Ecumenism-why is it misunderstood?

So many people misunderstand Ecumenism. Why is it? You thoughts?

God Bless!

Because many people view it as a compromise. Those who acknowledge that the Church cannot compromise doctrine can still see a compromise in “ecumenical” religious practice. The rise of folk (ie, hippie) Masses and Catholic charismaticism are regarded by many as protestant incursions into the Catholic faith - if not in doctrine, then in at least in practice. But we (ought to) practice what we preach, so Catholic communities who practice protestant ideas of worship could be (and *should *be) assumed to be preaching these ideas (at least implicitly, or they are not practicing what they preach)

You claim that ecumenism is misunderstood, but you do not state your understanding what you consider “properly understood,” or specifically in what manner you regard this opinion as “misunderstood.”

Many Catholics resist any doctrine or practice that does not have a genuine Catholic origin. And the Church does not call us to accept beliefs or practices which clearly originate in protestantism.

I think this demonstrates one of the mindsets that tends to oppose ecumenism quiet well. That is, there is an idea (that I would argue is demonstrably false) that such practices/ideas that don’t have explicitly Catholic origins must be resisted completely or are wrong merely because of their origin. (I would argue that if Greek philosophy, originating from pagans, can be of such use, then it would be a mistake to discard all ideas that originate from more modern, less wrong, groups.)

So you have the idea that if it doesn’t come from within Catholicism then it must be bad, together with an us versus them mentality. And this is complicated by the fact that occasionally attempts at ecumenism either actually do or may at later appear to come at the expense of some Catholic practice that is legitimately good, and by the fact that there are also those who make the opposite error, and accept more than they should - that is, we aren’t perfect, and can mess it up.

What you have is a tension between a few truths: that Catholicism is true and other faiths in varying degrees of error, and that while Catholicism contains the fullness of revealed truth, other faiths, while wrong, do contain some degree of truth, and that members of these other faiths may come up with ways of understanding or expressing the truths that they have that are in fact good and useful.

There are people who tend to focus in on one side or the other of that tension, and so you end up both with people who are more likely to uncritically accept things from outside that they either shouldn’t, or shouldn’t without some care, and with people who say that if it does not originate from inside then it must be, or probably is, bad and wrong. And both sides react against the truely incorrect excesses of the other with just as incorrect movements in their own direction.

Which also answers the question of why some people tend to try to grab onto incorrect protestant ideas. Human imperfection, overreaction, and the general trickiness of balancing principles that, while not exactly opposed, would appear to be so if viewed in isolation.

Obviously the entire Church came from Paganism (and the Jews also - Abraham started out a pagan. Noah was a pagan).If you go back far enough in your family tree, you’ll come to a pagan. You and I come from paganism. Everyone does.

The Church has embraced and encourages us to pursue some of these ideas, such (as you noted), philosophy (the Angelic Doctor was a philosopher).

But that doesn’t mean it’s OK to go out willy-nilly and adopt pagan (or non-Catholic) worship practices. Heck, if we did that, Catholics would be doing the enneagram! Oh, wait - they are. More encroachment.

A religious practice that is rooted in protestantism should be viewed with caution. It was conceived by people following a system of religion invented by men that the Church considers heretics. Are we gonna adopt practices of churches invented by heretics without the Church’s seal of approval? I will do no such thing.

If the Church adopts these practices then I’m OK with it, regardless of its origin. An example would be the inclusion of protestant hymns which are allowed to be sung at Mass in many Catholic jurisdictions. I sing those hymns also. However, if the USCCB did not specifically allow this, and I attended a parish that was singing hymns not approved for liturgical use (in the “spirit of ecumenism”), I would not sing along (I would probably leave).

In 2000 years, the Magesterium has never embraced or promoted any form of spirituality that did originate from within the Church. I don’t see why we should start now.

I have not yet exhausted the wealth of devotions and spiritual practices embraced by the Church, such that I need to resort to the practices of protestants.

If you would like to see what the Vatican thinks of newfangled religious practices (particularly of the New Age, which would include this enneagram nonsense), you can read JESUS CHRIST, THE BEARER OF THE WATER OF LIFE. Spoiler alert: The church is having NONE of it.

The problem is, ecumenism, before the Catholic Church really joined in, was about compromise and creating a union based on the lowest common denominator. This is why the Church for a while refused to participate at all.

It became moderated later and the Church began to participate in in a cautious limited, way. The Second Vatican Council encouraged more vigorous participation, but also laid down Catholic principles on the subject–the Chuch was to enter the ecumenical movement enthusiastically, but on its own terms, which did not include compromise in doctrine, indifferentism, and irenicism.

The misunderstanding comes because principles for ecumenism are different in other ecclesial communites and Catholics can be tempted to participate under those terms rather than the principles the Church has laid out.

It seems that part of the problem is, within Catholics circles, some try to define ecumenism in non-Catholic terms…equating it with “indifferentism” or what we might call “false ecumenism”. However, the Church has spoken of “ecumenism” in terms of seeking unity WIHTOUT compromising Truth. Any compromise of Truth has been referred to as “indifferentism” or what we might call a false-ecumenism. So, that is part of the problem…people wanting to redefine the terms. If we are going to discuss it honestly and reasonably, we need to stick with agreed-upon definitions. For Catholics discussing with Catholics, I believe that involves using the Catholic Church’s understanding of “ecumenism” (cff. CCC 816, 821) vs. “indifferentism”.

Many confessional Lutherans view these the same way. :smiley:

Jon

I know. When most Catholics think of re-unification, they usually think of Catholics and Orthodox, or Catholics and Anglicans.

I think first of Catholics and Confessional Lutherans.

I am tempted to open a thread in this regard. I feel that the major obstacle to such reunification is less doctrinal than a lack of a clearly defined (for lack of a better word) “Magesterium” on the Lutheran side. It’s the same problem with Anglicans (and, to a much lesser extent, the Orthodox).

It is often the nature of “rebels” that they have no clearly defined leadership. If the murderous, nutjob president of Syria wanted to negotiate peace with the Syrian rebels, WHO would he talk to? WHO has authority to negotiate on their behalf? WHO can accept and enforce a cease-fire, and WHO can sign a peace treaty? You can’t sign a treaty with a loosely organized group of insurgents who do not recognize a common authority.

Alas.

I agree with much of what you said here (especially that the new age is dangerous nonsense) but note that doing bad things “in the spirit of ecumenism” is no more real ecumenism than having dancing puppet clown masses “in the spirit of Vatican II” is a legitimate use of Vatican II.

In fact I tried to be very clear that there are people who go to far, and accept things that they should not accept and without caution, and that these people are wrong.

And so again, I say that much of the mindset that opposes actual ecumenism originates as a reaction to false things from false ecumenism, much in the same way that there are those who react against the very real and very bad abuses that falsely claimed to be based on Vatican II by opposing not only the abuses, but the council itself- because these people accept the lie that says the council supports clowns at the altar.

I did not say we should uncritically accept everything everyone else does because it gives us a warm and fuzzy feeling of oneness or any such nonsense, what I said is that opposition to this wrong practice of saying that everything else is good can overshoot into wrongly saying that nothing else is good at all, which is the direction I think you’re going.

Note that I also said that I think the uncritical acceptance is often a reaction against the false idea that everything else is completely bad. It’s a case of people reacting against falsehood without checking themselves to make sure they are within the bounds of truth, on both sides.

As for other spiritual practices - as far as I’m concerned, what is approved is fine, what is forbidden (including new age nonsense) is bad, and that on which no guidance has been given should be handled with care, under the guidance of an orthodox spiritual director who knows what he’s doing and will make sure all practices stay within the acceptable, if at all. And I’m not likely to get involved with hardly any of it (little of the approved, none of the non) because I’m frankly just not that interested in most of that sort of thing. You won’t find me pursuing the adoption of some weird quasi-eastern meditation practices, only denouncing the claim that nothing exterior has any use. As to what does and does not have use, well there are people who decide that sort of thing, and I’m not one of them.

I’m not saying everything else is bad - I’m saying we don’t know if it’s good or bad. When the Magesterium promotes something, we know.

Note that I also said that I think the uncritical acceptance is often a reaction against the false idea that everything else is completely bad. It’s a case of people reacting against falsehood without checking themselves to make sure they are within the bounds of truth, on both sides.

And how, exactly, does someone “check themselves?” I think Catholics are more accustomed to being TOLD what is true than trying to discover it for themselves. And it’s obvious that Catholics who make such an effort are sharply divided on the topics which I mentioned earlier. It’s like sola Scriptura for spiritual practices. And Catholics who adopt (or oppose) these practices are as sharply divided as protestant denominations who squabble over the meaning of verses of Scripture. IT DOESN’T WORK.

What is lacking in the offering of Catholic religious practices that someone feels he must take recourse in protestant practices of unknown merit?

Exactly. The language you used led me to think that you were also implying that the chances of there being anything outside of Catholicism worthy of being promoted were slightly worse than the survival odds of a snowball in hell, but if this was a misinterpretation on my part and/or so long as we agree that such things are theoretically possible, and that whatever the Magesterium says goes, then we actually have little disagreement on the matter. Perhaps we disagree on how often such could conceivably happen based on what’s out there, but that’s fairly moot because neither one of us decides anyway.

And how, exactly, does someone “check themselves?” I think Catholics are more accustomed to being TOLD what is true than trying to discover it for themselves. And it’s obvious that Catholics who make such an effort are sharply divided on the topics which I mentioned earlier. It’s like sola Scriptura for spiritual practices. And Catholics who adopt (or oppose) these practices are as sharply divided as protestant denominations who squabble over the meaning of verses of Scripture. IT DOESN’T WORK.

What is lacking in the offering of Catholic religious practices that someone feels he must take recourse in protestant practices of unknown merit?

By check oneself, I did not mean to imply that we are source of what we are checking ourselves against, only that we must do it - the CDF isn’t likely to send me a letter, I have to do my best to learn from reliable sources (catechism, Church documents, trusted orthodox teachers) what is right and what is wrong (and making sure that what we think what we read means is in fact what the Church says it means, which could be considered an infinite loop except that it’s usually obvious in the important areas to anyone paying attention), and make sure that my opposition to one wrong doesn’t become a different sort of wrong. I am not the standard, I am just the one who must find the standard and hold myself to it (perhaps partially by enlisting help from others) because as just some random guy, the chances of someone who has the authority to hold me to the truth, without my first seeking him out, actually taking the time to correct me is slim. I could go further into this whole personal attempt to make sure that we aren’t using merely personal interpretations, but won’t right this second.

It is true that Catholics as a collection individuals face a problem similar to the divisiveness that plagues Protestantism, but this is because many of us skip the whole learn what the truth is step and just make things up. This does not count as checking ourselves in the sense I mean. It’s rather like that whole follow your conscience thing: works great, but only if you form the conscience so first, otherwise it degenerates into a nearly meaningless act of confirming whatever it was we wanted to do in the first place. In both cases the formation is crucial.

As for what is lacking in Catholic spiritual practices - I wouldn’t think very much (read: nothing). But there may nevertheless be protestant spiritual practices that are good, and if, for whatever reason, someone prefers those practices and they are known to be safe and good, then despite that there may also be originally Catholic practices that serve the same purposes, there is no reason why that person ought not engage in them.

Further, if there are such practices that legitimately are good then we can engage in them with Protestants and so work together. And since there is stuff we ought to do, and since working together can help with that, then if such can be done in an acceptable way then that is good.

And once again, those “ifs” are a absolute. If the practice is bad or wrong, then we can’t do it whether it’d have some good effect or not. But in principle, there is no reason why such things could not exist, and it is up to the Magesterium to figure out what they are and which we can do.

Ecumenism is the conviction that what Christians share is more important than what divides them.

Edwin

I don’t misunderstand it. I think it’s a wonderful place to start a dialogue with the intention of converting someone. As our Holy Father has said, we must find a common ground to start with.

If the idea is to sing and hold hands and agree to disagree, then I don’t understand it. We are supposed to be converting people, not letting them wallow in ignorance.

The Church is here to lead people to the truth. Now many want to just let things be, and hope that “invincible ignorance” or some other doctrine will, at the end, save someone.

My two cents.

Sean

It’s not theoretically possible - it has already happened. I mentioned to you earlier that many Catholic jurisdictions have approved hymns for liturgical use which were written by protestants - everything from the finely crafted songs of Jacob Wesley to simple but energetic Gospel music. And I don’t know if this is true for only my Diocese or if it comes from the USCCB, but there’s an entire hymnal (a thick hymnal) approved for liturgical use that comes out of the Taizé Community, which is an ecumenical community.

By check oneself, I did not mean to imply that we are source of what we are checking ourselves against, only that we must do it - the CDF isn’t likely to send me a letter, I have to do my best to learn from reliable sources (catechism, Church documents, trusted orthodox teachers) what is right and what is wrong (and making sure that what we think what we read means is in fact what the Church says it means, which could be considered an infinite loop except that it’s usually obvious in the important areas to anyone paying attention), and make sure that my opposition to one wrong doesn’t become a different sort of wrong. I am not the standard, I am just the one who must find the standard and hold myself to it (perhaps partially by enlisting help from others) because as just some random guy, the chances of someone who has the authority to hold me to the truth, without my first seeking him out, actually taking the time to correct me is slim. I could go further into this whole personal attempt to make sure that we aren’t using merely personal interpretations, but won’t right this second.

It is true that Catholics as a collection individuals face a problem similar to the divisiveness that plagues Protestantism, but this is because many of us skip the whole learn what the truth is step and just make things up. This does not count as checking ourselves in the sense I mean. It’s rather like that whole follow your conscience thing: works great, but only if you form the conscience so first, otherwise it degenerates into a nearly meaningless act of confirming whatever it was we wanted to do in the first place. In both cases the formation is crucial.

As for what is lacking in Catholic spiritual practices - I wouldn’t think very much (read: nothing). But there may nevertheless be protestant spiritual practices that are good, and if, for whatever reason, someone prefers those practices and they are known to be safe and good, then despite that there may also be originally Catholic practices that serve the same purposes, there is no reason why that person ought not engage in them.

Known to be safe and good HOW? Known to WHOM? Take the Charismatic movement, for example. There are Catholics who “know” it is safe and good, and others who “know” it comes straight from the devil. How does the average Catholic layperson know which viewpoint is correct? He doesn’t! He just accepts the one he prefers.

But in principle, there is no reason why such things could not exist, and it is up to the Magesterium to figure out what they are and which we can do.

Exactly.

Known to be safe and good to the Church. I completely reject (as I’ve said) the idea that each person can make up their own minds in a vacuum about what is good and what is not. The charismatic movement, for example, is definitely not something that I’m interested in, but so far as I can tell the Church has given it the green light, so my misgivings don’t realy matter all that much. Given the support the movement has been shown by bishops and popes, anyone who thinks it is from the devil would have quiet a bit of explaining to do.

I seem to be getting mixed messages here. On the one hand, you seem to have said that there is no reason to look at spiritual practices outside of Catholicism given how much is within it, and said taking external things was failing to practice what we preach and generally implied it was a terrible thing, but then you just told me that some non-Catholic practices have been approved, and that that is good. Presumably, someone looked into them first. Clearly some external practices are bad and ought not be embraced, but I had not seen much of a distinction from you before.

You’ve also gone to great pains to tell me that the individualistic/relativistic everyone decide what’s true and hope for the best approach is wrong, even if I haven’t quiet figured out what I said to make you think I thought otherwise. Just as clearly as before, attempting to use such methods to justify doing whatever it is you want is also bad, but I’m not sure how that is related to ecumenism properly done, or to external practices that have rather more support than that.

I’m basically just no longer sure what it is your trying to tell me that I haven’t explicitly said, where or if we disagree, or even what your position is on ecumenism/practices that did not originate from within the Catholic Church.

Yes, BISHOPS looked into them. Or, at least, Catholic liturgists whom they appointed and who advised them. But the BISHOPS were free to accept or reject the recommendation. In the United States, the USCCB accepted them. Other Catholic jurisdictions speak other languages, and there might not be a suitable corpus of hymns of non-Catholic origin in their language to merit inclusion into their liturgical practice. Thus, such decisions are always made at a local level.

Clearly some external practices are bad and ought not be embraced, but I had not seen much of a distinction from you before.

Maybe that’s because I have not made any such distinction, except for the enneagram, which I called “nonsense” and backed it up with a Vatican document with a similar finding (a finding with you expressed agreement). I have called other practices “controversial,” but that’s all.

You’ve also gone to great pains to tell me that the individualistic/relativistic everyone decide what’s true and hope for the best approach is wrong, even if I haven’t quiet figured out what I said to make you think I thought otherwise. Just as clearly as before, attempting to use such methods to justify doing whatever it is you want is also bad, but I’m not sure how that is related to ecumenism properly done, or to external practices that have rather more support than that.

Sorry, but I don’t understand what that means. What, in your opinion, is “ecumenism properly done?” And, whatever you say, can you back it up with Church teaching?

I’m basically just no longer sure what it is your trying to tell me that I haven’t explicitly said, where or if we disagree, or even what your position is on ecumenism/practices that did not originate from within the Catholic Church.

It’s very simple, and very consistent. I don’t give a fig whether something originates from within the Catholic Church. Arianism was invented by Catholic priest. Lutheranism was invented by a Catholic priest. All of protestantism has Catholic origins.

The ONLY thing I care about is whether the Catholic Magesterium has given it Her “seal of approval.” Catholics can be heretics and invent their own religion (as Arius and Luther did).

But, I also observe that the Catholic Magesteruim has NEVER approved ANY protestant worship practice (though She has approved some protestant music). The Magesterium is not opposed to “all things of non-Catholic origin,” but She has never endorsed any non-Catholic religious practices. That does not mean She could not do so in the future, but it ought to give Catholics in the here-and-now reason to be wary of such practices, especially if they originate from churches which were invented by Catholic heretics.

Ecumenism properly done is in brief Catholics and Protestants (or dissent groups of Protestants) working or worshipping together using only those things which all groups recognize as true. This may be a simple prayer meeting before an annoying protest that involves hymns all groups involved agree on, and a few prayers like the Our Father. This does involve use of non Catholic stuff but only that which has, by the proper people - the bishops- obviously, been approved and is thus actually true.

It seems like we don’t disagree much on the rest, though why we’ve been arguing over it I don’t know - the job of approving practices other than the ones we already have belongs to the bishops, and while other qualified people may examine ideas and present their findings to the bishops, it is the bishops who decide.

However, I do think the claim that only hymns have made it over might be not entirely true. The Charismatic movement, for example, has wide approval from the bishops and is arguably based upon ways of looking at things that started in Protestantism, and is more than just a collection of hymns.

But in any case, it is up to the bishops to approve or disapprove such things, and what they say goes.

This is a claim that I am unfamiliar with. The term “wide approval” indicates something on the order of a National Council of Bishops (such as the USCCB), and probably a collection of such like-minded National Councils, who actually promote and encourage such practice. I presume you do not mean “wide” in the sense that a few Bishops who are widely dispersed across the globe, without any ecclesiastical unity, merely tolerate the practice.

I would be most grateful if you would cite something official to support your position. As a former (Anglican) protestant, I am pleased to see the Catholic Church and the protestant churches drawn toward each other. I was very pleased with the recent revisions to the English translation of the Roman Missal. Anglicans and Catholics both derive their English-language Mass translations from the Roman Missal, but the Anglicans translated it more accurately, and the English-speaking Catholic Church finally caught up 400 years later (well, actually, the Catholic Church’s English translation came out in 1969, some 45 years ago, so the “spread” can be debated, but nobody can dispute that the revised Catholic English-language Mass translation is far more Anglican-like, with phrases such as “and with your Spirit” replacing the poorly-translated, “and also with you”).

I assure you that I am most receptive to Catholicism becoming closer to our protestant brethren. If you have a concrete example to contribute (besides my example of protestant hymns), please do so.

The problem with ecumenism is that Catholicism loses its identity. When the mass changed, it changed into what resembles a Protestant service. When you walk into the Catholic churches of today, you don’t see any statues of saints, the same with protestant churches.

Churches from a dozen denominations make up churches together in our town, there are things we can do better together, than we can on our own.

The Street Pastor scheme is a profound ministry, people from eight denominations pray together, and we pray for each other, before going out on the streets until 3 am. We come into contact with drunks, anger, violence, troubled people and wonderful people. When people ask us which church are we from, the reply might be, Catholic, Methodist, Baptist and Anglican, this confuses people, that somehow Christians can work together.

The Basics Food Bank can only exist because of the cooperation between our churches, the commitment of time and money would be beyond the efforts of any of our churches working on their own.

I believe these things work; because we put the greatest commandments first.

Blessings

Eric

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