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Pius XI Refutes
John Paul II’s Ut Unum Sint

It is remarkable how Pope Pius XI describes and refutes in detail the wrong position on ecumenism synthesized in the phrase Ut unum sint. This refutation is particularly accurate when applied to JPII’s encyclical Ut unum sint, which adopts most of the condemned positions.  Read the text below, compare and reach your own conclusions.

Pope Pius XI

And here it is opportune to expound and to refute an error which lies at the root of this whole question and from which proceeds the activity and multiple efforts of non-Catholics to bring about the union ... of Christian churches. Toward this aim, the authors of that project have the habit of quoting the words of Christ, ‘that they all may be one [ut unum sint] ... and there shall be one fold and one shepherd (Jn 17:21),’ as if, to their understanding, the prayer and the desire of Christ had not yet been carried out until today.

For they hold that the unity of Faith and government, which is the note of the one true Church, has up to the present time hardly ever existed, and does not exist today; that this unity is indeed to be desired and realized, at times by a common understanding of wills, but that it is necessary, notwithstanding, to consider it as a type of utopia.

They add that the Church by her nature is divided, that is, composed of innumerable churches or distinct communities which still remain separate, and although they hold in common some points of doctrine, nevertheless they differ concerning the remainder. Each church, according to them, enjoys the same rights. ...

Hence, they say, controversies, even long-standing ones, and doctrinal differences, which still today continue to divide them, must be forgotten and set aside. And, with regard to other doctrinal truths, it is necessary to propose and draw up a certain rule of common faith. In this profession of faith ... they may feel themselves to be true brothers. ...

Such, Venerable Brethren, is the common contention. ... But they immediately go on to say that this Roman Church, too, has erred and corrupted the primitive religion by adding to it a certain number of doctrines not only foreign but contrary to the Gospel, and imposing them on the Faith of the faithful. Chief among these they cite that of the primacy of jurisdiction granted to Peter and to his successors in the See of Rome [and they praise secondary aspects of the Papacy]. ...

However, even while you may hear many non-Catholics loudly preaching brotherly communion in Jesus Christ, yet not one will you find who thinks of submitting to the Vicar of Christ in what he teaches or of obeying what he commands. They assert that they prefer to deal with the Church of Rome on equal terms, as equals with an equal. In reality, however, if they propose some eventual accord, it is not with the intention of renouncing those same opinions that hold them, still today, in their errors and deviations, outside the one fold of Christ.

In these conditions, it is evident that the Apostolic See cannot under any pretext take part in these [inter-confessional] assemblies; nor do Catholics have any right to favor such enterprises by their support or action. If they did so, they would be attributing authority to a false religion, entirely alien to the one Church of Christ. How could we tolerate that the truth, above all the revealed truth, be made a subject for compromise? This would be the apex of iniquity. ...

How can it be allowed that the object of Faith become in the process of time so dim and uncertain that we should tolerate these contradictory opinions? If this were so, then we should have to admit that the coming of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, the perpetual indwelling of the same Spirit in the Church, and even the preaching of Jesus Christ Himself many centuries ago would have lost all their efficacy and value. To affirm this would be blasphemy.

These pan-Christians who strive for the union of the churches would appear to pursue the noblest of ideals in promoting charity among all Christians. But how can one imagine that this growth of charity be made to the detriment of the Faith? Everyone knows that St. John himself, the Apostle of charity ... absolutely forbade any relationship with those who did not profess the doctrine of Christ pure and entire: ‘If any man come to you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into the house, nor say to him, God speed you’ (Jn 1:10). Therefore, since the foundation of charity is Faith pure and inviolate, unity of Faith should be, as a consequence, the principal bond that unites the disciples of Christ.

How, then, can one conceive of the possibility of a Christian pact, in which each member would have the right, even in questions of Faith, to retain his own way of seeing and thinking, even when it would be in contradiction with the opinions of the others?


Blason de Charlemagne
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(Pius XI, Encyclical Mortalium animos, of January 6, 1928
Paris: Bonne Presse, 1928, vol. 4, pp. 64-5)

Posted on March 31, 2012

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