THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
What must be recognized is that the Catholic Church teaches as the Bible reveals that those who reject the Church founded by Jesus Christ reject Christ Himself and thus the truth. Jesus declared to His chosen representatives, "Anyone who rejects you, rejects me" (Lk.10:16). And it is a dogma of the Catholic Church that she is the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ:
Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) solemnly declared in the Profession of Faith for the Waldensians (1208):
By the heart we believe and by the mouth we confess the one true Church, not of heretics, but the Holy Roman Catholic, and Apostolic Church outside which we believe no one is saved.
At the 14th Ecumenical Council, Lyons II (1274), it was solemnly declared in its Profession of Faith:
The most holy Roman Church... firmly holds, preaches, declares, and teaches;... that the true Church is holy, Catholic, apostolic, and one... Also this same Roman Church holds the highest and complete primacy and spiritual power over the universal Catholic Church.
Pope Pius IX (1846-78) declared in Singulari Quidem (1856):
The Church is One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman: unique, the Chair founded on Peter ... Outside her fold is to be found neither the true faith nor eternal salvation, for it is impossible to have God for a Father if one has not the Church for a Mother.
At Vatican Council II none of this historic teaching was changed or modified as many think. For example, in the Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches (no. 2) it was declared:
The holy Catholic Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, is made up of the faithful who are organically united in the Holy Spirit by the same faith, the same sacraments and the same government.
To make it clear that by "Catholic Church" the Council meant the Roman Catholic Church with the successor of Peter, the Pope of Rome, as its visible head, let me quote these from the Constitution On the Church (8 and 23):
This is the only Church of Christ which we profess in the Creed to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after his resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral and shepherding care (cf.Jn.21: 17), commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and to rule it (cf.Mat.18:17-18; 28:18, etc.), and which he raised up for all ages as "the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Tim.3:15). This Church, established and organized as a society present in this world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter (i.e., the Pope) and the Bishops in communion with him.
The Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful. The individual bishops are the visible source and foundation of unity in their own particular churches (i.e. dioceses), ... it is in these and formed out of them that the one and unique Catholic Church exists.
Thus, at Vatican II the Catholic Church still made it clear that she is the one Church established by Christ.
Protestants, by definition, reject the teachings and authority of the Catholic Church. Thus, in effect, they reject Christ. Though these sound arguments should be enough to those who are open to truth, the following authoritative Church statements should make it quite clear that Catholics and Protestants have no real grounds for cooperation.
Pope Boniface I (418-22) declared in his letter to the Thessalonians that "whosoever has cut himself off from the Church of Rome has become alien to Christianity."
Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) declared in Satis Cognitum (On the Unity of the Church, 1896):
Remember and understand well that where Peter is, there is the Church; that those who refuse to associate in communion with the Chair of Peter belong to Anti-Christ, not to Christ. He who would separate himself from the Roman Pontiff has no further bond with Christ.
In his Apostolic Letter, Quotiescumque Nobis (1961) Pope John XXIII (1958-62) gives us the logical sequence for those who would be joined to Christ:
It is impossible to be joined to God except through Jesus Christ; it is impossible to be united to Christ except in and through the Church, which is His Mystical Body; finally, it is impossible to belong to the Church except through the bishops, who are the successors of the Apostles and united to the Supreme Pastor, the successor of Peter.
Pope Paul VI (1962-78) declared in Evangelii Nuntiandi (On Evangelization in the World, 1975):
It happens that not without sorrow we hear people... continually claiming to love Christ but without the Church; to listen to Christ, but not to the Church; to belong to Christ; but outside the Church. The absurdity of this is clearly evident in this phrase of the Gospel: "Anyone who rejects you, rejects me" (Lk.10:16).
There are many who think Pope John Paul II has never taught what has been presented so far. But this is not so. In his address to the theologians of Spain (December 20, 1982), the Holy Father made it clear that:
One cannot believe in Christ without believing in the Church, the Body of Christ... Faithfulness to Christ, therefore, implies faithfulness to the Church.
The teaching of the Church is clear: those who do not belong to the Catholic Church, nor hold the Catholic Faith, do NOT belong to Christ, Whose Body is the Catholic Church. Any relations with Protestants, then, must be that of evangelization, of giving witness to the Catholic Faith, and not that of mere cooperation. Pope Pius XI (1922-39) made this clear in Mortalium Animos (On Fostering True Christian Unity, 1928), when he declared that Christian unity:
Can arise only from one teaching authority, one law of belief, and one Faith of Christians... There is only one way in which the unity of Christians may be fostered, and that is by furthering the return to the one true Church of Christ for those who are separated from her; for far from that one true Church they have in the past fallen away...
In his encyclical Ut Unum Sint, Pope John Paul II stated numerous times that for there to be authentic Christian unity, those not in communion with the Catholic Church must come into full unity with her who alone holds the fullness of truth:
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. (# 18)
Full unity will come about when all share in the fullness of the means of salvation entrusted by Christ to his Church. (# 86)
The Catholic Church, both in her praxis and in her solemn documents, holds that communion of the particular Churches with the Church of Rome, and of their Bishops with the Bishop of Rome, is - in God's plan- an essential requisite of full and visible communion. (# 97)
The Pope, then, admits that the only way for Christians to be united with the unity willed by God is "by the adherence of all to the content of revealed faith in its entirety." Revealed faith in its entirety exists only in the Catholic Church. This means that all non-Catholics who profess belief in Jesus Christ must, for example, accept and believe the divinely revealed truths of: Papal infallibility, the Marian dogmas, Purgatory, the Sacrifice of the Mass, the Real Presence, the seven Sacraments, etc. In other words, they must convert to Catholicism and become members of the Catholic Church. Otherwise, they exist in opposition to God's will.
Of course, unity is not an end in and of itself. The purpose of working for Christian unity is to bring those outside of the one true fold into it that they might be saved. Thus, ultimately, what is at stake here is the salvation of souls.
With the most solemn and highest exercise of Church authority, Pope Eugene IV (1431-47), in the Bull Cantata Domino at the Council of Florence in 1441, defined and declared ex Cathedra, and thus infallibly, that:
The Holy Roman Church] firmly believes, professes and teaches that none of those who are not within the Catholic Church, not only Pagans, but Jews, heretics and schismatics, can ever be partakers of eternal life, but are to go into the eternal fire ‘'prepared for the devil and his angels" (Mat.25:41), unless before the close of there lives they shall have entered into that Church; also that the unity of the Ecclesiastical body is such that the Church's Sacraments avail only those abiding in that Church... moreover, that no one, no matter what alms he may have given, not even if he were to shed his blood for Christ's sake, can he be saved unless he abide in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.
Of course, no one can enter into and "abide in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church" unless (presuming they have been validly baptized) they hold in its entirety the Catholic Faith. This is why Pope Pius IX infallibly declared that "to believe that good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ" is to be "absolutely rejected and condemned by all the sons of the Catholic Church" (Syllabus of Errors, 17).
Nevertheless, the above facts and this defined dogma are ignored, if not denied, by those "Catholics" who cooperate with and seek unity with those non-Catholics who profess belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, for the latter by definition reject dogmas of the Church. In doing so, the former are misleading both themselves and those with whom they cooperate, for there can be no real cooperation, let alone unity, when truth is either ignored or rejected -by either party.
It must, again, be recognized that those who ignore or reject divine truth, ignore or reject God Himself who is truth. This is what we will look at next.
You may ask, "Couldn't one claim that, though much of their theology is wrong, it does not mean that Protestants are separated from Christ and actually believe in a different God?" No, this could not be true. Some fundamental theology will help us to see why.
To believe in God is to believe in who He is. This should be self-evident. "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one" (Deut.6:4). God's unity, or "oneness," means that He is indivisible. God's oneness includes all His divine attributes; for God is Eternal, Everywhere Present, All-mighty, All-knowing, All-wise, Holy, Just, Good (this includes loving), Merciful, True, Faithful, and Unchangeable.
Because God is infinite, His attributes are infinite. We must recognize that there is no distinction between God's attributes and Himself. As God is one and indivisible, so His attributes are one and indivisible. Since our minds are finite we must think of God's attributes as distinct, if we are to think of them at all. Nevertheless, as God is one and indivisible, so His attributes are one and indivisible. Thus, the attributes of God are not distinct from His very Self, and in God neither are they distinct from one another.
This means that not to believe in just one of these attributes is to not believe in God at all. God cannot be God if He did not have only one of these attributes; nor could God be God even if He lacked absolute perfection in only one attribute. God, by definition, can NEVER lack even absolute perfection in any of these attributes.
This is all fundamental theology, the foundation upon which everything else pertaining to God, and thus to Christ and Christianity, is built. We will now look at one of God's attributes in relation to ecumenism. This attribute will be truth.
The Attribute of Truth
Since God is true, it necessarily follows that God reveals only Truth; God speaks only Truth; God acts only in Truth; God can only be known in truth; God demands belief in and conformity to Truth. Now, since God is also one, and thus, indivisible (i.e. God has no parts), the same must be said concerning the attribute of Truth. Truth, divine Truth, MUST be one and indivisible if it is an attribute of God. As it is an attribute of God, Who has no parts, so there is no division or parts in Truth. As a result of this, the following must be held and affirmed:
Since Truth cannot be divided, to deny, or to fail to believe in just ONE divinely revealed truth (i.e. a dogma of the Church) is to fail to believe ENTIRELY what God has revealed. Again, as an attribute of God, Truth has NO parts. It can only be believed in its entirety or it is not held at all, for Truth cannot be divided. Think about this...
Jesus, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, identified Himself with the Truth and as the Truth (Jn.14:6), and as belief in and submission to Christ is necessary for salvation, so, then, is belief in Truth necessary for salvation. The very nature of God demands belief in and conformity to truth, if one is to be saved. Again, since Truth is indivisible it must be believed in its entirety. As a result of this, the following position and conclusion is unavoidable:
We must of necessity conclude that one who fails to believe in just one particular divine truth, that is, one who rejects just one dogma of the Catholic Church, cannot in reality believe in the God of the Bible, the God of the Catholic Church. By definition, this person cannot be united to Christ Who is Truth Incarnate. Thus, this person cannot be saved.
Since all Protestants, let alone all other non-Catholics, reject what the Catholic Church teaches as truths revealed by God (i.e., Papal infallibility, the Marian dogmas, Purgatory, the Sacrifice of the Mass, the Real Presence, etc.), we must of necessity conclude that in rejecting just one particular divine truth, that is, in failing to believe in just one dogma of the Church, these persons are rejecting God. Remember, there is no distinction between God and His attributes. Thus Protestants, as they are, cannot be saved.
It is either that, or one the following MUST be held:
1) Truth, and our belief in it, does not really matter for salvation. IF this were true, THEN, Jesus does not matter for salvation since He equated Himself with the Truth and identified Himself as the Truth (see Jn.14:6). Of course, no real Christian can hold this, OR:
2) Truth is divisible, which means it does not need to be completely accepted and embraced, for some "parts" of Truth can be held while at the same time others can be rejected. IF this were true, THEN Truth can not be an attribute of God because God is one and indivisible and His attributes are identical with Him. But this would mean that God is NOT true. IF God were not true, THEN God is not perfect. IF this were true, THEN there is no God, for God is, by definition, infinitely perfect and true. Thus, to hold this option makes one an atheist.
What do these undeniable facts reveal? First, these facts reveal that Catholics and Protestants cannot truly join in prayer together at ecumenical gatherings, for the "God" of Protestants is not the one true God, indivisible in all of His attributes. Catholics and Protestants may profess to believe in the same God, in the same Jesus, etc., but that to which we attribute to God in both His nature and works are contradictory and irreconcilable. Second, these facts reveal the need, again, not for mere cooperation or ecumenical prayer services, but evangelization.
To hold and believe that a person can still be united to Christ and be saved without having to believe those truths which God has revealed for our salvation, which is what the dogmas of the Faith are, one is holding either #1 or #2 (or both). There are no other options. To hold #1 makes one a non-Christian. To hold #2 makes one a complete atheist. Neither of which can be saved. The only other choice is to believe the absolute necessity of holding in its entirety the One True Faith revealed by God and given to us by Christ -the Catholic Faith. This is what the Catholic Church has always formally taught:
In the ancient Athanasian Creed, composed sometime before the year 400 A.D., it is declared:
Whoever wishes to be saved needs above all to hold the Catholic faith; unless each one preserves this whole and inviolate, he will without a doubt perish in eternity... This is the Catholic faith; unless each one believes this faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.
Pope Eugene IV (1431-1437) solemnly declared in his Bull Exultate Deo (1439):
Whoever wishes to be saved needs, above everything else, to hold the Catholic faith. Unless one preserves this faith whole and inviolate he will perish in eternity, without a doubt.
At Vatican Council I, in the Dogmatic Constitution On Faith (chap.3), it was solemnly declared:
Since without faith it is impossible to please God, no one may be justified without it, nor will anyone attain eternal life unless he perseveres to the end in it... all those things are to be believed by divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the written Word of God or in Tradition, and which are proposed by the Church either in solemn judgment or in its ordinary and universal teaching office as divinely revealed truths which must be believed.
In the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ (ch.3) it was solemnly declared:
We teach and declare that the Roman Church, by the disposition of the Lord, holds the sovereignty of ordinary power over all others... When, therefore, this bond of unity with the Roman Pontiff is guarded, both in government and in profession of the same faith, the Church of Christ is one flock under one supreme shepherd. This is the doctrine of Catholic truth from which no one can deviate without losing his faith and salvation.
Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922), in his first Encyclical Ad beatissimi (1914), repeated this same principle:
The nature of the Catholic faith is such that nothing can be added, nothing taken away. Either it is held in its entirety or it is rejected totally. This is the Catholic faith which, unless a man believes faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.
May all who claim to be Catholic recognize the true teachings of Mother Church on the necessity of holding the Catholic Faith in its entirety for salvation. May all Protestants who honestly seek Christian unity in response to the prayer of our Lord Jesus in John 17, recognize that, 1) this is the true teaching of the Catholic Church, and 2) this teaching is revealed from God, from which the Catholic Church can never deviate.
You may also hold that, despite the fact that Protestants misinterpret (or misunderstand) a divine truth revealed by God, they can still be united to Christ and thus be saved. Hence, there is a basis for cooperation between Catholics and, at the least, Evangelicals. If you hold this, then please consider the following:
First, a misinterpretation of divine truth is still, by definition, error. It is still a failure to affirm and believe a truth which God has revealed as necessary for belief. This objective fact must never be ignored.
Second, by misinterpreting a divine truth revealed by God one does so either intentionally (i.e., conscious rejection of divine truth) OR accidentally (i.e., unintentional rejection of divine truth). There are no other options.
I will presume for the sake of argument that you hold that the person who is the conscious rejecter of divine truth shall be damned, and the person who unintentionally misinterprets what God has revealed can still enter heaven and who will have all his misinterpretations and misunderstandings straightened out.
If you hold this, in either case you must admit that, if the unintentional misinterpreter goes to heaven and the intentional misinterpreter goes to hell, then Truth still does not really matter. Why?
BY THE VERY FACT THAT BOTH STILL HOLD SOMETHING WHICH IS FALSE, AND BOTH FAIL TO BELIEVE THE TRUTH!
This is the objective fact of both examples. Yet both end up in eternally opposite places! The objective fact that both did not believe the truth, then, is not the determining factor in their eternal fates. Please think this through... This contradicts what God has declared when, through St. Paul, He made it clear that those who do not believe the truth will be judged and condemned (2 Thes.2:12).
To hold the above can ONLY mean that Truth does NOT, in fact, matter; and since Jesus is the Truth, it means Jesus does not matter for salvation. (It would also necessarily mean that faith -correct faith- does not matter.) It means that only intentions matter because BOTH of these persons failed to actually believe the Truth before they died.
Therefore, you MUST conclude that to hold this means that man is saved by his own intentions. This is none other than a gospel of works. It is the heresy of salvation by works. (Any act of body, mind or will is a work.) It is well known that liberal "Catholics" hold this heresy, but any Protestant (this includes Evangelicals, Pentecostals, and fundamentalists) who holds such is guilty of the damnable heresy of salvation by works.
Jesus did not say he who misinterprets revealed truth, even though he does not believe, will still be saved. Rather, Jesus declared without qualification, "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not believe shall be condemned" (Mk.16:16).
Jesus is concerned with objective reality, -whether we actually believe the truth or not- for there is no subjective circumstance which He cannot overcome. To hold that there is, is to deny God's omniscience and omnipotence. Here's why:
1) Since nothing is impossible with God (Lk.1:37), there is nothing which he can not foresee and no circumstance in which He can not overcome.
2) Since God promises that He will reward those who seek Him (Heb.11:6), and
3) Since God desires ALL men to come to know the truth (1 Tim.2:4), there is nothing which would keep God from revealing His truth to those who are open to it (Jn.18:37) and who sincerely seek it (Mat.7:7f). Only bad will can do this.
Therefore, we must conclude that if someone does not know and believe in the dogmas of the Catholic Church before they die (including those who misinterpret the truth), they are either not open to the truth and not sincerely seeking it OR they are rejecting truth when made aware of it. As a result of the above promises, no one could "sincerely" misinterpret God's truths up till the day they die, for Christ promised that we shall know the truth (Jn.8:32). Ignorance of the Truth, then, is due to the individuals own fault of ultimately not being open to the Truth.
St. Thomas Aquinas recognized this truth when he stated in his Summa Theologica (I-II, q.84, art.4, ad 5; II-II, q.53, art.2, ad 2) :
All sins which are due to ignorance can be reduced to sloth, to which pertains the negligence of a man who declines to acquire spiritual goods because of the labour associated with them... Since knowledge is further removed from morality than prudence,... it follows that ignorance has the nature of mortal sin, not of itself, but on account either of a preceding negligence or the consequent result, and for this reason ignorance is reckoned one of the general causes of sin... All sin proceeds from some ignorance.
In dealing with this same subject, Pope St. Pius X (1903-14), forcefully declared that:
We pray and conjure you to reflect on the ruin of souls which is wrought by this single cause: ignorance of those most sublime truths, so far beyond the natural understanding of the multitude, which must nonetheless be known by all men alike in order that they may attain eternal salvation... We positively maintain that the will of man cannot be upright nor his conduct good while his intellect is the slave of crass ignorance!... If, as a result of ignorance, lack of faith is added to corruption, the situation scarcely admits of remedy, and the road to eternal ruin lies open. This we solemnly affirm: the majority of those who are condemned to eternal punishment fall into this everlasting misfortune through ignorance of the mysteries of the faith which must necessarily be known and believed by all who belong to the Elect.
("Acts of the Supreme Pontiff Pius X," Vatican Press, Rome, 1904.)
Misinterpretation is still, in effect, ignorance of truth, and ignorance is ultimately due to sin.
With the true nature of misinterpretation exposed, there is another fatal problem for those who think that the person who misinterprets God's revealed Truth until his death can still be united to Christ and thus still be saved. It concerns, again, God's attributes. If God were to make exceptions by allowing those who misinterpret his revealed truths to be saved, then, God would be making an exception with one of His attributes and its necessary consequences. Remember, to truly believe in God is to believe His attributes can never be separated from Him.
It must be recognized that even those who end up "unintentionally" misinterpreting what God has revealed nonetheless still, objectively speaking, do NOT believe the Truth. If these could still be saved in such a state, then, God makes an exception with His attribute of Truth. But this cannot be. God cannot make any exceptions with His attributes. If He did, then God would be denying one of His own attributes. But this would mean that God would, in fact, be denying Himself. By definition of what is meant by "God," this is an absolute impossibility. God can NEVER deny Himself (2 Tim.2:13).
Thus, we MUST conclude that God cannot make an exception when it comes to both His Truth and the absolute necessity for those who would be saved to believe in His revealed truths. Again, as God and His attributes are one and indivisible, and as Truth is an attribute of God, and thus is identified with God and cannot be divided, we MUST hold that to be saved one must believe in ALL that God has revealed.
Those who believe God makes exceptions for the "unintentional" misinterpreter of His truths end up holding by consequence that God must deny Himself to do such. This would make them, by definition, atheists. It must be held by any person of reason (and reason and faith can never contradict each other) that if the necessary consequences of a belief or position were to lead to a denial of God and truth, then the belief itself is false and damnable for those who hold it. The truths revealed by God MUST be held in their entirety or they will be of no benefit to those who hold only some of them. This is so because divine truth is indivisible.
By the fact that Evangelicals in particular, and Protestants in general, reject certain truths revealed by God, the truths they do profess will be of no avail to them. Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903), in his encyclical Satis Cognitum (On the Unity of the Church: June 29, 1896), spelled this out clearly:
"Such is the nature of the faith that nothing can be more absurd than to accept some things and to reject others. If, then, it be certain that anything is revealed by God, and this is not believed, then NOTHING WHATEVER is believed by divine faith... But he who dissents even in ONE POINT from divinely-revealed truth absolutely rejects ALL faith, since he refuses to honour God as the Supreme Truth and formal motive of faith. In many things they are with me, in a few things not with me; but in those few things in which they are not with me, the many in which they are WILL NOT PROFIT THEM... for they who take from Christian doctrine what they please lean on their own judgment, not on faith... and they obey themselves more truly than they obey God." (Capitals added to emphasize point.)
There can be no TRUE ecumenism until the one true God and His revealed truths are acknowledged and believed in their entirety. And there can be no authentic cooperation with those who deny God and His truth. There can only be evangelization and the hope for their conversion.
So, what basis is there for ecumenical prayer meetings, ecumenical/social out-reach programs to the poor and even ecumenical pro-life efforts? Well, it should be quite clear by now that the ecumenical efforts of today are based on false and erroneous assumptions, i.e. that Catholics and Protestants at least believe the fundamentals and basics of the Christian Faith, -which thus establishes some ground for some unity and cooperation. On the contrary, as this work has demonstrated, even though there is a similar profession on some aspects of the Christian Faith, there is no objective ground of basic agreement between Catholics and Protestants. Thus, the very notion that there can be some sort of "spiritual unity" (whatever "spiritual" may mean here) is a complete fallacy. There can be no dichotomy allowed between what one truly believes, what one professes, and what exterior communion to which one belongs; for this would only be disunion within the individual. To function on this level would be to live a lie. The Incarnation is the union of Spirit with flesh, the eternal with the historical, the invisible with the visible, the interior with the exterior. As a result, there can be no unity in one realm (spiritual) while there is none in the other (creed, authority, and faith). True ecumenism must reflect the reality of the Incarnation. This reality exists only in the Catholic Church.
No social issue, no political issue, not even moral issues can take priority over God's revealed truths and the necessity of men to affirm and believe in them. In fact, true cooperation in any of these areas is ultimately contingent upon a common acknowledgment and profession of Christian truth -doctrinal and moral.
As we have shown, in the Catholic Faith, Jesus did A, B, C, D, E, etc., and God, by His nature, is A, B, and C. In the Protestant faith Jesus did NOT-A, NOT-B, NOT-C, etc., and God is NOT-A, NOT-B, and NOT-C. Because they do not believe in numerous dogmas of the Catholic Faith, Protestants do not believe in the same God Who has revealed Himself. Thus, they cannot be saved unless they repent from their errors and profess and believe the whole Catholic Faith - as all must.
As mentioned before, not to believe or to reject a truth revealed by God is to reject the very authority of God Who revealed it. This is true no matter what that truth is which God has revealed. To reject the authority of God is nothing but the rejection of God Himself, and NO ONE can be saved who rejects God. Hence, the necessity of belief in every dogma for salvation. To reject just one, is to reject God Who revealed it.
What must we conclude then? There can be no cooperation with those who reject Christ, for those who reject Christ are in reality enemies of Christ, even if they don't think they are. Evangelicals, and all Protestants, have invented their own "Christ," who is NOT the biblical/historical Jesus Christ of Roman Catholicism.
Catholics, then, have the obligation, the divine mandate, to evangelize not only professed non-Christians, but even those who profess to believe in Jesus and yet are not Catholic. Since love rejoices in the truth (1 Cor.13:6), we can never tolerate error in matters of religion. In fact, we can never cooperate with error, but must seek to correct it and bring those in it out of it.
Therefore, it would be uncharitable to leave a Protestant in his error, for error is ultimately a rejection of truth, and only truth is salvfic. This truth is the Catholic Faith, revealed by God and given by Christ to His Church for our salvation.
Ecumenism and cooperation are, by definition, absolutely contingent upon truth, and men's belief in all of it, confession of it in its entirety and adherence to it. Truth comes before unity, for unity must be built upon it and Christ Who is Truth; and unity can come no other way except by way of union with and submission to Truth's vicar on earth - the Pope of Rome.
We end this short work with a quote by Venerable Pope Pius IX from his 1863 Encyclical, Quanto Conficiamur (On Religious Indifferentism, 1863), which presents the true attitude Catholics must have towards our "separated brethren."
"But let the children of the Catholic Church in no way be hostile to those who are not joined with us in the bonds of the same faith and of charity... above all let them strive to snatch them away from the darkness in which they lie miserably, and lead them back to the Catholic truth and to the most loving Mother the Church, who never ceases to extend her maternal arms lovingly to them and to call them back to her bosom, so that being grounded and made firm in faith, hope and charity... they may attain eternal salvation."