The Decree on Ecumenism defines the ecumenical movement as a “restoration of unity” among Christians, and it includes all “those who invoke the triune God and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior”. This definition initially seems well natured. After all, shouldn’t all Christians belong to the Church Christ founded, the Catholic Church? But as one reads on through the Decree, questionable statements appear.
The Decree states:
“Moreover, some, and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, charity, with other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ.”
Elements and endowments that give life to the Church…like the written Word of God, the Bible, right? This can exist outside the Catholic Church? The King James Version of the Bible, it gives life to the Church, and leads back to Christ? What about John Wycliffe’s English translation of the Bible? Luther’s German Bible? These Protestant Bibles do not lead to Christ. They are perverted, man-made distortions of God’s written Word. They do not include the entirety of the Bible, as they do not include the 7 Deuterocanoncal Books, and also leave out portions of others. Incorrect translations of verses, misleading, anti-Catholic footnotes…does this lead back to Christ? What is this “written Word of God” that “exists outside” of the Catholic Church? There is none.
The Decree goes on to say that non-Catholic Christian churches have practices that can “truly engender a life of grace in ways varying according to the condition of each Church or Community”. Following that is: “These liturgical actions must be regarded as capable of providing access to the community of salvation”.
Truly engender a life of grace? Access to salvation? Is not the Catholic Church the only God given means of salvation? How can groups that teach heretical doctrine and sometimes even immoral belief give access to salvation? Evangelical groups that teach that a person can be saved by grace through faith alone, are they engendering a life of grace? Fundamentalist churches that teach the inefficacy of the intercession of the saints, are they to be regarded as a path to salvation? Christ alone is the way to salvation, and He has made the Catholic Church His instrument of communicating grace to Christians. Not the Lutheran Church or the Anglican Church or the Episcopalian Church. If the Catholic Church is the only God-given means of salvation, how can other churches or communities be regarded as capable of providing salvation? They are mere man-made institutions, not that of God. The text of the Decree speaks as if to insinuate that it is okay for a person to belong to a non-Catholic church, as they “must be regarded” as being capable of providing salvation.
Christ Himself says that “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” St. Paul instructs the Galatians saying, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema.” The Bible does not deem heretical gospels or groups as “capable of providing salvation”. Anyone who distorts God’s Word by heresy is cursed!
Pope Eugene IV, in the Papal Bull Cantate Domino writes:
“The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes, and preaches, that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews arid heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with her…”
Likewise, in Satis Cognitum, Pope Leo XIII condemns heretics:
“The Arians, the Montanists, the Novatians, the Quartodecimans, the Eutychians, certainly did not reject all Catholic doctrine: they abandoned only a certain part of it. Still who does not know that they were declared heretics and banished from the bosom of the Church? In like manner were condemned all authors of heretical doctrines who followed them in subsequent ages.”
Pope Pius IX, in his Syllabus of Errors, condemns the notion that “in the worship of any religion whatever, men can find the way to eternal salvation, and can attain eternal salvation.”
How can the Council teach contrarily to previously taught doctrine? If non-Catholic churches were once condemned, how can they be thought of as paths to grace? All this talk praising the Protestant churches was a false ecumenism. Instead of seeking Christian unity by conversion to the Catholic Church, Vatican II pursued Christian unity by ushering in an acceptance of non-Catholic Churches.
Pope Pius XI, in His encyclical Mortalium Animos, states:
“…the union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it. To the one true Church of Christ, we say, which is visible to all, and which is to remain, according to the will of its Author, exactly the same as He instituted it.”
Pope Pius XI does not speak of how the separated churches must be regarded as capable to providing access to salvation, but that they must return to the true Church! This is the only way that Christian unity can be promoted! There cannot be true Christian unity if non-Catholics remain in their heretical sects, outside of the true Church. This supposed “ecumenism” is only an acceptance of non-Catholic religion; namely the Protestant sects.
The Decree on Ecumenism goes on to say:
“In certain special circumstances, such as in prayer services ‘for unity’ and during ecumenical gatherings, it is allowable, indeed desirable, that Catholics should join in prayer with their separated brethren.”
Again, the Decree on Ecumenism veers away from Traditional Catholic teaching.
The 1917 Code of Canon Law taught that it “…is unlawful for the faithful to assist in any active manner, or to take part, in the services of non-Catholics.”
Doctor of the Church, St. Alphonsus Liguori writes, “It is not permitted to be present at the sacred rites of infidels and heretics in such a way that you would be judged to be in communion with them.”
Religious commitments are manifested by outward acts, are they not? Prayer with Protestants and other non-Catholics is an act that is expressive of an untrue religion, is it not? Prayer in common with heretics is expressly what both Canon Law and St. Alphonsus condemned. The act of prayer with heretics is a sin against the true Church of Christ. It places a Catholic in communion with the non-believer, no matter what Vatican II teaches.
The Decree goes on to cover the subject of the Churches separated from the Roman See, firstly the Churches of the East.
“For many centuries the Church of the East and that of the West each followed their separate ways though linked in a brotherly union of faith and sacramental life; the Roman See by common consent acted as guide when disagreements arose between them over matters of faith or discipline. Among other matters of great importance, it is a pleasure for this Council to remind everyone that there flourish in the East many particular or local Churches, among which the Patriarchal Churches hold first place, and of these not a few pride themselves in tracing their origins back to the apostles themselves. Hence a matter of primary concern and care among the Easterns, in their local churches, has been, and still is, to preserve the family ties of common faith and charity which ought to exist between sister Churches.”
“Similarly it must not be forgotten that from the beginning the Churches of the East have had a treasury from which the Western Church has drawn extensively – in liturgical practice, spiritual tradition, and law. Nor must we undervalue the fact that it was the ecumenical councils held in the East that defined the basic dogmas of the Christian faith, on the Trinity, on the Word of God Who took flesh of the Virgin Mary.”
“These Churches, although separated from us, possess true sacraments, above all by apostolic succession, the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are linked with us in closest intimacy. Therefore some worship in common (communicatio in sacris), given suitable circumstances and the approval of Church authority, is not only possible but to be encouraged.“
The schismatics of the East, according to the Council, are “linked with us in closest intimacy”, which allows common worship with one another. How can common worship be possible, when the Church has taught that schismatics are no better than heretics?
Pope Eugene IV wrote in his encyclical Cantate Domino the following:
“The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes, and preaches, that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews arid heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal…No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.“
Pope Leo XIII, in Satis Cognitum teaches:
” ‘We think that this difference exists between heresy and schism,’ writes St. Jerome: ‘Heresy has no perfect dogmatic teaching, whereas schism, through some episcopal dissent, also separates from the Church.’ In which judgment St. John Chrysostom agrees: ‘I say and protest,’ he writes, ‘that it is as wrong to divide the Church as it is to fall into heresy.’ Hence as no heresy can ever be justifiable, so in like manner there can be no justification for schism. ‘There is nothing more grievous than the sacrilege of schism…there can be no just necessity for destroying the unity of the Church….’ “
How can the Second Vatican Council differ from past Church teaching? Schismatics are not connected to us in an intimate way! They formed a barrier; a schism between themselves and the Church, resulting in disunity. While heresy is dissent from the truth, which breaks apart Christian unity, schism is just as bad; the denial of authority, which also destroys unity. All the Council wished to do was “play nice” when speaking about those who have separated themselves from the true Church. All this leads to is indifferentism. If the separated churches of the East, as the Council claims, “possess true sacraments”, then why not just belong to them instead of the Roman Catholic Church? If they have the sacraments and the priesthood, what’s the difference? All this praiseful talk of the schismatic churches implies an indifferentism, as the Council refrains from stating the cold, hard truth: the schismatics are in the same boat as the heretics.
Nearing the end of the Decree, the subject turns to the separated churches of the West. The same indifferent tone is used, never mentioning the seriousness of schism. This was a trend throughout the whole Decree: describe the relationship between Catholics and non-Catholics in a fuzzy, feel-good way, and skirt away from the truth of the matter.
The principle of the Decree is the pursuit of Christian unity — without separated peoples joining the Catholic Church! Instead they pursue unity by “common prayer”, while remaining in their own sects. How is unity to be realized in this? It is utterly pointless! How can Christians be in unison while they differ in doctrine? Utterly pointless.
In short, the Decree on Ecumenism differentiates vastly from past Catholic teaching, which, by definition, is heresy. Instead of speaking the plain truth on the matter of heretics and schismatics, a softer, more polite route of ecumenism is taken. This in itself is both dishonest and indifferent. The past teaching of the Catholic Church cannot ever be changed, even by a supposed “sacred Council”. The Decree on Ecumenism is a distortion of true Catholic teaching; a corrupt paper of heresy.
“Men must be changed by religion; not religion by men.”
Fourth Lateran Council