a solemn and official manner what she has always believed. The Councils of the past took the Church and the world from a time of confusion, into a period of theological stability. Unfortunately, Vatican II is the first council in the history of the Church that did not help in this regard. As a matter of fact, we must regretfully admit that all evidence clearly shows she only made things far worse.
Origin of Ecumenism
The ecumenical movement as it exists today owes its origin to a conference of Protestant missionaries at Edinburgh in 1910. Its original purpose was among Protestant missionaries of different denominations to promote a spirit of collaboration in order to “evangelize” the pagan world. Doctrinal differences were to be played down … unity of action and what was held in common by all was to be exalted.
It was during this time that Charles Brent, an American Episcopal Bishop of the Philippines conceived the idea of assembling a great conference of delegates from all Christian confessions. A second conference was formed shortly after by Brent called the “Conference on Faith and Order”. In 1919, the Holy See being invited to send delegates, politely declined. Pope Benedict XV explained that although his earnest desire was one fold and one shepherd, it would be impossible for the Catholic Church to join with others in search of unity. As for the Church of Christ, it is already one and could not give the appearance of searching for itself or for its own unity. It is reported that the Holy Father did not disapprove of the movement as something outside the Catholic Church, but by his own words it is obvious he knew it was not only futile, but dangerous and even scandalous to the Catholic Faithful to participate in seeking unity in such a manner.
It was through this movement that the World Council of Churches was born.
Mortalium Animos and Humani Generis
There is no doubt that certain priests and theologians, influenced by a distorted notion of Christian Charity became interested in this “Movement of Unity”, and that many were literally straining at the leash to take part. Thus Pope Pius XI was moved to provide the excellent Catholic guidance he did in his 1928 encyclical Mortalium Animos1, (On Fostering True Religious Unity) an encyclical which, for obvious reasons, is seldom quoted these days. Pope Pius XII also sounded the alarm to this error in his great 1950 encyclical Humani Generis (Treating certain false opinions that threaten to ruin the foundation of the Catholic Faith). He warned of those who wished to “reduce to a minimum the meaning of Catholic dogmas …” and “the desire to do away with the barriers that divide good and honest men.” The term he employed was “eirenism” calling it a “serious danger” because “it is concealed beneath the mask of virtue” (See Humani Generis par. 12 to 25.) Father Vincent Micelli has called this “the Forgotten Encyclical”. It seems more likely that it was not forgotten, but vehemently ignored! Strangely enough, the very acts considered immoral by both Pope Pius XI and Pope Pius XII were urged upon Catholics following the 1962-65 Council as being suddenly justified by the so-called “Spirit of Vatican II”.
Ecumenism Prevailed at the Council
Though it will be treated in more detail in future newsletters, it must be here noted that Modernism, the synthesis of all heresies which had been condemned and effectively brought under control by Pope St. Pius X was nevertheless alive and well underground as St. Pius X expressed it, “within the very bosom of the Church”. The Second Vatican Council brought all the world’s bishops and their most “prestigious” theologians together in Rome, and to the great tragedy of the Church, the liberal and modernist element prevailed.2 The fruits of which are strikingly before our eyes.
A spirit of Ecumania became rampant at this time. No longer was the first concern “is it orthodox?”, but “is it ecumenical?”. A lust for change and innovation was inexplicably brought to a euphoric height! Protestants and schismatics were invited to attend the Council not to participate, but to come as observers. A few bishops noted this made it somewhat awkward to debate issues where their errors were involved. The New Rite of Mass was conceived by this spirit of ecumenism. This is why it so closely resembles a Protestant service. The “Ecumenical Spirit” has been the primary formative principle in the whole range of the new liturgical and sacramental forms established by the “new Church.” In the immediate wake of Vatican II, the entire Catholic world was suddenly rocked off its axis by profound and unprecedented changes blasting their way through the entire Church with inexhaustible energy and intense fury. The unfortunate Catholic laity, who certainly did not ask for this revolution, and who were totally unaware of what their leaders had in store for them were taken completely by surprise. The Council, therefore, was like a great launchpad supporting the rocket of ecumenism about to blast its way violently through every single parish church, every religious community, and every seminary in the world.
Modern Ecumenism: An Ecclesiastical Swamp!
The difference between a river and a swamp is great! A swamp has no banks, and the waters mishmash wherever they will. A swamp is useless as a waterway, as a source of life for fish,or for cleansing. Whereas a river has fixed banks which keep the waters flowing in the proper direction. Since it has boundaries, and depth, and width, it can be a great source of life, health, and practical benefit.
Modern ecumenism is a swamp! We have been slingshot into this Ecumenical Movement without a clear definition of ecumenism itself, and what are to be the safe guidelines for ecumenism … in other words, where does one stop? All ecumenical activity, no matter how scandalous or ludicrous is justified by appealing to Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism … which, along with the other Council documents, is lacking in definition and is deliberately ambiguous. On this point, Cardinal Ruffini expressed particular concern that the Decree on Ecumenism failed to provide any adequate definition of the word “ecumenism” itself … a dangerous factor since the word is used in a different sense by Protestants and Catholics. But this was no accident! The liberal Dutch theologian Father Edward Schillebeeckx, a periti at Vatican II admitted: “We have used ambiguous terms during the Council and we know how we shall interpret them afterwards.”
Likely, the reason why no definition of Ecumenism was given by the Second Vatican Council for its use of the term “ecumenism” was that if the actual intent of the Decree of ecumenism was openly declared, any well informed Catholic of good will would have repudiated it, and the value of the Decree as an instrument of subversion would have been lost. At face value, how could any true Catholic subscribe to the absurd notion that a religious unity according to God’s will is possible by playing down any aspect whatsoever of God’s revelation concerning Himself, His Church, and our salvation only to magnify what is believed “in common”? It’s as if twenty centuries of Catholic Teaching and Tradition should bow down before the great “messiah” of ecumenism and utter the immortal words “it must increase, and the Church of Christ must decrease.”
All Religions on the Same Footing
The great danger of ecumenism is that it places all religions on the same footing. Modern ecumenism would have us believe that all men of whatever religious persuasion are equally “on their way to God”. They are merely taking different means to get there … so if you’re a Protestant, be a GOOD Protestant, if you’re a Jew, be a GOOD Jew, if you’re a Moslem, be a GOOD Moslem, if you’re a Hindu, be a GOOD Hindu. God is portrayed as being at the summit of a mountain, and there are many roads and paths up that mountain that lead to Him. ANY MAN IS FREE TO CHOOSE THE PATH HE WILL. TO GOD IT MAKES NO DIFFERENCE WHICH ROAD A MAN CHOOSES TO COME TO HIM. CERTAINLY NO MAN CAN DECLARE HIMSELF TO HAVE THE “ONLY WAY”!
Now once Catholics get the bug of “Ecumenitis” into their bloodstream, the infection can only bring about spiritual sickness and death. They will start to be careless about their own Catholicism. They will join in worship with persons of false religions and end by abandoning the True Church of Christ. They will come to look upon the Seven Sacraments as merely “optional” means of grace, no better than the ceremonies of other cults … free to use, free to reject with no consequences upon their eternal salvation.
Modern ecumenism is therefore strikingly at odds with the mandate of Our Lord Jesus Christ to His Apostles when He entrusted them with His Divine Law, established His Church with Peter as the head, (Matt. 16:18-19) and gave them the Divine commission to “Go … and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Matt. 18:19). It ignores the warning of Christ when He told us “no one comes to the Father but through Me”. (John 14:6) and furthermore, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:16) It is in opposition to the will of Christ: “There shall be one fold and one Shepherd,” (John 10:16) He being the Shepherd. Modern ecumenism is opposed to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ … it is ecclesiastical lunacy.
An Ecumenical Moses?
The book of Exodus tells us of Moses coming down the Mountain of God with the tablets of the Law … the Ten Commandments. Now there were twelve tribes of Israel. Suppose one of the tribes, just say the tribe of Juda, after examining the Ten Commandments distinguished themselves saying “We’ll accept all the Commandments except Commandments 8 and 10,” and solidified their protestation proclaiming “We cannot and will not recant!” Do you think Moses would have pursued “ecumenical dialogue” with these people, or danced around in a state of ecumenical euphoria, exuberant over the fact that they at least agree with him in regard to the other eight? Furthermore, do you think he would have made sure that in the Israelite’s liturgies and religious services there would be no mention of the 8th and 10th Commandments because he did not wish to offend the tribe of Juda? In doing this, would Moses be serving God’s design, or a perverted human design? Is not the answer ferociously obvious?
And is this not what we see to have happened in the wake of Vatican II and the euphoria over ecumenism? Whose ends are being served in this novel approach to false religions, Christ’s designs, or a perverted human design? Just as Moses would have had absolutely no right to play down, or worse yet, be ashamed of the revelation of which God had made him the custodian, so too no authority in the Catholic Church has any right whatsoever to be ashamed of the revelation of which God has made them custodian … sweeping even the smallest particle of Catholic Truth under the ecumenical carpet so as not to offend disbelievers. Such activities subvert the mission of Christ causing irreparable scandal not only to the Faithful, but to all non-Catholics as well, each of whom we should regard as a Catechumen in spe (a prospective catechumen). Such a thing is an abandonment of the Evangelical Law in principle and a repudiation of Christianity itself. “Not one jot or tittle shall be lost from the Law” our Lord says, (Matt. 5:18) and “he who does away with one of these least commandments and so teaches men, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matt. 5:18-19).
Why is it a Fraud?
Modern Ecumenism is a fraud because it is a false principle “concealed beneath the mask of virtue”. It can only operate to the destruction of the Catholic Church. Though it deserves a more full and lengthy treatment than presented here, the most striking problems are:
1) It Subverts The Mystical Body of Christ.
The mission of the Church is the mission of Christ. Christ came to redeem man from sin and teach him what he must believe and do in order to gain salvation. Christ came also to govern and sanctify … and we must accept the full message of Christ, not a slim or distorted portion of it. This full message of Christ is found in the Catholic Church alone.
Ecumenism will have us play down or diminish Catholic Truth for the sake of ecumenical union. It will have us leave people alone in their religious error, and acknowledge that all religions, both true and false, are all parallel ways to God. ECUMENISM, THEREFORE, ACCEPTS THE FALSE AND DANGEROUS PRINCIPLE THAT THE FULL MESSAGE OF CHRIST AND HIS ONE TRUE CATHOLIC CHURCH ARE NOT NECESSARY FOR SALVATION. The Church loses her role as teacher of mankind (Vatican I)3. “Go forth and teach” has been transformed into “Go forth and dialogue.”
2) It Places a Mere External/Material Union of Religious Bodies as its Highest Possible Good.
Theological truth and the acceptance of it is no longer the primary aspect of religion. On the contrary, it becomes a simmering-of-all-religions together in a kind of “Ecumenical Stew” where each one must boil out his own distinctive taste in order to blend with the other ingredients. IN CONTRAST TO THE TRUTH THAT GOD HAS REVEALED TO MANKIND, THEIRS IS AN EXTERNAL UNION WHERE THERE IS NO UNION OF TRUTH AND THUS NO UNION AT ALL. God demands that He be believed and worshipped in truth, that is according to what He is, and what He has told us. Ecumenism ignores all this and places not truth, but the blueprint of a kind of “United Nations of Religions” as its highest possible end. This is false religion. (It should be noted that no other religious body has made such sweeping changes for the sake of Ecumenism than has the post-Vatican II Church. Protestants, Jews, Moslems, etc. have not changed anything … only Catholicism.)
3) The First Casualty in the Search For Unity is Catholic Unity
The authorities in our Holy Church have sacrificed their own unity on the altar of ecumenism causing a severe fragmentation of the Catholic Church in the name of unity, to the point where we find, if we may use “big-media” terminology, everything from the “extreme right” to the “extreme left” within our parishes, within our seminaries, within our chanceries … with a heavy emphasis on the left, and a curious intolerance of the right. If “following one’s own conscience” and “sincerity” be the only barometer of religion, then it necessarily follows that this will immediately strike and disintegrate the unity of the Church. Ecumenism is unity at the expense of Catholicism!
May Catholics Question Vatican II’s Ecumenism?
Vatican II was not a doctrinal Council … it did not make any solemn definitions binding our conscience on Faith and Morals. It was a pastoral Council … a Council for guiding souls. We may, therefore, be permitted to ask “To where have we been guided?”
At the close of the Council, the Bishops asked Cardinal Felici for that which theologians call the “theological note” of the Council. He replied “We have to distinguish according to the schemas and the chapters those which have already been the subject of dogmatic definitions; as for the declarations which have a novel character, we have to make reservations.”
Now ecumenism is clearly a novelty. The practice of modern ecumenism is clearly in contradiction to the teaching and actions of previous Popes, and the effect of ecumenism is a disastrous and catastrophic path bulldozed through the entire Church, which causes in very many individual souls* the uprooting of the very foundations of the Faith, and the shattering of every aspect of Catholic Truth down to the last molecule. Ecumenism is an ecclesiastical atom bomb! It is at the very heart of the present crisis of Faith. Catholics are completely within their rights, therefore, to “make reservations” and even resist this questionable “novelty” of ecumenism.
This does not mean, however, that Catholics and non-Catholics cannot work together in the civil order for the common good, as Bishop Duane Hunt put it in 1949, “even if we cannot be united in faith, we can be united in good works”. All men of good will can and should rally their forces and present a united front against the onslaught of militant atheism in the East, and soft-sophisticated atheism in the West. It is necessary to unite and fight these great evils in all their forms, but this does not mean Catholics are to be coerced into sacrificing one iota of Catholic Truth in these endeavors, particularly within the very household of the Faith.
The Only True Unity: the Catholic Church
No matter what the odds, we must diligently and unceasingly work toward all men coming within the fold of the one true Church. As far as Christ is concerned, nothing else will do. Even if this idea seems “next to impossible” in our day — another illusion — we must not abandon this ideal, for the eternal salvation of the non-Catholic depends on it. It is only cowardice, lack of conviction, and a distorted notion of Christian Charity that looks to ecumenism for the answer. Let us fervently pray that perhaps, through the grace of God, we may return to the Catholic principle of Pope Pius XI who in his no-nonsense 1928 Encyclical Mortalium Animos, (On Fostering True Religious Unity) left no room for doubt:
“It seems opportune to expound and refute a certain false opinion on which that complex movement by which non-Catholics seek to bring union of Christian Churches depends. They add that the Church, in itself, or of its nature, is divided into sections, that is to say, that it is made up of several churches or distinct communities, which still remains separate, and although having certain articles of doctrine in common, nevertheless, disagree concerning the remainder; that these all enjoy the same rights; and thus, in their contention, the Church was one and undivided from, at the most, the Apostolic age until the First Ecumenical Council. Controversies, therefore, they say, and longstanding differences of opinion, which have kept asunder till the present day members of the Christian family, must be entirely put aside, and for the remaining doctrines a common form of faith drawn up and proposed for belief, in the profession of which all may not only know but feel that they are brothers … They go on to say that the Roman Catholic Church also has erred, and has corrupted the original religion by adding and proposing for belief certain doctrines, which are not only alien to the Gospel, but repugnant to it … meanwhile, they affirm that they would willingly treat with the Church of Rome, but on equal terms, that is, as equals with an equal … This being so, it is clear that the Apostolic See cannot on any terms take part in their assemblies, nor is it lawful for Catholics to support or to work for such enterprises; for if they do so, they will give countenance to a false Christianity, quite alien to the one Church of Christ … Who, then, can conceive a Christian Federation, the members of which retain each his own opinion and private judgment, in matters which concern the very object of Faith, even though they may be repugnant to the opinion of the rest? … Unity can arise only from one teaching authority, one law of belief, and one faith of Christians … the union of Christians can only be furthered by promoting the return to the true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it.”4
1. Full text of both Mortalium Animos and Humani Generis
available from The Fatima Crusader.
2. See pp. 13-56 of The Rhine Flows into the Tiber available from The Fatima Crusader.
3. “Ecclesia Romana est Mater et Magistra omnium ecclesianum.” “The Roman Church is the Mother and teacher of all the churches.” (Dogma of Faith).
4. Emphasis added.