Ecumenism: what should the end goals be?


We hear and read much about ecumenism, and many dioceses even have ecumenism departments.

What should the end objectives of ecumenism be? What are we trying to accomplish?


The true unity of all who call on Christ (and the whole human family for that matter.)

And what is true unity?

Pope John Paul II explains:

"This unity, which the Lord has bestowed on his Church and in which he wishes to embrace all people, is not something added on, but stands at the very heart of Christ’s mission. Nor is it some secondary attribute of the community of his disciples. Rather, it belongs to the very essence of this community. God wills the Church, because he wills unity, and unity is an expression of the whole depth of his* agape*.

In effect, this unity bestowed by the Holy Spirit does not merely consist in the gathering of people as a collection of individuals. It is a unity constituted by the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments and hierarchical communion.10 The faithful are one because, in the Spirit, they are in* communion* with the Son and, in him, share in his communion with the Father: “Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 Jn 1:3). For the Catholic Church, then, thecommunion of Christians is none other than the manifestation in them of the grace by which God makes them sharers in his own* communion*, which is his eternal life. Christ’s words “that they may be one” are thus his prayer to the Father that the Father’s plan may be fully accomplished, in such a way that everyone may clearly see “what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things” (Eph 3:9). To believe in Christ means to desire unity; to desire unity means to desire the Church; to desire the Church means to desire the communion of grace which corresponds to the Father’s plan from all eternity. Such is the meaning of Christ’s prayer: "Ut unum sint”.

“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.”

While the Church has employed different means towards this end at different times, the end also remains the same.

For additional Magisterial teaching on this subject, I recommend these texts:

Leo XIII, Praeclara Gratulationis Publicae (The Reunion of Christendom) June 20, 1894
Pius XI, Mortalium Animos (On Religious Unity) January 6, 1928
Pius XII, Summi Pontificatus (On the Unity of Human Society) October 10, 1939
Bl. John XXIII, Ad Petri Cathedram (On Truth, Unity and Peace in a Spirit of Charity) June 29, 1959
Second Vatican Council, Unitatis Redintegratio, (Decree on Ecumenism), November 21, 1964
John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint (On Commitment to Ecumenism) May 25, 1995


OK, that’s a lot of flowery language.

So keeping it simple…is the bottom line that all people should be Catholic?


Yes :slight_smile: . There’s nothing wrong with saying it in a beautiful and inspiring way of course! In fact, you’re more likely to dispose hearts to receive the truth by saying it that way than by telling people who believe they are saved by Christ to become Catholic or burn in Hell–hearts turn to stone when they hear it expressed that way–we need to soften hearts–St. Paul recommends mildness, remembering that we were also once slaves to error :thumbsup:

As an aside, here’s another good read from the Catholic Encyclopdia:



The reunion of all Christians in the fullness of the Faith, united around the bishop of Rome as the successor of St. Peter.



Unconditional surrender! :smiley:


However, bear in mind that the present Pope has explicitly rejected the “ecumenism of return.” In other words, it’s not a question of Protestants simply giving up their 500-year-old heritage, but of our bringing back the positive things they have learned “on our travels” while giving up all the things that are incompatible with the faith. Similarly, the process of ecumenism may reveal certain points (not things that have already been dogmatically defined) on which the Roman Communion (if you don’t like this term, substitute any term you think is more theologically neutral!) may have historically failed to express the Catholic Faith fully. (One example might be the over-centralization of the papacy in terms of such things as the appointment of bishops; another, which you have already changed to a great extent, would be the adoption of the emergency measure of communion in one kind as the normal way for laity to receive the Eucharist; another, which again has already been repudiated, would certainly be the suspicious attitude taken by Rome for several centuries to lay access to Holy Scripture.)



You are, of course, free to disagree with the Pope on this point (since his statements were not made dogmatically). Whether you are not also disagreeing with your latest Ecumenical Council I will leave to your own conscience.



Could you please show me a Church document that states that the True Faith should be compromised to meet the heretical views of protestantism?


Since that is not what I claimed, that is a rather pointless challenge!

The alternative to “unconditional surrender” is not “compromising the Faith.” There are many points other than dogma on which compromise is possible (points of discipline, polity, etc.). On matters of dogma, a further consideration often reveals that the two positions are not as far apart as they appeared. Or a clarification of the Catholic position results in Protestants realizing that their views are in error, which they would not have realized if the position were left formulated in its traditional form.

For instance: the Council of Trent says that unwritten traditions are to be regarded with veneration equal to that paid to Scripture. Protestants have traditionally objected to this on the ground that these traditions are unspecified and therefore that any long-standing belief, or for that matter anything authorized by the hierarchy, can be treated as equal to Scripture. Vatican II’s Dei Verbum clarifies what the Catholic Church means by Tradition, by defining it as the process of transmission of the original revelation. This makes it clearer that Catholics do believe in the uniqueness of Scripture (i.e., that the “monuments of Tradition” other than Scripture do not have the same status as Scripture), and it makes it easier for Protestants of good will to see the fatal flaws in our prior understanding of the authority of Scripture. A call for “unconditional surrender” would not benefit either Protestants or Catholics, because it would deprive us of this process of dialogue which leads to deeper understanding for everyone.



To answer the Question, the unity of all Christianity prior to the East-West Schism. In those days, there was only One Church. There were Popes then starting with Peter and there were no division or schismatics.

It basically means that everyone needs to become Catholic since Jesus did establish One Church not 33,000 denominations of Protestantism, nor nationalistic Eastern Orthodox since there are Russia, Greek Orthodox, etc…


Has ecumenism ever really been about unifying discipline? I think the existence of a number of non-Latin rites within the Church shows that dogmatic not disciplinary unity is the goal of ecumenism.

When understood in this context ecumenism is the unconditional submission of heretical doctrines to those of the True Church.


Exactly. That is why “unconditional surrender” is a mistaken term. You did not qualify that you were speaking only of dogma, nor have you addressed my point about the way ecumenical dialogue can result in a clarification (not compromise) of dogma.

When understood in this context ecumenism is the unconditional submission of heretical doctrines to those of the True Church.

That is certainly one of the things that has to happen, but that is not what makes ecumenism distinctive. Ecumenism is generally used for an understanding of reunion that goes beyond the simple demand for “unconditional surrender” and rather begins by acknowledging common ground and attempting to clarify possible misunderstandings. I accept and respect the fact that for Catholics there is always going to come a point where we “separated brethren” must accept that we are in error and submit to the Church. Ecumenism recognizes that that is not the only thing that needs to happen.

In Christ,


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