Legitimate ecumenism with Protestant denominations possible?


What should I say to a Catholic who insists that legitimate ecumenism with Protestant denominations is impossible on the grounds that only Catholic and Orthodox Churches have apostolic succession? I do admit that this thread might be more suitable for the Non-Catholic Religions forum, but I’ve been too afraid to start it there.


i mean you can show them the documents of vatican ii but something tells me they prob won’t accept that…


Legitimate ecumenism with Protestant denominations is impossible. The Catholic Church is the only one handed down from the Apostles. Martin Luther started Protestantism, and he came way later than the Apostles.

The four marks of the Catholic Church are; it is One, it is Holy, it is Catholic, it is Apostolic.


I would start by making them define, and also defining for myself, what legitimate ecumenism means.


Non Catholic here. Provided someone can (genuinely) sign up to the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed I believe they are a Christian. This includes “we believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church”. We may disagree on some theology, but we are all a part of one church.

I took my definition of ecumenism from https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=6056, but I suspect your friend may disagree with that.


Legitimate ecumenism with Protestant groups is possible but less and less so. Mainline groups are gradually abandoning some basic concepts of the historic Christian tradition including much of their own tradition.

Others offer some good possibility, such as LCMS Lutheran groups and Anglican continuum… Evangelical groups often stand with us on social issue s and seem more open minded now re some Catholic ideas. But other evangelicals are also opening up to mainline nonsense, so be cautious here.


What is your definition of “ecumenism” that leads you to say that, especially since the vast majority of Protestants are validly baptized in a Trinitarian formula recognized by the Church?


Well, the goal of ecumenism, from a Catholic perspective, seems to be an attempt to unify all Christian churches. We’ve addressed common ground with the Orthodox church and some Protestant denominations, and worked with each other on some things, but I don’t think unity is coming any time soon.

Ultimately someone’s got to compromise and since Catholics profess that we are the one true faith, it can’t be us. I don’t see many others saying, “OK, you Catholics are right, we’ll join you.”


To “unify all Christian churches” is flatly impossible, given our fundamental difference on issues such as apostolic succession and others. However, in my experience, serious Catholic and Protestant ecumenists freely grant that much. They’re interested in finding common ground that they DO share as Christians, and that can serve as a basis for fruitful Christian action.

Moreover, they seem interested in rigorously (though charitably) defining the issues that separate us, and what it would take to heal the divisions of Christianity. Again, I don’t think the serious, worthwhile participants in ecumenism take these differences lightly, or imagine they could ever be bridged without major theological concessions. But I’d say it’s worthwhile to map out how a reunion with our brethren could conceivably happen.


So… this is the real question, and @Mattapoisett64 and @sko have glommed on to that fact. What, @BridgetN and @commenter, are the goals of ‘ecumenism’?

@Escabrosa mentions “an attempt to unify all Christian churches”, but I think that’s too vague. So is “common ground”. I disagree with @Le_Cracquere that unity “is flatly impossible”, or that the goal is simple “heal[ing] of the divisions of Christianity” in order to effect a “reunion with our brethren.”

Although unity is the goal, it is unity in the fullness of the truth. A true ecumenism cannot abandon the truth for the sake of unity. Therefore, from a Catholic perspective, the goal of ecumenism is that “all might be one” in the fullness of the truth which the Catholic Church professes.

The means and methods by which this might take place are fair game for discussion. The end goal – unity in Christ in His Church – is not. It might sound strident… but, in the words of Paul Newman, “I have steak at home… why should I go out for hamburger?” :wink:


I think the below quotes got it about right…

If Catholics compromise to have unity with other religions…that’s bad. Catholics should not compromise on their Faith.


It seems some are confusing ecumenism with communion.
Ecumenism is possible but communion, I don’t see it possible today considering there are some fundamental differences in theologies.


USCCB states: “The Decree on Ecumenism set the stage for the last fifty years of Catholic dialogue and conversation with our Orthodox, Protestant and Anglican brothers and sisters. The Decree gives “Catholic Principles on Ecumenism.””



Check this out.


We can only achieve true unity if everyone converts to the Catholic Faith.


Then it is also impossible for a rich man to be saved, or not. Jesus taught this principle.

And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

I would rather ask where does unity require holy orders, or any other specific Sacrament outside of baptism, and even that may be by desire? So many people who are Catholic still think they know better than the Church, and like the apostles, sometimes better than Jesus.

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

A group may have proper Holy Orders and yet be in schism or open rebellion against the Church. Others may be more united to us in love of Jesus and lack any Sacrament except baptism. Never forget that the Pharisees lived exemplary lives in accordance to the Law, yet so many were further from the Kingdom of God than a Roman centurion.


One more Scripture to keep in mind the way God thinks:

He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”


It depends what you are doing with the protestants.
Are you their friends and neighbors, thats ok.
Are you working together on a project to fight against same sex marriage, thats ok.
Are you going to their services and bible studies, I think that’s where there may be a problem.


Exactly right.


I agree. Compromising cannot be a strategy to co-exist in places where Protestants are the majority. We have to stand by the truth.

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