Home Page Faithful to the Magisterium Ubi Petrus, Ibi Ecclesia Write to Marty Why Catholic? Because True.
Catholic Definitions Abbess Abbey Abbot Accident Absolute Actual Grace Adoration Amen Angel Anointing Apologetics Apostasy Apostolic Apostolic Constitution Apostolic Exhortation Apostolic Letter Art Assent Authority Avarice Baptism Benign Bible Bishop Brotherly Love Bull Calumny Canon Law Capital Sins Capital Virtues Cardinal Virtues Catechesis Catholic Charity Chastity Chrism Christ’s Commands Church Cloister Codex Communio Compassion Completion Story Concupiscence Confession Confirmation Consecration Conscience Conservatism Continence Convent Corporal Works of Mercy Counsel Custody of the Senses Deacon Deaconess Death Detraction Dicastery Diligence Divine Office Doctrine Dogma Double Effect Dulia Economy of Salvation Ecumenical Ecumenical Council Encyclical Epistle Encyclica Letter Envy Eternity Eucharist Evangelization Ex Cathedra Ex Opere Operantis Ex Opere Operato Faith Fear Fideism Form Fortitude Four Last Things Friar Friday Abstinence Fruits of the Holy Spirit Gifts of the Holy Spirit Gluttony Good Grace Heaven Hell Holy Heresy Holy Eucharist Holy Orders Hope Humility Hyperdulia Hypostatic Union Immortal Impassible Indulgence Infallible Intellectual Virtues Intrinsic Joy Judgment Justice Justification Knowledge Latria Letter Liberality Limbo Liturgy Longanimity Lust Magisterium Man Marriage Matrimony Matter Meek Mercy Message Mild Miracle Modernism Modesty Monastery Monk Mortal Sin Motu Proprio Nun Obedience One Orders Original Sin Pallium Parable Pasch Patience Pauline Privilege Peace Penance Piety Pope Prayer Precept Preternatural Pride Priest Prophet Prudence Purgatory Purity Rationalism Religious Reparation Revelation Rule Sacrament Sacramental Presence Sacred Tradition Sacrifice Saint Sanctifying Grace Science Scrupulosity Sin Sister Sloth Soul Spirit Spiritual Direction Spiritual Works of Mercy Substance Supernatural Synoptic Telepathy Temperance Theological Virtues Theology Transubstantiation Trinity Triumphalist Truly, truly Ultramontane Understanding Vatican II Vademecum Vanity Veneration Venial Sin Victim Virtues Wisdom Words of Institution Worship Wrath
Ecumenical means “universal.” Holy Mother Church uses it to describe the striving for reunification that she hopes will one day fulfill Christ’s prayer Jn 17:11 “Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” But He knew that we were not yet one. Jn 10:16 “And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.”
During the two thousand years of Christian history there have been two great separations. The Orthodox during the eleventh century and the Protestants during the sixteenth have become prodigal sons. In our own age God is calling them home.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 838, tells us: “The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter. Those who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church. With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord’s Eucharist.”
The argument against ecumenism is that it dilutes truth by mixing error into it. But when Satan sets up a heresy he always has to put some truth in it as bait. Jesus calls us to be fishers of men, so we use Satan’s bait, the truth he mixes in, to connect with pure truth, as we fish for men for Jesus. And, count on it, He knows how to fish!
The Catholic Church’s decree on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, §1, explains why the Catholic Church has taken up this work. “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 Him-self 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.” We are called to do something about it. § 4 adds, “This Sacred Council is gratified to note that the participation by the Catholic faithful in ecumenical work is growing daily. It commends this work to the bishops everywhere in the world to be vigorously stimulated by them and guided with prudence.”
God has always called His people to be one body, each man part of the tribe, each tribe part of the nation. 1 Kgs 2:10 “Then David slept with his fathers …” The Son of God prayed, Jn 17:11 “… that they may be one, even as we are one.” He gave us what we needed. 1 Cor 10:16 “The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” In God’s wise providence every part of the body is needed. 1 Cor 12:21 “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
Pope Benedict XVI, speaking in Cologne on August 19, 2005 to representatives of non-Catholic churches, said,
“This unity does not mean what could be called ecumenism of the return: that is, to deny and to reject one’s own faith history. Absolutely not! It does not mean uniformity in all expressions of theology and spirituality, in liturgical forms and in disciplines.”
That sounds on the surface as if he is abandoning Catholic purity. But look closely! No pre-conciliar pope has ever insisted on uniformity in theology, spirituality, liturgical forms or discipline for returning movements. The Church has always allowed theological differences among her Fathers and Doctors, she treasures her Augustinian and Thomist theologies, her Benedictine, Capuchin, Carmelite, Cistercian, Dominican, Franciscan, Jesuit and many more spiritualities, as she does her Holy Sacrifice of the Mass according to the missals of Popes Paul VI and Pius V and her Divine Liturgies in the Byzantine, Ruthenian, Chaldean, Maronite and other traditions, all of which re-turned to Rome after centuries of separation. As to discipline, Canon law allows for considerable variation between particular and universal law. In fact, Holy Mother Church has two bodies of canon law, the Code of Canon Law, and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. Notice that Pope Benedict XVI did not mention doctrine. Doctrine is God’s revelation to man, and therefore unchangeable by man.
Pope John Paul II, in Unitatis Redintegratio, §11, wrote,
“When comparing doctrines with one another, they should remember that in Catholic doctrine there exists a ‘hierarchy’ of truths, since they vary in their relation to the fundamental Christian faith. Thus the way will be opened by which through fraternal rivalry all will be stirred to a deeper understanding and a clearer presentation of the unfathomable riches of Christ.”
At ground level, Jesus told us to Mt 25:35 feed the hungry, welcome strangers, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and visit those in prison. A woman with a husband to take care of needs to prepare supper for him. But at the same time her parish welcome wagon is meeting. Which is God’s will for her at that particular moment in time? Spiritual directors and parish priests discern God’s will for us through the hierarchy of truths, because God’s will is precisely that we penetrate deeply into His teachings, reflect on them, and then do our humble best to obey. At a higher level, Jesus has called us to be Jn 10:16 one flock with one shepherd. His vicars, each pope in his time, teach infallibly on faith and morals. Jesus will lead His vicars to fulfill His holy will for us. The Church’s obedience to her pope, our papa, is what makes us Catholic.
This hierarchy of truths does not mean that the Catholic Church will admit even the smallest error into her teaching. She has always recognized different levels of theological certainty. Protected by her papa’s infallible teaching authority, she constantly strives to bring the kingdom of God into the world.
Copyright © 1999-2010 Martin K Barrack. All rights reserved.