Can the Church Abandon Her Mission Reaching Out to Save Souls?

Can the Church Abandon Her Mission Reaching Out to Save Souls?Pope Francis’ meeting with the representative of the Russian Church and the Joint Declaration which ensued are causing the most diverse reactions.

Condemnation of Abortion…But Praise for Communist Cuba
The pro-life movement is excited by the unexpected and clear statement against abortion, defending marriage between a man and a woman, and condemning euthanasia.1

For their part, progressive Catholics express annoyance with such statements.2

Cuban exiles and dissidents in Cuba lament the prestige lent to the communist regime and to dictator Raul Castro as the island prison was depicted as “the symbol of the hopes of the ‘New World’” (Joint Declaration, No.2).3

The Vatican Policy of Détente with Communist Governments

Ukrainian Catholics Feel Betrayed

Ukrainian Catholics express discontent as the document refers to their union with Rome implying that it was a historic mistake. They also regret the fact that the document deals with the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a “civil conflict” between Ukrainians “rather than external aggression by a neighboring state.”4

The Patriarch, a Former KGB Member
Political commentators stress Kirill’s connection with the former KGB (now FSB), the communist political police, and his servility to another member of that sinister organization, the quasi dictator Putin. And they highlight how the meeting gives him an enhanced political image.5
Myroslav Marynovych, vice-rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lvov went so far as to write:

“The Cuban Declaration of the Pope and the Moscow Patriarch is a vivid illustration of several things at once: the undeniable victory of the Kremlin and the FSB [ex-KGB] along with all their obedient subjects, to which I add the Russian Orthodox Church; …the helpless blindness and incompetence of the Vatican diplomacy, which is so easily fooled by the vocabulary of peace; and the ominous failure of Europe’s influential circles to decode the deceitful formulas of Putin’s propaganda.”6

 

Theological Aspects: the Same Faith in God?
In addition to these aspects, it would be well to delve deeper into the theological underpinnings of the document in question since “the faith…. [is] the foundation of all supernatural life.”7

The Joint Declaration says the Catholic Church and schismatic Russians “share the same spiritual Tradition of the first millennium of Christianity” (n. 4) but goes on to say there are “differences….in the understanding and expression of our faith in God, one in three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (n. 5).

That difference is the denial by the churches that emerged from the Greek schism (1054) that “the Holy Spirit is eternally from the Father and the Son and proceeds from both eternally as from one principle and one spiration.”8

Now then, as evidenced by the quotes from the Church Fathers, both Eastern and Western, this truth was accepted in the first millennium of the Church.9
But to disagree on a matter of Trinitarian theology, on the “understanding and expression of our faith in God,” is not something negligible.

According to Spanish theologian Fr. José Maria Dalmau, S.J., the Catholic thesis is a truth of the faith defined by the Fourth Council of the Lateran (1215), the Second Council of Lyons (1274), and the Council of Florence (1438-45).10

Can Apostolate Be Abandoned in the Name of Ecumenism?
If the Church were to stop doing apostolate to convert souls and cease accepting in her bosom those seeking salvation, it would go against the mission received from Our Lord Jesus Christ: “Go ye into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

Thus, one cannot comprehend how the Joint Declaration “excludes any form of proselytism” (n. 24). The use of the excluding clause “any form” suggests that not only “disloyal proselytism” (whatever that means) as mentioned in the next paragraph, but any type of it. This idea is reinforced by the reference to the Ukrainian “uniates,” who reunited with Rome in 1596, as a kind of historical error.

Indeed, the document states, “It is today clear that the past method of ‘uniatism’, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church [i.e., from the Russian Orthodox Church] is not the way to re–establish unity.” And, almost as a concession the document says that once the Ukrainian Catholic Church has “emerged” due to “historical circumstances,” its right to exist should be recognized (n. 25).

To Restore Unity With the Church, Not of the Church
Thus, if the return to the Catholic Church, as Ukrainians uniates did “is not the way to re–establish unity,” and if “any form of proselytism” is excluded, then the “unity” proposed in the document does not imply conversion.

But, according to the constant doctrine of the Church expressed in numerous Papal and Conciliar documents the only form of “union of Christians” is the return of the lost sheep to the Catholic fold. This is what Pope Pius XI taught clearly in his Encyclical Mortalium Animos of 1929:

“[F]or 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.”11

 

It is necessary to recall that the unity of the Church is not sociological but of her own essence, communicated by her Divine founder.

Jesus, says Pope Leo XIII (1896), “ordained in His Church Unity of Faith; a virtue which is the first of those bonds which unite man to God, and whence we receive the name of the faithful – ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism’ (Eph. 4, 5). That is, as there is one Lord and one baptism, so should all Christians, without exception, have but one faith.”

And, quoting Saint Clement of Alexandria, the Pope explains: “We say, therefore, that the Catholic Church is unique in its essence, in its doctrine, in its origin, and in its excellence…Furthermore, the eminence of the Church arises from its unity, as the principle of its constitution – a unity surpassing all else, and having nothing like unto it or equal to it.”12

Therefore, it is not the “unity” of the Church that has to be restored, but the “unity with the Church” of those that abandoned that unity given by Christ to His Church.

The One True Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ
The only and true Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ is not an amorphous conglomerate of different “religious traditions” but that visible, hierarchical and monarchical society that we profess in the Creed to be Unam, Sanctam, Catholicam et Apostolicam (Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed).

The Catholic Church is the only one that possesses those elements of beauty and order that make her the Wife of the Lamb, “without spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5, 26).

The Vatican Policy of Détente with Communist Governments – Should the TFPs Stand Down? Or Should They Resist?

To Resist “Strong in Faith”
After the announcement that Pope Francis will go to Sweden next October to commemorate the quincentenial of Luther’s revolt against the Church, this meeting with a former member of the Soviet KGB arranged by dictator Raul Castro in the communist island of Cuba, further increases the perplexity of the faithful.

However, we must resist “strong in faith” (1 Peter 5:9), certain that we can rely on supernatural help and the special protection of Mary Most Holy in these trying times. Let us remember Our Lord’s promise: “Fear not, little flock, for it hath pleased your Father to give you a kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

Footnotes

  1. John-Henry Westen, “BREAKING: In historic meeting Pope, Russian Patriarch decry abortion, defend traditional marriage,” at https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/breaking-in-historic-meeting-pope-and-russian-patriarch-decry-abortion-defe, accessed 2/16/16.
  2. Cf. Giuseppe Rusconi, “Dichiarazione Kirill-Francesco: Quanto Vale la Firma del Papa?” www.rossoporpora.org, acessed 2/16//16.
  3. “Incomprensibles elogios de Francisco a Cuba comunista ─ Destaque Internacional – Análisis de actualidad,” at http://www.cubdest.org/1606/c1602cubaunid.htm, accessed 2/16/16, and Edward Pentin, “Full Text: Joint Declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill,” accessed 2/17/2016 3:52 PM at http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/full-text-joint-declaration-between-pope-francis-and-patriarch-kirill/
  4. ”Two Parallel Worlds” – An Interview with His Beatitude Sviatoslav, http://news.ugcc.ua/en/interview/two_parallel_worlds__an_interview_with_his_beatitude_sviatoslav_75970.html, accessed 2/16/16; “Destaque Internacional – Lunes 15 de febrero de 2016. Declaración Francisco – Kirill : ucranianos se sienten ‘traicionados’ por el Vaticano,” at http://www.cubdest.org/1606/c1602ucrdeslealtad.htm. accessed 2/16/16.
  5. Sandro Magister, “Over the Embrace Between Francis and Kirill Falls the Shadow of Putin,” at http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1351228?eng=y, accessed 2/16/16; David Satter, “Putin Runs The Russian State–And The Russian Church Too,” at http://www.forbes.com/2009/02/20/putin-solzhenitsyn-kirill-russia-opinions-contributors_orthodox_church.html, accessed 2/16//16; Peter Pomerantsev, “Putin’s God Squad: The Orthodox Church and Russian Politics,” http://www.newsweek.com/putins-god-squad-orthodox-church-and-russian-politics-64649, accessed 2/16//16.
  6. Myroslav Marynovych, “An epochal meeting with epochal consequences,” at http://euromaidanpress.com/2016/02/15/an-epochal-meeting-with-epochal-consequences/, accessed 2/10/16.
  7. Pius XII, “Allocution to the Tribunal of the Sacred Rota,” Oct. 6, 1946, Papal Teachings, The Church (St. Paul Editions, Boston 1962/1980), p. 619.
  8. COUNCIL OF FLORENCE 1438-1445, Denzinger n. 691.
  9. Cfr. Josepho Ma. Dalmau S.I., De Deo Uno et Trino, in Sacrae Theologia Summa (BAC, Madrid, 1958), v. II, Thesis 34.
  10. Ibid., n. 401.
  11. N. 10 at http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_19280106_mortalium-animos.html, accessed 2/25/16.
  12. Encyclical Satis Cognitum ON THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH, nos. 6 and 11, at http://w2.vatican.va/content/leo-xiii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_29061896_satis-cognitum.html, accessed 2/25/16.

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