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Response to a Statement of an International Theological Commission
of the Pontifical International Marian Academy

June 13, 1997

3. The Solemn Definition of Maternal Mediation and Ecumenism

        Regarding sensitivity to "ecumenical difficulties" expressed by the commission, let us again return to the clear teaching of Pope John Paul II, a recognized contemporary prophet for the critical call of ecumenism, as found in his recent encyclical, Ut Unum Sint. Within this papal instruction on the ecclesial mandate for ecumenical activity, John Paul II specifies that in our efforts of authentic Catholic Ecumenism, the whole body of doctrine as taught by the Church must be presented; full communion in the one body of Christ can only take place through the acceptance of the whole truth as taught by the Church, and that the "demands of revealed truth," which necessarily includes mariological truth, does not prevent ecumenical activity, but rather provides the necessary foundation for ultimate Christian unity. Ut Unum Sint states:

"With regard to the study of areas of disagreement, the Council requires that the whole body of doctrine be clearly presented...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 7....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? 8 ....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.9  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?"10

In that same document on ecumenism, the Holy Father defends the exercise of the charism of papal infallibility as a "witness to the truth" which in fact serves as a value and foundation for ultimate Christian unity:

"When circumstances require it, [the Pope] speaks in the name of all the Pastors in communion with him. He can also—under very specific conditions clearly laid down by the First Vatican Council—declare ex cathedra that a certain doctrine belongs to the deposit of faith (First Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastor Aeternus: DS 3074). By thus bearing witness to the truth, he serves unity."11

     Solemn definitions of Marian dogmas, and in specific the solemn definition of Maternal Mediation, does not run counter to the Church’s critical mandate of ecumenical activity; rather such definitions can serve this unity for the sake of doctrinal perfection and clarity, as we find in the words of 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."12

     At the same time we should not be surprised when Christian brothers and sisters from other communions who do not accept the office and charism of the papacy, are not in favor of the exercise of the very office which they themselves do not accept as authentic. Therefore to require convincing support from other Christian communions and ecclesial bodies as a requisite condition for the exercise of papal infallibility would, practically speaking, effectively eliminate this charism given by the Holy Spirit and Christ to the Church for the sake of doctrinal clarity and perfection.

     The Blessed Virgin Mary must be seen not as the obstacle, but as the instrument and Mother of the ecumenical movement (cf. Redemptoris Mater, n. 30), remembering that no one unites the children of a family more than the mother of the family. Let us confidently leave such decisions of timeliness and opportuneness of a potential solemn definition of Maternal Mediation to the present Vicar of Christ, Pope John Paul II, who is at the same time both fully Marian and fully ecumenical.

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