Dr. Bill Tighe, in an email to several of us bloggers, brought my attention to this 2008 post by Thomas Pink at Philosophia Perennis entitled “The toils of ecumenism: a new doctrine or an old policy?”
About this lengthy piece, which I have excerpted below, Tighe writes:
I am not sending this to you because I suspect that you will wholly agree with it, or even, perhaps, much agree with it, but because (a) some aspects of it seem eerily “prophetic” from the vantage point of 2012, and (b) because the comments on the comment thread adumbrate “themes” that have appeared, and continue to appear, on your blogs, as well as on The Anglo-Catholic.
There is only one divine mandate and one divinely imposed duty in this area: to unity in the one Church that is governed by Peter. How one is to pursue this end and seek to fulfill this duty, whether mainly by way of attempting corporate reunions through ecumenical dialogue or else by prioritizing individual conversions, is not a matter of revelation, but of policy. And policy must always respect and be adapted to the facts. Contrary to Traditionalist assumptions, there is no direct divine mandate to eschew ecumenism and pursue unity through calls to individual conversion alone. Florence did not work; but its attempt at dialogic reunion with Constantinople was not un-Catholic or un-Christian. Nor, on the other hand, should others assume, ‘in the name of the Council’, that the Church is mandated always and everywhere to pursue ecumenical dialogue. For in certain contexts such dialogue may be a waste of time – or even do genuine damage. It may even reduce unity, by loss and damage to the local Catholic community involved.
The costs of ecumenism by main force
The tendency within the leadership of post-conciliar English Catholicism has been to treat the commitment to ecumenism with Canterbury, not as some provisional and debatable ecclesial policy, but as if it were some direct mandate of the divine will. To express doubt or scepticism about this commitment is be regarded in some quarters as displaying a quasi-Lefebvrist disregard for the teaching of the magisterium – to prove oneself no better than a Hans Kung, but of the right.
And in the meantime almost every element that has historically separated English Catholics from the bulk of Anglicans, in school catechesis and doctrinal instruction, in liturgy and in spiritual devotions, has been systematically weakened and undermined from within. A grand process of de-Catholicization has been attempted – to make it come to be true, as it clearly was not true before, that there really is a substantial unity of belief and practice between Catholic and Anglican. In very many parishes the sacrament of penance has been downplayed, the status and dignity of the priesthood diminished, liturgy in its style and outward form substantially Protestantized, the reality of Purgatory ignored, the cult of Mary and the saints reduced and sidelined, the plain teaching of the natural law unasserted.
Seminarians training for the priesthood were carefully educated into the ‘new ways of the Council’, as interpreted in England. Any interest in Catholic tradition deemed ‘excessive’ – and it would not take much to count as ‘excessive’ – and the seminarian would be dismissed as unsuitable. Meanwhile their ecclesiastical superiors lamented the supposed cost to vocations of Rome’s insistence on celibacy and some, even from among the bishops, called openly for married priests (‘like our Anglican brothers and sisters’). The obsession with building ecumenical bridges with Anglicanism and adopting Anglican ecclesial models – what we might call Roman Anglicanism – has gone right to the top of English Catholicism, and was by no means ended by the Church of England’s ordination of women. It has not been unknown for a Catholic bishop to tolerate his local Anglican ‘brother’ being prayed for as a bishop along with the Pope and his own self in the Eucharistic Prayer. (It is not hard to guess at the implications of all this for the real beliefs of some senior English Catholics on questions to do with Anglican and with female orders.) When Dominus Iesus was issued, dislike of the declaration was evident at high levels within the bishops’ conference.
What has been the ecumenical outcome? Still no closer to actual reunion – but instead the greatest meltdown in Catholic membership and practice in England since the Reformation. Add to that the whole fairly brutal post-Conciliar assault on traditional Catholic liturgy and devotion did great damage (irony of ironies) to spiritual affinity with Orthodoxy, the one group of Christians that ecumenical dialogue might eventually reunite to Rome.