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By Peter O'Dwyer
There have been many blunders on the part of the ecumenical movement, but the new document issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops titled "The Declaration on the Way" sets a new standard in heterodoxy, vagueness, and false ecumenism. It was created by a task force led in part by Bp. Denis J. Madden, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, Maryland. The document is exceptional in that while most bad texts are simply ambiguous, "Declaration on the Way" contains multiple statements that are outright wrong. One wonders whether the authors deliberately intend for Lutherans to be able to receive Catholic Holy Communion in time for the 500th anniversary of the Protestant revolt.
Ostensibly a summary of the "progress" made over the last 50 years with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Declaration nevertheless sloppily picks and chooses statements from other Lutheran communities, some from countries as remote as Finland. Like other protestant communities, there is no unity among Lutherans, so the frequent citations of documents released by different Lutheran churches undermines its credibility even as an accurate report of what Lutherans believe.
Like most bad ecumenical documents, the "Declaration on the Way" treats the Catholic Church and the Evangelical Lutherans as if they are equal, and the Catholic Church's rightful claim as the One true Faith as an obstacle to be overcome. In fact, it refers to both the Lutherans and the Catholics as "ecclesial communities," even though the Catholic Church is the only Church established by Our Lord, outside of which there is no salvation. All other religions are "ecclesial communities." She alone is the Church.
The meat of the document is its points of "unity." Most of these points require massive equivocation, or the misuse of the Church's language. The Declaration discusses Catholic and Lutheran views on the Church and the Eucharist, even though both have a distinct and mutually exclusive understanding of what the Church or the Eucharist is. While the Catholic Church correctly understands the Eucharist and has the power to convert the bread and wine into the Flesh and Blood of Christ, the Lutherans are wrong, and despite what they may believe, receive merely bread and wine during their communion.
The points of disunity are shoved to the back, where they are hastily summarized into a mere paragraph each, followed by pages and pages of apologies for each point.
The "Declaration on the Way" is a giant step backwards for ecumenism. By pretending divisions essentially don't exist and diluting the teachings of the Church for false unity, it inhibits the ability of the Church to point out Protestant errors and invite Lutherans to come to the fullness of the Faith, and thereby find salvation and eternal happiness. The U.S. bishops do souls no favors by their latest statement.