Rorate Caeli

80 years of Mortalium Animos - II
A study guide

Exactly eighty years ago, on the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord of 1928, Pope Pius XI, of most glorious memory, signed one of his landmark encyclicals: Mortalium Animos, "on fostering true religious unity". A present-day reader of that document is amazed at the intellectual power and mastery of this relatively short letter. All the pitfalls, all the contradictions, all the doctrinal problems, all the practical pitfalls of interreligious dialogue and of the "Ecumenical movement" are presented in a clear and close to irrefutable way.

What else could be be expected from the Pope who had firmly established the devotion to Christ the King and created His Feast (on the last Sunday in October), in Quas Primas (1925)? From the Pontiff who would, two years later, expose the intellectual fraud of the Anglican decision allowing for the practice of contraception (in Casti Connubii, 1930), the pathetic claims of superiority of race and nation (Mit brennender Sorge, 1937), the intrinsic perversity of Communism (Divini Redemptoris, 1937)?

In a few paragraphs, Pope Ratti dismantled the ignominy of the "pan-Christian" ecumenical mentality - in such a strong way that Mortalium Animos has remained firmly unrebuked and its main points have been ignored in the documents of the Second Vatican Council and its aftermath.

Below, a guide to Mortalium Animos.

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(1)Interreligious gatherings lead to Relativism; they must be avoided by Catholics.

[S]ince they hold it for certain that men destitute of all religious sense are very rarely to be found, they seem to have founded on that belief a hope that the nations, although they differ among themselves in certain religious matters, will without much difficulty come to agree as brethren in professing certain doctrines, which form as it were a common basis of the spiritual life. For which reason conventions, meetings and addresses are frequently arranged by these persons, at which a large number of listeners are present, and at which all without distinction are invited to join in the discussion, both infidels of every kind, and Christians, even those who have unhappily fallen away from Christ or who with obstinacy and pertinacity deny His divine nature and mission.

Certainly such attempts can nowise be approved by Catholics, founded as they are on that false opinion which considers all religions to be more or less good and praiseworthy, since they all in different ways manifest and signify that sense which is inborn in us all, and by which we are led to God and to the obedient acknowledgment of His rule. Not only are those who hold this opinion in error and deceived, but also in distorting the idea of true religion they reject it, and little by little, turn aside to naturalism and atheism, as it is called; from which it clearly follows that one who supports those who hold these theories and attempt to realize them, is altogether abandoning the divinely revealed religion.
(2) The danger of Ecumenism; the misinterpretation of Christ's prayer that His disciples might be "one."

[S]ome are more easily deceived by the outward appearance of good when there is question of fostering unity among all Christians. Is it not right, it is often repeated, indeed, even consonant with duty, that all who invoke the name of Christ should abstain from mutual reproaches and at long last be united in mutual charity? Who would dare to say that he loved Christ, unless he worked with all his might to carry out the desires of Him, Who asked His Father that His disciples might be "one."[John xvii, 21] And did not the same Christ will that His disciples should be marked out and distinguished from others by this characteristic, namely that they loved one another: "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another"?[John xiii, 35] All Christians, they add, should be as "one": for then they would be much more powerful in driving out the pest of irreligion, which like a serpent daily creeps further and becomes more widely spread, and prepares to rob the Gospel of its strength.

These things and others that class of men who are known as pan-Christians continually repeat and amplify; .... This undertaking is so actively promoted as in many places to win for itself the adhesion of a number of citizens, and it even takes possession of the minds of very many Catholics and allures them with the hope of bringing about such a union as would be agreeable to the desires of Holy Mother Church, who has indeed nothing more at heart than to recall her erring sons and to lead them back to her bosom. But in reality beneath these enticing words and blandishments lies hid a most grave error, by which the foundations of the Catholic faith are completely destroyed.

Admonished, therefore, by the consciousness of Our Apostolic office that We should not permit the flock of the Lord to be cheated by dangerous fallacies, We invoke, Venerable Brethren, your zeal in avoiding this evil ...
(3) Principles "from which Catholics" must learn regarding the union of "all who call themselves Christians"

(A) There is only one true religion: the religion revealed by God.

A.1 The One True Religion

"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all, in these days, hath spoken to us by his Son."[Hebrews i, I, seq] From which it follows that there can be no true religion other than that which is founded on the revealed word of God: which revelation, begun from the beginning and continued under the Old Law, Christ Jesus Himself under the New Law perfected.

Now, if God has spoken (and it is historically certain that He has truly spoken), all must see that it is man's duty to believe absolutely God's revelation and to obey implicitly His commands; that we might rightly do both, for the glory of God and our own salvation, the Only-begotten Son of God founded His Church on earth.
A.2 Christ founded one Church, not a federation of Churches

Further, We believe that those who call themselves Christians can do no other than believe that a Church, and that Church one, was established by Christ; but if it is further inquired of what nature according to the will of its Author it must be, then all do not agree.

A good number of them, for example, deny that the Church of Christ must be visible and apparent, ... ; but, on the contrary, they understand a visible Church as nothing else than a Federation, composed of various communities of Christians, even though they adhere to different doctrines, which may even be incompatible one with another.
A.3 The Church is a perfect society, under the leadership of one head.

Christ our Lord instituted His Church as a perfect society, external of its nature and perceptible to the senses, which should carry on in the future the work of the salvation of the human race, under the leadership of one head, with an authority teaching by word of mouth, and by the ministry of the sacraments, the founts of heavenly grace; for which reason He attested by comparison the similarity of the Church to a kingdom, to a house, to a sheepfold, and to a flock.
A.4 The Church was not extinguished after the death of the Apostles

This Church, after being so wonderfully instituted, could not, on the removal by death of its Founder and of the Apostles ..., be entirely extinguished and cease to be... . In the continual carrying out of this task, will any element of strength and efficiency be wanting to the Church, when Christ Himself is perpetually present to it, according to His solemn promise: "Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world?"[Matt. xxviii, 20]

It follows then that the Church of Christ not only exists today and always, but is also exactly the same as it was in the time of the Apostles, unless we were to say, which God forbid, either that Christ our Lord could not effect His purpose, or that He erred when He asserted that the gates of hell should never prevail against it.
A.5 Grave error: "That all may be one"
seen as a desire which lacks fulfillment


[I]t seems opportune to expound and to refute a certain false opinion, on which this whole question, as well as that complex movement by which non-Catholics seek to bring about the union of the Christian churches depends. For authors who favor this view are accustomed, times almost without number, to bring forward these words of Christ: "That they all may be one.... And there shall be one fold and one shepherd,"[John xvii, 21; x, 16] with this signification however: that Christ Jesus merely expressed a desire and prayer, which still lacks its fulfillment.
...
They add that the Church in itself, or of its nature, is divided into sections; that is to say, that it is made up of several churches or distinct communities, which still remain separate ...

...although many non-Catholics may be found who loudly preach fraternal communion in Christ Jesus, yet you will find none at all to whom it ever occurs to submit to and obey the Vicar of Jesus Christ either in His capacity as a teacher or as a governor.

Meanwhile, they affirm that they would willingly treat with the Church of Rome, but on equal terms, that is as equals with an equal: but even if they could so act. It does not seem open to doubt that any pact into which they might enter would not compel them to turn from those opinions which are still the reason why they err and stray from the one fold of Christ.
A.6 Catholics cannot support or work for a false Christianity

This being so, it is clear that the Apostolic See cannot on any terms take part in their assemblies, nor is it any way lawful for Catholics either to support or to work for such enterprises; for if they do so they will be giving countenance to a false Christianity, quite alien to the one Church of Christ.
(B) Truth cannot be compromised.

Shall We suffer, what would indeed be iniquitous, the truth, and a truth divinely revealed, to be made a subject for compromise? For here there is question of defending revealed truth.
B.1 The Church cannot err

[T]he Only-begotten Son of God, when He commanded His representatives to teach all nations, obliged all men to give credence to whatever was made known to them by "witnesses preordained by God,"[Acts x,41] and also confirmed His command with this sanction: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned."[Mark xvi, 16]

These two commands of Christ, which must be fulfilled, the one, namely, to teach, and the other to believe, cannot even be understood, unless the Church proposes a complete and easily understood teaching, and is immune when it thus teaches from all danger of erring.
B.2 Charity in Truth

These pan-Christians who turn their minds to uniting the churches seem, indeed, to pursue the noblest of ideas in promoting charity among all Christians: nevertheless how does it happen that this charity tends to injure faith? ... John himself, the Apostle of love ...who never ceased to impress on the memories of his followers the new commandment "Love one another," altogether forbade any intercourse with those who professed a mutilated and corrupt version of Christ's teaching: "If any man come to you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into the house nor say to him: God speed you."[II John 10]
B.3 One Church: one Teaching Authority

[C]an men who follow contrary opinions, belong to one and the same Federation of the faithful?... How so great a variety of opinions can make the way clear to effect the unity of the Church We know not; that unity can only arise from one teaching authority, one law of belief and one faith of Christians.
B.4 One step from Ecumenism to
Indifferentism and Relativism


We do know that from this it is an easy step to the neglect of religion or indifferentism and to modernism, as they call it. Those, who are unhappily infected with these errors, hold that dogmatic truth is not absolute but relative, that is, it agrees with the varying necessities of time and place and with the varying tendencies of the mind, since it is not contained in immutable revelation, but is capable of being accommodated to human life.
B.5 There are no "non-fundamental"
doctrines which may be discarded

[I]t is nowise licit to use that distinction which some have seen fit to introduce between those articles of faith which are fundamental and those which are not fundamental, as they say, as if the former are to be accepted by all, while the latter may be left to the free assent of the faithful: for the supernatural virtue of faith has a formal cause, namely the authority of God revealing, and this is patient of no such distinction.

For this reason it is that all who are truly Christ's believe, for example, the Conception of the Mother of God without stain of original sin with the same faith as they believe the mystery of the August Trinity, and the Incarnation of our Lord just as they do the infallible teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff... Has not God revealed them all? ... in the use of [the] extraordinary teaching authority no newly invented matter is brought in, nor is anything new added to the number of those truths which are at least implicitly contained in the deposit of Revelation, divinely handed down to the Church: only those which are made clear which perhaps may still seem obscure to some, or that which some have previously called into question is declared to be of faith.
(C) The Unity of Christians: the "return to the one true Church of Christ"

[T]he 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.
C.1 The Catholic Church is what it has always been

[T] he 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. ... the mystical Spouse of Christ has never been contaminated, nor can she ever in the future be contaminated, as Cyprian bears witness: "The Bride of Christ cannot be made false to her Spouse: she is incorrupt and modest. She knows but one dwelling, she guards the sanctity of the nuptial chamber chastely and modestly."
C.2 Whosoever is not united with the Body is no member of it

[S]ince the mystical body of Christ, in the same manner as His physical body, is one, compacted and fitly joined together, it were foolish and out of place to say that the mystical body is made up of members which are disunited and scattered abroad: whosoever therefore is not united with the body is no member of it, neither is he in communion with Christ its head.
C.3 The Church remains with Peter

[I]n this one Church of Christ no man can be or remain who does not accept, recognize and obey the authority and supremacy of Peter and his legitimate successors. ...

[I]f, as they continually state, they long to be united with Us and ours, why do they not hasten to enter the Church, "the Mother and mistress of all Christ's faithful"?
(4) Final Invitation: Come and submit to the Apostolic See, which will receive you with fatherly love.

Let, therefore, the separated children draw nigh to the Apostolic See, set up in the City which Peter and Paul, the Princes of the Apostles, consecrated by their blood; to that See, We repeat, which is "the root and womb whence the Church of God springs," not with the intention and the hope that "the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth"[I Tim. iii, 15] will cast aside the integrity of the faith and tolerate their errors, but, on the contrary, that they themselves submit to its teaching and government.

Would that it were Our happy lot to do that which so many of Our predecessors could not, to embrace with fatherly affection those children, whose unhappy separation from Us We now bewail.

...We desire that Our children should also know, not only those who belong to the Catholic community, but also those who are separated from Us: if these latter humbly beg light from heaven, there is no doubt but that they will recognize the one true Church of Jesus Christ and will, at last, enter it, being united with us in perfect charity.

4 comments:

Pascendi said...

All Catholics when in Rome should ensure that they visit the earthly remains of this great and holy Pope. His social encyclicals are inspired!

Rorate Caeli is to be congratulated for drawing our attention to the dangers of a false ecumenical movement that has seriously damaged the Church.
Mortalium Animos serves as the beacon of light that scatters the darkness of confusion and religious indifferentism.

It is even more valid today than 80 years ago.

beng said...

Mortalium Animos is part of my Bible, along with Mystici Corporis Christi, Humani Generis and of course Pascendi.

That makes one thick bible.

hopingforheaven said...

Amen!

Adam Barnette said...

Excellent encyclical. The Catholic Faith of the ages breathes in this document.