Is Mary Being Sacrificed on the Altar of Ecumenism?
Dr. Mark Miravalle*
Today’s ubiquitous global crises underscore the imperative for all Christians to unite to the greatest degree possible. The Catholic Church must likewise take seriously the call for authentic Christian unity. Pope Francis has placed great emphasis on Ecumenism throughout his pontificate, both in word and action. But how can the Church best accomplish real ecumenical progress and advance true Christian unity during these troubled times?
Ecumenical efforts since the Second Vatican Council have generally led to fruitful forms of common prayer and fraternal dialogue between the different Christian traditions, principally by emphasizing what all Christian confessions have in common. But is that enough? Can we really fulfill the ecumenical prayer of Jesus that “that they may all be one” (Jn. 17:19) by discussing only what all Christians have in common?
Many Catholics involved in the ecumenical mission of the Church have humbly come to the conclusion that, to a significant degree, the ecumenical movement has come to an impasse. While communal Christian prayer and dialogue are certainly beneficial, they alone will not bring the diversified Christian confessions into the one Body of Christ.
What then is required? For ultimate ecumenical unity to take place, the fullness of Catholic doctrine and life must be discussed honestly, in full transparency, and without any reduction or compromise.
However dogmatic or “un-ecumenical” this may sound at first, the fullness of Christian revelation is nevertheless the only foundation and pre-requisite for real, true, and lasting Christian unity. Unity flows from truth, communion from doctrine. St. John Paul II’s ecumenical instruction makes this indisputably clear:
The unity willed by God can be attained only by the adherence of all to the content of revealed faith in its entirety. In matters of faith, compromise is in contradiction with God who is Truth. In the Body of Christ, "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6), who could consider legitimate a reconciliation brought about at the expense of the truth?(1)
Free Human Cooperation in Redemption
At the bottom of the entire ecumenical discussion lies this central issue: the legitimacy and necessity of free human cooperation in Redemption. This essential Catholic truth appears to be losing its critical dogmatic status, or even in some cases denied, within contemporary ecumenical discussions.
Karl Barth, one of the twentieth century’s leading Protestant theologians, saw the centrality of this issue and its singular Marian component. Barth identified Marian doctrine and devotion to be the “one great heresy” of the Catholic Church from which all other Catholic heresies followed: “In the doctrine and worship of Mary there is disclosed the one heresy of the Roman Catholic Church which explains all the rest.”(2) He specifically singles out Mary’s human cooperation in Redemption as a preeminent example of this alleged Catholic-Marian heresy:
“The ‘mother of God’ of Roman Catholic Marian dogma is quite simply the principle, type and essence of the human creature co-operating servant-like in its own redemption on the basis of prevenient grace, and to that extent the principle, type and essence of the Church.”(3)