Rorate Caeli



If one wishes to understand more fully the Catholic doctrine “Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus” and the death of the authentic Catholic missionary spirit in the subsequent decades after the Council,  this installment from Don Pietro Leone’s  The Second Vatican Council and the Eclipse of God” is a must read and well worth the effort of following his painstaking argumentation, which uncovers the insidious false piety, sentimentality and deceit of language found in the documents regarding the Church’s ecumenical association with  non-Catholic Christian denominations, in decrees such as Lumen Gentium and Unitatis Redintegratio.                    F.R.



Don Pietro Leone 






     Historical Background [1]


Ecumenism was born in Protestant missionary circles, where the multiplicity of confessions created grave problems for proselytism. In 1919 the Holy Office enforced the prohibition of Bl. Pius IX (of 1864) to participate in ‘public and private talks organized by non-Catholics that propose to promote the union of all groups calling themselves Christian’ [2]. Despite this prohibition, Ecumenism began to infiltrate the Catholic Church through the initiatives of various groups and individuals, the more important of which we shall proceed briefly to sketch.


Lord Halifax 

Between 1921-6, at the instigation of Lord Halifax and one Father Portal, a series of meetings between Catholics and Anglicans known as ‘The Conversations of Malines’ were held in the house of Cardinal Mercier in Belgium. One of the participants in these colloquies was Dom Lambert Bauduin, who, after having promoted the Liturgical Movement, now threw himself into that of Ecumenism, founding the Monastery of Chevetogne in Belgium in 1925. His monks were to ‘de-Romanise’ themselves and open up to ‘dialogue’ with the Anglicans and Orthodox.  One Father Paul Couturier, after visiting the community, introduced into his own community a prayer intention, not for bringing dissident Christians back to the One True Church, as had hitherto been the Catholic practice, but rather for creating a new spiritual ‘unity’ between the different Christian confessions in the name of a ‘convergence towards Christ’. 

In the encyclical Mortalium Animos of 1928, Pope Pius XI issued a counter-offensive against these two initiatives in Belgium, as well as against the prospective foundation of a ‘German High Church’ made up of the ‘Three Great Christian Confessions’: Protestantism, Catholicism, and the Greek Orthodox. The Pope wrote against the false Ecumenism of the ‘Panchristians’: ‘The re-union of Christians cannot be promoted otherwise than by promoting the return of the dissidents to the One True Church of Christ, from which, to be precise, they once had the unhappy idea of detaching themselves - to that One True Church of Christ which is visible to all and which will remain by the will of Her Founder such as He himself founded it for the salvation of all.’ He repeated the words of Lactantius: ‘Only the Church has the true Cult; She is the source of Truth, the dwelling-place of Faith, the Temple of God: Not to enter, or to depart from, Her, is to be excluded from the hope of Life and Salvation.’ 


In 1929 an inter-confessional French-Russian group was formed in Paris around the figures of Jacques Maritain and Nikolay Berdyaev, seeking convergence on theological and philosophical questions between Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox. One of the participants was Father Yves Congar OP who was inspired to write certain books as a result, including Chrétiens Désunis in 1937 which proposed, amongst orthodox doctrines, other, heterodox doctrines such as that the dissident ‘churches’ are real churches in which it is possible to sanctify oneself.


 Jacques Maritain

Fr. Congar established relations with Dom Beauduin and Fr. Couturier, being inspired by the latter with an ‘evolutionist’ notion of the Church. He began to frequent the Monastery of Chevetogne and the ‘Ecumenical Days’ held there during the 1940’s and 1950’s. The Catholic Ecumenists of these years were intent to extend the concept of Mystical Body to all the Christian ‘churches’, understanding it in a ‘pneumatic’ sense that prescinded from its juridical, institutional structure. Fr. Congar also came under the influence of Fr. Johann-Adam Moehler who inspired him in his turn with the doctrine of a Church ‘the whole of whose Constitution is nothing other than Love Incarnate.’ 

Nikolay Berdyaev 

Amongst the disciples of Fr. Couturier was the Calvinist Roger Schultz. This pastor, together with the Protestant Max Thurian, founded the community of Taizé in 1941, where they were authorized by the Holy See to officiate in the local Catholic Church, there inaugurating a new ‘Ecumenical’ liturgy.

In his Encyclical Orientalis Ecclesia of 1944 Pope Pius XII warned against ‘so conforming or accommodating Catholic teaching to the doctrines of the dissidents… that the fullness of the Catholic doctrine suffers from it, and its genuine and certain meaning becomes obscured’.


Robert Schulz and Max Thurian in Rome at the time of the Council

While Pope Pius XII was battling against Ecumenism in Rome, three prelates who were later to succeed him to the See of St. Peter were promoting it. It was Mgr. Roncalli, as Papal Nuncio in France who had obtained authorization for the ecumenical community of Taizé; Archbishop Montini, as early as 1949 while working in the Secretary of State, was forging contacts with Anglicans: in 1955 he received the Anglican Bishop Bell, and in the following year a delegation of four Anglican clerics stayed with him for 10 days in Milan [3]; in the 1950’s and 60’s Archbishop Karol Wojtyla engaged himself in interconfessional and interreligious dialogue in Krakow.


Anglican Bishop Bell a guest of Archbishop Montini in Milan (1955)  

On the side of the Protestants, by contrast, a Panchristian Assembly founded the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam in 1948, and elaborated an ‘Ecumenical Charter’ in Toronto two years later, which envisaged an ‘Ecumenical Church’ consisting of a conflation of all the various Christian confessions, none of whom were considered to possess the whole truth. From this initiative derived the concept of the ‘People of God’ journeying towards full unity in a Church of the future, which would be a synthesis of all the presently existing confessions. Catholic adherents of ‘La Nouvelle Theologie’ imbued as they were with a spirit of relativism, historicism, and progress, welcomed such a vision of the Church with enthusiasm.


 Analysis of Texts


We proceed to present:


A.    Ecumenism in theory;

B.    Ecumenism in practice;

C.    the Protestantization of Council doctrine .



A.     Ecumenism in Theory



Here we consider the ecclesiological status that the Council accords to non-Catholic Christians.


     i) ‘…many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its [the Catholic Church’s] visible confines.’ (Lumen Gentium 8);


    ii) ‘all that have been justified by faith in baptism are incorporated into Christ.’(Unitatis Redintegratio 3);


    iii) ‘… very many… elements… which go to build up and give life to the church itself can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity; with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements.’ (ibid);


    iv) ‘… the separated churches and  communities as such… have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery if salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation…’ (UR 3);


    v) [The non-Catholics are]‘brothers and sisters… in… ‘imperfect communion with the Catholic Church’… ‘separated brothers and sisters’ (UR 3); 


    vi) Amongst the non-Catholic Christians there is ‘a true union in the Holy Spirit’… ‘and He has strengthened some of them even to the shedding of their blood’ (LG 15).



 General Analysis of Texts


These texts are correct inasmuch as valid Baptism (and the Faith that it brings with it) constitute the principle of unity with the Catholic Church. This is so inasmuch as they incorporate the subject baptized into the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the One Holy Catholic Church; and inasmuch as this holds good even outside the visible confines of the Church, that is to say in a non-Catholic community (such as an Orthodox or Protestant one). In such cases, unless the person baptised leaves the Church, Baptism and Faith constitute elements of sanctification and truth for him, alongside the written Word of God, the life of Grace, Hope and Charity, other gifts of the Holy Spirit as well as visible elements  - such as other sacraments - (text iii).


However, as we shall expound in detail in the following critique, the validity of baptism for many non-Catholic Christian infants does not justify the Church in not evangelizing non-Catholics, for when these infants attain the age of reason, they can easily fall into the schism and heresy of their respective communities. 


If a number of people are making their way to a common destination at night, some on a path who know the terrain and some off the path close to a chasm that they have not seen; then it is the duty of those on the path who know the terrain, and know in particular of the existence of the chasm, to warn the others of its existence. It would be entirely otiose for them to say that it is enough that all the people concerned are heading in the right direction.



   Detailed Analysis of Texts


   The texts give either:


      1. an unclear picture of Catholic doctrine,

      2. an incomplete picture of it; or

      3. contradict it.


1.     They give an unclear picture of Church doctrine


 in that they do not explain:


a)     the meaning of the phrases ‘elements of sanctification and of truth’, and ‘outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church’ (text i);


b)    that these ‘elements of sanctification and truth’ must (if the phrase is to have a Catholic meaning) refer to the sacraments and the Faith, above all to Baptism and to the Faith which it brings with it;


c)     that it is Baptism and Faith which give access to the life of Grace, and access and value to the other elements listed in text (iii) above.



2.     The texts give an incomplete picture of Church doctrine


in that they do not state:


a)     that baptism will only incorporate a member of a non-Catholic community into the Catholic Church if the baptism is valid. It is essential to state this fact explicitly, since baptism is indispensable for incorporation into the Church, and since many who call themselves Christians do not have the advantage of a valid baptism (such as the ‘Unitarians’);


b)    that the subject of an Orthodox or Protestant community who is validly baptised and possesses the Faith, becomes on baptism a member of the Catholic Church, outside Her visible confines in the sense of outside Her physical, visible body, but within Her invisible confines as belonging to Her spiritual, invisible soul;


c)     that the subject of the Orthodox community thereby gains access to all of the seven sacraments, whereas the subject of the typical Protestant community gains access to only one, that is to say marriage (there being only two valid sacraments for the Protestants - baptism and marriage); that many other Protestants do not even have a valid baptism (as already noted) or (in consequence) a sacramental marriage either;


d)    that baptism is not an absolute, but only a relative, good, for by baptism the subject of the Orthodox or Protestant community becomes a material schismatic or heretic (respectively), so that he will be deprived of ‘those many Heavenly gifts and helps which can only be enjoyed in the Catholic Church’ [4]. Moreover, if and when he deliberately separates himself from the Church, or if and when he denies one of Her dogmas (as is not unlikely if he remains in such a community), he will become respectively a formal schismatic or heretic, and will, in so doing, put himself outside the Catholic Church;


e)     that at this point he will have no more access to the ‘elements of sanctification’, for the sacraments can now no longer avail him; and that if he is a heretic he will have no more ‘elements of truth’ either, for, by denying a dogma, he forfeits the entire truth (in the sense of the Faith). What he retains will be only an assortment of disparate beliefs which constitute ‘truths’ no longer in a supernatural, but now only in a purely natural sense, and which are also deprived of any salvific value.  



3.     The texts contradict Catholic doctrine


a)   in claiming that ‘elements of sanctification and truth’ belong to the non-Catholic communities as such (text iv). But these elements, namely the sacraments (all or some of them) and the Faith, belong exclusively to the Catholic Church and to the individual members of those non-Catholic communities who have not yet fallen into formal schism or heresy;


b)    in using the words ‘brothers and sisters’ of non-Catholic Christians indiscriminately (text v). For these denominations can only have meaning as signifying brotherhood and sisterhood in Christ, that is by valid baptism combined with only material heresy and schism. For it is valid baptism alone that makes the baptized persons brothers and sisters in Christ - and at the same time children both of the Heavenly Father and of Holy Mother Church. And yet not all non-Catholic Christians are our brothers and sisters in Christ since not all of them are validly baptized (see above), and not all those that are validly baptised have remained in the Church either (having become formal heretics or schismatics, see above);


c)     in stating that non-Catholic Christians possess the means of salvation, union with the Church, and martyrdom (text vi). The Catholic Church, Her sacraments and Her Faith, are the only means of salvation; only Catholics are united by the Holy Spirit within Her bosom to other Catholics; only Catholics may attain martyrdom, that is to say for the Catholic Faith. Non-Catholic communities are not in themselves means of salvation; non-Catholic Christians do not enjoy union in the Holy Spirit; nor may they attain martyrdom.


Those who belong to a non-Catholic community may be saved, they may have union amongst themselves, they may attain martyrdom, but not qua members of a non-Catholic community or qua non-Catholics, but rather qua members of the Catholic Church, qua Catholics: as members of Her spiritual, invisible dimension (and despite being members of non-Catholic communities, that is to say as material schismatics or heretics).


St. Cyprian declares [5]: ‘He cannot be a martyr who is not in the Church; he cannot attain unto  the kingdom who forsakes that which shall reign there. .. Such a one may be slain; crowned he cannot be.’



Conclusion to Section A


We have seen in this Section how the Council unduly elevates the status of non-Catholic Christians. This it does both in the content of its texts and in their form.


As to the content of the texts, the Council, by presenting Catholic doctrine unclearly or incompletely, or even by contradicting it, gives undue weight to non-Catholic Christians, or in other words gives an unrealistic and excessively favorable vision of their status. This it does by emphasizing what the Church has in common with them - the ‘positive’ side (such as participation in baptism), to the expense of what She does not - the ‘negative’ side (such as membership of schismatic or heretical communities).


As to the form of the texts, we see an abandonment of scientific, precise, traditional terminology such as ‘Orthodox’, ‘Protestant’, schismatic’, heretic’, ‘apostate’ [6], ‘material’, ‘formal’; and an abandonment of other distinctions as well, such as those between valid and invalid baptism, and those between individuals and communities. Abandoning precise concepts and formulations such as these, the Council substitutes them with vague, innovative phrases like ‘elements of sanctification and truth’, and ‘imperfect communion.’


As a result of these deficiencies both in the content and in the form of the texts, the Council presents non-Catholics in an unduly positive light, and in effect casts doubt on the necessity of valid baptism, of the possession of the whole Faith, and of submission to the Pope for salvation. Since, moreover, valid baptism, the possession of the whole Faith and subjection to the Pope constitute membership of the Church, the Council in casting doubt on these three necessary conditions for salvation effectively also casts doubt on the dogma: Outside the Church there is no Salvation.


Meanwhile, in the absence of proper definitions, the whole teaching becomes amorphous and obscurantist, like a mass of gelatine from which the defining mold has been removed before it has set. The Council’s failure to define is a consequence of its denial of essences and of its abandonment of the principle of the formal cause, as we shall explain in chapter 9; it is an example of its skepticism concerning the expression of Truth, the second false principle regarding Truth that we identified in the Introduction.



[1] RdM, I 6

[2] de Participatione Catholicorum societati ad procurandam Christianitatis unitatem, AAS XI

[3] MD pjc, p.198-200

[4] Mystici Corporis 103

[5] de Unitate Ecclesiae,  s. 14

[6] None of these five terms appear anywhere in the Council texts