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Systematic Theology 5511A

TUESDAYS 9:30 - 11:20 AM
Deacon Room, St. Peter's Seminary

Instructor:  Rev. Murray Watson, BA, MDiv. SSL
519-432-5726, ext. 247
Office hours by prior appointment 


An introduction to the history and theology of the ecumenical movement. Reference will be made to the teaching of the Magisterium, significant achievements in ecumenical dialogue, and prospects for future achievements. Exposure to the rich variety of Christian ecclesial communities and traditions will be included. (Antirequisite: The former Systematic Theology 511a) 


This course will assist students to grow in the following knowledge, skills and attitudes.

* A broad understanding of the history and causes of Christian disunity;
* A knowledge of major modern efforts to restore that unity through ecumenical dialogue;
* A consciousness of the changes in Catholic approach to other Christians (and non-Christians),
particularly in the light of Vatican II; knowledge of the “state of the question” as regards the Magisterium;
* A solid grasp of Catholic principles of ecumenism, and of the key directives found in the Vatican’s 1993 Directory on Ecumenism;
* A comprehension of how these principles are put into practice in key pastoral situations;
* A familiarity with several of the pioneers of the ecumenical movement, both within and outside the Catholic Church;
* A knowledge of some of the main Christian denominations one is likely in encounter in Canada, their central tenets, their similarities to—and differences from—the Catholic Church.

* The ability to meet with leaders of Christian denominations (or non-Christian faiths), to discuss matters of faith with them in a respectful, accurate and open-hearted way;
* The ability to apply major ecumenical principles to one’s personal life and the life of the communities one is called to lead;
* The ability to find accurate, current information about Christian denominations (or non-Christian faiths), and to make good, critical use of library and online resources;
* The ability, if called upon, to prepare an ecumenical or interfaith service that is sensitive, liturgically appropriate and faithful to Catholic guidelines for ecumenical and/or interfaith worship.

* An appreciation for the great progress in ecumenical relations that has taken place in the 20th and 21st centuries;
* A desire to reach out, in genuine friendship and cooperation, to leaders and members of other Christian bodies, to work together where possible, in the service of unity, justice and peace;
* An ongoing curiosity about non-Catholic Christians, and non-Christians, and a desire to learn more about them;
* Pride in the gifts given to the Church; humility for our failures to live these out as Christ wants;
* A personal commitment to engage in “spiritual ecumenism,” and to make Christianity unity a regular part of one’s personal and liturgical prayer;
* A “holy envy” for what is good, valuable and true in other religious groups, from which we as Catholics can often benefit and learn.


1) Each student will choose one of the following ecumenical pioneers/leaders, and will prepare a written summary (not to exceed two single-spaced pages, with a third page for bibliography) of this individual’s life, focussing primarily on his/her significance for the development of the ecumenical movement, especially as regards the Catholic Church. In what specific ways did he/she help ecumenism to progress, either theologically/philosophically or in terms of concrete action? These summaries will be photocopied and provided to the other class members as a resource for their own reading and reference.

Cardinal Augustin Bea, Gregory Baum, Janet Somerville, Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, Cardinal Walter Kasper, Brother Roger of Taizé, Willem A. Visser ’t Hooft, Oscar Cullman, Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy, Father [Abbé] Paul Couturier, Cardinal Yves Congar, Father Paul Wattson, Pope John XXIII, Father Irénée Beaubien, Father Jean-Marie Tillard, Margaret O’Gara.

These summaries will be graded on the basis of: (1) their thoroughness, (2) their relevance to this specific course, (3) and their use of appropriate and varied research sources. (10 marks for each criterion = 30% total)

2) Each student will personally visit with, and interview (45-60 minutes), a local clergyperson from one of the following Christian churches:

Eastern Orthodox (Greek, Russian, etc.)
United Church of Canada
Salvation Army

The interview should focus on (NB: these topics are not exhaustive): the historical background to this denomination; key points of belief (similarities to Catholicism, and notable differences); the practice and understanding of sacraments, if applicable; approximate numbers in Canada, and major Canadian population centres; attitude toward the Catholic Church; attitude toward ecumenical dialogue and ecumenism generally. This interview is to be supplemented and fleshed out with research from authoritative contemporary sources (i.e. not Wikipedia!), both online and in print. Combine the material gained from the interview with your research, to prepare a concise and informative class presentation of 12-15 minutes; a handout with key points from your conversation and research (including sources for further reading/study) is a necessary component. (50%)

3) Imagine that you have been asked to prepare an ecumenical or interfaith prayer service in your local community (e.g. for Thanksgiving or Remembrance Day; an annual commemoration of the dead at a hospital or funeral home; a service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity; as part of a joint Christian-Jewish or Christian-Muslim study programme, etc.). In two single-spaced pages of less, outline the format and content of such a service, including suggestions of some appropriate music, readings from Scripture or other inspirational texts. Write an appropriate gathering prayer for this occasion, and offer 4-5 concrete criteria that would guide you in your planning (what to do/not to do). (20%) 


Required textbooks (available from UWO Bookstore):

* Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism (Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1993)

* Edward Idris Cardinal Cassidy, Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue: Unitatis Redintegratio, Nostra Aetate. Rediscovering Vatican II (New York: Paulist Press, 2005).

Recommended additional reading:

* Mark D. Lowery, Ecumenism: Striving for Unity Amid Diversity (Mystic, CN: Twenty-Third Publications, 1985).
In A.P. Mahoney Library: BX1784 L65 1985

* Jeffrey Gros, Eamon McManus and Ann Riggs, Introduction to Ecumenism (New York: Paulist Press, 1998).
In A.P. Mahoney Library: BX1784 G76 1998

* Frederick M. Bliss, Catholic and Ecumenical: History and Hope: Why the Catholic Church Is Ecumenical and What She Is Doing About It (Franklin, WI: Sheed & Ward, 1999)
In A.P. Mahoney Library: BX1785 B57 1999

* Walter Cardinal Kasper, A Handbook of Spiritual Ecumenism (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2007).
In A.P. Mahoney Library: BV625.K34 2007

* Frank Spencer Mead and Samuel S. Hill, Handbook of Denominations in the United States. 9th ed. (Nashville, KY: Abingdon Press, 1990).
In A.P. Mahoney Library: REF BL2525 M425 1990

* World Council of Churches, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1982).
In A.P. Mahoney Library: BV811.2 W67

* National Association of Diocesan Ecumenical Officers, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry: Initial Reactions from Roman Catholic Dioceses in the United States (Wheeling, WV: National Association of Diocesan Ecumenical Officers, 1986).
In A.P. Mahony Library: BX9.5 S2 B3632 1986

* Michael A. Fahey, ed., Catholic Perspectives on “Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry” (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1986)
In A.P. Mahoney Library: BX9.5 S2 B3633 1986

* Thomas F. Stransky and John B. Sheerin, eds., Doing the Truth in Charity: Statements of Pope Paul VI, Popes John Paul I, John Paul II, and the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, 1964-1980. Ecumenical Documents #1 (New York: Paulist Press, 1982).
In A.P. Mahoney Library: BX1783 D65

* Joseph A. Burgess and Jeffrey Gros, eds. Building Unity: Ecumenical Dialogues with Roman Catholic Participation in the United States. Ecumenical Documents #4 (New York: Paulist Press, 1989)
In A.P. Mahoney Library: BX6.5 B85 1988

* William G. Rusch and Jeffrey Gros, eds., Deepening Communion: International Ecumenical Documents with Roman Catholic Participation (Washington, DC : United States Catholic Conference, 1998).
In A.P. Mahoney Library: BX1784 C373 1998

* Francesco Gioia, ed., Interreligious Dialogue: The Official Teaching of the Catholic Church from the Second Vatican Council to John Paul II (1963-2005) (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2006).
In A.P. Mahoney Library: BX1784 C363 2006

Other reading materials will be supplied in class, or will be made available on reserve in the A.P. Mahoney Library (St. Peter’s Seminary).

An extensive bibliography of valuable ecumenical and interfaith resources will be provided in class.
Students are also strongly advised to check the “Explore a Subject: Ecumenism” Web page provided by the A.P. Mahoney Library on its Internet site: 


Why a course in ecumenism? (The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity’s 1995 document “The Ecumenical Dimension in the Formation of Those Engaged in Pastoral Work”)

A brief history of Christian dis-unity
Relations with other Christians in the light of the 1917 Code of Canon Law

Pope Paul VI’s 1964 encyclical Ecclesiam Suam and its ramifications for Catholic ecclesiology

Vatican II and Unitatis Redintegratio (1964): The conciliar debate over a document on Christian unity; the 1965 lifting of excommunications

Major changes in the 1983 Code of Canon Law and afterwards
The 1993 Directory for Ecumenism – selected portions
Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Ut Unum Sint (On Commitment to Ecumenism, 1995)
The Jubilee Year 2000 and the apostolic letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente (Pope John Paul II, 1994)
Dominus Iesus and Its Implications for Ecumenical Dialogue
The Ecumenical Magisterium of Pope Benedict XVI to date

Catholic Principles of Ecumenism

National and international ecumenical dialogues: Successes and challenges

Canonical/Practical Implications for Ecumenism in Pastoral Ministry
“Can I…?” / “How should I…?”

Contemporary Interfaith Dialogue
Jewish-Catholic and Muslim-Catholic relations as case studies (“A Time for Recommitment”; “A
Common Word,” etc) 


Students are responsible for knowing the University’s academic policies and regulations and any particularities of their own course of study. These can all be found at the University’s website
( Ignorance of these policies is not an excuse for any violation thereof. The following policies are particularly important to note:

Submission of Assignments: Assignments are due at the beginning of class on the dates as given above. Assignments may not be dropped off at King’s or submitted electronically.
It is the responsibility of the student to organize his or her work so that the assignments are completed on time. For a serious reason, a student may approach the professor before the due date, and may be granted an extension at the discretion of the professors. Any medical reasons will be confirmed by proper documentation, as approved by the Dean’s Office. A penalty of 10% of the value of the assignment will be deducted for each day it is overdue without permission.
No electronic devices will be allowed during tests or the examination, unless approved in advance by Student Services at the University or King’s.
Students who miss tests will negotiate a “make-up” date with the professor. Any medical reasons will be confirmed by proper documentation as approved by the Dean’s Office.

Plagiarism: Students must write their essays and assignments in their own words. Whenever students take an idea or a passage from another author, they must acknowledge their debt by quotation marks and/or footnotes. Plagiarism is a major academic offense. Students may be required to submit their work in electronic form for plagiarism checking.

Selection and Registration of Courses
: Students are responsible for ensuring that their selection of courses is appropriate and accurately recorded, that all prerequisite course(s) have been successfully completed, and that they are aware of any anti-requisite course(s) that they have taken. 

In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas
(“Unity in necessary things; liberty in doubtful things; charity in all things,”
attributed to St. Augustine, and quoted by Pope John XXIII in his 1959 encyclical
Ad Petri Cathedram)