46 – Dear sister, our separated brethren should not be perceived as adversaries, but rather recognized as brothers and sisters in faith

‘There will be one flock, one shepherd’ (Jn 10:16)… This was Christ’s desire in leaving the mandate for the Apostles to ‘proclaim the gospel to every creature’ (Mk 16:15). However, throughout history, some sheep have gone astray from the flock and ‘quite large communities came to be separated from full communion with the Catholic Church’ (Unitatis Redintegratio, no. 3), tearing apart the unity of the seamless tunic of Christ. The Catholic Church – universal and necessary for salvation – just as the Good Shepherd, does not hesitate to accept back the sheep who wish to return to the unity of the flock, dialoguing with them. But, within this dialogue, may the Church cease to be Herself, hiding Her doctrine and the identity of Her faith from separated Christians, for the sake of a misinterpreted ecumenism?

Do shameless cordial relations with those who uphold a feminine pseudo priesthood represent true ecumenism, or rather syncretism which is obviously harmful to the faith? At the very least, does it not constitute an untimely indifference with respect to the Catholic Episcopate, to speak of the ‘need to seek and promote unity in their dioceses, parishes and communities across the whole world’, equating it in a surreptitious manner to the feminine pseudo episcopate?

Let us recall some points of Catholic teaching regarding these topics…


Quote AQuote BQuote C
Dear Dr Jackelén, dear sister, dear friends,
I greet you cordially and I thank you for your kind words. Last year, with gratitude to God, we celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, which is still for us the fundamental point of reference for the ecumenical efforts of the Catholic Church. This document made clear that ecumenism was henceforth to become a priority. It invited all Catholics to undertake the way of unity, in recognition of the signs of the times, so that division among Christians could be overcome. Such division is not only in opposition to the will of Christ, but is indeed a scandal in the world, as it damages the most sacred of duties: the preaching of the Gospel to every creature. In speaking of the ‘seamless robe of Christ,’ the Decree expressed deep respect for and appreciation of our separated brethren, to whom, in our daily lives, we risk paying too little attention. They should not be perceived as adversaries or competitors, but rather recognized for what they are: brothers and sisters in faith. Catholics and Lutherans need to seek and promote unity in their dioceses, parishes and communities across the whole world. On the way towards full and visible unity in the faith, in sacramental life and in ecclesial ministry there remains much work still to be done. But we can be certain that the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, will be always the light and strength of spiritual ecumenism and theological dialogue. […] I would like, in addition, to express my gratitude for two things. First of all, I wish to thank the Swedish Lutheran Church for welcoming so many South American migrants in the time of the dictatorships. This fraternal welcome made it possible to raise families. In the second place, I wish to thank you for the delicacy, dear sister, with which you mentioned my good friend, Pastor Anders Root; I shared the Chair of Spiritual Theology with him, and he helped me a great deal in my own spiritual life. Thank you. (Address to Dr. Antje Jackelén and the delegation of the Evangelical-Lutheran church of Sweden, May 4, 2015)

While we are profoundly thankful for the spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation, we also confess and lament before Christ that Lutherans and Catholics have wounded the visible unity of the Church. Theological differences were accompanied by prejudice and conflicts, and religion was instrumentalized for political ends. Our common faith in Jesus Christ and our baptism demand of us a daily conversion, by which we cast off the historical disagreements and conflicts that impede the ministry of reconciliation. […] We acknowledge our joint pastoral responsibility to respond to the spiritual thirst and hunger of our people to be one in Christ. We long for this wound in the Body of Christ to be healed. This is the goal of our ecumenical endeavours, which we wish to advance, also by renewing our commitment to theological dialogue. […] As we recommit ourselves to move from conflict to communion, we do so as part of the one Body of Christ, into which we are incorporated through Baptism. […] By drawing close in faith to Christ, by praying together, by listening to one another, by living Christ’s love in our relationships, we, Catholics and Lutherans, open ourselves to the power of the Triune God. Rooted in Christ and witnessing to him,we renew our determination to be faithful heralds of God’s boundless love for all humanity. (Joint statement on the occasion of the joint Catholic-lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation, October 31, 2016.)
We too must look with love and honesty at our past, recognizing error and seeking forgiveness, for God alone is our judge. We ought to recognize with the same honesty and love that our division distanced us from the primordial intuition of God’s people, who naturally yearn to be one, and that it was perpetuated historically by the powerful of this world rather than the faithful people, which always and everywhere needs to be guided surely and lovingly by its Good Shepherd. Certainly, there was a sincere will on the part of both sides to profess and uphold the true faith, but at the same time we realize that we closed in on ourselves out of fear or bias with regard to the faith which others profess with a different accent and language. […] With this new look at the past, we do not claim to realize an impracticable correction of what took place, but “to tell that history differently” […] With gratitude we acknowledge that the Reformation helped give greater centrality to sacred Scripture in the Church’s life. Through shared hearing of the word of God in the Scriptures, important steps forward have been taken in the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation, whose fiftieth anniversary we are presently celebrating. Let us ask the Lord that his word may keep us united, for it is a source of nourishment and life; without its inspiration we can do nothing. The spiritual experience of Martin Luther challenges us to remember that apart from God we can do nothing. “How can I get a propitious God?” This is the question that haunted Luther. In effect, the question of a just relationship with God is the decisive question for our lives. As we know, Luther encountered that propitious God in the Good News of Jesus, incarnate, dead and risen. With the concept “by grace alone”, he reminds us that God always takes the initiative, prior to any human response, even as he seeks to awaken that response. The doctrine of justification thus expresses the essence of human existence before God. (Common ecumenical prayer at the Lutheran cathedral, October 31, 2016)

Teachings of the Magisterium

Enter the various parts of our study


I – Communities derived from the Reformation do not have the Sacrament of Holy Orders. The Church may not accept Women within the hierarchy
II – Ecumenism and the uniqueness of the true Church of Christ

I – Ecclesial Communities derived from the Reformation do not have the Sacrament of Holy Orders. The Church may not accept Women within the hierarchy

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Ecclesial communities born of the Reformation do not have the Sacrament of Holy Orders

Ecclesial communities derived from the Reformation and separated from the Catholic Church, ‘have not preserved the proper reality of the Eucharistic mystery in its fullness, especially because of the absence of the sacrament of Holy Orders.’ (Unit. Redint. 22). It is for this reason that Eucharistic intercommunion with these communities is not possible for the Catholic Church. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1400)

The ordination of women is not possible

The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry (cf. Mk 3:14-19; Lk 6:12-16; 1Tim 3:1-13; 2Tim 1:6; Titus 1:5-9; St. Clement of Rome  Ad Cor. 42, 4; 44, 3). The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ’s return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible (cf. John Paul II, MD 26-27; CDF, Declaration Inter insigniores). (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1577)

Code of Canon Law

Sacred ordination is only valid for baptized males

A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly. (Code of Canon Law, can. 1024)

Sacred Scripture

Women should keep silent in the churches

As in all the churches of the holy ones, women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. But if they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home. For it is improper for a woman to speak in the church.  (1Cor 14:33-35)

I do not permit women to teach

A woman must receive instruction silently and under complete control. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. She must be quiet. (1Tim 2:11-12)

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Excommunication latae sententiae for the attempt of feminine ‘priestly ordination’

In order to protect the nature and validity of the sacrament of order, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in virtue of the special faculty given by the supreme authority of the Church (cf. can. 30, Code of Canon Law), in the Ordinary Session of 19 December 2007, has decreed: Without prejudice to the prescript of can. 1378 of the Code of Canon Law, both the one who attempts to confer a sacred order on a woman, and the woman who attempts to receive a sacred order, incur an excommunication latae sententiae reserved to the Apostolic See. If, in fact, the one who attempts to confer a sacred order on a woman, or the woman who attempts to receive a sacred order, is one of Christ’s faithful subject to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, that person, without prejudice to the prescript of can. 1443 of the same Code, is to be punished with a major excommunication, the remission of which is also reserved to the Apostolic See (cf. can. 1423, Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches). (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, General Decree regarding the delict attempted sacred ordination of a woman, December 19, 2007)

The Church does not consider Herself authorized to accept women through priestly ordination

For some years now various Christian communities stemming from the sixteenth-century Reformation or of later origin have been admitting women to the pastoral office on a par with men. This initiative has led to petitions and writings by members of these communities and similar groups, directed towards making this admission a general thing; it has also led to contrary reactions. This therefore constitutes an ecumenical problem, and the Catholic Church must make her thinking known on it, all the more because in various sectors of opinion the question has been asked whether she too could not modify her discipline and admit women to priestly ordination. A number of Catholic theologians have even posed this question publicly, evoking studies not only in the sphere of exegesis, patrology and Church history but also in the field of the history of institutions and customs, of sociology and of psychology. The various arguments capable of clarifying this important problem have been submitted to a critical examination. As we are dealing with a debate which classical theology scarcely touched upon, the current argumentation runs the risk of neglecting essential elements. For these reasons, in execution of a mandate received from the Holy Father and echoing the declaration which he himself made in his letter of 30 November 1975, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith judges it necessary to recall that the Church, in fidelity to the example of the Lord, does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Inter Insigniores, Introduction, October 15, 1976)

The Church has never accepted the priestly or episcopal ordination of women

The Catholic Church has never felt that priestly or episcopal ordination can be validly conferred on women. A few heretical sects in the first centuries, especially Gnostic ones, entrusted the exercise of the priestly ministry to women: This innovation was immediately noted and condemned by the Fathers, who considered it as unacceptable in the Church. It is true that in the writings of the Fathers, one will find the undeniable influence of prejudices unfavourable to woman, but nevertheless, it should be noted that these prejudices had hardly any influences on their pastoral activity, and still less on their spiritual direction. But over and above these considerations inspired by the spirit of the times, one finds expressed – especially in the canonical documents of the Antiochan and Egyptian traditions – this essential reason, namely, that by calling only men to the priestly Order and ministry in its true sense, the Church intends to remain faithful to the type of ordained ministry willed by the Lord Jesus Christ and carefully maintained by the Apostles. The same conviction animates medieval theology, even if the Scholastic doctors, in their desire to clarify by reason the data of faith, often present arguments on this point that modern thought would have difficulty in admitting, or would even rightly reject. Since that period and up till our own time, it can be said that the question has not been raised again for the practice has enjoyed peaceful and universal acceptance. The Church’s tradition in the matter has thus been so firm in the course of the centuries that the Magisterium has not felt the need to intervene in order to formulate a principle which was not attacked, or to defend a law which was not challenged. But each time that this tradition had the occasion to manifest itself, it witnessed to the Church’s desire to conform to the model left her by the Lord. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Inter Insigniores, no. 1, October 15, 1976)

Could the Church today depart from the attitude of Jesus and the Apostles?

Jesus Christ did not call any women to become part of the Twelve. If he acted in this way, it was not in order to conform to the customs of his time, for his attitude towards women was quite different from that of his milieu, and he deliberately and courageously broke with it. […] Could the Church today depart from this attitude of Jesus and the Apostles, which has been considered as normative by the whole of tradition up to our own day? Various arguments have been put forward in favour of a positive reply to this question, and these must now be examined. It has been claimed in particular that the attitude of Jesus and the Apostles is explained by the influence of their milieu and their times. It is said that, if Jesus did not entrust to women and not even to his Mother a ministry assimilating them to the Twelve, this was because historical circumstances did not permit him to do so. No one however has ever proved- and it is clearly impossible to prove- that this attitude is inspired only by social and cultural reasons. As we have seen, and examination of the Gospels shows on the contrary that Jesus broke with the prejudices of his time, by widely contravening the discriminations practiced with regard to women. One therefore cannot maintain that, by not calling women to enter the group of the Apostles, Jesus was simply letting himself be guided by reasons of expediency. For all the more reason, social and cultural conditioning did not hold back the Apostles working in the Greek milieu, where the same forms of discrimination did not exist. Another objection is based upon the transitory character that one claims to see today in some of the prescriptions of Saint Paul concerning women, and upon the difficulties that some aspects of his teaching raise in this regard. But it must be noted that these ordinances, probably inspired by the customs of the period, concern scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance, such as the obligation imposed upon women to wear a veil on their head (1Cor 11:2-16); such requirements no longer have a normative value. However, the Apostle’s forbidding of women to speak in the assemblies (1Cor 14:34-35; 1Ti 2:12) is of a different nature, and exegetes define its meaning in this way: Paul in no way opposes the right, which he elsewhere recognizes as possessed by women, to prophesy in the assembly (1Cor 11:15); the prohibition solely concerns the official function of teaching in the Christian assembly. For Saint Paul this prescription is bound up with the divine plan of creation (1Cor 11:7; Gen 2:18-24): it would be difficult to see in it the expression of a cultural fact. Nor should it be forgotten that we owe to Saint Paul one of the most vigorous texts in the New Testament on the fundamental equality of men and women, as children of God in Christ (Gal 3:28). Therefore there is no reason for accusing him of prejudices against women, when we note the trust that he shows towards them and the collaboration that he asks of them in his apostolate. […] Adaptations to civilizations and times therefore cannot abolish on essential points, the sacramental reference to constitutive events of Christianity and to Christ himself. In the final analysis it is the Church through the voice of the Magisterium, that, in these various domains, decides what can change and what must remain immutable. When she judges she cannot accept certain changes, it is because she knows she is bound by Christ’s manner of acting. Her attitude, despite appearances, is therefore not one of archaism but of fidelity: it can be truly understood only in this light. The Church makes pronouncements in virtue of the Lord’s promise and the presence of the Holy Spirit, in order to proclaim better the mystery of Christ and to safeguard and manifest the whole of its rich content. The practice of the Church therefore has a normative character: in the fact of conferring priestly ordination only on men, it is a question of unbroken tradition throughout the history of the Church, universal in the East and in the West, and alert to repress abuses immediately. This norm, based on Christ’s example, has been and is still observed because it is considered to conform to God’s plan for his Church. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Inter Insigniores, no. 2/4, October 15, 1976)

Women can play a role within ecclesial life without being priests

In entrusting his mother to the Apostle John, Jesus on the Cross invites his Church to learn from Mary the secret of the love that is victorious. Far from giving the Church an identity based on an historically conditioned model of femininity, the reference to Mary, with her dispositions of listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting, places the Church in continuity with the spiritual history of Israel. In Jesus and through him, these attributes become the vocation of every baptized Christian. […] In this way, women play a role of maximum importance in the Church’s life by recalling these dispositions to all the baptized and contributing in a unique way to showing the true face of the Church, spouse of Christ and mother of believers. In this perspective one understands how the reservation of priestly ordination solely to men does not hamper in any way women’s access to the heart of Christian life. Women are called to be unique examples and witnesses for all Christians of how the Bride is to respond in love to the love of the Bridegroom. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops on the collaboration of men and women in the Church and in the world, no. 16, July 31, 2004)

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

Among the faithful, the Lord constitutes only some as ministers

The Lord Jesus, ‘whom the Father has sent into the world’ (Jn 10:36) has made his whole Mystical Body a sharer in the anointing of the Spirit with which he himself is anointed.  In him all the faithful are made a holy and royal priesthood; they offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ, and they proclaim the perfections of him who has called them out of darkness into his marvelous light. Therefore, there is no member who does not have a part in the mission of the whole Body; but each one ought to hallow Jesus in his heart, and in the spirit of prophecy bear witness to Jesus. The same Lord, however, has established ministers among his faithful to unite them together in one body in which, ‘not all the members have the same function’ (Rom 12:4). These ministers in the society of the faithful are able by the sacred power of orders to offer sacrifice and to forgive sins, and they perform their priestly office publicly for men in the name of Christ. Therefore, having sent the apostles just as he himself been sent by the Father, Christ, through the apostles themselves, made their successors, the bishops, sharers in his consecration and mission. The office of their ministry has been handed down, in a lesser degree indeed, to the priests. Established in the order of the priesthood they can be co-workers of the episcopal order for the proper fulfillment of the apostolic mission entrusted to priests by Christ.(9) The office of priests, since it is connected with the episcopal order, also, in its own degree, shares the authority by which Christ builds up, sanctifies and rules his Body. Wherefore the priesthood, while indeed it presupposes the sacraments of Christian initiation, is conferred by that special sacrament; through it priests, by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are signed with a special character and are conformed to Christ the Priest in such a way that they can act in the person of Christ the Head. (Vatican Council II, Decree Presbyterorum ordinis, no. 2, December 7, 1965)

John Paul II

Christ entrusted the task of being an ‘icon’ of His countenance through the ministerial priesthood only to men

In this perspective of ‘service’ -which, when it is carried out with freedom, reciprocity and love, expresses the truly ‘royal’ nature of mankind-one can also appreciate that the presence of a certain diversity of roles is in no way prejudicial to women, provided that this diversity is not the result of an arbitrary imposition, but is rather an expression of what is specific to being male and female. This issue also has a particular application within the Church. If Christ-by his free and sovereign choice, clearly attested to by the Gospel and by the Church’s constant Tradition-entrusted only to men the task of being an ‘icon’ of his countenance as ‘shepherd’ and ‘bridegroom’ of the Church through the exercise of the ministerial priesthood, this in no way detracts from the role of women, or for that matter from the role of the other members of the Church who are not ordained to the sacred ministry, since all share equally in the dignity proper to the ‘common priesthood’ based on Baptism. These role distinctions should not be viewed in accordance with the criteria of functionality typical in human societies. Rather they must be understood according to the particular criteria of the sacramental economy, i.e. the economy of ‘signs’ which God freely chooses in order to become present in the midst of humanity. (John Paul II. Letter to women, no. 11, June 29, 1995)

Definitive pronouncement regarding the impossibility of the priestly ordination of women

When the question of the ordination of women arose in the Anglican Communion, Pope Paul VI, out of fidelity to his office of safeguarding the Apostolic Tradition, and also with a view to removing a new obstacle placed in the way of Christian unity, reminded Anglicans of the position of the Catholic Church: ‘She holds that it is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood, for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include: the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God’s plan for his Church.’ ( Paul VI, Response to the Letter of His Grace the Most Reverend Dr. F.D. Coggan, Archbishop of Canterbury, concerning the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood, November 30, 1975)  […] Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force. Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful. (John Paul II. Apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, no. 1, 4; May 22, 1994)

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

That the Church may not ordain women belongs to the deposit of the faith

Dubium: Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.
Responsum: Affirmative.
This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium 25, 2). Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Responsum ad propositum dubium concerning the teaching contained in the Apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, October 28, 1995)

There is no contradiction between the dignity of women and exclusively masculine priesthood

But in any case it cannot be forgotten that the Church teaches, as an absolutely fundamental truth of Christian anthropology, the equal personal dignity of men and women, and the necessity of overcoming and doing away with ‘every type of discrimination regarding fundamental rights’ (Gaudium et spes, 29). It is in the light of this truth that one can seek to understand better the teaching that women cannot receive priestly ordination. A correct theology can prescind neither from one nor from the other of these doctrines, but must hold the two together; only thus will it be able to deepen our comprehension of God’s plan regarding woman and regarding the priesthood – and hence, regarding the mission of woman in the Church. If however, perhaps by allowing oneself to be conditioned too much by the ways and spirit of the age, one should assert that a contradiction exists between these two truths, the way of progress in the intelligence of the faith would be lost. […] Furthermore, to understand that this teaching implies no injustice or discrimination against women, one has to consider the nature of the ministerial priesthood itself, which is a service and not a position of privilege or human power over others. Whoever, man or woman, conceives of the priesthood in terms of personal affirmation, as a goal or point of departure in a career of human success, is profoundly mistaken, for the true meaning of Christian priesthood, whether it be the common priesthood of the faithful or, in a most special way, the ministerial priesthood, can only be found in the sacrifice of one’s own being in union with Christ, in service of the brethren. Priestly ministry constitutes neither the universal ideal nor, even less, the goal of Christian life. In this connection, it is helpful to recall once again that ‘the only higher gift, which can and must be desired, is charity (cf. 1Cor 12-13)’ (Inter Insigniores, VI). […] Here, however, we find ourselves before the essential interdependence of Holy Scripture and Tradition, an interdependence which makes of these two forms of the transmission of the Gospel an unbreakable unity with the Magisterium, which is an integral part of Tradition and is entrusted with the authentic interpretation of the Word of God, written and handed down (Dei Verbum, 9 and 10). In the specific case of priestly ordination, the successors of the Apostles have always observed the norm of conferring it only on men, and the Magisterium, assisted by the Holy Spirit, teaches us that this did not occur by chance, habitual repetition, subjection to sociological conditioning, or even less because of some imaginary inferiority of women; but rather because ‘the Church has always acknowledged as a perennial norm her Lord’s way of acting in choosing the twelve men whom he made the foundation of his Church’ (Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis n. 2). (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Responsum ad propositum dubium concerning the teaching contained in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, October 28, 1995)

John Paul II

When He called only men as His apostles, Christ exercised the same freedom with which He emphasized the dignity of women

Against the broad background of the ‘great mystery’ expressed in the spousal relationship between Christ and the Church, it is possible to understand adequately the calling of the ‘Twelve’. In calling only men as his Apostles, Christ acted in a completely free and sovereign manner. In doing so, he exercised the same freedom with which, in all his behavior, he emphasized the dignity and the vocation of women, without conforming to the prevailing customs and to the traditions sanctioned by the legislation of the time. Consequently, the assumption that he called men to be apostles in order to conform with the widespread mentality of his times, does not at all correspond to Christ’s way of acting. ‘Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God truthfully, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men’ (Mt 22:16). These words fully characterize Jesus of Nazareth’s behavior. Here one also finds an explanation for the calling of the ‘Twelve’. They are with Christ at the Last Supper. They alone receive the sacramental charge, ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ (Lk 22:19; 1Cor 11:24), which is joined to the institution of the Eucharist. On Easter Sunday night they receive the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins: ‘Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained’ (Jn 20:23). […] Since Christ, in instituting the Eucharist, linked it in such an explicit way to the priestly service of the Apostles, it is legitimate to conclude that he thereby wished to express the relationship between man and woman, between what is ‘feminine’ and what is ‘masculine’. It is a relationship willed by God both in the mystery of creation and in the mystery of Redemption. It is the Eucharist above all that expresses the redemptive act of Christ the Bridegroom towards the Church the Bride. This is clear and unambiguous when the sacramental ministry of the Eucharist, in which the priest acts ‘in persona Christi’, is performed by a man. This explanation confirms the teaching of the Declaration Inter Insigniores, published at the behest of Paul VI in response to the question concerning the admission of women to the ministerial priesthood. (John Paul II. Apostolic letter Mulieris dignitatem no. 26, August 15, 1988)

The vocation of women in the Church

The awareness that women with their own gifts and tasks have their own specific vocation, has increased and been deepened in the years following the Council and has found its fundamental inspiration in the Gospel and the Church’s history. In fact, for the believer the Gospel, namely, the word and example of Jesus Christ, remains the necessary and decisive point of reference. In no other moment in history is this fact more fruitful and innovative. Though not called to the apostolate of the Twelve, and thereby, to the ministerial priesthood, many women, nevertheless, accompanied Jesus in his ministry and assisted the group of Apostles (cf. Lk 8:2-3), were present at the foot of the Cross (cf. Lk 23:49), assisted at the burial of Christ (cf. Lk 23:55) received and transmitted the message of resurrection on Easter morn (cf. Lk 24:1-10), and prayed with the apostles in the Cenacle awaiting Pentecost (cf. Acts 1:14). From the evidence of the Gospel, the Church at its origin detached herself from the culture of the time and called women to tasks connected with spreading the gospel. In his letters the Apostle Paul even cites by name a great number of women for their various functions in service of the primitive Christian community (cf. Rom 16:1-15; Phil 4:2-3; Col 4:15 and 1Cor 11:5; 1Tim 5:16). ‘If the witness of the Apostles founds the Church’, stated Paul VI, ‘the witness of women contributes greatly towards nourishing the faith of Christian communities’. Both in her earliest days and in her successive development the Church, albeit in different ways and with diverse emphases, has always known women who have exercised an oftentimes decisive role in the Church herself and accomplished tasks of considerable value on her behalf. History is marked by grand works, quite often lowly and hidden, but not for this reason any less decisive to the growth and the holiness of the Church. It is necessary that this history continue, indeed that it be expanded and intensified in the face of the growing and widespread awareness of the personal dignity of woman and her vocation, particularly in light of the urgency of a ‘re-evangelization’ and a major effort towards ‘humanizing’ social relations. (John Paul II. Apostolic exhortation Christifideles laici, no. 49, December 30, 1988)

II – Ecumenism and the Uniqueness of the True Church of Christ

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

The pastoral attitude of the bishops in relating with members of Christian Churches

As regards the manner and method of proceeding in this work, the Bishops themselves will make regulations as to what is to be done and what is to be avoided, and shall see that these are observed by all. They shall also be on guard lest, on the false pretext that more attention should be paid to the points on which we agree than to those on which we differ, a dangerous indifferentism be encouraged, especially among persons whose training in theology is not deep and whose practice of their faith is not very strong. For care must be taken lest, in the so-called ‘irenic’ spirit of today, through comparative study and the vain desire for a progressively closer mutual approach among the various professions of faith, Catholic doctrine-either in its; dogmas or in the truths which are connected with them-be so conformed or in a way adapted to the doctrines of dissident sects, that the purity of Catholic doctrine be impaired, or its genuine and certain meaning be obscured. Also they must restrain that dangerous manner of speaking which generates false opinions and fallacious hopes incapable of realization; for example, to the effect that the teachings of the Encyclicals of the Roman Pontiffs on the return of dissidents to the Church, on the constitution of the Church, on the Mystical Body of Christ, should not be given too much importance seeing that they are not all matters of faith, or, what is worse, that in matters of dogma even the Catholic Church has not yet attained the fullness of Christ, but can still be perfected from outside. They shall take particular care and shall firmly insist that, in going over the history of the Reformation and the Reformers the defects of Catholics be not so exaggerated and the faults of the Reformers be so dissimulated, or that things which are rather accidental be not so emphasized, that what is most essential, namely the defection from the Catholic faith, be scarcely any longer seen or felt. Finally, they shall take precautions lest, through an excessive and false external activity, or through imprudence and an excited manner of proceeding, the end in view be rather harmed than served. Therefore the whole and entire Catholic doctrine is to be presented and explained: by no means is it permitted to pass over in silence or to veil in ambiguous terms the Catholic truth regarding the nature and way of justification, the constitution of the Church, the primacy of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, and the only true union by the return of the dissidents to the one true Church of Christ. It should be made clear to them that, in returning to the Church, they will lose nothing of that good which by the grace of God has hitherto been implanted in them, but that it will rather be supplemented and completed by their return. However, one should not speak of this in such a way that they will imagine that in returning to the Church they are bringing to it something substantial which it has hitherto lacked. It will be necessary to say these things clearly and openly, first because it is the truth that they themselves are seeking, and moreover because outside the truth no true union can ever be attained. (Instruction Ecclesia Catholica of the Holy Office, December 20, 1949)

The authentic ecumenical task requires complete clarity in the presentation of the faith

Finally, there have been some commentaries on the Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis which have suggested that the document constitutes an additional and inopportune obstacle on the already difficult path of ecumenism. In this regard, it should not be forgotten that according to both the letter and the spirit of the Second Vatican Council (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio , 11), the authentic ecumenical task, to which the Catholic Church is unequivocally and permanently committed, requires complete sincerity and clarity in the presentation of one’s own faith. Furthermore, it should be noted that the doctrine reaffirmed by the Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis cannot but further the pursuit of full communion with the Orthodox Churches which, in fidelity to Tradition, have maintained and continue to maintain the same teaching. The singular originality of the Church and of the priestly ministry within the Church requires a precise clarity of criteria. Concretely, one must never lose sight of the fact that the Church does not find the source of her faith and her constitutive structure in the principles of the social order of any historical period. While attentive to the world in which she lives and for whose salvation she labors, the Church is conscious of being the bearer of a higher fidelity to which she is bound. It is a question of a radical faithfulness to the Word of God which she has received from Christ who established her to last until the end of the ages. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Responsum ad propositum dubium concerning the teaching contained in the Apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, October 28, 1995)

Relativistic theories seek to justify religious pluralism, not only de facto but also de iure

The Church’s constant missionary proclamation is endangered today by relativistic theories which seek to justify religious pluralism, not only de facto but also de iure (or in principle). As a consequence, it is held that certain truths have been superseded; for example, the definitive and complete character of the revelation of Jesus Christ, the nature of Christian faith as compared with that of belief in other religions, the inspired nature of the books of Sacred Scripture, the personal unity between the Eternal Word and Jesus of Nazareth, the unity of the economy of the Incarnate Word and the Holy Spirit, the unicity and salvific universality of the mystery of Jesus Christ, the universal salvific mediation of the Church, the inseparability — while recognizing the distinction — of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Christ, and the Church, and the subsistence of the one Church of Christ in the Catholic Church. The roots of these problems are to be found in certain presuppositions of both a philosophical and theological nature, which hinder the understanding and acceptance of the revealed truth. Some of these can be mentioned: the conviction of the elusiveness and inexpressibility of divine truth, even by Christian revelation; relativistic attitudes toward truth itself, according to which what is true for some would not be true for others; the radical opposition posited between the logical mentality of the West and the symbolic mentality of the East; the subjectivism which, by regarding reason as the only source of knowledge, becomes incapable of raising its ‘gaze to the heights, not daring to rise to the truth of being;  the difficulty in understanding and accepting the presence of definitive and eschatological events in history; the metaphysical emptying of the historical incarnation of the Eternal Logos, reduced to a mere appearing of God in history; the eclecticism of those who, in theological research, uncritically absorb ideas from a variety of philosophical and theological contexts without regard for consistency, systematic connection, or compatibility with Christian truth; finally, the tendency to read and to interpret Sacred Scripture outside the Tradition and Magisterium of the Church. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Declaration Dominus Iesus, no. 4, August 6, 2000)

A truth of faith that must be firmly believed: the unicity of the Church founded by Christ

The Lord Jesus, the only Saviour, did not only establish a simple community of disciples, but constituted the Church as a salvific mystery: he himself is in the Church and the Church is in him (cf. Jn 15:1ff.; Gal 3:28; Eph 4:15-16; Acts 9:5).  Therefore, the fullness of Christ’s salvific mystery belongs also to the Church, inseparably united to her Lord. Indeed, Jesus Christ continues his presence and his work of salvation in the Church and by means of the Church (cf. Col 1:24-27), which is his body (cf. 1Cor 12:12-13, 27; Col 1:18).And thus, just as the head and members of a living body, though not identical, are inseparable, so too Christ and the Church can neither be confused nor separated, and constitute a single ‘whole Christ’. This same inseparability is also expressed in the New Testament by the analogy of the Church as the Bride of Christ (cf. 2Cor 11:2; Eph 5:25-29; Rev 21:2,9). Therefore, in connection with the unicity and universality of the salvific mediation of Jesus Christ, the unicity of the Church founded by him must be firmly believed as a truth of Catholic faith. Just as there is one Christ, so there exists a single body of Christ, a single Bride of Christ: ‘a single Catholic and apostolic Church.’ Furthermore, the promises of the Lord that he would not abandon his Church (cf. Mt 16:18; 28:20) and that he would guide her by his Spirit (cf. Jn 16:13) mean, according to Catholic faith, that the unicity and the unity of the Church — like everything that belongs to the Church’s integrity — will never be lacking. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Declaration Dominus Iesus, no. 16, August 6, 2000)

Ecclesial Christian Communities that have not conserved the valid Episcopate may not be truly considered a Church

Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches. Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church. On the other hand, the ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery, are not Churches in the proper sense (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Declaration Dominus Iesus, no. 17, August 6, 2000)

Paul VI

The message of Christ is the truth and admits neither indifference nor syncretism

Such an exhortation seems to us to be of capital importance, for the presentation of the Gospel message is not an optional contribution for the Church. It is the duty incumbent on her by the command of the Lord Jesus, so that people can believe and be saved. This message is indeed necessary. It is unique. It cannot be replaced. It does not permit either indifference, syncretism or accommodation. It is a question of people’s salvation. It is the beauty of the Revelation that it represents. It brings with it a wisdom that is not of this world. It is able to stir up by itself faith – faith that rests on the power of God. It is truth. It merits having the apostle consecrate to it all his time and all his energies, and to sacrifice for it, if necessary, his own life. (Paul VI. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, no.5, December 8, 1975)

The danger of dialogue…it should not weaken our attachment to our faith

But the danger remains. Indeed, the worker in the apostolate is under constant fire. The desire to come together as brothers must not lead to a watering down or whittling away of truth. Our dialogue must not weaken our attachment to our faith. Our apostolate must not make vague compromises concerning the principles which regulate and govern the profession of the Christian faith both in theory and in practice. An immoderate desire to make peace and sink differences at all costs (irenism and syncretism) is ultimately nothing more than skepticism about the power and content of the Word of God which we desire to preach. The effective apostle is the man who is completely faithful to Christ’s teaching. He alone can remain unaffected by the errors of the world around him, the man who lives his Christian life to the full. (Paul VI. Encyclical Ecclesiam suam, no. 88)

John Paul II

The proclaiming of Christ and interreligious dialogue are not identical or interchangeable.

In the light of the economy of salvation, the Church sees no conflict between proclaiming Christ and engaging in interreligious dialogue. Instead, she feels the need to link the two in the context of her mission ad gentes. These two elements must maintain both their intimate connection and their distinctiveness; therefore they should not be confused, manipulated or regarded as identical, as though they were interchangeable. […] Dialogue should be conducted and implemented with the conviction that the Church is the ordinary means of salvation and that she alone possesses the fullness of the means of salvation. (Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, 3; Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church Ad Gentes, 7) (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptoris missio, no. 55, December 7, 1990)

Ecumenical dialogue should call to conversion, announcing the Catholic faith with clarity - all forms of facile ‘agreement’ must be absolutely avoided

Here once again the Council proves helpful. It can be said that the entire Decree on Ecumenism is permeated by the spirit of conversion.  In the Document, ecumenical dialogue takes on a specific characteristic; it becomes a dialogue of conversion’, and thus, in the words of Pope Paul VI, an authentic ‘dialogue of salvation’. Dialogue cannot take place merely on a horizontal level, being restricted to meetings, exchanges of points of view or even the sharing of gifts proper to each Community. It has also a primarily vertical thrust, directed towards the One who, as the Redeemer of the world and the Lord of history, is himself our Reconciliation. This vertical aspect of dialogue lies in our acknowledgment, jointly and to each other, that we are men and women who have sinned. It is precisely this acknowledgment which creates in brothers and sisters living in Communities not in full communion with one another that interior space where Christ, the source of the Church’s unity, can effectively act, with all the power of his Spirit, the Paraclete. […] With regard to the study of areas of disagreement, the Council requires that the whole body of doctrine be clearly presented. At the same time, it asks that the manner and method of expounding the Catholic faith should not be a hindrance to dialogue with our brothers and sisters. Certainly it is possible to profess one’s faith and to explain its teaching in a way that is correct, fair and understandable, and which at the same time takes into account both the way of thinking and the actual historical experiences of the other party. Full communion of course will have to come about through the acceptance of the whole truth into which the Holy Spirit guides Christ’s disciples. Hence all forms of reductionism or facile ‘agreement’ must be absolutely avoided. Serious questions must be resolved, for if not, they will reappear at another time, either in the same terms or in a different guise. (John Paul II. Encyclical Ut unum sint, nos. 35-36, May 25, 1995)

Benedict XVI

Ecumenical dialogue must not lead to indifferentism and false irenism

The coherence of the ecumenical endeavour with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and with the entire Tradition, has been one of the areas to which the Congregation has always paid attention, in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Today we can note the many good fruit yielded by ecumenical dialogue. However, we must also recognize that the risk of a false irenism and of indifferentism – totally foreign to the thinking of the Second Vatican Council – demands our vigilance. This indifferentism is caused by the increasingly widespread opinion that truth is not accessible to man; hence it is necessary to limit oneself to finding rules for a praxis that can better the world. And like this, faith becomes substituted by a moralism without deep foundations. The centre of true ecumenism is, on the contrary, the faith in which the human being finds the truth which is revealed in the Word of God. Without faith the entire ecumenical movement would be reduced to a form of ‘social contract’ to which to adhere out of common interest, a ‘praxeology’, in order to create a better world. The logic of the Second Vatican Council is quite different: the sincere search for the full unity of all Christians is a dynamic inspired by the Word of God, by the divine Truth who speaks to us in this word. The crucial problem which marks ecumenical dialogue transversally is therefore the question of the structure of revelation – the relationship between Sacred Scripture, the living Tradition in Holy Church and the Ministry of the Successors of the Apostles as a witness of true faith. And in this case the problem of ecclesiology which is part of this problem is implicit: how God’s truth reaches us. Fundamental here is the discernment between Tradition with a capital ‘T’ and traditions. (Benedict XVI. Address to participants in the Plenary Meeting of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, January 27, 2012)

International Theological Commission

Dialogue between religions cannot in any way pledge itself to syncretism

We cannot, however, forget the transcendence of the Gospel in relation to all human cultures in which the Christian faith has the vocation to root itself and come to fruition according to all its potentialities. However great the respect should be for what is true and holy in the cultural heritage of a people, this attitude does not demand that one should lend an absolute character to this cultural heritage. No one can forget that, from the beginning, the Gospel was a ‘scandal for the Jews and foolishness for the pagans’.  Inculturation which borrows the way of dialogue between religions cannot in any way pledge itself to syncretism. (International Theological Commission. Faith and Inculturation, no. 14, 1988)

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

The Church: God’s only flock like a standard lifted high for the nations to see

In order to establish this His holy Church everywhere in the world till the end of time, Christ entrusted to the College of the Twelve the task of teaching, ruling and sanctifying. Among their number He selected Peter, and after his confession of faith determined that on him He would build His Church. Also to Peter He promised the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and after His profession of love, entrusted all His sheep to him to be confirmed in faith and shepherded in perfect unity. Christ Jesus Himself was forever to remain the chief cornerstone and shepherd of our souls. Jesus Christ, then, willed that the apostles and their successors – the bishops with Peter’s successor at their head – should preach the Gospel faithfully, administer the sacraments, and rule the Church in love. It is thus, under the action of the Holy Spirit, that Christ wills His people to increase, and He perfects His people’s fellowship in unity: in their confessing the one faith, celebrating divine worship in common, and keeping the fraternal harmony of the family of God. The Church, then, is God’s only flock; it is like a standard lifted high for the nations to see it: for it serves all mankind through the Gospel of peace as it makes its pilgrim way in hope toward the goal of the fatherland above. This is the sacred mystery of the unity of the Church, in Christ and through Christ, the Holy Spirit energizing its various functions. It is a mystery that finds its highest exemplar and source in the unity of the Persons of the Trinity: the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit, one God. (Vatican Council II. Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis redintegratio, no. 2, November 21, 1964)

The separated brethren are not blessed with that unity which Christ wished to bestow on His Church

Even in the beginnings of this one and only Church of God there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly condemned. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions made their appearance and quite large communities came to be separated from full communion with the Catholic Church – for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame. The children who are born into these Communities and who grow up believing in Christ cannot be accused of the sin involved in the separation, and the Catholic Church embraces upon them as brothers, with respect and affection. For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect. The differences that exist in varying degrees between them and the Catholic Church – whether in doctrine and sometimes in discipline, or concerning the structure of the Church – do indeed create many obstacles, sometimes serious ones, to full ecclesiastical communion. The ecumenical movement is striving to overcome these obstacles. But even in spite of them it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ’s body, and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church. […] Nevertheless, our separated brethren, whether considered as individuals or as Communities and Churches, are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ wished to bestow on all those who through Him were born again into one body, and with Him quickened to newness of life – that unity which the Holy Scriptures and the ancient Tradition of the Church proclaim. For it is only through Christ’s Catholic Church, which is ‘the all-embracing means of salvation,’ that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God. (Vatican Council II, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis redintegratio, no. 3, November 21, 1964)

Nothing is as foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false irenicism

The way and method in which the Catholic faith is expressed should never become an obstacle to dialogue with our brethren. It is, of course, essential that the doctrine should be clearly presented in its entirety. Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false irenicism, in which the purity of Catholic doctrine suffers loss and its genuine and certain meaning is clouded. At the same time, the Catholic faith must be explained more profoundly and precisely, in such a way and in such terms as our separated brethren can also really understand. Moreover, in ecumenical dialogue, Catholic theologians standing fast by the teaching of the Church and investigating the divine mysteries with the separated brethren must proceed with love for the truth, with charity, and with humility. When comparing doctrines with one another, they should remember that in Catholic doctrine there exists a ‘hierarchy’ of truths, since they vary in their relation to the fundamental Christian faith. (Vatican Council II. Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis redintegratio, no. 11, November 21, 1964)

There are significant differences between these Churches and ecclesial Communities and the Catholic Church

It must however be admitted that in these Churches and ecclesial Communities there exist important differences from the Catholic Church, not only of a historical, sociological, psychological and cultural character, but especially in the interpretation of revealed truth. (Vatican Council II, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, no. 19, November 21, 1964)

The Catholic Church was made necessary for salvation by Christ

This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved. They are fully incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her as part of her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion. (Vatican Council II. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, no. 14, November 21, 1964)

The one true religion subsists in the Catholic Church

First, the council professes its belief that God Himself has made known to mankind the way in which men are to serve Him, and thus be saved in Christ and come to blessedness. We believe that this one true religion subsists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which the Lord Jesus committed the duty of spreading it abroad among all men. Thus He spoke to the Apostles: ‘Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have enjoined upon you’ (Mt 28: 19-20). On their part, all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it. This Vatican Council likewise professes its belief that it is upon the human conscience that these obligations fall and exert their binding force. The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly and with power. Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ. (Vatican Council II. Declaration Dignitatis humanae, no. 1, December 7, 1965)

The purpose of missionary activity consists in attracting all people to the Church of Christ

‘Go into the whole world, preach the Gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not believe, shall be condemned’ (Mk 16:15ff.). Whence the duty that lies on the Church of spreading the faith and the salvation of Christ, not only in virtue of the express command which was inherited from the Apostles by the order of bishops, assisted by the priests, together with the successor of Peter and supreme shepherd of the Church, but also in virtue of that life which flows from Christ into His members; ‘From Him the whole body, being closely joined and knit together through every joint of the system, according to the functioning in due measure of each single part, derives its increase to the building up of itself in love’ (Eph. 4:16). The mission of the Church, therefore, is fulfilled by that activity which makes her, obeying the command of Christ and influenced by the grace and love of the Holy Spirit, fully present to all men or nations, in order that, by the example of her life and by her preaching, by the sacraments and other means of grace, she may lead them to the faith, the freedom and the peace of Christ; that thus there may lie open before them a firm and free road to full participation in the mystery of Christ. […] The proper purpose of this missionary activity is evangelization, and the planting of the Church among those peoples and groups where it has not yet taken root. Thus from the seed which is the word of God, particular autochthonous churches should be sufficiently established and should grow up all over the world, endowed with their own maturity and vital forces. Under a hierarchy of their own, together with the faithful people, and adequately fitted out with requisites for living a full Christian life, they should make their contribution to the good of the whole Church. […] Wherever God opens a door of speech for proclaiming the mystery of Christ (cf. Col. 4:3), there is announced to all men (cf. Mark 16:15; 1Cor. 9:15; Rom. 10:14) with confidence and constancy (cf. Acts 4:13, 29, 31; 9:27, 28; 13:46; 14:3; 19:8; 26:26; 28:31; 1Thess. 2:2; 2 Cor. 3:12; 7:4; Phil. 1:20; Eph. 3:12; 6:19, 20) the living God, and He Whom He has sent for the salvation of all, Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Thess. 1:9-10; 1 Cor. 1:18-21; Gal. 1:31; Acts 14:15-17, 17:22-31), in order that non – Christians, when the Holy Spirit opens their heart (cf. Acts 16:14), may believe and be freely converted to the Lord, that they may cleave sincerely to Him Who, being the ‘way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6), fulfills all their spiritual expectations, and even infinitely surpasses them. This conversion must be taken as an initial one, yet sufficient to make a man realize that he has been snatched away from sin and led into the mystery of God’s love, who called him to enter into a personal relationship with Him in Christ. (Vatican Council II. Decree Ad gentes, no. 5-6; 13, December 7, 1965)

Pius XI

One may not unite in any way the ‘pan-Christians’ within one body

But some are more easily deceived by the outward appearance of good when there is question of fostering unity among all Christians. Is it not right, it is often repeated, indeed, even consonant with duty, that all who invoke the name of Christ should abstain from mutual reproaches and at long last be united in mutual charity? Who would dare to say that he loved Christ, unless he worked with all his might to carry out the desires of Him, Who asked His Father that His disciples might be ‘one.’ And did not the same Christ will that His disciples should be marked out and distinguished from others by this characteristic, namely that they loved one another: ‘By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another’? All Christians, they add, should be as ‘one’: for then they would be much more powerful in driving out the pest of irreligion, which like a serpent daily creeps further and becomes more widely spread, and prepares to rob the Gospel of its strength. These things and others that class of men who are known as pan-Christians continually repeat and amplify; and these men, so far from being quite few and scattered, have increased to the dimensions of an entire class, and have grouped themselves into widely spread societies, most of which are directed by non-Catholics, although they are imbued with varying doctrines concerning the things of faith. This undertaking is so actively promoted as in many places to win for itself the adhesion of a number of citizens, and it even takes possession of the minds of very many Catholics and allures them with the hope of bringing about such a union as would be agreeable to the desires of Holy Mother Church, who has indeed nothing more at heart than to recall her erring sons and to lead them back to her bosom. But in reality beneath these enticing words and blandishments lies hid a most grave error, by which the foundations of the Catholic faith are completely destroyed. Admonished, therefore, by the consciousness of Our Apostolic office that We should not permit the flock of the Lord to be cheated by dangerous fallacies, We invoke, Venerable Brethren, your zeal in avoiding this evil; for We are confident that by the writings and words of each one of you the people will more easily get to know and understand those principles and arguments which We are about to set forth, and from which Catholics will learn how they are to think and act when there is question of those undertakings which have for their end the union in one body, whatsoever be the manner, of all who call themselves Christians.  We were created by God, the Creator of the universe, in order that we might know Him and serve Him; our Author therefore has a perfect right to our service. God might, indeed, have prescribed for man’s government only the natural law, which, in His creation, He imprinted on his soul, and have regulated the progress of that same law by His ordinary providence; but He preferred rather to impose precepts, which we were to obey, and in the course of time, namely from the beginnings of the human race until the coming and preaching of Jesus Christ, He Himself taught man the duties which a rational creature owes to its Creator: ‘God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all, in these days, hath spoken to us by his Son.’ From which it follows that there can be no true religion other than that which is founded on the revealed word of God: which revelation, begun from the beginning and continued under the Old Law, Christ Jesus Himself under the New Law perfected. Now, if God has spoken (and it is historically certain that He has truly spoken), all must see that it is man’s duty to believe absolutely God’s revelation and to obey implicitly His commands; that we might rightly do both, for the glory of God and our own salvation, the Only-begotten Son of God founded His Church on earth. Further, We believe that those who call themselves Christians can do no other than believe that a Church, and that Church one, was established by Christ; but if it is further inquired of what nature according to the will of its Author it must be, then all do not agree. A good number of them, for example, deny that the Church of Christ must be visible and apparent, at least to such a degree that it appears as one body of faithful, agreeing in one and the same doctrine under one teaching authority and government; but, on the contrary, they understand a visible Church as nothing else than a Federation, composed of various communities of Christians, even though they adhere to different doctrines, which may even be incompatible one with another. (Pius XI. Encyclical Mortalium animos, no. 4-6, January 6, 1928)

Union among Christians who defend contrary doctrines is not possible

Who then can conceive a Christian Federation, the members of which retain each his own opinions and private judgment, even in matters which concern the object of faith, even though they be repugnant to the opinions of the rest? And in what manner, We ask, can men who follow contrary opinions, belong to one and the same Federation of the faithful? For example, those who affirm, and those who deny that sacred Tradition is a true fount of divine Revelation; those who hold that an ecclesiastical hierarchy, made up of bishops, priests and ministers, has been divinely constituted, and those who assert that it has been brought in little by little in accordance with the conditions of the time; those who adore Christ really present in the Most Holy Eucharist through that marvelous conversion of the bread and wine, which is called transubstantiation, and those who affirm that Christ is present only by faith or by the signification and virtue of the Sacrament; those who in the Eucharist recognize the nature both of a sacrament and of a sacrifice, and those who say that it is nothing more than the memorial or commemoration of the Lord’s Supper; those who believe it to be good and useful to invoke by prayer the Saints reigning with Christ, especially Mary the Mother of God, and to venerate their images, and those who urge that such a veneration is not to be made use of, for it is contrary to the honor due to Jesus Christ, ‘the one mediator of God and men.’ (Pius XI. Encyclical Mortalium animos, no. 9, January 6, 1928)

Diverging opinions lead to neglect of religion and so-called ‘modernism,’ that claim dogmatic truth is not absolute

How so great a variety of opinions can make the way clear to effect the unity of the Church We know not; that unity can only arise from one teaching authority, one law of belief and one faith of Christians. But We do know that from this it is an easy step to the neglect of religion or indifferentism and to modernism, as they call it. Those, who are unhappily infected with these errors, hold that dogmatic truth is not absolute but relative, that is, it agrees with the varying necessities of time and place and with the varying tendencies of the mind, since it is not contained in immutable revelation, but is capable of being accommodated to human life. (Pius XI. Encyclical Mortalium animos, no. 9, January 6, 1928)

The union of Christians will only occur with the return of dissidents to the one true Church

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. During the lapse of centuries, the mystical Spouse of Christ has never been contaminated, nor can she ever in the future be contaminated, as Cyprian bears witness: ‘The Bride of Christ cannot be made false to her Spouse: she is incorrupt and modest. She knows but one dwelling, she guards the sanctity of the nuptial chamber chastely and modestly.’ The same holy Martyr with good reason marveled exceedingly that anyone could believe that ‘this unity in the Church which arises from a divine foundation, and which is knit together by heavenly sacraments, could be rent and torn asunder by the force of contrary wills.’ For since the mystical body of Christ, in the same manner as His physical body, is one, compacted and fitly joined together, it were foolish and out of place to say that the mystical body is made up of members which are disunited and scattered abroad: whosoever therefore is not united with the body is no member of it, neither is he in communion with Christ its head. (Pius XI. Encyclical Mortalium animos, no. 10, January 6, 1928)

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2 thoughts on “46 – Dear sister, our separated brethren should not be perceived as adversaries, but rather recognized as brothers and sisters in faith

  1. Just today I listened to Auxiliary Bishop Schneider as he was interviewed by Michael Voris. Bishop Schneider, in talking about this false ecumenism, said it is wrong headed to speak of “deep respect” for those who hold false beliefs. He said we have a general respect for others because they are our brothers and sisters, but we do not ‘deeply’ respect then in their false beliefs. Bishop Schneider said that this is the wrong way to begin our ‘dialogue’ with them.

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