More Frequently Asked Questions
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.