[Updates at the bottom of this posting]
Ecumenism today is in a sorry state. Most Protestant denominations have splintered off to the point that dialogue has become pointless. Only the Orthodox offer any hope of reunion with us, but that is a distant land where we are struggling to navigate towards.
In the meantime too many well-intentioned Catholics yell “Ecumenism! Ecumenism!” yet they know not what they say nor do. Heck, they can’t even explain it themselves.
For example I’ve stopped attending Taizé services because the only people that attend them are other Catholics. If it was intended to bring our separated brothers in Christ together then I failed to see a single one of them attend in the three years that I have been going.
Ecumenism, whatever that means anymore, is a dead cat. It’s going nowhere because it has no idea what it is. Hence the forty years of fruitless labor has produced nothing to celebrate.
The only real progress I foresee is with the Orthodox. Only they understand us and we they. We have much in common and are capable as divinely inspired institutions to be of one. Not our Protestant brothers who continue to devolve to the point of being unrecognizable among the worldly.
“Today we no longer understand ecumenism in the sense of a return, by which the others would ‘be converted’ and return to being ‘Catholics’” (Cardinal Kaspar, February 26, 2001)
Pope Pius XI state as much prior to the Second Vatican Council in Mortalium Animos:
“The union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it.
. . .
In reality beneath these enticing words and blandishments [which promote the modern idea of ecumenism] lies hid a most grave error…”
Pope Pius XII, to make sure there wasn’t any doubt, said the following in his Instructio of December 20, 1949:
“True reunion can only come about by the return of the dissidents to the one true Church of Christ”
In Pope Pius XI’s encyclical, Mortalium Animos (MA), he warned of syncretism and devolution into atheism by stating, “But some are more easily deceived by outward appearance of good when there is a question of fostering unity among all Christians.(MA 3)” And in case that wasn’t direct and concise enough, “Admonished, therefore, by the consciousness of Our Apostolic office that We should not permit the flock of the Lord to be cheated by dangerous fallacies, We invoke, Venerable Brethren, your zeal in avoiding this evil; (MA 5)”
But what is especially interesting is what Pope Pius XI said concerning a popularly recited passage of the Holy Bible:
“And here it seems opportune to expound and to refute a certain false opinion, on which this whole question, as well as that complex movement by which non-Catholics seek to bring about the union of the Christian churches depends. For authors who favor this view are accustomed, times almost without number, to bring forward these words of Christ: they all may be one…. And there shall be one fold and one shepherd,” merely expressed a desire and prayer, which still lacks its fulfillment. For they are of the opinion that the unity of faith and government, which is a note of the one true Church of Christ, has hardly up to the present time existed, and does not to-day exist. They consider that this unity may indeed be desired and that it may even be one day attained through the instrumentality of wills directed to a common end, but that meanwhile it can only be regarded as mere ideal.
. . .
But, all the same, although many non-Catholics may be found who loudly preach fraternal communion in Christ Jesus, yet you will find none at all to whom it ever occurs to submit to and obey the Vicar of Jesus Christ either in His capacity as a teacher or as a governor” (MA 7).
Merely expressed a desire and prayer, not fulfillment of unity. Just as we will always have the poor among us will we always be striving for unity, which will not come.
In my opinion I can see some sort of unity with our Orthodox brethren. None with most Protestants. But what is fact is that forty years of “Ecumensim! Ecumenism!” has produced nothing at all.
Update I: There are a few good points that some commentators have made that I want to highlight. John Henry and Henry Karlson bring up the rise of Catholic converts in Russia from another thread and Mark DeFrancisis the growing rapprochement between Lutherans (World Lutheran Federation) and Catholics.
But the most revealing comment by Donald R. McClarey where he stated that prior to Vatican II there was no form of ecumenism whatsoever.
To illuminate the fact that there is no record in Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, nor pronouncements from the Magisterium concerning Ecumenism. Which would explain why Ut Unum Sint was such a poorly, or more accurately, ambiguously written encyclical. Pope John Paul II had no sources to draw from to state his desire of unity.