29 February 2008

Fr. Philip Neri's Three Year Plan for Faith Formation: UPDATED

Pretty much everyone admits that the quality Catholic catechesis in this country has taken a dramatic nose-dive in the last forty years. Replacing the contents of the historic Catholic faith with poorly digested pop-psychobabble, leftist political rhetoric, feminist power-grabs, and Protestantized biblical scholarship, our professional catechesis have left the U.S. church with at least two generations of Catholics incapable of articulating the most basic tenet of what we claim to believe as heirs of the apostles.

These same Catholics can emote canonical emotions on cue; “share” their faith when asked (i.e., give an uneducated opinion on some hot-button topic); and defend to the death the libertarian definition of conscience that they believe allows them, without consequence, to use artificial contraception, obtain abortions, divorce and marry without an annulment, and just generally do whatever they please. What they can’t do is describe, defend, or assent to the Roman Catholic faith as revealed in scripture, defined by the Fathers in the creeds, taught by the magisterium, and lived by the Church. And because they don’t know the faith, their “right to dissent” is wasted on tilting at Ecclesial Strawmen.

That we need a top-to-bottom, radical overhaul of the entire catechetical enterprise in this country is as obvious as a rabid possum in the outhouse and as pressing as finding that possum another home…quickly.

One fairly common solution to the problem of vincible ignorance of the faith is the establishment of diocesan centers for continuing education or adult lay formation programs. Insofar as any of these actually teach the faith, they are wonderful as antidotes to forty years of catechetical neglect. However, these centers and institutes are often recruitment and distribution facilities for dissent and pastoral malpractice. The more notorious of these will actively teach against the faith in the name of “cultural or historical relevancy” and in the name of “adult conscience formation.”

Another, and I would argue more specifically “Vatican Two,” solution to the problem is the parish-based, lay-run adult study group. The Episcopal Church offers what I think is probably one of the best organized lay-run continuing education programs called “Education for Ministry.” This is a four-year program that covers all the major elements of a professional seminary education at the master’s level. No doubt there are orthodox Catholic equivalents out there; however, most of the ones I’ve seen or heard about just can’t seem to get the basics right and refuse to side with the church on controversial issues, opting instead for wienie apologies or outright lies.

Below you will find a list of books that I believe one would need to start and maintain a three-year, once-a-week, lay-lead catechetical group in a parish.

But before we get to the books, let’s browse a few mandatory cautions:

1). No one living is as smart as two-thousand years of Church teaching and tradition. Some have come close (Rahner, von Balthasar) but 99.99999% of us are not yet ready to declare ourselves capable of consuming, digesting, regurgitating, and examining critically the monstrous volume of theology, philosophy, spirituality, history, science, biography, etc. produced in the church for the church. Therefore, a certain humility is required when stepping off into this project. This means leaving undeveloped and uncritical positions behind. The know-it-all has nothing to learn.

2). Do not let process crowd out content. If you have twenty minutes left in your group and you have the choice between looking up the word “consubstantial” in the dictionary or sharing your feelings about the Creed, find the dictionary and learn something. “Sharing” has its place but that place is near the back of the line. It has been the whole “sharing” obsession that has emptied our catechesis of its content.

3). Read. read. read. . .and wonder why! Every text deserves the respect of a critical reading. Ask questions until you are confident you could explain the basics to a tenth-grader. There is nothing about the faith that requires us to just shut up and take it. However, humility requires that we assume that it is our inability to understand that is confusing us about the doctrine rather than the falsity of the doctrine, or the unwillingness of the Church to explain themselves clearly (cf. #1 above, “I’m Not 2,000 Years Smart!”).

4). Don’t shy away from disagreement or argument. At the same time, don’t be a bully. Divine revelation is fixed. Our understanding of that revelation is fairly fluid and requires us to talk to one another for better understanding. This is not to say that everything about the faith is up for grabs. It is to say that particular expressions of the objectively true faith can be questioned and explored for clarity. Example: I’ve tried for some eight years now to understand the Church’s teaching on what happens to us after death. I’ve read just about every official document and still I fail to get it. I do not assume that this is a lack of clarity on the church’s part or a failure on the church’s part to make her case. I assume that I am simply not yet capable of “getting it.”

5). You are not an idiot, so please don’t come into the process thinking the project is above you. Yes, most of the ideas and texts are somewhat difficult. So what? Read the text. Look up the words you don’t know. Check references to scripture and the Catechism. And just get what you can as you can. If you think there’s a quick and easy way to have 2,000 years of the faith jammed into your brain…well, I got a possum farm I can let you have for cheap.

The Plan:

For a three-year, once-a-week, two hour class, I would divide the reading (roughly) this way:

Year One: Scripture & The Fathers

Gospels, Pauline Letters: 3 mos.

Patristic sources: 6 mos.

Secondary Texts listed below: 3 mos.

Year Two: Medieval Period

Early Medieval: primarily Anselm, early scholasticism: 2 mos.

Medieval: Bernard and Aquinas, high scholasticism: 6 mos.

Late Medieval: Mystics (Eckhart, etc.): 4 mos.

Year Three: Trent, Vatican One & Two

Council of Trent: 2 mos.

First Vatican Council: 2 mos.

Second Vatican Council: 8 mos.

The Texts

I. Necessary Texts (all three years)

a. a Bible (in order of preference: NRSV, NJB, NIV, NAB)

b. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994

c. Companion to the CCC (full texts of the footnotes in the CCC)

d. Documents of Vatican Two, Austin Flannery, OP

e. Readings in the History of Christian Theology, Volume 1: From Its Beginnings to the Eve of the Reformation, Wm Placher

f. Readings in the History of Christian Theology, Volume 2: From the Reformation to the Present, W, Placher

g. The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism, Bernard McGinn

h. a good theological dictionary

II. Year One: Texts for Patristic Period

a. Robert L. Wilken, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God, 2005.

b. Andrew Louth, et al., Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers, 1987.

c. John R Willis,. Teachings of the Church Fathers, 2002.

d. Henrry Chadwick, The Early Church, 1993.

e. www.newadvent.org (click under “Fathers”)

1. Ambrose, “On the Mysteries”

2. Augustine, “On Christian Doctrine” (for the brave), “The Enchiridion,” & “Of Faith and the Creed”

3. Clement of Rome, “First Epistle”

4. Ignatius of Antioch, “The Martyrdom of Ignatius”

5. Any other you would like to include…

III. Year Two: Texts for the Medieval Period

a. Carl Volz, The Medieval Church: From the Dawn of the Middle Ages to the Eve of the Reformation, 1997.

b. Brian Davies, The Thought of Thomas Aquinas, 1993

c. Robert Barron, Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master, 2008

d. Selections from the Placher anthology

e. Selections from the McGinn anthology

f. Rule of St Benedict

IV. Texts for Trent, Vatican One & Two

a. document of the Council of Trent (on-line)

b. documents of the First Vatican Council (on-line)

c. documents of the Second Vaticna Council (on-line)

d. Mysterium fidei, Humanae vitae, Pope Paul VI

e. Redemptor homine, Redemptoris mater, Veritatis splendor, Fides et ratio, Pope John Paul II

f. Deus caritatis est, Spe et salvi, Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI


Most contemporary Catholic catechesis is based on the notion that you are too stupid, too lazy, or just don’t care enough to read moderately difficult texts about church history or theology. Frankly, this might be true. But even if it is true and despite yourself you truly want to immerse yourself in your faith: READ! Don’t try to understand every sentence, every paragraph. Read the assignment and just keep reading. Every time you want to skimp on the reading, say to yourself, “Ah HA! There’s something on the next page the Devil doesn’t want me to see!”

Keep your heart and mind open to the movement of the Holy Spirit as you read and discuss the texts. We learn in more ways than just the intellectual. Contemporary adult catechesis has one thing right: experience is vital to the process of integrating knowledge; in other words, knowledge has to be lived in order to become wisdom, otherwise it degrades to mere information.

If you have someone who has read some of these texts or knows something about the history of the faith, it might be a good idea to invite them to your group. You might even want to make him/her the group facilitator. This person ought to be able to help the group discuss the texts critically. If you keep your nose in the texts (and away from opinions, preferences, and feelings), there should be no danger of any one person dominating the group. Very often we are told that “sharing our feelings” is the best way to avoid one person from dominating an intellectual exchange; however, I’ve been in many, many groups where one Unstable Emotional Bully shut down most legitimates conversations with, “That offends me…” The proper response to this claim is: “OK. But are you harmed?”

Yes, this is an ambitious plan. Lots of books. Lots of reading. But just think: at the end of a mere three years you will have under your belt, in your head, and on your heart a nice chunk of knowledge about the Catholic faith and the rest of your life to turn that knowledge into wisdom!

If you want a few suggestions for advancing the reading list to the upper-classmen undergraduate level, let me know. If you want to tone it down a bit, that’s easy: keep the anthologies of primary texts and the histories. Put everything else aside. . .for now.

Reading the Texts and Group Discussion

These suggestions should be applicable to most any way your group wants to configure itself.

The basic idea is to read the texts and then have an intelligent conversation about what you have read. A caution: you will be tempted, as we all are in this postmodern age, to let the conversation drift into “sharing feelings” or “sharing experiences.” Strictly speaking, there is nothing wrong with this. However—and this is a Big However—, merely giving words to a memory or an emotion or a fantasy provoked by the text is not what intelligent conversation is about.

Yes, we must contemplate, and contemplation is much more than just “reasoning through” propositions and syllogisms. Contemplation is reading to pray, reading to understand, reading to grow in holiness and wisdom. Therefore, it is important that you actually know what the text says before you start sharing. Otherwise, what is it exactly are you experiencing?

Try these:

. . .have each member of the group select a passage before the group meets that he/she is ready to read aloud and summarize for the group.

. . .read the passage out loud and offer a summary of the basic argument or claim being made. . .

. . .as a group discuss any unfamiliar terminology or concepts; grab the dictionary if necessary.

. . .now, begin a “close reading” of the text; that is, take the passage apart one or two phrases or sentences at a time, parsing each one in relation to the next. One way to do this is to grab a thesaurus and look up key words to see what their synonyms might be.

. . .as you go along reading a phrase or sentence, back up and repeat the whole sentence or series of sentences until it makes some kind of sense for you.

. . .once you have the basic sense of the idea/argument/claim, discuss it until the group has exhausted all of its questions.

. . .questions can take the form of “What does he/she mean by X?” or “How are X and Y related here?” or, more critically, “Since X is ________, then why can’t we say Y?” or “Is X true?”

. . .the idea here is to avoid at all costs the Death Phrase: “I feel that________.” Feelings are fine and wonderful gifts from God, but if you are going to grasp content, you must hold off on feelings and experiences until you have something to feel about or have an experience of. Very often we use “I feel” to mean “I think” and the former becomes a way for us to express an opinion that appears to be immune from critical assessment.

. . .to say, “I feel that Augustine’s idea of Original Sin isn’t very helpful” or “I feel that Ambrose is being negative” is pointless. How I feel about an idea says nothing about whether or not that idea is true, good, or beautiful.

. . .make your feelings into a claim about the truth, goodness, and/or beauty of the idea being presented: “I think that Augustine’s idea of Original Sin is dangerous.” Now we have a discussion! Tell the group why you think that this true.

. . .stick to the text; stick to making “I think” statements; avoid “I feel” statements and grow in your knowledge of the faith!


It is better to spend two hours thinking through one sentence than it is to spend two hours emoting over an entire book.

Just like feeling, thinking is something we all do, and we all have the right and responsibility to express our thoughts.

Do yourselves a favor and think with the Church! Assume our 2,000 year old Church has something to teach you and let yourself be taught. Disagreeing with a Church teaching is almost always about a failure to understand the teaching properly.

If you disagree with a Church teaching, make sure you understand it fully. Put the teaching “in suspension” and see what develops over the course of time. Please note: just because you’ve put a teaching “in suspension” doesn’t mean that you are free to dissent from the substance of the teaching. For example, let’s say that I put the Church’s teaching on adultery “in suspension.” I cannot then say, “Well, since I don’t agree with this teaching, and I’ve suspended my assent to the teaching, it is morally acceptable for me to have an adulterous affair until I decide that the teaching is correct.”

You can’t learn anything new if you come to the text with your mind made up with regard to the truth of the teaching.

Anyone in the group who bullies the others to accept or reject a teaching should be shown the door. This is faith formation. The assumption from the very beginning has to be: we are here as faithful Christians to learn our faith as it has been given to us. This is not a project of theological innovation nor is it a project designed to help you memorize the Catechism.

A note on conscience: “Conscience” is not a magical word that allows us to believe anything we want to believe about the faith. Your conscience is a divine gift that allows you to recognize the truth when you see it. Conscience does not invent the truth; conscience discovers the truth. Conscience does not make a belief true; conscience makes sure we only believe true things. Be careful, therefore, how you wield the gift of conscience!

Please leave comments and ask questions!

And if you really like this plan of study, buy me a book!

(WOW! Thanks for the swift business on the Wish List. . .)


  1. Here, here!

    I'm currently interviewing for some catechesis-related positions and one of my talking points is the improper emphasis in some catechesis programs on personal sharing and feelings. Those are all well and good in their proper context but should not supplant instruction in the content of the faith. Faith sharing without a grounding in content is useless. As an example, the adult faith formation group I am a part of, all too often, devolves into reading the scriptures for the upcoming Sunday and then the leader asking, "What do you think?"

    The silence is, of course, deafening.

    My only concern re: the program you have laid out is the lack of Old Testament reading. At least some of the highlights should be hit (Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah) to put the New Testament in its proper context.

  2. Important post, but I think you need to revisit it for a few edits. I don't know blogging or html so I don't know what's missing.

  3. Anonymous2:58 PM

    Father, any chance that you'd want to come to the Netherlands and have a chat with your brothers over here? (You could also stay for, say, three years. I hear that's long enough to give us some good basic cathechesis...)

  4. A quibble: it seems like year three ends up being a bit over a year in length.

    More seriously, this looks like a great curriculum. While I've not yet read everything on it (especially the recent non-papal, non-catechism books), what I have read of it is terrific source material. (I'm a convert from a Lutheran background, FWIW.)

    Two suggestions: move Jesus of Nazareth to the very beginning (and, ideally, the eagerly-awaited second volume) and then add Paul VI's Credo of the People of God straightaway after that.

  5. Anonymous8:42 PM

    NRSV?? Why, of all Bible translations, would you propose the one that never misses an opportunity to twist the meaning with politically-correct spin? Give me a plain old RSV any day.

  6. Well said!

    And by the way, some of us in Master's-level courses, seeking MTS's through certain seriously Catholic colleges want the hard stuff, wand the faithful stuff, and would usher in a serious revolt if a heretical prof came our way. Or a dissenting one.

    We'd eat them alive.

    We need more programs like ours, and the grads of this program are working HARD to promote authentic Catholicism.

    I like your curriculum. Count me in...once I'm educated enough to carry it on accurately!

  7. Anon,

    I think the annotations/footnotes in the Oxford Annotated NRSV are invaluable. Of course, I hate the limp attempt at "inclusive language," but this is easily remedied by buying the Ignatius Press version that follows the translation protocols laid down in "Liturgiam authenticam," i.e. no silly nonsense about P.C. tinkering with the text.

  8. I think the OT material is covered adequately in the CCC and the Companion.

    I think "Jesus of Nazareth" needs the broadest possible context b/c our Holy Father tackles some big scholarly issues in that book.

  9. Anonymous9:38 AM

    Thanks, Father, for the reply. I don't know anything about the Ignatius Press version. The Oxford NRSV and RSV both have good footnotes, although it seems to me that the NRSV footnotes stray into the territory of "hostile witness" quite often.

  10. This looks like a really sound structure for Catholic adult ed!

    There's no reason folks can't do this on their own, and then start over - think how much better it would be the second time around!

    (oh - by the way, I mentioned you again to your namesake next door this evening).

  11. I've been taking part in my parish's "faith sharing" this Lent called Disciples in Missions. The class booklet feels like politically correct b.s. Today's discussions were focused on how we should not cling to tradition.

    I feel like every week's readings is undermining the teachings of the Church. Several times the "sharing" has turned into complaints about how the Church has too many rules, and how the Vatican shouldn't have one single leader.

    I finally had to be brave enough today to speak out in defense of Pope Benedict. There is one older couple in particular who "know everything," and they are firm believers in a very modernized, Protestantized Church. They speak louldly and firmly, and when you voice (gently) your opposing position, they shake their heads as if you are some kind of idiot.

    I'm a new Catholic, and I definitely lean to the ancient, Traditional Church, but I've been pretty discouraged to hear the attitudes of my fellow parishioners.

    I guess I have to say, I sort of hate the faith sharing experience as it is now because it just seems to be every body talking about how they want rock music, children's church, big TV screens in the sanctuary with the words to the music, etc. And nobody is talking about what the Catholic Church teaches and why. No one is coming out of this experience with a clearer understanding of the Faith, just a lot of confusion.

  12. Can anyone answer a question for me? In this faith sharing group, the couple I mentioned above said that the Pope recently stated that there is no original sin. Did the Pope really make this statement?

    I am posting this question here because I just don't know who else I can ask.

  13. LaGallina,

    Others are welcomed to answer, of course, but let me put your mind to rest: the Pope has said no such thing. Someone isn't reading very carefully. My guess is that this idea comes from the fact that our Holy Father recently put the idea of limbo to rest, that is, the idea that unbaptized babies go to limbo rather than heaven. Some have said that ruling out limbo destroys the notion of original sin. It doesn't.

    So, orginial sin is still alive and working in the Church...

    Fr. Philip, OP

  14. LaGallina,

    On the issue of the liberal bullies in your faith-sharing group--stand up to them...force them to give reasons for their goofy beliefs...force them to defend themselves using the CCC...and tell the leader of the group that you feel bullied. Basically, don't let these fascists ruin your faith formation with their dogmatic dissent. You have a right to learn the truth of the faith as the Church understands it and these people need to be called out.

    This sort of thing is the very reason I hate "faith-sharing" groups. Without an authoritative text in front of you, the loud bullies easily intimidate others and leave people with the wrong idea about the faith...please feel free to write to me anytime you have a question or need encouragement. My email address is on the left side bar.

    God bless...Fr. Philip, OP

  15. Anonymous8:36 PM

    1) I hope this is the sort of thing taught in Dallas' Religious Education program!

    2) Telling a bully, face to face (or better yet in a group) that they are a bully is tremendously effective. BTW, when you do that make sure to include, "I feel that you are a bully" because feelings can't be wrong :)

    3) Book on the way for an awesome post. How do you plan to get the books to Rome?

  16. Anonymous8:03 AM

    Can anyone recommend a good theological dictionary? That was the only stumper on the list.

  17. ICB, most of the philosophy books will be going with me to Rome...either by luggage or DHL. The rest will go in storage until I get back to fetch them.

    Anon, I've added a link at IIe for Gerald O'Collins theological dictionary. Fr. John Hardon, SJ also has a decent one out.

    Fr. Philip, OP

  18. Anonymous12:40 PM

    What does St. Philip Neri have to do with this?

  19. I don't think the Holy Father put the idea of limbo to rest. It is still, so far as I know, a perfectly permissible theological opinion.

  20. Dustthouart,

    I'm Fr. Philip Neri.


    Of course, your'e right. I should have said that the Holy Father put to rest the presumed necessity of the existence of limbo.

    Fr. Philip, OP

  21. This is fantastic! I'm working towards a BA in Theology right now and I've read some (but not all) of these texts and this curriculum gives me a good idea of what else I should be reading in my non-existent spare time. I'm probably going into religious education, for children and/or adults after I graduate and I've noticed such a huge problem in my parish's RCIA program with people sharing their often erroneous opinions and focusing on irrelevant "feelings" more than the content of revelation. Thank you for emphasizing this in your post!

  22. Anonymous1:55 PM

    Hi Fr Philip
    I was over at Melanie Bettinelli's blog and she linked to you, so as I've done Catechesis and love learning about it more, I thought I'd give my two cents.

    It is not just the content that is important, but HOW you give the content. After 10 years in ministry I have discoverd that it is just as bad to bore folks with the truth as it is to give them garbage and call it truth. This is not just "information" it is a real living presence of God living in our hearts and it being lived out in our communities. This is not liberalspeak, it is very real. It is an invitation, always, to conversion and should always point to the center of our faith, the Passion of the Lord which we celebrate in the Mass.

    So, a few more books to add to your list as well as a few magazines:

    1. The Mystery We Proclaim by Msgr Kelly.
    2. Educational Philosophy of St John Bosco
    3. St. Augustine: The First Catechetical Instruction
    4. Anything by Joseph D. White, PhD
    5. Anything from his publisher, OSV
    6. Nothing, and I mean nothing from Moran, Bill Huebsch, Bob McCarty, or other movers and slayers of the Faith.
    7. Get a subscription to either OSV's Catechist Companion or The Sower which is the joint journal put out by the Franciscan University and Maryvale in England and Notre Dame di Vie in France.

    ...and that's just for starters...!

  23. Father:

    This is an excellent thought exercise. But could you do the same for something smaller -- namely, your ideal RCIA curriculum. You don't get three years for this; you get roughly September through Easter. What would you put in it?

    I know one thing I would put in, though this would not be possible in every parish: Ours has a Perpetual Adoration chapel, and I would have the RCIA candidates praying there for half an hour, at least, before the start of class each week.

  24. Anonymous5:23 AM

    Very interesting Father. I've taken a different approach in years past. But understand that living in your neighbour Tarrant county there was quite a bit of unorthodox RCIA teaching.

    I used the CCC along with topical discussions of the Doctors of the Church. Example Prayers to saints, statues & Icons I would use St. John Damascene as the primary source. St. Augustine for Grace etc.

  25. Anonymous3:04 AM

    Thank you for this, Father. I am being recieved this Easter, and have really struggled with the "education process". I haven't been able to make all the meetings, but I have to admit some I have not attended even when I could have gone, simply because I was getting nothing from them.

    It seems as if priests can be scared to give us meaty food for thought. I asked my priest for some lenten reading and he gave me a sort of memoir of a "troublesome priest" who defied the Church and a book based on a TV series set in a monastery. The church we attend now is better than our parish church, where when I said I wanted to be in full communion and have my children baptised I was told that it wasn't that important and all I have to do is stay alive and do my best.

    I am going to see if I can follow your plan. Thank you so much for it.

    Sorry to comment anonymously...

  26. Anonymous11:17 PM

    "No one living is as smart as two-thousand years of Church teaching and tradition. Some have come close (Rahner, von Balthasar)..."
    Ahem...how does the HERESY of universalism/"universal salvation" which Rahner and Von Balthasar proposed jive with 2,000 yeras of Church teaching and tradition?

    And why do you propose devoting a mere two months to Trent and Vatican I, but a whopping eight months to Vatican II (which, by the way, was not a dogmatic council)? Why are the only papal encyclicals you propose as texts from the post-Conciliar Popes? How about pre-Conciliar encyclicals such as Quanta Cura, Syllabus of Errors (Pius IX), Mortalium Animos (Pius XI), Pascendi Dominici Gregis, Lamentabili Sane (St. Pius X), Humani Generis, Mediator Dei, Mystici Corporis Christi (Pius XII)? I find these documents to be much more pertinent to our times since they address errors which are nowadays being falsely promoted as Catholic teaching by senior Churchmen and laypeople alike. Unlike the vague writings of John Paul II (which can easily be interpreted in a heretical fashion), the writings I mentioned are straightforward, unambiguous and undeniably Catholic in their teaching. They actually ARE keeping with 2,000 years of Church teaching and tradition.

  27. Thanks for the good questions...

    You wrote: "Ahem...how does the HERESY of universalism/"universal salvation" which Rahner and Von Balthasar proposed jive with 2,000 yeras of Church teaching and tradition?"

    First, I'm not convinced that these guys taught universalism. Second, I said that no one was smarter than 2,000 years of church teaching...I did not say that K.R. or H.U.v.B. are more orthodox than 2,000 years of Church history.

    You wrote: "And why do you propose devoting a mere two months to Trent and Vatican I, but a whopping eight months to Vatican II (which, by the way, was not a dogmatic council)?"

    This is an easy one! Simply put: VCII produced more pages than Trent and VCI combined. Also, since VCII is an ecumenical council its documents presume the authority of Trent and VCI, so by studying VCII we are studying Trent and VCI. IOW, I do not accept the left-liberal distinction btw a "pre-Vatican Two church" and a "post Vatican Two church." There is just the Church with all of her councils equally binding.

    VCII may not have been called to be a dogmatic council but it produced four dogmatic constitutions which were ratified by the Holy Father. By definition these documents are infallible and assent to them is binding on all believers. And please, please, please don't bore with arguments about how VCII was just pastoral, blahblahblah. The Pope called the Council, he presided over the council, he ratified the documents of the council, and he closed the council. Period. End of discussion.

    All of the papal documents you have listed are in form or another incorporated into either the documents of VCII or subsequent papal documents. For example, Mediator Dei and Mystici Corporis Christi are the foundation documents for Sacrosanctum concilium.

    "Unlike the vague writings of John Paul II (which can easily be interpreted in a heretical fashion)..."

    Sorry, Anon...I'm not more Catholic than the Pope and neither are you. You do not sit in judgement of the Holy Father. Nor do I. And that we should ignore a document that might be interpreted heretically opens the door for us to ignore Scripture...surely, the bible has been interpreted heretically?

    Fr. Philip, OP

  28. Anonymous4:31 PM

    Father, last night I was reading "Moratlium Animos" (On Fostering Religious Unity, Pope Pius XI) and then "Ut Unum Sint" (On Commitment to Ecumenism, Pope John Paul II). It was startling, to say the least, because Pius XI condemned the exact errors which John Paul II later promoted. I know you are already familiar with "Ut Unum Sint". Here's a few excerpts from "Mortalium Animos" that stood out to me:

    "Assured that there exist few men who are entirely devoid of the religious sense, they seem to ground on this belief a hope that all nations, while differing indeed in religoius matters, may yet without great difficulty be brought to fraternal agreement on certain points of doctrine which will form a common basis of the spiritual life. With this object, congresses, meetings and adresses are arranged, attended by a large concourse of hearers, where all without distinction, unbelievers of every kind as well as Christians, even those who unhappily have rejected Christ and denied His divine nature or mission, are invited to join in the discussion. Now, such efforts can meet with no kind of approval among Catholics. They presuppose the erroneous view that all religions are more or less good and praiseworthy, inasmuch as all give expression, under various forms, to that innate sense which leads men to God and to the obedient acknowledgement of His rule. Those who hold such a view are not only in error; they distort the true idea of religion, and thus reject it, falling gradually into naturalism and atheism. To favor this opinion, therefore, and to encourage such undertakings is tantamount to abandoning the religion revealed by God.

    "...Is it not right, they ask, is it not the obvious duty of all who invoke the name of Christ to refrain from mutual reproaches and at last to be united in charity? Does anyone say that he loves Christ and yet not strive with all his might to accomplish the desire of Him who asked His Father that His disciples might be 'one'? Did not Christ will that mutual charity should be the distinguishing characteristic of His disciples?...If only all Christians were 'one', it is contended, then they might do so much more to drive out the plague of irreligion which, with its insidious and far-reaching advance, is threatening to sap the strength of the Gospel. These and similar arguments, with amplifications, are constantly on the lips of the 'pan-Christians', who, so far from being a few isolated individuals, have formed an entire class and grouped themselves into societies of extensive membership, usually under the direction of non-Catholics , who also disagree in matters of faith. The energy with which the scheme is being promoted has won for it many adherents, and even many Catholic are attracted by it, since it holds out the hope of a union apparently consonant with the wishes of Holy Mother Church, whose chief desire is to recall her erring children and to bring them back to her bosom. In reality, however, these fair and alluring words cloak a most grave error, subversive of the foundations of the Catholic Faith.

    "And here it will be opportune to expound and to reject a certain false opinion which lies at the root of this question and of that complex movement by which non-Catholics seek to bring about the union of Christian churches. Those who favor this view constantly quote the words of Christ, 'That they may all be one...and there shall be one fold and one shepherd,' in the sense that Christ thereby merely expressed a desire or prayer which as yet has not been granted. For they hold that the unity of faith and government which is a note of the one true Church of Christ has upt to the present time hardly ever existed, and does not exist today. They consider that this unity is indeed to be desire and may even, by cooperation and good will, be actually attained, but that meanwhile it must be regarded as a mere ideal....Hence, they say, controversies and longstanding differences which today still keep asunder the members of the Christian family must be entirely set aside and from the residue of doctrines a common form of faith must be drawn up and proposed for belief, in the profession of which all may not only know but also feel themselves to be brethren.

    "...Thus, Venerable Brethren, it is clear why 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 from that one true Church they have in the past fallen away. The one Church of Christ is visible to all, and will remain, according to the will of its Author, exactly the same as He instituted it. The mystical Spouse of Christ has never in the course of centuries been contaminated, nor in the future can she ever be, as Cyprian bears witness: 'The Bride of Christ cannot become false to her Spouse; she is inviolate and pure. She knows but one dwelling, and chastely and modestly she guard the sanctity of the nuptial chamber.'....For since the Mystical Body of Christ, like His physical body, is one, compacted and fitly joined together, it were foolish to say that the Mystical Body is composed of disjointed and scattered members. Whosoever therefore is not united with the body is no member thereof, neither is he in communion with Christ its Head.

  29. We have to assume two things here: 1) the kind of ecumenical/inter-religious meetings condemned by Pius XI were somehow quite different than what JPII promoted and 2) a ratified document of an ecumenical council is slightly more authoritative than an encyclical of one Pope.

    I would add that I don't think JPII would disagree with what Pius XI is saying in MA. The difference seems to be what exterior attitude toward other religions, etc. must be taken.

    Fr. Philip, OP

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