(later known as Sister Catherine, M.I.C.M.)
Introduction by Brother André Marie, M.I.C.M.
Sister Catherine, M.I.C.M., foundress of Saint Benedict Center, wrote “The Failure of Interfaith” almost four decades ago, more than 15 years before the ecumenical onslaught that commenced after Vatican II. She was a woman of great intuition, perceiving effectively that if the interfaith movement went unchecked, the Church would have much to suffer. But even she could not have foreseen the horror of the present situation. Time after time, the world has been scandalized by the calm resignation of Catholics (including bishops and priests) in the face of the shocking blasphemy and sacrilege perpetrated in the name of ecumenism. Even the Holy Father himself, for reasons only God can truly judge, has participated in the most outrageous ecumenical fiascoes.
If we were to apply Sister’s article to the present situation in the Church, we would see that only two things differ. The first we have already mentioned: the alarming increase in the dangerous phenomenon that she condemns. Not only have the instances of these interfaith meetings and studies increased, but they have expanded to include not only Protestants and Jews, but Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and even nature-worshipping animists. In fact, practically every religion can join in without fear of being offended.
The second difference is that the Catholic “man-in-the-street” (as Sister calls him) is much more affected by interfaith (now mistakenly called ecumenism†) than he was in those days. It is sad but true: The spiritual sickness of ecumenism has spread from a handful of intellectuals to affect a majority of those who call themselves Catholic.
It is a result of the behavior of their leaders that many Catholics are now oblivious to the fact that, after all, our religion is different. And – we should add – not just different, but the only one that is actually true, because God revealed it to us through his Church.
Since many Catholics now think there is really no difference between our religion and every other religion, they eventually lose the Faith altogether. Is it any surprise that fewer than a third of Catholics today believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament? After all, if, as alleged by heretics, the “Roman” Church falsely elevated a mere sign of Christ’s abiding spiritual presence to His Actual Physical Presence, and if this Bread and this Wine only become the Real Jesus for those whose particular devotion tells them it does, then why make such an issue about it? Why overtax the “good faith” of our separated brethren” by flaunting our convictions with Corpus Christi processions, Benediction services, incence, genuflections, and all that? This is one of those matters of faith which devides us, and division is not nice!
But what about truth? If we were to ask the modern, “ecumenical Catholic” that question, he would probably brush us off, saying with Pilate, “What is truth?” The closest thing that these nominal Catholics have to truth is “the dialogue.” This dialogue is an odd combination of democracy and bad philosophy. In the dialogue, everybody gets a vote, we decide on the truth, and then a few years later it changes.
By falsely applying democracy to religion, many have come to the conclusion that the very articles of Faith themselves are subject to the rule of the majority. One example of this vanity is the “Jesus Seminar,” in which Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish scripture scholars participate. They get together to vote on which of the words of Our Lord recorded in Sacred Scripture were actually spoken by Him. They use a system of red, pink, grey, and black beads. According to the Los Angeles Times Magazine, “A red bead means that there is enough historical, literary, sociological, and textual evidence to state that Jesus said the words in a particular passage attributed to him. A pink bead means that the scholar thinks Jesus probably said them; a grey bead Jesus probably didn’t say them; a black bead, Jesus definitely didn’t.” The passage is read, studies are made, and the beads are dropped in a box. The majority rules.
One can just picture these self-important pseudo-intellectuals sitting at a round table while someone reads out: “I am the way, the truth and the life,” “No one comes to the Father but through me,” and “I am the bread of life.” In a few minutes, after feverishly consulting their notes, the scholars vote on their infallible pronouncement. When the tally is over we find out that Jesus didn’t really say the first two at all; and, though He probably said it, what He meant by the third is impossible to tell because of the different meanings the word “bread” has in Greek and Aramaic. Such are the vain speculations of scholars who lack the humility to become like little children.
The bad philosophy which comes to play is called by many varied names. Some call it Hegelianism, after Hegel, its main author; others call it dialectical idealism, and others just call it modern philosophy. To put it in the simplest terms, everything is in a constant state of change. Everything (including truth) is subject to “the dialectic.” The dialectic starts by taking two contradictory things and reconciling them. There is the “thesis,” and its opposite, the “antithesis,” both of which combine to form the “synthesis.” But the synthesis then becomes the new thesis. And so the process goes on forever.
Here is the simplest way we can illustrate this process, by our own little “dialogue”:
Position A (thesis): “The snow is white.”
Position B (antithesis): “The snow is black.”
Position C (synthesis): “The snow is gray.”
Of course, this is not the way interfaith meetings actually go. There are rules of courtesy that are understood by everybody present – rules that all must follow to be properly open-minded and cooperative. The dialogue one is more likely to hear at an ecumenical gathering is more like this:
Modern Catholic: “The snow appears to be of a whitish hue”
Atheist: “The snow is black.”
Protestant: “Well, well, it is much less confrontational to merely affirm that the snow is rather greyish to the eye, but it is nonetheless a thing of splendor indeed. . .”
Were things to continue after that point, “The snow is grey” could then become the thesis of a new dialectic. It will continue from there until every color of the spectrum is brought into the dialogue, and the obvious fact that snow is white will be ignored.
This is the underlying thinking behind ecumenism. For many years it lay hidden, but now it has come so much to the surface that it isn’t uncommon to hear, “Well, that’s true for you, but it isn’t true for me.”
So now that we know how bad the situation is, and the bad thinking that helped make it so, what is the answer? What do we do about it? The answer is simple: We have a duty to believe all of those things which God has revealed about Himself, and to tell the world those same truths, affirming what we know to be true on the authority of God revealing, and taking as lies anything which contradicts that truth.
At this point we should remind the reader what the Church really teaches about other religions. We will quote three errors condemned by Pope Pius IX in his Syllabus of Errors. No matter what our leaders are doing to contradict these teachings, they cannot change them, for they are part of the Deposit of Faith.
15. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true. – error
16. Man may, in the observance of any religion whatever, find the way of eternal salvation, and arrive at eternal salvation. -error
18. Protestantism is nothing more than another form of the same true Christian religion, in which form it is given to please God equally as in the Catholic Church. – error
Hundreds of other papal and conciliar texts could be quoted were we to go into greater detail (the reader may refer to the inside back cover of this magazine), but these three short statements suffice to expose the error of false ecumenism.
We will finish this introduction to Sister’s essay by especially recommending one point. The point is that the interfaith, or ecumenical movement is part of the cult of man, not the cult of God. It is a surrendering of all of those things divinely revealed for those things humanly reasoned out – and very superficially at that.
When we worship God in the Mass, in the Divine Office, and in any of the prayers of the Church, we are speaking in language that the Church provides for us – language which takes for granted that every one of the teachings of the Church is true. That is also how the true Catholic theologian is to approach his science. No matter what others say, no matter what the critical scholarship of the day is, in matters of religion, what God has always taught through His Church comes before all else.
By contrast, when liberal Catholic theologians meet to discuss doctrine by dialogue, they concede that some of the contents of revelation are questionable; and they erroneously assume that Catholics are able to learn from scholars representing different religions. Ultimately, there is no authority except the individual’s own conscience, guided by nothing but his natural intellect. This may be part and parcel of the Protestant heresy – individual interpretation of Scripture – but it is totally opposed to the very essence of Catholicism. This is why Sister says that Protestants have nothing to lose, whereas Catholics have everything to lose.
Many Catholics are beginning to wonder if inter-faith meetings are good things. Once upon a time we were prepared to believe they were.
For years a great many Catholics have had the well-meaning but mistaken notion that they helped the Church and made her better known when they were liked by, and were socially sought by, Protestants, particularly Protestants who felt there “was no difference” between themselves and Catholics.
Association of Catholics with Protestants as people, has unquestionably made for pleasant intercourse among the participants. But it is not of this I speak. I speak, rather, of those religious common-denominator meetings in which Protestants and Catholics, and even Jews, take part, by way, so they hope, of letting their religious agreements dissolve their differences. The habit of vague religious values engendered by such gatherings has been a hardship for the Church. Out of such practice has come altogether too much compromise – compromise of a Revelation once so zealously guarded by the Church, and so preciously preserved by the deaths of her martyrs and sufferings of her saints.
There is a difference between Catholics and Protestants. There is most certainly a doctrinal difference, and this cannot long escape manifesting itself in any except the most superficial intercourse between the two groups. And if there is not an intransigent difference manifested at a religious group-meeting, then somebody is giving ground – a transaction in which a Protestant has nothing, and a Catholic everything to lose.
It would undoubtedly seem that inter-faith meetings imply a dishonesty. People who know they have fundamental differences in religion agree to get on a platform and make believe that these differences do not exist irreconcilably. It was distressing to hear, recently, a graduate student from a nearby college define an inter-faith meeting as: “A place where a Jewish Rabbi, who does not believe in the Divinity of Christ, and a Protestant Minister, who doubts it, get together with a Catholic Priest, who agrees to forget it for the evening.”
If there is not a vast difference between the Catholic who receives the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion and the Protestant who does not, why did Christ institute the Blessed Sacrament at the Last Supper at all? Why did He say to His followers, “Unless you eat My flesh and drink My blood you shall not have life in you?” And when they said, “It is a hard saying, Lord, and we cannot take it,” why did He permit them to go, and why did he walk with them no more? Is there not all the difference in the world between those who have LIFE in them, and those who have not?
One of the purposes of inter-faith meetings is that people may come to know what other people believe. Why, one asks? So that such knowledge may help them to decide which is the one, true Faith? No, one is told, but rather that possessing this knowledge they may live in more perfect harmony with each other.
That platform alone is enough to make the Twelve Apostles, and the early Fathers, and the Doctors of the Church, and all the Saints and Martyrs turn in their graves. One vainly endeavors to picture the Apostles after the coming of the Holy Spirit rushing from the Upper Room and crying to the people: “Please tell us what you believe so that we may better understand you, so that we may all live more pleasantly together!” One tries to visualize that as the cause of their cruel martyrdom later, or that as the reason why the first twenty-eight Popes of the Church were also martyred, one after the other.
However, is it not the hope of inter-faith meetings, that as a result of them, people might live together more happily? And is this not a false hope? Christ said, “Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, whom Thou hast given Me; that they may be one, as We also are.” The Catholic knows there can be but one Truth. He knows that real love of his neighbor must therefore consist not in making him comfortable in the half or the quarter of the truth which he possesses, but in giving to his neighbor the full truth. A house divided against itself cannot stand. Lasting peace in the world, can come only from the possession of the whole Truth of Christ, which is contained in the teaching of the Holy Roman Catholic Church alone. That is the one hope the Catholic can hold out to his neighbor.
Grave as the foregoing considerations are, they are but the surface difficulties we find with the idea of inter-faith meetings. There is a much more fundamental difficulty than either of these, amounting to a danger-sign that inter-faith meetings may not be pleasing to God. A very important credential is missing, the first credential a Catholic looks for in any work which purports to be of God. Or is that the trouble? Maybe inter-faith meetings are not meant to be of God, but only of Man, like everything else in this Humanitarian Age. If the worship of God by the Jew, the Protestant, and the Catholic has been found to be a source of strife in the community, and men are getting together merely to decide how to tolerate one another in spite of this God who demands to be worshipped three ways, then the principle of inter-faith meetings is decidedly a bad one, and no further reflection is necessary.
There are many inter-faith advocates, however, who have supported inter-faith gatherings in the belief that they were advancing the cause of God first and man second, and for them I would offer the following thought. There has never been any question about the sovereignty of Our Lady at inter-faith meetings. Both in spirit and in name, the Queen of Heaven has been disregarded by these conclaves.
Catholicism is not a religion that teaches simply that God exists. All religions do that. Catholicism teaches that God exists AND that He became man. Catholicism is an Incarnational Religion. Its uncompromising doctrine stands on that central mystery: God became man.
One of our creatures was elevated to the august privilege of providing flesh and blood for God. Mary, a little Jewish girl, the daughter of Joachim and Anna, was chosen by God to be the mother of His Son. In the hearts of Catholics from the first century to the present day, devotion to Jesus has gone hand in hand with devotion to Mary. A Catholic knows that where Jesus is, there Mary is also. This is the doctrinal order. The devotional order is likely to be the other way. For where Mary is, there is Jesus also. One seeks the mother so as to find the child.
It is the great credential of the Christian, the presence of Mary. Without Mary, there would be no Christmas. Without Christmas, there would be no Jesus. Without Jesus, there would be no Christianity. Every Catholic child knows that. Every Catholic man continues all his life to be a little Catholic child, spiritually.
The Catholic “man-in-the-street” is not found at inter-faith gatherings. Intellectuals or semi-intellectuals make up inter-faith groups. To the Catholic “man-in-the-street” they do not make “sense.” They do not make sense to him because he is simple of heart, and the simple of heart often arrive at the truth of things more directly than their academic brothers, who depend upon their own discursive powers for their conclusions. The simple man knows that it would be impossible to get all the members of an inter-faith gathering to say together one “Hail Mary.” That alone is enough for him.
Christianity began with the Angelic Saluation:
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” (Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen.)
The refusal of the Jews to acknowledge Mary is consistent with their refusal to accept Christ. Both refusals are the tragedy of the Christian era. The Protestants, on the other hand, believe they have rejected Mary, whereas the opposite is true. Our Lady has withdrawn from them. She is where her Son is, and Jesus is not present on the altars of the Protestant churches. The Protestants do not believe in the Blessed Sacrament. They do not believe in or offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – indeed they do not have a sacrificing priesthood. The Christ they have given to their people for almost four hundred years is not the full Christ.
Mention of Mary, warm recourse to Mary, hymns and litanies to Mary, all are absent from Protestant services. The Protestant looks upon the Catholic’s deep devotion to the Mother of God as “Mariolatry.” The Catholic knows that love for Our Lady is a gift, a pure gift from her, who is the gateway to Jesus.
“Nothing is as it seems.” The world is full of those who having eyes to see, see not, and ears to hear, hear not, and to them it seems that Christianity is failing. They do not see the blaze of light around the world as candles are lighted for the Masses said every minute of the day and night, from pole to pole. They do not see God offered to God on the altars by His people every minute of time, in perfect adoration and praise and thanksgiving and petition. They do not hear the song that is constantly rising to God from the lips of men and women consecrated to Him in religion. Nor do they hear the countless millions upon millions of Hail Marys said to the Mother of God, nor see the burning devotion for her of the saints and martyrs, of priests and nuns, of Catholic men and women and children.
Mary, the Queen of Angels and of Men, of the Church Triumphant and Militant and Suffering, in whose name cathedrals have been built, brave armies have marched, great ships have been launched, to whom noble men and women have dedicated their lives, has chosen to answer heresy by withdrawal from it.
If Catholics withdrew from inter-faith meetings, what might happen? If Catholics again spoke with the fire of the First Apostles and the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, for the love of God and of their fellow man, what might they expect?
They might be driven to the catacombs. The blood of martyrs might again flow in the streets. And when the persecution was over, the pure word of God would again be preached. The world would be saved from its own destruction. Peace would come. Mary would come. She would celestially rule our land, America, which is hers under the title of the Immaculate Conception. The road to Christ would again be sure.
We are bound to be certain that there is no other way.