Does ecumenism lead to relativism?

Does ecumenism lead to relativism? Religiously speaking of course. :slight_smile:

Do the benefits from ecumenism outweigh the consequences of relativism?

Maybe, and yes. IMO

To question 1; not necessarily. Let’s see where the HS leads us.

To question 2; This presumes a “yes” to question 1. I assume JPII thought the benefits of ecumenism outweighed the risk of relativism. So do I.


It depends on how one defines ecumenism.

If ecumenism means all religions are the same. Yes it will lead to relativism.

I ecumenism means that all that which is good in religions come through Christ and His Church then No it will not lead to relativism.

Recognizing that which is good in other religions can bring about reconciliation. By recognizing that all good comes from Christ through His Church keeps us firmly grounded in His One True Church.

Ecumenism, as defined by the Catholic Church, is thus (from the Vatican II decree on ecumenism:

The term “ecumenical movement” indicates the initiatives and activities planned and undertaken, according to the various needs of the Church and as opportunities offer, to promote Christian unity.

And that unity is the unity of the Catholic Church(from the same source):

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.

John Paul II, in his encyclical on ecumenism states thusly as well:

The unity willed by God can be attained only by the adherence of all to the content of revealed faith in its entirety. In matters of faith, compromise is in contradiction with God who is Truth. In the Body of Christ, “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6), who could consider legitimate a reconciliation brought about at the expense of the truth? The Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae attributes to human dignity the quest for truth, “especially in what concerns God and his Church”,33 and adherence to truth’s demands. A “being together” which betrayed the truth would thus be opposed both to the nature of God who offers his communion and to the need for truth found in the depths of every human heart.

I don’t see how desiring all Christians to believe the fullness of revelation in the unity of the Catholic Church can ever lead to relativism. Why would we seek their partaking of Catholic unity if they were fine in their other ecclesial communities believing less than the fullness of truth? In fact, not seeking all people to be united in the Catholic Church would be relativistic. That would mean that everything is ok with not being in full communion.

Another quote from the Council:

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.

Therefore, any attempt to promote relativism–that is, to cloud the necessity of professing the Catholic faith–is contrary to the spirit of ecumenism

Here is a good principle that I think is applied in Catholic ecumenism, but which some people don’t like:

I have never succeeded when I have spoken with the faintest suspicion of hardness. One must be ever on one’s guard not to embitter the heart, if one wishes to move the mind.

  -------St. Vincent de Paul

Is there any point to ecumenism if the all the parties have no intention of compromising their own beliefs?

Is it then all about maintaining dialogue with each other only, uniting in matters they agree on?

One way to look at it is through the eyes of the politician. There was a concept during the Cold War called Detant. The idea was that as long as we were talking, we were not fighting. If we are not fighting, we might be able to work something out. I assure you we had no intentions of becoming Communists, and the Soviets were not about to become Capitolists. And yet, the idea was that through talking, peace can be achieved.

Now, you can see this in religion as the lines of communication between Catholics and Orthodox. We are not giving up our stance, and neither are they, but we are closer together today then we were 100 years ago.

Good points. I think when religions, countries, people etc keep dialogue open with one another it will usually be easier to maintain the status quo, at the very least.

I think I agree.

There is much to gain in respecting one another even if we do not agree. I believe with all my being that the Catholic Church is the one true Church of God and that Her light shines on all people of the world. We have the truth, we have nothing to fear in understanding the beliefs of other faiths and appreciating the journey that other souls make.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit