How the Pope uses the “ecumenical movement” to silence Protestant criticism

By Stephen D. Mumford, DrPH | 19 October 2012
Church and State


This excerpt has been adapted from Chapter 16 of our Chairman Dr. Stephen D. Mumford’s seminal book, The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy (1996). The book is available at Kindle here and to read for free here.

The “ecumenical movement” is the pope’s most important stratagem to silence Protestant criticism of Vatican interference in American government policy making. How does it work?

The extensive fragmentation of the Christian Church has resulted in a heavy burden of guilt for Protestants. The reason? This fragmentation is patently un-Christian. It flies in the face of the religion’s fundamental principles, a constant reminder that Christ’s followers reject His teachings. Protestants generally believe that unification of all Christians must be achieved if they are to live as true Christians. Guilt motivates them to strive for unity. As one New Orleans Protestant commented, “If we’re going to call ourselves Christians, we have to live like it.”

Criticism of one branch of Christianity by another results in disunity. Protestants have been very sensitive to this fact for much of this century. As a result, the ecumenical movement has served to silence any criticism of the Catholic Church by Protestant denominations. The outcome—complete institutional protection for the Catholic Church—compliments of well-meaning Protestants.

This reality has not been lost on the Vatican. When the Bishops Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities was promulgated, Rome preempted the ecumenical initiative and began making major investments to promote ecumenism. In the last few years, Vatican interests in ecumenism have escalated sharply. “Evangelicals and Catholics Together,” issued in March 1994 as an unofficial document, called on these two groups to recognize each other as Christians and to work together on common issues, such as abortion and pornography.

Adelle M. Banks reports for the Religion News Service:

The declaration was signed by such prominent evangelical leaders as Prison Fellowship founder Charles Colson and Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright. Catholic signers included Fr. Richard Neuhaus, director of the Institute on Religion and Public Life in New York, theologian Michael Novak, a winner of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, Cardinal John O’Connor of New York, Archbishop Francis Stafford of Denver, and Jesuit Fr. Avery Dulles of Fordham University.

Introducing the document last March, Neuhaus contended that not since the 16th century have Protestants and Catholics ‘joined in a declaration so clear in respect to their common faith and common responsibility.’ While calling the document unofficial, Neuhaus said he had ‘been in contact with appropriate parties at the Holy See and they have given their strongest encouragement for the project.’

However, many key evangelicals, including the Rev. John Ankerberg, R.C. Sproul and the Rev. D. James Kennedy, balked, declaring that the document ought never have been written. Evangelical signers were some of the least influential in the movement while their Catholic counterparts represented the very top of the American hierarchy. This was a major initiative of the Vatican to promote the illusion that ecumenism is advancing in America. But it was only partially successful.

“That All They May Be One”

On May 30, 1995, the pope issued his 12th encyclical, Ut Unum Sint, “That All They May Be One,” which is dedicated to the promotion of ecumenism. The message: The pope is eager to bring separated Christians back together. The encyclical was warmly received in the United States by the National Council of Churches, the nation’s largest ecumenical organization. Its General Secretary, Rev. Joan B. Campbell responded: “The encyclical itself is a testament to the very spirit of Christian unity which we seek.” This is precisely the response the Vatican sought. The encyclical offered the hope that unity was possible, encouraging Protestants to make every effort for its achievement—including suppressing all criticism of the Catholic Church from Protestant ranks.

Encyclicals are major declarations for Catholic clergy and the faithful. However, this one is distinctly different. It is specifically addressed to all Christians for reasons that will become apparent.

The National Catholic Register’s Jean-Marie Guenois summarizes the encyclical. She quotes the pope:

Could not the real but imperfect communion existing between us persuade Church leaders and their theologians to engage with me in a patient and fraternal dialogue on this subject, a dialogue in which, leaving useless controversies behind, we could listen to one another, keeping before us only the will of Christ for His Church and allowing ourselves to be deeply moved by His plea ‘that they may all be one … so that the world may believe that You have sent Me?’

Guenois continues: “Ut Unum Sint consists of three chapters, the first on the Roman Catholic Church’s commitment to ecumenism, the second on the fruits of dialogue and the third on the way to the future.” The third chapter “focuses on the importance of Christian unity for the work of evangelization.” His message: We should not be wasting our energy attacking each other. We should concentrate our efforts on evangelization. Guenois continues: “While eager to preserve the Magisterium, he does express a sense of urgency about bringing Christians back together. He states bluntly in the encyclical that division among Christians ‘impedes the very work of Christ.’ … The very fact of calling oneself a Christian means desiring to be one with others of the same name, the Pope writes: ‘To believe in Christ means to desire unity.'”

The pope goes much further. In the encyclical’s point #40, the pope writes:

Relations between Christians are not aimed merely at mutual knowledge, common prayer, and dialogue. They presuppose and from now on call for every possible form of practical cooperation at all levels: pastoral, cultural, and social…. Moreover, ecumenical cooperation is a true school of ecumenism, a dynamic road to unity. Unity of action leads to the full unity of faith … In the eyes of the world, cooperation among Christians becomes a form of common witness and a means of evangelization which benefits all involved.

Recalling that the pope prepared this encyclical for all Christians, his intent can only be described as “thinly veiled.” He calls not only for Protestants to be silent about Vatican political manipulations in America so they can be the good Christians that God wants them to be, but also to cooperate with the Catholic Church in accomplishing its political agenda.

No Protestant leader protested the encyclical, though its intentions must have been clear to many. It received no negative press in the United States whatsoever. The pope’s strategy is working. (It should be noted that in this encyclical, just as in Evangelium Vitae, the pope glorifies martyrdom. The message: the most wonderful thing one can do with one’s life is to give it up in the defense of the Holy Mother Church: “This communion is already perfect in what we consider the highest point of the life of grace, ‘martyria’ unto death, the truest communion possible with Christ….” Why all the emphasis on martyrdom?)

An example of changed attitudes appears on the front page of the August 6, 1995 edition of the National Catholic Register in an article: “Catholic-Baptist ties show signs of new life: Southern Baptists and Catholics show signs of rapprochement.” At the 1995 Southern Baptist Convention, Father Frank Ruff, a Catholic priest who attended his first Southern Baptist Convention in 1967, was asked to speak. It was a ground-breaking occasion. As a field representative for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs, his request to address the previous year’s convention had been politely turned down.

Ecumenism compromises Protestant Americans. The resulting silence has effectively shut down public debate of Vatican interference in American public policy making, gravely jeopardizing the security of all Americans as described in detail in the National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200) report. The Vatican has skillfully advanced the case that an attack on the pope and the Catholic Church is an attack on all Christianity. America is certain to be in deep trouble if Protestant denominations accept this proposition. This would mean that they give the papal interpretation of the defense of Christianity a higher priority than the defense of the United States and its democracy. The outcome would be catastrophic for us all.

All of the major Protestant denominations have been affected by the Pastoral Plan and its ecumenical movement in significant ways. The Catholic Church has identified individuals who are anti-abortion, or simply opportunistic, in all of the denominations and has aided these individuals to rise to power within their denominations. The Church has helped create the illusion that the vocal anti-abortion minorities in the various denominations are the spokesmen for the denominations. More important, all criticism of the Catholic Church has been silenced, a vital outcome for the Vatican. The Protestant press which held the Vatican imposition of the Papal agenda in check in this country for 175 years has been neutralized. This arrangement has permitted the Vatican to influence American policy-making to a greater degree than would have been possible otherwise. All of our lives have been significantly affected.

Dr. Stephen Mumford is the founder and President of the North Carolina-based Center for Research on Population and Security. He has his doctorate in Public Health. His principal research interest has been the relationship between world population growth and national and global security. He has been called to provide expert testimony before the U.S. Congress on the implications of world population growth.

Dr. Mumford has decades of international experience in fertility research where he is widely published, and has addressed conferences worldwide on new contraceptive technologies and the stresses to the security of families, societies and nations that are created by continued uncontrolled population growth. Using church policy documents and writings of the Vatican elite, he has introduced research showing the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church as the principal power behind efforts to block the availability of contraceptive services worldwide.

In addition to his books on biomedical and social aspects of family planning, as well as scientific articles in more than a score of journals, Dr. Mumford’s major works include American Democracy and the Vatican: Population Growth and National Security (Amherst, New York: Humanist Press, 1984), The Pope and the New Apocalypse: The Holy War Against Family Planning (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: Center for Research on Population and Security, 1986), and The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: Center for Research on Population and Security, 1996).

The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy

By Stephen D. Mumford, DrPH
Paperback Publisher: Center for Research on Population and Security (October 1996)
Kindle Publisher: Church and State Press (February 6, 2015)
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