"Something without parallel in Christian history," more correctly Protestant Christian history, is announced to take place in Amsterdam (Aug. 22-Sept. 4th, 1948), when about 450 delegates, 90 of them from the U.S.A. and Canada, representing 140 churches in 40 countries, will assemble as the World Council of Churches. It is announced to be ''as creative as the Reformation that meant recovery of individuality," something that is somehow assumed not to have been enjoyed in Christendom before Martin Luther, the Father of Protestantism, expressed his "individuality" by breaking the solemn promises he made to God, that he would practice the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience all the days of his life. It is also to bring about "the recovery of community," which must have existed before Protestantism came into being to be recovered, and that still exists in the Catholic Church.
The Doctrinal Basis of This Fellowship is the "acceptation of our Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour," an admirable basis that is marred by lack of proper appreciation of what it implies. "Christian Scientists, the Holiness sects, and other groups whose enthusiasm exceeds their orthodoxy," are not to be admitted to the Conference. The Russian Orthodox Church will not be represented, as it will be busy conducting a pan-Orthodox Conference in Moscow by permission of Generalissimo Stalin, whom the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church declared to be "a friend of believers," and his Journal says "God picked" to be the head of the U.S.S.R.
The over-all theme of the Amsterdam gathering will be "Man's Disorder and God's Design" under four headings: (1) "The Universal Church in God's Design": (2) "The Church's Witness to God's Design": (3) The Church and Disorder in Society": (4) "The Church and International Disorder." These excellent topics would be fruitful of marvelous results that would further unity and peace in our distraught world IF---and it is a great big IF---the delegates were to visualize "The Church" as did their forbears in pre-"reformation" days, as the visible, organic Church that centered in Rome, where Peter and his successors exercised the universal authority that Christ delegated to the head of His Apostolic Twelve.
The Provisional Committee that drew up the program for the Amsterdam Conference "disavows becoming a single church structure dominated by a centralized administrative authority," an "upper church or Protestant Vatican." Such an attempt on the part of 140 differing churches would be doomed to failure; as a unified, authoritative Christian Church must be "united in one mind and in one judgment" (1 Cor. 1:10), as is the Catholic Church. It would have to have the Holy Spirit indwelling to keep it doctrinally straight, as has the Catholic Church.
Some Delegates to the World Council of Churches bemoan the fact that "Rome" refuses to be represented at the Amsterdam Conference, as "she has always refused to deal with other Christian churches on a give and take basis." These delegate fail to realize that such a thing as "give and take" is contrary to the nature of a Christ-made Church, as its faith and morals are as unchangeable as is its Founder. Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, of the Calvary P. E. Church in New York City, said a few weeks ago that "ultimate unity must include the Roman Church." But her refusal to participate in the "give and take" Conference gave him no warrant for concluding that "the Roman Catholic Communion is simply another totalitarianism," like unto the one that exists, for instance, in the Soviet Union. An analogy of this kind was condemned by Pope Pius XII two years ago, as a totalitarian state is based upon usurpation of power; whereas the power exercised by the Catholic Church is derived from God, for the service of God, among the children of God. The head of a totalitarian state is a dictator, as is Stalin, who rules by his own fiat instead of the will of the people in the Soviet Union, expressed in a democratic election. On the other hand, it would be blasphemous to call Jesus Christ a dictator because He commands obedience; because He says "I am the Way, and the Troth, and the Life" (St. John 14:6), as He is our Lord and our God. From this it logically follows that the Church Jesus Christ established,
with which He promised to remain until the end of the world (St. Matt. 28:20); the Church He commanded us to hear (St. Matt. 18:17); the Church that exercises the delegated power of Jesus Christ, cannot rightly be called "another totalitarianism," because it refuses to compromise in matters of doctrine and practice, by participating in a "give and take" Conference with Protestant dissenters. The Church of Christ, the Catholic Church, is Christ in the world, His Mystical Body (1 Cor. 1:27), hence it cannot meet on the basis of religious equality with other churches.
The failure of ministers to appreciate the soundness of Catholic claims; the basic cause of Catholic Church unity, that they envy; or the reasonableness of her refusal to compromise; in contrast to the doctrinal and organizational chaos in Protestantism, is a strange phenomenon. Ministers know that there was but one God-made Church in pre-Christian days, the Jewish Church; that it was a living, visible spiritual society, with the High Priest, Aaron and his successors, in supreme authority. They know that the Church Christ established was to be the perfection of the Jewish Church; that perfection must manifest in unity, such as exists in the Catholic Church, and not disunity, such as the Amsterdam Conference will endeavor to rectify somewhat. Then how in the name of common sense can they hold that the conglomeration of 140 churches in the World Council of Churches can rightly claim to be "The Church" of the Gospel that displaced the Church of the Law?
Our present Pontiff, Pope Pius XII, turned down the invitation to participate in the Amsterdam Conference; as Pope Pius XI turned down the invitation to take part in the Lausanne World Conference of Faith and Order in 1927. Pius XI, after quoting 2 John 10 ("if any man comes to you and bring not his doctrine, receive him not into the house ... "), said "... the disciples of Christ must be united principally by the bond of one faith. Who, then, can conceive a Christian Federation, the members of which retain each his own opinions and private judgment, even in matters that concern the object of faith? ... This Apostolic See has never allowed its subjects to take part in assemblies of non-Catholics; for union of Christians can only be furthered by promoting return to the true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it ..."
July 17, 1948