IN PRAISE OF THE "C" WORD
The above sentiments are intended to reflect not so much a contrast as a polarisation; to juxtapose the unbridgeable theological/philosophical divide between true and false ecumenists. The former, by an ancient Sufi master (and spotted, incidentally, on a convent notice advertising "healing" and "renewal" for Religious and priests!), encapsulates that familiar spirit of subjectivity which engenders endless compromise and looks ultimately to the convergence of all beliefs. The latter, by a contemporary Catholic apologist, embodies an objectivity concerned primarily with absolute truth and conversion to the one Church possessing that truth absolutely. Together, they pretty much sum up what Vatican II intended ecumenism to be (Keating), and what in practise it has become (Rumi).
In the increasingly surreal world of "ecumenical dialogue", of course, Rumi sounds mainstream; his idyllic "field" a place of peace and tolerance. Keating, by comparison, would be considered a troglodyte; an ecclesiastical fascist. "Conversion," you see, has been all but banished from polite ecumenical conversation. Nowadays even Cardinal Ratzinger has been known to choke on the "c" word, especially when it comes to the Jews. Be that as it may, however, the conviction underlying Keating's comment represents the quintessence of both true ecumenism: "that the [Catholic] doctrine be clearly presented in its entirety" (Vatican II Decree on Ecumenism), and traditional Catholic teaching: that non-Catholics are in serious error and divinely commanded, on pain of damnation once they become aware of that command, to become a member of the Catholic Church before dying (Vatican II Lumen Gentium 14). Australian Father Brian Harrison, an internationally renowned scholar, once related with typical candour how crucial these unfashionable teachings were to his own post-conciliar conversion:
How refreshingly robust and unashamedly Catholic that personal testimony sounds in comparison to the treacherous fudge served up on a near weekly basis, year in and year out, by ecumenical leaders like Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor and the late Cardinal Winning. Conversion is simply not on their agenda. Typical of the latter's ecumenical mindset was his insistence, in the April 1996 edition of the Church of Scotland's magazine Life and Work, that there was no need "to put the clock back to when there was only one religion" because there had been "tremendous convergence" over the years. "The way I see it," he enthused, "there will be gradual convergence until there is practically no difference. We'll be accepting things from other Churches and dropping off things that were once part of our baggage, without missing them." In the same interview, His Eminence even offered Protestants hope that their clearly impossible desire for 'Eucharistic hospitality' (inter-Communion) "might happen in the future"! As for Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, in the course of a recent interview with London's Catholic Herald (6/7/01), while stating that "the key ecumenical question is the exercise and focus of authority", he twice voiced an erroneous dictum that undermined the papacy. "Never Peter without the 11; never the 11 without Peter", he repeated with obvious self-satisfaction, apparently forgetful of the Vatican's polite savaging of his 1981 ''agreement" with the Anglicans on "Authority in the Church", which "agreement" included a flawed understanding of primacy and jurisdiction of the Pope! It appears that the Cardinal has learnt nothing; that he remains oblivious to Vatican II's reaffirmation that the Roman pontiff's full and supreme powers of teaching, government and discipline are quite independent of the bishops and that he exercises ultimate authority over every see in the Church, including that of Westminster. Readers should consider for a moment that these are the sort of ecclesiastical 'intellects' who have been dialoguing with non-Catholics on our behalf for three decades. Consummate Modernist ideologues like America's Archbishop Rembert Weakland and Australia's Archbishop John Bathersby are presently leading discussions with the Eastern Orthodox and Anglicans. This is what ecumenism has become: the blind leading the blind!
The danger, then, is not and never has been about "dialogue" per se. The Church, of course, has been "dialoguing" with non-believers and wrong-believers ever since Pentecost, when Peter told the assembled Jews that a New Covenant meant a new ball-game, placing them in danger of perdition unless they converted [Acts 2:37-42]. No, the danger lies rather in the imprudent methodology fostered and the perilous mixture of crass ignorance and mainstream Modernism one finds in appointed "dialoguers" at every level. This is the underlying cause of thirty years of feeble ducking and weaving by the Catholic side which has ultimately led to our current pass, where the traditional notion of Christian unity, seen as the return - i.e. conversion - of lost sheep to the Catholic fold (not merely to fulfil them but to save them), has been well and truly scotched. As for non-Christians, is it any wonder that orthodox Catholic teaching about the salvation of the Jewish people through conversion to Christ and His Church now causes such consternation in clerical ranks, when the Holy Father himself holds the sweeping view that the Old Covenant was "never revoked by God" (17/11/80, Mainz, Germany) - a spurious notion which suddenly renders Judaism righteous before God and thus the very idea of converting its adherents, in the manner of St. Peter, redundant.(1)
The response to our January 2001 edition which dealt with these sort of astonishing reversals occasioned by false ecumenism, was instructive. The commonsense Catholic faithful are clearly fed up. Rather than take umbrage over our criticism of the Holy Father's ecumenical modus operandi - to eschew calling lost sheep home and ignore earlier papal admonitions against pan-Christian assemblies and the like - all bar a handful of the many subsequent correspondents understood that whatever inspiration our dear Holy Father has provided in many areas, we have paid too great a price for an ecumenical approach which has burdened the faithful with mixed messages, confusion and scandal. The fact is that although no magazine has defended the papacy and John Paul himself more conscientiously than Christian Order, we cannot be stubbornly ultramontane about papal strategies which endanger souls. Besides, while this Holy Father is as fallible in his private opinions and prudential judgements as any other Pope, he would also be the very last pontiff to suppress warranted criticism from his concerned and faithful flock. And it is clear that manifestations of false ecumenism which have burgeoned everywhere under his leadership have tested patience and faith to breaking point. Especially where they involve the shameless hypocrisy of prelates like the aforementioned, who spend boundless time, energy and resources agonising over an amorphous "Christian unity," while overseeing the spiritual fragmentation and dissolution of their own dioceses with equanimity.
And so in this edition we return to the ecumenical morass: setting the extant and liberating Catholic doctrine of "no salvation outside the Church" against the corrosive reality of ecumenism at local, national and international levels. Furthermore, since attack is the best form of defence and knowledge is strength, we again urge readers to introduce others to Christian Order at every opportunity and also heartily recommend Mother Angelica's multi-media apostolate. Because only an informed and confident Catholic laity can halt the onward march towards Rumi's ecumenical idyll - that syncretic "field" where convergence is all, and the "c" word unmentionable.
(1) In fact, while the moral law (Ten Commandments) clearly endured, Judaic law and ceremonial were revoked. According to Aquinas, this revocation occurred upon the death of Christ and the tearing of the veil in the Temple (Summa Theologiae, IA, IIAE, Q.103, Art.3).