Unitatis Redintegratio - V2 Decree on Ecumenism


Just read Unitatis Redintegratio, the Vatican II Decree on Ecumenism. Wow. Maybe it is just me, but that document was all over the place. To call it vague is an understatement. I would go as far as saying that it is a dangerous document when taken on its own, without the benefit of the lens of Sacred Tradition and the Magesterium of the Church through which to view it. Here are some particularly problematic passages::

“All in the Church must preserve unity in essentials. But let all, according to the gifts they have received enjoy a proper freedom, in their various forms of spiritual life and discipline, in their different liturgical rites, and even in their theological elaborations of revealed truth. In all things let charity prevail. If they are true to this course of action, they will be giving ever better expression to the authentic catholicity and apostolicity of the Church.”

So, is this saying “Do not address heresy?” Would this have been the correct approach to the Arian heresy?

Here’s another::

“10. Sacred theology and other branches of knowledge, especially of an historical nature, must be taught with due regard for the ecumenical point of view, so that they may correspond more exactly with the facts.
It is most important that future shepherds and priests should have mastered a theology that has been carefully worked out in this way and not polemically, especially with regard to those aspects which concern the relations of separated brethren with the Catholic Church.”

Hmmm… I am just starting down the road of reading a lot of the documents of the Church … .next up is Pascendi Dominici Gregis which I am sure will be a nice contrast to Unitatis Redintengratio. And that is my concern … that there IS a contrast … that there IS a lack of consistency in the teachings, a rupture, if you will. How do we as good Catholics, eager to do the right thing, approach this? I guess that I am looking for someone to show me the continuity… please, none of the “you have no choice if you are in communion with Rome” dribble. I understand that … and if that is in fact true, which I do believe, then explaining the continuity should not be a problem.

Thank you.


I wonder if this means jettisoning quite a bit of theology (and even papal encyclicals) since much of it was expressed polemically.


I appreciate very much this remark, and I hope everybody will.
I guess that you, making your considerations, keeps in your mind all the distortions of the truth that some “theologian” did after the Council.
But, I think, this is not entirely correct. It’s a bit as considering Eucharistic Speech of Jesus as cause of Pharisee distortions on this.
This is only a rushed cue.
If you want, we may continue.
All the best!


On the subject of ecumenism, I strongly recommend the encyclical Mortalium animos of 1928.


You can be totally traditional and still pay attention to what this document calls the “ecumenical dimension.” Suppose a priest works among eastern Christians. It would be highly useful to understand their traditions and dogmatic beliefs. Some of them are separated from us but adhere to formulas and expressions that were laid down by Catholic saints.


Fr. Mitch Pacwa of EWTN just gave a televised presentation on this very document a couple weeks ago. He clarifies much better than I could (and it saves a great deal of typing on my part.) :smiley:

I believe you will have a very good understanding of the Church’s teaching after listening. The broadcast to download is 7/31. If you are using Real Player, scroll to 20:00.



I understand what you are going through, the same thing happened to me a couple years ago. I was reading all these papal encyclicals and Vatican II and was so confused as to how it all added up. It seemed to me to be contradictory in many ways. It is similar to what happens when many people attempt to read Sacred Scripture initially. They run into what seems to be a whole host of contradictions. But of course we all know that there are no contradictions in Scripture. The same thing can happen when we look into the teachings of the Church. We run into statements that appear to be contradictory, but in reality just need to be harmonized. We also need to distinguish between what are official Magisterial statements on doctrine and what are disciplinary measures.

Vatican II’s teaching on ecumenism, for example, is largely thought to be contradictory to statements from earlier Popes, such as Pius X and Leo XIII. Often times, papal encyclicals such as Mortalium Animos are used against Unitatis Redingratio, but such need not be the case. We just need to understand the distinction made between “ecumenism” as it was understood in the early 20th century, and “ecumenism” as it was formulated during Vatican II. In reality, there is no contradiction between the two, but one must understand the historical situation surrounding both.

In the early 20th century, Christian religious movements were seeking to fuse together different denominations and Catholicism. In other words, their motto was essentially, “Let’s forget our differences exist and just agree to be one.” This was a popular idea, especially when the globe was suffering under the first World War. But the Holy Spirit moved the Popes of the day to realize the danger in this way of thinking. Thus, the Popes roundly condemned this form of ecumenism, saying that Catholicism was the one, true religion and could not compromise her faith. A few decades later, however, the historical situation had changed. Proponents of ecumenism were no longer advocating for a false syncretism. Instead, they were realizing that there were benefits to dialogue. It was seen that dialogue could allow for bridges to be built between differing faiths, primarily by realizing those things we share in common and discussing those things we disagree on to see if any reconciliation was possible in the future. The Church, guided by the same Spirit, realized that this form of ecumenism was beneficial for the flock. In encouraging Catholics to take part of this ecumenism, they repeatedly stressed that compromise in our core beliefs could not be tolerated.

It is important to remember that Jesus Christ promised He would always be with His Church and that the Spirit would guide her into all truth. Whenever Vatican II teaches on faith or morality, the faith will be indefectible. We can be assured of that.

Here are a few links I recommend that you will add further information to clarify the issue for you. God bless…







On the other hand, Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren. It is right and salutary to recognize the riches of Christ and virtuous works in the lives of others who are bearing witness to Christ, sometimes even to the shedding of their blood. For God is always wonderful in His works and worthy of all praise.

Nor should we forget that anything wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren can be a help to our own edification. Whatever is truly Christian is never contrary to what genuinely belongs to the faith; indeed, it can always bring a deeper realization of the mystery of Christ and the Church.

Nevertheless, the divisions among Christians prevent the Church from attaining the fullness of catholicity proper to her, in those of her sons who, though attached to her by Baptism, are yet separated from full communion with her. Furthermore, the Church herself finds it more difficult to express in actual life her full catholicity in all her bearings.

I see no contradiction to Catholic faith in these statements do you?The passage you talked about is dealing with revealed truth how you explain the truth can vary but the truth itself is not alterable. If you ask me that’s as Catholic as you get.
To see the point about different liturgies etc we have two branches of the Catholic Church the western and eastern-the eastern catholics don’t have the rosary they don’t have unmarried priest their masses were not in Latin but in Greek and other languages but yet they are Catholic as they affirm the same dogmas and affirm the authority of the Pope.
Different liturgies, different rules same Catholic faith!!
As for Pascendi Dominici Gregis the subject matter was different the tone different Unitatis is about setting guidelines for ecumenism Pascendi Dominici Gregis is refuting the modernists and their heresy.
Both documents are truly Catholic in their core, see the words used the way they are used!!
I must admit Pascendi Dominici Gregis is pretty tough to grasp and Unitatis is much simpler but the core is the same!!
a word of advice don’t go reading encyclicals and documents helter skelter try reading more appropriate works on how to pratice as a layman your Catholic faith lives of saints etc.
Hope this helps as for continuity it is there as the same spirit that guided St Irenaeus and guided St Augustine guide St Pius X and guided the Vatican 2 Fathers as well as the present Magisterium


wow Joe good on you mate!!
That was well written!!


Thank you everyone. Lots of good links to work through! As I mentioned in my opening post, I accept Vatican II, feel that it is completely valid … I was just having problems reconciling what it seemed to state with what has been stated in the past. I was working to reconcile the two in order to see the continuity of the faith that I believe is there … it is just hard to see sometimes.:wink:


What was said on the Council floor during the debate on Ecumenism?

"Bishop Grotti then asked: Does ecumenism consist in confessing or in hiding the truth? Ought the Council to explain Catholic doctrine, or the doctrine of our separated brethren? Hiding the truth hurts both us and those separated from us. It hurts us, because we appear as hypocrites. It hurts those who are separated from us because it makes them appear weak and capable of being offended by the truth…let the schemas be separated. Let us profess our faith openly. Let us be the teachers we are in the Church by teaching with clarity, and not hiding what is true”{ The Rhine flows into the Tiber}

At the Vatican II council the Traditionalist wanted to devote an entire schema on the Virgin Mary. The liberals objected. Here is what they said at the council:

Pg 90-95
”….according to Father Rahner…the schema as drafted as : a source of great concern” for himself and for Fathers Grillmeier,Semmelroth and Ratzinger, who had also examined it from a theological point of view. Were the texts to be accepted as it stood, he contended, “ unimaginable harm would result from an ecumenical point of view, in relation to both Orientals and Protestants….all the success achieved in the field of ecumenism through the Council and in connection with the Council will be rendered worthless by the retention of the schema as it stands”….The proposal officially submitted by the Fulda conference to the General Secretariat of the Council also quoted from Protestant writings. Bishop Didelius of the German Evangicial Church, was quoted as saying in 1962 that the Catholic Church’s teaching of Mary was one of the major impediments to union. Other German Protestant authorities…were quoted as saying that the Council Fathers in Rome should remember that they would be erecting a new wall of division by approving a schema on Mary’ {Rhine flows into the Tiber}

The Blessed Mother temporarly lost out to Ecumenism. It was agreed that she would only be given a chapter in the* Constitution on the Church. * The liberals revised the chapter on Mary and reduced the doctrine on Mary to the absolute minimum. Cardinal Suenens of Belgium said the revised text, “appeared to minimize the importance of Mary”. The traditionalist insisted that the chapter on Mary be revised.It was revised again, and accepted, this time one-third longer and more traditional than the liberals had wanted.


Let the Mother of God go head to head against a bunch of knucklehead periti, and she was going to prevail one way or another…


While the Decree on Ecumenism does not say every religion is as good as another, I believe it does imply that one can be saved just as easily outside the Catholic Church.This is why millions have left the Church and joined the Protestants where salvation is an easier path. This decree has also led to false ecumenism that continues today.

*Time magazine *1966

“Last month Dr. Albert van den Heuvel of the World Council of Churches’ Youth Department told a Chicago audience that priests and ministers impatient at the slow pace of organized ecumenical progress are celebrating the Eucharist together and giving each other Communion. As many as 6,000 dedicated Catholic and Protestant laymen reportedly belong to ecumenical study groups in The Netherlands that periodically celebrate interfaith Communions; either a minister or a priest will preside, and the consecrated elements are given to all members present.”

Belfast, Apr 20, 2006 / 12:00 am (CNA).- Controversy in Ireland continues after a Protestant clergyman marked the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising of 1916 and the Western Front by celebrating mass with three Catholic priests, reported the Belfast Telegraph.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=6525

In an interview **last year **with one of the Vatican top officials
RANJITH:" One of these, as I see, is the trend to go for ecumenical liturgies in replacement of the Sunday Mass in some countries, during which Catholic lay leaders and Protestant ministers celebrate together and the latter are invited to preach the homily. Sunday Liturgies of the Word with the distribution of Holy Communion, which form is allowed in cases where a priest cannot be present, if turned into ecumenical events can give the faithful the wrong signal. They may get used to the idea of the Sunday without the Eucharist.


I would go as far as saying that it is a dangerous document when taken on its own, without the benefit of the lens of Sacred Tradition and the Magesterium of the Church through which to view it.

Hi Revert,

This is the ony way to read any of the conciliar documents; by the light of sacred Tradition. :thumbsup: Good luck with your studies.


Hi StMaria!

The debates on the Council floor can make for interesting reading and historical commentary, but at the end of the day, that’s all they are. The Spirit protected fruits of the Council can only be found in the documents the Fathers *agreed upon *and presented to the Pope for confirmation, not the various disagreements leading up to that point.

Not to say this applies to you, but some who disparage VII would seem to imply that lively theological debate was invented at VII, and that it’s an indication of an intense ideological battle, where the left forced its will on the right, etc… It’s pointed to as a sort of smoking gun. That’s nonsense. One only need look at Acts 2 and “the council of Jerusalem” to see that spirited debate has always been a part of the way that the Spirit guides the Church into all truth at such gatherings.


I second that. Excellent post, Joe!


What was said on the Council floor makes for interesting reading, but is as usual irrelevant to the topic at hand. What is up for discussion is the document that was in fact approved by the Council.

I too can produce many pages of floor discussion from the couple hundred who opposed the infallibility arguments being made at Vatican I, but they would be irrelevant because they are not what the final document stated and what we are bound to.

Almost all of these “floor discussion” statements are made to try to either justify an antipathy for the Council’s final documents, or by those outside communion who try to use them to “prove” that there is inconsistency–which the Church denies–and that the Council was then not valid.

Many, quite frankly, *want *to find contradictions to discredit the post-conciliar Church. As other posters have noted below however, and I also have on other occasions, those contradictions just aren’t there. Yes, there are people misinterpreting them in ways that lead to an unhealthy relativism. But there are just as many misinterpreting them in ways that at least imply that the Feeney approach is what the Church has always stood for and therefore Vatican II is in error.

Finding that there is truth to be found in other religions and that efforts should be made to encourage discussion so as to help bring us all to the fullest understanding of the Complete Truth is the ultimate goal of Vatican II’s documents. Other times might have found other methods of accomplishing that goal, but the goal has never been different–to bring all men to love and knowledge of God through His Word made Flesh.



Historical books like The Rhine flows into the Tiber, *Pope Council and the World, *Reform of the LIturgy Show the intent of those writing the documents.The text of the debate can show the motive behind such writings.
There is no doubt from the historical accounts that liberals took over the Vatican II council. The traditionalists had no chance.

We will have to agree to disagree on your quote that the Holy Spirit guided the final text. The Holy Spirit is not ambigious. All the documents of Vatican II contain rock solid Catholic doctrine followed by ambiguity. That is why to this day the SSPX refused to accept the Vatican II documnent on Religious Liberty ,Collegiality and a few others. I am not a member of the SSPX nor have I ever attended their Mass, however I do believe that they are right to question some of the teachings of the Council.


[quote=StMaria]There is no doubt from the historical accounts that liberals took over the Vatican II council. The traditionalists had no chance.

We will have to agree to disagree on your quote that the Holy Spirit guided the final text.

Your profile notes that you are Catholic, but your post suggests to me that you are a dissenter who is Anti-catholic and eager to promote that belief to sway other Catholics away from their faith and into dissent. Is this your motive in posting?

From Lumen Gentium #25:

This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra

; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.

Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held. This is even more clearly verified when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church, whose definitions must be adhered to with the submission of faith.(

And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, (etc.)

I’m having a difficult time understanding why you would put more faith in Ralph Wiltgen’s book, which is NOT infallible, and does not reflect a Spirit-guided vote of approval taken by over 2500 bishops gathered in the Council? Surely you don’t believe, do you, that these holy men were all duped?

And surely you are not hoping everyone who reads your words will somehow rebel and confront the Church in the manner of Abp. LeFebvre?


We will have to agree to disagree on your quote that the Holy Spirit guided the final text. The Holy Spirit is not ambigious.

No, it isn’t me you’re disagreeing with. The Holy Spirit doesn’t guarantee eloquence, but rather protects against error.


Agreed. There is a negative protection by the Holy Spirit that a Council will not teach heresy in Faith or Morals. However, as you imply, this does not protect the Council texts from being ambiguous enough to be taken advantage of. Even Monsignor George Kelly called the Council texts ambiguous. Nor is there infallibility in regards to prudential decisions of a Council (though they have to be obeyed). Nor is there any guarantee that a Council will produce good fruit or achieve its aims.

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