Is Belief in the Oneness of all Christians a Heresy?

Pope Francis sent a video message to an ecumenical gathering in Arizona. The Vatican translation is here. The relevant and not-at-all controversial passage follows:

“Dear brothers and sisters, division is a wound in the body of the Church of Christ. And we do not want this wound to remain open. Division is the work of the Father of Lies, the Father of Discord, who does everything possible to keep us divided.

Together today, I here in Rome and you over there, we will ask our Father to send the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and to give us the grace to be one, ‘so that the world may believe’. I feel like saying something that may sound controversial, or even heretical, perhaps. But there is someone who ‘knows’ that, despite our differences, we are one. It is he who is persecuting us. It is he who is persecuting Christians today, he who is anointing us with (the blood of) martyrdom. He knows that Christians are disciples of Christ: that they are one, that they are brothers! He doesn’t care if they are Evangelicals, or Orthodox, Lutherans, Catholics or Apostolic…he doesn’t care! They are Christians. And that blood (of martyrdom) unites. Today, dear brothers and sisters, we are living an ‘ecumenism of blood’. This must encourage us to do what we are doing today: to pray, to dialogue together, to shorten the distance between us, to strengthen our bonds of brotherhood.”

So all Christians have things in common, which unite us, and some differences, which divide us. We have a common Baptism, which places all the baptized in the state of grace, giving us the three theological virtues of love, faith, and hope. We have a common faith in Jesus Christ and in the most holy Trinity. The things that unite us are of grace; they are of God.

Then there are differences which divide us, and these things are of sin. The grace of God seeks unity among the followers of Christ. Jesus prayed that His disciples would be one. The devil, the father of lies, wishes Christians to be divided. We are more likely to spread the Gospel to unbelievers and less likely to sin gravely if we cooperate closely with grace to be one in Christ. The devil hates all Christians; he does not care about our differences, though he would like to further our divisions.

Pope Francis mentions that this unity might “sound controversial, or even heretical”, meaning that it might seem that way, but it is not. It is not really controversial and certainly not heretical. Of course, all Christians have a common unity. Of course, we should seek the grace to resolve our differences and unite in one holy Catholic Church.

I have long predicted, in my eschatology, that all the Protestant denominations and the Orthodox will repent of their failures to believe and will unite in one holy Catholic Church. This conversion and unification occurs in the early 2020’s — so it is not far away.

Some conservative Catholics objected to the Pope’s words. Well, the further you go to the right in Catholicism, the smaller the Church becomes. The further you go to the right in Catholicism, the fewer the people who are saved. Or at least that is what they claim. I don’t find support for that narrow point of view in Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium.

Soon-to-be schismatic Patrick Archbold claims that “the statement of ‘we are one’ is … very problematic.” And he comes close to accusing Pope Francis of heresy: “Did the Pope know that this statement is problematic from a Catholic view, possibly even heretical? Yes, he said so, before he said it.” But Archbold is misrepresenting the Pope’s remarks.

The Pope did not merely say “we are one”, he said “despite our differences, we are one”. And he called our differences “a wound in the body of the Church of Christ”. So he is not speaking as if the differences between Catholic Christians and non-Catholic Christians are minor. Why is it “very problematic” for the Pope to say that a substantial oneness remains despite grave differences? It isn’t. Valid baptism gives all Christians the state of grace, and whosoever dies in a state of grace will have eternal life. There’s your oneness. Eternal life with God in Heaven. And the path to that life begins with our common baptism and common faith in the Son of God.

Also, the Pope absolutely did NOT say that his statement on our oneness is “possibly even heretical”. He said that it “may sound…heretical”, that is, it might seem heretical to persons who over-simplify and distort the Catholic faith.

Pat Archbold speaks as if he were more Catholic than the Pope. He speaks as if it is his role to judge and correct the Supreme Pontiff of the holy Catholic Church. He misinterprets the words of the Pope. He ignores the prayer of Jesus that His disciples be one. He ignores the infallible teaching of the Council of Trent that the Sacraments administered by even heretics and schismatics (i.e. Protestants and Orthodox) can be valid Sacraments (under the usual conditions for validity).

At the time of the October 2015 Synod, many conservative Catholics will falsely accuse Pope Francis of heresy, and they will depart from the one true Church by the grave sin of formal schism. Pat Archbold is helping guide his fellow conservatives toward that grave sin. And he is well along the path to schism himself.

Am I being too harsh in my words about Pat Archbold? But he is speaking more harshly about the Vicar of Christ, and he is leading the faithful away from faith in the one true Church. For the holy Roman Pontiff is the head of the Church on earth.

What did Jesus say about the divisions between Catholic and Protestant? Well, the Jews experienced a similar division. The Samaritans mentioned in the Gospel were not unbelievers or pagans; they were Jews who practiced an altered version of Judaism (cf. John 4). Thus, the relationship between Jews and Samaritans is analogous to the relationship between Catholics and Protestants. Does Jesus reject and condemn Samaritans? No, He does not. When His disciples wanted to call down fire from Heaven to destroy a Samaritan town that refused to welcome Him, Jesus rebuked them. And Jesus praised the good Samaritan as an example for us all to imitate:

{10:29} But since he wanted to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
{10:30} Then Jesus, taking this up, said: “A certain man descended from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he happened upon robbers, who now also plundered him. And inflicting him with wounds, they went away, leaving him behind, half-alive.
{10:31} And it happened that a certain priest was descending along the same way. And seeing him, he passed by.
{10:32} And similarly a Levite, when he was near the place, also saw him, and he passed by.
{10:33} But a certain Samaritan, being on a journey, came near him. And seeing him, he was moved by mercy.
{10:34} And approaching him, he bound up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. And setting him on his pack animal, he brought him to an inn, and he took care of him.
{10:35} And the next day, he took out two denarii, and he gave them to the proprietor, and he said: ‘Take care of him. And whatever extra you will have spent, I will repay to you at my return.’
{10:36} Which of these three, does it seem to you, was a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?”
{10:37} Then he said, “The one who acted with mercy toward him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go, and act similarly.”

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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