Cardinal Levada: Union with the Catholic Church is the goal of ecumenism

A summary of a recent speech from a Catholic Cardinal who argues that all ecumenical activity should lead to a reconciliation of all Churches with Rome. Read the full text of the speech. Orthodoxy is only mentioned in terms of the “Eastern Catholic” practices.


St. Peter's Basilica

In a lengthy address delivered in Canada on March 6, Cardinal William Levada, prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, stated that the reception of communities of Anglicans into the Catholic Church is consistent with Anglican-Catholic ecumenical dialogue because “union with the Catholic Church is the goal of ecumenism.”

Tracing the history of Anglican-Catholic dialogue since the Second Vatican Council, Cardinal Levada noted that Anglican decisions to ordain women and countenance homosexual activity were not consistent with earlier statements agreed to by Anglican and Catholic theologians. “No wonder, then, that the ordination of a bishop in a homosexual partnership in New Hampshire, with subsequent approval by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church of the United States in 2003, and the authorization of rituals for the blessing of gay unions and marriages by the Anglican Church in Canada, have caused an enormous upheaval within the Anglican communion,” the cardinal observed.

Cardinal Levada then compared the reception of Anglican communities into the Catholic Church to the addition of an instrument to an orchestra. Professing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, these communities will play the same doctrinal notes, yet will enrich the orchestra with another sound.

“Let me add right away that when I say enrichment I am referring not to any addition of essential elements of sanctification and truth to the Catholic Church,” said Cardinal Levada. “Christ has endowed her with all the essential elements. I am referring to the addition of modes of expression of these essential elements, modes which enhance everyone’s appreciation of the inexhaustible treasures bestowed on the Church by her divine founder.”

“Turning to the Anglican Communion, we can see the many elements that impel toward full unity: regard for the unifying role of the episcopate, an esteem for the sacramental life, a similar sense of catholicity as a mark of the Church, and a vibrant missionary impulse, to name but a few,” he continued. “These are by no means absent from the Catholic Church, but the particular manner in which they are found in Anglicanism adds to the Catholic understanding of a common gift. These considerations help us appreciate the Catholic Church’s insistence that there is no opposition between ecumenical action and the preparation of people for full reception into Catholic communion.”

“ Moreover, among the distinctive elements of Anglican heritage should be included the spiritual and intellectual gifts of the Oxford movement in the 19th century, the then-Anglican cleric Newman together with his fellow Tractarians have left a legacy that still enriches a common Catholic patrimony,” he added.


  1. Isa Almisry :

    At least he is honest. Misguided-Rome should be reconciled to the Othodox Catholic Faith-but honest.

  2. In previous centuries, Orthodoxy publicly declared that Catholics are heretics who have fallen away from the Church. Christ founded the Church and those who dare to add anything to His teachings and the teachings of His Apostles fall away from the Church. The Church is One, it was never divided. Individuals, groups or communities fall away from the Church. The most guilty are those in their hierarchy, because they have chosen heresy with full knowledge and after due reflection.

    Those who invite us to unite with the heretics fall away from the Church. The pretext is that “we must stand together in front of the impending threat of universal secularization and Islamisation”. Perhaps kissing the Koran and calling it “holy” incidents came out of fear of Islamisation.

    The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
    the Lord scoffs at them.

    Christian missionaries to the Muslim world and converts to Christianity from Islam are facing severe persecution around the globe (see:Persecution Harder Among Muslims Who Convert to Christianity, But Saved Souls Bring Great Joy to Believers)

    Many are murdered, shot dead, burned dead, beaten, kidnapped, lose their houses, lose their children and their families. But their blood is becoming the seed of the church and millions of million Muslims are converting to Christianity day by day.

    We live in “interesting times”…. Millions of Muslims are converting to Christianity while our “christian brothers or fathers” are mocking God and the Truth by calling the Koran “holy”.

    I believe it is time to make up our minds and stop this beyond ridiculous circus.

    Blessed is the man
    who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
    or stand in the way of sinners
    or sit in the seat of mockers.

    • George Michalopulos :

      Eliiot, you speak correctly. IMHO, the EP trods dangerous territory when he upholds Islam and/or ecumenism. I’m not saying that one should not be polite and courteous, but we must dare to paint with bold colors, not “pale pastels.” The people who seek the truth –Muslims, Protestants, etc.–cry out for leadership, not diplomacy. The Orthodox bishops would do well to stop, take stock of the current state of affairs, and pare back most all ecumenical/interfaith dialogue. Any more some such endeavors risks us losing what we have gained so far. I’m speaking specifically about the Guatemalan mission. These people are not fools: they are joining a Church in the expectation that it is true to the Christian moral tradition. If anyone is misrepresenting anything, then they will take their semi-autonomy and go elsewhere.

      • The people who seek the truth –Muslims, Protestants, etc.–cry out for leadership, not diplomacy.

        George, very well said! Political opportunism, schismatic political intrigues and relativism is the history and nature of Rome. We do not need any of that even it is called “diplomacy”.

        Muslims are coming into churches explaining that they have already converted and now need a Bible and guidance on how to follow Jesus. Who can guide them?

        Orthodox leadership today requires courage and faith in God, the maker of heaven and earth not faith in the rulers of this world and the reason of fallen man.

        The Right Reverend Mitered Archimandrite Dr. Andrew (Vujisić)does seem to have the clarity other leaders lack. Praise the Lord! In his talks with the clergy and faithful of the ICOG he spoke at length about:

        matters related to the Orthodox faith, especially the importance of the development of an Orthodox phronema, praxis, and liturgical life.

        the importance of formulating an Orthodox worldview through prayer, fasting, repentance, struggle against sin and overcoming the passions, participation in the Holy Mysteries, and the reading the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Holy Fathers

        the straight and narrow path of reception into Orthodoxy

  3. It might be worthwhile to point out the obvious here. This speech was given to the Anglicans, not the Orthodox.

    Were the speech given to the Orthodox the phrase “union with the Catholic Church is the goal of ecumenism” might have been said differently, or at least been given a different sense since, from the Catholic perspective – and unlike the Anglicans – Catholic and Orthodox are historically “linked in a brotherly union of faith and sacramental life.”

    According to Catholics, Anglicans do not have valid sacraments. Thus, the coming together of Catholics and Anglicans is of a different nature than the hoped for union with the Orthodox since, again from a Catholic point of view, the Orthodox “possess true sacraments and above all, by apostolic succession, the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are linked with us in closest intimacy.”

    Just a thought.

    Source: Unitatis Redintegratio

    • Cardinal Levada then compared the reception of Anglican communities into the Catholic Church to the addition of an instrument to an orchestra.

      Can we compare the Catholic orchestra to the straight and narrow path of reception into Orthodoxy?

      When they’ll succeed to gather together under their umbrella all their offspring (Protestantism, Lutheranism, Baptism, Evangelicalism and all other “isms”) we can talk with them about unity.

    • Scott Pennington :

      “Were the speech given to the Orthodox the phrase ‘union with the Catholic Church is the goal of ecumenism’ might have been said differently, or at least been given a different sense . . .”

      Yes, they are quite good at speaking Clintonese. I too though am always refreshed when I hear a Catholic speak accurately and frankly about the nature of the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”; i.e., it is one visible communion. We differ on the locus of that Church but at least this cardinal, at this moment, seems to be speaking in traditional terms. It is of some comfort to some Orthodox that the present Pope sees us as “churches” but defective in our lack of submission to Rome. This, instead should be a cause for alarm. The RCC is beginning to sound like the Anglicans when it comes to branches of the Church. Same deal with their allowing Orthodox and non-Chalcedonians to commune in RCC churches if they approach. Poor ecclesiology does not help the situation.

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