Ecumenism and the Council of Trent

Mary Ann Collins
(A Former Catholic Nun) (obsolete)

December 2001

There is a hidden agenda behind the ecumenical movement. Official Catholic documents from the Second Vatican Council show that the purpose behind ecumenism is to bring Christians who are not Catholics (i.e., Protestants and Orthodox) back into the Catholic Church.

The Council of Trent anathematized every Christian who disagrees with any detail of Catholic doctrine. These anathemas have never been cancelled. An anathema means that the Pope has ritually placed someone under a solemn ecclesiastical curse which is intended to send them to hell. (Anathemas will be explained more fully later in this paper.)


The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) wrote 16 official documents. It also gave some groups of experts the task of working out the details of how to apply the principles and directives of the Council. These groups of men wrote official "post conciliar" documents to more fully elaborate what had been written by the Council. The conciliar and post conciliar documents are published together in the same two-volume work.

The Council's "Decree on Ecumenism" states that ecumenical activity cannot result in changing any aspect of the Catholic faith. [Note 1] This foundational principle is reflected in the post conciliar documents dealing with ecumenism.

For example, Post Conciliar Document No. 42 says that the purpose of ecumenism is to transform the thinking and behavior of non-Catholics so that eventually all Christians will be united in one Church. It states, "This unity, we believe, dwells in the Catholic Church." [Note 2]

In other words, "unity" means that all Christians will become Roman Catholics.

As we will see later in this paper, reaching out in a friendly, respectful way to "separated brethren" seems inconsistent with the Council of Trent.


The Council of Trent (1545-1564) was the Roman Catholic Church's response to the Protestant Reformation. It took every single doctrine that Protestants believe, one at a time, and declared that anybody who believes even one of them is "anathema" (officially and ritually cursed in an attempt to condemn them to hell). (The ritual will be described later in this paper.)

It also defined Catholic doctrines, detail by detail, and declared that anybody who denies even one of these details is anathema. These include the authority of the Pope, the practice of indulgences, veneration of Mary and the saints, and the use of statues. So the Council of Trent anathematizes all non-Catholic Christians, both Protestants and Orthodox.

Following is an example of one of these declarations: "If anyone says that Christ received in the Eucharist is received spiritually only and not also sacramentally and really, let him be anathema." ("Canons on the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist," Canon 8). What does "really" mean? Canon 1 declares that the communion bread is "truly, really and substantially" the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. (And if you don't believe this, then you are anathema.) [Note 3 gives links to articles which have extensive quotations from the Council of Trent, including a web site that has the entire document.]


According to "The Catholic Encyclopedia," the word "anathema" means "cursed and devoted to destruction". When the Roman Catholic Church anathematizes someone, it officially declares that the person is condemned to hell. [Note 4 gives a link to the article, which describes the ritual and gives quotations from it.]

There is a solemn written ritual for doing this. The Catholic Church believes that God has given it the power and the authority to keep people out of Heaven, and to condemn them to hell.

In pronouncing the anathema, the Pope wears special vestments. He is assisted by twelve priests holding lighted candles. Calling on the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Pope pronounces a solemn ecclesiastical curse. He ends by declaring, "We judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate". The priests reply, "Fiat! Fiat! Fiat!" and throw down their candles.


The declarations and anathemas of the Council of Trent have never been cancelled. On the contrary, the decrees of the Council of Trent are confirmed by both the Second Vatican Council and the official "Catechism of the Catholic Church".

The documents of the Second Vatican Council cite the Council of Trent as an authority for doctrinal statements, both in the text and in the notes. The "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church" states that the Second Vatican Council "proposes again the decrees of" three previous councils, one of which is the Council of Trent. [Note 5] The "Decree on the Training of Priests" says that the Second Vatican Council was "continuing the work begun by the Council of Trent". [Note 6]

"The Catechism of the Catholic Church" was written for the purpose of summarizing the essential and basic teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. It was approved by Pope John Paul II in 1992 and the English translation was released in 1994. Another English edition was printed in 2000. It has numbered paragraphs, and has been published in many languages.

The Council of Trent is mentioned in seventy-five paragraphs of the "Catechism" in a positive, authoritative way, and some paragraphs mention it two or three times. Paragraph 9 of the "Catechism" says that the Council of Trent was the origin of Catholic Catechisms. The other 74 paragraphs in the "Catechism" which mention it either cite the Council of Trent as an authoritative source which supports their doctrinal statements, or else use phrases such as, "We therefore, hold, with the Council of Trent, that...". [Note 7]


According to "The Catholic Encyclopedia," a person's religious belief is "outside the realm of free private judgment". This is consistent with the spirit behind the anathemas of the Council of Trent. [Note 8 gives a link to this article.]

In his opening speech to the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII said that the Catholic Church has always opposed "errors" (disagreement with Roman Catholic doctrine). He said that the Catholic Church has often "condemned them with the greatest severity," but these days it "prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity." The Pope said that the Catholic Church is presently dealing with "errors" by demonstrating the validity of Catholic teaching, rather than by "condemnations". [Note 9 has a link to this speech.]

The Catholic Church has never renounced its past practice of killing people that it considers to be heretics. On the contrary, the Office of the Inquisition still exists. It is part of the Vatican Curia. In 1965, its name was changed to "The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith". It is headed by Cardinal Ratzinger. [Note 10]

The present Pope (John Paul II) has issued a new edition of Roman Catholic Canon Law. According to Canon 752, whenever the Pope or the college of bishops makes a declaration concerning faith or morals, Catholics are required to give "a religious submission of the intellect and will" to it. Furthermore, they must "take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it". [Note 11]

According to Canon 1311, the Catholic Church has the right "to coerce members of the Christian faithful by means of penal sanctions". [Note 12]

On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX declared the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. After defining the dogma, the Pope said that if any person dares to "think otherwise than as has been defined by us" they thereby shipwreck their faith, are cut off from the Church, and stand condemned because of it. The Pope went on to say that if any person says, or writes, or in any other way outwardly expresses "the errors he thinks in his heart," then they thereby "subject themselves to the penalties established by law". [Note 13 gives a link to this papal bull.]

The Pope's reference to legal penalties is significant because a man had been executed for heresy 28 years before this papal bull was issued. In 1826, a Spanish schoolmaster was hanged because he substituted the phrase "Praise be to God" in place of "Ave Maria" ("Hail Mary") during school prayers. [Note 14]

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII issued a papal bull defining the dogma of the Assumption of Mary. He ended by saying, "It is forbidden to any man to change this, our declaration, pronouncement, and definition or, by rash attempt, to oppose and counter it." The Pope further declared that any person who attempts to do so thereby incurs the wrath of God and the wrath of the Apostles Peter and Paul. [Note 15 gives a link to this papal bull.]

According to "Webster's Dictionary," "forbidden" means "prohibited; interdicted." "Webster's Dictionary" defines "interdict" as used by the Roman Catholic Church as follows: "A punitive censure restraining certain persons or peoples from the sacraments, Christian burial, etc." The more general meaning of "interdict" is "a prohibitory decree". Although this papal bull doesn't openly threaten "penalties established by law," it still implies the possibility of some form of punishment.


The present preference for a gentler approach to people who disagree with Catholic doctrine may explain the apparent discrepancy between the Council of Trent and the ecumenical movement.

The Catholic Church is engaging in ecumenical dialog with Protestants and Orthodox, calling them "separated brethren," and speaking as if it respects their beliefs. But at the same time, behind the scenes, it still officially declares that they are damned to hell because of their beliefs. It still believes that the Roman Catholic Church has the power and the authority to damn people to hell, and it has an official written ritual for doing so.


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1. "Unitatis Redintegratio ("Decree on Ecumenism"), Paragraph 24. In Austin Flannery (Editor), "Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents," Volume 1, New Revised Edition, fourth printing. Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Company, 1998, page 470.

2. "Reflections and Suggestions Concerning Ecumenical Dialogue" (Post Conciliar Document No. 42). In Austin Flannery (Editor), "Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents," Volume 1, New Revised Edition, fourth printing. Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Company, 1998, pages 540-541. The quotation is on page 541.

3. This article from a Baptist web site gives general information about the Council of Trent. It quotes a number of decrees relating to Evangelical doctrines.

This article is from a Catholic web site which is run by a Catholic priest. It has quotations from the Council of Trent on several subjects, including 11 decrees dealing with communion. 1.htm

The entire text of the Council of Trent is available on-line at

4. "Anathema" in "The Catholic Encyclopedia" (1913 edition), Volume 1. This article is available on-line. The ritual is described in detail, with a lengthy quotation, on pages 2-3 of my print-out.

5. "Lumen Gentium" ("Dogmatic Constitution on the Church"), paragraph 51. In Austin Flannery (Editor), "Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents," Volume 1, New Revised Edition, fourth printing. Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Company, 1998, page 412.

6. "Optatum Totius" ("Decree on Priestly Training"), Conclusion. In Austin Flannery (Editor), "Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents," Volume 1, New Revised Edition, fourth printing. Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Company, 1998, page 724.

7. You can check this out for yourself. Following are addresses for two web sites which have the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" with a search engine. [click under "Must Know" where it says "The Catechism of the Catholic Church"]

8. "Inquisition" in "The Catholic Encyclopedia" (1913 edition), Volume 8. This article is available on-line. The quotation is from the second paragraph of the article. The Office of the Inquisition is an ecclesiastical institution for suppressing heresy. It is a permanent office with headquarters in Rome (described on pages 1 and 23-24 of my print-out).

For a Protestant perspective on the Inquisition, you can go to the following article. It is on the web site of Bart Brewer, who is a former Catholic priest.

9. The Opening Speech of Pope John XXIII to the Second Vatican Council is available on-line. See the section entitled "How to Repress Errors" (on pages 4-5 of my print-out).

10. Following is a link to an article on the Vatican's web site. [Click on "Profile".]

11. Canon 752 in "Code of Canon Law," Latin English edition, New English Translation (Washington, DC: Canon Law Society of America, 1988), page 247. This canon is in Book 3, "Teaching Function of the Church".

12. Canon 1311 in "Code of Canon Law," Latin English edition (Washington, DC: Canon Law Society of America, 1988), page 409. This canon is in Part 1 ("Delicts and Penalties in General"), Title 1 ("The Punishment of Delicts in General"). According to "Webster's Dictionary," a "delict" is "an offense against law".

13. "Ineffabilis Deus" ("Apostolic Constitution on the Immaculate Conception"). Encyclical of Pope Pius IX issued December 8, 1854. Near the end of this papal bull there is a section entitled "The Definition". The statements that I described are in the last paragraph of that section. Following are links to two web sites which quote this bull in its entirety.

14. Paul Johnson, "A History of Christianity" (New York: Simon & Schuster, a Touchstone Book, 1995), page 308. Paul Johnson is a prominent historian and a Catholic.

15."Munificentissimus Deus" ("Defining the Dogma of the Assumption"), paragraph 47. Encyclical of Pope Pius XII issued November 1, 1950. This papal bull is available on-line.

Copyright 2001 by Mary Ann Collins.