Monday, October 24, 2016

THE CHURCH THAT CHRIST BUILT : QUEST FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY

The Second Vatican Council Arrived and the Ecumenical Project received a huge intake of oxygen as did so many other new ideas.

SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL IN SESSION

We have seen that the Second Vatican Council was announced by Pope Saint John XXIII with exceptional confidence in its ability to produce positive results.And we have noted that the  reality of its results could hardly have been further from that confident hope.

So bad was the result that Ven. Pope Paul VI was to say : 

"

It is as if from some mysterious crack, no, it is not mysterious, from some crack the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God."

  • June 29, 1972 homily.Feast of Saints Peter and Paul


This is , perhaps, one of the most remarkable statements of any Pontiff in the 2,000 years history of Christ's Church. It is a measure of just how far short of Pope Saint John XXIII's hopes and expectations, the Council's results had fallen. There is no need here to list the sorry record of huge numbers of Priests and religious abandoning their vocations , of plummeting Mass attendances, and the decline in popular morality. This was not because of what the Council did or said. On the contrary it is because of the false"spirit of the Council" ideas which were spread with no regard for the truth This false spirit promoted whatever its advocates thought should be done or wished to have done.

 But we are seeking to follow a particular thread of the Council's activity - the approach it adopted to relations with other Christian bodies and to the Jews and other non Christian religions. As we have noted, two principal documents enshrine the Council's teaching in these areas:

Unitatis Redintegratio  dealt with other Christian religions, and

Nostra Aetate                 dealt with the Jews and relations with other non-Christian religions.

Unitatis Redintegratio has become a controversial document. This is because  of the many scandals surrounding  the much discussed "Ecumenism".Even very conservative writers have adopted very different stances when considering the document. Let us consider two of these:


Romano Amerio

Firstly, Romano Amerio in his book "IOTA UNUM"published in 1996 by SARTO HOUSE takes a strongly critical line. He begins his attack on the document by saying "The replacement of the idea of a return to the Catholic Church by that of a universal conversion to Christ figures largely in the Council's decree Unitatis Redintegratio, which teaches that the Church ought to be continually reformed . Amerio holds that the Council document teaches that "Unity should be brought about not by a return of the separated brethren to the Catholic Church, but by a conversion of all the churches within the total Christ, a Christ Who is not identified with any of them but Who will be constructed by means of their coming together as one." He goes on to say, after further adverse comment: " The assumption that Christian unity is to be sought through the re-assembly of pieces all of them of equal standing  , has now completely supplanted the traditional view of the matter."

Secondly, Father Brian Harrison O.S. 



FATHER BRIAN HARRISON O.S.

Writing for the Magazine "ORIENS" July-September, 2008)) Father Harrison was concerned with the question whether or not the document departs from Catholic Doctrine and, specifically, as expounded by Pope Pius XI in " Mortalium Animos".  He begins by distinguishing between changes in "policy,discipline or pastoral strategy" and contradiction of doctrine. Father Harrison remarks on the marked change in policy, discipline and pastoral strategy which characterises the document. But he concludes that the document DID NOT fall into doctrinal errors that would have contradicted the teaching of "Mortalium Animos" This is not to say that he praises Unitatis Redintegratio, he is simply making an objective analysis.

In considering "Mortalium Animos" Father Harrison looks at the four Ecumenical Errors which Pope Pius XI condemned in "Mortalium Animos":

i. the " lowest common denominator" approach which suggested that all "religions" contained an element of identical belief that united them - an effective one world religion.

ii. Pope Pius XI showed how the above concept denies the principle of revealed Truth which  requires assent to God's Word on His Authority. But the assumption in i. above is that all religions are more or less good and praiseworthy. This rejects the truth of revealed religion , falling gradually into naturalism and atheism. To advocate this idea is as good as abandoning the religion revealed by God. The very idea in i above was one of the aspects of Modernism condemned by Pope Saint Pius X.

iii. Pope Pius XI discerned a false understanding of the nature of the Church in i. above. Even considering only those calling themselves Christians in this "one world religion" there would be "nothing more than a federation of the various Christian communities, even though these may hold different and mutually exclusive doctrines" (M.A. 6) 

iv. Pope Pius XI noted that the advocates of i above held a false understanding of Christ's prayer "ut unum sint' ("that they might be one") arguing that such unity had never existed and was yet to be achieved, and regarded as a mere ideal..(MA 7)

Before proceeding, Father Harrison notes a translation deficiency in the Flannery translation of the Council Document which has the Council merely "indicating" what the "ecumenical movement involves" . More accurately , he notes the second para of UR # 4 would begin " the term ecumenical movement is understood to mean".....( Per "motum oecumenicum" intelliguntur..).The Council then goes on to list numerous restrictions and qualifications on the approach to , and conduct of , any ecumenical activities.

Father Harrison then moves on to consider the four headings of Pope Pius XI 's objections :

a. He finds that UR does not adopt the "lowest common denominator" approach. Whilst it notes that there exists a "hierarchy" of Catholic beliefs , it insists that Catholic belief must be preserved and presented in its entirety ans condemns false irenicism" which harms the purity of Catholic doctrine and obscures its genuine and certain meaning".(UR 11)

b. He finds that there is not in UR any taint  of effort to diminish the place of Divine Revelation and it firmly presents the truth concerning the Catholic Church and its endowment with Grace (UR 4, UR 3) , the role of the Apostles and of Saint Peter (UR 2) .And he notes that the same Council Fathers promulgated the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation just one year later  - the interpretive key to all other Council documents.

c. UR has no truck with any "federation" concept, insisting on the unique status of the Catholic Church :" The Church, then, God's only flock, like a standard lifted on high......" (UR 2 Emphasis added)

d. In clearly insisting on the being and role of the Catholic Church UR clearly in no way teaches the heresy that Christ's Church is yet to be realised.

Summing up, as we have said, Father Harrison is quite firm in saying that UR in no way contradicts Pope Pius XI in MA.

CONCLUSION

The approaches adopted by Romano Amerio and Father Brian Harrison are quite different. It is clear that the approach of Amerio is polemical and far from objective, whereas the approach of Father Harrison has been analytical and objective. 

He does raise two interesting questions:
. Whether UR has always been faithfully implemented since the Council, and


(L to R) Anglican Abp Aspinall with Archbishop Bathersby of Brisbane (since retired) and Bishop Morris of Toowoomba(Since deposed) signing an Ecumenical Covenant - using  the Altar of Saint Stephen's Cathedral as a desk.
.Whether its relaxation of disciplines was, with the benefit of hindsight, prudent and effective. 

As to the first of these matters, I have had the opportunity to see the results of some of the Ecumenical apparatus at close quarters  in personal interaction and in documentation and I am confident that it has NOT always been faithfully implemented and that is true even at very senior international levels.

As for the second question , I believe it is abundantly clear that the UR relaxation of disciplines has proved to be in vain and disastrous. It has resulted in mushrooming indifferentism and  a diminution of Catholic identity  and apologetical effort.



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