Ecumenism, triumphalism, and conscience

Why does In The Bishop and Christian Unity, a new document from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, not make clear the consequence for the individual who leaves the Catholic Church?

(Image: Priscilla Du Preez/

In The Bishop and Christian Unity, the December 4, 2020 document from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the question addressed briefly regards the following issue: “Changing ecclesial affiliation as an ecumenical challenge and opportunity.” It states, “Always maintaining a profound respect for the consciences of the individuals concerned [those who change ecclesial affiliation], those who make known their intention to leave the Catholic Church should be made aware of the consequences of their decision” (no. 37).

Why does one leave the Catholic Church? It would take us too far afield here to discuss the various reasons for Catholic disaffiliation. Stephen Bullivant’s recent study on Catholic disaffiliation after Vatican II is helpful for answering that question. I’ll leave for another time an analysis of his study. For now, suffice it to note that it is evident that some have left the Catholic Church.

My question here is: What are the consequences for leaving? The document does not tell us what those consequences are, but Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, does (no. 14). Indeed, in Lumen Gentium one consequence stands out. It affirms the “necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5), and thereby affirms at the same time “the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door.” The consequence is clear that follows for those who “refuse either to enter [the Catholic Church], or to remain in it” (italics added). That is, “Hence [in both cases] they could not be saved who know that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ.”

Catholic Ecclesiology

Presupposed in the statement that one runs the risk of losing his salvation if he leaves the Church knowing that she was founded as necessary by God through Christ is an answer to the following questions: Where is the Church and where is she realized in her fullness? The Church of Jesus Christ fully and totally subsists in its own right alone in the Catholic Church (Lumen Gentium, no. 8), meaning thereby that it is an existing reality, even now, having a concrete historical form in the Catholic Church.

This ecclesiological particularism of Catholic ecclesiology—the scandal of particularity—is consistent with its affirmation that there are elements of truth and sanctification outside the visible boundaries of the Church (see Lumen Gentium no. 8, Unitatis Redintegratio, nos. 3-4, Ut Unum Sint, no. 14, Dominus Iesus, no. 16).

These elements do not exist in an ecclesial vacuum, however, and hence they are churches in some real but analogical sense, to a lesser or greater degree, to the extent that these elements of truth and sanctification exist in them. In addition, Catholic ecumenism recognizes that the churches to which our “separated brethren” belong “have a real, though incomplete communion with the Catholic Church” (see Unitatis Redintegratio, no. 11).

Still, Catholic ecclesiology rejects ecclesial pluralism or relativism, as if the Catholic Church is one among many churches.

Triumphalism and Receptive Ecumenism

Why, then, does this new document not make clear the consequence for the individual who leaves the Catholic Church? Would the answer cited above of Lumen Gentium, no. 14, be an example of what the document calls “triumphalism” (no. 37)? In my judgment, the response to the charge of triumphalism is answered by the Church since Vatican II with its ecumenical strategy of receptive ecumenism. Briefly, “Dialogue is not simply an exchange of ideas. In some way it is always an ‘exchange of gifts’. . . . Dialogue does not extend exclusively to matters of doctrine but engages the whole person; it is also a dialogue of love.” In short, ecumenical dialogue may be an exchange of gifts between normative Catholicism and other Christian traditions. Here, too, the document makes no mention of this strategy, but it is conceptually embedded in Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio, nos.4, 17) and St. John Paul II, 1995 encyclical, Ut unum sint (nos. 28, 47, nos. 19, 38).

What is receptive ecumenism? First, it presupposes that “ecumenism is not premised on compromise as if unity should be achieved at the expense of truth. On the contrary, the search for unity leads us into a fuller appreciation of God’s revealed truth” (no. 11). How may ecumenical dialogue lead Catholics and non-Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ into that fuller appreciation?

Second, this strategy presupposes the distinction between the propositional truth of faith and their formulations such that alternative formulations may give “ever richer expression to the authentic catholicity and apostolicity of the Church” (Unitatis Redintegratio, no. 4). This distinction has ecumenical significance for deeply pondering the propositional truths of faith, meaning, truth, and alternative formulations of the faith even in the “theological elaborations of revealed truth” (Unitatis Redintegratio, no. 4) by different Christian traditions.

Third, given this distinction between the propositional truths of faith and their formulations, it is understandable why Vatican II states in Unitatis Redintegratio, no. 17:

It is hardly surprising, then, if from time to time one tradition has come nearer to a full appreciation of some aspects of a mystery of revelation than the other, or has expressed it to better advantage. In such cases, these various theological expressions are to be considered often as mutually complementary rather than conflicting.

Thus, the “exchange of gifts” that characterizes receptive ecumenism is found at the level of the alternative formulations that are mutually complementary. They give us a fuller appreciation by another Christian tradition of some aspect of the revealed mystery shared with Catholicism, may “promote the right ordering of Christian life and, indeed, pave the way to a full vision of Christian truth.”

Receptive ecumenism was suggested by John XXIII in his opening address to Vatican II, Gaudet Mater Ecclesia: “The deposit or the truths of faith, contained in our sacred teaching, are one thing, while the mode in which they are enunciated, keeping the same meaning and the same judgment [‘eodem sensu eademque sententia’], is another thing.” The pope’s statement raised the question of the continuity or material identity of Christian truth between alternative formulations of revealed truth in differing Christian traditions. The subordinate clause (which I have cited in its Latin original) is part of a larger passage from the First Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Faith and Reason, Dei Filius (1869-70), which is earlier invoked by Pope Pius IX in the bull of 1854, Ineffabilis Deus, also cited by Pope Leo XIII in his 1899 encyclical letter, Testem benevolentiae Nostrae.

And this formula in Dei Filius is itself taken from the Commonitorium of Vincent of Lérins: “Therefore, let there be growth and abundant progress in understanding, knowledge, and wisdom, in each and all, in individuals and in the whole Church, at all times and in the progress of ages, but only within the proper limits, i.e., within the same dogma, the same meaning, the same judgment” [in eodem scilicet dogmate, eodem sensu eademque sententia].

Of course, the practice of receptive ecumenism has its limits because the differences between normative Catholicism and other Christian traditions involve genuinely incompatible truth claims at some points, such that ecumenical apologetics is necessary. The “Dialogue of Truth,” as the document calls it, is the “theological dialogue that aims at the restoration of the unity of faith.” This dialogue does not involve compromise at the expense of truth, and hence it will involve, at some points, theological polemics, and hence ecumenical apologetics, because incompatible truth claims are being made between Catholics and non-Catholics.

I conclude on this point with a final reference to John Paul II:

Here it is not a question of altering the deposit of faith, changing the meaning of dogmas, eliminating essential words from them, accommodating truth to the preferences of a particular age, or suppressing certain articles of the Creed under the false pretext that they are no longer understood today. The unity willed by God can be attained only by the adherence of all to the content of revealed faith in its entirety. In matters of faith, compromise is in contradiction with God who is Truth. In the Body of Christ, ‘[He who is] the way, and the truth, and the life’ (Jn 14:6), who could consider legitimate a reconciliation brought about at the expense of the truth? (UUS, no. 18)

Respecting Conscience?

Furthermore, what does it mean to say, as the document does, that the consciences of individuals who leave the Church should be respected? Of course, Catholics and non-Catholics are brethren in Christ and hence they share the truth of many beliefs—such as the assertions of the Nicene Creed and the Creed of Chalcedon. But we also hold incompatible truth claims about the Petrine Ministry, Christ’s substantial presence in the Eucharist, marriage as a sacrament, ecclesiological particularism, and more.

A helpful distinction exists between relating to people and evaluating their beliefs and practices. This distinction is affirmed by Vatican II: “But it is necessary to distinguish error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he flawed by false or inadequate religious [or moral] notions” (Gaudium et spes, no. 28). Hence, in light of this distinction, those who leave the Catholic Church do not deserve respect if that entails respecting their false beliefs. Yes, our relation to them should be ethical, honoring the dignity of a person qua person. Also, our primary stance to a separated brethren in Christ is not conflictual but rather one of being ecumenical partners with the aim of reconciliation. Still, once we are convinced that a belief is false, we cannot respect, in any thicker sense, those who hold it; indeed, we would prefer that he change his mind so that he come back into fuller communion with the Catholic Church.

Moreover, conscience is not infallible. John Paul II correctly states, “Conscience, as the judgment of an act, is not exempt from the possibility of error” (Veritatis Splendor, no. 62). An erroneous conscience may be culpably ignorant or nonculpably ignorant. It is the former if the individual takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when the individual is by degrees almost blinded by the corruption of reason—by passion, evil habit, vicious custom, and evil persuasion (cf. Gaudium et Spes, no. 16; Veritatis Splendor, no. 63). A man’s conscience may also be nonculpably ignorant, meaning thereby “an ignorance of which the subject is not aware and which he is unable to overcome by himself” (Ibid.).

In this case, John Paul explains, “conscience does not lose its dignity, because even when it directs us to act in a way not in conformity with the objective moral order, it continues to speak in the name of that truth about the good which the subject is called to seek sincerely” (Veritatis Splendor, no. 62). Nevertheless, even in this case, that does not mean the individual is right and hence justified in holding certain beliefs to be true, beliefs leading him to change ecclesial affiliation.

As Karol Wojtyla (the future John Paul II) rightly insists:

It is not the strength, the power of conviction, or the authority of belief with which the given subject passes a judgment that determines the veracity of the judgment, but its conformity with that to which or to whom the given judgment pertains. The subject is the exclusive author of the judgment, but is not, however, the author of its truth. (Love and Responsibility, 136)

We must remember that at the forefront of Catholic ecumenical dialogue is the relationship between unity and truth, which is one of the most urgent problems the Church faces today. In this longing for unity, truth and unity may not be separated. “Authentic ecumenism is a gift at the service of truth” (UUS, no. 38).

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About Eduardo Echeverria 31 Articles
Eduardo Echeverria is Professor of Philosophy and Systematic Theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. He earned his doctorate in philosophy from the Free University in Amsterdam and his S.T.L. from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome.


  1. Maybe we need a good definition of what it means to “leave the Catholic Church.” I haven’t left, but I wonder if most of the hierarchy hasn’t.

  2. St. Pope John Paul ll said things about Ecumenism that should have set the real Ecumenism straight, but he was not listened to. In my City half of Catholics have left the Church and have filled up the anti-Catholic Church’s. They are fed with strange ideas of what the Catholic teaches. They believe anything anti-Catholic. They claim the Church didn’t teach them anything. With the false Ecumenism I’ll have to agree with them. The Document doesn’t mention “No salvation outside the Church”. In my 61 years I have never heard what the Church teaches on no salvation outside the Church from any sermon. What happened here? It is now taken for granted that one religion is as good as another. We must return to the Ecumenism of before the Council, the Ecumenism that straight out says “The Catholic Church is the only true religion?”, “Convert or burn for eternity”.

    • Hi! Andrew, please forgive this intrusion but you made a post under another article directed at me on the 15th Dec when I checked a few days ago for a response to my post my post was not on display (Or your Post) and with a few others appeared to have been removed. My response is now given via the link

      kevin your brother
      In Christ

    • “In my City half of Catholics have left the Church and have filled up the anti-Catholic Church’s…”
      I am not entirely sure what you mean by anti-Catholic Churches. I suppose this could be anything from Evangelical Protestant all the way to Satanic Temple and everything in-between.
      In our case we attend a fairly standard “worship band community” and what I found is a LOT of good stuff the average parish could adopt. (We still fulfill our Sunday obligation–and yes, we are still “active” there.)
      When our house was damaged by a catastrophic flood event, it was the Worship Band “church” that took care of us. Our own Catholic parish–even though I informed them as the waters were rising–didn’t say much and helped less. The pastor of the WBC stopped by twice to survey the wreckage. Youth group kids helped to haul flood destroyed items to the curb. Food and re-building supplies were offered. The pastor of our parish called called a week later.
      Last week, the WBC released a financial report of the charitable donations the community was involved in: flood relief, COVID relief, education monies, food.
      I have been involve in three parishes since I converted in the mid-90’s. Never have I seen an accounting of monies like that offered to the parishoners.
      Again and again I am reminded of the parable of the two brothers–the one who said he would tend the farm, and the one who actually did.
      McCarrick, Cupich, Bernadine, Untener, Gregory…vs WBC Youth.
      If we can know the tree by its fruit, well, that doesn’t say much good about the members of Roman Catholic Church, does it?

      • Kathyrn: Sorry to read about your house situation and poor response of your parish. One thing I gather from your response is a lack of understanding of your Catholic Faith. In the Catholic Church we have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Sacrements, especially the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother. My take on your comments is that you really need to do some self catechizing, learn your Catholic faith. When you do, you could work with yur parish on establishing a program to help those in need. However, don’t forget about the needs of your soul.

      • Kathryn,
        You must live in a similar type of flood prone region as we do.
        When my son’s home was flooded a local church, possibly Pentecostal, showed up with provisions and necessities to share with him.
        They were distributing those throughout the community.
        We have many good folks of all denominations here helping out in disasters but I don’t often see out Catholic parishes at the forefront.

      • Kathryn, By anti-Catholic Church’s I mean these. Catholics who left the Church for Pentecostal, Apostolic, Presbyterian and others Churches. Apostate Catholics overtook them, some Catholics became Protestant ministers and started their own Churches taking the names of already existing Protestant Churches. They relied a great deal on Jack Chick publications for the so called true knowledge of the Catholic Church. These Catholics never took their Catholic Faith seriously and never made any attempt to do so. Suddenly they learned the so called truth about the Catholic Church as being a satanic cult. The prophecy in scripture about the “Great Apostacy” is now being fulfilled. These Catholics are those who cannot endure sound doctrine but their ears itch for fables. If one knew the Apostate Catholics I know, one will see this prophecy come true to the letter. God in His mercy has spared me and I attribute it to what a Msgr. taught me over 40 years ago, he said, “If ever the Church officially teaches something and you have a different opinion, always know it is you who are wrong and not the Church. It is you who needs to change and not the Church”. I’ve made this a rule in life. I call it Traditional Catholicism.

      • Kathryn, It is important to understand that the parish Church has its function and the laity have their function. The Parish is where the spiritual benefits through the Sacraments are provided to the people. The Priest is suppose to lead his people to heaven through preaching and through the 7 Sacraments. It is for the laity to obey Christ in When “I was Hungry etc…”. I have seen in my parish the laity practicing charity. My sister in law on her meager earnings makes food and she herself delivers them to the homeless, speaking to them of the greatness of God. I know of another family that gave a homeless family a camping trailor on their property for them to live in. They done their best by their meager finances to make that family as comfortable as possible. All this is happening behind the scenes. About a decade ago families who had a deceased family member and had no money for burial (so they claimed) called upon the parish priest for help. The priest would have a second collection to help the families. Until it was reported to the priest that this money was not going for burial expenses, it was being used by the woman of the family to get all dolled up with expensive clothing, just to look nice at the funeral. After that the second collection for families in need went straight to the funeral home. My wife told me of a certain woman who was a known drug addict who complained that after Mass she went and asked the priest for money (under false pretenses), after the priest had given her help just about every week, he told her he could not give her anymore. She then called the Church a false religion. She said the priest was holding a basket full of money and would not give her any. I say this to point out that there has to be order. The Parish is for the Sacraments and the Divine worship of God. The laity must follow Christ’s commands. Much of what is in that collection is the “widows mite” and people must understand proper order. We cannot just go to the parish and ask for peoples monetary sacrifices. to paraphrase JFK, “Ask not what your parish can do for you, but rather what can you do for your parish”. Everything must be done in proper order according to Divine Law.

  3. Thank God that this Season and the Holy Land itself offers us some occasions of oneness in faith , beyond the apparent contradictions – much of the higher ideas and terms in the article beyond reach – glad that such are for the theologians . 🙂

    The two Churches of Annunciation – one belonging to the Greek Orthodox , where in tradition says the Angel comes to The Mother at the well …and seems fitting enough from the connections of wells and blessed meetings in both the O.T and The New .

    And the mention of the blessed possibility of truth on both sides – how The Angel comes at the well with the greeting , and bl.Mother , pondering on same , while walking to the house and announces The Fiat there ..

    The Bethlehem caves too – ? place the Holy Family chose to seek refuge , on the flight to Egypt , or the place of birth ….

    The Church of Nativity , ? as the real place where too there could have been a cave and manger or ? the house such as that belonged to The Family of St.Joseph that was chosen for The Holy Family to stay temporarily ..

    The Church of Dormition too , an interesting history ( Bl.Emmercih ) as being related to the occasion when Bl.Mother and St.John comes to Jerusalem for the Synod and had a deep ‘syncopal / near death like ‘ episode while there ( ? having foreseen the nearing destruction of the place and the related sufferings of her people ) , recovered and returns to Ephesus – a truth that had been hidden , till not too long ago ..
    Having read only the other day that Baby Jesus cried a lot , already in grief over His errant children – a comforting thought for many a parent who might feel guilty as to how a crying baby is so unlike the imagined peace and quiet in the Holy Family – 🙂
    ( Much of the excess crying in babies can also be from reflux and supplementing Magnesium , for both the mother and the baby can help – for the baby , a bit of Mg.Chloride , added to the bath water , good means of use .)

    Our desire to discern and live in His Glorious Will , sacrificing the ways of self will , in the love and gratitude we owe The Father with and for all – thank God that the simplicity of such too is being given in more ways for our times as the Reign of The Kingdom .

    Glory be !

  4. Attempt at a Hymn for Christian unit

    Christians of every land

    Christians of every land
    Come together to make our stand
    We sense a new beginning a new era has begun
    Praise the Father, Spirit and Son

    Father, send your Spirit to restore
    Breaking down each self-made door
    As we aspire to dress in one attire
    With tongue and flame give us unity again

    The dawn may break are we awake
    Thirty pieces lay on the temple floor
    As each hide behind his, own special door
    Satan’s hour to divide and devour


    Light your lamp and make your way
    Into the garden to watch and pray
    A cup of cold water is enough to set you free
    Come brother make your stand with me


    Jesus is our lamp humility his stamp
    Honest and true his is creed
    We his holy seed
    When we scatter fly and weed


    All true lovers know there is only one way
    It lies deep in the heart as we watch and pray
    Truth and justice must have their say
    We cannot be divided as we wait for day


    Christians from every age
    Have waited with prayerful praise
    The third watch has come
    Shall we be the ones to greet your Son?


    Living water flows from a truthful heart
    Come let’s make a fresh start
    Displaying old and new
    Let’s see what the third watch can do

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  5. “What is receptive ecumenism? First, it presupposes that “ecumenism is not premised on compromise as if unity should be achieved at the expense of truth. On the contrary, the search for unity leads us into a fuller appreciation of God’s revealed truth” (no. 11). How may ecumenical dialogue lead Catholics and non-Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ into that fuller appreciation?”

    Dialogue is necessary for the conversion of non-Catholics to the Catholic Church. That is the only purpose. The Catholic Church has all religious truth and membership in it is essential to salvation, so dialogue is a matter of convincing non-Catholics that they are in error.

    • Shawn The sad thing is that the Dialogue that actually took place was that of compromise (no traditionalists need apply). Those who did the dialogue compromised the faith, they dropped Catholic teaching, they went as far as making statements like, “The Protestants were right all along and Vatican ll has recognized it” “We Catholics because of Vll are now learning the truth from the Protestants”. This is false Ecumenism. The purpose of Ecumenism was to bring the Protestants back into the Church. But we got an official Ecumenism that was heretical, blasphemous, sacrilegious and so on. St. Pope John Paul ll condemned this type of Ecumenism but it fell on deaf ears. An example, I remember decades back a group of Catholics were officially (Church sanctioned) dialoguing with a group of Lutherans, Jointly they signed a document agreeing that the Catholic Church was in error in many of its teachings. Not one single Bishop objected to this false Ecumenism. We need strong faithful Prelates to explain the real Ecumenism to the Church.

      • Pope John Paul ll condemned this type of Ecumenism but it fell on deaf ears.

        On paper maybe, but it practice JPII practically embodied false ecumenism with his constant over the top inter-religious meetings and gestures. So much confusion and scandal.

        • ISE, St. John Paul ll is continuously being condemned as a heretic because of the Assisi gathering. Rome spoke and explained the gathering but as became the custom, few listened. St. Pope John Paul ll issued rules for the Assisi gathering, Catholics understood the instructions. The gathering was called so that the leaders of all peoples could come together in one place, and plead God for mercy on the world. The Holy Father hoped this would please God. Catholics were clearly told they could not pray together with anyone not in union with the Catholic Church. This included 1 person or a group as it was prohibited by the Church, this was a rule that was strongly stated. One example that infuriated St. John Paul ll, after the meeting, was that he was informed that Franciscans of the Basilica of Assisi gave entrance to Hindu’s to the Sacred Portiuncula so that they could pray to their false Gods within it. The Portiuncula is housed within the Basilica. No one can enter it without special permission, given only to few. And yet these certain Franciscans opened it for pagan worship. It is said that the Pope banged his fist on his desk when he heard of this and many other abuses. Now these are the facts I remember back from 1986. What shocks me now, is that the enemies of Our Saint even though they hear the facts, continue to spread the false story and making the same false accusations. This is tragic coming from traditionalists as they are foiling God’s plan. I’m a traditionalist and I’m ashamed of this matter and others, coming from those who claim to be faithful to Christ’s Church.

  6. The Catholic Church today, given its’ internal dilemma, is not a model to exercise ecumenism. I tried my version on relatives and I failed miserably. I am concerned about my future as an apostle. I can only hope that there is an army of soldiers waiting in the wings. Family members, Christians and non-Christians, (the most diverse multiple ideologies and most numerous groups), may never accept the word. Moreover, One cannot convert even another Christian when they are committed to their faith and I am seen as an adversary without passion.

    The Vatican offers no cookbook or education to shape an evangelist

    • Morgan: There is a ton of information out there to know your faith better and evangelize if you want. If you really want information, which I doubt, check out the information (books, pamplets etc) on sites like Catholic Answers, Tan books, Ignatius press etc.
      Personally, I feel in most cases trying to change anyones mind is a difficult process, so I just pray for them. If someone want to discuss something then go ahead, but be careful and know your stuff. But in the end, conversions require opening oneself to God’s grace.

      • Grando. Maybe you should school me on the subject. Maybe you could identify the soldiers in the field fighting the good fight. My faith continues to drive me on the subject. How many converts have you “succeeded” in evangelizing? I know that you will keep up the sacred effort.

  7. Communion with Christ is necessary for salvation. Is communion with the bishop of Rome as necessary? Roman Catholics have their opinion on their matter, but that is not one shared by all Catholics.

    • My mother died with a rosary around her neck. Or so I am told. I knew she wore it on and off. Neither she nor I knew what a Rosary really was. I think I got it site seeing at an old Cathedral. This was before I converted.
      She died a non-Catholic, and an abandonned Episcopalian. Mother, unlike some Catholic Bishops, knew a woman could not be a priest.
      Does she rot in Hell? Well, I guess she and father both, according to Catholic. Neirher sexually abused anyone. But if McCarrick repents (could happen. Maybe it did, already) he’s got a ticket to Heaven.
      There is something not quite right here.

      • Kathryn,
        Even in my old Baltimore Catechism non Catholics are not consigned to Hell.
        My daddy’s family were Protestants and fine Christian people. May they and your parents rest in peace.
        Merry Christmas!

        • “We must return to the Ecumenism of before the Council, the Ecumenism that straight out says “The Catholic Church is the only true religion?”, ‘Convert or burn for eternity’.”
          A quote from above. I do not believe I have pulled it out of context.
          So whom to believe?

          • Kathryn,
            The Catholic Church may have the full teachings of Christ but that doesn’t condemn every non Catholic to Hell.
            There’s a good explanation in the Catechism.
            God bless!

      • Kathryn, Read the Document “Dominus Iesus” issued by Rome. It was written by the then Cardinal Ratzinger at the command of St. Pope John Paul ll. It gives us the true teaching of “No salvation outside the Church”. I understand John Paul ll had it written in response to the false Ecumenism. Your Mother, though she did not know anything about the Rosary nevertheless wore it with devotion. I understand that this was her way of seeking God and it satisfied her search for God. Just wearing our Lady’s Rosary with devotion was a strong constant prayer in itself. In reading Dominus Iesus you will see that your mother passed away in union with the Catholic Church. In this life we can’t be for sure on the eternal destiny of our loved ones. The Church encourages us to pray for the Eternal Repose of our loved ones and all Souls. We Catholics are given the hope of the Resurrection, we have the Communion of Saints. In the Communion of Saints we cannot abandon one another. I will add both your parents to my daily prayers for the Holy Souls. Try to obtain all the Indulgences you can and give them or share them with your Mother. Share them as a priest taught me, as I also need them.

  8. A scan of the Vat Press Office Bulletin finds it a tempering of specificity in favor of a spiritually common integration. Echeverria targets this in an analysis of Receptive ecumenism, “a search for unity that leads us into a fuller appreciation of God’s revealed truth. How may ecumenical dialogue lead Catholics and non-Catholic into that fuller appreciation?”. And why, Echeverria asks isn’t the consequence of leaving the Catholic faith addressed? In support of my opening sentence I cite two texts from the Bulletin, The Bishop and Christian Unity, “Part 2. A. Spiritual ecumenism. 16. Prayer, conversion and holiness. Similarly, in his handbook of spiritual ecumenism Cardinal Walter Kasper wrote, ‘Only in the context of conversion and renewal can the wounded bonds of communion be healed’. 22. Saints and martyrs. Saint John Paul II in Tertio millennio adveniente, speaks of ‘The ecumenism of the saints and of the martyrs.’ He adds, ‘The communio sanctorum speaks louder than the things which divide us’”. Consequently, the necessity for conscience in favor of truth, specifically the preeminent truth of the Catholic faith is the timely issue on which Prof Eduardo Echeverria ends his essay, “It is not the strength, the power of conviction, or the authority of belief with which the given subject passes a judgment that determines the veracity of the judgment, but its conformity with that to which or to whom the given judgment pertains. The subject is the exclusive author of the judgment, but is not, however, the author of its truth” (Fr Karol Wojtyla in Love and Responsibility 1960). Truth is objective conscience must assent. Insofar as Catholics leaving the faith in good conscience this was the question following the Vat II Declaration Dignitatis Humanae. For priests as well as laity. My response is that the truths of the faith revealed by Christ and required for salvation are not simply knowledge like any other subject to personal estimation. They are sui generis as inviolable first principles of our knowledge of God, which the intellect is formed by God to apprehend. They require no secondary evidence for validity or assent. Assent we must because it is God who has spoken to us in his Son. Who is Truth.

  9. The key question is “What does it mean to ‘know’ that the Church is necessary for salvation?” For many, it seems that simple lack of belief in the Church’s claim sufficient excuse for leaving or refusing to enter her. I don’t think its that simple, otherwise, the council fathers would have used the word “believes” rather than “knows.” Equating “knows” and “believes” excuses everyone and makes the statement essentially meaningless.

    Suppose I have been told that the world is round, but I refuse to believe it. Do I “know” that the world is round? If I stubbornly (but genuinely and sincerely) stick to my “flat earth” beliefs, am I culpable? How well has the “round earth” truth been explained to me? Am I under a duty to investigate? Is my failure to investigate negligent? Reckless? Willful?

    • And he said unto them, Go out into all the world, and preach the gospel to all men. 16 He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that does not believe shall be condemned (Mark 16:15-16). Don Christ used the word believe, and that those who do not believe will be condemned. What this means is that what is revealed through the Gospel is knowledge of irrefutable truth. We can refuse to believe what our conscience indicates is true. This event was at the Ascension. There are other Gospel examples, And if anyone will not welcome you or heed your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.
      Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town (Matthew 10:15-16).

  10. On conscience and the contortions of derailed ecumenism–three Quotes and then a Question:

    First, from the SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL: “Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false conciliatory approach which harms the purity of Catholic doctrine and obscures its assured genuine meaning” (Decree on Ecumenism, n. 11).

    Second, St. John Henry Cardinal NEWMAN (in his famous “Letter to the Duke of Norfolk,” 1876) comments in detail on the “individual conscience”. He writes: “Conscience has rights because it has duties; but in this age, with a large portion of the public, it is the very right and freedom of conscience to dispense with [!] conscience, to ignore a Lawgiver and Judge, to be independent of unseen obligations.”

    Third, regarding those matters (“injunctions”) where the pope is NOT infallible (Newman wrote three years before Vatican I precisely defined, i.e., affirmed and limited, both, “papal infallibility”), Newman wrote: “Unless a man is able to say to himself as in the Presence of God, that he must not, and dare not act upon a Papal injunction, he is bound to obey it [“the side of conscience”], and would commit a great sin in disobeying it.” Further and possibly more broadly (?), he then proposes, with a condition (!), that even an erroneous conscience is to be obeyed—calling upon “St. Thomas, St. Bonaventura, Cajetan, Vasquez, Dorandus, Navarrus, Corduba, Layman, Escobar, and fourteen others.” As for the CONDITION, this: “Of course, if a man is culpable in being in error which he might have escaped had he been more in earnest, for that error he is answerable to God, but still he must act according to that error while he is in it, because he in full sincerity thinks the error to be the truth.”

    Now my QUESTION: In our era of turmoil, incompetence, and even mis-evangelization, and in those doctrinal matters of “faith and morals” (not simply papal “injunctions”), will it be sufficient for the errant individual soul to say to St. Peter that in betraying Christ and in betraying even my own innermost self/soul (the inborn Natural Law!),I was simply misled—-by the 20th-century incompetencies, intrigues, corruptions, prudent silences and omissions, layered ambivalence, and even confusion of so many of the shepherds themselves (Eve made me do it!). Forgive me, I knew not what I did!

    Might St. Peter then say: “well, you simply should have prayed and studied more earnestly;” or, maybe “in all of history those really were ‘the worst of times,’ and the Sacred and Pierced Heart of Jesus is the only and final reader of your precious and innermost soul.” Or, might he also repeat, possibly, what before 1965 the holy nuns of CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, remember that stuff?) sometimes used to lament—-that a disproportionate number of first responder and burned-out, ordained [!] clerics inhabit the deepest pits of hell? (…For them, especially, pray without ceasing.)

    • All that you present here is correct, with addition to those who are beguiled and misled primarily by errant clergy. Mitigation of responsibility for rejecting the faith lessens culpability. Although like the blind leading the blind both fall into the same pit. Because the human soul has the inherent capacity to identify truth in particular God, and is given grace to perceive through a dense fog of untruths there remains culpability. No one merits salvation since the Fall and is redeemed solely by Christ’s saving life passion and resurrection, with condition of our required participation. Since salvation is extended to the world by the members of the Mystical Body offering their intervention by their prayer and their suffering we become essential instruments in God’s salvific act. He instills in us that love by which we love those in danger in realization of the common priesthood of all the faithful who share with Christ the charisma of prophet priest and king. The ordained priest as you well note is most responsible for the salvation of Christ’s sheep. Let us then Peter Love and sacrifice for them.

    • Correction: “Third, regarding those matters (“injunctions”) where the pope is NOT infallible (that is, not those cases involving “papal infallibility” as precisely defined and limited in 1870 by the First Vatican Council)…”

      • Peter the Third question on obedience to conscience requires clarification. I begin with Aquinas on inviolability of conscience. Although Aquinas assumes conscience binds in any instance, such binding is conditional. “One who follows such a conscience [a false judgment that is a serious sin, fornication, adultery, false witness, embezzlement] and acts according to it acts against the law of God and sins mortally. For there was sin in the error itself, since it happened because of ignorance of what one should have known” (De Veritate 17, 4 Ad 3). Now insofar as papal injunctions, “evangelization, and in those doctrinal matters of ‘faith and morals’ not simply papal injunctions” we have a multifaceted query with many corners to turn. Let’s begin with definition of what must be obeyed, which is that belonging to the Deposit of Faith, or those pronouncements directly related to the Deposit [Proposition One] as defined in Proposition two in the Doctrinal Commentary to Ad Tuendam Fidem. Authored by Cardinal Ratzinger for John Paul II. Ratzinger makes clear such doctrine is binding and must meet conditions [previously described in Lumen Gentium 25] primarily clarity, consistency, seriousness of tone and penalty attached. For the conscience to be bound then it must be doctrine encompassed by Propositions One and Two. I would take issue with Cardinal Newman’s condition that one must follow his conscience since “he in full sincerity thinks the error to be the truth” – although Newman added he could have avoided it “had he been more in earnest”. Let us consider inherent evil. Newman is creating a false proposition in which subject and predicate are indistinguishable. Aquinas’ premise is the rule, he acts sinfully because he should have known [have been more in earnest]. For example the Argentine papal exchange of letters entered into the Acta Apostolicae Sedis to which Secretary of State Parolin announced were authentic magisterial doctrine and binding. They are not binding because what is implied, that those living in adultery, or cohabitation are permitted Holy Communion is not definitively stated by the Pontiff. Pope Francis simply offered a verbal affirmation to what the Argentine bishops assumed. Similarly an unwritten non definitive policy made by suggestion, that is open to adult homosexual relations, including civil unions – that is considered doctrine is not binding. In either instance no one in good conscience can obey what Cardinal Parolin announced publicly, or that which is attributed to the Pontiff. To do so subjects the actor to mortal sin. The pre 1965 holy nuns you suggest were correct are correct.

      • Added to my response regarding culpability and ecclesial authority is the current issue of church closures and restrictions imposed by city, state authorities and mandated by bishops. Here the priest and laity are obliged by canon law to obey. Does an unjust law require obedience? Is the spiritual need of the laity in some instances an overriding condition? Some priests have ignored their bishops when they were allegedly compelled to provide those needs for distraught laity. For example the sacrament of penance, anointing, Holy Communion. Some bishops have prohibited either some priests have followed their conscience and met the needs of laity most often secretly. As an opinion this seems a valid reason to make exception. I side with those priests. Also the majority of bishops have permitted exceptions.

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