Speaking at a Vatican symposium, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said that an ecumenical catechism would help Catholics and members of major Protestant communities adhere more faithfully to the foundations of the Christian doctrine. Such a catechism would promote "an ecumenism of basics that identifies, reinforces, and deepens Christians' common foundation in Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity as expressed in our common creed and in the doctrine of the first ecumenical councils."

At the site www.Catholic Culture.org I found the following comments from people who are donors to this conservative Catholic voice. The range of reactions below will give you a good feel for how many conservatives in the Catholic Church react to the idea of "ecumenism." If I took these same comments, changed just a few words in them, and then posted them with Protestant "fear" words towards the idea that we could actually learn from deep relationships with Catholics it would provide the same sense that you get from reading these all too typical responses of some conservative Catholics. Here were the comments, with my own thoughts inside the brackets

[ ] following. These comments had been posted by late on Wednesday, February 10:

I guess I'm going to be the "strange voice" here, in that I agree with the proposal of Cardinal Kasper. I believe it is within the parameters already given in the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" with regard to the Church's official teaching regarding Ecumenism and Christian Unity. It also seems consistent with Pope Benedict XVI's earlier work as Joseph Ratzinger titled "The True Meaning of Christian Brotherhood." [Note: I am guessing that this comment may have been submitted by a reader of this blog who is, as you will see in reading all the comments that follow, the only sympathetic post re: Cardinal Kasper's encouragement to develop an ecumenical witness through a new catechism.]

The Reader's Digest Catechism! Contributions accepted at $120.00 for jokes (prudent ones published), $75.00 for "Quotable Quotes" (pro Christian) and the section of books and reality stories would be open to publish "reality based stories" that show the complexities of everyday Christian life. This may be a best seller publication. The real question is this: will this publication get Christians to salvation and a place in the heaven with Jesus or to Hotel California prime accommodations? [The cynicism expressed here is astounding.]


The Church has a Catechism already–end of story.

Walter Kasper is in the upper echelons of the Church. That is scary indeed. If the Church embraced it's patrimony and rid herself of the people who held heretical ideas than she wouldn't be in this mess. This near exclusive focus on ecumenism has got to stop or the Church will keep losing more people including me. [The church is in a mess and leaders are always to blame! This is a very unCatholic response actually.]

I don't like the attempts to change The Catholic Church into a church more acceptable to Protestants. Our Church is the church Jesus Christ founded. It is unchangeable and anyone wanting to research our beliefs has only to go to The Catechism of The Catholic Church. That says it all! [Note: Our church is "unchangeable," a view that still refuses to accept the significant role of Vatican II.]

This smells suspiciously like the pie-in-the-sky vision of C.S. Lewis for "Mere Christianity." Sorry, that is an unattainable and unreasonable objective. Mere Christianity, when you boil it all down, is exactly what the Catholic Church has. Take anything away and the whole structure collapses.

Why isn't this man given his papers?

Its stuff like this that makes me seriously consider becoming Orthodox and leaving Catholicism altogether. There is too much compromise and worldliness and has been ever since Vatican II and it is starts right in the highest levels of the Church on down. Pray for me too.

Bad idea Walt. [Protestants clearly have no corner on disrespect for their spiritual leaders!]

I agree completely with Ave Maria. I think we should all pray fervently for a soon retirement of Cardinal Kasper.

This frightens me. As a Catholic convert from the Protestants I can only consider this as the watering down of the teachings of the Church. [When all else fails many people will appeal to "fear."]

I recommend The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Anything else would be watered down. Unity is not found in the least common denominator, but in the fullness of the truth. Cardinal Kasper should resign.

My reason for posting this news, and the comments posted on the Catholic site, is to show Protestant readers how many Catholics react to any kind of ecumenism with fear and loathing. Sadly, this spirit is not limited to Protestants or Catholics. Only the grace of God and the fresh breeze of the Holy Spirit will alter people who fear so deeply loving and respecting those who are not in our communion. These quotes are as sectarian as those you would find on the most conservative Protestant fundamentalist sites. What must we do? Love and pray for unity, which will not come about by the work of the human flesh but by the work of Christ through all Christians who are prepared to humble themselves before the grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ. O Lord haste the day!


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  1. Bruce Newman February 11, 2010 at 7:34 am

    I appreciate this. I will be received into full communion in the Catholic church at the Easter vigil. My RCIA class, where we are going through the catechism, has been a good experience. Some people in it are former Protestants like myself. So far, I have not sensed the kind of attitudes you point out.
    But I know I’m just getting started and people are people wherever you find them. I’m sure I will eventually encounter the attitudes you’ve highlighted. All I know is that I don’t want to adopt them now any more than I did before I came to Catholicism.
    My wife, who remains Protestant, expresses interest at times in my Catholic views now that she’s seen I’m not going to turn into some kind of mindless genuflecting idiot. That is, until she listens to John MacArthur (an otherwise able teacher) on the radio and the unfortunate things he says about Catholics. Then it’s as if I have to start all over. But I don’t mind. As you point out it is only the Holy Spirit that will alter things at the core.
    This recalcitrance in Catholics and Protestants make me wonder just how many of us read the Scriptures with an eye to being affected by them. How can anyone seriously meditate on Peter and how the Spirit taught him to not call unclean what God cleansed (for example), and still maintain such cynicism and myopia? It’s such a sad thing to behold.

  2. John H. Armstrong February 11, 2010 at 8:02 am

    What a truly Christlike attitude you have Bruce. May the Triune God bless you as you seek to glorify him in the Roman Catholic Church. And may you always keep the same humble spirit shown in your comment. Your reference to St. Peter is a great thought. I meet so many brothers and sisters like you everywhere I go and do not want my readers to think this post represents the hundreds of good folks I have come to know as my friends in the Catholic communion. It is, however, a sad reminder of the “sectarian spirit” that remains in every church and (potentially) in every one of our hearts. We must all drive out this spirit with Christ’s love.

  3. Bryan Cross February 11, 2010 at 8:43 am

    The attitude in the comments (that you quoted) is not good at all. But I’m not sure it is helpful (ecumenically) to focus on the disrespectful attitudes of such persons. I suspect that at least some of them already have a distrust of Cardinal Kasper, before this event, on account of other things he has said and done regarding ecumenical matters.
    That said, Cardinal Kasper’s proposal is problematic, with regard to what it implies viz-a-viz Catholic doctrine. The Catholic Church, by her own doctrine, is not a sect. In her own self-understanding she is the Church Christ founded, and all other Christian communities are in schism from her. For the Catholic Church to write an ecumenical Catechism would imply (at least in a functional or performative manner) that the Catholic Church is just a sect. It would imply that there really is such a thing as ‘mere Christianity’ shared by Protestants and Catholics alike, and that what is disagreed about between us is not essential. It would imply that the Church is not one. It would imply that there is presently no visible catholic Church. Even if the making of such a Catechism would not explicitly state such things, it would imply such things by its very existence. And those things are contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church.
    In that respect Cardinal Kasper’s proposal tacitly compromises Catholic doctrine. Finding common ground on justification say, in a document such as the Joint Declaration, is not the same thing as publishing an ecumenical Catechism. A Catechism is designed to instruct the neophyte in the faith. It is designed to train people, and even children and families, in “the faith”. And that’s why these orthodox Catholics (not “conservative Catholics”) are rightly objecting to his proposal, even though their attitude is less than charitable. If Cardinal Kasper had proposed to publish a document simply listing out the doctrines on which Catholics, Orthodox and Evangelical Protestants agree, that wouldn’t have implied anything about whether the Catholic Church is or is not the Church Christ founded. But calling it a ‘Catechism’, implies that the Catholic Church is not the Church Christ founded, and that not all her dogmas are essential to the faith, and that “the faith” is really some form of “mere Christianity.” And that is contrary to the Catholic faith.
    In the peace of Christ,
    – Bryan

  4. John H. Armstrong February 11, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Bryan, you have clearly made some excellent points except that many fellow orthodox Catholics do not agree with all of them consistently. You are “interpreting” both the letter and the spirit regarding the application of post-Vatican II ecumenism. While the Catholic Church does see itself as the “true” church so does the Orthodox Church, but it says this with a bit more nuance since East and West are so divided and speak so very differently. Pope John Paul II was right when he said “the church had two lungs, East and West, and she needs both to breathe well.” The problem is both communions still refuse to seriously consider how to relate to one another. Could the idea of “we are the ‘true’ church be a barrier” to this dialogue? I am quite sure that it is and pray that this understanding will be replaced by something better and more reflective of the reforms that are ongoing in the East and the West.
    I personally engage the claim that Rome is “the true church” in my forthcoming book. I agree that Rome is not a sect, not in the way we have historically used the term. Protestant polemics have seriously slandered both the church and Catholics in using such tactics. But can individual Catholics, and Catholic declarations, become/be sectarian? I am convinced that they not only can but they have and this is why the church continues to “reform,” albeit in a way far different from the more schismatic ways of many (most?) Protestants.
    The reason I posted these reactions was to show my readers, who are both Catholic and Protestant, how this kind of sectarian language and spirit can be seen on both sides of Christ’s divided one church. Even if you assume Rome is the one church, and we are separated brothers and sisters, then we are not in communion with the church. Why? If the answer is entirely our fault then the dialogue ends. If we can share in the discussion about how and why we are divided in the spirit of Christ then we can charitably work toward what we should be praying and longing for. Cardinal Kasper, like him or not, has championed this effort for decades. You do not have to always agree with him to appreciate his commitment to this cause, one which the last two popes supported him in openly.
    As for “mere Christianity” call it whatever you wish but a growing number of us, both Catholic and Protestant (as well as some Orthodox), recognize that this as a way forward into what we pray will be a better time than that of the last 1,000 years. We have to begin somewhere other than throwing bombs back and forth at one another about who is the “true” and “false” church/sect.
    I am perfectly at peace with your own conscience informing you that you are in the “true” church. Indeed I would urge you to follow your conscience as the Spirit informs you to follow Christ as Lord, the most basic assumption a Christian can make about each other’s practice of their faith. But I would also urge that we all look for better ways to carry on the dialogue begun in in the 1960s without simply referring to one answer as “orthodox” to the exclusion of all others.
    Final comment—if the last two popes held the view of some conservative Catholics re: ecumenism then their words and actions make no sense at all unless you think they are simply wooing all of us back to the Catholic fold (as it is today and always will be) as the only “way” we will experience the reality of oneness this side of the coming of Christ in the Last Day.

  5. Nick Morgan February 11, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Hi John,
    Thank you for posting this. In response to Bryan, I consider myself an “orthodox Catholic”, and have read our Catechism cover to cover, and reference it frequently. I also have read several books by Pope Benedict XVI and consider him one of the best and most theologically minded Popes in church history. I say all of this because I DO NOT AGREE with the attitudes and statements of several of the respondents to the post in Catholic Culture. I think Cardinal Kasper’s proposal is a STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION and very consistent with the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church and our Current and previous 4 Popes. I am convinced from Church teaching AND the Scriptures that the path back to visible Christian unity for all of us starts with each of us drawing closer to our Lord Jesus Christ in humility, repentance, and faith “expressing itself through love”.
    And Bruce, I would love to talk to you more since we share similar convictions and situations. Let me know if you want my e-mail address.
    God bless you all!

  6. Chris Criminger February 11, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Deqar Nick,
    Please add my email address and if I remember right, are you in the Louisville Kentucky area? (if so, we are not even that far a part when it comes to actual miles—and I suspect—maybe not that far a part theologically either.
    Chris Criminger,
    Vallonia Indiana paleo_orthodox@yahoo.com

  7. Bruce Newman February 11, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    Sure, I’d like to have your email address. Mine is rbnewman55@earthlink.net.

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