Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
“Supermarket of Religions”
Catolicismo, São Paulo, June 2005
Particular preaching, which advocates equality among all religions, bewilders many Catholic faithful. It has favored the growth of Protestant sects, a danger Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira has already denounced.
Juan Gonzalo Larrain Campbell
In his book Revolution and Counter-Revolution (1959), highly praised by high-ranking ecclesiastical and secular personalities, Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira describes and analyzes the revolutionary process destroying Christianity for five centuries. He writes, “Two notions, conceived as metaphysical values, express well the spirit of the Revolution: absolute equality, complete freedom.” (Revolution and Counter-Revolution, Part I, Chapter 7, 3)
After showing that pride is the passion that best serves the egalitarian Revolution, the author points out several aspects of radical and metaphysical egalitarianism:
“Equality among the different religions: All religious discrimination is to be disdained because it violates the fundamental equality of men. Therefore, the different religions must receive a rigorously equal treatment. To claim that only one religion is true to the exclusion of the others amounts to affirming superiority, contradicting evangelical meekness, and acting impolitically, since it closes the hearts of men against it.” (Idem, Chap. 7, 3, A, c.)
True and False Ecumenism
If any term has been ever abused in Catholic circles, it is “ecumenism.” Today it is so widespread that we will not stop to show that it in detail.
Traditionally, ‘ecumenical’ is synonymous with universal. Hence, for example, ‘ecumenical councils’ are councils held with all the world’s Catholic bishops under the presidency of the Pope. They are distinguished from diocesan or regional councils.
In this sense, the mission of the Catholic Church is to work ardently for a healthy ecumenism, and Catholics must sincerely desire the conversion of the greatest number of souls, so there is “one flock and one Shepherd.”
However, conversions can only happen with the help of God’s grace, and the neophyte must be taught the entire doctrine of the Church, even if in parts, but without any relativism. One must also be entirely honest by loyally pointing out doctrinal discrepancies with other religions and by teaching Christian apologetics, i.e., arguments refuting all kinds of errors and heresies.
However, the term “ecumenism” has undergone transformations and now often ends up designating a kind of compromise between truth and error, which is unacceptable for a Catholic.
The adherents of this new “ecumenism” make every effort to reduce Catholic truths to a minimum to not “shock” non-Catholics. Thus, their main effort seems to be to adapt Gospel teachings to the maxims of the world or even the theories of heretical sects.
In their method to do “apostolate,” these people do everything possible to underestimate what separates the Church from heresy and overvalue what (in their view) unites them.
In 1943, Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira published a ‘bombshell book’ titled In Defense of Catholic Action. It is a fundamental work to understand the causes of the crisis devastating the Holy Church in the post-conciliar phase. At that time, the author was president of the Archdiocesan Board of Catholic Action of São Paulo, and the publication awakened many souls from their lethargy. Although the book was prefaced by then Apostolic Nuncio to Brazil, Msgr. Benedetto Aloisi Masela, and the object of letters of praise from more than 20 bishops, its theses aroused furious irritation in progressive prelates and priests. Six years later, Pope Pius XII himself intervened in the controversy by sending a letter of praise to the author through the Secretariat of State.
In this section, we will see how Prof. Corrêa de Oliveira clearly and strongly denounced the early symptoms of the ecumenical state of mind (in its bad sense), which sprang up in Catholic Action circles.
The Future of this State of Mind: Widespread Desertion
The distinguished Catholic thinker had denounced this state of mind already at the time of the Legionário weekly, foreseeing the general desertion that would occur in the Catholic ranks if they kept concealing the Faith as a universal rule of procedure:
“Who would have thought that all this is beginning to resurface today? Who would say that, under the pretext of infiltration, some argue that a Catholic must avoid clearly flying the flag of the Faith; that he must avoid all attitudes or opinions capable of displeasing the corruption of the age; that to attract souls to Christ, he must carefully conceal his belonging to the Church of Christ; and that, instead of proclaiming the truths of Christ to make souls delight in their perfume, he must hide his Faith, insinuating that it is a smuggling commodity! Behold Saint Paul, who rushed into the Areopagus to preach Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ crucified! Of course, there are exceptional situations that impose a highly moderate conduct. But who could not see that, if touted as a universal rule of behavior, this conduct would entail a general desertion?” (Legionário, nº 467, August 24, 1941, “Sofismas novos, erros velhos”).
The Unity of the Church
“By her nature, the Church is established as One, associated in a common heritage that they [heretics] strive to cut asunder into many sects. Therefore, we say that the ancient Catholic Church is One because it has unity of nature, Faith, principle, excellence. ... But the pre-eminence of the Church, as the principle of union, is in its oneness, which surpasses all other things, having nothing like or equal to itself.” (St. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, VII, c. 17)
Therefore, when Jesus Christ speaks of this mystical building, He only mentions one Church, which He calls His own: “I will build my Church .... Any other Church except this one, since it has not been founded by Christ, cannot be the true Church. This becomes even more evident when the purpose of the Divine Founder is considered. For what did Christ, the Lord, ask? What did He wish in regard to the Church founded, or about to be founded? This: to transmit to it the same mission and the same mandate which He had received from the Father.” (Leo XIII, Encyclical Satis Cognitum, June 29, 1896, no. 4)
All Under the Pretext of Converting Infidels
Any apostolate consists in winning souls to Our Lord Jesus Christ so that those who are outside the Church may join Her, and those who are lukewarm become fervent.
However, in Catholic Action circles, they began to employ the expression “apostolate of conquest” in a sense that differed from the true apostolate. It was a frantic and intemperate desire to attract souls, whatever their disposition might be, without considering the dangers this would entail for the apostle or the oppositions it would encounter in the world. Moreover, this would not produce authentic conversions.
In this way, they neglected their own spiritual life and tended to dilute Catholic doctrine to present it with a more likable aspect in the eyes of the worldly. This behavior ended up forming in sectors of Catholic Action, consciously or unconsciously, a sympathy for reprobates, heretics and morally corrupt, which later expanded to progressive circles in general.
When describing the spirit and methods of the “apostolate of conquest,” which moved members of Catholic Action, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira prophesied that its generalization would cause a great apostasy:
“Concern, or rather obsession with the apostolate of conquest generates yet another error that we simply mention for the time being. We will speak about it more at length in a subsequent chapter. It consists in hiding or invariably underestimating the evil in heresies so as to give heretics the idea that the distance that separates them from the Church is small. What is forgotten, however, is that in so doing, the malice of heresy is hidden to the faithful and the barriers that separate them from apostasy are leveled! This is what will happen when this method is used extensively or exclusively.” (Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, In Defense of Catholic Action)
This is precisely what has happened.
“Canonizing” Human Respect
Consistent with the state of mind denounced above, members of Catholic Action advocated “a strategic retreat” that consisted of hiding Catholic truths that would shock those whom they wished to conquer. Seeing the latter always in good faith, albeit in error, a little tact and a diluted dose of truth would suffice to convert them.
However, Prof. Plinio also debunked this technique based on false principles:
“Yet, some overly narrow conceptions that exist in some circles of Catholic Action lead straight to this error. By accepting the methods proposed in those circles, one would say that the vast majority of souls existing outside the Church is reduced to only one type of person, ideally well-intentioned and candid, in whose interior no voluntary obstacle is raised against the Faith, and who is kept away from the Church by a simple misunderstanding of a speculative or sentimental kind.
“Once this arbitrary conception is established, all pastoral wisdom is reduced to enlightening people’s minds and attracting their souls, something that must obviously be done slowly, with extreme tact and in diluted doses, so that these souls, “climbing slowly from clarity to clarity, may be reconciled with their inner selves and may finally attain, almost without realizing it, and as if through an ingenious trap, the possession of truth and of interior transparency.
“Whence comes a whole technique which, once adopted officially in Catholic Action, would become the canonization of human prudence and human respect. The first principle of wisdom would consist in avoiding systematically anything that legitimately or not could cause the least difference of opinion. Placed in a non-Catholic atmosphere, a member of Catholic Action should only—and particularly at the beginning—point out the common traits between him and those present, while cautiously remaining silent about the differences. In other words, the beginning of any maneuver of apostolate would consist in creating large areas of ‘mutual understanding’ between Catholics and non-Catholics, placing both on common, neutral and friendly ground, however broad and vague it might be.” (Idem)
The Full and Definitive Character of the Revelation of Jesus Christ
“To face up to this relativistic mentality, which is spreading more and more, it is necessary to affirm, first of all, the definitive and complete character of the revelation of Jesus Christ. In fact, we must firmly believe in the affirmation that in the mystery of Jesus Christ, Son of God Incarnate, who is the way, the truth and the life (cf. Jn 14:6), is revealed the fullness of this divine truth: No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and him to whom it shall please the Son to reveal him (Mt 11:27). “No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (Jn 1:18). “For in him dwells the all the fullness of the Godhead corporally, and you partake of his fullness” (Col 2:9).
Therefore, the thesis that defends the limited, incomplete and imperfect nature of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which would supposedly complement what is present in other religions, is contrary to the Faith of the Church.
Unicity and Oneness of the Church
“Therefore, in connection with the unicity and universality of the salvific mediation of Jesus Christ, the unicity of the Church founded by him must be firmly believed as a truth of Catholic Faith. Just as there is one Christ, so there exists a single body of Christ, a single Bride of Christ: “a single Catholic and apostolic Church.” (Declaration Dominus Jesus, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, August 6, 2000) [Symbolum maius Ecclesiae Armeniacae: DS 48. Cf. Boniface VIII, Unam sanctam: DS 870-872; Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 8]
In Catholic Action, They Entirely Silence Apologetics
“As a rigorous consequence, some people formally reject, pass over in silence, and seem to forget and ignore all the passages of Sacred Scripture, all of the writings of the Fathers and Doctors, all papal documents and all episodes of Catholic hagiography, as long as they make the apology of courage, energy, and the spirit of combativeness. They try to see religion with only one eye; and when the eye that sees justice is closed to leave open only the one that sees mercy, the latter is immediately disturbed and drags man to the rash presumption of saving himself and others, without merits.” (In Defense of Catholic Action, idem)
“An Abyss Separating the Church from Heresy”
The “common ground tactic” employed in Catholic Action circles implies a serious error:
“How many prodigal sons would renounce their criminal abandonment of the home if a prudent counselor warned them of the innumerable risks to which they expose themselves by leaving their father’s domains! The abyss separating the Church from heresy and the state of grace from mortal sin is immense; and it will always be an outstanding work of mercy to show unwary Catholics the frightening magnitude of this abyss so they do not plunge inconsiderately into its depths.
“In view of all this, and since, as we have shown, the highest interests of the Church and the gravest obligations of charity lead preferably to act upon brothers in the Faith, we reach the conclusion that it is a serious error to make the famous “common ground” tactic the dominant and exclusive note of Catholic Action’s outreach. Imagine the concrete effect on our Catholic masses of a promotional campaign whose exclusive and invariable leitmotiv would be that we are separated from Protestantism only by a tenuous barrier; that we are all linked by a common Faith in Jesus Christ and that the bonds between us are much greater than the barriers. Whoever succeeded in making this tactic prevail among Catholics would certainly deserve a great decoration from Protestants.” (Idem)
Conspicuously Absent: The Roman Catholic and Apostolic Faith
After the publication of In Defense of Catholic Action, over the years, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira continued to insist on the evils of false ecumenism in the pages of Legionário, Catolicismo, and Folha de S. Paulo.
In 1984, for example, he warned that the goal of this kind of ecumenism would be to exclude the only true religion:
“Do they not perceive the danger that is lying in wait for all of us at the end of this road, that is, the formation on a world-wide scale of a sinister supermarket of religions, philosophies, and systems of all sorts, in which truth and error will be broken up in pieces, mixed together in a cacophonous confusion? The only thing missing from the world would be — if we could reach such a point – the whole truth, that is, the Roman Catholic and Apostolic Faith, with neither spot nor wrinkle.” (Folha de S. Paulo, January 10, 1984, “Luther Thought he was Divine!”
The Catholic Religion is the Only Revealed Religion
“We believe that those who call themselves Christians can do no other than believe that a Church, and that Church one, was established by Christ; but if it is further inquired of what nature according to the will of its author it must be, then all do not agree.
“A good number of them, for example, deny that the Church of Christ must be visible and apparent, at least to such a degree that it appears as one body of faithful, agreeing in one and the same doctrine under one teaching authority and government; but, on the contrary, they understand a visible Church as nothing else than a Federation, composed of various communities of Christians, even though they adhere to different doctrines, which may even be incompatible one with another.
“Instead, Christ our Lord instituted His Church as a perfect society, external of its nature and perceptible to the senses, which should carry on in the future the work of the salvation of the human race, under the leadership of one head,[Mt 16:18 ff., Lk 22:23; Jn 21:15-17] with an authority teaching by word of mouth,[Mk 16:15] and by the ministry of the sacraments, the founts of heavenly grace;[Jn 3:5; 6:48-50;20:22 ff. Mt 18:18 etc.] for which reason He attested by comparison the similarity of the Church to a kingdom,[Mt 13] to a house,[Mt 16:18] to a sheepfold,[Jn 10:16] and to a flock.[Jn 21:15-17].” (Pius XI, Encyclical Mortalium Animos, January 6, 1928, nº 8)
Sentinel of the Church and Christendom
To close, we quote an excerpt from Prof. Corrêa de Oliveira written in 1968, the year of the Sorbonne student revolt. After analyzing the international political panorama, he states that the progressive crisis corroding the Church in 1968 was a consequence of what he had denounced in 1943 with the publication of his prophetic work In Defense of Catholic Action:
“It seems to me indispensable to complete this painful picture with what happens in a sea incomparably more important and nobler than the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean or any other. It is the immense, spiritual, most sacred ocean of the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church.
“In this regard, 1968 was the year of the explosion. A thousand germs of confusion and deterioration we had been fighting since the stormy days of 1943, when we published In Defense of Catholic Action, have come to a head. The crisis came from behind the scenes to fester in sacristies and churches, and from there to take over public squares. Now it relentlessly and pitilessly penetrates even the smallest corners, and whoever should bring up the once so true and so glorious notion of Catholic opinion as an unbreakable barrier to communism, would provoke laughter or compassion. This is the most tragic fact of the tragic year 1968.
“Is this article by a pessimist person? Who is the real pessimist? Is it the sentinel crying out to warn of danger in the hope that this dire situation will cause a ‘reality shock’ and galvanize energies still capable of winning? Or it is the one who, from within the citadel, responds to the cry of alarm: ‘There is no danger... in fact, the enemy is not that horrible...besides there is nothing to be done; let me sleep until he comes in, because all is lost...’”
Although the errors In Defense denounced have been widespread in progressive sectors of the Church causing perplexity, confusion and even apostasy, they have also encountered reactions, mistrust and sadness in many sectors of Catholic opinion, which thus escaped, at least in part, from their nefarious influence. This brought led to a separation between the progressive leadership and a good part of the faithful, slowing down the pace of the revolutionary process.
We have in our possession vast documentation showing the immense damage that the publication of In Defense has done to the Revolution. It is made up of statements by ideological adversaries of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, who recognize the counter-revolutionary effectiveness of his work and the damage it has caused them. We will write about this on another occasion.