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What effect will this Dogma have on ecumenism?

The goal of authentic Catholic ecumenism, as Pope John Paul II reminds us in Ut Unum Sint, n. 77, is to restore full visible unity among all Christians in the fullness of the Catholic and Apostolic Faith: "The greater mutual understanding and the doctrinal convergences already achieved between us, which have resulted in an affective and effective growth of communion, cannot suffice for the conscience of Christians who profess that the Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. The ultimate goal of the ecumenical movement is to re-establish full visible unity among all the baptized."

In the domain of ecumenism, this ultimate ecumenical goal serves as the proper criterion by which we must judge the legitimacy, or lack thereof, of a proposed new Marian Dogma. The fullness of Catholic doctrinal truth, which necessarily includes the full truth about Mary, far from being an obstacle to ecumenism, is in fact the very foundation of real Christian unity. Any understanding of ecumenism as requiring, or even encouraging, a reduction or minimization of the doctrinal truth defined and taught by the Church, which necessarily includes the domain of Marian doctrine, can only be considered a regrettable species of "pseudo-ecumenism." As such, it ironically becomes the actual obstacle to authentic and perduring Christian unity because it decimates the very foundation of ultimate ecumenical success.

Pope John Paul II writes: "Full communion of course will have to come about through the acceptance of the whole truth into which the Holy Spirit guides Christ’s disciples. Hence all forms of reductionism or facile ‘agreement’ must be absolutely avoided" (Ut Unum Sint, n.36); and further: "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’ (John 14:6), who could consider legitimate a reconciliation brought about at the expense of the truth?" (Ut Unum Sint, n. 18); and again: "To uphold a vision of unity which takes account of all the demands of revealed truth does not mean to put a brake on the ecumenical movement. On the contrary, it means preventing it from settling for apparent solutions which would lead to no firm and solid results. The obligation to respect the truth is absolute. Is this not the law of the Gospel?" (cf. Ut Unum Sint, n. 79; cf. Address to the Cardinals and Roman Curia (June 28, 1985), 6: AAS 77 (1985), 1153).

A precise dogmatic formulation of this Marian Dogma would certainly distinguish the secondary and subordinate coredemptive role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the work of salvation from the unique redemptive triumph of the Savior, a distinction sometimes perceived as lacking in Catholic theology and piety by other Christians. This immediate ecumenical benefit to a solemn definition is neatly summed up in a letter endorsing the potential Dogma from John Cardinal O’Connor of New York: "Clearly, a formal definition would be articulated in such precise terminology that other Christians would lose their anxiety that we do not distinguish adequately between Mary’s unique association with the redemption and the redemptive power exercised by Christ alone."

True ecumenism, which is founded on prayer and fraternal charity, necessarily involves understanding each others’ position. Since this Dogma does not introduce any new doctrine, we must hope that it would lead to an increase in mutual understanding of truths which already exist.

The Catholic quest for this new Marian Dogma is eminently ecumenical. It seeks to acknowledge and to utilize Our Lady’s full power of mediation as Mother of the Christian family precisely to unite us, her children, in the one Body of Christ.






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