Update: The Joint Declaration

The Francis / Orthodox Meeting in Cuba

Another A.B.T.D. Event

(Anything But True Doctrine)

by John Vennari

February 10, 2016 (Updated 2/15/16)

Ecumenism is not really a union of religions. It is the union of non-doctrinal sentimentalists within various religions, whose principle of unity is A.B.T.D. (Anything But True Doctrine).

Presently, the most visible case-in-point of A.B.T.D. activity is the highly publicized meeting between Pope Francis and Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. The encounter occurred at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport on February 12, a brief stopover prior to the Pope’s trip to Mexico.

Francis, following the A.B.T.D. principle of unity that emanates from Vatican II, has no intention of calling the Orthodox to “formal corporate reunion”1 based on the perennial doctrine of the Church. Holding to the post-Conciliar ecumenical vision, Francis said of the Orthodox in November 2014, “restoring full communion ... does not mean the submission of one to the other or assimilation.2

In other words, Francis sees no need for the doctrinal and jurisdictional submission of the Orthodox to the Vicar of Christ on earth, which the Church always insisted on as the principle of unity.

Rather, today’s A.B.T.D. operation is a “journey,” a “walking together,” toward an undefined “communion” that, in Francis’ words, involves “welcoming the gifts that God has given each of us.”

Contrast this sentimentalist approach with the clear doctrine of Pope St. Pius X.

“Will be in vain...”

Pope Saint Pius X spoke specifically of the need for the schismatic Orthodox to return to the Catholic Church for unity and salvation.

In the little-known 1910 Encyclical Ex Quo, Pius wrote that all work for the reunion of the schismatic Orthodox “will be in vain unless first, and above all, they [the Eastern Orthodox] hold the true and whole Catholic Faith as it has been handed down and consecrated in Holy Scripture, the tradition of the Fathers, the consent of the Church, general councils and the decrees of the Supreme Pontiffs.”

Saint Pius X prayed that God will “hasten the day when the nations of the East shall return to Catholic unity and, united to the Apostolic See, after casting away their errors, shall enter the port of everlasting salvation."3

We see Saint Pius X reiterates the Eastern Orthodox:

  1. 1. Embrace heretical teachings they must abandon;
  2. 2. Are not united to the true Church of Christ due to their schism;
  3. 3. Will not arrive at the port of salvation unless they cast away their errors and join Christ’s one true Church, by submitting to the legitimate Apostolic Authority of the Papacy.

Pius’ words tally with Catholic teaching of all time.

Our Lord gave His Apostles the mandate to “go forth and teach all nations” to bring all peoples into the one and only true Church that Christ established. Ecumenism does the opposite. As the eminent theologian Father Edward Hanahoe lamented in 1959, today’s ecumenism has the effect of “perpetuating the state of separation, serving rather to keep people out of the Church than to bring them into it.”4 This leaves the souls of non-Catholics in grave danger.

As far back as 1865, Blessed Pope Pius IX’s Holy Office insisted that any union must be based on truth alone — that is, the full body of truth taught by the Church. The Holy Office warned the Anglican unionists of the time, “...you must beware lest in seeking it [unity], you turn aside from the way.5

England’s Henry Edward Cardinal Manning, commenting on this text, noted, “... as the Holy Office affirms, there is no unity without truth. Truth first, unity afterwards, truth the cause, unity the effect. To invert this order is to overthrow the Divine procedure. The unity of Babel ended in confusion; the union of Pentecost fused all nations into one Body and one dogma of the Faith ....Truth alone generates unity.6

Today’s A.B.T.D. ecumenism often seeks a secondary or tertiary theme that serves as a substitute principal of unity. So it is that John Paul II’s pan-religious meetings at Assisi stated “prayers for peace” as the A.B.T.D. principle of unity. Both Pope John Paul and especially Pope Benedict XVI stated a “common witness” as the A.B.T.D. principle of unity between Catholics and contemporary Judaism.

Following the footsteps of these revolutionary pontiffs, Pope Francis in November 2014 listed three A.B.T.D. points of potential intersection between Catholics and Orthodox that come from pleas from the various voices in today’s world. They are:

  1. 1. “The voices of the poor,” those who “suffer from severe malnutrition... the rising number of unemployed youth...,” the defense of the “dignity of the human person,” and other such humanistic concerns in order to build a new undefined “civilization of love and solidarity.”

  2. 2. “Victims of conflict ... acts of violence ... inhuman and brutal war” that should urge us to hasten “along the [undefined] path of reconciliation and communion between Catholics and Orthodox.”

  3. 3. The cry of the “young people” who “live without hope” and are “overcome by mistrust and resignation,” and turn to materialism and to “satisfying human emotions.” Francis goes on to praise young people who come together at the Ecumenical Communion of Taize, a place where “many Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant youth” come together. “They do this,” he celebrates, “not because they ignore the differences which still separate us, but because they are able to see beyond them ... they are able to embrace what is essential and what already unites us, which is much holiness."7

In this prize-winning mouthful of A.B.T.D. sentimentalism, Francis effectively negates the Catholic principles of unity taught by Cardinal Manning and St. Pius X: “There is no unity without truth. Truth first, unity afterwards, truth the cause, unity the effect. To invert this order is to overthrow the Divine procedure.”

The A.B.T.D. principle driving the Francis-Orthodox meeting, according to news reports leading up to the event, was “common ground” regarding the “persecution of Christians in several regions of the world” — similar to Point #2 above (though the “Joint Declaration,” which we will briefly discuss later, covers more than this). An united effort to combat today’s persecutions of Christians is not an unpraiseworthy enterprise, but it little represents the necessary unity of Faith reiterated by Pope St. Pius X.

Granted, it might be argued this meeting could be a first step in the conversion of the Orthodox to Catholic unity, but such a goal is directly shunned by Pope Francis, and by the entire ecumenical thrust since Vatican II, especially manifest in the infamous Balamand Declaration of 1993. In fact, echoes of the Balamand declaration are found in the Francis/Kirill Joint Declaration.

An “Outdated Ecclesiology”

Regarding Catholic-Orthodox union, Francis spoke in 2014 of his hope for a “shared profession of Faith,” a term, which, in light of ecumenical fiascos such as the Catholic-Lutheran “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification,” has lost all meaning. While he expresses desire for “communion with the Orthodox churches,” he insists, as already noted, that “restoring full communion ... does not mean the submission of one to the other or assimilation.”

Francis appears to follow the A.B.T.D. line of conduct enunciated by the perfidious Balamand Declaration of 1993.8 This document of the Joint International Commission, which deals directly with the new means of unity with the Orthodox, states that thanks to “radically altered perspectives of thus attitudes” engineered by Vatican II’s new approach, the Catholic Church will train priests to “pave the way for future relations between the two Churches, passing between the outdated ecclesiology of return to the Catholic Church.” (#30)

The document also claims that the Catholic Church and the Orthodox “recognize each other as sister Churches, responsible together for maintaining the Church of God in fidelity to its divine purpose.” (#’s 12 & 14)

The document elsewhere states that in light of the Catholic and Orthodox considered as “Sister Churches“, the "missionary apostolate" that sought conversions from the Orthodox Church into Eastern Rites within the Catholic Church “which has been called ‘uniatism,’9 can no longer be accepted either as a method to be followed nor as a model of the unity our Churches are seeking.” (#12)10

Thus the true doctrine enunciated by St. Pius X is deprecated as outdated ecclesiology that no longer has any place within the new understanding of Catholic-Orthodox as “Sister Churches.” This is a manifestation of the Modernist error that various aspects of Catholic truth can change from age to age.

Worst of all, this infamous Balamand Declaration received unqualified favorable mention in Pope John Paul II’s ecumenical encyclical Ut Unum Sint. (#60)

The “Anti­-Conversion” Policy

The post-Conciliar Vatican for decades has been at pains to embrace the “ecumenical life” these new attitudes demand. The first being that all traces of proselytism — working to convert the Orthodox to Catholicism — must cease. Today’s A.B.T.D. ecumenists in Rome consider this surrender as crucial to demonstrate to Orthodox leaders that the new “unity in diversity” principle of Catholic churchmen does not demand the Orthodox convert to Catholicism for salvation.

In other words, for decades, priests have been ordered by the Vatican to actually discourage conversion of members of the Orthodox Church to Catholicism, so as not to get on the wrong side of schismatic clergy.

This “new mission” of “anti-mission” has its disastrous effect.

Crux’s John Allen wrote on February 5: “... a study in 2002 found there were just 800 conversions in the entire decade of the 1990s. Meanwhile, Evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity exploded in Russia, so much so that a 2012 book referred to it as a ‘post-Soviet gold rush’.”

Allen continues, “In the 2000s, in another sign of appeasement, the Vatican imposed an informal ‘no-growth’ policy, instructing pastors to tell any Russian who wanted to become Catholic to go back to their Orthodox parish."11

This is the price paid by ecumenical leaders, posing as Catholic churchmen, for their long awaited rapprochement in the form of a fleeting meeting with a Schismatic metropolitan in a Cuban airport.

The press claims this meeting has been in the works for two years, but the preparations go back much farther. The meeting is the fruit of the systematic betrayal of Catholic (and potential Catholic) souls in Russia and elsewhere for decades: men, women and children turned away from the Catholic Church and thrust back into the arms of a schismatic enterprise — or worse, landing in the clutches of the “Evangelical and Pentecostal” Protestants whose numbers have exploded in Russia since Catholic churchmen launched their anti-conversion policy.

The Joint Declaration

The Joint Declaration signed by Pope Francis and Metropolitan Kirill on February 12 contains more Catholic elements than the pan-religious declarations that emanate from other ecumenical gatherings, such as the Spirit of Assisi meetings. The Declaration starts with a note of veneration to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and speaks of shared beliefs such as that of the Trinity and the Eucharist.

The thrust of the document is predictably ecumenical, focusing on a “common witness” to the Gospel, and dealing with various problems facing humanity. It laments the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere, the plight of “millions of migrants and refugees knocking on the doors of wealthy nations,” “consumerism,” threats to “religious freedom,” “hostility in the Ukraine” and a number of other evils.

The Declaration also reiterates the post-Conciliar mantra, “Interreligious dialogue is indispensable in our disturbing times.” (We recall to the reader that the word “dialogue” does not appear in a single Church document prior to Vatican II — it represents an entirely new orientation.)

A number of pro-life organizations celebrate the seeming defense of true marriage in the Declaration, as well as the call for respect for the right to life of all people, including the unborn (#s 20-21). To me, however, this positive aspect of the Declaration is dampened by the fact that since the time of the Council, today’s Vatican has allowed — and continues to allow — Catholic politicians who support abortion, embryo-experimentation, euthanasia and same-sex “marriage” to remain Catholics in good standing with full access to the Sacraments.

I believe no Catholic can take this seeming pro-life section of the Declaration seriously until the Vatican backs these lofty statements with enforcement of the existing Canon 915, which bars pro-abortion and pro-homosexual “Catholic” politicians from receiving the Sacraments.12 Today’s Vatican and national hierarchies ignore the existing law of the Church, and pretend this important Canon does not exist.

Unless the pretty words in this Joint Declaration are backed with corresponding corrective deeds from the hierarchy, the words are little more than window dressing to bolster yet another ecumenical frolic.

Finally, we see the February 12 Joint Declaration reiterates the new policy of non- conversion: “It is today clear that the past method of ‘uniatism,’ understood as the union of one community to the other, separated from its Church, is not the way to re-establish unity.” (#25). This echoes the infamous Balamand Declaration noted above.

The “historic” meeting is no great feat. It is likely that any Pope over the past 1000 years would have obtained some sort of meeting with the Russian Patriarch had he been willing to surrender the central point of truth, that the Orthodox must “return to Catholic unity and, united to the Apostolic See, after casting away their errors, shall enter the port of everlasting salvation.”13

Many in the Church may celebrate Francis and Kirill’s A.B.T.D. meeting, but I cannot.

Francis may prattle on about the “reconciled diversity” of his A.B.T.D. ecumenism, but I am not fooled.

The entire enterprise is a fraud from top to bottom, built on the charred souls of those denied entry into Catholicism for the sake of a counterfeit unity completely foreign to that of the one Church of Christ.


  1. 1. Wording used by Father Edward Hanahoe in Catholic Ecumenism, A Dissertation, Father Edward Francis Hanahoe, S.A., S.T.L. [Washington: Catholic University of American Press, 1953], p. 124.
  2. 2. “Pope Francis: I seek Communion with the Orthodox,” Vatican Radio, November 30, 2014.
  3. 3. See Ex Quo, Pope Saint Pius X, December 26, 1910.
  4. 4. One Fold: Essays and Documents to Commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the Chair of Unity Octave, 1908­-1958. From essay, “That All May be One” by Father Francis Connell, C.SS.R., S.T.D., LL.D. [Graymoor: Chair of Unity Apostolate, 1959], p. 121.
  5. 5. Holy Office, Quod vos, ASS, 667. English translation by Henry Edward Cardinal Manning, England and Christendom (London: Longmans, 1867), p. 346. Quoted from Catholic Ecumenism, A Dissertation, Father Edward Francis Hanahoe, S.A., S.T.L. [Washington: Catholic University of American Press, 1953], p. 62.
  6. 6. Quoted from Ibid, p. 65.
  7. 7. “Pope Francis: I seek Communion with the Orthodox” (see endnote #2).
  8. 8. “Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue Between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church,” Balamand School of Theology (Lebanon), June 17­24, 1993 (on Vatican webpage).
  9. 9. “Uniatism” or “Uniate” is the term given to those Eastern Rite Catholics who keep their liturgical, sacramental and ecclesial traditions (The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom,” etc.) and have formally united with the the Holy See.
  10. 10. Emphasis added.
  11. 11. “Why a Meeting between the Pope and Russian Patriarch is Finally Happening,” John Allen, Crux News, February 5, 2016 [emphasis added].
  12. 12. Canon 915 reads, “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Cardinal Raymond Burke is one of the few prelates who calls for this Canon to be observed in the case of pro-abortion politicians, as he has said publicly regarding Catholic politicians in Ireland who support abortion, and the pro-abortion “practicing Catholic” Nancy Pelosi. Of Pelosi, Cardinal Burke said is 2013: “Certainly this is a case when Canon 915 must be applied. This is a person who obstinately, after repeated admonitions, persists in a grave sin — cooperating with the crime of procured abortion — and still professes to be a devout Catholic.” Burke said this is a prime example of what Pope John Paul II “referred to as the situation of Catholics who have divorced their faith from their public life and therefore are not serving their brothers and sisters in the way that they must — in safeguarding and promoting the life of the innocent and defenseless unborn, in safeguarding and promoting the integrity of marriage and the family.” (from The Wanderer, September 2013).
  13. 13. I will also go on record to say I am aware of the centuries of problems and hostilities that have arisen between Catholic and Orthodox, and I don’t mean to downplay them. However, Pius X has reiterated the irreplaceable principle of unity that is central and cannot be ignored. All prudential acts we can do to make this true reunion possible should be undertaken, difficult though it may be.