The New Evangelization: Quo Vadis?

More and more, Catholics are shying away from using terms like “proselytizing,” “conversion,” and even “Catholic” in their ecumenical and inter-religious efforts, almost as if they were ashamed of the Gospel, or afraid of appearing as a “sign of contradiction.”

Vatican II’s Dignitatis Humanae states that every person has a “right” to religious freedom. They are not to be “coerced,” in any way, to act contrary to their own beliefs. In seemingly contradictory fashion, the same document exhorts Catholics to use the coercive power of truth in their missionary mandate to “make disciples of all nations”: “The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly and with power.” Dignitatis Humanae thus invites Catholics to be both non-coercive, and coercive, in their dealings with non-Catholics. “Non-coercion” is understood in a negative sense to mean “non-missionary.” “Coercion” is understood in a positive sense to mean “missionary.” Vatican II, then, is inviting Catholics to be both a non-missionary, and a missionary, people. It is asserting, in effect, that two contradictory views of reality are merely different perceptions of the same thing. One can see in this confusion the promotion of a lethal system of religious indifferentism.

This same contradiction is advanced in other documents of Vatican II.  The “Decree on Ecumenism”(4), for example, states that there is no opposition between “ecumenical action” and “full Catholic communion.” This would seem to support the positive theory of coercion, i.e., that of proclaiming truth and correcting error, which has always been at the heart of the church’s missionary mandate. It forged world-wide conquests of many nations to the Catholic faith, and was the cause of countless martyrs. Other sections of the “Decree on Ecumenism” (No 3-4), as well as Vatican II’s “Decree on Religious Liberty,” decidedly support the non-coercive theory which negates the church’s pre-Vatican II missionary mandate of conversion, while implying that the “fullness of Catholic truth” is not necessary for salvation. This latter proposition has become the status quo among the Catholic faithful and church elite, including His Eminence Walter Cardinal Kasper, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope John Paul II. Cardinal Kasper has boldly stated, for example, that: “Today, we no longer understand ecumenism in the sense of a return, by which the others would ‘be converted’ and return to being ‘Catholics.’ This was expressly abandoned by Vatican II.” (Adista, Feb. 26, 2001).

In his speech to Protestants at World Youth Day 2005 (August 19), Pope Benedict XVI also explicitly denied the ecumenism of the return, stating: “And we now ask: What does it mean to restore the unity of all Christians? … this unity does not mean what could be called ‘ecumenism of the return’: that is, to deny and to reject one’s own faith history. Absolutely not!” In his book, “The Meaning of Christian Brotherhood” (p. 87-88), the Pope further states: ” … there is no appropriate category in Catholic thought for the phenomenon of Protestantism today (one can say the same of the relationship to the separated churches of the East). It is obvious that the old category of ‘heresy’ is no longer of any value. Heresy, for Scripture and the early Church, includes the idea of a personal decision against the unity of the Church, and heresy’s characteristic is pertinacia, the obstinacy of him who persist in his own private way. This, however, cannot be regarded as an appropriate description of the spiritual situation of the Protestant Christian. In the course of a now centuries-old history, Protestantism has made an important contribution to the realization of Christian faith, fulfilling a positive function … The conclusion is inescapable, then: Protestantism today is something different from the heresy in the traditional sense, a phenomenon whose true theological place has not yet been determined.”

In his book, Principles of Catholic Theology (pp. 197-198), Pope Benedict XVI further rejects calls for the collective conversion of Protestant churches to the Catholic faith, as “maximum solutions…. which offer no real hope for unity”.

Instances of Pope John Paul II’s support for the non- coercion theory are seen in the Assisi gatherings of October 1986 and January 2002. During Assisi 2002, John Paul provided “arranged” places in the Convent of Saint Francis for the practitioners of “the great world religions,” from Animism to Zoroastrianism, to enact their assorted cultic rituals. The inevitable public impression left by the Assisi event, especially when filtered through the prism of the secular media, was that all religions are more or less pleasing to God—the very thesis rejected as false by Pope Pius XI in his 1928 encyclical, Mortalium Animos.

Other indications of Pope John Paul II’s support for the non-coercive theory is: (1) his public kissing of the Koran during a 1999 visit to Rome; (2) the bestowal of pectoral crosses— symbols of episcopal authority—on Anglicans George Carey and Rowan Williams; and, (3) his active participation in pagan worship at a “sacred forest” in Togo.

False Ecumenism
The post-Vatican II contradiction of accepting both a coercion (conversion) and non-coercion (non-conversion) theory of ecumenism, simultaneously, was explicitly propounded by the Holy See’s representative to the Moscow Conference (November 30 – December 1, 2011), who stated: “Religious freedom should include the right to…convert… {and be} understood…as immunity from coercion.” (L’Osservatore Romano, December 14, 2012).

Now, there is no way to reconcile contradictory principles (in this case, coercion and non-coercion) without abandoning the principle of non-contradiction. The only conceivable way around this is to search, through “dialogue,” for a common language that can produce the appearance of supporting the two contradictory principles, at one and the same time. This, of course, is impossible without slipping into syncretism, which is exactly where the church is headed today.

Ecumenism is today viewed as a process of the recognition of values that are contained identically in every religious belief, with a greater or lesser prominence. There is, thus, never any movement from one religion to another, but only a process of “deepening” the truth one possesses by reference to the truth possessed by others, so that dialogue always brings enrichment to both parties. In effect, “dialogue,” and not Catholic faith, becomes the foundation for truth.

The word “dialogue” represents perhaps the biggest change in the mentality of the Church after Vatican II. The word was completely unknown and unused in the Church’s teaching before the council. It does not occur once in any previous council, or in papal encyclicals, or in sermons, or in pastoral practice. In the Vatican II documents, it occurs 28 times, twelve of them in the decree on ecumenism. It became the master word of post-conciliar thinking. People not only talk about ecumenical dialogue—dialogue between the Church and the world, ecclesial dialogue—but by an enormous misapplication: a dialogical structure attributed to theology, pedagogy, catechesis, the Trinity, the history of salvation, schools, families, the priesthood, the sacraments, redemption, and to everything else that had existed in the Church for centuries without the concept being in anybody’s mind or the word occurring in the language. The word marks a movement from the certain to the uncertain, the positive to the problematic. It essentially reduces evangelization from that of an authoritative proclamation to a dispute, or a conversation.

One of the major problems with dialogue, among others, is that it is impossible for everyone to dialogue due to insufficient knowledge. Yet, Vatican II’s decree on ecumenism states that everyone has a right to argue: “The concern {of ecumenical unity} extends to everyone, according to his talent.” At the local level of Church life, everyone can now participate—not as the Catholic system previously envisaged, by each person contributing his knowledge and playing his own proper part—but by everyone giving his opinion, and deciding on everything. This is exactly what has happened to the complete detriment of unity, and to the decay of both morals and faith. Nowhere is this more evident than in the legion of liturgical abuses.

The difference between the old and the new sorts of dialogue can be seen very clearly in the ends assigned to them. The old sort is aimed at demonstrating a truth, at producing a conviction in another person, and ultimately at conversion. The new dialogue is not directed towards the refuting of error, or the converting of one’s interlocutor.

Experience reveals that the post-conciliar period was devoted to the interpretation of the council, rather than to its implementation. After the council—armed with the new concept of “dialogue,” and indistinct and confused terms, like “spirit of the council”— innovators introduced these ideas in order to extract or exclude from the faith, elements they needed to extract or exclude. Using these terms, they could illuminate or obscure, gloss over or reinforce, individual parts of a text, or of a truth, as they saw fit. To this, the innovators added another technique, characteristic of those who disseminate error: that of hiding one truth behind another, enabling them to behave as if the hidden truth were not only hidden, but simply non-existent. The innovators also adopted words like “but” in their speeches in order to destroy, in their secondary assertions, what they laid down—yet still wished to maintain— in their principle assertions.

The goal now is to seek, with those outside the Church, a common language that can be used to smooth over and make one, contradictory and divergent paths, so as to include all people, and all beliefs, and, ultimately, to usher in a new world order. A classic example is the 1999 Vatican-Lutheran agreement on justification, which was framed to give one the impression that good “works” are both necessary, and not necessary, for salvation. Paragraph 39 of the agreement states, for example, that although “Catholics affirm the ‘meritorious’ character of good works… justification always remains the unmerited gift of grace.” Thus it is through dialogue—not Catholic truth—that doctrinal contradictions are made “to appear in a new light” (paragraph 41).

Another dialectic attempt to eliminate the law of non-contradiction is found in the new “Good Friday prayer for the Jews.” The new prayer infers that Jews both do, and do not, need to be converted. Pope Benedict XVI, in Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times (Ignatius Press, 2010) explains away his ambiguity in this way: “I thought that a modification was necessary in the ancient liturgy, in particular in reference to our relationship with our Jewish friends. I modified it in such a way that it contained our faith, that Christ is salvation for all. That there do not exist two ways of salvation, and that, therefore, Christ is also the savior of the Jews, and not only of the pagans. But also in such a way that one did not pray directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense, but that the Lord might hasten the historic hour in which we will all be united {emphasis added}.” Now, the anticipated “historic hour” of unity did not prevent Jesus from trying to “directly” convert the Jews over to himself. Nor did it prevent the pre-Vatican II church from doing the same. Why, then, should the post-conciliar church feel it necessary to refrain from doing so? Can it not be inferred, from this lack of conviction and fear of offending non-Catholic sensibilities, that the New Evangelization is being driven by a senseless shame of the Gospel?

Another example of the desire to gloss over, and obfuscate, contradictions is found in Nostra Aetate (3-4), which deliberately suggests that Muslims and Jews both do, and do not, believe in the one true God. (i.e., it is asserted that they both believe in the God of Abraham, but not in the God, Jesus— the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.)

Of course, any religion that purports to include all religions, is no religion at all. It is merely the strengthening of sound division under the appearance of unity. And no attempt at a common language will rectify this. One cannot reconcile what cannot be reconciled—especially in matters of morals and faith.

The church has failed miserably in her missionary mandate, not because of laziness or a lack of numbers. Rather, it is because she has quite simply lost sight of her own mandate. She doesn’t know, for example, whether to convert non-Catholics to the one true faith, or to merely wish them well in the safe haven of their own religious beliefs. Vatican II sanctions both opposing views as equally necessary. It is as if the Catholic Church is just one of many other churches, all of which need to “converge” toward a total Christ who is immanent in all denominations.

More and more, Catholics are shying away from using terms like “proselytizing,” “conversion,” and even “Catholic” in their ecumenical and inter-religious efforts, almost as if they were ashamed of the Gospel, or afraid of appearing as a “sign of contradiction.” In this confused state of diabolical disorientation, the Church has lost her ability to speak to the modern world about God with any clarity or conviction. She has, in fact, lost her salt, and become tasteless. Indeed, a kind of de-evangelization has set-in.

In order to erase the prevalent indifferentism, and growing skepticism, among Catholics, the church needs to re-examine her relationship with the modern world, and clarify her understanding of Christian unity. Otherwise the Church’s missionary activity will be reduced to nothing more than literacy programs, irrigation schemes, agricultural improvements, and health services—that is, the advancement of civilization rather than religion.

Paul Kokoski About Paul Kokoski

Mr. Paul Kokoski holds a BA in philosophy from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. His articles have been published in several newspapers and journals including Catholic Insight, New Oxford Review, and The Toronto Star.


  1. Why have you published a heretical article? This man is saying the Church was erred in her teaching- why has it been allowed to appear?
    Does the word “scandal” mean anything to you?
    Oh wait, he’s a Traditionalist. Therefore he’s against liberalism, which makes him a Good Guy.

    • Avatar Stephen Spencer says:

      ALL truth is God’s truth: we should not fear the truth–ever! Nor seek to silence it.

      Apparently, you do not understand the meaning of “heretical”?

      The Church is only protected in the area of teaching concerning faith and morals–not prudential judgements. What specific teaching do you think that this article contradicts? I believe that the point is the incoherence of the teaching: and the incoherent cannot be false.

  2. Avatar Petrus Radii says:

    Many thanks to HPR for having the courage and honesty to publish this article! May God reward you! “Harry”, however, has an incorrect understanding of what is “heretical”, and I would advise him to be more careful with his epithets. “Heretical” is the claim that it is not necessary to belong to the Catholic Church, in order to be saved. Extra Ecclesiam, nulla salus. The Freemasonic blither-blather to the contrary on this subject which has issued forth in Dignitatis Humanae, Nostra AEtate, and subsequently, is what is heretical and contrary to the constant teaching of Jesus Christ, the Holy Apostles, and the entire Catholic Tradition prior to Vatican II.

    The present article is exactly right, and far milder than what could actually be said on the subject. It is time to admit that Vatican II explicitly forwent the charism of infallibility and is only infallible when repeating the Traditional teaching of the Church. When Vatican II contradicts Tradition, as in “ecumenism” and “inter-religious dialogue”, it is teaching the errors of the Judaizers and Freemasonry. Until these errors are repudiated, the Church will continue on the path of “autodemolizzione”.

    For those who think it impossible for a Pope or Council to teach error, please refer to problems with Constantinople II, and to Pope John XXII. The latter taught the heresy (although not imposing it on the Church) that the souls of the just do not enjoy the Beatific Vision until the end of time. He was forced to recant and died five days afterwards. His successor, Benedict XII, had to issue the bull condemning the heresy, as a result.

    The Neo-Catholics need to learn that infallibility does *NOT* apply to every utterance from a Pope or General Council. Nor are such persons indefectible. To make Vatican II some sort of “superdogma”, which overturns the entire Catholic Tradition, and which tries to make “A” equal to “not A”, is insane and endangers the salvation of souls.

  3. Brian Jones Brian Jones says:

    I am wondering if you could provide a definition of the term “infallibility?” You seem to reduce this charism to merely “repeating the traditional teaching of the Church,” which would be quite different from the traditional teaching of the Church regarding infallibility. Furthermore, on a first reading of the texts, it is not always explicitly clear when Vatican II is repeating the traditional teaching of the Church (for example, see Dei Verbum #11 in conjunction with Providentissimus Deus #20-22, and Divino Afflante Spiritu #1-4). You write that “When Vatican II contradicts Tradition, as in “ecumenism” and “inter-religious dialogue”, it is teaching the errors of the Judaizers and Freemasonry.” If this is the case, then the Church’s infallibility is not only called into question in these matters, but “in principle.” Since the Church can error in these matters, what is the grounds for believing it has not in others as well, which you claim would be part of the infallible tradition? I hope that you realize the tremendous dichotomy that this sets up.

    Your example concerning Pope John XXII actually demonstrates what you are seeking to refute. Even before Pope John was elected to the papacy, he wrote a book wherein he laid out how the inability of souls to enjoy the Beatific Vision after death was not something novel, but had a rather strong foundation in the tradition. This is precisely why the Dominicans and Franciscans at the University of Paris were consulted during John’s papacy, since it was never dogmatically defined, and was still a disputed question. The way you tell the story is such that you seem to want to use this as an argument against papal infallibility. However, as I have mentioned already, it achieves success in demonstrating the true character and scope of infallibility.

    In general, you critique those who seem to take “every utterance of the Pope as infallible,” but you do not offer a clear and articulate clarification needed to properly understand the supposed distortion of terms (such as infallibility vs. impecability). It is more often the case that those who say “that infallibility does not apply to every utterance from a Pope or General Council” do so because they use it as a rhetorical device to either discredit Vatican II as lacking infallibility, or to claim that all councils preceeding Vatican II lack infallibility. I would also be curious to know who these “neocatholics” are that see every word of the Pope as infallible, or that Vatican II is some type of “superdogma?”

  4. Avatar Fr. Dylan Schrader says:

    Dignitatis humanae limits itself to speaking of the right to religious freedom in the sense of freedom from coercion within society, not in the sense of freedom before God to choose one’s own religion. Thus, the same declaration affirms that “Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ” (DH, 1).

    I do not believe the Council Fathers intended the proclamation of the truth to be included in the concept of “coercion” by which they define religious freedom (with regard to civil society) as freedom from coercion within due limits. I believe that “coercion” in their definition would include those things which do violence to the will, e.g., the threat of punishment which would cause grave fear. The truth is not coercive in this sense, since it imposes itself “by virtue of its own truth.” In other words, the truth is per se (intrinsically) desirable and, therefore, does not do violence to the will when it is freely assented to.

    The Church in her missionary activity has the right and obligation to proclaim the truth to all people for the sake of their salvation. However, the truth can only be accepted because it is believed. Faith cannot be forced. Coercion would mean that people would “convert” to the true religion not because they believed its truth but because of something rendering the truth desirable per accidens (extrinsically). In other words, such conversions would not involve the submission of the intellect and will to God, which is an essential element of the obedience of faith. They would not be true conversions at all.

    There is no contradiction, therefore, between the declaration’s affirmation of a basic right to be free from coercion within due limits and of its affirmation of the Church’s right and obligation to engage in missionary activity and to try to gain converts. In fact, it is precisely because the declaration upholds that the truth must be believed because of its own truth rather than for other reasons (e.g., convenience or fear) that it promotes the Church’s missionary activity. True converts can only be had when they freely submit their intellect and will to God who reveals. If they “convert” for purely human motives (e.g., convenience or fear), they do not really convert at all.

    • Paul Kokoski Paul Kokoski says:

      Re: Fr Dylan Schrader:
      Dignitatis humanae “limits itself to speaking of the right to religious freedom in the sense of freedom from coercion within society”. But this not only contradicts traditional teaching, it denies – indeed attacks – the Kingship of Christ and the Natural Law in society which ultimately ends in the coercion of people away from the one true faith. It is the reason our Catholic politicians (Biden, Pelosi etc) can rightfully claim to live a double life i.e. to be Catholics and at the same time, justifiably legalize abortion, homosexuality etc. Ultimately, the lack of coercion in society toward Catholicism lead to the coercion of Catholics away from Catholicism and towards moral relativism as we are witnessing today. So this attempt to eliminate coercion is self-defeating. This moral relativism which result in indifferentism certainly does “violence to the will” in a coercive and desensitized way. In fact one can say that the violence done to the will through societal coercion in the West is much stronger than that violence done to the will in Communist Russia. At least in Russia people still retained the sense of sin whereas in the West we have all but totally lost it leaving its people with little hope for salvation.
      Therefore, Dignitatis Humanae does not “leave untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ”. It, in fact, leads men away from Christ.
      Thus, by the very fact that the Church is denying coercion in society She is actually advancing it – only away from Catholicism and towards moral relativism – the logical result of religious liberty (based on human rights and not on tolerance as was the Church’s traditional position). The Pope has acknowledged so much by his denial of the “conversion of the return” as “hopeless” placing the Church in the contradictory position of advancing conversion to the Catholic Church while at the same time renouncing it.
      The best way to “force” someone to believe something is to coerce them into thinking it is their own idea. Then there is no hope for salvation. And this is what society is doing when it rejects the Kingship of Christ and the Natural Law. Our Bishops in Zambia are doing this by their efforts to remove from Zambia’s revised declaration the fact that Zambia is a Christian Nation.

      • Avatar Fr. Dylan Schrader says:

        Perhaps you could define “coercion” as you think the Council intended it? In your article you say that “coercion” means “missionary” and that “non-coercion,” would, therefore, mean “non-missionary.” Do you think this is what the Council Fathers intended and can you demonstrate this?

        I think there are distinct questions here which we should ask:
        1) Was Dignitatis humanae self-consistent?
        2) Was DH consistent with the other documents of Vatican II in the way that the Fathers intended them to be understood?
        3) Was DH consistent with traditional Catholic teaching?

        I have argued that DH means coercion in the sense of that which does violence to the will. Such coercion would impede the exercise of both what Leo XIII called “natural liberty” and “moral liberty.” DH, I would also argue, acknowledged the duties of individuals and of the state toward the true religion, but it understands that these duties must be rendered freely. We owe God free submission of intellect and will. So the state can and should promote the true religion and the Church can and should try to gain converts, but they should do this in a way such that conversions remain truly free.

  5. The Church seems to have lost its ability to speak to the modern world about God and Jesus teachings on account of some confusion. Is there any doubt about the words of Jesus that “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life?” When the Pope says that abortion and gay marriage are against the teachings of the Church, some anointed priests openly encourage abortion and gay marriage. If the wholesomeness of truth in the Catholic Church is not believed and practiced, how can evangelisation be possible? If such faith is not maintained, there is no need for a separate church or pope or bishops. There is no need for talking about a religion at all.

    • Paul Kokoski Paul Kokoski says:

      Re: Fr. Dylan Schrader

      I think that now it is only hearsay for anyone to say what our Church Fathers had in mind at Vatican II. All we can go by now are the documents themselves which contain some ambiguous terminology and certain teachings that apparently contradict traditional Church doctrine. For example, you say that “Dignitatis humanae limits itself to speaking of the right to religious freedom in the sense of freedom from coercion within society.” Surely you have to admit this directly contradicts “Quanta Cura”where Pope Pius IX labelled as “erroneous” the opinion that the “liberty of conscience and of worship is the proper right of every man…[and that he is] not to be restrained by either ecclesiastical or civil authority”. The difficulty lies in explaining this contradiction in order to maintain a hermaneutic of continuity.
      Whatever the Church Fathers meant by the ambiguous term “coercion” – it was a term used to justify this obvious contradiction. So I surmise they had more than one meaning for it when it was introduced.
      You claim to know the mind of the Church Fathers at Vatican II. I would like to know if you also know the mind of Pope Pius IX when he wrote “Quanta Cura”?
      You say: “DH… acknowledged the duties of individuals and of the state toward the true religion, but it understands that these duties must be rendered freely.” The problem with this is that if governments have a duty to render its citizens free to believe what they choose – in what way can the state also have a duty to enact laws supporting the one true faith? If Episcopalians believe in abortion is not the state obligated to enact laws allowing for this belief? As St. Paul would say – “they are divided”? How can the state be obligated to follow the one true faith when they are also obligated to deny it for the sake of the citizens? Hence, the dilemma of our Catholic politicians as I stated in my article.
      I will admit that “Dignitatis Humanae” does mention “due limits” circumscribing religious liberty. The problem here is that the nature of those limits are not clearly stated.
      I would hope that at some point in the future the Church will clarify these things in detail.

      • Avatar Fr. Dylan Schrader says:

        I will admit that I think DH could certainly have been clearer.

        I also think that the “due limits” which are mentioned is part of how DH reconciles with earlier documents. Quanta cura in the passage you mention is actually referring back to Mirari vos of Leo XIII, I believe. What is being condemned is a notion of an “absolute” right to freedom of conscience and religion. DH does not teach an absolute right.

        I don’t claim to know the mind of the Council Fathers perfectly. I wish I had access to the Acts of the Council right now so that I could look at the schemata and discussion about DH, but I don’t. I am presuming that, since the Fathers claimed in DH that their teaching left intact the traditional teachinf on the duties of individuals and societies toward the true religion.

        DH does not define “due limits,” because this requires prudential judgments that cannot be made across the board in such a document. However, if the intention of the Fathers was to leave the traditional teaching intact, then “due limits” should be understood within that framework.

        In your article, you seem to presume to know the mind of the Fathers as well when you supply a definition for “coercion” as “missionary.” What is the basis of this?

  6. Avatar Michael Ryan says:

    The owner of “The Sensible Bond” (Ches) wrote an entry called “Coercion and liberty: reframing the debate” in response to (and a summation of) an essay by Professor Thomas Pink (“What is the Catholic doctrine of religious liberty?’) that was featured by Rorate Caeli (

    “The Sensible Bond” blog entry can be found here: (

    Some key extracts:

    “A new post has been issued on Rorate Caeli on the topic of religious liberty. It presents links to a new essay by Professor Thomas Pink of King’s College London on a problem which has exercised the minds of philosophers and theologians on both wings of the Church. […]

    “The significance of Pink’s new essay is that it reframes the problem completely. For the liberal, conservative and traditionalist interpreters, the idea that Dignitatis Humanae is the rupture point in a long line of teaching on this issue goes largely undisputed. For Pink, however, a specialist in Early Modern thought, this understanding evinces near complete ignorance of Church teaching on these issues between Trent and the nineteenth century.

    “Pink thereby drops several bombshells on the various sides of this debate but let me highlight here just two:

    1. Dignitatis Humanae, which is thought to be a denial of the permissibility of coercion of belief, significantly omits to say anything about the Church’s power to coerce its own members (i.e., those who are baptised, even schismatics and heretics). This coercive power is in fact a matter of Catholic faith as taught by the Council of Trent in its treatise on baptism.

    2. The personalist argument, which traditionalists say Dignitatis Humanae used to dissolve the Church’s 19th century Magisterium, is in fact a lot older than they recognise, not in explicit terms (which were not developed until the 20th century) but in its fundamental assumptions about autonomy. The idea that the subject cannot be coerced interiorly in matters of religion appears to be a keystone of theological thinking in this area in nineteenth-century Catholic writers such as Cardinal Manning or Bishop Kettler. But, as Pink shows, this idea would have been very strange to the theologians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries who understood the problem in the light of Trent.

    “It seems, therefore, that the great forgotten link in this chain of argument is this: the Church has only dogmatically asserted its power of coercion over the baptised, and any State which acts as the civil arm to help the Church in this matter does so by delegation of the Church and NOT by its own power.

    “Consequently – and this is Ches-reading-Pink now – it is logical that as we move into a period where the Church is no longer in a position to delegate in that way, the need to remind the State of its true powers is ever clearer. It does not de jure have the power to coerce conscience. The Church never taught that it did. It only ever held it as a delegated power accorded it by the Church for the sake of the baptised (see Leo XIII, Immortale Dei). It might have overstepped this boundary at times, but that is another matter.

    “So why the change in this problematic? I can only suggest a couple of reasons myself. Perhaps coercion is more thematic in the treatment of the issue of religious liberty by the theologians of the earlier period because they instinctively assume that most people are Catholic or baptised. When the theologians of the nineteenth century begin arguing in favour of interior freedom, it seems they are working on a new assumption that Catholicism is now a minority religion in hostile and secular conditions. Both positions depend ultimately not on a shift in doctrine but in contextual circumstances.”


  7. Lifted from above:

    “To this, the innovators added another technique, characteristic of those who disseminate error: that of hiding one truth behind another, enabling them to behave as if the hidden truth were not only hidden, but simply non-existent. ”

    Did you conceive that paragraph?

  8. Avatar rod larocque says:

    I am glad to know that this discussion (dare I say ‘dialogue’) is finally breaking into the mainstream of the Church.
    For too long it has only been traditionalists and SSPX’ers that have seemed worried about the apparent contradictions of V2 and the 19th Century popes and before.
    It is clear from any understanding of human organizations that if they are not clear on their mission and vision they will crumble. The Catholic Church is (according to all material indicators) completely falling apart.
    Notwithstanding the help of Our Lord, until She finally clarifies what V2 is all about, or relegates it to the dust bin of history, this crisis will continue.
    Why don’t the heirarchy just forget about it?
    All this talk about V2 is completely beyond most laity and doesn’t help them in saving their souls or growning in devotion to Our Lord and the saints.
    If anything it is sucking the energy of the Church away from the essentials and its real purpose, the salvation of souls and wasting it on discussions that have already been settled centuries ago.
    Any council that isn’t clear in its teachings and creates division where there once was unity (not to mention ignoring one of the most notorious ‘signs of the time’ aka Communism) is enough to discredit it before history for all times.
    Just cast it down the memory hole of history and be done with it.

  9. It seems to me that the precise definition of “coercion” as intended by the council fathers is really beside the point, and its ambiguity could not have been overlooked. Most Catholics today share the notion with society at large that proselytism, evangelism, and proclaiming the Gospel etc. is “coercive” if presented in the context of rewards and punishments, heaven and hell; the necessity of repentance, baptism, or orthodoxy for salvation; or even in a way that sheds light on false beliefs.

  10. Thank you for the excellent article, Mr. Kokoski.

    Have you read “Benedict XVI’s ‘Hermeneutic of Reform’ and Religious Freedom” by Martin Rhonheimer in Nova et Vetera, Vol. 9, No. 4 (2011): 1029–54?

    • Paul Kokoski Paul Kokoski says:

      Philosopher Fr. Martin Rhonheimer, in his essay The Hermeneutic of Reform and Religious Freedom, attempts to justify this idea of separating the pastoral from the doctrinal in order to make the doctrinal subject to the pastoral. He claims, for example, there is “no opposition” between what Pope Benedict XVI coined in 2005 the “hermeneutic of discontinuity” and the “hermeneutic of continuity”. True “reform”, he says , lies “in the interplay, on different levels, between continuity and discontinuity. While admitting there is a certain and present discontinuity in regards to religious freedom, he claims that this merely serves to “bring into view a deeper and more essential continuity” that being that the first Christians “did not demand that the State support religious truth”. According to Fr. Rhonheimer’s logic, it is ultimately the State, and not the Church, that decides, by its own inner mechanisms, what constitutes for the Church a human “right” where religious liberty is concerned – religious liberty being essentially a fluctuating function of how severely the church is being persecuted at any point in history? For the complete historicist, everything is true in its own time and place but that’s all.
      For Fr. Rhonheimer to conclude that Vatican II teaching is a return to the religious liberty of the early centuries of the Church in the way he does is to play on the ambiguity of the term “religious liberty.” It can mean, for example, the freedom of Catholics to practice the true Faith, as in the early centuries of the Church, or it can mean the freedom of all religions, true and false, and of all people to follow all these religions. These are two entirely different things, and playing on this double meaning is essential to the modernist argument.
      Indeed, the whole idea of separating the pastoral from the doctrinal is an evolutionary concept, and quite Hegelian. In Hegelian philosophy, the two are in interplay with one another, as are continuity and rupture. This interplay is, in Hegelian terms, an opposition between thesis and antithesis, creating a new synthesis. To say that there must be both continuity and rupture is for Catholics a contradiction, but for the modernist self-evident, a new order being constantly created by the interplay between continuity and rupture. Since, for the modernist, there is no objective truth or right – there is no contradiction.
      The Hegelian methods of reinterpreting, de-mything, and or of selectively eliminating Tradition which – contrary to Fr. Rhonheimer – are not supported in Gaudium et spes (22), is essentially no different than when Catholic Modernists who favor abortion, contraception, homosexuality etc. reach behind the words of the Vatican II texts to carve out their own self-serving meanings. There is a false spirit – or “hermeneutic of discontinuity” – at play in both instances. Both represent rupture not reform. This kind of intellectually dishonesty in the guise of orthodoxy is what is preventing the Church from moving forward. It is the reason why the true spirit of Vatican II has yet to emerge – except in extremely minute quarters.

  11. Mr Kokoski cites the LWF/Catholic 1999 “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification” (“JDDJ”) as evidence (“a classic example” he says) that ecumenical dialogue aims at developing “a common language that can be used to smooth over and make one, contradictory and divergent paths, so as to include all people, and all beliefs . .”

    He asserts that the JDDJ “was framed to give one the impression that good ‘works’ are both necessary, and not necessary, for salvation”, and appeals to para. 39 of the JDDJ which he edits so as to read:- “Catholics affirm the ‘meritorious’ character of good works… justification always remains the unmerited gift of grace.” He concludes “Thus it is through dialogue—not Catholic truth—that doctrinal contradictions are made ‘to appear in a new light’ (paragraph 41)”.

    This is excessive. The JDDJ proceeds by making affirmations under numerous topics. Each topic is presented via an agreed statement followed by precisions as to Catholic and Lutheran doctrine respectively. In support of his claim that ecumenical dialogue aims to obfuscate, Mr. Kokoski quotes (in a partial and highly selective way) a passage from paragraph 38 (not 39, as he states) of the JDDJ which, as it happens, contains not the agreed statement on “good works” but the precisions as to Catholic doctrine – and these are neither novel nor self-contradictory, being based on the teaching of the Council of Trent (Sess. VI, cap. XVI) as one can see from the source notes appended to the JDDJ.

    In any event, it was never the intent of the JDDJ “that doctrinal contradictions are made ‘to appear in a new light’.” Here, Mr. Kokoski has misquoted para. 41. What appear in a new light, through dialogue, are “the doctrinal condemnations of the 16th century, in so far as they relate to the doctrine of justification”.

    Further points might be made on the coherence, cogency and relevance of much of Mr. Kokoski’s article and responses to Fr. Schrader’s just observations, but it must suffice for now to say that his argument that the Church has lost sight of her missionary mandate is wholly rebutted by the Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church, “Ad gentes” passim, as well as by the papal magisterium from “Evangelii nuntiandi” (1975), through “Redemptoris Missio” (1990) and “Dominus Iesus” (CDF, 2000), to “Verbum Domini” (2010, esp. Part III) and “Porta Fidei” (2011, e.g., 7). See also The Code of Canon Law, cann.210 and 211 and The Catechism of the Catholic Church 836-856.

    • Paul Kokoski Paul Kokoski says:

      Mr. Martin merely confirms my point – the point being that the so-called affirmations and precisions, to which Martin alludes, are intertwined and deliberately obfuscated in paragraph 41 making the document itself contradictory. For the entire document to be consistent this paragraph would not have appeared in the text the way it does. Hence, it is not I, but the framers of the document who choses to be deliberately and incorrectly “selective” in writing this paragraph. Indeed without the paragraph there would be no agreement – hence the contradiction.
      Unlike Mr. Martin, I do not know the intent of the framers of the document. I can only go by what they have written.
      With or without reference to various documents one can see quite clearly by the empty pews and by the legion of modernist abuses by our hierarchy and laity – especially in regards to the Holy Mass – that the Church has lost sight of its missionary mandate.

      • Mr. Kokoski’s response is beside the point. Nothing is “intertwined” in para. 41, for it is part of section 5 which departs from the mode of presentation adopted in section 4 (affirmations followed by precisions) and described by me in my previous comment. Section 5, by contrast, presents a joint account of the significance and scope of the consensus that has been reached.

        Mr. Kokoski misquoted – and, apparently, still labours under a misapprehension as to – para. 41. What it asserts is (a) that the Lutheran doctrines expounded in JDDJ do not fall under the condemnations issued by Trent, and (b) that the condemnations contained in the Lutheran Confessions do not apply to Catholic doctrine (again, as expounded in the JDDJ). That was the point of the dialogue, to explore those very issues. To say that para. 41 renders JDDJ self-contradictory is absurd.

        Moreover, Mr. Kokoski might care to reconsider what seems to be his default response to criticism (“Unlike Mr. Martin, I do not know the intent of the framers of the document. I can only go by what they have written”). Like Mr. Kokoski, I too can only go by what is written in the JDDJ; but unlike Mr. Kokoski I am able to distinguish between “doctrinal condemnations” (the actual reading) and “doctrinal contradictions” (Mr. Kokoski’s misreading). A gracious admission of error by Mr. Kokoski is indicated.

  12. Avatar David Klassen says:

    Mr. Kokoski fails to acknowledge the ordinary meanings of “coercion” and “conversion” in his allegation that the post-Conciliar Church is caught up in a contradiction in opposing religious coercion while similtaneously affirming the right to convert. There is obviously a difference between a coercive imposition of a religion, or “forced conversion” which need not involve an assent of the mind but only verbal assent, and being truly converted through being persuaded to freely accept Christianity on the ground of belief in its truth, which does involve inner assent. I am grateful to Fr. Dylan Schrader for his comments, but don’t think there is any need to speculate about the mind of the Council Fathers in DH when their meaning is quite clear to the ordinary person who can understand the difference between coercion and conversion.

    If I am persuaded of a mathematical truth by virtue of an irrefutable proof, that is quite different from being coerced through threat of punishment or sanctions to accept it. In scholastic language, my intellect has been “moved by its very object,” which is the mathematical truth. This does no violence to the will. What would do violence to the will (the “rational appetite” as St. Thomas calls it) would be use of force to cause the will to adhere to a proposition against the judgment of the intellect. Moreover, in the case of faith, St. Thomas teaches that there is always a voluntary act of acceptance, since the intellect is not “moved by its very object” as it is in the case of scientific proofs in which the truth is “seen” by the intellect. Here is the text from the responseo of Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 1, a. 4:

    “Faith implies assent of the intellect to that which is believed. Now the intellect assents to a thing in two ways. First, through being moved to assent by its very object, which is known either by itself (as in the case of first principles, which are held by the habit of understanding), or through something else already known (as in the case of conclusions which are held by the habit of science). Secondly the intellect assents to something, not through being sufficiently moved to this assent by its proper object, but through an act of choice, whereby it turns voluntarily to one side rather than to the other: and if this be accompanied by doubt or fear of the opposite side, there will be opinion, while, if there be certainty and no fear of the other side, there will be faith.
    Now those things are said to be seen which, of themselves, move the intellect or the senses to knowledge of them. Wherefore it is evident that neither faith nor opinion can be of things seen either by the senses or by the intellect.”

    Hence, to speak of conversion as equivalent coercion seems antithetical to the Catholic tradition as represented by its greatest philosopher and theologian, as well as being contrary to the common use of the terms. The assent of the intellect to Christianity, which is essential to any true conversion, is always an act of choice accompanied by certainty of belief in things unseen. It is not external coercion but charity, the “form of faith” (ST II-II, q. 4, a. 3) which guides this choice.

    • Paul Kokoski Paul Kokoski says:

      Mr. Marin can dance around dialogue all he wants. Paragraph 41 is still contradictory. I guess he has never heard of law of non-contradiction

      • In case there is anyone out there who might actually think Mr. Kokoski’s increasingly eccentric broadsides have any merit, JDDJ para. 41 reads, in full, as follows :-

        “Thus, the doctrinal condemnations of the 16th century, in so far as they relate to the doctrine of justification, appear in a new light: The teaching of the Lutheran churches presented in this Declaration does not fall under the condemnations from the Council of Trent. The condemnations in the Lutheran Confessions do not apply to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church presented in this Declaration”.

  13. Michael J. Miller Michael J. Miller says:

    Mr. Kokoski’s “method” in this article is so scattershot that I find it impossible to take anything that he says on the subject seriously. He cites Joseph Ratzinger’s “The Meaning of Christian Brotherhood” (first published in 1960, when the author was a simple priest) but does not even seem aware of the existence of the Declaration “Dominus Iesus” composed by then-Cardinal Ratzinger who was the head of the CDF. Fair and balanced, please. Up-to-date would help, too.

    • Paul Kokoski Paul Kokoski says:

      Miller has to take Ratzinger as a whole and not – in allusion to Dominus Iesus – out of context.

  14. “More and more, Catholics are shying away from using terms like
    ‘proselytizing,’ ‘conversion,’ and even ‘Catholic’ in their ecumenical
    and inter-religious efforts, almost as if they were ashamed of the Gospel,
    or afraid of appearing as a ‘sign of contradiction.’

    Should read: ” . . . almost as if they were ashamed of the Vatican II
    Church “?

    The time to put this miserable Council in mothballs has long passed.

  15. Mr. Kokoski does absolutely nothing to establish identity between coercion and conversion in DH, and then bases an entire argument on that identfication. It is a straw man. Worse yet he identifies persuasion and coercion as well. It is a very telling thing that the traditionalist mindset sets coercion on a pedestal.

    I think we would all do much better to listen to Pope Benedict. Through his teaching we can learn to appreciate that the logic beyond leaving the process of conviction free from coercion is both about bringing about conversion through conviction rather than force and about defending the liberty of the Church, that is, preserving it from the logic of power and the interference politics and ideology.

    • Paul Kokoski Paul Kokoski says:

      Frangelo misinterprets my article with his own straw man. My article in no way purports to my being a traditionalist.

  16. This is a very nice article. I first heard of ecumenism when I was in college, almost 30 yrs ago. I did not understand it before and I still do not understand it today in the sense that we spend time and effort on dialogue. It seems to me that the teachings of the past and our saints who died for leading all men to One True Churh was for nothing. Without dialogue, Our Lady of Guadalupe was able to convert the entire Mexican nation.

    During VatII, a schema for the title of our Lady was drafted: mediatrix and co-redemptrix. These were dropped because it did not suit well with ecumenism. My heart broke after learning this. For me alone, we have exchange Mother Mary for ecumenism. How could we? How could they have done this? The ordinariate right now is not due to dialogue. The Anglicans just return because their “old” teaching is no longer adhered to. A lot of protestant converts right now are not due to ecumenism or dialogue. It is simply that they found the One True Church through their own journey.

    For me and I respect views on ecumenism, I just think that this dialogue/ecumenism created a lot of cafeteria catholics.

    I hope one day, I will be able to appreciate/understand ecumenism.

    God’s blessings of peace and joy!

    • Perhaps Maria might derive some assistance from this continuous except from n.4 of the Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis redintegratio) issued by the Second Vatican Council (the entire document is only 7,000 words long) :-

      “The term ‘ecumenical movement’ indicates the initiatives and activities planned and undertaken, according to the various needs of the Church and as opportunities offer, to promote Christian unity. These are: first, every effort to avoid expressions, judgments and actions which do not represent the condition of our separated brethren with truth and fairness and so make mutual relations with them more difficult; then, ‘dialogue’ between competent experts from different Churches and Communities. At these meetings, which are organized in a religious spirit, each explains the teaching of his Communion in greater depth and brings out clearly its distinctive features. In such dialogue, everyone gains a truer knowledge and more just appreciation of the teaching and religious life of both Communions. In addition, the way is prepared for cooperation between them in the duties for the common good of humanity which are demanded by every Christian conscience; and, wherever this is allowed, there is prayer in common. Finally, all are led to examine their own faithfulness to Christ’s will for the Church and accordingly to undertake with vigor the task of renewal and reform.

      “When such actions are undertaken prudently and patiently by the Catholic faithful, with the attentive guidance of their bishops, they promote justice and truth, concord and collaboration, as well as the spirit of brotherly love and unity. This is the way that, when the obstacles to perfect ecclesiastical communion have been gradually overcome, all Christians will at last, in a common celebration of the Eucharist, be gathered into the one and only Church in that unity which Christ bestowed on His Church from the beginning. We believe that this unity subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time.”

      • The marks of the Catholic Church are “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic”. Would you be able to explain how this unity under the principles of ecumenism have any of those four traits above?

        If the goal is not to convert those in error but rather to gain a deeper understanding of our differences and commonalities, it would appear we are giving assent not necessarily to those beliefs which differ from ours, but assent to believe in those beliefs. What we have done is raised ones beliefs up to the highest authority, we are in essence saying that there is no Objective Truth which our minds must conform to but merely that ones personal beliefs are the highest “truth”. Or put another way, the right of the conscience to seek that which he believes is true, even if it is false.

        Another word for this is relativism.

  17. Paul Kokoski Paul Kokoski says:

    As I read it “Quanta Cura”permits “liberty of conscience and of worship” to be “restrained by either ecclesiastical or civil authority”. DH does not permit such restraint by “civil authority”. Is this not a contradiction where it regards “civil authority”? The Church Fathers may claim that DH is in keeping with tradition but clearly it is not in this instance.
    If the Church Father truly believed DH was consistent with tradition they should have expounded on their meaning of “due limits” to prove their case rather than leave it to some future “prudential judgement”. As I mentioned – – our Catholic politicians have been caught in a dilemma by this “prudential judgement” – many choosing to pass liberal laws that do not conform to Catholic teaching. Equally disturbing is the fact that roughly half of the U.S. bishops have tacitly approved of these politicians. “Prudential judgement” has thus proven to be divisive which is not what the Church is about. The purpose of Councils has always been to provide clear doctrinal statements, declarations and definitions. This is clearly not the case with DH.
    My article does not attempt to expound the mind of the Fathers of Vatican II. I merely use the terms “coercion” and “non-coercion’ to hi-light pre-Vatican II and post Vatican II thought and practice on religious liberty and ecumenism.

  18. Avatar Brendan Walsh says:

    It always concerns me when I read ‘pre and post’ in reference to Vatican II. In my opinion ‘coercion’ implies ‘threat’. If ‘non-coercion’ is considered to be the correct option then it is so, within the understanding, that real Christian living is the only true and convincing means by which minds and hearts can recognize the Catholic Church as being bearers of the truth. When the Church speaks of the preference of non-coercion then we lack wisdom if we cannot recognize the challenge this brings to the ‘People of God’ to live like Jesus. There is a vast difference between coercive ‘duty’ and non -coercive ‘love’. Duty will get us to heaven but it is only love will bring heaven to earth.


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