Sadly, too many Catholics think that ecumenism is about finding a happy medium, a compromise, mid-way point where we can all get along with our separated brethren.
That’s not what the Pope thinks. Read this excerpt:
Meeting on September 10 with a group of bishops from Brazil, Pope Benedict XVI said that the Catholic Church has always been a crucial part of the Brazilian identity. But that identity is now challenged, he said, by the rapid rise of Evangelical sects.
The rise of Protestant sects, the Pope continued, testifies to “a widespread thirst for God.” But at the same time, the fact that so many people who were raised as Catholics now seek religious support elsewhere suggests that the evangelization efforts of their Catholic pastors has been “sometimes superficial.” “In this context it is necessary, first and foremost, for the Catholic Church in Brazil to commit to a new evangelisation which spares no efforts in seeking out lapsed Catholics and people who know little or nothing of the evangelical message, bringing them to a personal encounter with the living person of Jesus Christ Who is active in His Church,” the Pope said.
The Pontiff went on to say that Catholics must recognize the new influence of other Christian groups, and establish an ecumenical dialogue with them. Otherwise, he said, “the lack of unity is a cause of scandal” that inhibits evangelization. He cautioned, too, that true ecumenism should be characterized not by “doctrinal indifference” but by mutual respect and a shared commitment to serve Christ. (Source)
Some “ecumenical” Catholics are probably cringing as they read that statement. They think the Pope’s words above are disrespectful to Protestants. No, they’re not. We are the Catholic Church. Our Protestant brethren are wonderful and have many gifts, but we respectfully disagree on some matters of faith. We cannot deny reality.
As we’ve mentioned on this blog before, true ecumenism does not and cannot imply a watering down of the Catholic faith in order to reach a “compromise” with our separated brethren. The Catholic faith must be presented in its entirety and unadulterated to other churches.
The Pope doesn’t say that Protestants are “bad”, but he is clearly concerned that so many Catholics are jumping ship and joining the Protestants. And rightfully so. If we weren’t concerned, we would be exhibiting the “doctrinal indifference” that he condemns. How could we be indifferent to the fact that Catholics are abandoning the fullness of Truth, including the Most Holy Eucharist and 4 other sacraments that require a validly ordained priest, in order to settle for a diminished version of Christianity? We should be very preoccupied. The sacraments are channels of grace, which is essential to sanctification.
Did you notice how the Pope described real ecumenism above? He speaks of “mutual respect and a shared commitment to serve Christ”. The purpose of ecumenism is to bring unity in the one true Faith. However, until the day when other churches come to accept Catholic teaching, the key points of unity or commonality between us are “respect” and “commitment to serve Christ”. In other words, Catholics must respect Protestants, but we must also continue with our commitment to serve Christ in the Catholic way that has been handed down from the Apostles. We don’t water it down. We don’t bifurcate from the teachings, norms and discipline of the Catholic Church. The Protestants “serve Christ” their way and we “serve Christ” our way.
Notice that he doesn’t blame the Protestants for “stealing” Catholics away. Rather, he blames Catholics for their “sometimes superficial” efforts at evangelization. That’s what John has been saying on this blog for what would seem like zillions of years. Look around the Church in Canada and other Western countries and ask yourself: can we honestly say that the Church is “committed to a new evangelisation which spares no efforts in seeking out lapsed Catholics and people who know little or nothing of the evangelical message, bringing them to a personal encounter with the living person of Jesus Christ Who is active in His Church”? Look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself the same question. Personally, I never feel that I’m doing enough.
We all need to try harder. The zeal seems to have been drained out of our apostolates. We seem to be on cruise control, with little or no effort to reach out and allowing rampant dissent from fundamental teachings. How can we blame people for leaving if we don’t feed them with the Truth? It’s time to get with it. And fast. So many souls hang in the balance.