Ecumenism--what is it really?

If there had to be one issue that gets traditionalists upset more than any other, it is “ecumenism.” I see this word tossed out there all the time to mean all sorts of different things–but rarely, if ever, what it actually is and means.

Frist it bears pointing out that “ecumenism” has nothing to do with pagans/infidels. It only deals with the “Reunion of Christendom” or, in other words, bringing the stray sheep back into the one fold. This of course is a very good thing.(Evangelization, on the other hand, deals with bringing the Holy Gospel to infidels and interreligious dialogue should be to this end; see Dominus Iesus).

On the other hand, there are movements out there which can be called “pan-Christian” movements. These seek to create a kind union which is more of a “being-together” of all who profess faith in Christ united around the lowest common denominator. There are also movements out there that might be deemed pan-religious. These are usually the kind of things branded as “ecumenism” which get traditionalists riled up–and rightfully so. But, because they mislabel it, it tends to make them reject even authentic ecumenism. Sadly, there are many Catholics who do embrace pan-Christian or pan-religious beliefs and movements, but they go against the rule of faith as constantly expressed in the past up through the present.

Here are some good readings (but by no means an exhaustive list) for those who wish to get a better understanding of what authentic ecumenism is versus what it is not. In that way, real issues can be discussed in a meaningful manner rather than just throwing out buzzwords without a proper understanding of them:

Here is an overview of ecumenism through 1909 from the Catholic Encyclopedia (it’s a very interesting read): Union of Christendom

Here are papal and concillar decrees concerning authentic ecumenism:

Leo XIII, Praeclara Gratulationis Publicae (The Reunion of Christendom) June 20, 1894

Second Vatican Council, Unitatis Redintegratio (Decree on Ecumenism), November 21, 1964

John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint (On Commitment to Ecumenism) May 25, 1995

And here are some concerning the false pan-Christian movement (of course, the above also deal with false “unions” and movements, but it is the primary focus of the following):

Pius XI, Mortalium Animos (On Religious Unity) January 6, 1928

I can’t find it online, but in Denzinger’s Sources of Catholic Dogma (my edition is from 1954) there is a letter from the Holy Office under Bl. Pius IX concerning Christion Union. It is a really good treatment concerning what is, and what is not, acceptable ecumenism.

Likewise, it bears pointing out that often times traditionalists are very upset by the methods of bringing non-Catholics into the fold used by recent popes. They see the anathemas and harsh condemnations of previous popes compared with the use of more friendly conferences lately and they become confused. The reasons for this less harsh policy are discussed briefly here (as well as in the more recent documents cited above):

Leo XIII, Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae (Virtue, Nature and Grace, and Americanism) January 22, 1899

“But if, among the different ways of preaching the word of God that one sometimes seems to be preferable, which directed to non-Catholics, not in churches, but in some suitable place, in such wise that controversy is not sought, but friendly conference, such a method is certainly without fault. But let those who undertake such ministry be set apart by the authority of the bishops and let them be men whose science and virtue has been previously ascertained. For we think that there are many in your country who are separated from Catholic truth more by ignorance than by ill-will, who might perchance more easily be drawn to the one fold of Christ if this truth be set forth to them in a friendly and familiar way.”


Well, according to the Pope’s Lenten retreat preacher, the Antichrist is an ecumenist.

OMG... I thought the Antichrist would turn out to be a liturgist!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Quoting the work “Three Dialogues on War, Progress and the End of History,” Cardinal Biffi told his listeners that “the Antichrist presents himself as pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist.”

“He will convoke an ecumenical council and will seek the consensus of all the Christian confessions, granting something to each one. The masses will follow him, with the exception of small groups of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants,” he said.

Was that scary for you as it was for me reading that?

Kinda scary, but not surprising.

Genesis Wrote:

…“ecumenism” has nothing to do with pagans/infidels. It only deals with the “Reunion of Christendom” or, in other words, bringing the stray sheep back into the one fold. This of course is a very good thing.

And that’s why I hang out at the SSPX get-togethers on Sun Afternoon.
I’m ecumenating.


I think the stray sheep are already in the fold.


As Churchill said, Chamerlain’s policy of appeasement towards the Nazis was a disaster, but it did have one huge advantage, that no-one could even pretend that Britian was responsible for the war.

Similarly, after Vatican II no-one can pretend that the Church did not make massive concessions to Protestants. In the case of Anglicans they might well, by a long and tortuous route, actually lead to unity. Most other denominations, sadly, are moving further from the Catholics.

If you read the context you’ll see it’s a false ecumenist–more of the pan-religious type.

If you read the context you’ll see it’s a false ecumenist–more of the pan-religious type.

True ecumenism can be effectively defined as follows:

    "The unity of Christians cannot otherwise be obtained than by securing the return of the separated to the one true Church of Christ from which they once unhappily withdrew. To the one true Church of Christ, we say, that stands forth before all and that by the will of its Founder will remain forever the same as when He Himself established it for the salvation of all mankind." (Pope Pius XI, Mortalium Animos)

False ecumenism can be effectively defined by the following statement by Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity:

    "The decision of Vatican II, to which the Pope adheres and spreads, is absolutely clear: Today we no longer understand ecumenism in the sense of the ecumenism of a return, by which the others would 'be converted' and return to being 'Catholics.' This was expressly abandoned by Vatican II. Today ecumenism is considered as the common road: all should be converted to the following of Christ, and it is in Christ that we will find ourselves in the end.... Even the Pope, among other things, describes ecumenism in Ut unum sint as an exchange of gifts. I think this is very well said: each Church has its own riches and gifts of the Spirit, and it is this exchange that unity is trying to be achieved and not the fact that we should become 'Protestants' or that the others should become 'Catholics' in the sense of accepting the confessional form of Catholicism." (Adista, Rome, February 26, 2001, p. 9 - 

As was stated above, Cardinal Kasper is the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. If anyone would know what the form of ecumenism being practiced by today’s hierarchy is, he certainly would.

This same position is reiterated in the Balamand Statement (paragraph 22), which states, in part:

    "Pastoral activity in the Catholic Church, Latin as well as Eastern, **no longer** aims at having the faithful of one Church pass over to the other; that is to say, it no longer aims at proselytizing among the Orthodox. It aims at answering the spiritual needs of its own faithful and it has no desire for expansion at the expense of the Orthodox Church. Within these perspectives, so that there will no longer be room for mistrust and suspicion, it is necessary that there be reciprocal **exchanges of information about various pastoral projects** and that thus cooperation between bishops and all those with responsibilities in our Churches can be set in motion and develop."

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops stated the following concerning Orthodox students in Catholic schools:
Guidelines Concerning the Pastoral Care of Oriental Orthodox Students in Catholic Schools,
"As a matter of principle, the Catholic Church does not seek converts among the faithful of the Oriental Orthodox Churches. Thus every effort should be made to respect and even promote the participation of Oriental Orthodox students in the life of their own churches, and to avoid practices that could appear to constitute an invitation for an Oriental Orthodox student to join the Catholic Church."

Unbelievable! That link doesn’t work…do you have a correct one?


Try this link

Thanks. Still trying to find the document originally referred to. I did find this little gem: Purpose, Scope, and Method of the Dialogue Between the Oriental Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches , in which this was stated:
“Dogmatic statements are historically conditioned expressions of the divine truth. Although affirming divine truth, they remain in need of continual reinterpretation so as to be made more fully intelligible in changing historical and cultural contexts.”

My stomach hurts.


I love that quote. It makes a train wreck of:
that meaning of the sacred dogmata is ever to be maintained which **has once been declared by Holy Mother Church, and there must never be an abandonment of this sense under the pretext or in the name of a more profound understanding… If anyone says that it is possible that at some given time, given the advancement of knowledge, a sense may be assigned to the dogmata propounded by the Church which is different from that which the Church has always understood and understands: let him be anathema.(**Vatican Council, Constitutio de Fide Catholica, Chapter iv.)

Our predecessor Pius IX wrote: “These enemies of divine revelation extol human progress to the skies, and with rash and sacrilegious daring would have it introduced into the Catholic religion as if this religion were not the work of God but of man, or some kind of philosophical discovery susceptible of perfection by human efforts.” On the subject of revelation and dogma in particular, the doctrine of the Modernists offers nothing new. We find it condemned in the Syllabus of Pius IX, where it is enunciated in these terms:’‘Divine revelation is imperfect, and therefore subject to continual and indefinite progress, corresponding with the progress of human reason"; and condemned still more solemnly in the Vatican Council:’'The doctrine of the faith which God has revealed has not been proposed to human intelligences to be perfected by them as if it were a philosophical system, but as a divine deposit entrusted to the Spouse of Christ to be faithfully guarded and infallibly interpreted. Hence also that sense of the sacred dogmas is to be perpetually retained which our Holy Mother the Church has once declared, nor is this sense ever to be abandoned on plea or pretext of a more profound comprehension of the truth." Nor is the development of our knowledge, even concerning the faith, barred by this pronouncement; on the contrary, it is supported and maintained. For the same Council continues: “Let intelligence and science and wisdom, therefore, increase and progress abundantly and vigorously in individuals, and in the mass, in the believer and in the whole Church, throughout the ages and the centuries – but only in its own kind, that is, according to the same dogma, the same sense, the same acceptation.” (Pope Saint Pius X, Pascendi Dominci Gregis, September 8, 1907.)

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