May 2011 Print

Letter from the Editor

One of the most prevalent religious questions today is that of ecumenism. We can approach the question in different ways. There always seem to be two different positions:

1) Religion is important in itself. The principles of a particular religion are given by a higher authority (God) and therefore religion is “the last word” which cannot be changed or improved.

2) Religion is a means to achieve some important end in this world, like peace, harmony, or progress. Religion has to serve a purpose in this world, admittedly not a bad one, but religion is finally subject to an earthly purpose, even if it is good.

It is not difficult to connect different ideologies to one of the two positions. The Catholic Church, throughout its history, although this often caused persecutions, held the first position. Dictators and non-Christian movements did not like having to deal with an independent institution (the Catholic Church) which they could not influence. Certain emperors and kings of the Middle Ages were in that matter no different from Napoleon, the Communists, or the Mexican government during the times of the Cristeros. This automatically means that all those who want to be independent from Catholic doctrine and morals will naturally be in the camp of ecumenism.

We are actually in a similar period to the rise of Protestantism. The reason why the new religion gained many supporters was precisely because it took over the function of “independence” towards the Church. In many cases the reason for that was simply money and political independence. For example, certain princes could appropriate the possessions of the “rich” Church and make them their own. Also, they could have their own morals, aptly illustrated by the example of King Henry VIII of England. This is not a judgment about the good or bad will of individuals. We know that bad examples in the Church called for a reform of the Church in the early 16th century. And it came finally about, only late.

It is true, however, that the divided situation in Christianity was another strong support for the movement which is today called ecumenism. The question for many was: Should we not have to pay a price for the unity of Christendom, even a high one like doctrinal concessions?

That question is certainly the one that has driven the movement for many years. Is not Unity more important than Truth?

This is a question of peace. And meanwhile there is another and even broader question: Should we not care first for the peace of this world and take care of doctrinal questions later? If we show that the Catholic Church is in favor of peace in this world, wouldn’t the spirit of religious controversy and antagonism melt like ice in the sun?


We do not think so for several reasons.

  • As long as you sell out your principles of faith, you might be popular. Everybody likes presents. But you will never be able to talk about a law that would oblige anyone outside the Catholic Church. Once you admit the idea of ecumenism, everybody will find a good reason to excuse himself from the divine commandments. Certainly, those who are outside of the Catholic Church are not held in the same way by the commandments as those who are Catholics. Saint Paul has much to say about that topic in his letter to the Romans. The modern tendency, however, is not only to excuse pagans from the Natural Law, but to excuse Catholics from any law, even if it has been clearly taught by the Church.
  • There is an obvious shifting from the commandments of God to “commandments of this world.” For a Catholic something can be done if it is moral; for others it needs simply to be legal. There is a big difference between these two things. Something can be legal but nevertheless immoral, like abortion. God sees and knows everything in this world and is the final judge. Here the question is whether you act for God (alone) or for worldly judges and your own interest.
  • It is easy to forget that God’s commandments are not so much an obstacle in our course of life but rather a guideline: “The justices of the Lord are right, rejoicing hearts: the commandment of the Lord is lightsome, enlightening the eyes” (Ps. 18:9).
  • There is a fatal affinity between ecumenism and “the easiest way.” This might be the reason that the movement of ecumenism is so popular. We are at the point meanwhile where most bishops no longer dare to insist that their flock obey Catholic laws. They widely accept abuses like abortion, concubinage, worldly lifestyles, and bad examples among the clergy of every kind, thus admitting a direct denial of Catholic doctrine. And if they do not accept it openly, they close their eyes and say nothing.

    Ecumenism: is it not mainly a license to do what you please?

    Instaurare Omnia in Christo,
    Fr. Markus Heggenberger