Description of Contents
"... this Apostolic See has never allowed its subjects to take part in the assemblies of non-Catholics. There is but one way in which the unity of Christians may be fostered, and that is by furthering the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it; for far from that one true Church they have in the past fallen away."
This encyclical refutes the heretical practice known as ecumenism. It was written to inform Catholics of the "course of action they should adopt regarding schemes for the promiscuous union into one body of all who call themselves Christians." Its principles apply likewise to schemes for the formation of a syncretic one-world religion.
The traditional doctrine of the Catholic Church regarding attempts to obtain a common spiritual basis for universal brotherhood or a one-world religion is set down in simple and clear terms.
Pope Pius XI, basing his teaching on Scripture and traditional doctrine, condemns all interfaith dialogue and meetings, because they "presuppose that all religions are more or less good and praiseworthy." That is, all such efforts to find unity are based on this heresy, known as indifferentism. The end result, says the Pope, is descent into modernism, naturalism and atheism (which accelerates the formation of the atheistic New World Order).
The many reasons given for uniting Christian sects are shown to be fallacies.
"Pan-Christian" (i.e., ecumenical) societies following a false interpretation of Jesus' prayer that all His disciples be one (Jn. 17:21) are "subversive of the foundations of the Catholic Faith." They believe Christ was merely expressing a desire which as yet has not been granted. Although the unity of faith and government is "a note of the one true Church of Christ," ecumenists say that unity has hardly ever existed; the Church is "of its nature divided" into separate communities. So differences (for which they blame the Catholic Church), such as the primacy of the Pope, must be set aside, "and from the residue of doctrines a common form of faith drawn up."
The only Christian unity that can be recognized by the Catholic Church, teaches Pope Pius, is that formed by the return of her "erring children" to her bosom. Anything else is a danger to salvation and eternal life.
"... while you may hear many non-Catholics loudly preaching brotherly communion in Jesus Christ, yet not one will you find to whom it ever occurs ... to obey the Vicar of Jesus Christ in his capacity of teacher or ruler. Meanwhile, they assert their readiness to treat with the Church of Rome, but ... only on condition that no pact into which they might enter should compel them to retract those opinions which still keep them outside the fold of Christ.
"This being so, it is clear that the Apostolic See can by no means take part in these assemblies, nor is it in any way lawful for Catholics to give to such enterprises their encouragement or support. If they did so, they would be giving countenance to a false Christianity quite alien to the one Church of Christ.
"These pan-Christians ... would appear to be pursuing the noblest of ideals in promoting charity among all Christians. But how should charity tend to the detriment of faith? ... John himself, Apostle of love, ... who never ceased to impress upon the memory of his disciples the new commandment 'to love one another,' nevertheless strictly forbade any intercourse with those who professed a mutilated and corrupt form of Christ's teaching (2 Jn. 1:10).
"Therefore, since the foundation of charity is faith pure and inviolate, it is chiefly by the bond of one Faith that the disciples of Christ are to be united. A federation of Christians, then, is inconceivable, in which each member retains his own opinions and private judgement in matters of faith....
"... unity can arise only from one teaching authority, one law of belief, and one Faith of Christians. But We do know that from such a state of affairs it is but an easy step to the neglect of religion or indifferentism, and to the error of the modernists, who hold that dogmatic truth is not absolute but relative, that is, changes according to the varying necessities of time and place....
"Let our separated children, therefore, draw nigh to the Apostolic See ... and let them come, not with any intention nor hope that 'the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth' (1 Tim. 3:15), will cast aside the integrity of the Faith and tolerate their errors, but to submit themselves to its teaching and government."
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