Unitatis Redintegratio is the Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism. It was passed by a vote of 2,137 to 11 of the bishops assembled and was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on 21 November 1964. The title in Latin means "Restoration of Unity" and is from the first line of the decree, as is customary with major Catholic documents (see incipit).
The numbers given correspond to the section numbers within the text.
- Introduction (1)
- Catholic Principles on Ecumenism (2-4)
- The Practice of Ecumenism (5-12)
- Churches and Ecclesial Communities Separated from the Roman Apostolic See (13-24)
- The Special Consideration of the Eastern Churches (14-18)
- Separated Churches and Ecclesial Communities in the West (19-24)
Policy on the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox
Unitatis Redintegratio calls for the reunion of Christendom and so it is not terribly different from previous calls for unity by Pope Leo XIII in the 1894 encyclical Praeclara Gratulationis Publicae. However, the document articulates a different kind of ecclesiology than Praeclara, focusing on the unity of the people of God and on separate Christian brethren instead of a classical call for schismatics to return to the fold under the unity of the Vicar of Christ.
The document acknowledges that there are serious problems facing prospects of reunion with Reformation communities that make no attempt to claim apostolic succession such as the Anglican communion does. Ecclesial communities that adhere to Calvinism are a particular case because they often have important doctrinal differences on key issues such as ecclesiology, liturgy and mariology. Other communities have insoluble doctrinal differences with Catholic Christianity because their theology of the Holy Trinity is manifestly incompatible with the doctrine of the council of Nicea in the early Church. That these serious problems are a barrier to salvation is clarified in the 2004 Vatican document, "The Decree on Ecumenism, Read Anew after Forty Years".
The concept and wording was published as late as 1793, in a discourse which examined two papal briefs to the Bishop of Chiusi-Pienza. Frank Flinn wrote, in Encyclopedia of Catholicism, that in 1959 Pope John XXIII "addressed Protestants as separated brethren," in Ad Petri Cathedram (APC), which Flinn saw as "an important step toward recognizing Protestants as legitimate partners in a future dialogue."[a] But Pope Leo XIII "was the first to speak of 'separated brothers'" according to John Norman Davidson Kelly's A Dictionary of Popes. Edward Farrugia, in Gregorianum, describes the development from Pope Leo XIII's Orientalium Dignitas (OD) to Orientalium Ecclesiarum (OE) to Unitatis Redintegratio (UR). "Yet if OE builds on OD, differences remain. Whereas OD" 186 "speaks of 'dissident bretheren' (fratres dissidentes), OE 28 speaks of 'separated bretheren' (fratres seiunctos), although it does not go as far as UR 14, where there is an inchoative use of the language of 'sister Churches' (inter Ecclesia locales, ut inter sorores)." Farrugia noted Austin Flannery's translations in Vatican Council II, "OE 29 speaks of the 'separated Churches' and OE 25 of 'any separated Eastern Christians', and OE 29 of 'Eastern separated brethren'." J. M. R. Tillard goes into detail, in New Catholic Encyclopedia, about "the development of a carefully nuanced vocabulary, consistent with Vatican II Ecclesiology," which evolved from "the idea of membership in favor of that of incorporation" and has its categorization found in the dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium (LG) which Tillard describes:
- Catholics are defined as "'being incorporated' (incorporatio), qualifying the term with the adverb 'fully' (plene) and emphasizing that full incorporation requires the presence of the Holy Spirit."[b]
- Non-Catholics and catechumens are defined as "'being linked' (conjunctio) to the Church, again carefully stressing the role of the Holy Spirit in each case."[c]
- Non-Christians are defined as "'being related' (ordinantur), a term that suggests a dynamic relationship, an orientation toward the Church."[d]
"Every shade of difference in meaning among these terms is important," emphasizes Tillard. "But the terms acquire their full force only in the light of the most authoritative commentaries on them," UR and Nostra Aetate (NA). "Then, supposing the nuances indicated, the richness of such expressions as the following becomes clear: 'Churches and ecclesial communities';[e] 'separated brethren';[f] 'separated Churches and ecclesial communities';[g] 'full communion'—'imperfect communion'."[h]
"But thanks to its ecclesiology," wrote Tillard, "Vatican II was able to affirm at the same time that Churches or ecclesial communities separated from the Catholic Church are part of the single Church, and that nevertheless incorporation in Christ and His Church possesses within the Catholic Church the fullness that it does not have elsewhere." In 2007, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) clarified "the authentic meaning" of the ecclesiological expression "Church" which "according to Catholic doctrine," the texts of the Second Vatican Council and those of the Magisterium since the Second Vatican Council do not call Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the 16th century as "Churches" because "these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church." William Whalen wrote, in Separated Brethren, that "'separated brethren' refers to Christians united by baptism and committed to Jesus Christ but divided by theological beliefs."(p9) Whalen explained, that Protestant Reformation Christians broke "the bond of common faith" and "they became separated brethren."(p11) "All Christians who are baptized and believe in Christ but are not professed Catholics" are separated brethren, according to John Hardon in Modern Catholic Dictionary. "More commonly the term is applied to Protestants." Likewise, "separated brethren" according to Catholic Answers, in This Rock, "refers to those who, though separated from full communion with the Catholic Church, have been justified through baptism and are thus brethren in Christ." UR "teaches that 'all who have been justified by faith in baptism are members of Christ's body, and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church'."(n.99) J. A. Jungmann and K. Stasiak wrote, in New Catholic Encyclopedia, that "the Second Vatican Council's call for a greater spirit of ecumenism among churches and ecclesial communities reflects the understanding that Baptism is the effecting and the sign of the fundamental unity of all Christians."[i]
"Because Mormonism is polytheistic and rejects the Trinity,"[j] Catholic Answers points out that, "Mormon baptism is not valid,[k] and Mormons are not considered separated brethren." Cardinal Urbano Navarrete Cortés clarified, in L'Osservatore Romano, "that in all of the effects of the pastoral, administrative and juridical practices of the Church the Mormons are not to be considered as belonging to an 'ecclesial community not in full communion with the Catholic Church', but simply as non-baptized." Baptism conferred by The Christian Community, founded by Rudolf Steiner; The New Church, founded by Emmanuel Swedenborg; conferred with the formula "I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier"; or, conferred with the formula "I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator, and of the Sustainer" are also deemed not valid.
"Separated brethren" is a term sometimes used by the Roman Catholic Church and its clergy and members to refer to baptized members of other Christian traditions.  The phrase is a translation of the Latin phrase fratres seiuncti.
Before the Second Vatican Council, per the pronouncements of the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church officially referred to Protestants and other non-Roman Catholic Christians as "heretics" likely not having hope of salvation outside of the "Church of Rome". However, Biblical passages like Romans 2:12-16 point to the importance of conscience in Catholic soteriology, which the Church has always recognized. In c. 1960 – c. 1962 preparation work for draft texts of Second Vatican Council documents, a "report urged respectful use of the terms dissidents or separated brethren, in place of heretics and schismatics." After the Second Vatican Council, however, "that habit of unthinkingly hurling accusations of heresy at Protestants pretty much died out". Since at least the mid-1990s, the term has often been replaced by Roman Catholic officials with phrases such as "other Christians".
At least one Roman Catholic writer does not consider Mormons and members of some other religious groups to be separated brethren. Among the groups not considered to be separated brethren are "Jews, Mormons, Christian Scientists, Muslims, Buddhists, and other groups." By the 21st century, within the Roman Catholic faith, Jews are described as and considered elder brothers in the faith.
- The excerpt, from APC 63 cited by Flinn, is translated on the Vatican website as "the communities that are separated from the See of Blessed Peter" and a related excerpt, from APC 64, is translated on the Vatican website as "those who are adorned with the name of Christian even though separated from Us and from one another."
- LG 14.2 quoted by Tillard.
- LG 14.3; 15.2 quoted by Tillard.
- LG 16 quoted by Tillard.
- UR 3.3 quoted by Tillard; cf. LG 15.1 cited in Tillard.
- brothers divided; UR 3.4 quoted by Tillard.
- UR 3.4 quoted by Tillard.
- UR 3.1 quoted by Tillard.
- According to the 1983 Code of Canon Law (1983 CIC), baptism "is validly conferred only by a washing of true water with the proper form of words."(can.849) The 1983 CIC states that "in a case of necessity any person with the right intention, confers baptism licitly."(n.95.a)(can.861§2) "Those baptized in a non-Catholic ecclesial community must not be baptized conditionally unless, after an examination of the matter and the form of the words used in the conferral of baptism and a consideration of the intention of the baptized adult and the minister of the baptism, a serious reason exists to doubt the validity of the baptism."(can.869§2) See CCC. n. 1278. "The essential rite of Baptism consists in immersing the candidate in water or pouring water on his head, while pronouncing the invocation of the Most Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." "The Catholic Church recognizes as valid baptisms performed by other churches and ecclesial communities if these two conditions are met, and if there is no serious reason to question either the intention of the minister and the free acceptance of Baptism by the one baptized."(nn.93, 95.a–95.c)
- According to Catholic Answers, in This Rock, "Mormonism is essentially polytheistic." Catholic Answers quoted from Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, in which the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, Joseph Smith, Jr., affirmed: "I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods." The theologies of God in Christianity and God in Mormonism are different. Also see Richard Abanes in Inside today's Mormonism. Pope John Paul II said, "The Christian doctrine on the Trinity, confirmed by the Councils, explicitly rejects any form of 'tritheism' or 'polytheism'." See CCC. n. 2112. "The first commandment condemns polytheism."
- Pope John Paul II, as legislator, approved the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's 2001 decision. Luis Ladaria explained, in L'Osservatore Romano, the reasons for deciding that "it is not Christian Baptism" are that a "divergence on Trinity and baptism invalidates the intention of the Mormon minister of baptism and of the one to be baptized." Contrast with Alonzo Gaskill in FARMS Review of Books.
- [Archbishops and Bishops of Tuscany?] (1793). "Dissertatio III: In qua examinantur duo summi Pontificis brevia ad Episcopum Clussio–Pientinum data". Acta Congregationis archiepiscoporum et episcoporum Hetruriae Florentiae anno MDCCLXXVII (in Latin) 4. Bambergae; Herbipoli: Goebhardt. p. 1003. OCLC 79652146. Retrieved 2014-01-23. "Verum tamen persuadere mihi minime possum, hanc animi venerationem in eo esse ponendam, ut eidem excessiua quaedam iura adscribantur, quae etdem non competunt, quae antiquitati erant ignota, quaeque maxima ex parte fatale illud schisma causarunt quod fratres nostros a nobis seiunctos tenet." Here, Clusinus et Pientinus is spelled Clussio - Pientinum and clusio - pientinus.
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- Romans 2:12-16
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- Unitatis Redintegratio - Text of document
- The Decree on Ecumenism, Read Anew After Forty Years - text of 2004 clarification document